Friday, September 27, 2013

5 Points!

Back in first year high school we had a pretty world-weary disillusioned guy for a history teacher. Our ideas, fresh from elementary graduation, bursting with idealism and the notion that every conflict can be resolved by flowery words, would always be shot down with a dose of realism like a pail of cold water at 6 in the morning. After taking one of his quarterly examinations he proceeded to discuss our answers to his essay question to be answered in 5 sentences (5 points): How would you resolve the conflicts in Mindanao?

He asked us to recite what we answered in the exam. All our eager hands shot up, some with wriggling action for more demonstration of eagerness. Most of the answers went like this, with more commas and semi-commas to stretch the 5-sentence limit:

We will sit the leaders down and discuss our differences in a peaceful and diplomatic approach. We will list down our differences point by point and try to discuss and resolve them one by one. We will tell them that religion should not divide us but rather keep us together, because our beliefs might be different but what matters is that we both have faith--faith that the people will survive these trials and tribulations and conflicts and afflictions and that we could rise post-obstacle more defined more grateful, we would heal be involved, and be unstoppable.... etc. 

I distinctly remember that whenever somebody (most of us, including myself), would give him that sort of answer he put on some sort of weird facial expression that we couldn't understand then. Now that I'm old, I now know that it is the face of someone trying hard to be diplomatic and nice to these young, innocent idealists/idiots, the face of someone who is one threat of unemployment short from screaming: YOU FUCKING LOSERS!

He had that face on, until one of us finally told him the answer he was looking for, the curt answer that put our flowery faux-discourse to shame, the answer which i now believe is the right one, the answer that gave this one classmate the perfect 5 out of 5 points. Her answer:

I will give them money. Lots of it. I will give them the land that they want. 

As the mighty Alanis said in her song 1998 song Thank U: Thank you, disillusionment!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Post-Boards Stages of Whining

Thymes has decided not to receive any calls and never replied to any text messages for weeks and weeks after topping her cardiology subspecialty board exams. It seemed like she wanted to disappear from the world. She was, apparently, depressed. For months and months she sat in their living room, whining about how nothing has come out of her academic achievements. At times she would just stay in bed, not taking a bath for days,standing only to pee. It was like a bipolar patient crashing after the euphoric state. Like a couple who have just completed their wedding vows and now realize that they are not special. Like a cat who couldn't get that plastic strip sticking out of his ass out of his ass without the help of a person pulling it out, because why the heck did he ever eat a piece of plastic.

So she went to a nearby city to finally start establishing a career. Much to her chagrin hospitals and clinics were not tripping over themselves to get this topnotcher. She decided to be aggressive and apply in a clinic. "ANO?!?!" she screamed as the secretary told her that her rate as an employee would be P150 pesos an hour. She looked for other jobs and found one that required her to read ECG's. That day she earned her first paycheck--P140 for reading two ECG's, and she went back to her P6,000/month apartment weeping like a diabetic foot.

Finally she looked at the skies, pumped her fists, and uttered the classic line that anyone who's ever been frustrated and fed-up cries in faux-optimism-- "FUCK EEEET!!!" She saw an ad in the internet for a consultant job in a far, far, far away province down south--let's call it Kahndaq--and immediately emailed the owner that she is interested. The next day she talked to the owner on the phone. The next day she took a plane, and became the queen of a tertiary hospital and 12 secondary hospitals in Kahndaq. She is now THE department of internal medicine and THE section of cardiology of the entire province of  Kahndaq.

"Baka pag-uwi mo naka-burqa ka na," I told her.
"AHIHIHIHI," she said.

I am relating this because currently I am in that stage of staying in bed for days on end without taking a bath. I'm not sure I could be as courageous as Thymes, but who knows what will happen when I reach the "fuck eeeeeeet!" stage.

Kaladkarin Files: Back in February

While we were having a round table discussion in NKTI on some kind of cancer I… wasn’t listening. My mind was a blur of so many things, such as: how I could make my way through those people cramped sitting together in front of the buffet table so I could get more fried chicken. Or what time the discussion would end. Or what comic book I would read upon getting home. Until I realized… it’s the last day of UP Fair and how convenient that I’m already in QC! I immediately texted my insta-kaladkarin friends Smoketh and Frichmond. Frichmond had to attend mass that day and wasn’t sure she could come, so I texted her: THIS COULD BE THE LAST TIME WE WOULD BE ATTENDING THE UP FAIR! AFTER THIS, WE WOULD BE SWAMPED BY REAL LIFE CONCERNS… SUCH AS EARNING MONEY!

In less than an hour Frichmond and Smoketh were driving around QC hunting for me as I decided to walk around QC in the middle of the night. Smoketh dragged us to a restaurant (Black Pea Soup? Black Pea? Black Soup? Black Pasta?) aka Kuya Bodjie’s restaurant. The first thing we asked the waitress: Asan po si Kuya Bodjie? We wanted a picture with a celebrity. The last time we had a brush in with celebrities was when some demented fan asked me to take her picture with Bamboo 10 years ago in Powerbooks ATC, and when Smoketh had a picture with Tiya Pusit in the isawan in UP Diliman. I still regret not telling that girl, “kami muna kunan mo ng picture”. Bitch.

