Perfect Day

Every year in UP PGH Pediatrics residency, we get to have our leave. That is two weeks per year for the first year residents. It is one whole month for the second and third year residents.

I cannot say it is fair enough, given that we go to work practically every day for the rest of the year for three years, and we only have one day off per month. Say that we are provided for and I admit my salary is more than enough for a single doctor like myself, a high salary will not compensate for the missed birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, family dinners, so on and so forth. Plus the excessive number of hours of overtime in the hospital with the more (superlative, need I say?) excessive number of hours of sleep and food deprivation that are clearly uncompensated.

Not that I am complaining. Nuh-uh. In fact, I am more than happy to be in residency. Despite the struggles, the tears shed, the stress, the anxiety that come with bearing the full weight of being a licensed Pediatrician-in-training, I am very pleased with my life right now.

My life at this point is brimming with hope, with bravado, with the proverbial fire in the belly. I am inspired, and it is with divine grace that this inspiration stems from a deeper core within me. More of like an ancient calling– that being a doctor is somehow genuinely intertwined with the mission God sent me here on earth to accomplish for Him.

I am happy. This happiness is deep, akin to joy.

I felt joy surging within my heart when my family and I went to have dinner in Shakeys to celebrate my Dad’s birthday. We were complete then. All five children made every effort to come home to Palawan and to be with everyone.  All of us were happy to be together once again.

The truth dawns on me and I will never forget it: I have everything I need. God, my family, good friends and a job I am passionate about.

Equally important is, I have myself too. The self I have always known to be: the Gela who is hopeful, passionate, honest, driven, committed and sincere in loving. I somehow lost perspective of who I am during past struggles and personal issues.

I am grateful to God for the grace of acceptance, and for rooting my heart on the truth of who I really am in God’s eyes.

Every day of this precious, golden two weeks of leave, I savor and enjoy. Not a time wasted for sadness, irritation or anger. Not one negative thought can steal the sunshine of each day spent with family, even if we are just at home doing household chores.

Every day felt like my last day of leave, and I made sure to be mindful and enjoy every moment with family and good friends.

It is amazing, Lord. Your work is really good. Thank You for the time to rest and just bask in Your goodness.


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.

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.)

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.

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.

Seeds of Service

Featured image above is a photo of one of my baby patients when I was intern. He was my inspiration when I wrote my speech entitled “Ang Bagong EDSA.” He just slept soundly on my chest. Little did he know he was instrumental in rekindling my fire for service, which was the EDSA speech’s spirit.

From my stint in the sorority up until staff work in a Catholic movement called Christ’s Youth in Action, seeds of service has been the prominent battle cry.

I was called for the planting. Look at my photos years before I was called as a staffer/youth missionary volunteer. How eerily prophetic it sounded.

God really moves in mysterious ways. These were my sentiments during my leadership years in Phi Lambda Delta that I can relate to staff work:


“Sometimes, you really cannot sit under the shade of the tree whose seed you just planted. You plant the seed, and trust in God that He will put it under the care of the people whose good hearts become the roots, water and air for this worthy seed to grow and flourish. Mabuti talaga ang Panginoon.”

Prophetic. The worthy seed (at that time I was talking about Milk Matters) reminds me of the mustard seed talking about the kingdom of God. Look at where I am now. Instrument being used to be one of the builders.


Meet the OG. Original gangster of Milk Matters. This was the first meeting of the team, when MM was still an abstract yet inspiring concept.


“Ultimately, we serve because God called us to… Nagkamali ako along the way, but I am sure hindi ako nagkulang (sa effort).” I really gave it my best shot as the service arm leader for Phi. #noregrets One of my favorite jobs in the world.

And this is my nephew, cotton ball. Meet my fluffy cotton ball.


For We Were Once in Darkness

This article is for CYA’s 34th Anniversary. Staffer Jhing Talan asked me to write about how God used CYA to touch my life. I have an outline I wanted, then the Lord had a different idea. I prayed about the content for almost a week! All I know is, I ripped my guts out for this article. Here it goes:

Today’s youth is crying out for help.

Go beyond your comfort zones. Look outside the window of the car you are in. Walk along the street beside YC and, most likely, you will encounter them.

