October 22, 2007

Love in the Time of Marquez

There is reason to celebrate Gabo's utterly brilliant novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. Why? It's the new film by Mike Newell:

Even Oprah picked this one for her recent Book Club and I hope with this kind of promotion Gabo's popularity will soar again as he did when he published his One Hundred Years of Solitude.

I fell in love with his books not because of the subject but more for the sheer imagination he has planted into his words where the impossible become possible, the unbelievable become believable. Moreso, his words breathe in that sultry dusty and heady air of South America which is not that different from ours. Think of the cobblestone streets of Intramuros, Nick Joaquin stories, rondalla music, the smell of camphor wood, the waxed sheen of narra planks of old Spanish homes, clip-clop noise of the caretela horse, the rich taste of egg yolks blended into the flan, water stains on limestone walls and mildew smell of the pages of leather-bound books. It's no wonder why a LOT of Filipinos put Marquez as their top choice for a Nobel-prizewinning author. I hope with this new film out, more Pinoys shall enjoy Marquez's works for the pleasure of it, and I'm confident it will be as enduring as Florentino's love for Fermina.

October 15, 2007

Immodest Proposal

Students have learned in school that British satirist Johnathan Swift is the author of Gulliver's Travels but most literate people however do not know that he also wrote scathing essays about the pressing social issues of his days.

One of these essays is his "A Modest Proposal", a sarcastic reaction to the overpopulation of the Irish during the late 18th century. His solution to the escalating problem of population explosion where impoverished mothers were spawning kids like pigs in a blanket is to fatten these oxygen-consuming creatures for culinary consumption.

Swift proposed, "that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout." And frankly, that will solve the Philippines' malnutrition dilemma. Mothers shall ideally give birth to a maximum of 3 children to be raised as real children and all subsequent births will be reserved for commercial use. Swift planned his scheme as such:
"That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in thesale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advisingthe mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render themplump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainmentfor friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will makea reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very goodboiled on the fourth day, especially in winter."

In other words, all lechon-roasters will have an alternative source of livelihood. This is very good news to all nuns administering the orphanages for they shall have a source of income to sustain the upbringing of their poor defenseless wards. But will this thing be seasonal? Swift said that "infant's flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician, that fish being a prolific diet, there are more children born in Roman Catholic countries about nine months after Lent than at any other season." After the carcasses has been flayed and consumed, Swift suggested that "the skin of which artificially dressed will make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen" in order to maximize use. Such is the genius of the man.

With such amount of children being born as a mere inconvenient consequence of the pleasures of sex, such proposal may be prudent and timely in order to balance the resources of our nation. Infant de Leche anyone?

September 03, 2007

Exultate Justi In Domino

The major reason I love Spielberg's Empire of the Sun is the orchestral music... and this finale caps everything I love about the film:

Can you feel the bass of the timpani? The exultant melody of the oboe and French horns? The majesty of the trombones? The purity of the voices? This should be the ideal music to be played in churches, but because of post-"Vatican 2", I have to suffer with dirge-like Tagalog drivel like "Hindi Kita Malilimutan" or the Ilonggo mass songs penned by a deaf-mute vagrant from the Plaza that are being sung on off-key notes at the Cathedral.

If you love this kind of music, there's this French film I stumbled upon in one of my Quiapo raids. It's entitled "Le Choristes" or "The Chorus". It's one of those foreign films hailed by the world over which ordinary Filipinos will never see in the local sinehan. It's not even a high brow film but more akin to our own "Mga Munting Tinig."

July 31, 2007

Building a Library

Living here in the province didn't stopped me from buying great classics and bestsellers at low low prices. Thanks to the availability of Booksale, I am able to accumulate books I feel are worth reading in this lifetime. My latest finds are seen in the aforementioned picture and most prices ranged from P44-70 except for the Kenzaburo collection of four novels which was priced a bit higher. As to when I can read them, only time will tell. And as long they're there stocked high among my shelves within reach of my fickle mind, then I can sleep well.

The books I try getting are those whose settings are NOT in America, whose timeline does not fall within this age of consumerism and whose themes must reflect the ironies of human frailties. The only exception to my choices is the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Martin Dressler. This I haven't researched on yet, but if such book bested the whole 1997 lot of American Fiction, then at p44, it was a steal.