The last time I’ve been to a UP Fair was in 2004, and before that was in 1998. So of course we decided to conduct ourselves with the “it wasn’t like this before it was so much better back then when things were crazier and people were fucking on the ground”-complex. The first thing we noticed of course was the ticket—it was nicely printed by Ticketworld. All together now: it wasn’t like this before, it was so much better back then when the ticket was just a pinunit-punit na bluebook!

I went to the back areas looking for those cheap, colorful alcoholic drinks that once opened our eyes to unexpected delights in the late 90’s. Those drinks which had once knocked Joni to stupor and caused Groin to put it upon herself to drag him all the way back to Molave Dormitory. Those drinks are no longer in existence. Instead there are support groups and free water, which I took and turned out to be… really water. We wanted to lurlurlur but there was no one lurring. “Pano kung mahuli tayo?” I asked Smoketh. “Ano gagawin nila, miminusan tayo sa Math 17?” We lurred. Everyone ignored us.

It wasn’t the hippie 60’s, but…. nung panahon namin… people were lying on the ground and talking crazy stuff, with the Eraserheads or the resident singer UP Diliman singer Jeffrey Hidalgo singing on stage, someone would scream somewhere and everyone would gather around for more screaming. Now the fare looked like a version of Bonifacio Global City. There were no alcoholic drinks or anything that would qualify as a vice, so for more mall-ness Smoketh bought a Red Velvet Cupcake.

After fifteen minutes we decided it’s time to retire. We went to a nearby Army Navy where Smoketh and Frichmond looked sleepy as hell. It was only 11:30. Sign of the times.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Life With Archie

As I’ve been ranting for almost two years now, DC Comics has decided to do a hard reset of its already multiply-reset multiverse, redesigning most of its characters and turning them into horrible clown whores, with the books written by horrible writers and illustrated by horrible artists stuck in the multiple-pocket-polyester-costumed 90’s. Even the once-reliable writers Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder have turned in really horrible work. And this is not me having poor vocabulary—there’s just no other way to describe all the aspects of this movement called The New 52 but bleeping horrible. Bwiset. Marvel, on the other hand, despite doing some annoying stuff like making Cyclops kill—KILL!!!—Professor X, is turning in a much better work. I have always been a DC kid, but sadly, not anymore. Not until they announce that The New 52 has only been a dream, a hoax, a hallucination—and yes, that’s a 60’s Silver Age DC comics reference there.

Which is why I’ve started looking for something else to read. My attention span has severely been damaged by fellowship, so I found it harder and harder to finish fiction novels. So instead of committing to Anna Karenina and other encyclopedic Russian novels, I opted to read something equally profound—Life With Archie. Yes, Archie Andrews. In 2010 a storyline featured Archie marrying Betty and marrying Veronica in two alternate stories. Life With Archie followed these two different stories of how his life would turn out if he married Betty or Veronica. Two parallel stories in one comic book, with Dilton Doiley as the only character who gets to witness these two parallel universes. It’s wonderful fun, with Mr. Lodge playing the role of the resident corporate kontrabida. The issues follow the pattern of the usual soap-operas, such as The Choklit Shop having financial troubles and on the brink of getting bought out, Moose running for mayor, Archie becoming a struggling musician in the universe where he married Betty, and so forth. In other words, pure comic book fun. So until DC goes back to its pre-New 52 Universe, and Marvel comes up with something that would explain away Professor X’s death (which would be hard considering that the Red Skull got Professor X’s brain and implanted it in his own head. I know.), make mine Archie. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bursting With Posiness Part 2

Previously I’ve started a list of things that make me happy, as inspired by Smoketh’s sudden burst of posiness. As Green Day sang in their fantastic 2005 album American Idiot, “I’m the son of rage and love! The Jesus of suburbia!” Which leads me to number 6: I’m happy and thankful…

1.       That I think I have a good taste in music. I don’t sing or play any instrument, but I think I have a pretty good taste. It’s always difficult to defend one’s taste without sounding like a pretentious twit, so we’ll leave it at that.

2.       That I enjoyed residency training. Although strictly speaking this isn’t a source of happiness now, I’m including this because I’m missing my residency batchmates. Must be the recent storms, which have affected our batch more than anything.

3.       That my throat wasn’t slashed during the bare ass incident. I could have died right there and then and made a mess in the middle of Taft Avenue, but my exposed ass made me laugh off, if not altogether get kinkily titillated from, the potentially deadly incident.

4.       That my dorm/boarding house days are over and I can now enjoy once more the mundane creature comforts of home. That I can now take a bath in a clean bathroom. That if I accidentally drop the soap I wouldn’t be afraid to use it again. That upon waking up there’s coffee and pandesal and egg, which I can eat while watching tv and getting annoyed at but at the same time get morbidly fascinated by and at the same freaking time learn absolutely nothing substantial from that horrible show Anak Ko ‘Yan. And write run-on sentences on the side.

5.       That if I decide right now to, say, watch a movie, play chess, or read a book on ornithology, I can. Right now. RIGHT… NOW! AHAHAHAHAH AHAHAHA AHAHAHAHAHAH!!!

Of course for every item to be happy about, there are 8 or 9 to be sad about!

