published: Dec. 3, 2005, 11:47 a.m.

Mrs. Thompson

As before, the following story was emailed to me. "Living is easy with eyes closed," as sung by the Beatles; it's about time that we open our eyes to people around us. But it is more imperative if children are involved. So here goes...

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around..." His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle." His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest, and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken." Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to."

After the children left, she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets..."

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life. Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer... The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference." Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."

Warm someone's heart today... pass this along. I love this story so very much, I cry every time I read it. Just try to make a difference in someone's life today? tomorrow? just "do it"!

Random acts of kindness, I think they call it! "Believe in Angels, then return the favor"

published: Dec. 2, 2005, 11:46 a.m.

Look Who's Talking

The Southeast Asian Games XXIII is now on-going, and as of last night the Philippines is on top with 58 gold medals, followed closely by Vietnam and third place is Thailand. It's a good sporting party over here! All sport events are scattered beautifully across the archipelago; perhaps a good side-effect is tourism promotion with our neighbors in the region. But there's always someone you spoils the party. The Thai Prime Minister (I can't even spell his name) foul-mouthed the Philippines for influencing the officiating; he cries cheating. This claim is baseless! Now, perhaps with their knowledge, it is well-known in sporting circles that, especially in the sport of boxing (those events needing human judges), the place for cheating is Thailand. One good advice for boxers is this: K-O your Thai opponents; it you go to the score cards, you'll surely lose. A lot of our boxing pundits here are always complaining of this predicament with Thailand. With that short background, how can Thailand cry foul? They should clean up their mess first. This is one reason why mixing politics with sports is unfortunate.

I'm reminded by Jesus' words regarding this matter, "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? ...You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye" (Mt 7.3, 5).

I guess a public apology from the said politician is necessary here, not the one given by their delegation.

published: Nov. 27, 2005, 11:45 a.m.

Happiness is a Voyage

The following was emailed to me by Mark Ramos; it is a Microsoft PowerPoint Slide Show originally authored by Silvia Belardo. I guess it was meant to be disseminated to all...

We convince ourselves that life will be better once we are married, have a baby, then another. Then we get frustrated because our children are not old enough, and that all will be well when they are older. Then we are frustrated because they reach adolescence and we must deal with them. Surely we'll be happier when they grow out of the teen years.

We tell ourselves our life will be better when our spouse gets his/her act together, when we have a nicer car, when we can take a vacation, when we finally retire. The truth is that there is no better time to be happy than right now. If not, then when?

Your life will always be full of challenges. It is better to admit as much and to decide to be happy in spite of it all. For the longest time, it seemed that life was about to start. Real life. But there was always some obstacle along the way, an ordeal to get through, some work to be finished, some time to be given, a bill to be paid. Then life would start. I finally came to understand that those obstacles were life. That point of view helped me see that there isn't any road to happiness. Happiness is the road. So, enjoy every moment.
Stop waiting for school to end, for a return to school, to lose ten pounds, to gain ten pounds, for work to begin, to get married, for Friday evening, for Sunday morning, waiting for a new car, for your mortgage to be paid off, for spring, for summer, for fall, for winter, for the first or the fifteenth of the month, for your song to be played on the radio, to die, to be reborn... before deciding to be happy.

Happiness is a voyage, not a destination. There is no better time to be happy than... now! Live and enjoy the moment. (Author unknown)

Now, think and try to answer these questions:

1. Name the 5 richest people in the world.
2. Name the last 5 Miss Universe winners.
3. Name the last 10 Nobel Prize winners.
4. Name the last 10 winners of the Best Actor Oscar.

Can't do it? Rather difficult, isn't it? Don't worry, nobody remembers that. Applause dies away! Trophies gather dust! Winners are soon forgotten. Now answer these questions:

1. Name 3 teachers who contributed to your education.
2. Name 3 friends who helped you in your hour of need.
3. Think of a few people who made you feel special.
4. Name 5 people that you like to spend time with.

More manageable? It's easier, isn't it? The people who mean something to your life are not rated "the best", don't have the most money, haven't won the greatest prizes... They are the ones who care about you, take care of you, those who, no matter what, stay close by. Think about it for a moment. Life is very short! And you, in which list are you? Don't know? Let me give you a hand. You are not among the most "famous", but among those to whom I remember to send this message...

Some time ago, at the Seattle Olympics, nine athletes, all mentally or physically challenged, were standing on the start line for the 100-m race. The gun fired and the race began. Not everyone was running, but everyone wanted to participate and win. They ran in threes, a boy tripped and fell, did a few somersaults and started crying. The other eight heard him crying. They slowed down and looked behind them. They stopped and came back... All of them... A girl with Down's Syndrome sat down next to him, hugged him and asked, "Feeling better now?" Then, all nine walked shoulder to shoulder to the finish line. The whole crowd stood up and applauded. And the applause lasted a very long time... People who witnessed this still talk about it. Why? Because deep down inside us, we all know that the most important thing in life is much more than winning for ourselves. The most important thing in this life is to help others to win. Even if that means slowing down and changing our own race.

If you send this email, perhaps we will succeed in changing our heart, perhaps someone else's heart, as well... A candle loses nothing if it is used to light another one. So, what have you decided? Trash this or send it?

published: Nov. 19, 2005, 11:42 a.m.

Crisis in Radiologic Practice

It has come to my attention that some physicians and surgeons (non-radiologists) are doing ultrasonography on their respective clinics, thereby impinging on the field of Radiology. What will a surgeon feel if he encounters a man doing operations when he's not a surgeon? One reason why people specialize is to provide the best for the patients. That demands time in doing the procedure. If an internist or surgeon does the ultrasound, then less time is spent on the patients. As a corollary to this, in order to spend time on the patient, the ultrasound time is cut. Such practice has led to very horrible and embarrassing diagnoses. One radiology colleague of mine in a region of the country southeast of Manila has some horror stories to tell. Several patients are crying to her, very much afraid of what their doctor diagnosed them with. One 15-year old certifiable virgin was diagnosed with bilateral ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and he sounded very serious. My colleague performed an ultrasound on her and she was perfectly normal! What if that teenaged patient was operated on? The Hippocratic oath said to "never do harm to anyone". Our former professor at the University of the Philippines, a pioneer of ultrasound, was pissed off! Horrible! Another ultrasonographer in the region always reports cleft lip in his fetal procedures, ending up normal upon review! Where are they being trained?

What can the Philippine College of Radiology (PCR) or perhaps the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) or even the Medical Board do? A thorough investigation is needed. Non-radiologist practicing Radiology is very unfortunate. Why don't they study the field formally for at least one year in a PCR-accredited institution, and they cannot practice until they passed the examinations first. Another passage in the oath said, "I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners (specialists in this art)." Impinging on other fields of medicine is not healthy. The effects are not apparent yet, but just wait for some years.

Medicine is a vocation, not a job or business where you get rich. Money may come, but that's only secondary. As a final note, we as legitimate Radiologists should become experts in our field, and really become the consultants of the consultants. If we do our part the best that we can do, people will choose us, and keep coming back. Primum non nocere!

published: Nov. 17, 2005, 11:41 a.m.

Universal Laws

The following was taken from my Linux box, in a program called "fortune"; they pertain to certain laws concerning all sorts of circumstances. Here goes...

1. Mitchell's Law of Committees: Any simple problem can be made insoluble if enough meetings are held to discuss it.
2. Pohl's Law: Nothing is so good that somebody, somewhere, will not hate it.
3. Fresco's Discovery: If you knew what you were doing you'd probably be bored.
4. Savage's Law of Expediency: You want it bad, you'll get it bad.
5. Leibowitz's Rule: When hammering a nail, you will never hit your finger if you hold the hammer with both hands.
6. Cropp's Law: The amount of work done varies inversely with the time spent in the office.
7. Non-Reciprocal Laws of Expectations: Negative expectation yields negative results; positive expectation yields negative results.
8. Whitehead's Law: The obvious answer is always overlooked.
9. Agnes' Law: Almost everything in life is easier to get into than out of.
10. Simon's Law: Everything put together falls apart sooner or later.
11. Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer that you expect, even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account.
12. Flugg's Law: When you need to knock on wood is when you realize that the world is composed of vinyl, naugahyde and aluminum.
13. Jones' Second Law: The man who smiles when things go wrong has thought of someone to blame it on.
14. Captain Penny's Law: You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool mom.
15. Ducharme's Precept: Opportunity always knocks at the least opportune moment.
16. Ducharme's Axiom: If you view your problem closely enough, you will recognize yourself as part of the problem.

The following additions was emailed to me by Mark Ramos on 16 November; I have a hard time deleting it, so here goes... (I think it's open source)

17. Lorenz's Law of Mechanical Repair: After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch.
18. Anthony's Law of the Workshop: Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.
19. Kovac's Conundrum: When you dial a wrong number, you never get an engaged (busy) one.
20. Cannon's Karmic Law: If you tell the boss you were late for work because you had a flat tire, the next morning you will have a flat tire.
21. O'Brien's Variation Law: If you change queues, the one you have left will start to move faster than the one you are in now.
22. Bell's Theorem: When the body is immersed in water, the telephone rings.
23. Ruby's Principle of Close Encounters: The probability of meeting someone you know increases when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.
24. Willoughby's Law: When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will.
25. Zadra's Law of Biomechanics: The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.
26. Breda's Rule: At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle arrive last.
27. Owen's Law: As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.
28. Howden's Law: You remember you have to mail a letter only when you're near the mailbox.

published: Nov. 16, 2005, 11:35 a.m.

On Misrepresentation

Sometimes when I'm surfing the TV for some good shows, I encounter some evangelists who attack the Church saying all sorts of things that we supposedly adhere to, which are not true at all. Sometimes they say this is what Catholics believe when in fact it's not. One example is the use of statues or some pictures, which they say we worship. We don't worship them! Only God is worshipped! They say we hate the bible and wanted to hide it from the people. No. Without the Church, there will not be any bible! It's the Church who actually preserved the bible through all these centuries. Only monks copied the holy book by hand. The printing press was only invented in the 16th century (or was it 15th?).