And newly adopted books from Booksale are then herded to my mini-library (as seen below) where they'll await their duly appointed time. I hope to expand my collection to fill an entire wall of the house so long the wooden floors wouldn't give in.

July 13, 2007

Must Love Crocs

My dad was a shoe fetish. I am not. My pairs are his hand-me-downs and the product of hours of trawling inside factory outlets. But today, I received a package from mi hermanas in North America. Inside a plastic bag were two pairs of Crocs, a khaki colored one and a navy blue with an orange strap.

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Though their designs are left to be desired, their function as wardshoes are perfect. Why?

1. When working long bestial hours (8 am until 5 pm the next day), a health professional's feet eventually develops edema (swelling due to water retention) and thus must rest. But with Crocs, the orthopedic softness of the material cushions each footfall which means less pressure. With less pressure, fatigue is somewhat diminished.

2. The design has vents to facilitate the release of noxious fumes coming from bacteria and fungi respirating from one's feet. Thus, such ingenuity will eliminate bad odor.

3. Because the material is plastic (and is designed primarily for the beach), they are durable against constant use and abuse. I can use it in the rain, in the wards, in the ER, or even kicking Dr. Caprice's corrupt ass.

4. The shoes have an easy slip-on mechanism wherein at the front it looks like a decent closed-toe shoes but upon seeing the heel, one will discover that it is more of a sandal instead. Thus, comfort and convenience are achieved. With a little compromise in the dignity departmant, that is.

5. Biggest reason to wear crocs is this:
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I can't believe I've devoted time and space for this! I guess a "shoe fetish" can indeed be inherited after all.

July 02, 2007

Tie-In Movies

There's nothing greater than seeing the works of your favorite writers on the silver screen. I have read them, enjoyed them and breathed each phrase and syllable. Such sublime works should never be missed in one's lifetime. Although such choices are arbitrarily picked, they are mine, so others must have theirs too.

As for screen adaptations, my opinion is that though it saps your imagination by toeing your mind to the photos of the sets, nevertheless, such incarnations provide a feast for the senses, a tangible ambrosia for the eyes and the ears. So if one would like to have a first impression, read the book before watching the film. This shall ensure that one exercises their brain before the film lush cinematography fills one with that of the director's.

So far the ones that have been shown since last year are these: (click on the title to access their literary form)

Patrick Suskind's Perfume

W. S. Maugham's The Painted Veil

Upcoming films this year:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera (Nov. 2007)
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The making of the film:


Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner

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The New York Times article...

June 23, 2007


My Lakbayan grade is C! WTF? So Saaaaad! So embarrassing that it inspires one to go backpacking across this God-forsaken yet sublime country of ours.

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out atLakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

June 17, 2007

Yet Another Afternoon

This Father's day I'm spending my time alone at home simply relaxing and listening to the silence of the walls of my house, walls impregnated with memories gone by. The photos with such smiles that speak of happier times, the blooming Vandas at the gardens that are living reminders of my parents, the flaking paint from the verandah ceiling, are some of the things left to remind me of their existence. And such cannot assuage this reinforcing notion that I am living in a surreal nightmare. Reminds me of Stephen King's The Langoliers.

Apart from the usual folks here: Nana, Norma and Jan-jan, my uncle B and his four Korean pseudo-spawns, there's no one else. My parents are living together in another address which is currently located in a 4x4 ft. hole in the ground amidst grassy lawns and marble headrests. So, while the entire country is spending their salaries to honor their padre de familia, others like me prefer to stay home. This, I empathize with the countless Filipinos separated from their loved ones- OFWs working in foreign lands, orphans languishing in rescue centers, and children whose parents were killed violently. How lonely they must all feel.

Still, it is cruel and arrogant to assume that everyone must fit into boxes marked "Normal Family." Normalcy is relative. Though it is in paper, in reality it's difficult to digest. Still, it would be nicer if we can still have that taste of being in a normal, complete, extended, non-dysfunctional family, wouldn't it?

"Losing family obligates us to find our family. Not always the family that is our blood, but the family that can become our blood. And should we have the wisdom that would open our door to this new family, we will find that the wishes we once had for the father, who once guided us, for the brother, who once inspired us..."
-from the movie, Finiding Forrester

June 09, 2007

Chanson d'Espoir Perdu

by: julsitos

Is there a sun beyond this night
to light my footsteps by?
Will they, the stars and moon burn bright
to share the tears I cry?