Bursting With Posiness Part 1

Smoketh has recently written a new entry in her blog detailing the various sources of happiness in her life. Since she left PGH she has become the poster child for everything positive and cheerio. She has read all the new age books in existence, walked along the beach wearing a white flowy dress while singing the entire The Beekeeper album by Tori Amos, and lit incense sticks all over her mansion. She now regularly uses terms like “Self-Releacceptance” which is loosely defined as the acceptance of the release of the self from within to without without releasing the acceptance itself but instead self-accepting its release. Not to be outdone, I have decided to perform a trial of cheeriness and list the ten things that make me happy and thankful right now. Cheerio! I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder, and I’m happy and thankful …

1. That my hairline is intact. I don’t have much by way of looks but I’m glad I’m not balding, at least not yet. I intend to keep my wild, bushy, unruly, itchy, dandruffy hair that ends up looking like an aardvark when I try to shape it with gel… for as long as I can! Which reminds me of a conversation with Burns in Gloria Jeans: “Bakit pag kumakamot ako ng buhok may nahuhulog na mga white-white?” I asked. Burns yelled: ANG TAWAG DYAN, BALAKUBAK!

2.    That I’ve been getting the right amount of sleep lately. Back in training there was always something that needed to be done very late, or something I had to wake up early for; and if there was enough time to sleep I wouldn’t want to waste it on sleep. Now, there is absolutely nothing to do—to the extent that I would pee as an activity—so now I can always sleep.

3.      That I have read as much comics as I have. I don’t know why, but I’m just glad that all those superheroic adventures are somewhere in my head. I haven’t learned any life lessons from them or whatever, but it’s just jolly-gee-whiz fun reading them. I have decades’ worth backlog of paperback fiction, but comics are a daily habit. There are as many if not more horrible comics out there, but chancing upon the truly good ones makes it all worth the trouble.

4.       That I’m not particular with clothes or general grooming. I hate buying clothes because I hate trying them on. In fact this laziness in changing into another set of clothes has greatly influenced my choice of internal medicine as a specialty, because I’ve decided early on that I don’t ever ever want to change into scrub suits ever again—so all the surgical specialties have been voted out!  Granted my over-all kadugyutan has negatively influenced my social growth, but so many other things have already stunted my social growth that there is really no growth or ungrowth to speak of.

5.       That I can write and I kind of like the way I write. So my writing career has gone nowhere--thank you real life-- while my friends have gone on to win Palancas and stuff, but I’m still content at the entertainment I get from my own writing. As the saying goes, if the macaroons you bake taste like poop, you have to enjoy the taste of poop to enjoy the taste of your own macaroons. I invented that saying, but you get the idea. Specifically I like that I have no compulsion to write ingratiating, self-congratulatory drivel. Ahoy! Clang clang clang!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bare Ass

After having completed the stuff I needed to complete in PGH I declared that I would not want to go back to Manila for a long time unless absolutely necessary, primarily because of the stress of commuting. I’ve stayed in Manila for over 13 years and haven’t particularly experienced anything life-threatening, but the horror stories and the rain and the heat and the traffic and the risks of stepping on human feces (insert other WHINES here) are just too aggravating.
 Until one hot day when I got a text message that I needed to sign a Form 5. I immediately commuted to Taft Avenue and was in Rob Ermita by 8pm. With much elation I saw Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore reviewing for our upcoming oncology boards. She has successfully deleted her Candy Crush after much rebukation (not a true word), but was getting jittery from withdrawal because the people around her were playing the game with the demented circus-funeral background music in full blast. I also happened to see Frichmond and Queen. Queen was in exercise clothes and I immediately said, “ZUMBA?!” and I was right. Apparently I learned something during our medical oncology mid-year convention in Nasugbu a few days before, where I’ve heard the word “zumba” for the first time. During the mid-year a zumba expert suddenly went on stage and taught us how to do zumba. All the oncologists tried to mirror her moves, but we weren’t dancing so much as wriggling awkwardly. After 3 J-Lo songs I whined “ilang kanta ba to?!” Apparently there were… 12. 12 continuous dance tracks for someone who gets dyspneic after climbing one flight of stairs.
After a quick chit chat with Frichmond and Queen I ran to the oncology office to sign the bleeping form 5 and immediately took a jeep along Taft where I sat in front. Everything was cheerio until the guy sitting beside me suddenly giggled and talked to himself. He made weird facial tics and snickered. I knew that there and then he could just pull out a knife and slit my throat, but he eventually got off the jeep. I disembarked in Buendia and as I pulled my wallet from my back pocket I noted that the pocket has a hole. My wallet was still there so I thought it was just one of my ripped, gusgusin jeans. I have so many gusgusin jeans. It wasn’t until I got home that my brother Chiroptera noted that the hole was in fact a long, clean, vertical cut, obviously from a slash. I placed my hand inside the slash and was able to touch my bare ass. The cut was so deep that I was able to… touch myself.
“Obviously the weird facial tics guy was not after your wallet, but after your ass,” Sith Lord said.

“Obviously. I may be old and gray, but I still got it. Oh yes I still got it.” I said.

