Monday, March 31, 2008

A Surprise Visit from Wikipilipinas Filipina Stories

Ever since I started being a bum, I have developed the habit of checking my email first thing in the morning, and yesterday morning was no exception.

First order of the day, of course, was reading and publishing the comments coming in from my Blogger blog. Imagine my surprise when I found this message from Mrs. Noemi in my inbox:

The comment was made in my previous post, "The Filipina Doctor: Coming Full Circle" which I wrote initially for the first edition of The Blog Rounds.

Since the topic of the post was on Filipina doctors, and I was a regular visitor of the Filipina Images site, I decided to upload it there as well. On the off-chance that it would qualify as an entry to the Wikifilipinas Filipina Stories writing project, I submitted the post as an entry to the contest as well. Since the winners were to be announced on the same day as K's wedding, I had to turn the invitation down.

Of course, I never thought I would even place.

Still not quite believing it, I headed on over to the site, and a post on the event, together with a list of winners greeted me.

That's the only time it sank in that I really did win!

At the expense of sounding like an Oscar speech, I want to thank the judges for choosing my post as one of the top three. I feel really honored to have been picked because there were really great posts from other blogs submitted. You can find links to the other entries on this list.

While the contest is over, the Filipina Images campaign is an on-going project and an advocacy that deserves support from Filipino bloggers all over the blogosphere. I really appreciate the effort that the organizers of this campaign have put to change the image of the Filipina on-line.

It's about time that the world met that real Filipina - amazing, strong, resilient, and a force to be reckoned with.

So I invite my Filipina blogger sisters who still haven't placed the "'Yan ang Filipina!" icon on their blogs to do so and add "Filipina" to your blog description tags. Let's show the world we are proudly Filipina.

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Two Weddings and a Funeral

photo by annpar

To say that this past week has been an eventful one for me is king of understatement.

I attended the weddings of two good friends of mine, who, without consulting each other, scheduled their weddings only a week apart. In between these two weddings, I attended my mother's brother at his deathbed when he passed away from complications of lung cancer.

Having a ringside view to these major life events in such a short span of time has been exhausting and exhilarating, but a learning experience.

Both my friends M and K have love stories born from the unexpected - underscoring once more how life never fails to surprise. M's story began in the PGH delivery room, where she and her groom met while rotating in Obstetrics and fell in love while flirting over pregnant mothers in labor. K was reunited with the college sweetheart she broke with up after he left for the US with when she, in turn, chose to pursue her career there, too.

They were both beautiful and radiant brides, and anyone could see how happy they were as they began their new journey with their equally joyful husbands. It was a joy to watch them both surrounded by friends and family and blessed with the good wishes of everyone around them.

I realize, that for all my claims at cynicism, I am still a hopeless romantic and am counting on happily-ever-afters for both M and K. The gravity of the commitment they have made to their life partners is, to me, mind-boggling. The words, "To have and hold, in sickness and in health, till death do us part" are easy enough to say, but they are much harder to stand by - as current divorce statistics painfully emphasize. But with love as their ballast, I am hopeful that both couples will go the distance.

I was witness to another kind of journey when my uncle, who was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer a few months ago, passed away en route to the hospital where we were bringing him for rapidly progressing pneumonia.

I was not very close to him, only seeing him a few times a year at best. But these past few months I have been, as the only doctor in the family, privy to the course of his illness and the difficult decisions his family has had to make because of it. While they were sad to see him go, it was equally difficult to see him as a pain-filled shadow of the man he was. They had decided early on that there would be no aggressive measures to revive him when the time came.

As a doctor, I have lost count of the number of times I have attended dying patients. We are no strangers to death nor grief. But I cannot begin to describe how I felt as I listened to the last faint beats of his heart until it finally stopped or when I had to break the news to the family that he was gone. Their grief was tempered by the relief of knowing that he was no longer suffering, and I saw once more the serenity that follows gracefully letting go.

But what struck me most was how each person's milestone event is a wonderful place to see love in all its forms - between parent and child, sisters and brothers, friends, lovers... and, for those who believe, the God's love that threads through it all. Whether it is a birth or a death, an ending or a beginning, a welcome or a farewell, these occasions celebrate love in action.

These milestones are reminders that Life is fleeting and frail, change its only constant companion, and that we must grab joy as it comes. But in the face of it all, we are reminded that love endures - and we are blessed to be rich with it.

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Book Cutting and the 123 Book Tag

Marjie tagged me with this book meme, and I couldn't resist.

The game goes:
1. Pick up the nearest book of at least 123 pages.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

It's sort of like that book cutting game my friends and I used to play when I was younger. You get a book, ask a question, open the book to a certain page, and whatever was on that page is supposed to answer your question. It was one of the more popular ways of forcing Fate to give you a definite "sign."

My book-at-hand is something related to my previous post. I recently unearthed it in our bodega (storeroom shed) while I was looking for my board exam reviewers. I bought it a few years back, during my last year in medical school, when I was grappling with the dilemma of what I should do next with my life.

Finding myself at that same point right now, I brought the book back inside the house and have been meaning to read it again. With everything that's been going on here these past few days, I haven't gotten around to it yet. This tag seemed a good way to start.

My book? Stomie Omartian's "Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On: Trusting God in the Tough Times." The excerpt on page 123 as specified by the tag follows - but I'm breaking one of the tag rules and going over three sentences.

"What originally seemed like the end became a new beginning. But new beginnings don't happen without something ending.

"Major life changes can be scary. But if we don't cling desperately to the old life, the new experiences can be exciting as well. Trying to keep things from changing only makes the process miserable. It's far less upsetting
to just let the old go and walk step by step with God into the new life He has for us."

