Monday, June 9, 2014

The Mother Model Of Marketification

We've always known that no hospital or other doctors would be tripping all over themselves to refer to us once we started our practice, but we never realized how difficult it would be just to make people know that we exist.

Enter my mother, who got hold of my box of business cards and started handing them out like a mad woman. She has excellent marketing skills--ie, she would go to the market everyday to buy stuff to cook, and give out my business cards to any familiar face. At one point while chatting in the palengke grounds with her high school classmate Aling Poquita, she noted that Aling Poquita's friend has facial edema. "Uy bakit sya manas?" my mother (who has started to develop a clinical eye) asked, and before I knew it random people she has chatted in the palengke were coming to our house for consults. I told my mom that solicitation is not ethical, but she insists that she is only trying to help these people none of whom were seeing any doctor for their condition at that time.

One of the old stuff we sell in our hardware is something called "sahing", resin used for industrial purposes. This stuff is also being used by albularyo's because of its inherent heat--its the gunk they use to stick those small square papers, on which prayers are written, all over the patient's body. Eventually people in really depressed areas who couldn't even afford the "donations" for albularyo's would self-medicate with sahing. On many instances people would buy sahing from my mom, and my mom would ask, "Aay, san mo gagamitin?" This would progress into a long story about a mass palpated on the inguinal area, or an aching knee, or a black spot noted on the sole of a foot which started to swell and bleed.
"Aaaay, hindi gamot ang sahing," my mom would start. "Alam mo may anak kong doktor."

The latest extreme marketification stunt happened back in March when I was delivering my speech to elementary school graduates as the, barf, guest speaker. I didn't even know that my mother watched the darn thing. But it was even more unbelievable when she told me, beaming with pride at her own marketing zest, that while I was speaking on stage, she was slowly going around the audience area... giving my business cards to random parent saying anak ko po yan stuff!!! Eeeep!

Sunday, June 8, 2014


In one fantastic episode of the TV show Smallville a super-powered girl sits atop the town water tank making muni-muni. Meanwhile Lex Luthor is thrown into a cell for killing Lana Lang, while in China Lana Lang is shown very much alive, wearing a wig and looking all serious. We are made to believe that the super-powered girl is a young Wonder Woman when she stands up, puts on a pair of metallic bracelets, and does the iconic Wonder Woman/Linda Carter pose with her legs spread out and hands to her waist. She then flies up to the moon. To be continued. Throughout this montage of scenes plays the song Sober by Kelly Clarkson.
                I am reminded of this scene because I’ve realized that I have been very much sober since I've completed my sub-specialization stint in Manila, which is now almost over a year. Not from an active effort, but more from lack of opportunity. For 13 years I’ve lived in Malate, where a bar is just a few steps away. Oar House, a tiny cozy bar located along Adriatico, boomed at around 2010, thanks to the recommendation of Frichmond. One could just go there alone and in a few minutes see friends from the hospital--not that you'd always want to, sometimes you see that fellow/resident/nurse you've had a recent disagreement with and you're not sure you want to clink glasses with her as if she hasn't rejected your referral for hyponatremia (napaka-specific). Whereas our prior routine just consisted of ending our day studying in Pan Pacific Gloria Jeans Shrine Motherfucker 1, we’ve gained new endurance as the night would be further capped off with a couple of drinks in Oar House which we’ve started to call Whore House. Later on during sub-specialization boards aralan the night would be pushed further with a UN Avenue McDo visit. Those times when people started to become unavailable I would run to the Blue Room at 11:30 pm and drink by my lonesome, which I didn't really find poetic, pathetic, sad, dramatic, or weird--it is what it is.
                Strangely the song Sober has a stand-out line which perfectly captures how we think, or should think, during our reminiscences: 3 months and I’m still sober, picked all my weeds but kept the flowers. As an example, we always used to get to sit beside horribly noisy conyo girls in Shrine Motherfucker 1 and Oar House. Now those are weeds we want to step on.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Snap Out of It, DC!

By 2010 the long cumbersome individual storylines that have prevented the major characters of DC from coming together to form the Justice League once again have been coming to a close. The "walking saga" written by Michael J. Straczynski which saw Superman walking and walking and walking across the United States for 12 fucking issues has finally ended. Wonder Woman has finally come to her senses and was able to go back to her starry panties, surviving the dismal All-New Wonder Woman 14-issue run of… gasp, Michael J. Straczynski! And after getting transported into the past when he was zapped by Darkseid in the Final Crisis, Batman has successfully returned to the present after many, many years and many, many issues which seemed to run forever. Barry Allen is alive after 2009’s mediocre The Flash Rebirth, Hal Jordan is alive after 2004’s rather fantastic Green Lantern Rebirth. And most deliciously, Aquaman, The Martian Manhunter, and the original Hawkgirl Shayera Hall have just recently come back to life after The Blackest Night.

2011 would be a good year for DC Comics, I thought, as the iconic characters and their iconic versions are finally AVAILABLE. They could revitalize The Justice League, because guess what, the JLA at that point was composed of the ragtag group of Vixen, John Stewart, Plastic Man, and Jason Rusch Firestorm. Not that the member composition determines whether a book is good, but the phoned-in art and writing didn’t help. 2011 would be a good year, I thought, and then one fateful night while I was in Gloria Jeans Pan Pacific sitting in the Shrine Motherfucker 1, I’ve read the news on the net that DC would undergo… a reset. Even Action Comics and Detective Comics which have been continuously numbered since 1939 would be renumbered.