I can go on and on... I'm becoming annoyed. But no matter what others may say or do, we should continue to be faithful to the deposit of faith that was handed down from generation to generation. As St. Paul said to the Thessalonians of the first century, "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess 2.15). Maybe this is the reason why the Catechism of the Catholic Church was written without any polemical style, just proclaiming the faith, without going into the beliefs of others of different religion. In the end, we are all brothers and sisters of one Father, God!

Semper fidelis!

published: Nov. 9, 2005, 11:34 a.m.

Lessons on Life

The following was emailed to me by Mark Ramos yesterday; message is very much appropriate in our time (no mention of any copyright).

There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away. The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall. When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted. The second son said no it was covered with green buds and full of promise. The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen. The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree's life. He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up. If you give up when it's winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, fulfillment of your fall.

Moral: Don't let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest. Don't judge life by one difficult season. Persevere through the difficult patches and better times are sure to come some time or later.

published: Nov. 9, 2005, 11:33 a.m.

Recognizing Stroke

It is said that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"; if the delay in diagnosing stroke (brain attack) is prevented, quality of life will be better for the patient, or perhaps death is averted (for massive strokes and those affecting vital functions). Yesterday Sonny Catacutan forwarded me the following email message. Read on and learn!

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify; unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

1. Ask the individual to smile.
2. Ask him or her to raise both arms.
3. Ask the person to say a simple sentence coherently.

If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher, or take him to the ER.

After discovering that a group of non-medical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions. They presented their conclusions at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting last February. Widespread use of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage.

published: Nov. 8, 2005, 11:31 a.m.

Sacrament Of Reconciliation

Joy writes the following (from an email dated 11/3/2005)...

We need confession or the sacrament of reconciliation for our sins, even venial sins, to be absolved so we can enter the kingdom of heaven and behold God. We should also take advantage in receiving the Holy Eucharist while we are here on earth so we can become more and more one with Christ. As St. Therese of Lisieux said whenever she thinks of the Holy Eucharist "the Body of Christ longs to be in another heaven, our soul, rather than rest in a ciborium" (I am paraphrasing here since I do not have the book handy).

It is good to do good deeds or share the good news. But if we do not unite these with prayers and the sacraments then they will just all be futile. As St. Josemaria Escriva said: prayer, prayer, prayer and then action. He also said that apostolate and charity are an over-flow of a rich prayer life. Do not forget that the sacraments were left to us by Jesus Christ as a source of grace. Please go to confession and to holy mass as frequent as possible. Some Catholics who are bed-ridden ask for confession and holy communion. You do not have an excuse. Offer up your suffering and inhibitions to God in union with our Lord Jesus Christ's passion and death in Calvary.

published: Nov. 4, 2005, 9:03 a.m.

Christian's Burden

More often than not, critics complain about the actions of Christians, in which we are accused of not practicing what we preach. Because Christianity is a principled religion, putting the bar very high regarding morals, preaching the Gospel becomes a very heavy burden. The seeming ease in writing about morals is confounded by this burden. The message is not only directed to the reader but also to the writer. Otherwise, no one would write or preach about God's word. We'll all become paralyzed by this Christian's burden. As they say, less talk, less mistake; or perhaps no talk, no mistake. Jesus himself said: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice" (Mt 23.2-3). Obviously, although writing or talking is not the most effective way of teaching, a writer should not stop because he is not perfect in actually practicing what he says. As a principled religion, the intent to do good counts a lot even if we fail; this is the reason why Christ came, to call sinners. "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Mt 9.12).

What's the most effective way? Paraphrasing St. Francis on instructing his brothers: preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words; i.e., example is the best way. The most effective way of teaching children is by example. Parents who follow the Gospel, will have children who'll follow what's good and moral.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." We as faithful should "impregnate culture and human works with a moral value" (Lumen Gentium 36.3). The task is difficult, but we have to start somewhere.

published: Oct. 23, 2005, 9:02 a.m.

In The Womb

One or two nights ago, I happened to switch to the National Geographic channel and watched this 2-hour documentary on the life of the baby in the womb. From fertilization to the birth... it was wonderful. It's a very excellent material for life (pro-life), and a mother who thinks of aborting her unborn child will think again and likely will abort the abortion. I congratulate National Geographic for this show. More power!

published: Oct. 19, 2005, 9 a.m.

On Human Rights

The term human rights is ever present in media in an aftermath of any rally, political or otherwise, especially if the attendees are dispersed by the police. I believe in the right to free expression, but it has limits. Other rights are there enshrined in the Constitution's Bill of Rights. The most basic right however is the right to life (you can't express yourself fully if you're dead). This is apparently ignored in the media. Sometimes a well known personality is said to be a defender of human rights, and most of the time I'm disappointed with them. Why? When asked about the morality of abortion, they have no comment, or sometimes they say it's the mother's right to abortion because it's her body. But how about the unborn child? They have no rights at all! I think U.S. law does not recognize the unborn as persons at all!

When asked about one's hero in human rights advocacy, several names are mentioned. But the greatest human rights advocate was the late John Paul II. The "right to life should be respected from conception up to natural death," he said. Abortion and euthanasia are abominations, which should be outlawed.

The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do anything (CCC 1747).

Are you a human rights activist? Defend life!

published: Oct. 16, 2005, 8:59 a.m.

Look For The Good In People

This blog came from an email from Mark on 13 October 2005 without details on its origin or authorship, but I guess it's okay to publish it here (any one may email me of its origin for proper acknowledgement). Perhaps it's related to my previous messages regarding the respect we give to others in any circumstance. Here goes...

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot as perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of that it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house." The old woman smiled, "Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

published: Oct. 15, 2005, 8:58 a.m.

On Judging Others

It seems the reputation of people nowadays doesn't count to something. Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC in other blogs) paragraph 2477, I'm intending to remind folks about this issue.

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury (cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 220). He becomes guilty:

* of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
* of detraction who, without objectively valid reasons, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them (cf. Sir 21.28);
* of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

Most of the time the information we have is second hand and yet I see a lot of pontification from people who claim truth to their allegations. Quoting another paragraph from Luke 6.37-38, I end with Jesus' words:

"Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back."

published: Oct. 13, 2005, 8:57 a.m.

Conviction By Publicity

I hear it constantly in foreign media that the U.S. is preaching democracy throughout the globe. It sounds very nice. But its practice is very frustrating. Those in political office and those striving to win in elections are easy targets (or sources) to purveyors of propaganda in the guise of truth. I have yet to see a saint in politics. The messenger becomes the medium. What ever happened to the phrase innocent until proven guilty? I totally agree with Max Soliven, publisher of The Philippine Star, in his opinion dated 3 October 2005 regarding our nation, the Philippines at this juncture: "This is the land where you're tried, condemned, and convicted by publicity, press release, White Paper, Black Propaganda, malicious innuendo -- and even by flying text messages." He hit the nail on its head!

As human beings, we are subject to our fallen natures; no one has any monopoly for truth. Critics have that mistaken notion that investigations, impeachments, commissions and the like can flush the truth out. One such commission is the one that investigated the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino. Was the truth obtained? No! What about the investigation on President John F. Kennedy's murder in 1963. We still don't know the truth there! Can you see my point? But in spite of all this, democracy is still the best form of rule on earth; but I hope it could still be improved.

We can't really moralize on our politicians because only God sees the minds of people. When we disagree with them, let's not vote for them in the next election, that simple. It there's a term limit, let's respect that. The following text is really meant for those who read the bible; the government at the time of writing was authoritarian and ruthless—the Roman empire:

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." (Romans 13.1-2)
God bless the Philippines!

published: Oct. 10, 2005, 8:55 a.m.

Children's Letters To God

The following is from an email sent by Mark Ramos last 10/9/05. The beautiful innocence of children may put a smile on your lips. These prayers of children to God were received originally as photographs, but 10 are transcribed here (The Dear God line is not included; authors are in parentheses):

1. Are you really invisible or is that just a trick? (Lucy)
2. Did you mean for giraffe to look like that or was it an accident? (Norma)
3. Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don't you just keep the ones you got now? (Jane)
4. I went to this wedding and they kissed right in church. Is that okay? (Neil)
5. In bible times did they really talk that fancy? (Jennifer)
6. Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy. (Joyce)
7. Please put another holiday between Christmas and Easter. There is nothing good in there now. (Ginny)
8. I think about you sometimes even when I'm not praying. (Elliott)
9. If you watch in church on Sunday, I will show you my new shoes. (Mickey)
10. If you let the dinosaur not extinct we would not have a country. You did the right thing. (Jonathan)

Wouldn't it be nice if everything was simple and straightforward? But God would not be God if we fully understood him, right?

published: Sept. 30, 2005, 10:07 a.m.

Miss Me, But Let Me Go

In July 2000, Tito Jim sent me a letter with accompanying documents that were largely written in Capampangan. One is written in English, penned by Fr. William M. Yabao, a Filipino priest and Associate Pastor at Our Lady of Victories Roman Catholic Church in Jersey City. What follows is the poem...

Miss Me, But Let Me Go
Fr. William M. Yabao, OLV

When I come to the end of the road,
and the sun has set for me,
I want no tears in a gloom-filled room,
why I cry for a soul set free.

Miss me a little but not too long,
and not with your head bowed low,
remember the love that once we shared,
miss me, but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take,
and each must take it alone,
it's all part of the Master's plan,
miss me, but let me go.

When you are lonely and sick of heart,
go to friends we know,
then, laugh at the things we used to do,
miss me, but let me go.