I kid you not. This was really the excerpt based on the tag rules. Considering my most recent mind-boggling questions about my life, I can't help but think that there must be something to the whole book cutting thing. A coincidence? Maybe. After all, that is really what the book is all about. Or maybe it's God's way of giving me a few answers in a roundabout way. Who knows? Regardless of what is more true, I got the message.

But I digress. :)

Since this is a book tag, I'm tagging two voracious readers I know will have books within reach - Ris and Megamom. Anyone else who wants to do some book cutting of their own is very welcome to participate. Enjoy!

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Faith Like a Child's

photo by skoric

As I wander the middle of nowhere in this in between time in my life, this is one thing I have in such short supply.

Letting go and letting God is something that has always been so hard for me. Despite knowing this in my head, my gut still refuses to accept that all I have is the illusion of being in control. Because I am not, no matter how hard I try to be on top of all the variables or clutch my life's steering wheel tightly in my hands.

So I continue to run around with a cloud of doubt always hanging over my head, constantly second guessing and mulling over worst case scenarios, afraid to make the next move or to take risks because of a hundred what-ifs and what-might-happens.

Why is it that even if I know in my heart God only wants the best for me, I can't stop worrying and - at the expense of sounding blasphemous - wondering if He really knows what He's doing?

My heart obviously has a lot of catching up to do.

* * * *

Help Me Believe
music and lyrics by Nichole Nordeman

Take me back to the time
When I was maybe eight or nine
And I believed

When Jesus walked on waters blue
And if He helped me I could, too
If I believed

Before rational analysis and systematic thinking
Robbed me of a sweet simplicity

When wonders and when mysteries
Were far less often silly dreams
and childhood fantasies

Help me believe
cause I don't want to miss any miracles
Maybe I'd see
Much better by closing my eyes
And I would shed this grown up skin I'm in
To touch an Angel's wing
And I would be free
Help me believe.

When mustard seeds made mountains move
A burning bush that spoke for You
was good enough

When manna fell from heavens high
Just because You told the sky
To open up

Am I too wise to recognize that everything uncertain
Is certainly a possibility

When logic fails my reasoning
and science crushes underneath
The weight of all that is unseen

Help me believe
cause I don't want to miss any miracles
Maybe I'd see
Much better by closing my eyes
And I would shed this grown up skin I'm in
To touch an Angel's wing
And I would be free
Help me believe.

When someone else's education
plays upon my reservations
I'm the first to cave
I'm the first to bleed

If I abandoned all that seeks
To make my faith informed and chic
Could you?
Would you?
show Yourself to me?

* * * *

Post Script: To everyone who has expressed interest in joining the upcoming Blog Rounds - thank you so much in advance! I am looking forward to reading all of your posts. I'm really sorry I have not been able to answer your comments one by one - I haven't had much time to breathe these past few days, let alone blog! But don't worry, I promise we will go on as scheduled. :)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Blog Rounds Visits the Middle of Nowhere

The Blog Rounds, a blog carnival for Filipino medical bloggers, will be coming to my middle of nowhere next Tuesday, April 1st, at 12am (Philippine Time).

As doctors, nurses, or members of the allied medical professions, we have all had to make hard choices in the course of our career. Our professions, being often tightly bound to who we are, in one way or another influence the paths we choose to take. Coming to a crossroads in our lives is an experience that we are all familiar with, yet at the same time something that is very unique and personal to each one.

The theme for TBR 3 will be "At a Crossroads."

Whether it is a choice between leaving the country or staying where you are, to give up one dream for another, to change directions of your career or to continue coming to work every day, I encourage you to share your crossroad experience with us.

If you've already come to a major crossroads in your life and chosen a path, why did you make that choice? Why did you take that road? How did your choice affect your life as you live it today? Do you have any regrets or what-might-have-beens? If you're just coming to it in your life, what has brought to you there? What are you struggling with and why?

These are just some of the many questions that we grapple with at these points in our lives - I'm sure there are more you can think of and answer as you tell your stories.

Posts may be in any form - even photoblogging or artwork is acceptable, as long as the photo or artwork was by you and is in keeping with the theme! I don't mind if your post wasn't written specifically for this blog carnival, as long as it fits the theme of the week. The more spontaneous, the better. :) Please email the URL of your post to dr[dot]clairebear[at]gmail[dot]com on or before March 31, 12nn. The other guidelines for submission are over here. (For those of you who are not very familiar with the concept of a blog carnival, the collated links will appear in a post similar to this one or my post on Single Pinay MD's.)

I chose this theme because I felt it was time we explored the more human side of being in our line of work. I really hope that more bloggers will participate in this coming week's Blog Rounds. I am certain that in this all of us have something to share, to learn, and to teach.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Personality Test Junkie Strikes Again

Click to view my Personality Profile page

I've stumbled upon yet another personality test that I couldn't resist - and it comes with a nifty little badge, too.

Chalk it up to fascination with how people's minds and feelings - including my own - work. It was this same fascination that led me to choose Psychology as my pre-med major in college - and I loved every minute of it.

Even as a kid, I used to enjoy answering these introspective self-evaluations. It didn't matter if they were official ones given by our guidance office or those silly scored pop-psych quizzes found in magazines.

The badge above shows my personality type according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is based on the personality theories of Carl Jung. It operates on the principle that we are born with or develop certain ways of thinking and acting. It aims to sort behavior into the combination of four "opposite" pairs: extraversion - introversion, sensation - intuition, thinking - feeling, judging - perceiving. This results in 16 possible psychological types made up of varying combinations of four of the eight components above.