Enough With The Life Lessons! We'll Just Watch Movies! AHAHAHAHAHA

                The past two years have been the most harrowing I’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing. Around seven years ago I wrote an annoyingly dramatic entry in my… Friendster blog (AHAHAHAHA!) where I declared that I was very much in emotional distress that I wanted to wrap my brain—and my entire head—in bubble wrap to shield myself from thinking… thoughts. I also declared that I had the sense to eat those tiny moisture absorbent packets in food packages that bear the label “DO NOT EAT” under the false notion that they were poisonous, until I’ve rotated in the toxicology clinic many years later and learned that it’s totally idiotic because, as we would advise many phone-in questions from all over the country, those packets are—all together now—inert. If I can go back in time I would slap myself for that drama over totally useless, juvenile stuff. The disastrous events in my life that followed, with everything culminating and piling up in pure horror during the fellowship training of the past two years, render those juvenile concerns extremely embarrassing. Die, my 26-year old self, you horrible, self-indulgent, shallow, drama-whore. You don’t know real drama until you personally experience the real life concerns of disease, poverty, and death. Die, burn, trip and impale yourself on the exposed steel bars along Faura, take a bath and stick your wet thumb in an electric socket, die—and take your old Friendster entries with ya!
                Living off ten pesos daily and hoping a charity patient would show me charity by giving me a professional fee of… Jollibee Chickenjoy, not for sentimentality, but so I could eat… Jollibee Chickenjoy might have taught me something about sacrifice, life, the value of money, the risks of gastric ulcer, etc etc etc, but I would trade all those lessons for security. What if I suddenly do impale myself on the exposed construction steel bars along Faura, how would I afford hospitalization? Granting my surgeon friends would operate on me for free, how could I even afford a charity-priced processing fee for a pack of blood? How, dear sponsor-who-sponsors-stipend-every-six-to-nine-months? How? AHAHAHAHAHAHA. How.  Enough with the life lessons! I’ll just watch movies about them!
                The four-month preparation for the oncology boards was not any easier. I got a couple of odd-jobs, but eventually I had to devote myself to studying, painfully embarrassed at the thought of my mom feeding me once again. And when you study you don’t only think about the material, you also get to ruminate on the horrible things of the past and the horrible things of the future. And when you finally do get to concentrate on the material, what is that material about? CANCER! Cancer cancer cancer. Volumes and volumes of fucking cancer, from dusk till midnight, compounded by the constant paranoia of everyone around me having cancer, and the regret of how things might have been have I known all the things I know now, and how things have turned out better for Mrs. Therese who was right, boy was she right.

                Four months hence we passed the boards and we were blissfully thankful, but we were painfully exhausted. Like winning a race but having horrible cramps afterwards. Or more like winning a race then getting rhabdomyolysis and kidney failure. You just want to lie down and stare at the ceiling, with those new letters that would be attached after your name floating in your head, annoyed that they couldn’t be eaten or used to pay the bills.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Last Night On Earth... With a Sandwich

On my last few nights as a dormer in Manila I would hunt down Smoketh and disturb her feverish studying for the renal boards and we would call Frichmond and we would go to... Subway. Maybe it was the finality of my dorm life (arte) after over 16 years of living on my own that made me want to make the last few nights memorable. For months I've been thinking of some kind of bucket list or such, and everyday that list would get revised, limited by time, funds, friends to drag around, and most importantly, laziness. And of course, the nagging thought: what's the drama. Because really, the only thing I wanted to do was eat a good sandwich.

And where should we find a good Subway branch but in some gas station in Macapagal. A few years ago DC Comics had a recurring advertisement feature in their books where superheroes were shown capturing crooks and such by using Subway sandwiches. It's like those Twinkies Cakes ads back in the late 60's and 70's DC Comics, if some you care to remember. One of the sandwiches Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman were pimping had one special feature: avocado sauce. Of course in Macapagal there was no avocado sauce, so I ordered the usual stuff with oil and vinegar and stuff, cold not warmed, with chips and a huge cup of sugar-rich soda. 

"Do you remember that old Tyra episode on cable where they featured a guy pornstar who felt discriminated?" I asked Smoketh and Frichmond. They don't, and just kept on munching. 
"He felt discriminated, because when they discovered that he was a porn star they fired him from his day job," I narrated.
"What was his day job?" Smoketh asked.
"Preparing Subway sandwiches," I said. 

And just because I'm really hungry I would gratuitously post a picture of Subway turkey avocado sandwich right now.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Flash Fact: Shameless Self-Promotion!

Recently met up with a college friend whom I haven't seen in a long time. She excitedly declared that she has finally bought our published book from Powerbooks. Thinking I have finally published a short story collection, she went through the pages and said "Bakit... puro liver?"

Yes, our book from the Health Series of Milflores Publishing, Fatty Liver, has finally been published. I, Katherine Lei-Mercado, and gastroenterologist extraordinaire Dr. Janus Ong have written this back in 2010 as part of our Internal Medicine residency requirement. UP College of Medicine Dean Agnes Mejia is the editor of the series. Other books already published in the series are My Kidneys and Me, Allergy, Anemia, Animal Bites, and Hypertension in the Young.

Fatty liver is an important medical problem and the lay should be aware of it. Truly I have miserably failed in my attempts in having a short story collection or a novel or an essay compilation published, but Fatty Liver traverses both medical and literary territories that I think it would be a great purchase. Also, the illustrations are... interesting.