We have many important things to do in this life; let's keep away from distractions (e.g., politics, division, etc.) and be preoccupied by the love of neighbor, which comes in various forms. God be with all of us!

published: Sept. 27, 2005, 1:06 p.m.

France: Church's Eldest Daughter

This is the third of a series sent by Joy as email to me. It's about those brave and holy martyrs of the faith who shed their blood for Christ. "The blood of martyrs" as is said, "is the seed of Christianity." Sometimes we wonder about their heroism, but then we realize that we're just pilgrims here on earth; our real citizenship is in heaven. The surest sign of sanctity is martyrdom. (Some groups misused the word martyr--used by homicide-suicide bombers in their sacrifice; no! martyrdom is dying for the faith, not killing for the faith.) Most of the martyrs mentioned were French citizens, explaining the title partly. In history, France has always been the faithful daughter of the Church; several saints come from France. St. Joan of Arc, their patron saint, is the most famous, instrumental in ending the Hundred Years war. Joy's email follow...

The Canadian Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario is "cooler [than Toronto] but not that cold. Besides, it wasn't fall yet when we went so it was warmer... For your information, St. Lorenzo Ruiz has a statue on the shrine grounds... Many Filipinos go to Midland regularly when it's open to the public for pilgrimage and picnic. The shrine opens in late March and closes in the second week of October. I think the reason it closes is that the roads leading there can be dangerous in the winter (very slippery due to ice).

"The Canadian martyrs are French Jesuit priests who came to North America in the 1600s in response to the call for 'missionaries to the Indians'. They catechized the natives, specifically the Hurons. They died a gruesome death in the hands of the Iroquois (other natives who I think are responsible in making the Hurons extinct). The Jesuit priest who celebrated the mass we attended said in his homily that their fingers were all cut-off during their torture but St. Jean de Brebeuf managed to escape to France with the help of the Hurons. But he returned to Huronia to continue his work until he was recaptured and decapitated. The names of the martyrs are: the Jesuit priests, Jean de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, Antoine Daniel, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, Noel Chabanel and the laymen Rene Goupil and Jean de la Lande. September 26 is their feast day.

"Just a reminder: September 28 is the feast day of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and companions, and September 29 is the feast day of the Archangels St. Michael, St. Raphael and St. Gabriel. God bless!"

published: Sept. 27, 2005, 10:04 a.m.

Filipino Birthday Tradition

I don't know if it's being done in other countries, but here we always have the pabitin in children's birthday parties. Prizes, toys or goodies are tied and dangled overhead and children jump repeatedly to get them. There may be nothing to it but it's a tradition here. It fosters healthy competition, but unfortunately sometimes get awry--children sometimes fight in the end, defeating its purpose. Another tradition is the food, lots of food for the guests; I guess this came from the Chinese, and of course it is a symbol of prosperity in the coming year, not different from what happens at the New Year celebrations.

Even if the Catacutan clan is apart geographically, we are united.

published: Sept. 27, 2005, 6:02 a.m.

Joy's Pilgrimage Pictures

Recently Joy and company enjoyed a pilgrimage in Midland, Ontario. Now if you like to see the pictures, copy and paste into your browser:

share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8AaM27hq0cNmEh.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

published: Sept. 26, 2005, 9:59 a.m.

Canadian Martyrs' Shrine

Last September 23 and 25, Joy sent me an email with several pictures regarding her (with a group) pilgrimage at the Canadian Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario, Canada (about 2 hours drive north of Toronto) just recently. She says "It was a beautiful day of prayer and fun. Just want to share some of our pictures during that trip. The fall colors are not out yet so you'll notice that the trees in the background are still green. The colors will be out soon--in 3 weeks." There were "more shots of the scenery so you'll have an idea how beautiful and serene the place was. It would have been prettier if the fall colors are out. We might go up north again by the last week of October just to see the colors."

Hey folks, especially those from Canada, you have a nice place over there in Midland, Ontario; check it out!

published: Sept. 20, 2005, 9:56 a.m.

Managed Chaos

In whatever place we find ourselves in, chaos is there. At home, infants and toddlers go about their business, not minding the dangers involved. They stick things into the electric sockets, push buttons on CPUs, TV and radio and turn all kinds of knobs. Their care becomes priority number 1. Similarly, children of all ages try to see how things work, tinkering on gadgets and appliances, and then wait for things to happen. They ride bikes and scooters at anxiety-provoking speeds. Multiply that with their number of playmates... chaos in the making. In the hospital setting, especially at the ER (first hand experience as a medical clerk and intern in 1988-1991), all kinds of patients are brought in, mostly without anything with them (we don't have insurance in the Philippines), no money. In the middle of chaos, the only thing we can do is magic, not taught is class. Everybody pitches in, even the doctors in training (students included). Somehow the needed surgery is done amidst the scarcity. Maybe some people in the First World will be shocked; everything is recycled, everything is being sterilized over and over again, including the cotton balls, tubes, sutures, needles, plastic syringes, even the NSS (normal saline solution). If nothing can be squeezed in terms of resources, such are referred to various donors and benefactors. We can go on and on with examples but perhaps the point is clear. Chaos is everywhere. We have only to manage it. How can it be done?

By default, get the leadership role if that's not yet clear especially if you're trained for it. There has to be a leader; and to assert your authority, as Admiral Nimitz said, "when you're in command, command"! Imagine the situation in the ER, or perhaps the battlefields of conflict. Logic should be utilized, never panic, creating a hierarchy of tasks, treating the more injured patients first, etc. In a perfect system, every individual has a role, no matter how trivial. In the recent hurricane catastrophe in the U.S., no leader emerged at least in the first few hours or even days of the incident, and now people are pointing fingers in all directions. Here at home, to the chagrin of the political opposition, the political chaos is handled systematically by the administration and its allies, no matter how humble the participant. Those in the administration who panicked, and bolted it prematurely, are now seen as unprincipled, in spite of their claim to be for the truth. The other side does not have any leader or any modest alternative. Now I see them as cry babies in their self-inflicted loss.

To all my countrymen, I end... never be a rudder-less ship in the middle of the tempest; seek for the North star and you'll find the shore in no time. Chaos is just a state of mind. As St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14.33, "...God is not a God of confusion but of peace."

published: Sept. 10, 2005, 9:56 a.m.

Prayer For the Fallen

Four years have elapsed and it seems the events of September 11, 2001 in New York are still fresh in our collective memory. I pray to our loving Father in heaven that the immediate victims' families and friends find consolation in the loving people around them, and that all those souls find eternal peace and happiness in his company. Although it occurred in the U.S., the crime was against the entire human race; least that we can do is not forget the incident. Surely the perpetrators of this heinous crime will be judged severely in the afterlife, but all, especially the state should give firm justice as soon as possible to at least offer closure to this dark day in recent history. Those behind this crime should be hunted down wherever they hide and placed behind bars for life!

These mind-less terrorists considered that attack as their trophy of success. Since then several terrorist attacks were perpetrated throughout the world by these agents of evil. And what's putting more anguish among all peace-loving people is their doing it for their religion, for Islam, for Allah. It's unthinkable to murder innocent people in the name of God! Several Muslims voiced their protests, claiming Islam is against terrorism. I just hope they won't get any sanctuary anywhere.

Just a few days ago, hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf states of the U.S. and hundreds died and thousands displaced from their flooded homes. The relief is slow in coming but it will surely come sooner of later. As with the other victims of man-made disasters, we pray for the repose of their souls and the consolation of those left behind.

Many pundits and relief workers compared the devastation to that of 9/11, in terms of scope of the involved area and the suffering it produced. But the big difference is that 9/11 was man-made; natural disasters are more easily accepted. But as is always said, life must go on. We pray for our fallen brothers and sisters...

From the Prayer of Commendation (Order of Christian Funerals):

Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father,
who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,
who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
who was poured out upon you.
Go forth, faithful Christian!
May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints...

May you return to your Creator
who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
come to meet you as you go forth from this life
May you see your Redeemer face to face...(CCC 1020)

published: Aug. 18, 2005, 1:53 p.m.

Patricia

A few days ago, Samek (my inaanak by the way) as we fondly call Patricia, third in Coya Noel's treasures sent me some pictures taken during a JRP Modeling show in Makati City on 11 June 2005. As seen below, her photos are marvelous! I can see a supermodel here! I can also foresee Coya Noel's headaches regarding the suitors that will queue for his approval.

The lack of a smile? Well, Coya Noel recalled that Samek had a fever at that time and she insisted on attending the event. Her countenance is really an X-factor, which I think the beauty experts are familiar with, not the forced smile that becomes casual and fake, at worst. Some detractors might say that beauty is just skin deep; but they might be right. However what we have here is true beauty, physical and spiritual.

Isn't it right that in anything we do, we do for the greater glory of God? Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

published: Aug. 18, 2005, 9:52 a.m.

Pencil

In life, the little things around us no matter how lowly, teach us wisdom. The following allegory was texted to me, and the lesson is precise and straightforward. The second lesson I think is also important because of our nature as human beings. Proverbs 24.16 mentions that a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again. If a righteous man falls that much (7 may mean infinity in Hebrew numerology), how much more does a wicked man? But the more important in that passage is the last portion: the fallen rises again. We always fall, but we should rise every time we fall!

The fourth lesson reminds me of REM's song, Everybody Hurts; but the important thing here is that we use these sharpening for our own good and those around us. We don't despair! Whether we know it or not, these tribulations help us become more mature and strong.

Now, the following is that short text...

"A pencil-maker told the pencils 5 important lessons:

"First, everything you do will always leave a mark; second, you can always correct the mistakes you make; third, what is important is what is inside you. Fourth, in life you will undergo painful sharpening which make you better pencils; and fifth, the most important, to be the best pencil you can be, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you."

published: Aug. 18, 2005, 6:51 a.m.