While taking the "personality test" on the site is hardly the same as taking the real MBTI test, which is longer, more comprehensive, and validated, it does give you a pretty good idea of what type you might fall under.

I am allegedly an INFP - Intraverted - iNtuitive - Feeling - Perceiving - also known as the "Dreamer."

"INFPs are introspective, private, creative and highly idealistic individuals that have a constant desire to be on a meaningful path. They are driven by their values and seek peace. Empathetic and compassionate, they want to help others and humanity as a whole. INFPs are imaginitive, artistic and often have a talent for language and writing. They can also be described as easy-going, selfless, guarded, adaptable, patient and loyal."

How on the money is that description of an INFP in relation to me as a person? Well, I'll leave that for my friends to decide more objectively after they read more about it here. (For those who want to comment how accurate this is in describing me, please feel free to leave your comments.) But in a lot of ways it does strike pretty close to home.

I've always known that one should take the results of these tests with a grain of salt, but when answered honestly and candidly, they also almost always contain a grain of truth.

Much as I like answering all these personality quizzes, I also love sharing them with friends and convincing them to answer them, too. So it's your turn! If you're up to it, take this MBTI quiz at and create your own badge to embed in the comment form when you share your results. It's easy to answer - and actually a lot of fun.

I'm looking forward to seeing all of your badges! :)

(Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post. I really just like spreading this kind of love around. I am even making it an informal tag - so Raymond, Ris, and Marlowe, head on to that website, answer, and blog about it! :))
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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lost? See U-Turn.

photo by Inky Bob

Ever since I started driving, my terrible sense of direction has become a running joke among my friends. Knowing this, they usually give me a lot of leeway about being late whenever I am required to drive from unfamiliar point A to unfamiliar point B. This is because it's rare that I arrive without greeting them with my usual rueful, "I got lost."

I find it strange that once I get behind the wheel, I automatically set myself up for getting lost. I'm a pretty intrepid commuter on foot, honest. Set me loose on in a new (albeit English-speaking) city armed with a map, and I have no trouble getting around. It's usually just when I am driving that I get into trouble. I have so many direction-blind driving fiascoes that it will take all day for me to share all. Suffice to say, if you've ever been caught driving up a main thoroughfare against ONE WAY traffic completely unawares, then we are kindred spirits. My meandering journeys around Manila are so common that it becomes more of an event when I find my destination WITHOUT losing my way.

Because it happens so frequently, I've developed a certain elan about getting lost while driving which some people find disconcerting. I adopt the philosophy, "It doesn't matter if we're lost, there's always going to be a U-turn somewhere down the road." (This is usually said with a broad shrug and a smile that would put Pollyanna's to shame.)

Given the cost of fuel nowadays, this attitude makes my gas budget sky-rocket considerably. But I've learned that it takes me less time to find my way when I don't stress about it too much - and when I don't try to rectify my mistake by getting into another unknown side street and getting caught in traffic and more lost than ever.

If only taking U-turns in life were just as easy! It wouldn't be so hard to make decisions with the thought that you can always go back to where you came from if you don't like where you find yourself. That the only cost of getting lost is the cost of a few more gallons of fuel than usual. (Environmentalists will lynch me for this metaphor, but you know what I mean, right?)

But with Life being as complicated as it is, every decision has irrevocable consequences. You can never really go back to where you used to be - because everything at your point of origin changes the moment you leave. And your presence in any destination, no matter how transient, changes something there as well.

Sometimes I wish I had a magic compass and a map that would point me in the right direction every time I had to make a major decision in my life. But in the end, the only time anyone ever knows if they chose right is in retrospect - that is, if they are given the answers even then.

As I spend this time in my middle-of-nowhere, I realize one lesson I have yet to learn: to face life with the same equanimity as I face getting lost on the road. With the faith that no matter how uncertain the future seems to be that I will always end up where I am meant to be. That while Life may not allow me perfect U-turns, I will always find my way to where I belong.

In the meantime, I meander on without map or compass and hope that I find my way soon.

* * * *

Just a Post Script I wanted to share:

My friend Honey, another of my single sisters, wrote a post for me at her blog, Amazing Space. Honey is a lawyer, an awesome writer, chief wanderlust, and Beloved of God - and I've always said I wanted to be her when I grew up.

Yes, sis, here is to not settling. Even in my worst moments, hope - though small as a mustard seed - will always spring eternal. Amen. (We really, really have to get together for that coffee soon!)

Okay... I'm off to prepare for one of those weddings I told you about! I hope I don't get lost on the way...

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Frozen Feet

photo by Sandi1947

After months of waiting in uncertainty, I finally got a definite job offer from this hospital in Perth, Western Australia.

Yes, it's true. I have decided to join the Great Filipino Diaspora - at least for the next year or so - in my bid to figure out what I really want to do with the rest of my life and move out of my safety zone. Starting a new job in a city where everyone is a stranger, away from everything I know and everyone I love, is probably as far out of a safety zone anyone can ever get.

There is still much to be done before this next phase in my "life-with-no-plan" is a sure thing - visas to be processed, papers to be fixed - and at any point plans could still change or go awry. Not the least of these things-to-do is my faxing a signed copy of the contract to my employers before my 10-day deadline is up. However, I've been sitting on the matter because faxing that contract back to them with my signature on it makes everything more real.

Now that this completely new journey is immenent, I'm not sure I have the gumption to take it. Despite my resolve to embrace the unexpected, I have a serious case of cold feet.

I've complained often enough about straight roads and pipe dreams, but I have never been a risk-taker. I liked living safe, even if a part of me knew I was working myself into a rut. I was walking a well-planned route, living life using a detailed map. It didn't leave a lot of room for improvisation, but at least I knew exactly where I was going.