While waiting for Dr. Ong for consultation with this book years ago, someone quipped, "Why would I buy that when I can just look it up on the internet?!" Indeed, why. Why? Because not only will you get a fun, educational book, with which you can indulge our dreams of signing it, you will also get to help many patients in the medical wards of PGH! Yes, all proceeds go to the Sagip-Buhay Medical Foundation, which raises millions of pesos each year for all our indigent patients in the internal medicine wards of PGH. Sagip-Buhay has provided mechanical ventilators (P1,000/day), high-end antibiotics like meropenem (P7,500/day), expensive diagnostics, and other medical needs to extremely poor patients who would otherwise be unable to afford these life-saving stuff. Am I in effect guilt-tripping you? Of course not, because whichever way you look at it, buying our book is a win-win situation for you AND the patients of PGH!

Other than the fantastic, well-written text (if I may float our huge armadas), you will also be treated to sophisticated illustrations by our illustrator... ME! AHAHAHAHAH. What experience do I have in illustrating these things? Why, when I was 5 until I was 12 I've written AND drawn 12 notebooks of comic books featuring my original superhero creation, Power Turtle, the stories of which are complete rip-offs of 60's Adventure Comics Featuring The Legion of Superheroes! Only my father and brother would read them, but those comic books were jolly good fun if I may say so MYSELF!

During the consultation process I've shown Dr. Ong my illustrations of chronic liver disease patients. These illustrations were put out to drive home certain points. Some of them he politely turned down, saying that they are like aliens and not really fit for this kind of publication. "It's like being drawn by people attending toy and comic book conventions and stuff" I think were the words. When we've submitted the final draft to our editor I sneakily put the illustrations back in, because truly she might find them awesome and awe-inspiring. Our editor's comments, "Bakit puro aliens?" Some of those drawings were henceforth left in the cutting room floor. But since you have kindly endured these paragraphs of self-promotion, I am hereby presenting you with...  for the first time to be seen in public (and aren't you sorry you are now part of this public)... the Director's Cut images!

This is cirrhosis! IT'S CIRRHOSIS!

A grotesque tuba-guzzling goblin with macrovesicular steatosis. Let's say he also has ehlers-danlos.


Fatty Liver is now available in National Bookstore. We've seen copies in Rob Ermita, Glorietta, and Mega Mall. AHAHAHAHAHAH.
photo by Kathy

Monday, February 11, 2013

iPot Empathy Drama

Wherein I lift significant lines from songs my iPot has played in empathy with this week's state of mind, and I get to write a poorly written sentence beginning with "wherein"! Henceforth, in escalating histrionic self-drama:

"I don't know why I waste my time, 
Getting hung up about the things you say 
When I open my eyes and its a lovely day!"- Keane (Snowed Under)

"I'm damaged goods for all to see!"- The Script (Exit Wounds)

"Jack Kerouac! Kekerouac!"- Our Lady Peace (All For You)

"They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting!" Dixie Chicks (Not Ready To Make Nice)

and my favorite for its pure LSD-induced hallucinationhood:

"When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me!" - The Beatles (Let It Be)

and for its pure cheeriness, from my favorite compilation album "Dark Was The Night":

"Look ahead with hope and cheer! (Look ahead with hope!)- Stuart Murdoch "Another Saturday"

Thursday, February 7, 2013


A couple of days ago I've bought an extremely cheap pair of rubber shoes and ran/walk along Roxas all the way to the CCP complex. Surprisingly there were no people anywhere, which I later realized should not have been a surprise at all seeing as I jogged at 1pm, ie, tanghaling tapat. This explained the sunburn and the general discomfort. I don't have any concerns for my health or weight, but I just woke up that morning with Marth V and BL droning in my head: bumili ka nang rubber shoes para makapag jogging tayo. They've told me this back in 2010, so this is the ultimate 3-year procrastination. Seeing as I am a total weakling with no physical activity whatsoever I feared I would get dyspneic after just a few meters, but I've totally surprised myself seeing that I did not pass out under the afternoon sun after a long jog with no warm ups or any preparation whatsoever. That night we celebrated Frichmond's birthday in a Korean restaurant. After dining, as we were walking out of the restaurant I whispered to Smoketh "libre ba to? Huh? Huh? Libre ba ito ni Frichmond?" to which Smoketh replied loudly, "FRICHMOND, LIBRE MO DAW BA ITO? HUH? HUH?"

Queenie's input that night: the difference between African and French Tips. This is a foreign concept which deserves a totally separate blog entry.

Last night, who should walk in on me while studying in Shrine Motherfucker 1 but Marth V. Apparently he had been locked out of his apartment when their househelp suddenly decided to go to Luneta by herself. Marth V texted her to text him once she's back, to which she replied, "K." We later on went to meet up with JJL and Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore to eat in Mexicali. I ranted a long rant to JJL worth three pages. I realized I've been waiting to see JJL for weeks now so I could rant this particular rant to her, but the only time I've seen her before this was when she was intently appraising a patient's relatives near the elevator. I didn't really listen in to check if she was really appraising, but there's a common facial expression of doctors talking to relatives while appraising them of their condition, and JJL had that.

This morning I decided to attend the morning audit, where first year residents present their mortalities and consultants ask them question and stuff. I sat beside my residency batchmate Eds. Usually Eds would be all over the audit asking intelligent questions in his well-modulated voice and stuff, but seeing as I haven't seen him in a long time I just chatted him up and stuff precluding him from totally concentrating on the case and asking more and more questions, so Charles the presentor probably has something to thank me for. After finishing my rounds, chemoing my patients, and doing other tasks I then prepared to walk back to the dorm where I would lay down and stare at the ceiling for hours on end. I chanced upon DanMike who is now pre-fellowing in renal. We had lunch in FMAB, where he asked me some questions about the PGH, and I asked him some questions about real life.