Division

Division is universal, contrary to what Christ wished for all humanity, and it seems prevalent, perhaps very tangible here in the Philippines. But a lot of it emanates from our own sinfulness, and our tendency to sin (concupiscence). As I think further, a large part comes from sabotage, sabotage of truth, which comes in many forms. It seems some people have nothing to do in life, no identifiable job; all they do is create a poisoned environment just to attain their own selfish goals. And you know what? This is nothing new.

As I was reading the Acts of the Apostles chapter 14 (please read it for the context), I encounter also groups of characters that promote division among the community. While in Iconium, verse 2 mentioned "the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles & poisoned their minds against the brethren." Verse 4 shows the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. The best way to fight poison is not taking it! Don't just believe things. Life is very short and there's not enough time to fight each other.

Later I read The Rule of Benedict: Insights For The Ages by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, and I'll quote her for the conclusion to this blog: "We need to stop putting on airs and separating ourselves out and pretending to be what we are not. Fraud is an easy thing. The honesty of humility, the humility of honesty are precious and rare."

The church universal is presently celebrating the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, and may that event be fruitful and become a beacon of genuine unity in this troubled world.

published: Aug. 1, 2005, 9:49 a.m.

Fr. Stanislaus' Letter

Last week, Joy sent me a forwarded letter regarding the importance of the mass. The letter at the end said that if anyone likes the article, the story should be shared. So I'm now sharing the story to all people of good will (no copyright problems I suppose)...

The Weight of the Daily Mass

From the Catholic Society of Evangelists Newsletter August 1999:

The following true story was related to Sr. M. Veronica Murphy by an elderly nun who heard it from the lips of the late Reverend Father Stanislaus SS. CC.

One day many years ago, in a little town in Luxembourg, a Captain of the Forest Guards was in deep conversation with the butcher when an elderly woman entered the shop. The butcher broke off the conversation to ask the old woman what she wanted. She had come to beg for a little meat but had no money. The Captain was amused at the woman and the butcher.

"Only a little meat, but how much are you going to give her?" He wondered. "I am sorry I have no money but I'll hear Mass for you," the woman told the butcher. Both the butcher and the Captain were indifferent about religion, so they at once began to scoff at the old woman's idea.

"All right then," said the butcher. "You go and hear Mass for me and when you come back I'll give you as much as the Mass is worth."

The woman left the shop and returned later. She approached the counter and the butcher said, "All right then, we'll see." He took a slip of paper and wrote on it "I heard a Mass for you." He placed the paper on the scales and a tiny bone on the other side, but nothing happened. Next he placed a piece of meat instead of the bone, but still the paper proved heavier. Both men were beginning to feel ashamed of their mockery but continued their game.

A large piece of meat was placed on the balance, but still the paper held its own. The butcher, exasperated, examined the scales but found they were all right.

"What do you want, my good woman? Must I give you a whole leg of mutton?" At this he placed the leg of mutton on the balance, but the paper outweighed the meat. A larger piece of meat was put on, but again the weight remained on the side of the paper. This, so impressed the butcher that he was converted and promised to give the woman her daily ration of meat.

As for the Captain, he left the shop a changed man and an ardent lover of daily Mass. Two of his sons became priests, one a Jesuit and the other a Father of the Sacred Heart.

Father Stanislaus finished the story by saying, "I am from the Religious of the Sacred Heart and the Captain was my father."

From the incident the Captain became a daily Mass attendant and his children were trained to follow his example. Later when his sons became priests, he advised them to say Mass well every day and never miss the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass through any fault of their own.

If you like the story, share this to someone... Remember too that "a Holy Mass a day keeps the Devil away"

God bless,
"God's timing is always right--wait patiently for Him."

published: July 27, 2005, 9:47 a.m.

King Mutya Ning Aslagan

Back in July 2000, Uncle Jim Camaya sent me some excepts from a book that came from Dr. Catacutan; it contains some of the works of poets and writers of our province, Indung Capampangan. The following is the second of such tilamsic ding pluma ding matenacan nang anac ning balen Capampangan...

Qng Mutya Ning Aslagan
Sinulat neng Juez Zoilo Hilario
San Fernando, Capampangan
(Capampangan Language)

Baluan cung maragul at alang catimbang
Ing casaquitan mung quecang tatangisan,
inya, Balayan cu, ba'ra cang ilimbang
bisa cu pang dalit agya mu mang misan.

Qng amanung cacu pigtumaila ra
Ing queca lugud cu lugud buri cung ipinta;
Queca yang pusu cu, queca ya ing lira,
Caladua queca ya, queca ining sinta.

Ing tronu mu simsam de man ding Palalu
pulisan me na yang lua mung masalusu,
atin ca pang Tronu qng busal cung salu
bucud me, Indu cu: "Ya cabud ing pusu."

Itan mung sambitan, payuan yaning dusa;
Qng justisia ning Dios carin ca manaya,
Ating capupusan ing sablaang parusa
Caibat ning dalumdum 'ting lunto alaya.

Quetang rebolusion balu mung linamac
qng pamagsarili ing dayang dinanac.
ding anti ngan queca, calma ra man jamac
labuad lang matapang, e lajing patianac.

Nung napun qng sican dang lusuc ding tacde
ing catimauan mu icua mung agale,
ing qng bie sarili bayung pangapacde
qng sican ning isip ngeni mu pamale!

Caring quecang anac a peparangalan
beit at linangap qng candungan mung nuan,
ing queca e lugud bague yang quintalan
qng lagiu nang Judas qng libutad canuan.

Ba' cang luguran pa canacu la dapat
aduang pusung queca qng lugud miyulat!
Bayu cu calinguan quing versung talapat
paclian cu ne pa mu ing cacung paniulat.

Busal ning pusu cung nung nu e pipagiu
ing queca pacamal a quening lub tintu,
Indung Filipinas, tatac da ca lagiu
e qng letrang uling: Caring Letrang Guintu.

Republicang maslag, mabandi't timaua
a taguri na sa queca ning dila.
Bayu cu sa mate ticdo cang timaua
aqua que pang uman ing quecang Bandila!

Buri mu neng bation o caya silipan
ing Aldo panayan ba 'mu nong timanan?
Mequeni, muquiat ca. Indu cung alipan
babo ring pago cu ba 'ra cang pusanan!

~Juez Zoilo Hilario
c. 1922

published: July 23, 2005, 12:25 p.m.

Up On The Roof

Sometimes I'm asked by friends why there's a lot of trouble around; it seems that we're surprised. Trouble of any kind is apparent in all parts of the globe. Bombings are now current in London, Egypt and Iraq; corners show utter poverty and unemployment. Situation is often aggravated by politicians, whom we as citizens should be wary of. One small thing about a political enemy is exaggerated to astronomical proportions! Law makers are the first to break the Law!

A very powerful appliance that contributes to the chaos is the TV; media becomes very powerful in trashing the minds of people, especially the young. People, we have a choice! If you can't do away with the TV completely, at least find better alternatives once in a while. Maybe think about the following song. Let's go back to nature! One reason why I like James Taylor...

Up On The Roof
by Gerry Goffin and Carole King

When this old world
Starts getting me down
And people are just too much
For me to face
I climb 'way up
To the top of the stairs
And all my cares
Just drift right in to space.

On the roof
It's peaceful as can be
And there the world below
Can't bother me.

Let me tell you now,
When I come home
Feelin' tired and beat
I go up where the air
Is fresh and sweet.

I get away
From the hustling crowds
And all that rat race noise
Down in the street.

On the roof's
The only place I know
Where you just have to wish
To make it so.

Oh, let's go up on the roof.
At night the stars
Put on a show for free
And, darling, you can share it all with me.

I keep tellin' you,
Right smack dead in the middle of town
I found a paradise
That's trouble proof.

So if this world starts
Getting you down,
There's room enough for two
Up on the roof,
Up on the roof.

Ev'rything is all right up on the roof.
Oh, come on, baby up on the roof.
Up on the roof.

published: July 21, 2005, 12:23 p.m.

Dalit Ning Lahi

Back in July 2000, Uncle Jim Camaya sent me some excepts from a book that came from Dr. Catacutan; it contains some of the works of poets and writers of our province, Indung Capampangan. The following is the first of such tilamsic ding pluma ding matenacan nang anac ning balen Capampangan...

Dalit Ning Lahi
(Philippine National Anthem, Capampangan language)

Labuad a mapalad
Mutya nang lalu sampat
Ning dayat-malat
A queca misapuac.

Budning sultana
Guinu na ning Malasia
Pemalena'na
Ning tapat a sinta.

Caring bunduc mu at caqueuan
Batis, ulu't pulung cacal
Bitasang macalimbagan
Ing quecang catimauan.

Qng bandila mung maningning
A tecutan da ring tacsil
Capilan man e culimlim
Ing aldo na at batuin.

Labuad ning aldo, sinta't tepangan
Mayumung diling queque ca mie
Ing queca que ngan paimate.

- Mariano Proceso Pabalan
Baculoud, Capampangan
Septiembre 29, 1898

published: July 12, 2005, 12:21 p.m.

Bless the Children

Conflict is everywhere; and much of it is due to the sin of pride. We know it as the first of the 7 capital sins, taught in the primary catechism class. Some folks always want to come on top of every confrontation, and of course sometimes being opinionated is good, but not always. One thing should always be, that of respect for your enemy, political, martial or otherwise. What can be done about it then?

Only one thing, do the opposing virtue: humility, the opposite of pride. This is where the children can help us adults; just observe them, transparent and innocent of any ulterior motives. You can't really despise a child, right, no matter how unruly? They are naturally humble. Whenever we see children, we welcome them with open arms. This is what St. Mark recorded when the approaching children were rebuked by the disciples, perhaps they thought that they were a hindrance to Jesus:

Jesus said to them, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them (Mark 10.13-16).

Let's not be so hard with our children; gently teach them the ways of God. They are God's gift to all of us. Bless the children.

published: July 7, 2005, 12:19 p.m.