I've been restless and my life is begging for something to jumpstart it. This opportunity could be what I've been waiting for, but...
what can I say? I've always been big on indecision and timidity.

This is uncharted territory. I'm standing at the edge of a precipice so high, and I can't see where I will land. Understandably, much as I want to defy gravity, I am frozen in place and reluctant to jump.

I need to borrow some courage - or, barring that, I need someone to give me a big hard shove off this cliff I'm on.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pinay MDs on Singlehood

While I am no longer living in the bitter barn this morning, the touchy topic of impending spinsterhood is still on my mind.

I've blogged about this topic several times, in varying moods, both in a positive and negative way. Inspired by Em Dy's comment about how lay people have a hard time understanding the dilemma of the single female doctor and as a spot check to see if I was going back to my old habit of unhealthily fixating about it, I turned to the blogosphere to see what my other single Pinay sisters in the profession had to say about their state of life.

Apparently, it's something they've also found worth blogging about. It's a celebration of us as women first and doctors last.

Doc Whisperer, a Pinay allergologist based in New York, writes about the alarming rate of suicides among single female doctors. On a more positive note, she shares with us an article about the Quirkyalone phenomenon.

Midnight Rainbow, a family medicine physician, talks about her own mortifying moment as a single woman under scrutiny in Tales from the Atretic Follicle Society.

Lalaloo, an internist-in-training, names one very real problem facing single Pinay doctors today - The Limited Selection Syndrome.

Kamoteng Myra, another young Pinay doctor based in the States, writes about a single person's ideal pet.

Kai, soon to be an internist-in-training as well, talks about men and shoes - or men as shoes - in Feet Freedom.

Doctor Angel-No-More on The Doctor is Out jots down her list of 49 Things to Do Before She Gets Married.

Tina, a US-based Pinay pediatrician, shares her empowering view celebrating the joys of being single and free in The Spinster Returns.

Finally, Em Dy gives us her own wise take on How to Be Happy.

Before I engaged in it regularly, I didn't understand the lure of journaling on-line. Even a compulsive writer like myself would be wary of spilling my guts on the world wide web, ready for everyone to feed on. After all, neurosis should be a private thing. But finding my voice through blogging has also taught me to hear the voices of others like me, and in this way helped me find friends in strangers and realize that I am not quite so alone.

These posts are as honest and as real as they can get. It underscores once more that while we all have a unique perspective on things, our concerns and struggles are very much the same.

And, yes, I'm feeling so much better now.

* * * *

If you are a Filipina doctor with a blog post on being single, please let me know through a comment - and I will gladly add your thoughts to the list.
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Monday, March 17, 2008

A Night in the Bitter Barn

this photo uploaded by Carhan on Flickr

You know that your family is desperate for you to get off the road to spinsterhood (a.k.a. matandang dalaga in Filipino) when you're told the following in the same mortifying conversation -

"Dapat naman kasi mag-ayos-ayos ka na, para naman mapansin ka. Papayat ka na kasi!" (You really should fix yourself up so that men will notice you. Lose weight!) - my mother.

"Pinagdadasal ko na nga sana naman makahanap na ng boyfriend." (I've been praying that you would finally find a boyfriend.) - a meddling aunt.

"Wag ka mag-alala, pag pumunta ka doon amin yung pinsan mo madami mga kaibigang lalaki, sasabihan na namin ipakilala na sa iyo." (Don't worry, if you come to visit us, your cousin has a lot of male friends, we'll tell her to introduce you.) - a sympathetic, if tactless, uncle.

All this is punctuated by an exchange of worried glances, the meaning of which they might as well have screamed, Poor child. What the heck is WRONG with her? There must be something we can do!

It's bad enough that I know they talk about the barren wasteland that is my love life behind my back. That they have now begun expressing their unsolicited opinion about my singlehood to my face underscores the depth of their concern. And the fact that my mother is encouraging any and all of her relatives to please find her eldest, aging daughter a date is enough to make me want to sink through the floor.

It doesn't seem that long ago when my well-meaning relatives - most specially my mother - were telling me to put any thoughts of a love life in the backseat. Be a good girl and concentrate on my studies first, they said. You'll have time for romantic pursuits when you're older, they said. Concentrate on the more important things first. Yeah, right.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming them for my state of singleness - the reasons for this particular state of my life is multi-factorial. I just find it painfully funny that they are now desperately seeking my Mr. Right after all those years of praying I wouldn't find him just yet. You know, because of all the things I had to take care of first (i.e. getting my medical degree, finishing residency).

Now they think that just because I've finally gotten everything else out of the way, it's high time I started looking for a - you guessed it! - potential husband. News flash, folks - most of the men in my age group are already married, are soon-to-be-married, or are wonderful and gay. Men do not grow on trees, and, even if they did, I am not the kind of woman who could happily pick them up and go my merry way. If only it were that easy...

Apparently, my family has never heard of the saying, "Be careful what you wish for."

Remember when I said that my degree of optimism about being a quirkyalone waxes and wanes? Well, today it's definitely on the wane. I can't lie and say I've never wanted all those things they want for me for myself - because I have. And, believe me, I've whipped myself about it and guessed and second-guessed some more about what I did or what I didn't do to end up alone like this. I guess love just comes hard for some people. Or it just doesn't come at all.

It's hard enough to battle with the demons of self-doubt and the fear of never finding anyone to share my life with without having to add their voices to the mix. I love them and I know they mean well, but sometimes I really wish they would just leave me alone.

Looks like I'm sleeping in the bitter barn tonight. Someone please throw me a rope and help me get out of here.

