Love is (blind) dating

It felt like eons ago since I last saw my two best friends from high school. Coincidentally, we call each other “Mars” for “Mare”, amiga or close friends, the same way my closest friends in Medicine school call each other.

April, Tere and I have been good friends for 15 years now, through thick and thin, good and bad times. April is an aspiring lawyer and currently works for the government. Tere is a mother of three and belongs to the HR personnel in SM Puerto Princesa City.

It was catch-up time with all the people we knew, yet it never felt like there was ever any gap among the three of us.

We have grown, assuming the new roles we have chosen, trying to manage our priorities, lead our personal lives, achieving our dreams. Though I personally have to allot more time for them, they never really questioned the friendship. We have taken good care of each other for fifteen years and counting. I could never be more grateful for such true friends.

Being two of my closest friends, my lovelife (or its absence thereof) has been one of the hot topics of the dinner conversation.

“Hanapan niyo naman ako ng date,” I quipped.

A few rounds of kilig shrieks after, they rummaged through their facebook accounts, searched for possible and eligible men, called up their good male friends and went on to pile a list of names in their heads as to who would be my dates.

That is what you call supportive friends.

It was such a fun time with them compiling names, racking up their brains suddenly making an inventory of their male friends for a date with me.

Nakakatawa. I am excited how this date for me would turn out. *fingers crossed*

 

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Parallel Experiences

I can’t help but think, as I am experiencing my uninspired moments in Christ’s Youth in Action staff, that these moments are going to recur when I proceed to Pediatrics residency.

Contrary to popular perception, staff work is actually toxic. It is so different compared to what the students apparently see. There are a lot of stretching of the self, a lot of dying, a lot of breaking, a lot of pruning, a lot of feedback (for me, because I am stubborn) that happen in the background and away from the prying eyes of the university students. A good shattering of expectations leads me to realize romanticizing staff work is not going to work if I want to stay.

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Christ’s Youth in Action Staffers doing a Rurouni Kenshin pose in honor of Flo. Cute namin!

Not that the shattering is a bad thing. It’s part of the process. And in staff, I’m experiencing what it really is like to be a disciple of Christ. And I feel I am not even closer to the woman He has created me to be. The disciplining of the leaders in CYA staff is probably one of the most strict, yet most loving, that I’ve signed up for.

I also cannot help but think, during this seemingly lack of enthusiasm in what I do, that I’ve dealt with similar moments before.

Cases in point: Phi Lambda Delta Sorority and my internship in UP College of Medicine.

Gela with Phi Surgery
I cannot count how many little boys I circumcised. Organizing a tuli mission is one of my main jobs when I was a leader in Phi.

No need to bore you with details, but these two big decisions of my life contained my most uninspiring moments. But look what came out of it: during my term as Phi’s Sister Caritas, Milk Matters was born. Then, I was able to graduate from UP College of Medicine with awards for leadership, service and meritorious performance. I passed the Physician Licensure Exam! Goodness abound.

So as I try to find ways on how to deal with this demoted spirit in staff work, especially since BUSIER days are coming, I have three lenses I can look at that can present me rich strategies I can be creative to use: to look back and be grateful; to look forward and be ready; and to experience the present– find joy in what I do and do the things that bring me joy. (Read Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do it for the Lord and not for men.)

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CYA Medicine just launched out! Here I am taking a two-hour teaching off my doctor work to cater to my brothers and sister in Medicine schools. (PLM and UP Med) High yield ito ang saya! No regrets doing it kahit sobrang pagod ako after this.

I am just afraid of completely missing out on what the Lord is trying to teach me in these moments of dry inspiration. I need grace for a good sense of detachment. Another strong motivation is I just do not want to go back to the old me. Not anymore. I want to learn Your ways, Lord.

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Just because I am radiantly beautiful and happy to be here. Where I am right now. Though I know not the road ahead of me, I trust in the Lord that He will carry me through, victoriously!

Grant me faith for the future. Grant me a grateful heart. Open my eyes to see your work in me and in others.

What are You teaching me? Teach me to persevere and find joy in things that I do, even if I don’t see its fruits.

The Craze that is CYA Prayer Meeting

*This is supposed to come out in the CYA UMC Newsletter, if Pauline and Jorem decide to include this in the first place. I am not aware of the 200-word limit. This one’s about 600 words long. Hehe

We all have our own unique stories to tell about how we are evangelized.

We have come to grow in a personal and blessed relationship with God through a persistent brother who offers free food during events; or through a random invitation by a sister to get inside Youth Center and study. It is through these incidental and seemingly common gestures through which God acts to herald the good news of salvation in our lives.

