Monday, June 15, 2015

Sliding and Whining and Overcoming in Sagada

A few weeks ago we had our midyear oncology convention in Baguio. I've always been leery of conventions, as most of the stuff that would be discussed could be read on the internet. But then again, everything could be done at home now and if we try to do it that way we would develop cabin fever and become murderous. Not that attending conventions makes you feel any less murderous--with all the lectures punctuated by the required dance and acting performances, but at least you could hila your batchmates and escape and go somewhere away from any talk about cancer, cancer, and fucking cancer.

After the convention we set-up a bit of a sidetrip to Sagada. We've seen That Thing Called Tadhana, and we've wondered how many people in Kiltepan Point looks like JM and Angelica. We left Baguio Country Club at around 4 am. Cast of characters: Gee-lado, Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore, Oxali, and Monakiki. Of us all I and Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore (who is no longer in a You You You Oughtta Know mode, more like Head Over Feet mode now AHOY!) are the most mahiluhin, so we've wondered just how nakakahilo the way to Sagada really was. We never expected it to be a 5-hour non-stop Kennon Road ikutan level, and at some point I think I've passed out.

We made a bit of a stop over at what was labelled as the "Highest Point". It was an amazing sight, made more amazing by the availability of restrooms. Drop 10 pesos here for urination, 20 pesos for defecation, a coin box at the entrance said. "Hindi ka ba iihi, William," Oxali said. I said I was not in the mood. "Baka maging twenty pesos ako pag nasa loob na," I said.

When we arrived there was already a booked hostel room waiting for us, thanks to Monakiki's skills in arranging itineraries and stuff. Monakiki's travel skills throughout the entire thing have totally turned us into totally dependent whiners-- Monakiki saan tayo kakain, Monakiki anong next, Monakiki asan si manong driver Monakiki Monakiki Monakiki--everything Monakiki has more than satisfactorily fulfilled, answered, accomplished with a smile. We are planning to go to New Zealand and Japan as long as Monakiki is with us.

We went inside the Sumagui Cave. What they said about there being a chance of dying might be a bit exaggerated, but you could definitely get brain contusion, fractured humeri, and be in a coma for years on end as the rocks to climb were so slippery. We always welcome the good naturedness and humor of Oxali, except when we were climbing a rope and a short giggle could mean falling in the water.

Oxali: Ahahahaha grabe no tanda nyo ba yung dati, nung...

By the time we finished the last leg of the climb out of the cave (270 steps of stairs or so), some other tourists were just coming in. Probably oblivious of our COPD-level gasping, they all asked us in unison:
"Malayo ba?'
"Parang OK lang naman siguro no?"

To which we wanted to say: THIS IS NOT THE FUCKING TIME!!!

By dawn we went to the much-praised Kiltepan Cave. The sight was wonderful, with the sunrise and the clouds and the cold and the shared coffee while sitting on rocks, but most importantly I was in awe at the interest people had at the beauty of nature, because for all our differences and our complexities and our careers and our time-consciousness raw nature grips everyone the same way--except for our van driver who is the nega-est person on the planet.
"Clouds lang pala makikita dyan," we heard him murmur.

See, no matter how nega you think you are there will always be someone more nega.

One More Try

Today I only have one patient to rounds, and I have no scheduled clinic, tasks, and other responsibilities (as far as I want to admit--of course there are my QURE responsibilities where I have to score the online tests of oncologists overseas, the lengthy tax stuff I have to prepare, the toys that still need to be taken photos of, and other trifles). Maybe it's the pasukan blues, but most of my patients have decided they wanted their chemoes rescheduled due to financial constraints. It astounds me how one chemo session could cost a whole year of their high school kids' tuition fees, but there are things I would opt not to ruminate about right now lest I get depressed as hell. And of course there are the mortalities, it's been a bad two months for mortalities.

Yesterday I've decided I wouldn't do anything productive. For some reason or another I didn't want to write, read anything of substance, or watch any movie or TV show. So I've lain in bed the whole fucking day and scrolled scrolled scrolled thru my devices for the most useless crap on the internet. Mostly I've watched 90's music videos, which would lead me to look for live/concert performances, which would lead me to search Wikipedia for some behind the scenes details. Proof of how far I've gone: I've watched the Kula Shaker video Govinda which has been on heavy repeat in MTV back in 1997. I don't know anybody who knows anybody who knows anybody in the current multiverse who still has Kula Shaker in their subconscious, and I don't even like that band, but for some reason it popped in my head and I've decided to waste 5 minutes on it. I've looked at Instagram cake pictures of the cousin of a friend of a co-worker's girlfriend, and marvelled at the millions of travel pictures of Ardee Lugo. I was essentially just waiting since 7 am for the basketball game of Ginebra at 5:15 PM, and by the time the team lost again miserably I went back to scrolling the fuck out of the day.

