A tale of two Vietnams

Last November 2017, I was in Hanoi and Cat Ba island in the province of Hai Phong. I have always wanted to write about my time there, but (insert excuses here). Life happened, but fret not this time because I’m making sure I’m going to make time to write something about Vietnam.

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Hanoi’s Old Quarter
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Through the waters of Cat Ba Island

On October 12, 2018 I flew to Ho Chi Minh City. To say I loved Vietnam seems like cliche, but I will say that it is one place that’s always been interesting for me. I suppose it’s the romantic in me. Maybe it’s the melodramatic Venus that’s always looking for something to be teary-eyed about. I’ll give you a short background.

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Malapascua, take me back!

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After having my fill of Cebu City, I was ready to take the bus and head way up north to see Malapascua. I’ve heard a lot of things about the place, especially the thresher sharks. Oblivious of what I may find, the first thing I saw when I reached Malapascua was the coast lined with small houses. From afar it definitely looked like any small Philippine village. At 4 in the afternoon it looked sleepy, with the seawater receding gently and not long after the light would slowly turn warm.

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First glimpse of Malapascua
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The Traveling Doctor

While traveling solo around Cebu – from the North to the South of the province, I’ve been to conversations with several backpackers on hostels I’ve stayed at. Some of them have traveled for 7 months to several years all over Asia or the whole world. I can’t help but admire them all and have thought to myself if I could do that too.

I really love traveling. You wouldn’t be reading all the things I’m writing in this blog if I didn’t. Sometimes I feel like it’s not just the destination, but it’s also that feeling of moving through places that makes me ecstatic about traveling.

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Queen City of the South

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My first visit to Cebu wasn’t really a vacation, so I promised myself to come back. The first time I was there, traffic was so horrible because it was Christmas and I felt kind of miserable when I unexpectedly got stuck there for Christmas Eve. I knew all my friends who came to visit Cebu City had a nice time being there and I really wanted to feel that. I didn’t want to be able to remember Cebu City as the place where Colon street was horribly crowded with gift shoppers or be reminded of my frustrations as I walked from pier to pier looking for a boat home. This time around I was bent on experiencing the city.
Nicknamed as the Queen City of the South, Cebu City is the second most populous city in the Philippines after Metro Manila. Yet beyond this endearing title, Cebu city is a historical place that awakened the nerdy side of me. It is more than just the buildings and the streets; it whispers of the scorched soil of 1521 underneath the cemented roads, and the ruined church of Parian whose remains are now dusts scattered in history.

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Anilao – a breather from Manila

When clinical clerkship duties already feel overwhelming, I close my eyes and imagine the sea. I remember the sound of the waves, the cool breeze in contrast with the bright warm rays of the sun, the sharp broken pieces of dead corals battered and eventually ground to powder form, and the varying shades of blue created by the water and the horizon as it meets the sky.
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Tropical Fishes of the Philippine Seas

In all my snorkeling trips at Balayan Bay of Anilao and Bauan in the province of Batangas and at Misamis Occidental in Mindanao, I have accumulated several pictures of fishes. I have planned for so long to make a sort of “database” that lists their common names and scientific names (haha sorry it’s one of my compulsions and passions). Finally I got the chance to do it and here is the preliminary list 😀

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Picture Perfect Nagsasa Cove

Three years ago I and three other friends first visited a place so picturesque it felt like looking at a life-sized postcard. The water was so clear, as though percolating through hundreds and hundreds of rocks and pebbles had given rise to such purity.

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Mindanao’s Hidden Treasures

I have always been on a lookout for water wonders, the kind where the sea is a clear turqoise blue shade and brimming with living creatures but at the same time not tourist-laden. In the Philippines, it is impossible not to find one.

There are a lot more beautiful places in this country than what we already know of. There is Boracay, El Nido, Anilao, Malapascua, and Coron – all these places have already found their way into so many blogs by backpackers and adventurers. No one will contest to their awe-inspiring beauty, but beyond these there exists unspoiled beauty.

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Looking Through the Window

Outside my window, I saw a most unusual occurrence. Lightning hit this house across me and a fire truck was there doing what they can. It made me think – why and how. Why didn’t that bolt hit me, as if by some strange chance, striking me on the exact time I step outside the door? How did it even happen, did it rain while I was at the hospital? Is there a plan for everything, like fate or destiny? Or do we live our lives randomly according to every decision we make. Continue reading

The Path of Least Resistance

It is hard to carry around a heavy weight wherever you go. Initially it feels justified to do so. It feels you have the right to carry around your boulder and show how much it is difficult to do so. However, in all honesty, you can throw it away anytime you want. But how?

Well, I don’t really know. I ask that to myself several times in endless moments of introspection. These late night thoughts keep me up until the dawn. Owning up to your actions and ruminating on the events are such difficult moments and it is all too tempting to just deceive yourself with the thoughts that it doesn’t matter or that you were right (were you really?).