Mine started in a prayer meeting.

The daily 5PM Eucharistic Celebration at the PGH Chaplain just finished. I remembered asking the Lord, “Lord, bigyan Niyo po ako ng spiritual group.” Back then, I was at the brink of giving up on my responsibility as a coordinator of service activities for my sorority in UP College of Medicine. I was tired, bitter and frustrated, because it seemed like my efforts to improve our service activities and to inspire the people to serve were fruitless.

Father Chester Yacub, SJ, the mass presider, was the approachable type of priest. I went to him and asked if he knew of a spiritual group I could probably join.

He leaned closer and lowered his voice, as if he was going to divulge something really important. “Alam mo biased kasi ako eh. Irerecommend kita sa group ko sa UP Diliman noong college. Narinig mo na ba yung CYA, o Christ’s Youth in Action?”

I never heard of it. “Sorry,” I replied.

“Okay lang. Doon ka nalang sumali,” he smiled. He then called the attention of two people who happened to be just a few meters away from us. It was Ate Ghea Mata and Kuya Joff Quiring. The next day, I was walking hand in hand with Ate Ghea (close na kami agad!) for my first CYA activity: the Thursday prayer meeting.

That prayer meeting was still so fresh and vivid in my mind. The people were genuinely warm. They received me with such openness that my tendency to be self-conscious and run far away from YC just flew out the window.

And just watch how these people worship! They are raising their hands! They sing with great passion before the Lord! Such strangeness! They are quoting Bible verses and encouraging one another in prayer. I listen and try to join them in singing songs of praise I never heard before. The whole experience feels wonderful and weird and mysteriously attractive all at the same time.

To my surprise, Ate Ghea was the sharer for that prayer meeting. Her experience of serving relentlessly the people affected by Yolanda struck right through my tired, bitter and frustrated heart of a servant leader. God was calling me to serve Him where I am. And to serve Him with my whole heart relentlessly.

That crucial first prayer meeting was followed by many other prayer meetings and CYA activities I was blessed enough to participate in.

Up until today, these prayer meetings still touch my heart in ways that the Lord can only do. He speaks through the worship leaders, the sharers, the main speakers. He speaks through the brothers and sisters who open their mouth and proclaim the message of God.

Up until today, the people in CYA still worship God in such wonderful strangeness. This strangeness probably stems from their close personal relationship with the good God. They pray with such ardor one would think they are plain crazy.

Well, they are. They are so crazy for Jesus it’s amazing. This is the kind of craze I want to be part of. This is the kind of craze I would commit my life to. And this craze started during that one prayer meeting, when Father Chester told me to join a group I never knew existed, but is now so close to my heart.

Student In Charge

The SIC. One can always read it in the doctors’ order sheet, like some monotonous voice of an unseen robot giving out instructions.

“SIC to complete database for patient information.”

“SIC to refer patient to SAPOD, IDS, TB DOTS. Inform service once with labs.”

“Highly appreciate SIC efforts!”

In the world of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, SIC means student in charge. He/ she is either a clerk or an intern. Each one is assigned a number of patients to be monitored for any progress in health management. It goes without saying that the doctors’ orders must be followed and carried out. Without fail, or else.

So when the textpass came that all classes in Manila were cancelled due to inclement weather, Clerk Villa shrugged it off. Class suspensions did not really apply to us anymore. We were waterproof. The dedicated mermen and mermaids of UP-PGH. I continued with my battle gear preparation for perfect storms such as this one: the boots my Daddy bought for me, a functional jacket, a sturdy umbrella and my indispensable, ever-reliable duty bag. Off I wade into the high waters of Taft Avenue!

Oh it was such fun wading the waters with my boots on! I crossed the then ankle-deep muddy water of Taft Avenue with the strong winds slapping against me. Without fear. Without hesitation. I felt so privileged, confident that my feet would always be dry and my white pants unstained. This must be a semblance of what the Israelites felt when the Red Sea parted for them and they walked on dry land right through it. Amazing.

I arrived in the Orthopedics ward (unscathed) to see my patients and check up on the latest doctors’ orders.

I have four patients so far. Two of them have undergone below-the-elbow amputation on the right forearm because of a cancerous mass or a complicated extrapulmonary tuberculosis lesion. They are happy and relieved to be going home on Sunday, partly because they have no money to spend anymore. One is a 15 year old kid who has bilateral clubfeet that makes it hard for him to walk and relate because of the seeming disfigurement of appearance. My last patient has gone home already. He’s my age, and his fracture on the left leg necessitated that an external fixator (Ilizarov) be put on for proper bone healing. It looks like this one:

Ilizarov

Why am I writing this?