Surveys

I'm not surprised by the political noise that permeates the air nowadays. It seems this is our lot as Filipinos and perhaps any free democratic nation on the face of the earth (notably the U.S.). We are giving the media (the fourth estate) free reign; people don't care if it's true or not. It seems perception is better than truth. People will always have their desires satisfied, even at the expense of the majority or the nation. They give more interest in surveys and polls, and we all know that if any government puts surveys in a pedestal, nothing significant will happen in this country. Nobody really likes to pay more taxes; nobody wants to be laid off if that position is redundant, nobody likes high prices of goods (oil price I think is $60/barrel), etc. Almost all fair-minded economists and bankers say that the E-VAT should not have been TRO'd by the Supreme Court; they say the state is losing P5 B a month as a consequence. And perhaps the Senate didn't want to look bad they rejected the Lower House version of 12%. Perhaps its high time for the Constitution to change: in addition to changing the form of government to Parliamentary (and strengthening the Party System) so that the executive and legislature will be one, the judicial system should be overhauled. The courts should not legislate; they should just interpret the law. Of course the people appointed should be qualified.

I'm not being paid by the government to say these things; personalities are not relevant, it is the institution that we should strengthen as long as they are functioning. And I think the opposition will thank me for these ideas because if in the future (God forbid because they were themselves discredited in the past) they hold the reigns of power, people will support them because it's the institution that people see (not their thick-skinned faces).

As a final note, we should remember that we are only pilgrims on this side of heaven; there are more important things in life. Life is very short to keep on fighting; stop being so makulit (rallyists take note) regarding our demands, political or otherwise. Let's enjoy life while we can. Let's just put politics behind us and go forward towards peace and development.

published: July 6, 2005, 12:18 p.m.

Rule of Law

The following is one reaction of an ordinary Filipino citizen on the present national situation.

The political noise is all over, in the guise of seeking the truth; which on the contrary actually banishes Truth away. Truth in it's purest form comes to us in the silence of our hearts. People seeking the truth should first remove their biases, humble themselves and look inwards. For Catholics, the best place (if possible) is in Christ's presence in the most blessed sacrament. Hate should be out of the question; respect for people and institutions should be maintained. Then analyze the so-called evidence to see what's true, beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the present political situation, the only plausible route is the impeachment court (Congress) and leave it to the system whether the president is acquitted or convicted. Whatever the decision is should be respected. No more complaining, no more noise. The unsatisfied should just wait for the next election in 2010 (if the constitution is not changed), or until the government becomes parliamentary, and run in their districts. Absolutely no coup d'etat or even rumors of it. If this Rule of Law is not followed, we'll become a banana republic, the primary reason why a lot of African nations are very underdeveloped and poor. Maybe that's what they are after.

One good thing that may come out of this mess is a systematic change in our form of government to a pure parliamentary form; we'll have a Prime Minister, and annihilate the position of President to oblivion. And that prime minister can be removed more easily; no need for people power or coup.

Perhaps one final thought is that of humility. The president has sought for the nation's forgiveness and we should give that to her. People asked: "but what about the penance?", the answer is "Pray three Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory bes, and say the act of contrition." In my mind, the president will become more effective in governing the nation because of the virtue of humility. The constant attacks on her character and person is enough penance if you ask me. And perhaps the silent majority forgives a humble leader, like when King David sinned and subsequently repented.

published: July 1, 2005, 12:17 p.m.

Give Hope, Give Life

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 1.2).

Magne's World is based in Apalit, Pampanga in the island of Luzon, biggest in the Philippine archipelago, and started in 2004, courtesy of Geocities (service ended 2009) of Yahoo!. The website is uncategorized and not limited to any subject matter, though a great part revolves around the Catacutan and Anicete (et al.) clans here, and abroad. The following may help in navigating this page.

You might have noticed the word Hope; hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1817). Hope is what this troubled world needs; give hope, give life.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5.3-12).

published: June 29, 2005, 12:15 p.m.

What do UPCM grads ought to be?

This inquiry was written by Eloy Marcelo, M.D., a class '91 classmate of mine (see contact data at the end) from UP. It's mainly addressed to my fellow UP Medicine alumni...

It started when I proposed that University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM) graduates be made to sign a social contract requiring them to serve for a period of two years (editor suggest 5 years) in an underserved area in the country after graduation. After this period of service, they can opt to do anything they want--even go to the U.S. (Note that this two years will include an informal postgraduate curriculum that nurtures these graduates as they serve the remote barrios--perhaps MPH?, perhaps Masters in Community Health Management?; it will not be a stagnation period).

Why do I propose this?

First, the cost of medical education has gone up (when we paid P10,000 ($400) for our clerkship year the dollar was at P25:$1). Presently, the students pay P11,000 ($200), an increase not commensurate with the peso devaluation over the past 14 years. (editor's note: as you can see the dollar equivalents, the tuition actually halved.)

Second, utilities have gone up tremendously. Our annual P13 M ($230 K) budget is spent mostly on the P1 M ($20 K) monthly Meralco bill. P1 M is left for the annual water bill. Faculty/ departments shell out their own for the paper, whiteboard markers, etc. for the courses they offer. We survive mostly from alumni contributions (this includes the faculty--many of whom have no salary).

Third, the College has been unable to get more subsidy from the government for many reasons but one of them is because we have been unable to demonstrate service very clearly--because half of our graduates are in other countries. It seems showing the service we offer at PGH is not enough to convince them of our value (I myself do not see the value of service purely from just a PGH setting. As residents, we learn as we serve in PGH--the motive is still personal development, not pure unadulterated service).

I think it is the option of any graduate of UP to practice wherever he/she wants (including other countries), but it is also his/her responsibility to show some form of payback for the scholarship that has been awarded. I think two years of government service is enough.

I don't think the issue is that half of our graduates end up in the U.S., but that they tend to leave without a demonstration of service which is expected from a scholar. (The college is not fault free here--the college has failed to provide opportunities for service also).

Having said that, I think it is unfair to require this return of service from graduates who have not been properly informed of this requirement, that was why I was proposed something like a pre-nuptial agreement be cast prior to enrollment (for batch coming in at 2006), with the incoming medical student fully informed of the responsibilities expected after he/she graduates.

What do you think? The school that has made us who we are is in a fiscal crisis. She needs our collective minds, the most brilliant minds this country has to offer, to come together and find solutions.

I expect responses from the 1991 community. Please bear in mind that my ultimate objective is to obtain more funds for the college--not mostly from the benevolence of our alumni, but rather from the contributions of various funding agencies (including congress) because they believe in the values that the UPCM stand for--the highest level of health service to the Filipino people, especially the underserved.

Alvin B. Marcelo, M.D.
Medical Informatics Unit, University of the Philippines, Manila
547 Pedro Gil Street, Ermita, Manila
1000 Philippines

www.linuxforhealth.org/amarcelo
Telefax: 632-522-9231

This letter has been disseminated to all class '91 members. Since other readers will see this blog, it points to just one problem in the Philippine medical educational system, mainly from lack of funding. Concerned Filipinos (fields of education and health and government) are enjoined to think about this problem and act appropriately. It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

published: June 28, 2005, 12:13 p.m.

Fifth Estate

The government is run by the 3 estates, executive, legislative and judiciary; fourth estate is the media. The fifth estate is fast gaining ground, the blog! But like the media, it's a two-edged sword, used for good and evil, legal and illegal, but the bottom line is the people or the reader or the blogger. You have to maintain your credibility. In the media if you falter, revenue will suffer (loss of advertisements). I think there are some ways of knowing the traffic to a certain blog site; if you lose your credibility, less readers will see your site. This particular blog just highlights the importance of blogs and I'm encouraging the reader to make or start a new blog.

Happy blogging to all!

published: June 27, 2005, 9:56 a.m.

Fiesta

On June 29, we'll celebrate the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, the former being our patron saint here in Apalit. It's been traditionally celebrated for three days, from June 28 to 30. Streets are lined by all sorts of make-shift stores of various items, and thick banners that seem to form a roof above. Just go to the fairground for rides and local entertainment, which are anticipated by the young people. Because it's mainly a religious festival, masses in church are attended SRO, and various forms of prayers are said that include processions around the town, always accompanied by loud brass bands and occasional shouts of Viva Apung Iro! The image of St. Peter with papal paraphernalia is paraded, carried by the Knights of St. Peter and many volunteers. Along the way, food is being given generously, and firecrackers explode from all directions. People cut leafy branches from trees and shrubs (mainly guava for its medicinal value), and wave them around, not only for Apung Iro but for health throughout the year.

Before this procession that occurs late in the afternoon, fluvial parades populate the nearby Pampanga river; people in all sorts of boats are in joyous mode, trying to splash water at each other (in the vernacular we call this libad). St. Peter's pagoda is being towed using a long rope, by volunteer swimmers, and assisted by people along the river bank. Why have a water parade? St. Peter as we all know was a fisherman from Galilee in Palestine, before being called by Jesus to become one of his disciples; Jesus told him to become a fisher of men. The tiara points to the fact that St. Peter was the very first pope in the church, vicar of Christ on earth. I think it was St. Ambrose who said that "where Peter is, there is the Church".

All people are welcome here in Apalit and celebrate St. Peter the Apostle with us. In fact a lot of tourists come here, both foreign and local. While this celebration is so simple and down to earth, it is profoundly theological. The beauty of the Church's universality makes others who can't go here, to celebrate it in their own parish church in any part of the world; the mass is the same, including the scripture passages (cf. Acts 12.1-11; 2 Tim 4.6-8, 17-18; Mt 16.13-19).

Viva Apung Iro!

published: June 23, 2005, 9:55 a.m.