How do you throw that boulder away? When do you throw it away? Is it okay to forget? Is it really forgetting or is it coping and adjusting? Who are you doing this for? What are the consequences?

One question opens up doors to more questions. It becomes a series of emotions that snowballs upon each other. In the end, how are we supposed to act – according to our own beliefs or according to what majority subscribes? Is there some kind of compromise (if that is even a plausible option)?

For now, I somehow arrived at the answer which opened the door to the path of least resistance. Some events, people, or circumstances are like unyielding rocks, and you can spend your whole lifetime beating it up but the act itself changes you as much as it changes the obstacle. The question is, do I think the change it will bring me contribute to the kind of person I aspire to be or bring me closer to my goals and live out my life according to the things I value. If yes, then continue. If no, then follow the path of least resistance.

Trust

The trust that accompanies the Patient-Physician relationship is a privilege.

We must value it and nurture it everyday. We owe it to our patient for giving us that trust despite the risks.

We owe it to the future doctors too, because the consequences of our actions will affect them.

Reflections on an Experience as a Geriatric Doctor in an Elderly Home

Last December 2019 my cousin who is a nun under the Congregation of the Daughters of our Lady of Pieta asked me if I would be okay to provide medical services to the elderly women they take care of in the convent. I, having not have done hospital practice since February 2019 (maybe I will write another blog on this one too… maybe…), immediately accepted the opportunity and agreed to visit them once a month regularly, and to be on-call whenever needed.

It was a first time experience for me to manage my own medical practice as a primary caregiver in an elderly home. I was very excited. I have experienced managing a clinic in a small primary and secondary school at my province (maybe I will write about that too…soon…) and that new challenge of another kind of patient population was exciting for me. It was an opportunity to connect with patients again, to review my clinical eye(s), and to be able to formulate my own system of patient-physician consultation and record keeping. I was given free reigns and I was very delighted and a bit nervous (of course we MDs never admit we get nervous, but it does happen).

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Thank you!

It was quite challenging to start this post because I wasn’t sure how to start to say the things I want to say.  I just feel like I need to express how I should be grateful with everything in my life. I AM grateful for what I have in my life.

I am 28 years old now and today I was asked how my birthday is. I said every year is different, because it has never been the same, ever since I can remember. Tonight I want to recount the countless things I am grateful for and to remind me of the silver linings of my life.

I am grateful for the night travels my family had to the house of my grandparents in the province. I am grateful for that elementary teacher who told me I was really good in writing. I am grateful for the friend during my elementary days who played board games with me after class and who shook the trunk of the calachuchi tree with me to collect the flowers so we can give them to our pregnant teacher. I am grateful for my cousins who played kasing with me.

I am grateful for the time I decided to join the marching band in highschool. I am grateful for the bandmaster who used to tell me I need to practice singing the notes properly in front of him. I am grateful for my father who endured listening to me practice singing the notes. I am grateful for my mother who kept buying so many books for me.

I am grateful for the times I was made to feel I’m not the center of the world; for the times I was humbled.

I am grateful for my education. I am grateful for the people who believed in me. I am grateful for the people who criticized me.

I am grateful for experiences that broke me. I am grateful for experiences that gave me new perspective. I am grateful for pain. I am grateful for failure. I am grateful for mistakes. I am grateful for repentance and sorrow.

I am grateful for the many forms of love I have received – from friends, families (by blood and by bond), from the lover – el amor de mi vida, and from God.  Storge. Philios. Eros. Agape. 

This will never end if I had to continue. Suffice to say that I am grateful and with this gratefulness I am happy.

 

Song of the Day

Ideas come and go.

sometimes there is just no time to write structured paragraphs but there is always that urge to write.

Today was another day at work and my Spotify playlist is on shuffle. The song “I don’t want to change you” by Damien Rice played. It really got me googling the lyrics, and I just said to myself – DAMN I LOVE THIS SONG.

Maybe because right now I am in a relationship with a guy that I absolutely am attracted to. He gives me the shivers, but I think I can handle it. I have to keep myself from wanting to possess him completely.

Wherever you are
You know that I adore you
No matter how far
Well, I can go before you
And if ever you need someone
Well, not that you need helping
But if ever you want someone
Know that I am willing

It’s tempting to go dumb stupid when you’re high in love, but I have to keep shaking myself back to rationality all the time. He keeps me on my toes – literally and figuratively. I would literally want to be wherever he is, but then I would also always want his sickening attention. 

Wherever you go
Well, I can always follow
I can feed this real slow
If it’s a lot to swallow
And if you just want to be alone
Well, I can wait without waiting
If you want me to let this go
Well, I’m more than willing

Yesterday we were talking. I love it when he gets serious to talk to me. He said we have to do everything we want – together and separately, so we don’t feel regrets.