And tonight, who should I see studying in a cafe but JJL, Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore, and Tessiloopagooparoop.

The point of this long bleeping entry being: PEOPLE! I've seen and actually had some interaction this week with PEOPLE!-- interactions that do not involve me appraising patients on how they are not responding to the chemo or how we had to prepare for this expensive treatment regimen and stuff, interactions which really depress the crap out of me if you want to know the truth (hello Holden Caulfield).

PEOPLE! Sometimes you don't realize you've been missing them until you've actually see them again!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I've had my goodbye speech prepared for each patient. It was concise and direct to the point, but not devoid of the genuine sense of farewell. This is because I've discovered that patients who had no idea that their doctor would be replaced suddenly would become quite perplexed and even annoyed at this new person poring over their charts, and most of them getting worried that this new doctor has no idea what happened to them for years on end.

I've written my endorsements in as many charts as I could, barring those who haven't followed up for many, many months. I've written my original plans and recommendations, reiterated the inputs of the consultants I've referred the cases to, and suggested algorithms if this event or that happens. Everything was doing well since January, until this week.

When, for some reason, my stablest patients, those whom I am quite proud to endorse because they have completed their treatment successfully and would only need to undergo surveillance, have either started to experience recurrence or horrible treatment-related complications. I never had difficulty doing "disclosure" upon diagnosis with new patients, because obviously the huge sign "CANCER INSTITUTE" emblazoned at the building door already discloses everything, but the difficulty lies in telling them after months and months of chemo and racing for funds that they have recurred, or that the treatment is not working at all, or that they have progressed. Blasted cancer. My concise speech has turned into prolonged explanations on the worsening of the disease, the plans ahead, the expenses, and the expectations, sprinkled with the reassurance that the disease progression was something beyond our control.

Maybe it's not too late to shift to Allergy.

Anti-Dugyot Support Group

                And who should I walk into in SMF but Ms. Montgomery Burnz. After a few quick hello’s I asked her, being a chief dermatologist, “how do I destroy dark zits?!” I’ve thought old age has spontaneously pulverized any possibility of zits, but boy was I wrong, as I saw two brand new flaming gigantic zits pop up a few days ago. More like disgusting boils containing insects, like the ones in the wonderful, wonderful X-Files episode “Faciphaga Emasculata”. Montgomery wrote a whole zit regimen on a tissue paper, and as soon as she was explaining the special facial washes and the layers of creams to be applied in the morning AND evening I knew I couldn’t comply and I would just let the boils dry up on their own.

“Nakakatamad naman huhuhu. Pag naliligo ako isang Safeguard bar lang ang dala ko sa banyo,” I said with an infernal whine.  To which Montgomery choked on her coffee and said, “ANO KA, KARPINTERO? HINDI KA BA BINABALAKUBAK?!” As if on cue who should walk in but Waylon. Waylon is a medical resident from the batch where everyone dresses well and looks mabango. And, seeng as I always wear oversized black polo or kupas t-shirt, jeans, and crocs all day everyday, he gave me some pointers on how to dress well:

“Dapat yung shoulder line ng polo mga two centimeters above your shoulders.”
“Dapat meron kang at least one pair of rubber shoes, black leather shoes, brown shoes, etc.”
“Dapat yung pants na bibilhin mo ay mid-waist, because strictly speaking the waist is very near the umbilicus, mid-waist is that line made by the ASIS, etc.” Waylon went on to demonstrate how the mid-waist pants accommodates the crotch by standing up and cupping his crotch with two hands.
“Dapat meron kang at least two kinds of perfume. Use them alternately and have a rest day to rest your nose otherwise hindi mo alam kung ang dami-dami mo nang ginagamit. Spray some on your hanky.”
“Dapat meron kang pecs at biceps para maganda ang bagsak ng damit.”
“But I have manboobs naman,” I said. “And I used to go to the gym, back in 2004. For two months, take note. TWO MONTHS!”

He went on to share ten other nuggets of wisdom on grooming, but my favorite advice:
“If you would rotate your pants in a week, dapat meron kang at LEAST three pairs of pants to rotate. Khaki, black, blue. ALAM NILA pag inulit mo ang pants mo.” That one was my favorite because as I’ve sheepishly disclosed to Montgomery and Waylon,

“Er… ang jeans kasi na sinuot ko nang Monday… yun na… HANGGANG FRIDAY!!!” Waylon and Montgomery  snorted on their coffee and shot coffee at my face. I’ve tried to explain that I do that only because I’m too lazy to remove the belt, wallet, and all the other stuff in my jeans pockets and transfer them to another pair daily, but this excuse did not fly at all.

Mr. Waylon Smithers and Ms. Montgomery Burnz heretofore comprise my Anti-Dugyot Support Group.  My goal: magmukang tao by 2014!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Liner Notes

I know zip about the intricacies of jazz, but I sort of like listening to it. This is due no doubt to the pernicious influence of having watched numerous times one of my favorite movies, The Talented Mr. Ripley, adapted from the novel of Patricia Highsmith. I looked for the book after watching the Matt Damon movie back in 2000, and when I went to Powerbook Arnaiz I pestered the customer service girl as she was looking through the database. "The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Hogsmith. HOGSMITH! Wala? Walang HOGSMITH?!" I demanded in a high-pitched pretentious literati voice.