Cardinal Sin

Two days ago (6/21/05), the long-reigning archbishop of Manila (about a generation), and Primate of the Philippines, Jaime Cardinal Sin died of renal failure. He's a giant in recent Philippine history and well known in the church universal. For many people, a sign of contradiction.

Critics said that we should not mix politics and religion, church and state. But the Cardinal proved them wrong. Each individual has only one life. You're the same person on Sunday or weekday, in government or out of it, in politics or out of it, etc. No matter where we are, or in what situation we are in, we are one personality. Double personalities are considered freaks, characters in novels and movies. If followed strictly, then politicians will not be corrupt; people do the best they can in their occupation; or people are charitable not only on Christmas, but 24/7.

In 1983, when Senator Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, Cardinal Sin became the voice of the voiceless. People were afraid to speak out, fearing for their lives. But not Sin; in every opportunity he attacked the political leaders at the time, namely President Marcos and close government officials. What I don't see today is the respect he maintained towards Marcos. He respected his opponents. People today who attack the government disrespect the person of the president. To Marcos' credit, the Cardinal was not hurt amid this crisis.

In 1986, Cardinal Sin was very instrumental in what we call the first People Power revolution, which remained generally peaceful, and ousted the Marcoses, fleeing to the U.S. The outcome would have become bloody if not for him. Ultimately it was God's will that democracy was restored. This People Power phenomenon became a template for other countries to follow, especially in eastern Europe as is seen particularly in Poland. This link is sadly missing in the accounts of modern historians.

In between such momentous events, which again become controversial in this secular world, the Cardinal is spearheading the pro-life philosophy of the Church. He (as any Catholic should be) is staunchly against abortion and contraception, and such other technologies that experiment on the very early stages of human life. Life as echoed by Pope John Paul II starts from conception, and ends in natural death.

All are enjoined to fervently pray for the repose of his soul.

Ave atque vale!

published: June 10, 2005, 9:54 a.m.

Veritatis Splendor

"What is truth? (John 18.38)"; as asked 2000 years ago by Pilate to Jesus, this question is the most thought-provoking. However the gospel passage did not record any philosophical answer from our Lord. It seems that it's a rhetorical question. Pilate didn't realize the person in front of him was Truth personalized, truth itself. Christ said in John 14.6 that he's "the way, and the truth, and the life"; no one goes to the Father, but by him. Furthermore, our Lord uttered, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you'll know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8.31-32)." This passage (truth will make you free) is always quoted by various people with different agenda, whether legitimate of otherwise, claiming its secondary meaning, which points to truth in general. But the context is that truth here points to Jesus Christ. So if you rephrase it, the verse may be rendered: "Jesus Christ will make you free." We cannot precisely say "God is true", or "God is truthful"; more appropriately, "God is truth."

The foregoing refers to the first connotation of truth; what we call absolute truth, referring to the truths on God, what we believe in; and truths on science or philosophy, what we determined in these disciplines. The second connotation of truth (what follows) refers to those "truths" that are obvious in day to day living. "I ate a pizza this morning" is such example of this truth, or "I slept at 12 last night", obvious truths (assuming I actually ate pizza and slept at that particular time). This second connotation becomes important in situations where the law is broken, or perhaps when a witness is called in any court of law or any investigative body.

In hotly contested court battles (or similar venues), both sides claim that they have the truth on their side. Here it becomes silly very fast; truth becomes abused. People swear by anything just to show they are on the right side. But what does scripture say here? In any kind of speech, the gospel in Matthew 5.37 mentioned that all we have to do is simply say Yes or No, and anything more than this comes from evil. Simply put, just tell the truth, directly, with a pure heart, without any motives underneath.

Jesus actually gave some pointers about people who are called to be witnesses. John 3.11 says: "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen..." Say only what you are sure of, what you have seen or heard, not what you think or imagine happened. Words are so powerful that they can make or break a person's reputation. No wonder God made lying a very grievous sin that making false witness made it to the ten commandments.

The point of this short article? Tell the truth always, saying yes when we mean yes, and no when we mean no. One unfortunate corollary to this is that we are not sure whether people are lying or not. The threat of getting God's wrath if we lie is not effective.

Let's bring back the veritatis splendor (splendor of truth)!

published: June 6, 2005, 9:52 a.m.

You've Got A Friend

The following song written by Carole King I remembered became a theme song of my high school senior class back in 1981. In this world of darkness which some people call the post-Christian era, the song offers a very positive thing. There is always a friend out there willing to help you in all your worries. In fact, God is there even if all our other friends fail us. So here goes...

When you're down and troubled
And you need some love and care
And nothin',
Nothin' is goin' right,

Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there,
To brighten up
Even your darkest night.

Refrain:
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come runnin' to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there.
(Yes I will)
You've got a friend.

If the sky above you
Should grow dark and full of clouds
And that ol' north wind
Should begin to blow,
Keep your head together
And call my name out loud;
Soon you'll hear me knockin'
At your door. (Ref.)

Now ain't it good to know
That you've got a friend
When people can be so cold?
They'll hurt you,
Yes, and desert you
And take your soul
If you let them.
Oh, but don't you let them. (Ref.)

Yes, we are in a lot of darkness; but I really believe what the late John Paul II said that we are in the springtime of faith, a hope that should not die in time's passing. All men and women of good will should stand their ground, and not allow ourselves to be tossed around by the waves and lose our direction. Sooner or later, lines will be drawn; we'll choose the right path.

published: May 8, 2005, 7:47 p.m.

Ubiquitous Index Finger

The presence of the thumb set the Primates (monkeys, apes and man) apart from the rest of the animal world. It made us do a lot of things, thus facilitating the development of the brain, making it relatively bigger. What about the other fingers? Perhaps the most used and abused is the index finger. I'll now go to the point: it has become the "pointing finger".

When something goes wrong, the pointing finger works: who's at fault? When 9/11 occurred, some pointed at God as doing nothing to prevent it (destroying the faith of many); when hundreds of thousands died due to the tsunami (12/26/04), people did the same thing--blame the Creator. When the price of gasoline or other commodities rise, people blame the president; when a bombing happens due to terrorism, people point to the uselessness of the police, not the terrorists or criminals responsible for the crime. When a lot of people don't eat regularly and suffer a lot of misfortunes, people blame the government for not providing for the needs of its citizens, not the irresponsible parents who bear lots of babies (note, I love babies, lots of them but that's not the point here) without any resources for their future. Some TV documentaries show people in the slums without any real house and yet having ten children. Instead of pointing to the government for any misfortune, we should do something about it (concretely, not by useless talk).

Borrowing from Sr. Joan Chittister, O.S.B. in her book, The Rule of Benedict, Insights For The Ages: "It is not enough, [St.] Benedict implies, simply to distance ourselves from the bad. It is not enough, for instance, to refuse to slander others; we must rebuilt their reputations. It is not enough to disapprove of toxic waste; we must do something to save the globe. It is not enough to care for the poor; we must do something to stop the poverty. We must be people who bring creation to life." It is not enough to condemn the corruption in society (government, etc.); we must be honest in everything we do (if we get a traffic ticket, we receive it gladly and not try to bribe the poor cop, etc.). The people who have first hand information of any anomaly should do something for justice to thrive. "Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against evildoers (Ps 34.13-16)..." As Sr. Joan Chittister concluded, "Once you have done these things, you will be in the presence of God."

Let's be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

published: May 8, 2005, 9:16 a.m.

Universal Prayer

I believe, O Lord, strengthen my faith; I hope, may I hope with greater certainty; I love, may I love with greater ardor; I am sorry, may I have greater sorrow. I adore you as the Author of my being; I desire you as my end; I praise you as my perpetual benefactor; I invoke you as my sovereign protector. Direct me by your wisdom, restrain me with your justice; comfort me with your clemency; protect me with your power. I consecrate to you my thoughts, that I may think of you; my words, that I may speak of you; my actions, that they may be according to your will; my sufferings, for your greater glory. I want what you want, because you want it, as you want it, as long as you want it.

I beg you to illuminate my intellect, to inflame my will, to purify my body and sanctify my soul. May I shed tears for my past sins, repulse future temptations, correct my bad inclinations, practice hole virtues. O my God, grant me love of you, hatred of myself, zeal for my neighbor, contempt of the world. May I always obey my superiors, help my inferiors, be faithful to my friends, pardon my enemies. May I overcome voluptuousness by austerity, avarice by liberality, anger by meekness, lukewarmness by fervor.

Make me prudent in my plans, constant in danger, patient in adversity, humble in prosperity. Grant, O Lord, that I may be attentive in prayer, temperate in food, diligent in my duties, constant in my resolutions. May I always be vigilant to dominate my nature, to cultivate grace, to observe the commandments, to obtain eternal salvation. O Lord, teach me the unimportance of this world, the greatness of divine things, the briefness of time, the duration of eternity. Grant that I may always be prepared for death, that I may fear your judgment, that I may escape hell, that I may merit heaven. Amen.

(composed by Pope Clement XI)

published: May 1, 2005, 9:15 a.m.

John Paul II to Benedict XVI

What else can I say? You pointed out what needed to be pointed out. John Paul II was a holy man. He was a faithful apostle of Christ since he was young until his last breath. No wonder he had such a significant personal impact on so many people, especially the youth. He radiated love and hope; he radiated Christ. As the bishop of Ottawa said in his homily during a requiem mass: "We never deserved to have John Paul II as our Pope. He was too holy for us. But Jesus knew we needed him so He gave him to us. Now he has been called home." We are blessed that we have a new intercessor in heaven. We now have a new Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. I am very happy and pleased that Cardinal Ratzinger has been chosen as our new Pope. I already have this filial love for him. He will surely continue the work of the late John Paul II. Let us not forget to always include him and his intentions in our daily prayers.
[blog/comment from Joy]

published: April 18, 2005, 9:13 a.m.