Dan Didio, Jim Lee, and the formerly reliable Geoff Johns have given all sorts of justification and tried to raise the excitement. Under the stupid imprint “The New 52”, 52 new number one’s would be published in September 2011. Brand new stories! Brand new origins! And try not to get too confused with these new stories, because the 5-year history of this New 52 world has already been well-planned, laid-out, mapped, completed, they promised.

But it was a lie. There was no plan. Storylines have become more confusing than ever, and not just because I’m a continuity Nazi who have followed over 70 decades of DC history. For instance, the book Earth 1 is in no way connected to the book Earth 2. In fact, the Earth 1 of the comic book Earth 2 is not the same earth as the earth 1 in the comic book Earth 1.

I have suspended disbelief and tried to accept the new continuity, but continuity was not the issue—the writing and art in general were just so inept. Apparently Batman and Green Lantern continuities were the only ones not rebooted, a mandate which does not make sense because how could their stories interact properly in a way that is coherent with the history of, say, The Birds of Prey, which has been completely hard-reset? And the incompetence and failure to properly plan apart from let’s sell 52 number 1’s showed fairly quickly—by 2013 only a handful of the original 52 titles have not been decimated.

Parody cover showing the major changes in the New 52

In 1995 the X-Men underwent the reality-altering story The Age of Apocalypse. I hated the idea when I've first read about it, but after the first issues were released I kind of wished it would never end, and I was bummed when after just 4 months the X-Men were back to its original timeline. But for The New 52, it’s been 3 years. 3 fucking years! When will this end! I miss reading comic books!  

A Tale of A Totally Jej Mishap and The Impostor Wife

In our primary internal medicine text book it is said that for oncologists, the main dictum of practice is not "first do no harm" but rather "first hasten to help", which is kind of weird considering that one of the main reasons I chose this field is that there is no real emergency that would interrupt sleep or a comic book break, at least not in a way that a cardiologist needs to run after the golden period of thrombolysis, or a gastroenterologist needs to clip those spurting esophageal varices. Still, while a few hours or a few days of delaying chemo might not change the prognosis significantly, just thinking of those dang invisible tumor cells possibly swimming in the blood stream and lodging themselves in the lungs from a foot melanoma makes me feel totally aligaga.

A few weeks ago one of my high school teachers came in with stage 4 lung cancer, already with poor performance status and in horrible pain, and you could tell by her greeting upon seeing me for the first time after 17 years-- "mamamatay na ko!!!"-- that there is an urgency for some kind of intervention. After a few days I've successfully administered chemo, and while she suffered a few expected adverse effects from the drugs her lung mass has significantly decreased in size and more importantly, the severe chest pain has totally disappeared. 

And I could have probably done the chemo a few days earlier, if not for the jeje mishap with the drug delivery. The drug company shipped the drugs via 2Go, but I haven't received the fucking drugs on the expected day. I've waited, and waited, and called up the company, and after twenty phone calls and twenty "we're investigating it" 's, I was finally informed that the drugs were indeed shipped out but were delivered to the wrong address. Said drugs were received by the person in the wrong address, who has promptly introduced herself as... my wife. I have not blown my top in a long time, but I could just imagine what the eavesdroppers in Dakasi SM Sta. Rosa might have been thinking when I screamed over the phone, "I don't care what happened to your delivery, I need you to give me a new set of DRUGS! I need those DRUGS now! Give me a new set of DRUGS now!!!"

I was eventually given a new set of drugs later that day which I've used immediately and which lysed the tumor wonderfully. I've lost contact with the company and never got new info about my Impostor Wife, but whoever she is, I take delight at the chagrin she must have had when she opened the attractive giant styrofoam box only to discover tiny bottles inside. In fairness to her, "Ondansetron" does sound like some new low-end gadget with which she could take some jeje selfies. 

Friday, June 6, 2014


While driving along Commonwealth at 9 pm Smoketh rang me up. Smoketh, as you readers remember (all three of you who were able to stick it out), can use the phone, read a novel, blog, and use a luffah while driving--all at the same time. She has apparently just completed her rounds and was rushing home, with the night drive her only time to chat with friends. She whined about our current state of affairs—young consultants starting their practice with the eagerness and desperation to recoup the losses of the past hellish years of training and getting deathly exhausted at the close of the day, sleeping with a broken heart, friendless, and socially dead. “Is this it? Will this forever be the pattern of our fucking lives?!” she screamed.
                “Yes,” I said. “Oh yes!”
My conversations for the past months while trying to build a practice that doesn't amount to a financial negative balance have been limited to talking to patients, most of the time appraising them of their prognosis coupled with the nasty business of telling them the cost of cancer treatment, which is usually preferable to the more frequent exchange with my secretaries, summarized as: Ay, wala na namang pasyente? Kailan nga ulit due yung rent ko? Last week?!?
Ang haba ng sentence. Ahahahahha.
We long for those nights when I would just bump into Frichmond in the hospital which meant instant beer drinking. Or when I could just talk to someone and use ten vulgar words involving bodily fluids, procedures, and illegal inhuman acts all in one sentence without fear of judgment. Or when I could just ask Tessieloopagooparoop in the middle of eating shawarma rice: Hey Tessieloopagooparoop, wanna fuck? To which she would nonchalantly reply, "No thanks!"
                So now I guess this is it… this is really it. We have officially jumped into an alternate universe, or more accurately, jumped from an alternate universe into the real one.