Tis the darkness, cold and hidden
so far from human touch,
blind, comforting and guilt-ridden,
filling the heart so much.

And yet the Lord has made it so
that men shall not despair
alone in death nor shall they go
consumed without compare.

Though wise men speak in flourished tongue,
to soothe this quivered mind,
to cloak in velvet, dreams unsung
in folly most unkind.

Forgive me, Lord, one cannot cope
the demons that have won.
Sustain this soul where there is hope
and rest where there is none.

June 03, 2007

The Unbearable Sadness of Being

The day Dra. Donut Kho died, the whole hospital staff wilted in their grief. From the nurses to the orderlies up to her co-residents, all of them felt a heavy burden weighed upon their shoulders with some even reinacting some parts from the film, "Crying Ladies" albeit trebled at a much telenovelesque tone. I felt bad when I learned about her demise. I saw Dra. Kho during my ER duty but I've never felt close to her- probably that's because I haven't had a one-on-one conversation with her. This is why I didn't cry for her passing.

Conversely, I broke down one ER night when my patient who went back for another check-up died. A few weeks prior to her death, this patient went to the ER due to chest pain. ECG findings showed to be consistent with angina. And Angina is just a Troponin away from being a Myocardial infarction. I strongly suggested to the family that she be admitted at the ICU pending a Trop-I result. This patient vehemently refused to be admitted and her children were helpless in forcing the old lady to do so. In the end, she went home against medical advice. Fast forward a couple of weeks: same patient came in due to chest pain but this time her lungs were congesting. Same ECG findings and her condition was not that good. Fast forward one hour: I was doing an Ocho-ocho on top of this patient's chest when the mother of the adjacent patient who took a swill of pestcide shouted at me complaining, "Why are you not giving us medical attention?! My patient needs help pronto! You're just trying to revive someone who will be dead anyway!" to which I retorted, "You have to ask the children of this patient if it's ok for me to leave her to die just so I can take a look at your patient who by her own stupid free will wished herself death anyway!" With that, the pesticide-drinking freak left my ER along with her ilk, and after a few minutes of hurriedly trying CPR, my own patient left this world.

People grieve for a lot of things but most cry because of a loss of a loved one. My mom once commented among her friends that I was a "dry" person- her acerbic way of describing me as emotionally unattached. That's true. I never feel grave emotions during melodramatic moments, of mushy-mushy sentimental moments or even a death of someone I am apathetic about. But after my parents died, I became more sensitive to the sadness of the someone's immediate loss. I feel terrible when patient's die and worse if I see his/her children, siblings, parents, co-workers wail and howl in front of the deathbed. It gives you a knot in the gut and your lacrimal ducts work overtime. I feel so bad because that patient could have been my mom, my dad, my sister, my other loved ones. And the feeling of death is oftentimes unbearable.

When my parents died, I was still in training and it was frustrating to see that I was helpless to do something for them considering the profession I was taking was the same field that could have saved them. It was gut-wrenching and mind-numbing. Now that I am in a position of direct intervention, I view patients who die under my service as that of my kin too. Perhaps this feeling of pain and sadness is merely a tranference of my own sad experiences, and that I am in a way making up for the times I wasn't helpful during my parents' death. And if my patient's die, I feel as if my own also died.

Naturally, not all patients were created equal, so it is only for those who I had a personal connection with to whom my tears are reserved. And limited they are.

May 22, 2007


I'm thoroughly looking forward to watching Satoshi Kon's newest ouerve: Paprika. It's one of his most psychedelic piece of animation where the plot goes like this :

With PAPRIKA, Satoshi Kon unleashes another eye-popping anime adventure. The visually striking thriller is set in the not-too-distant future, where doctors are developing a groundbreaking new psychotherapy treatment called PT. This coincides with the invention of a device called the "DC Mini," which enables researchers to enter the dreams of a subject and explore matters of the unconscious mind. But one day, a "DC Mini" prototype goes missing, and the doctors are thrown into a world of confusion. They realize how dangerous a turn of events this could be, and to ensure that things don’t spiral out of control, they embark on a mad quest to track down the missing prototype. The pretty but timid Dr. Atsuko Chiba teams up with the food-loving Dr. Tokita to find his assistant, Himuro, who has disappeared. Unfortunately, it is at this time that Atsuko’s boss, Torataro Shima, tries to commit suicide. Dr. Tokita calls in an old friend, Detective Konakawa, to help the team find an answer to the rapidly devolving problem. As the characters use their dreamworld alter egos to enter the dreams of troubled patients, the line between reality and unreality begins to blur, until no one knows for sure what is real and what isn’t.