Important Things

Before anything else, I offer my apologies for some errors in my blogs; I checked my previous blogs and found errors in grammar, both real and technical (some characters are not rendered by the browser, etc.). Most of the time I just type and type continuously without reviewing the previous texts. Please ignore these errors, and of course I'll do my best to create a 'perfect' log. Look at the forest, not the tree.

While we go about our daily routines at home and office, and places in between, we might lose sight of the important things in life. Don't forget to greet people, smile at them and do anything appropriate as the need arises. If you can lend to anyone who needs it, lend; if you need to forgive, forgive. And because you take care of these important things, it will follow that the job at hand, any work you do, will be done the best way possible. Remember that doing your job diligently is the same as praying. People should work not because they have to, but because they like to do it. I hope I'm making sense here.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall gently upon your field,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Amen.

(an Irish blessing prayer)

published: April 18, 2005, 9:12 a.m.

The Philippines, My Home

This blog originates from the Philippines, an archipelago in the western Pacific ocean, comprising about 7,107 islands, 84 million inhabitants that use several languages, including English and Filipino (Tagalog largely), and a melting pot of several cultures. We have it all here. From the ordinary to the extraordinary; the holy and profane, the beautiful and the not so beautiful. After all God made it a nice place to live in, and a nice place to visit.

Because the Philippines is surrounded by the Pacific, it is heaven for water and sea lovers--several beaches to surf in or just appreciate. The well-known beaches of Boracay and Palawan are hotspots; but a lot more people seek the not so popular ones (e.g. Bohol). The ones at Bicol and Ilocos regions are good surf machines. I heard it from a cable news item that we have here the most ecologically diverse of all marine ecosystems. Scientists and environmentalists are welcome here to also give their support in protecting all these treasures, which are sadly being destroyed from pollution and some illegal fishing (including dynamite and cyanide fishing).

Other sites are the caves, mountains, volcanoes (especially Taal and Mayon, not forgetting Pinatubo with its mineral-rich lake), waterfalls, and various historical spots.

The best resources are the human resources. The people are creative, hard-working, patient, friendly and kind. But don't push your luck, people have a sense of justice and fair-play. Abuse, plunder and disrespect are not tolerated. Previous wars have proved this. Although our military equipment is lacking, we have the best warriors and soldiers in the world. The U.N., the only legitimate international force at this time actually seeks Filipino peace-keepers all over the world. One unfortunate thing happened (April 14) in Haiti where one of our own (SSgt. Batomalaque ["large rock" if translated to English], the eleventh killed while serving as international peace-keeper) was gunned down while battling street gangsters. That incident didn't deter our nationals from the fight for what is right. While the citizens are nationalistic, we are not extremists or ultra-nationalists. While our love for the country remains, the bigger picture is maintained in the background; we all live in the same planet. Point at any place on the globe, and Filipinos are there; we are all over!

In the political realm, we may as well be placed in the Guinness Book. In all elections, no one candidate ever loses; can you imagine that? But how can that be, you may ask. Simply put, when the election is over, a few are proclaimed winners, while the rest are all cheated. No one ever loses!

As is the case in other countries, we tend to put our country in a bad light for some selfish motives. Some Filipinos say we are a dangerous place to be in. But the crime rate in New York or Washington is much higher than here. Some surveys fuel these speculators by publishing that we are a very corrupt country (way up in the list). I don't condone corruption, but I don't believe such pronouncements. They are counter productive. While not condoning the negative, we should show the positives.

An edifice you can destroy in just a few minutes; building it takes years and years to do. It is true also for institutions, countries and personal reputations. As a final word, all peoples should practice respect for each other. "So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them (Mt 7.12)." That is the golden rule.

published: April 15, 2005, 9:11 a.m.

Radiology

Oftentimes, the man on the street does not know what radiology is; perhaps it's the study of radios. People may know what cardiology is, or ophthalmology or maybe microbiology. As a radiologist, I have the duty to explain what this word means.

Radiology is a branch of the art and science of Medicine pertaining with the use of ionizing (e.g., x and gamma rays) and non-ionizing (e.g., ultrasound) radiation, in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Radio- obviously comes from radiation, that invisible energy out there. Previously this specialty was known as Röntgenology, in honor of Wilhelm Röntgen, the German physicist who discovered x rays back in 1895, for which he received a Nobel price. (Another name for x ray is Röntgen ray.)

One hundred ten years has elapsed since that time and now radiology is the fastest growing branch of medicine in the world. Among all specialties, it is also the most technology- and instrument-driven, reaping contributions from computer technology, electronics and communications and applied physics and chemistry. Because of this technological flowering, several braches or medicine want to get some of this treasure. One notable example of which that use ultrasound technology is OB-GYN. This practice is frowned upon by many of my colleagues in the field, but the fact is that all doctors are free to impinge on the other braches; we can't impose on others. For me, the only thing I request or wish on the non-radiologists doing radiology-related work is that the patient's welfare is paramount in their minds. The patient comes first. These doctors should be trained properly so that the radiologic reports are correct.

One thing I remember while still in training is that the cardiologists and urologists (e.g.) doing their fluoroscopic examinations didn't seem to know that x rays are used in the procedures. They continuously step on the pedal, instead of doing it sparingly or intermittently. You may 'fry' both the patient and the doctors, giving unreasonably large radiation doses. They don't seem to know the basics of radiation safety! I presume all radiology training institutions teach their residents the importance of radiation and instrument safety, not to mention the correct procedures in doing examinations, and the academic exposure to produce the best radiologists possible. I think radiology residency in the Philippines now requires 4 years to complete (from a previous 3). In like manner, all non-radiologists who use radiology in their practice should also be trained. This is not condescending on the others; safety should come first.

Nowadays radiology comprises a lot of different technologies or subspecialties: radiography (x rays as ordinary people are familiar), ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine (using radiopharmaceuticals), interventional (short of surgery), and a combination of all these. In the therapeutic side, we have radiation oncology (to give radiotherapy), including brachytherapy and giving isotopes; perhaps people are familiar with the gamma knife.

Doctors undecided in the specialty they wish to take should look in the direction of radiology... the final frontier.

published: April 13, 2005, 9:09 a.m.

The Last Things

Every Lent, we are reminded of our particular deaths, and consequently what is really important in life. It is often said that only in death do we appreciate the people around us, and then remember the good things about the deceased. The Filipino culture (or any culture which treasures family, including the extended type) prepares the folks on the last things. We are happy when a new life is conceived, happy when a child is born, happy in the thick and thin of life, and also happy when we see grandpa or grandma die a peaceful death. We all see these things, sometimes happening in the hospital and sometimes at home, and the place of death, for example becomes some kind of a "shrine" for the deceased. Memorabilia are common and death is generally not seen as bad. The last pope demonstrated to the whole world the process of dying, the gradual weakening of the body when all kinds of maladies come. It is very prudent therefore to think of our own deaths. The reality of terrorism and violence in the streets desecrates this respect we have for each person, and the lives of all the victims seem cheap in the perpetrators' eyes. But I still believe in justice; these evil people (terrorists and their cohorts in different sizes and shapes) will have their time in judgement. (This is one proof of the reality of the afterlife; if they get away with murder here on earth, they won't escape the "real" justice later.) I may digress here but I support any legislation that gives more teeth to the law-enforces everywhere.

We should remember that death has been overcome by our Lord on the cross and it is in this reality that we place our hope now and in the future. I now lift from St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15): "...the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is in the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (vv 52-57)."

While we become sad when someone we love dies, we rejoice that a new door has been opened for them especially if the Lord's hope remains in them (this is the reason why we pray for all people even the dead). This very mysterious phase of life, the twilight zone will only become clear when we actually make the crossing from this to the next life.

I now lift from Revelation 21 to fittingly end this: "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away (vv 3-4)."

published: April 13, 2005, 9:08 a.m.

Right To Choose

While we are in the interregnum (time before a new pope is proclaimed) period, several media outfits make a lot of speculations about the identity of the next pope. They even interview people about their thoughts about the next pope. Obviously the majority like the Apostolic successor to continue the policies of John Paul II, perhaps having a John Paul III. I was shocked to hear one person commenting that the next pope should allow abortions and a lot of other related things. That kind of thing cannot happen! All right-minded people are really pro-choice, meaning we all have to make the right choices in life. We choose life, not death; we choose peace, not war. We choose love, not hate, etc.

In Deuteronomy 30, God actually gave his people the right to choose, but wishing that the right choice is made: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him (vv 19-20)..." As you may see, this battle between the culture of life and the culture of death is not new. This exhortation is repeated by Joshua, the successor of Moses: "...if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, ...but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24.15)." And then perhaps lest we become proud and think it is only through human effort that we make the right choices, the reality is that God chose us first. In John 15, Jesus of Nazareth is speaking to us: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you (v 16)."

This concept of free choice extends to all aspects of modern life. The different activities of the Church (include here all the pro-life movements) really exhort all people to make the right choices. We have a stand against abortion, and if people insist on doing that abominable act, they are practically free to do that. Now because it is legal in a lot of countries (notably the developed ones), we really cannot do anything about it. It doesn't mean that complacency should be the rule; no, the fight continues. In the Philippines (with Malta as the only countries without any legal divorce in place), divorce is being introduced in Congress. They may succeed in the future, but in the end people make their own decisions. The faithful people will choose to remain married (happily), even if a lot choose divorce. The only saving grace in democracies is that the faithful people are free to express their beliefs in public. But please read what the Church teaches, or perhaps open the scriptures and understand that is written there.

Choose rightly!

published: April 4, 2005, 9:07 a.m.