* * * *

"Oh the fear I've known -
That I might reap the praise of strangers
And end up on my own
All I've sown was a song
But maybe I was wrong...

... I'm working through the grammar of my fears
oh mercy,to have the things that mean the most
Not to mean the things I miss..."

- Language or the Kiss - Indigo Girls

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Confessions of a Sleepwalker

When my friend, Ei, invited me to attend a dinner meeting with her friends from Team RP, the first thing I asked her was, "What the heck am I going to do there?"

In this aspect of our personalities, Attorney E and I are polar opposites. What she has in idealism, I make up for in cynicism. Her passion for involvement in issues of national importance is equally matched by my shrug-it-off apathy. I was never the type to take strong stands on national issues.

Don't get me wrong, I do try to keep abreast of what's going on. I believe in trying to do my share - just not in this way. I may vent my frustrations from time to time about the country's downward spiral and dismal prospects, but most of the time, it feels like I am looking in on someone else's nightmare.

They just wanted ideas, she said. I was baffled - what kind of ideas would these quintessential idealists want from someone so far removed from all of these things? Despite my misgivings and having no clear idea what to expect, friendship and curiosity prevailed. After all, I was in between jobs and had nothing better to do. Besides, I needed to eat.

During pre-dinner coffee, Ei put me up to speed on what Team RP is and what they were working towards. I agreed with everything she was telling me, but it still didn't get what she needed me there for. It wasn't until she started talking about the need to tap the potential of the silent young professional demographic that I got my lightbulb moment.

Oh. She meant me. Me, and the rest of the "me's" in the Me Generation.

All of us "me's" have a lot of excuses, but stripped of all the details, they all sound the same.

"I'm too busy with my work and figuring out how to get my life really started."

"While I am confronted daily by the evidence that the system is in need of change, I don't see how I can do anything about it. I'm just a (insert your profession here). I'm not really in a position to anything. That's what all the activists are for. These things are beyond me. I can help in some other, less frustrating way."

"The one and only time I went into the streets to effect change - EDSA DOS - things just took a turn for the worse. What would make this time any different?"

"I know there's much to be changed, but sometimes that's just the way things are. People will always stay the same - it's hopeless, so why should I bother? I have better things to do with my time."

Despite my well-entrenched stand on apathy, before I fully realized what was going on, I found myself exchanging ideas about ways to wake up my "me generation" with Ei and her other very involved friends, over red curry and bagoong rice. And very slowly waking up to the possibility that there really could be something I can do to make change come sooner than later, no matter how small.

One cannot find answers to the questions "What real difference can I make? What can I do to bring about change?" if one never asks them. In a lot of ways I've been sleepwalking as a Filipino citizen most of my adult life - partly because I didn't know I could do more, but mostly because I never really tried to find out if there was anything more I could do.

I'm asking them now. The sleepwalker is finally waking up.

Just imagine what answers our "me generation" might come up with if we all woke from our jaded sleep together.

* * * *

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr.

* * * *

Moving Beyond Asking to Doing:

"Team RP is an organization of youth leaders and young professionals who working together for Truth, Accountability and Reform in our country. We are part of the Buong Bayan Isinisigaw Tama Na, Itama Na (BUSINA) Movement. We believe that complaining and lambasting our leaders is not enough but we should proactively work towards finding concrete ways to help solve our present problems.

As such, Team RP believes that issues should always take precedence over personalities thus, our programs and activities are always geared towards helping build our democratic institutions and furthering the development of every Filipino. If you want to know more about Team RP or join Team RP, please email us at"

Team RP Press Statement
A Petition for a Freedom of Access to Information Law
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Won?

Have you ever won anything from a raffle?

I have a long history of having absolutely no luck when it comes to winning raffle contests. I never win. Never. As I child I remember spending hours filling out booklets upon booklets of raffle coupons my parents would redeem after their weekly grocery shopping for supplies - and I never won a single thing even once. Apparently my mother knew something I didn't - that the exercise was a waste of time - which is why she left all the filling out to me and my sister.

My rotten batting average with raffles extends to even those giving away door prizes at a party. You know the kind where you put your name inside a fishbowl as you enter a Christmas party? I never won in any of those things either. There was one party I attended where only 5 of about 50 people DIDN'T get any sort of prize whatsoever. I was one of them.

Being naturally inclined to cynicism, I eventually reached the same conclusion, and sometimes even wondered if ANYONE really won - especially the retail store sponsored ones. Raffles were just a marketing ploy to get foolishly optimistic costumers to push their spending budget higher in order to get more tickets, for more chances to win the cash/car/house and lot/trip or whatever else they were giving away at the time. I was thinking that maybe all those winners - since we never really got to see them anyway - were just a figment of retailers' imaginations. So I'd end up half-heartedly filling up coupons and dropping them in drop boxes... then absently chucking out the stubs.

But that attitude is about to change because - get this - I finally won!

Okay, okay... so it's not a car or a house or a trip. It's a bottle of Red Jeans Verseace perfume. Well, it was a raffle from the women's accessory section of a small department store near my house so the prizes weren't anything big - but that's beside the point. The perfume can smell like gasoline, for all I care, but the point is that I won. I won! I finally won something from a raffle. People actually win these things after all.

My mom already mentioned it to me this morning, but I was half asleep when I got the message and didn't quite believe her. The registered letter arrived this afternoon, have a look see:

It's true! My losing streak has finally been broken! And I am now a BELIEVER. Now only if my romantic losing streak were as easy to break, I'd be sublimely happy. But maybe the fact that my luck has turned is a good omen for other good things to come. Maybe.