Review? Well a 100% from Rotten Tomatoes won't hurt. The music by Susumu Hirasawa works perfectly with the craziness of the whole film. Hirasawa is the same guy who did the music for Millenium Actress as seen below.

Savor and inhale the fantastic opening credits!

Another of his other works:

Millenium Actress:

May 19, 2007

Tupad Bulata, Sipalay 1

Another milestone was set in our department: everyone (including the duty residents and our chief service consultant went to the jewel of the sugar isle, Sipalay.) When I mean milestone, I mean that this is the first time everyone went out for a vacation.

Sipalay is one of the remotest cities south of Bacolod. It is in fact 40 kilometers away from the next town, Cauayan. During the 70s, the place was swarming with NPA insurgents and political overlords. The road then was rough, unpaved and rarely used. It was a no-man's land. But now, after being discovered by Germans and with the roads paved with the smoothest asphalt, Sipalay has now positioned itself as the unspoilt paradise of Negros. Today, many Negrenses are willing to travel long hours just to reach this place. Unfortunately, what God has blest this area with good marine life, man in his greed has burned the hills and the mountains leaving them bare and brown. That's what I saw during the zig-zagging roadtrip to Sipalay- entire hills have been replanted with cogon grass and banana plants. It's a sad sad sight, which is probably why the city and all the corru... umm correct political families therein (Familia "Psycho"-path) have only been trumpeting their marine areas.

Anyway, we reached the pitstop after a circuitous route made up of the roughest dirt road imagined, steep inclines, and a wonderful backdrop of dried up rice paddies and thatch houses. Our group was very concerned of the state of our "kansi" cauldron. Kansi as a soup is delicious, but when dribbled over bags and stuff, it turns into the most noxious gunk. Good thing it only splattered on the floor, and thank goodness it wasn't my car. Heh-heh-heh.

When we arrived at the compound, I realized we arrived at the edge of paradise. The house was a two-story California beach villa nestled among the tall coconut trees 10 meters from the seashore.

The owner, a local architect, has good taste structure-wise and interior-wise. His resort-house is compact and yet it has the feel of being in a 3-star resort. His was far away from the usual nipa-&-sawali versions and other bamboo-clad nativist huts that one usually finds in small time resorts like this. Well, being an architect helped a lot. The floors were stone-tiled, the stairs and upper quarters lined with polished hard wood floors, the bathroom was huge that someone even commented that she could dance inside, the kitchen was easily accessible, the porch opened to the sea and the sala with its French glass windows and Barbados-style furnitures makes the whole set-up very relaxing.

The whole group brought in their bags and chilled out at the porch. Most of us just sat down at the pebble-washed porch breathing in the fresh salt air, listening to the swish of the coconut fronds, and doing exactly NOTHING. Nothing productive. Nothing utilitarian. It was sheer bliss. It sure soothed us to think that at this one moment, we can sit down and do what neanderthals did thousand of years before- sleep and eat. Rather than frizzle our brains with esoteric pathophysiologies and worry if our patient is still alive, that day was a day to let our hair down... and it was only the beginning.

May 14, 2007

Mother's Day Special

Happy Mother's Day, Mom, though you're already looking down on us from "up" there. Won't forget you. I just wish that there would have been more Mother's Day for us to celebrate, but I guess God had other plans for you. He called you home.

April 27, 2007


Crash & Burn
by: Savage Garden

When you feel all alone
And the world has turned it's back on you
Give me a moment please
To tame your wild, wild heart

I know you feel like the walls are closing in on you
It's hard to find relief and people can be so cold
When darkness is upon your door and you feel like you can't
Take anymore

Let me be the one you call
If you jump I'll break your fall
Lift you up and fly away with you into the night
If you need to fall apart
I can mend a broken heart
If you need to crash then crash and burn
You're not alone

When you feel all alone
And a loyal friend is hard to find
You're caught in a one-way street
With the monsters in your head

When hopes and dreams are far away and
You feel like you can't face the day

Let me be the one you call
If you jump I'll break your fall
Lift you up and fly away with you into the night
If you need to fall apart
I can mend a broken heart
If you need to crash then crash and burn
You're not alone

Because there has always been heartache and pain
And when it's over you'll breathe again
You'll breathe again

When you feel all alone
And the world has turned it's back on you
Give me a moment please
To tame your wild, wild heart

Let me be the one you call
If you jump I'll break your fall
Lift you up and fly away with you into the night
If you need to fall apart
I can mend a broken heart
If you need to crash then crash and burn
You're not alone

... great song... pity it didn't garnered as much fame as their other songs. Trivia: The wife of the guitarist of the now defunct Savage Garden is a Filipina in Australia.