It made me feel horrible. I didn't know exactly how I would describe the experience, until Zen Queen of The Arthritides succinctly told me how it feels:

"I've done that before. At the end of the day you feel like SHIT."

And what a shitty feeling it indeed was. I could imagine invisible giant bangyaws buzzing around me as I corpsily whiled away valuable time. Argument could be made for downtime being good, but the same could be said for being emotionally dead--sounds appealing and dramatic, but you're still emotionally dead just the same regardless how you feel about it.

Back in February 2013 as a sort of farewell to our lives as Hellows, Frichmond, Smoketh and I went to the UP Fair. We stopped over on the way to the restaurant owned by Kuya Bodjie in an attempt to see Kuya Bodjie, but to no avail. We had pasta and stuff. I saw a long-haired girl with a bunch of burloloys all over, a long flowy scarf around her neck, tan-lines and all the trappings, and she was typing on her Mac while sipping her taragon tea. I took a quick glance at what she was typing and saw that she was writing a screenplay. That made me sad as I've reflected on a career I've wanted back then, a career that could have led me on a totally different direction until I was diskarilled by this thing called... all together now... LIFE.

After a year of re-establishing some practical order in my life I've sort of decided now that maybe we should give this dead non-career one more try, there are downtimes waiting for it. I've looked at some avenues for it, some very tempting, but all having nothing to do with my present career as a doctor. Life might not have been the most cooperative of all things, but instead of forcing it to cooperate maybe I could just give it one crispy, giant middle finger.

Monday, June 8, 2015


"Ayoko nang umasa at masaktan na muli," I texted Tokwa Boy-- pure, visceral, jinarteritic words I never thought I would tell anyone, much less to someone named Tokwa Boy.

It was in response to his text message: "Kapit bayan!"

We were of course talking about the latest Ginebra VS Purefoods game, a once-a-conference duel dubbed as Manila Classico for its historic undertones. Ginebra was down by 19 points but eventually got the lead, which was taken over again by Purefoods after one quarter. I don't know why I stuck with Ginebra all these years even as the line-ups have inevitably changed and the popularity of the league has continuously dwindled, but for better or worse I did. Other than Tokwa Boy I don't know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who still watches PBA. And I've avoided participating in any online conversations about it because good lordy you would believe that those fans could really kill someone.

Ginebra of course lost miserably. I turned off the TV when they were down by 7 points with 30-seconds left. The supposed superstar Korean import Kim getting I think just one out of more than five 3-point attempts, Mark Caguioa doing all sorts of turn-overs and eventually an injury, Gregzilla never having been able to get back into the groove after a prolonged absence etc. etc. etc., it was enough to make me cry.

The last time I watched a game live was in 1997. It was in Cuneta Astrodome, it's that game where Allan Caidic fell on the floor and vomited and the camera caught Jaworski sort of laughing. After that game we ate in Wendy's where we had Wendy's fried chicken and I asked my mom if I could have frosty but she said we had no money left. No matter, we were in high spirits because Ginebra won. Allan Caidic would eventually coach Ginebra. In med school I missed the career-high years of Caguioa and Helterbrand, the people said they were really great, because by the time I got back into the fold they were being overshadowed by the younger players.

Ginebra will get eliminated in this round, they won't be able to even proceed to the quarter finals. The last time this happened TV5 interviewed a man who cried and cried in front of the camera and asked that there be a change in the coaching staff. They changed the coach all right, they pulled Cariaso in, who was fired after two conferences because he couldn't rally the team and he was replaced by Ato Agustin who hasn't fared any better. In came Frankie Lim but it looks like it would goodbye for him too.

So in the last few minutes last night I didn't make asa anymore and I think it softened the blow somewhat. Coincidentally this came in the heels of watching for the first time the movie Starting Over Again in channel 2 a few hours before the PBA game, One of the learning points of the movie is: don't be addicted to hope.


Of all the things I am most lazy about it's buying clothes. I hate it. I hate shopping. I hate picking shirts and most specially pants, going to the fitting room, undressing, and putting them on. Then going out to get more sizes. I abhor it. Next only to going for a hair cut, dental prophylaxis, and other grooming necessities. There are so many fucking requirements to look like a person that sometimes I just want to give up. Back in the college and med school when my parents would subsidize me clothes would just miraculously appear in my closet which I would wear until they are worn out.

Upon entering private practice though I was told in no uncertain terms that I should no longer wear my favorite Batman and X-Files t-shirts. I should look professional, they said. I should look like someone people would be willing to pay when they consult or undergo kikimo. Trifles, trifles. But sometimes we have to stop living in our proverbial UP Diliman campus and get rid of anything tie-dyed or denim.