Okay, I'm going to have to find that stub now... due to my oh-whatever attitude I had been using it as a bookmark for one of the paperbacks I brought with me to Amanpulo last week. I think the last time I saw it was on my quarters' apartment floor... uh-oh. Maybe I should just get started on that affidavit of loss.

Do you have any retail raffle-winning experiences? Let's make believers out of these cynics, people!
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Monday, March 10, 2008

The Filipina Doctor: Coming Full Circle

illustration by Sinagtala

Centuries ago, the babaylan served as seer and sage, healer and community "miracle-worker." They held an important and influential role in pre-Christian Filipino society as the primary mediator between the spirit world and the human world. While the role of a babaylan was open to both male and female, most babaylans from the pre-Hispanic era were female. These women healers were both revered and well-respected, and their value to their community well-recognized.

Today, after a long and arduous struggle, Filipino women in medicine have finally come into their own. Like their babaylan counterparts, the Filipina doctor has once more reclaimed her role in modern Filipino society both as healer and a force to be reckoned with.

As someone who made the decision to become a doctor at a young age, it is hard for me to imagine a time when my having been born a female would have kept this ambition of mine from coming true. While the opportunity to pursue medicine as a career is something that my generation of Filipina doctors take for granted, this was a privilege hard won.

The arrival of the Spanish in the sixteenth century marked the beginning of a long period of repression for Filipino women. Babaylanic practices were ruthlessly suppressed in the onslaught of mass conversion to Christianity. The role and power of the Filipina was much diminished in the male-dominated colonial society. From having equal stake in community matters, they became relegated to secondary citizen status. For over 400 years of Spanish rule, women's options were to either become keepers of home and hearth or devote themselves to a life of service to the Church inside a nunnery.

A similar way of thinking pervaded Western society, the home of modern medicine. Since medicine, like most intellectual pursuits, was considered the bailiwick of men, women penetrated this field against much resistance. In the United States, the birthplace of the Women's Rights movement, women lobbied for admission to medical schools and the right to train beside their male counterparts in the mid-1800's. It was in 1849 that the first woman in the US was given a Doctor of Medicine degree. In the Philippines, it would only be in 1932 when the first Filipino women students were accepted into the University of Santo Tomas - the premiere educational institution established by the Spanish in the Philippines at the time.

The coming of the Americans in 1898 ushered in the winds of change for Filipina women. Powered by the advances in women's rights in the mainland US and in keeping with their policy of capturing the Filipino mind with education, American established institutions opened their doors to Filipino men and women hungry for learning. This included the Philippine Medical School - what would eventually become the U.P. College of Medicine.

It is apt that the rebirth of the Filipina healer tradition came in the form of an obstetrician - a doctor who practices in ushering in new life. Dr. Honoria Acosta-Sison, who graduated from a Pennsylvania medical school in 1910, was the first Filipina doctor and the first Filipina obstetrician. She was soon followed by Dr. Olivia Salamanca, who also studied medicine in Pennsylvania but whose life was cut short by tuberculosis at 24. Dr. Maria Paz-Mendoza Guazon, who was the first woman awarded a Doctor of Medicine by the U.P. College of Medicine in 1912.

Both Dr. Honoria Acosta-Sison and Dr. Maria Paz Mendoza went on to have long, illustrious careers and paved the way for the other brave Filipinas to pursue their dreams of medical glory. By 1930, women comprised 25% of the 404 enrolled medical students at the U.P. College of Medicine. Today, the U.P. College of Medicine accepts an equal number of men and women to its roster of first year students every year. In all medical schools around the country, the number of Filipina women aspiring to become doctors is apace with their male colleagues.

Modern Filipina doctors have come a long way in the span of a few decades. Despite many obstacles, they dared to challenge the daunting odds against them - and won. Like their babaylan counterparts, a good number of them hold influential positions in their communities and are leaders in their own right.

The image of the Filipina doctor as modern-day babaylan is not far-fetched. In ancient Filipino culture, the babaylan is the epitome of balance, as primary mediator of the spirit world and the human world. While modern women are all too often pressured to conform into the stereotypes of domestic nuturers or aggressive career women, the Filipina doctors have transcended these two extremes by being able to be both and to excell in all aspects of their lives at the same time. Apart from being doctors, they play an an integral part of Filipino society as mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends.

Many of these women are now at the helm of their different specialties, standing equal to their male colleagues, and are helping to steer the course of medicine in the Philippines. They can be found in both medical and surgical fields. Some are practicing in law, in politics, in public service, in industry, and in research. They continue to make their mark not only within the country but have also risen to prominence abroad. Their contributions to their fields and their communities are well-recognized, and they are well-respected not only for being accomplished physicians, but also for being compleat women.

As the face of Philippine medicine continues to change, these pioneering Filipina doctors will continue to break perceived boundaries, practice medicine beyond expectations, and set the standards for the next generation - our generation - of Filipina doctors to follow. And while every new trail they blaze is a step forward into the future, for the Filipina healers it is a step closer to closing that circle first drawn by tradition many centuries ago.

My submission for the first edition of The Blog Rounds blog carnival.

This article won First Place in the recently concluded Philippine Encyclopedia Filipina Stories writing project in support of the Filipina Images campaign.

Related Links:
First Filipino Women Physicians
More than Just Being Physicians
Babaylan Rising

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Proudly Pinoy Blogger, MD

As a newcomer to the blogosphere, I am still amazed by the sheer number of medical doctors who blog. Despite their busy schedules - whether as clinicians, researchers, teachers, or trainees - doctors from all stages in the journey, coming from different parts of the world, take time to distill their lives and thoughts for anonymous readers on the world wide web.