John Paul the Great

Just very recently, we witnessed the passing of a giant in the 20th century--Pope John Paul II. He was the visible head (the invisible head is Christ) of the Catholic Church, and the spiritual leader of the world, regardless of ideology or ethnicity. As patriarch of the Latin (Western) Rite, he's the head of all Roman Catholics; and as bishop of Rome, the head of the Catholic (Universal) Church. The head does not lord it over the rest of the bishops and patriarchs; instead the head is the first among equals. This is like Peter: all the 12 Apostles are equal, although Peter is the first among them (this is the primacy of Peter; and the late pope was Peter's 263rd successor). For the sake of the non-Catholics, the Catholic Church includes the Eastern Rite churches (several including the Maronite, Chaldean, Armenian, Coptic, etc.) and the Western church. Sometimes, terms are confusing especially with all these journalists covering the death of a pope.

Karol Wojtyla, John Paul's baptismal name, was born in Wadowice, Poland in 1920 (I hope the spelling is correct) to a school teacher mother and a soldier father. Because Poland was always under a foreign power, people always longed to be free and independent. These powers were often times ruthless and oppressive, notably fascist Germany and later the Soviet-backed communists. The only one unifying factor is the Church; nationalism was rooted in Christianity. Because or this, their resistance was mainly non-violent. It is in this environment that the future pope lived. He never waivered in faith concerning his country and religion. His calling to the priesthood at this time (as World War II was beginning) was comparable to biblical times--when a crisis is looming, God would raise prophets and saints so as to become his instruments in bringing about needed change. God chose people to do his will, short of actual miracles (as we know the word). Several times Lolek (his nickname) was in mortal danger during the war and later, and for some reason he survived. A lot of his colleagues and friends died at this time. Really, God is raising him for something greater.

From a priest (ordained in 1946), he was later appointed bishop of Krakow, and later becoming Cardinal. He was elected pope in 1978, succeeding the 33-day reign of John Paul I; the first non-Italian in 455 years (first Polish). He didn't change a bit on becoming pope. His championing of human rights ripened into his philosophy of `personalism'--all people had human dignity and are entitled to protection from the moment of concepcion to natural death. All stages of human life are to be protected (see his encyclical Evangelium Vitae). He introduced the phrase culture of life, as opposed the the prevalent culture of death that is mainly brought about by secularism and selfishness. Abortion, euthanasia, contraception, embryonic stem-cell research, artificial fertility technology (in-vitro fertilization, cloning, etc.), and others are unacceptable and grievously wrong or even sinful. Some liberal folks who oppose his pronouncements in this area should first determine why these things are banned. The unborn fetus cannot complain that his basic human right to even exist is trampled upon; the very old, sick and disabled (remember the Schiavo episode; God bless her soul) have no power to prevent some euthanasia advocates (in the guise of providing mercy, or freeing from suffering) from killing them. Since the fertilized ovum or zygote is already human (carrying the 46 chromosomes already), any manipulation of this product of conception is unacceptable, something comparable in the adult or child undergoing bodily mutilation (recall the Nazi human experiments here). What's worse is that some embryos are destroyed or killed as a bi-product of such procedures. Those opposed to the culture of life should think deeper and perhaps read the underlying philosophy or theology of the pope. It's beyond the question or being liberal or conservative.

Obviously the Pope is multifaceted, and writing about him seems to be an unending activity, so perhaps I should stop here. But one aspect that is very much appreciated by all is his persistence in building bridges with one another. In behalf of the church, he has asked the forgiveness for all wrongs committed in the past: against the Jews, Muslims, and several other groups, like women, the Orthodox churches, and others. I just hope that these concerned groups accept the apology and thus start the world anew. In the end, the greatest contribution of John Paul to the entire world is Love. It's unfortunate that he never received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Farewell John Paul II!

published: March 25, 2005, 9:05 a.m.

The Schiavo Dilemma

We all have to congratulate Mel Gibson for his large contribution to our present age in making the movie--Passion of the Christ. Other people say it's very brutal and violent, but that's the way it really happened. Two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth has undergone the ignominious crucifixion because he loved us so much; it is therefore necessary for all people to study the scriptures and many other historical and spiritual references because this is the only way people will understand suffering in general. Suffering is redemptive (we also have a share in suffering). Now we go the the Terri Schiavo issue now raging in the U.S. I'm tired already of people hammering the Law to all of us; the Law they say should kill Terri. If you look at her video clips, you'll surely pity her and think that it's better that she be dead. I may agree with them if it's a respirator; surely you may unplug the respirator if it unduly prolongs the life of anybody. But this is food and water! These things are ordinary methods to sustain life. Can you imagine the appearance of Terri in a few days? I have to go now but I'll write on this in the future.

Happy Easter!

published: March 11, 2005, 1:09 p.m.

Slippery Slope

Hope be with you!

Recent events have placed our future as a people in the crossroads of the two ultimate opposing entities—good and evil. Individually and collectively we have to choose the good over the bad, even if it's just an intention or resolution, because most of the time we cannot do anything concrete to fight evil. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with the problem, and thus tempted to just become complacent. Some resort to a lot of complaining on just about anything, from the increasing taxes, fees and gas, and perhaps the corruption of government officials, and so on. Those kinds of things are necessary in a democracy, but common sense tells us that such modalities are ineffective. If we are in a very dark place, instead of cursing the dark it's better to light a little candle.

Perhaps the point here is that change for the better starts with ourselves. Of course this statement has been said before, but this time we have to act. We are all in the same boat, but it seems that others have different agenda.

Why do we have terrorists in our midst? Perhaps this question can be answered by also asking, Why do we have battered wives and children around? Why are there criminals? Ultimately the answer takes us back to the on-going battle between good and evil. All these undesirable things are the manifestations of evil. A lot of people nowadays don't believe that the Devil or Satan exists; sorry to disappoint them but this evil entity exists. So, the only way to overcome this is to look heavenward; some call this the vertical dimension. Combining the vertical dimension and the horizontal gives us hope. Hope it is that can save us from this slippery slope.

published: Feb. 28, 2005, 1:07 p.m.

Primum Non Nocere

First, do no harm. As doctors, this is our first duty to patients given to our care. We should do everything necessary to sustain life, and refrain from doing actions curtailing it. Such is a straightforward way of putting it. Medicine as a discipline is thus a very noble profession, and such duty is the reason why physician candidates spend about 9 years in school, and more if subspecialties are sought. We have to support and maintain life from the moment of conception to natural death. But is this always the case?

One very direct way of harming is abortion. They say it's the mother's choice, but can anyone really have the choice of killing the innocent? This is where the crux lies. What about the unborn fetuses or embryos, who'll protect them? Surely they have the very basic human right to life. They have the right to be born, and then to live a very fruitful life on Earth, like any other adult. People may be surprised that the abortion prohibition is in the Hippocratic oath! People, wake-up! Mark my word: abortion is murder. So much to talk about this in later blogs, but it may be appropriate to leave this bible passage...

"Can a woman forget her nursing-child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;... (Isaiah 49.15f NRSV)"

On another topic... Especially in the Philippines (and other third-world countries), the choice of medicines to prescribe should be done diligently. Because people are generally indigent, choose the best and the cheapest. Some doctors have the notion that the cheap medicines (e.g., antibiotics) are ineffective. A little effort is necessary to research this silver bullet--optimized drug effectivity and price. In line with this, drug companies have the duty to provide very affordable medicines for the general public. The government also should help here.

One thing the government did was to continually import cheap medicines from India (up to several-fold cheaper). [Personally I don't know if their quality is assured; this should be ascertained by the appropriate agencies.] Caution should also be exercised because the price should not compromise the drug's effectiveness. This is confounded by the proliferation of fake medicines especially in the countryside. These unscrupulous people who sell these fake drugs are really worse than the purveyors of prohibited drugs.

Physicians or not, all of us have to choose life!

published: Feb. 27, 2005, 12:31 p.m.

Prologue And Acknowledgement

Hello, World! It's a good idea to have a forum for our ideas and views on different topics.

One of the basic human rights is the freedom of expression. Of course this freedom is not the same as licence; we should not forget that freedom is coupled with responsibility. We may not publish things of shady nature, or even outright malicious or evil. We only have to use information for the good of all and society's upliftment. The Serenity Prayer is thus appropriate:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Different people have different views or opinions on things; let's respect each other! Everybody is welcome to read these blogs; those who wish to contribute, just do it!

published: Dec. 11, 2004, 12:22 p.m.

Just Be Happy

Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

Mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. We live in a dynamic world, ever-different from the past. People have to cope with all this change. Life is too short to fight with other people; we can use the time to come together and build bridges. All should listen inwards and discover that we are all the same. Yes, the ideology or religion (or the lack of it) may be different, but we should just respect each other's opinion on things. Of course each individual should have rock-solid principles and not just follow the current. I'm saying we have to work together and pick-up the positives in any idea. So the bottom line is respect.

Find your own niche in this world. Then be the best that you can be! It's good to remember that a sense of humor is essential in all situations.

Whatever happens, just be happy—c'est la vie! Àbientôt!

published: Jan. 1, 2004, 12:07 a.m.

Just Do It!

Grace and peace!

Have you ever wondered why things are as they are? With the vastness of the universe, what are we doing on this small planet at this particular time in history? I don't subscribe to the idea that all this is made by chance alone. There's got to be a great master who put all things in their proper places. One of our goals in this part of heaven is to know our purpose in life. Unfortunately, many don't even come close, or may not bother at all!

As a clan, maybe we can adopt a motto, perhaps the phase "just do it!" by Nike®. If you have a good plan, "just do it"! If you have something brewing in your mind for some time now, "just do it"! And as we just do our jobs, we should not lose sight of the hierarchy of things—God is there guiding our every move!

Do I make sense; am I just talking to myself loudly in cyberspace? Abangan and susunod na kabanata!

published: Jan. 1, 2004, midnight

Introduction

Issuing from the Philippines, Perla de la Oriente, by Charlie Anicete, this blog tries to visualize the abstract, to make sense of it all. It becomes a living organism—reacting, growing, regenerating and reforming—to be of good use to the guest that happens to come here. Any relevant material may find their way here—anything goes.