It’s tempting not to want to have him for my own, only. 

But I don’t want to change him. I was attracted to him the first day I met him and I want to keep him the way he always is. If he must change he can change in front of my eyes.

I’ve never been with anyone
In the way I’ve been with you
But if love is not for fun
Then it’s doomed
‘Cause water races
Water races down the waterfalls
The water races
Water races down the waterfall
And I don’t want to change you
I don’t want to change you
I don’t want to change your mind
I just came across a manger
Where there is no danger
Where love has eyes and is not blind

47(a)(2) Visa Downgrading for Foreigners in the Philippines

This is a straightforward no fuss article regarding the steps necessary to downgrade a 47(a)(2) work visa issued by the Philippine Bureau of Immigration. Bear in mind that you don’t always have to do this. The best example of why you will have to do this individually without a representative (e.g. an HR personnel) is when you’re contract from work has been terminated without your knowledge and the HR has not been able to reach you. It may also be that the company refuses to assist you in the visa downgrading, for whatever specific reason.

It seems like a very daunting situation. I know it is, but fear not. You can do it! I will walk you though the steps.
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Demons

I have demons and it follows me.

You’re probably wondering why I say that. I love the flare of the words and the jolt it gives. I like to be very colorful. I want you to know that there is something in my mind that is eating up the gyri of my brain, flattening them out and stretching its narrow sulci.

I could say it’s confusing but it’s more than that.

There are recurrent thoughts that I want to remove. There are words that stir up corrosive emotions. There are tangles and tangles that I want to untangle; but where is the end of the string?

So lets give it a name. If there is one thing, albeit questionable, that I learned in medical school it’s that everything must have a name – as if naming something makes it less harmful. Let’s give it a universal name that we all can relate to.

It is something negative. It is dark. It is cold. It is vile. It is distant. It creeps. It is hollow. It is vast. It’s a swirling black tunnel.

There are demons and they follow me.

Years

Just like any other student in a coffee shop, he pulled out his notes and manual. I know the feeling! I just had been liberated from a 2-month stint of nauseating daily study routine. Today was the first time I was in a coffee shop just because it was an interesting place. I even made a sketch of the artsy mug with golden yellow flowers.
It started to rain really hard so I decided to stay. We were sitting beside each other, me browsing through a sketch book by this Londoner while him still intent in deciphering his biochemistry module. When he had his lunch at 2 pm, I started to pry.

“Hi, what course are you enrolled in?”
“Chemical Engineering.”
Ooh fancy, must be smart. He goes back to eating and I look at my phone.
“What year are you currently in?”
He was not prepared that he had to raise his hand trying to signal me to wait while he swallows the piece of pork steak and rice in his mouth. “This is my…” looks up as if he were counting it from the ceiling “…6th year.”
“Oh but…”
“I stopped for 2 years.” He read my mind.
“Ah I see. But currently you’re?”
“Junior.”
“3rd year? Cool.”
Then we went back to what we were doing.
“Why’d you stop?”
“I went to Australia.”
“You were from there?”
“No, my aunt lives there. I went to visit then she made me stay.”
“But you’re from here?”
“Uh huh.” Smile from both of us. “Are you studying here?”
“Ah no” fuck I graduated way earlier than him. “I was done 2012, but in Manila.”
“Oh.” He smiles and goes back to eating. I go back to my sketch book.
“So when do classes start now? I mean it was different before…”
“August, then there are no sem breaks but you get a month off Christmas break.”
“And is that better? Did you ever experience the old academic year?”
“Oh yeah, I like the new one more.” He chuckles a little.
“Well…” I join in with a smile.

That was the end of the conversation. The guy was cute, clean look, fair-skinned, and a little chubby. We didn’t even exchange names. At some point I was curious about how old he was but I didn’t ask anymore because he was studying. When the rain stopped, he said he’ll be going. I smiled and bid him luck on the exam.

I thought he’d probably be 23 at most. I’m 25. It got me thinking, what’s the worth of that 2-year age difference? Does it make me wiser than him? Sure I’m 25 but what value are those years? How do we measure the value of years, months, days, or minutes? Am I wiser by virtue of age? Am I supposed to be twice more mature? I doubt it.

Most of my years I spent in a simulated environment we call a campus. It’s like a cocoon. You live in your own world. Yes sometimes you participate in the real world you hear about in the news, etc. etc. but most of the time you’re in a sphere that rotates on its own amid the independent revolution around a bigger sphere. So if someone asked me if I was mature because I’m older, I honestly would just shrug.

I shrug because I unknowingly let the world pass me by. I shrug because I’m not sure if that was right or that was wrong. I shrug because I’m uncertain of what all those years were worth. I shrug because… because what else can I say? I don’t even have the right words for it.

Today was different though. I’m drinking the same beer, but I feel different. Hopefully something happens. Something with value. Starting today.