April 14, 2007

Calea Calea Calea

One of the most hallowed institutions of culinary arts here in this fair city of Bacolod is Calea. The place is well-known to all and even Red Ribbon (with its dismal sales) will attest to the prowess and sheer tenacity of this dessert place. Only during force majeure will Calea fall. (A matchstick and a can of petrol will do the trick!) In a nutshell, because of its unyielding quality and generous quantity, Calea will forever increase the diabetic curve of my fellow Negrenses. Pass me the insulin will you. Better yet, let me inject 10 'u' Actrapid SQ stat prior to cake consumption.

Calea, hopefully, will not be beholden to the Sodom & Gommorah (that is Manila) when it tries to tempt our cakeshop with the promise of hyperbolic profits. I'm glad that instead of taking the bait and let ManileƱos have their cake too, Calea is contented to sit and relax and see its three shops here churn centavos in profits. At least this will ultimately force ManileƱos to order stuff provincially rather than to have everything conveniently bought from Glorietta.

Their main shop sits beside the 3-star hotel called L'Fisher, Lacson Street while the other two are conveniently located in Robinsons and Eastblock. They open from 10? to 10 p.m. Negrenses looking to have their dose of diabetes can get their daily shots there.

But the question remains, what makes Calea very very special?
1. Even though they are located in the heart of this provincial nest of vipers, Calea is able to make cakes worthy of Nigella Lawson with ingredients culled from Bavaria. Take for instance their White Chocolate Cheesecake. It's rich and sinfully so, and is accompanied by a spoonful of raspberry puree. Where in Manila can you find such treat for only P60? Even Sugarhouse cannot afford such luxury.

2. The varieties are endless (only in Bacolod you will find the racist dessert called Black Sambo which is merely chocolate-vanilla layered pannacotta) and Calea is not stuck with the usual regimen of Chocolate cake and Chocolate Crinkles and Blueberry Cheesecake. Each cake is filled with soul and people who have tasted Calea will always point out how "uncommercialized" the taste is. For instance their Blueberry Cheesecake are like the ones being made in NYC and the crust! the crust! How to describe it? A buttery concoction of oatmeal crunch granola instead of the usual graham crust being peddled in Starbucks and Cheesecake Factory. They even have several semifreddos that even Bizu can't come up with.

3. The place (especially in East block) has a great atmosphere. Great concept and lay-out that is more like Sugarhouse with personality. It is fortunate that whoever designed the place didn't get his/her inspiration from Dumaguete's House of Sans Rival because did not end up looking like the interiors copied from a Grimm's Fairy Tale.

4. They serve goooooooood coffee. I don't know what blend or what style (perhaps human kopi luwak?) but their White Chocolate Capuccino is waaaaaaay better than Starbucks.

5. The price! The most expensive cake would be around P60-65. Most cheesecakes are in the P50s range and the Butter pecan slice about P64. In McDo, your P65 is just your typical Cheeseburger meal. Do the math.

Thus, Calea is ours and ours alone to taste and enjoy.

March 09, 2007

New Blog

In view of recent job (more like a vocation) experiences, all my quips on that shall forthwith be placed in a separate (and more anonymous) site. Such site will not be mentioned in this blog or in any public forum for fear of reprisals. Let's just say, if you do find my new site, then good for you because it's really a can of worms. And you don't want to get dirty.

And in this site shall remain all the frivolous fripperies that the public may want to peruse such as food items, entertainment reviews, existential musings and everyday mishaps. All other incendiary materials will be torched in the other furnace.

February 11, 2007

Visions of Padre Pio

This is my first attempt in doing an English story for the Carlos Palanca Awards this April. It's still a bit crappy, I know, but I hope to iron out all the kinks soon. This is the first installation...