Because upon arriving in Ward 8, I am not surprised to see my blockmates, even those who are not on duty, doing their SIC work. I am not surprised to see my classmates in UP College of Medicine Class 2016 walking along the dark and cold hallways of PGH, entering their designated wards to do what they are tasked to do. Getting the latest lab results for their patients. Endorsing needed requirements to facilitate patient healing with fellow clerks. Bad weather or good. Even if they feel like doing it or not.

I am not surprised, but I am amazed all the same.

I honor the clerks, the interns, the doctors, the nurses, the utility workers, the lab technicians, the medical technicians. Being a health professional is a sacrifice. It is not easy and at times it is most inconvenient.

But the joy of serving the patients. No one can take that from us. I would like to quote my fellow clerk, Doi Infante, on his beautiful insight after a tiring duty:

“Did my rounds early this morning after a toxic 24-hour duty, and found out that one of my patients will be discharged today. All the exhaustion seemed to fade away when Lola said, “ma-mimiss ko kayo, doc!”

It may not seem much, but it made me smile.”

Doing my rounds despite the weather may not seem much, but the Lord designed my heart to bask in the joy of seeing my patients heal and get better.

A simple thank you from a worried mother, a smile of acceptance from a sick old man, even seeing the healing wound of a quiet child. These incidental forms of appreciation make us feel more human after executing the must-be-done-without-fail orders churning out from that unseen mechanized robot voice.

Class suspensions don’t really apply to us SICs anymore. Bad weather or good, we go to the hospital, do our thing, and hope that at the end of the day, our patients get better. That at the end of the day, the things we do for our patients eventually teach us to become good doctors with kind hearts, willing to cross Taft (or Pedro Gil) even if it morphs into a monster of a river.

PERSONalities

I am a hawk.

Others are peacock, owl or dove.

That’s what CYA LEAP had for us this afternoon. Kuya Paolo talked about different personality tendencies that would help in maximizing human resource and in minimizing potential conflicts.

I am just so happy because the Lord affirmed my decision to “make buno.” And by “making buno,” I mean to endure the awkwardness and discomfort of going out of your comfort zone.

Earlier this afternoon, I poured my heart out in a blog entry about the irritating and uncomfortable effort by which I had to adjust. I could have been okay in Phi. Or in medicine. Or in my not-so-holy life.

But God has other plans for me. So I have to follow. I want to follow.

What happened during LEAP was amazing. I really appreciated the insights which I could summarize through the following points:

1. Awareness. Be aware of your tendencies.
2. Acceptance. Accept your personality and that of others.
3. Adjustment. Adjust. If you can and you know how to, be the one to adjust. It’s better that way. A sis in Phi, Dr. Girlie Teotico-Ching, also told me the same message. It is better for you to adjust if you can, if you know how, with the person who needs adjusting to.

The first two points are a requisite for the third. But I think the third point, Adjustment, is the most important.

Before CYA, I had a serious conflict with someone where I felt I was the one who adjusted big time. As in big time. Dr. Girlie supported my decision, and she told me golden lesson #3: adjustment. All the while when I was adjusting, I was screaming “unfair” at the top of my imaginary emotional lungs. I felt I was the one being underhanded, being screwed up by someone who had the skill of shrugging off problems that should be solved by the both of us.

Looking back, the Lord revealed to me that I did the right thing, even if I felt strongly against it.

Similar situations where I am doing the Lord’s will and strongly feeling against it (the nonexistent love life), or is very unsure about it (other life areas), crop up today. Giving up the love life to anchor myself deeply in the Lord, joining CYA, being in CYA, immersing myself in CYA whenever my schedule permits it to bond with brothers and sisters (this time conscious about taking care of my Phi relationships), academic requirements where I am scolded by my adviser, et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

And I find myself complaining to God again. Whining it’s unfair to be in these situations. Unfair that I am adjusting when I could have been comfortable not adjusting, especially when I have Medicine to deal with. I seriously think like a kid sometimes, it’s disturbing! God may think so. After all, I asked for these wonderful and loving changes.

I remember how the Israelites are in Exodus. They complain so badly that it takes them 40 years to reach a land that could have been reached much earlier if they only followed the will of the Lord. Then the Lord strikes them and they turn into stone. Scary.

I am grateful God is patient with me. He constantly makes ways for me to see His insights, to see His will in my everyday life. He reminds me of His promises, that He leads His people away from Egypt and into the promised land. He is patient with me because He knows that I find it hard to completely surrender to Him.