The content of these blogs are as varied as the doctors themselves. While some aim to make lay people more aware of health issues or the latest medical innovations, a good majority of the doctors' blogs I've stumbled upon so far are about their lives as doctors or their attempts to make a life outside of medicine.

Given the sheer number of Filipino bloggers loose on the blogosphere, it comes as no surprise that there are much more than a handful of Filipino doctors who blog. Doc Em Dy of Pulse has done a great job of making a listing of other Pinoy doc bloggers on line. To consolidate this growing Pinoy medical blogger community, Bone MD of The Orthopedic Logbook, has also come up with a project called The Blog Rounds. The Blog Rounds is a blog carnival specifically for Filipino medical bloggers similar to the Grand Rounds started on Blogborygmi almost 3 years ago.

As a doctor who blogs, I know I am biased towards reading blogs written by other doctors. It's always fascinating to see through other colleagues' eyes and discover that underneath all the surface differences, beyond the different medical systems, we have much more in common which each other than we realized. The experiences, the struggles, the frustrations, the rewards - the journey to becoming a doctor - is the same. But more importantly, while it is often not explicitly stated, doctors who blog contribute to demystifying medical life for our non-medical readers and showing the world that, yes - "doctors are human, too."

I think that The Blog Rounds is a great way of fostering a community spirit among Pinoy doctors on-line - wherever they may be. There is much we can learn from each other that we cannot learn from our books or our practice; and, in the same way, each of us, regardless of where we are on our journey, has much to teach. It also welcomes non-medical Pinoy readers into our world and gives our collective voice the chance to be heard.

Fellow Pinoy doctors and health care professionals interested in joining in the fun can read more about how to do this over here. But for this project in particular I am tagging my other Pinoy MD bloggers The Doc Whisperer and Caffeinated Gurl to join in the fun.

Sulat na tayo, mga kapatid!

* * * *

Speaking of blog carnivals, I'm very pleased to share that my entry "Anything and Everything" was featured in this week's Grand Rounds hosted at This week's theme was about New Beginnings, and I felt that experiences as a temporary general practitioner after being an adult internist-in-training for 3 years was just what they were looking for. Many thanks to Jenni for including my post!

Next week's Grand Rounds will be hosted at Canadian Medicine (many thanks to the site owners for the link love and the mention!) and you can read about the guidelines for submission over here.

Readers who enjoy medical related content will definitely enjoy the Grand Rounds, which features posts from medical bloggers from all over the world. If you want to know what medical life is really like, beyond Grey's Anatomy or House, MD, you can find the upcoming schedule and archive for the Grand Rounds blog carnival on Blogborygmi.

Happy reading!
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Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Good Year

In medical school, we are tyrannized by our surnames. Our names dictate who we work with, who we grow with, who we learn with for the duration of our stay there.

Just like family, medical students cannot choose their groupmates or their blockmates. We are forced to get along despite the crazy mix of personalities often thrown together haphazardly in order to survive the challenges of becoming a doctor. And, just like in any family, while we grow to love these people, we don't always necessarily have to like them.

Sometimes, though, some people hit the jackpot - and they find themselves with a group of people they couldn't have chosen better themselves.

We were among the lucky ones.

It's been three years since we've gone our separate ways. We've kept in touch sporadically at best and have been scattered across two continents, immersed in lives that are very different from one another. But we always look back on our last year as medical students with fondness because of what we brought to each other.

It was, without a doubt, a great year.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Surfing the Bridal Wave

this photo of pro surfer Quincy Adams by Hankins

My friend M texted me the other day asking if we could meet up so she could give me the invite to our blockmate K's wedding, set for the end of the month. Confused by her message, since as far as I knew only our other blockmate R had plans of getting married this March, I called her up to check if she had gotten her text wrong. Nothing wrong about it - K was definitely getting hitched the week after R. K's will be the fourth wedding I will be attending in as many months. I have at least two more weddings lined up for this year after hers.

It looks like this is going to be my year to ride the Bridal Wave.

"Bridal Wave" is a term coined by authors Erin Torneo and Valerie Cabrera Krause for that period of time in every woman's life when everyone she knows and their cousin are all getting married. The romantic comedy 27 Dresses gives us a charming if cliched and exaggerated view of this particular phenomenon. While in real life, it's hard to believe anyone can be a bridesmaid 27 times in 27 different weddings, the phenomenon of all your friends settling down one after another in a short period of time is a very real thing. It's the domino effect - once one domino standing on end tips over, the rest quickly follow.

My personal Bridal Wave isn't even that huge by my friend, E's, standards. A lawyer by trade and a decided quirkyalone by choice, there was a month last year when she had a wedding to attend EVERY WEEKEND. She goes to a wedding at least once a month these days. I attribute my low wedding count so far to the fact that most of my friends are doctors, which means: a) most have postponed their marriage plans to after they have finished their training, or b) they are all prisoners of the hospital, with no social life, and are all decidedly single. (To our collective dismay, a good majority of my girl friends fall under choice B.)

I won't lie... being a well-socialized little girl, I grew up with the notion that I would accomplish the following in this order: finish school, become a kick-ass doctor or lawyer (I wasn't sure yet which at the time), then get married, have a family. Being a voracious reader of everything, I was addicted to romance novels for a pretty long while; and to this day, my movie-watching palate gets its regular doses of sweetness from the undying romantic comedy genre. I grew up believing that everybody gets to marry her prince - even if he used to be a frog - and have their own version of happily ever after.