The Visions of Padre Pio

The tropical rains had stopped pouring and the sky began to mellow from steel gray to deep blue. Along the muddy road to Guinigaran was a lone carriage dancing shakily as its two tired horses galloped past burnt cane fields and banana groves. The driver with sweatdrops beading his temples whipped the poor beasts without mercy for he knew he had to reach the parish before dusk for if he did not, the padre will surely beat him again as he did a fortnight ago. Andres knows the famous temper of the padre which erupts into a violent rage and painful ejaculations whenever a sensitive issue arises, and this time, the padre was irritably silent ever since he entered the carriage. He was afraid he might incur his ire just like the time when Ursula Iguaran wailed in front of the padre before mass cursing him why he took her son’s innocence. Andres remembered hearing from the townsfolk how Padre Pio sneered at the kneeling woman and spat on her face before closing the parish doors on her. The woman disappeared the next day, but a few nights after, the Guardia Civil noticed several strays near the river feasting on what seemed to be a dead animal but upon closer inspection, it was in fact the decaying corpse of Ursula Iguaran, her head bashed in, her face inscrutable. Everyone knew who did the crime, but all decided to keep their lips sewn together for fear of incurring the wrath of the Almighty who lives in the cura paroco. .

Andres’ thought was rudely dislodged when the right wheel suddenly struck with all the carriage’s weight into a wayside rock tilting Andre’s seat a bit too steep. He gritted his teeth as he pulled back the reins with all his might. The horror-stricken driver heard the priest growled in the back, “Letsugas ca, Andres! Magmanejo ca nan justo, estupido!” Andres cursed the damn priest for calling him stupid.

Inside, Padre Pio de Iturzaeta shifted his weight to the other side of the scuffed leather seat while he lifted and placed his parchments and suitcase on the floor. He dabbed his glistening forehead with his lace handkerchief, closed his eyes and muttered a prayer intoning a litany of the saints.

His white habit was drenched with sweat. As he stuffed his handkerchief back, he noticed how hideously tight the fabric was over his stomach. He took a mental note promising to lecture Rosario to stop cooking his daily meals full of coconut cream. He winced knowing it would be impossible to regain his former physique but still, it would give him great pleasure to chastise the young maid seeing how she quakes under his presence. It was three years ago that Padre Pio had observed how his thin body gave way to a creeping layer of fat that ultimately ended with a pregnant pause. “Surely, it cannot be from drinking the Lord’s blood and eating His holy bread,” he thought, smoothening the fabric. “Leche ca, Rosario!”

A native of Guipuzcoa, Padre Pio was a sullen and lanky boy forced by his penniless father into priesthood. He joined the Dominicans after being denied admission from every other order in the Basque region because they find him being too pale. After several fruitful years of training, he was first assigned to Bogota where he nearly died from a poisoned blow dart when the Arumbaya Indians mistook him for a tapir, then he trekked to Veracruz where he left behind three daughters all named Piedad, then he was shipped to the Isle of Fernando Poo where a jungle of a beard grew faster than he could shave. Tired and defeated, he was about to return to Spain when his superiors suggested that he take the recently vacated parish of Guinigaran in the Philippines. The previous priest was recalled to Manila for reports of indiscretions done inside the confessional. Padre Pio later found out, from garrulous matrons, that Fray Andres Santander tried to barter absolutions for jewelry which some matrons did in earnest. Luckily for Padre Pio, one matron wrote to the superior-general complaining how the price for absolution has quickly doubled in two weeks!

The carriage gave another heave, and Padre Pio felt a shot of pain arched to his chest. He felt the stress knotted the muscles of his heart and the vessels of his brain that only a minute surge of irritation can bring out the worst in him. For the priest, the worst had come. Padre Pio was deeply troubled at the news his superior gave him. It was sudden, but not unexpected. He knew all along that the new Governor-General would impose some changes to the whole frailocratic system but not this. Gov.-Gen. de la Torre had the temerity to “request” the Archbishop to ask all religious orders to accommodate seculars into their parishes. This would mean, Padre Pio deduced, a loss of influence and funds for the propagation of the faith. Every religious order in Luzon, from Nueva Segovia in the north to Nueva Caceres in the south will never tolerate such impertinence!

His thoughts went back to the morning’s meeting with the Superior-General, Fray Domingo Baltazar. Every Dominican friar scattered among the islands was in attendance, their faces haggard and impatient. The order given was adamant: either attend or be replaced. Even Padre Pio cannot rebuke such an order!