The Lord takes His time. His timing is always, always perfect. He is concerned about who I become in my journey of faith with Him. And if adjustment is what it takes, then through Jesus Christ, I can and will adjust.

“Can I not do with you what this potter does? As clay in the potter’s hand so are you in my hands.” -Jeremiah 18:6

“Finally, everything is for your good, so that grace will come more abundantly upon you, and great will be the thanksgiving for the glory of God.” -Romans 8:28

“So strive with greatest determination and increase your faith with strength, strength with knowledge, knowledge with moderation, moderation with constancy, constancy with piety, piety with fraternal love, fraternal love with charity. If all these riches are in you so as to abound in you, you will not be idle and useless; you will rather be rooted in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore brothers and sisters, strive more and more to respond to the call of God who chose you. If you do so, you will never stumble.” -2 Peter 1: 5-8, 10

Thank you Lord for your love. Thank you for CYA, for Phi, for my family, for my education, for my friends, for the many blessings you have showered upon me. Most of all, thank you for the grace of having you as my God, for the grace of being your witness and your child.

What is right and what is good

What an amazing, God-filled day!

This afternoon, I watched Cinemalaya’s Hari ng Tondo with CYA sister Mauee, then headed toward Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf along Vito Cruz to study with Jhing Talan.

I was in the presence of committed and disciplined board exam reviewees the whole afternoon, so I grabbed the opportunity to read a spiritual book to pass the time. We were reading from 3pm until 730pm. Straight. No breaks in between (CR breaks were, however, acceptable).

Then we ate dinner at Wai Ying, a small but packed Chinese food outlet with good food and okay service.

It was the conversation during dinner that really made me appreciate more the love of CYA sisters. God made sure I could hear His voice through these beautiful people. Their goodness and their commitment to love as the Lord had done always inspired me. To get straight to the point, I was reminded of the following as I talked with them that made me love God more and to commit to what is right and good:

  • A trial can be a good challenge if it brings you closer to God, and you seek His will amid the hurt and pain it causes. It’s a good challenge. It encourages you to get out of the boat and walk on water towards Jesus. Always towards Jesus. And that perspective of truth is given by God when I asked Him to increase my faith and show me the right path.
  • Gossiping and backfighting are always, always bad. No matter how small they are, if it leads you away from God and what He made you to be, then do without it.
  • Commit to what is right and good, according to God’s will. Do it even if the whole world thinks you are corny or OA or wrong. Commit to God’s ways and you can never go wrong.
  • Love the way God has made you to love. Care the way you know how to care. Just love, because God has loved you first.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes in relationships. You will learn the balance in time and by His grace.
  • Be better. Be better for God.
  • Be generous! Love generously!

I could still write so much but the words describing the splendor of what God made me realize just fell short. Someday I wish to write almost exactly as if that wonderful moment– complete with its own colors, feelings, love, warmth and clarity of God’s truths– were frozen and poised steadily just so I could write them to my heart’s content. A heart-stopping moment. A breathtaking moment. A God moment.

Someday, Lord. Someday. 🙂 For now, all I could do is be grateful. And to love you with all of me.

 

A Friend is a Pearl

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April, me and Tere

I trust these friends with my life. Meet April and Terese, barkada (close knit of friends) since high school’s best, college’s worst and post-graduate’s calloused years. I settle comfortably in our aged friendship like wearing an old  favorite shirt over and over again, despite the lint and holes. It’s comfortable all the same.

We’ve known each other for quite a long time now, and every time we get together and talk ourselves hoarse, I always find it comforting to feel that thread of friendship stringing our lives together grow stronger. It grows stronger, even in the months I am not able to see them because I live most of my Medicine years in Manila. Time has softened and strengthened us through each other.

Each of us lead different lives. Both of them are, however, Human Resource heads in their respective fields. April is a part-time law student, incoming third year in Palawan State University. She attends law classes after her 8-5PM office hours. Terese is a mother of two, on the way for her third baby (April and I are Ninangs) and works in Robinsons Place, Palawan. Inevitably, we experience the trials and tribulations of growing up and managing (surviving!) as an adult. That mostly makes up the big bulk of discussion during get-togethers.

I wonder how we’ll turn out when we’re 50. Oh we are gonna be beautiful, mares! (translation: mi amigas)

They say you are lucky if you have found for yourself one true friend. Seeing these two girls, I am twice as lucky then. Genuine people make for genuine friends. Bet your lucky penny on that.