In the movie Tom Ripley studied jazz by blindfolding himself and identifying the different tracks and performers of various jazz records. He did it so he could kuha the loob of Dickie Greenleaf, whom he sort of kind of loved then hated then killed. What pushed him to whack Dickie in the face with a sagwan was Dickie's exasperated quip at Tom's clinginess, "It's always DICKIE DICKIE DICKIE like a little GIRL!" Whack! And then he took Dickie's identity and went on a murder spree.

In one scene, while in some Italian bar, Tom sang "My Funny Valentine". More than haunting it was creepy, as you knew he would just become some kind of killer. I started listening to the soundtrack composed mostly of jazz tracks. It's the best album to listen to if you have the urge to whack someone in the head with a sagwan.

Back in 2000 Tower Records Glorietta had a basement level that housed talkies, jazz, and other non-mainstream albums. I would go there every Sunday before going to the dorm and listen to random jazz albums for a few minutes. The headphones were always greasy and seemed to always be festering with all sorts of fungi, but the record bar was the one place where you could sample different music without having to buy them. There was no Youtube or Torrents then, so I had to endure the oiliness of the headphones. I never could understand the complexities of jazz, and as Dickie Greenleaf's father would say, it sometimes just sounds like "insolent noise". I guess that sort of music is difficult to interpret and appreciate, because at one point you think it's cool, and the next you'd think it could just be pedestrian elevator or dentist's waiting room muzak.

Obviously I am listening to Miles Davis again because of... Homeland. In the series whenever Eclair Pains listens to it something horrible happens, like she would receive some horrible news and try to kill herself, or get hit by a rushing Al-Quaeda truck. All of a sudden I miss the record bars. There's always the fun and excitement of picking up records you're not sure would be any good. But then the excitement ends and you get horribly annoyed as soon as you reach home and the album turns out to be crap.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Be Positive!

Nag ring na ang alarm clock, cellular phone, ipod, at iPad ko ay hindi pa rin ako nagising. Pagtingin ko sa orasan ay laking gulat ko nang makita kong 8:30am na. Nag give-up na lahat ng alarms, at naka limang tracks na ang Radiohead sa aking iPad. In retrospect, hindi talaga magaling na panggising ang Radiohead, kaya kinabukasan ay pinalitan ko na ito ng Audioslave. Hindi ko nga pala alam kung may Audioslave pa ba nang bumalik ang Soundgarden.

Syempre hindi ako tumayo kaagad. Nagpalipas pa ako ng thirty minutes bago ko nakuhang tumayo. Hindi naman ako puyat, hindi rin ako pagod, ngunit talagang nakakatamad na tumayo. Kung pwede lang hindi na tumayo at pumasok kahit kailan. Kampante naman ako dahil isa lang ang nakaschedule na pasyente ngayong araw, at recently ay wala nang mga surprise patients na nagpapakita. Malungkot din ito in some respect-- namatay na recently ang mga toxic patients ko na pabalik-balik sa clinic o tawag nang tawag. Napansin ko na ang harbinger of death ay pag nakakaramdam na ako ng slight exasperation sa dami ng text at tawag ng pasyente, kaya pag nararamdaman ko na ito ay mas lalo na akong kinukutuban.

Hindi naman ito kagaya ng ibang araw na pagmulat pa lang ng mata ay ang una kong maiiisip ay, "shet, umaga na naman". Ganunpaman, hindi pa rin ako tumayo kaagad. Binuksan ko muna ang aking Zombie Cafe at nagluto ng Handburgers and Flies. Naisip ko bigla ang sinasabi ng aking mga actively positive-minded friends. "GOOD VIBES! ATTRACT GOOD VIBES IN THE MORNING!" ang laging sinasabi ni RBTDS. Ganito rin ang sinasabi ni Smoketh, na kailangan mo daw isipin at i-claim ang positive energy pag umaga para dumating ito sa yo. Kaya ang nasa isip ko habang tinitiis kong buhusan ang sarili ko ng malamig na malamig na tubig: "GOOD VIBES! GOOD VIBES!!!"

Pagdating ko sa ospital ay nakita kong medyo nagbabaha na sa corridor papuntang cancer institute. Hindi naman umulan, pero may tubig na umaagos palabas o papasok ng office namin at ng katabing Pulmo office. Naka barikada ang buong stretch na may tubig. Pero dahil feeling ako, naglakad pa rin ako sa basang sahig. Pagdating ko sa dulo ay sarado ang gate, kaya naglakad na naman ako pabalik sa basang sahig at umikot nang malayo para makarating sa CI. Medyo nabasa na ang paa ko, pero kako, hindi matitinag ng basang paa ang aking GOOD VIBES.

Atsaka pa lang ako nag-wonder kung bakit nga ba baha pagdating ko sa clinic. Tinanong ko ang mga guard, "manong, bakit baha doon sa may office namin?"

"Malaki yata yung tae. May nagbarang toilet bowl overnight, at sumabog ito. Lahat ng tubig na yan galing sa toilet bowl."