When everyone was gathered and seated in the main hall, Fray Baltazar began his tirade against the new governor-general.

“De malas! Damn the Carlistas and their liberal stupidity! This, this, creature called De la Torre must be stopped before it goes out of control,” the superior shouted as he wiped his habit the excess saliva that clung to his lips.

He continued, “All of us! Each one of you seated here today is in danger, no, rather our whole order here in the islands is in danger! Remember that my brothers!” Fray Baltazar wiped his lips again and his head upturned to the map nailed on the stone wall.

“This,” he said, his hands ejaculating to the florid lines and fawn-colored curlicues, “shall be overturned in a month, perhaps two! We have to act, my brothers! The seculars are salivating in their seats to fill in our churches. The archbishop was asked by De la Torre if we are can, in the name of Christian charity, spare some parishes for these mestizo half-breeds but our source in the Palacio tells me otherwise. De la Torre who is being made into a pawn by Burgos and Gomez, apparently wants us to relinquish half of our areas to these mestizo priests. My source also tells me he has drafted notes on allowing indios to be ordained as seculars. We wouldn’t want that, do we?”

As soon Fray Baltazar’s voice disappeared, a great uproar erupted among the white-robed friars. A few faces turned into ripened tomatoes while others into Japanese white. Their hands knifed the air with their furious discussions; their feet stomped on the clay tile floor.

Fray Baltazar could not help but gave a snort of amusement. “My dear brothers, I completely understand your concern but we must place our emotions into circumspect. Rather than wait here and complain, is it not more productive to chart our next line of action? We need to calm our minds so we can have a clear perspective of the situation!”

A balding friar from the back of the congregation spoke out in a thin wheezing voice, “But how? He has the support of the mestizos and every damn indio! Remember how he requested Padre Burgos to sit beside him during his inaugural parade? The archbishop could only grit his teeth from the humiliation! And the indios loved De La Torre for that! It would be very difficult for us to get the sympathy of every indio in Manila.”

Another friar from the opposite end bellowed, “I say, we pay a mercenary to send the good governor back to the Father’s house.” An audible gasp escaped inside the hall.

“My dear brother, I am shocked to hear such a suggestion! We are not anymore in the era of Torquemada! No, that is not acceptable!”, Fray Baltazar said, a crooked smile crept up his lips.

“Brother-superior, we can perhaps incite our parishioners to protest against De la Torre. A protest march to the Palace maybe? It shall make him treat us with more seriousness I believe,” said an aging friar sitting in the front row.

“Fray Simplicio, are you suggesting that we rouse up the whole population and lynch De la Torre just as we did away with Governor Bustamante?,” hissed Fray Baltazar. “No, no! We live in more enlightened times, my dear brothers. Any direct, violent and sensational intervention will leave a blot on our name. Such rash methods will only mean a loss of support for the religious orders. And that is the one thing the seculars are waiting for! No! For now, what we need is a more delicate way to replace that creature and what perfect way to start our proposal than to persuade the Cortes to replace him.”

A great murmur arose from the white robed congregation.

From the doorway, a young friar brought in a vellum-covered box which he placed on top of the narra table. Fray Baltazar walked towards it and removed the cover, his hands gently lifting several thin notebooks bound in leather. He said, “This is how we shall remove De La Torre from his high chair!”

The whole congregation was dumbfounded.

“H-How?,” one priest shouted.

“How? By collecting all the signatures of your parish, of course,” he said waving the leather notebooks in the air. Fray Baltazar smiled in triumph as if he just thought of the most brilliant idea. “By signing the petition, we can force the Cortes to recall De La Torre and replace him with someone more suitable in this climate. The Peninsulares will sign willingly no doubt. Every indio and mestizo however, must sign these books on the pain of excommunication! Be sure to tell them that! After you have completed the petition, we will send it to the chapter house in Spain where they will deliver it personally to the Cortes. It is not only us who are collecting petitions; every order is doing this just as we speak.”

“How early do you want these to be finished, Brother-superior?,” Fray Simplicio asked.

“My dear Fray Simplicio,” Fray Baltazar beamed at the old man, “if you can gather everyone’s signature by tomorrow, then we can topple De La Torre much faster than he can shout, ‘Viva la Libertad’!”