So a few weeks ago I've decided to schedule days to buy all the material things "needed" to look like a person. I just have these other issues when buying material things other than being from pure laziness--after years of living off ten pesos per day during hellowship I have been content with window shopping, pinching pennies and sealing them off with an imaginary adhesive in my wallet like an old man who survived World War II and the Depression. I also think buying material stuff is very un-Christian-- chalk it up to my being brought up by nuns in a Catholic school where "charity is chastity" or something. And of course, as I always tell Hellize, Smoketh, Frichmond, and Henj to the point of karindihan, I need to save because I never know when I'll be needing expensive chemo.

Good thing some of my patients specially those I don't singil give me clothes for gifts. Most of the time they don't fit, and of course I'm too lazy to go to the mall to have them exchanged. I usually ask my mother or my sister to do that task for me. A few days ago I got a tight-fitting t-shirt for a gift, the kind that not only fails to hide the flabs and the man-boobs but actually flaunts them. After going to the store for the exchange my mom and sister exclaimed:

"Anak ang mahal pala ng t-shirt na yan dalawang libo! Kaya lang wala kaming makitang magugustuhan mo na kapalit.... kaya ipinalit na lang namin ng blouse, isa sakin isa sa ate mo."

Happy to have shared the love!


Helliza is back in the shore. She has successfully completed her internal medicine training and passed the specialty board exams, and while she has the option to leave--LEAVE!-- the hospital, she has decided to stay and train further to become a rheumatologist. Rheumatology is not something I am most fond of. You see, back in college in UP Diliman, I had no plans of entering med school but Mrs. Therese said she would go to the UP College of Medicine so I copied her plans. Once in med school I had no plans of going into internal medicine specialty training but Mrs. Therese said she would go into it so I copied her as well. So far so good, I said, I did not have to think of my own disposition in life, I only needed to copy a model. After residency we submitted an application for Oncology training together and I thought hellowship would be less hellish if Mrs. Therese would be there to listen to my endless whines. A few weeks later she changed her mind. "Gusto kong gumamot ng mga lolang masasakit ang tuhod," she said. In my irrational selfishness I still always wonder how hellowship would have smarted less, how easily survivable it would have been, had she been there.

So far Helliza seems to be enjoying her stay as a rheueueheuma hellow, treating all sorts of lupus with all sorts of complications (the young, the old, the pregnant--all audit-baits). She has so far been able to become zen through it all, waking up early in the morning to meditate, pray, speak tongues, levitate--before going on rounds to receive all sorts of crap as all hellows should get used to.

While messaging each other in Messenger a few nights ago I've sensed this zen-ness. She sounded calm, collected, at peace.

After a long conversation about all sorts of things I sort of drifted away for a while so I said:
"I'm in the bathroom right now. I'm taking a bath. I need to listen to a podcast as I take a bath,"
"Okaaaay. Hindi ba mababasa yang iphone mo."
"Hindi naman, I always wrap it in my used underwear para hindi mabasa."



As I said, zen.

14 Years

For some strange reason this blog has beckoned to me to write today, and I discovered that tomorrow would mark the one year that I have not written anything. Gone were the days when I would get all fidgety when I would fail to write something new. Back in college I would require myself to write 4 short stories during Christmas/semestral breaks. Those stories I would then give to Mrs. Therese come return of classes, which she would give back to me with side notes/comments which are more hilarious than the actual stories. But then real life kicked in: training, poverty, sickness, death. Since starting a Friendster (FRIENDSTER!) blog and then moving here I have resolved never to write anything about being a doctor-- none of that dramatic/pandering stuff about saving patients' lives and all that and for the most part I think I have been successful. This was because writing was a way to detach myself from the harsh realities of real life. The closest thing about medical training/residency/hellowship training I would write about would be my interactions with the crazy cast of characters (ie, friends, batchmates, weird superiors) that I was blessed with. But for the past year and half, since leaving hellowship training, that crazy cast of characters has all but disappeared.

I sometimes get a whiplash when I see how things have radically changed. The past years have rushed past so quickly, like that giant wheel-like thing with spikes in the Justice League season 1 finale, rolling over everything in its direction. A high school friend has visited me in my clinic a few days ago to sell me insurance. She has apparently been paying also for an insurance for 14 years now. "FOURTEEN YEARS..." I muttered dramatically as I tried to recall what I have been doing for 14 years. "In the past fourteen years I have been... I have wasted fourteen fucking years studying to become a doctor... and for what, so I could save up enough money for... DEATH?! "