"Ganun po ba," sabi ko in total defeat.
Hindi magiging maganda ang araw na ito, inisip ko habang nagbabali ng ampule ng ondansetron.

General Nastiness

Was asked by Tsutsugamushi to come with them in their Binondo food trip a few weekends ago but I had to decline and when she asked why, I screamed over my dysfunctional cell phone, "Kikimo! KIKIMO!!!" Obviously I meant I would have to do chemo for all the charity patients that week, but I did get a couple of glances from passersby.

This, apparently, is the bucket lists time of the year, as before we knew it we are counting down the seconds till the last days of hellowship (!!!), and my friends who've been staying in Manila since medical school days ten to twelve years ago are now sort of cramming up the things they need to do before leaving the place forever. "You may find it hard to believe, but there's a huge world there outside of PGH!" Omar Mejia once told us. We believe him and this plane cannot fly fast enough.

"So what do you want to do?" Tsutsugamushi asked in reference to my bucket list, without realizing that I don't have such a bucketlist, as I intend to dread only one day at a time. Struggling to come up with an answer I said, "I want to go to... to... to... The National Museum!"

Almost twenty years ago, back in elementary and high school, we would go to the following spots year after year: The Planetarium, The National Museum, CCP Complex for biking, and some factory like Coke where you are allowed to drink buckets of free Coke. Occasionally we would be allowed to go somewhere fun, like... Harrison Plaza. I was able to go to The National Museum only once, and I remember staring in awe at the Spolarium. I didn't know anything about art, but just the size and grandeur of it kind of amazed my totally innocent mind. Looking back, now that I'm old, arthritic, and balding, it would be nice to have the innocence and sense of amazement that kids have. But these are offset by the things we don't envy and would never ever want to experience again, such as having to get circumcised, or experiencing chickenpox, or BOTH at the same fucking time.

So tomorrow I'm going to... The National Museum. I might get bored as fuck, but who knows. Maybe I'd somehow recapture that old sense of wonder that has been destroyed by years of seeing death, suffering, and the general nastiness of life.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Eclair Pains

In 1997 The Philippine Collegian released a lampoon tabloid issue which contains some of the funniest bits of lampooning I have ever read. It was downhill from there, but at that point I became greatly appreciative of comedic writing. I wanted to get into the paper but succumbed to abject laziness and apathy towards the "socially relevant" issues. One of the characters in the lampoon issue was called Eclair Pains, who is a spoof of Clair Danes. That was the time of her much publicized trip to Manila and her comments about cockroaches everywhere. The two other characters were Fax Modem and Data Scanner (Fox Mulder and Dana Scully). So 90's.
I've recently recalled Eclair Pains because lately I have been doing nothing other than going to work, chemoing patients, then running back to the dorm to sleep. Then I watched the first episode of Homeland featuring Eclair Pains at 11pm. Bad idea, because I could never stop watching the blasted thing since then.

Homeland is about a CIA agent, Eclair Pains, with a "mood disorder" or "bipolar disorder", but everyone who's ever read DSM IV knows what she really is: a psychotic bitch. And since she's a psychotic bitch (which Eclair Pains plays fantastically), do we believe her when she claims that a marine who's been kidnapped by Al Quaeda for 8 years is not a hero but a sleeper agent? Do we? Specially when they fuck in the car? In one episode I am convinced that he's not really a sleeper agent but is indeed a hero/survivor, but by the next one I am sure that he intends to blow up the White House. Good job, Eclair Pains.

We first saw Eclair Pains back in 1996 when we watched "Romeo and Juliet" in Greenbelt 1. I was with Ruth Marx, Namtab Pots, Toms, and Ysa, and we were trying to unwind after a series of horrible, abusive events back in our school. I slept through most of "Romeo and Juliet". We then ate lunch in... Triple V. There were no free tables, so we went to a table with a table top sign that said "Reserved". Ysa got the sign... and placed it in his bag. "I collect these things," he said.

In 1997 the song Mmmbop was crazy popular in radio. When I first heard it I thought that the singer was a girl. I then saw the music video and said, "Ang lead singer pala ng Hanson ay si... Eclair Pains!" I found out months later that the lead singer is not only not Eclair Pains, but is a dude. They really did look alike.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Best Strawberry

I've been meaning to finish a short story that has been sitting cold in my hard drive for a few months now, but for some reason I could never get around to doing it. Most probably that reason is that I've kept on reading digital comic books on the side, and as soon as I go back to the story my thread of thought has gone poof.

And it's not like I have not been reading a lot of comic books the last few days either. In my internet-less and cable-tv-less home the past week I've done nothing but read the funny books. I've tried to catch up on my late 80's-early 90's Batman, Catwoman, Detective Comics, and Birds of Prey, because I still can't read... bleeech, the New 52.

There are a lot of oddities in old comic books, but one in particular almost made me snort the Coke I've been drinking at the time. This one is from a late 80's issue by Moench.

HUH?! AHAHAHAHAHHAH! Not to be malisyoso, but come on.

To Dick Grayson's defense this is not Dick Grayson. This is Jayson Todd, the 2nd Robin who took the mantle after Dick Grayson had a falling out with Bruce and decided to become Nightwing. Jayson Todd died horribly in A Death In The Family and was later resurrected in 2005's fantastic Under The Hood.