Another murmur rose among the priests seated, their heads going from left to right, nodding furiously, their tongues wagging like tails, their voices droning the hall into a veritable beehive.

Fray Baltazar laid the notebooks on the table and called the priests by name. Each one walked towards the center and was handed a thin volume and letters of instruction. The meeting ended quickly and everyone left the hall without much ado.

Dozens of black-painted carriages with their indio drivers waited on the courtyard. As soon as the friars appeared at the main door, the drivers scrambled to their horses and steadied the whining creatures. One after another, both priest and carriage left the courtyard like satiated mosquitoes flying off after a meal; Padre Pio’s was the last.

Padre Pio’s mosquito flew past dusty villages and golden fields of cane. It stopped only once when three-year old Celestina Barrero rushed back into the middle of the road to pick up her dropped copper centavo to which her gain was only to be trampled underfoot by the hooves of the two beasts. Padre Pio, unmoved by it all, made a sign of a cross, spat out of the carriage window his form of poor man’s holy water, and stomped on the wooden floor signaling Andres to go.

The friar looked down at the floor of the carriage; his eyes traced the leather notebook sitting atop the pile, quietly thinking how easy his task will be. He took a deep breath confident of his influence among the ignorant peasants and fawning landlords of Guinigaran. He could not control himself but let a slight chuckle escape his lips. His eyes closed, his fingers clasped together, and Padre Pio began to dream the fragrance he whiffed from Rosario’s oil-combed hair.

*** end of part one ***

January 30, 2007

Semper In Angaria

Sors salutis...

I simply love Orff's orchestral rendition of that 13th-century Benedictine work, Carmina Burana. It's vulgar and powerful. It's the same opening theme from the movie, The Doors. Even Michael Jackson appropriated it for his tours.

...et virtutis...

Unfortunately, this opening of a piece scares a lot of people for it resembles Halloween and everything dragged out from beneath the ground.

...michi nunc contraria...

Nonetheless, its lyrics are timeless and speaks volumes about the vibrant exchanges of human dispositions. And if you'll take time to find it, it is the theme of my days here at work.

...est affectus...

And it is only here I can pour my innards and let the weight off my chest. I hate being an emotional vampire always complaining about trivial and personal stuff to people who I know are also stressed out.

...et defectus...

If there shall be a Carneades plank floating somewhere in this sea called life, I might just take it for oftentimes, life has become nihilistic.

...semper in angaria.

January 15, 2007

Infernal Medicine

"If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
-Rudyard Kipling, If

Medicine, particularly Internal Medicine, as a specialization is very fulfilling. You get pure satisfaction seeing your patients improve. Your heart leaps when they tell you "Thank you Dr., you made me well." Great as it is, it's a very very very tiring job. It's so tiring that I begin to envy all those who take an 8 hour job with day offs to boot.

The high learning curve of keeping up with current therapies and technicalities, the pressures from consultants breathing down your neck because you made a lapse of judgment, the humiliation of being made to realize that your management is not so good, the frustrations from stupid nurses who can neither have the initiative to plot a basic vital sign chart nor monitor the blood sugar of a patient, the intricacies of dealing with your co-resident's psychological make-up, and the pestilential disturbances from patients' bantays all boil up to something I don't want to face day by day by day. I am amazed at the "masochisity" of these residents who have already adjusted to this kind of grind. This reminds me of Orwell's seminal novel, 1984 where all the workers gladly accept this kind of life without even questioning the injustice that's built in it.

At each turn of the screw wherein each manpower and life-support disappears, fulfilling my obligations here in this facility is getting to be more difficult. It has that feeling of spreading myself too thinly. How? Hmmm... While on ER with all the toxic patients, nurses from the wards refer to you for management for their deteriorating patients. After two minutes, the wards calls you up because someone's cardiac rate went bye-bye.... Or in the morning after rounds, you eat a 15-minute lunch and go to the OPD only to be disrupted by a call from your consultant that he/she will do rounds with you. Something like that. Imagine a hospital where only 2 residents go on duty for the night and in their hands lay the power over life inside the ER, ICU, and the wards. It's unbelievable. What's more amazing is the fact that they are honed to perfection in this kind of situation. Our recent graduates have proven their worth during their last years and I am confident that the training in this God-forsaken Somalian facility can bring the best in a resident. The question is: can I see myself here toiling like a laboratory rat for three long years (while the rest of the world passes me by?) Perhaps. It's still too early to tell.