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.