Alas, as I grew older, I realized that Real Life seldom goes by way of Fairy Tale. In the real world, we can't all be princesses. Not every girl will get the guy of her dreams, even if she kisses a hundred frogs in the process. Sometimes, in some things, you'll always find yourself on the outside looking in. Former romantics make the worst cynics, and I was no exception. For a long time, I lived miserably in the bitter barn - until I finally made the decision to put my fairy tale dreams away for new ones and realized that even alone, I could make my own happy endings happen, with or without my frog prince.

Nonetheless, the onslaught of the Bridal Wave can sometimes make it hard to be among the last ones standing. It's a battle some days to keep from wallowing in the old negative vibe of the bitter barn when I'm bombarded with reminders that I'm being left behind. Thankfully, my friends and I, who are all swimming in the same wedding-tossed sea, have formed into a tightly-knit support group. No one is allowed to wallow for very long - and anyone who shows signs of doing so is given a strong kick in the ass to remind her that she's worth a hell of a lot more than the lack of a ring on her finger. We help each other keep our lives in perspective - and from jumping off the deep end.

No matter how full and how happy life is as a footloose and fancy-free single girl, I can't help but feel a bit wistful and hope that, despite the odds, I'll know what it's like to have someone waiting for me at the end of the aisle someday. But I'm working on embracing the fact that should that day ever come, it's only to be another drop in the full cup of a life well lived. As my life is slowly opening up more every day, I'm coming to believe that's true.

So I'm clambering up my quirkyalone surf board and paddling out to meet the Bridal Wave as it comes. It's bound to be rough going at first, but I'm crossing my fingers that with the right attitude and a lot of positive support, I'm going to weather it with my heart whole.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Meme: I Tag...

yummy cheesecake photo by ^-^liz

My Yahoo mail inbox has been telling me that I have 73 unread messages for quite some time now. Having nothing better to do, I decided this morning to sift through my mailbox and start throwing my electronic dead mail away. In the deluge of forward mail, I found some of my favorite kind: the about-you-survey.

I know, I know - it's silly, self-indulgent, and a hiccup of my on-line exhibitionism. But you know what they say about idle minds and devil's playgrounds and all that... I can never resist these things. Besides, this brings back memories of elementary school, when they would make us answer these personality tests at the beginning of the year (for what purpose, I still have no idea).

I'm making this a tag for anyone who wants to participate. But I am tagging, in particular, my blogging friends: Penguin and Pepper, and my regular reads Lis, Linc (though I'm not sure you do tags - hope you make an exception), Marjie, and Ris.

I AM... currently sitting in my clinic waiting for 3:30 so I can get out of here and hit the beach.

I WANT... to be rich enough to travel the world without having to worry about my retirement fund.

I HAVE... no definite long-term plans in life.

I WISH... I could eat anything and everything i want without having to exercise to maintain a passable shape.

I HATE... white nights when I stay up wondering if I really like where I am in my life and if I may
have missed my crucial turn in the road.

I FEAR... becoming the old lady ambu-bagging myself in the charity ward (because no one else will)

I SEARCH... for the perfect cheesecake. But seriously -- I am looking outfor that person who will see through me and love me without my having to starve myself into
a great body.

I WONDER... if things in this country can ever get better.

I REGRET... not giving my phone number to this boy I met and liked way back in high school because I think that
completely changed the whole schema of my romantic life and turned it into a barren wasteland.

I LOVE... living by the sea.

I ALWAYS... like to argue for the sake of arguing.

I AM NOT... as tough as I appear to be.

I DANCE... as gracefully as a pregnant elephant.

I SING... impromptu concertos in the shower regularly and at acoustic bars with open mic on demand.

I CRY... over happy endings.

I WRITE... fan fiction and drivel -- a huge amount of it -- for which I will never get paid.

I WON... 3rd place at my mom's office singing contest when I was 11 -- singing and dancing to Laura Brannigan's "Name Game." It was one of the most mortifying moments of my life.

I AM CONFUSED... about what the world is coming to. Are people really determined to hasten the end of the world as we know it?

I NEED... to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life!

I SHOULD... start getting some serious exercise.

THE LAST THOUGHT YOU GO TO SLEEP WITH IS... "Oh, God... tomorrow is another day!"

Your turn!
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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Lessons in Aloneness

As I reach the end of my island interlude, I have mixed feelings about going home.

I suppose it's only natural to feel a certain resistance to leaving behind the languid tranquility of this pristine seaside paradise for the noise and bustle of the smog-shrouded city. While I welcome the thought of being back to my real life, I will miss this amazingly beautiful place. I will miss the idyllic simplicity of my days. And I will miss my solitude.

This is the first trip I have ever taken completely on my own. It's hard to believe that I've reached thirty without ever having traveled alone, but it's true. Most of my trips away from the familiar were, if not with friends or family, to places where I have friends or family. These two weeks I've spent so far away from home, where everyone I have met is a stranger, has been an experiment in being alone.

This aloneness has been a mixed blessing. I admit I have been lonely here at times. I have encountered many new faces, but, friendly as people here may be, there hasn't been much time or opportunity to make any real friends. Nonetheless, being here alone has not taken away from the experience. It has even added to it.

While I do miss the company and conversation of the people I love, I have come to learn that I can be comfortable with only myself for company. And I am slowly coming to appreciate the freedom that comes from being on my own.

Some people might think it's easy for me to say this because I'm here only for a short time and I know I will be going home soon. But despite my streak of wanderlust, embracing the unknown has never been my strong suit. For me, taking this job has been a huge step out of my safety zone. And I am very glad I did it. It has made me a little bit braver, a little bit bolder - and just a little bit more ready for the other journeys that lie ahead, alone or otherwise.

I am already looking forward to the next.
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