The little ones whose arms beg for food, whose faces contort with hunger, and whose eyes radiate only the sad echoes of what could have been a glorious childhood.

As they grow a few years older, without any intervention they learn to loiter on the sidewalk all day. They deaden the pangs of hunger with the intoxicating sniffs of rugby. They open their eyes and believe that substance abuse, profanities and lack of education are the mainstay morals of their young lives. Thus, they make themselves vulnerable to the prowling demons of corruption and call it truth. Don’t be surprised when someday, one of these children becomes the thief that points a knife to your sister, threatening to kill for a cellphone.

Up we go and transcend the social strata. This is where wealth, material abundance and the best of education do not necessarily guarantee a certified upright youth of contemporary times.

The “me” generation concerns itself with the onslaught of social media. They get their highs on the status updates and notifications in Facebook, on the latest pricey gadgets, or on the trends set by celebrities. They put so much effort on their physical appearance and not an inkling of concern on what they feed their souls with. They deaden the pangs of their conscience with materialism and call it truth. They cheat themselves on the true source of love. They settle for its fake but popular substitutes and call it YOLO (you only live once): cigarettes, booze, drugs, premarital sex, pornography, campus violence.

Today’s youth is crying out for help.

Today’s youth needs God’s light, now more than ever.

I, for one, was once in darkness. It was through the seemingly ordinary conversation with Father Chester Yacub, SJ, (former CYA Staffer) that the Lord chose to reveal Himself to me and changed my life radically.

When Father Chester told me to join Christ’s Youth in Action, I was at the brink of giving up on my responsibilities as the service coordinator for my sorority in UP College of Medicine. I was mired in the hopelessness of service projects that never seemed to bear fruit. I was embittered by the judgmental attitude I harbored against those who never seemed to appreciate (or so I thought) how valuable serving others was.

Most of all, pride was a thorn to deal with. Living in a competitive world, I strove hard to excel and achieve. I had a mindset that I deserved the good things that the Lord blessed me with.

Service and pride are two opposite ends of a pole. Service can never be deeply substantive when one’s heart is ruled by pride.

My conversation with Father Chester back then is God’s act of saving me from my own self. What follows afterward is a testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness to His people.

Blessings I have received from God through CYA? Ang dami. Sobra.

God redeemed the many deaths in my heart. And He filled it with His life-giving Spirit.

When in the throes of pride, He breaks me and shows me how beautiful it is to serve with a humble and grateful heart.

When in the chains of judgment, He opens the eyes of my heart to truly see the goodness of people and the purity of their intentions.

When in the dark abyss of hopelessness, He serves as the lamp unto my feet. He gathers me in His bosom and leads me to His everlasting ways.

CYA is God’s gift to me. The relationships I have and witness through the brothers and sisters are a manifestation of God’s love here on earth. Through CYA, I have come to know God personally, deeply, surely, intimately.

I do not know why Jhing Talan asked me to write about CYA’s 34th, when for its past 33 years of blessedness, I’ve never known CYA to exist. I’ve gone through my full four year course of undergraduate college, worked for a year as a school nurse and already halfway through my degree in Medicine when I joined CYA. So I am just your ordinary newly-evangelized, newly-committed CYA member whose age warrants me to join Lingkod already.

But God has His own perfect timing. I can speak with full confidence, as put upon me by the Lord, the one great truth that I pray can inspire you to action: God used CYA to change my life.

Let me say it again: God used CYA to change my life. And to change it for the better.

God is calling His youth, Christ’s Youth, to act in His name.

To change lives for His name.

To live godly lives for the glory of His name.

There is a special blessing accorded to the youth. Energy. Insight. Idealism. Conviction. These qualities, guided by faith, can propel the youth to expand the kingdom of God in a world that is in dire need of the Gospel.

Today’s youth is crying out for help.

Today’s youth needs God’s light, now more than ever.

Our great God is longing for His lost sheep. Respond to His call and proclaim His Word.

He will make His youth a light to the nations, to open the eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness (Isaiah 42:6)

Fear not, for they who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar as with eagle’s wings; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and never tire. (Isaiah 40:31)

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.

Clerk 157

Each medical student has his or her own class number corresponding to the surnames’ alphabetical arrangement. I am 157 out of the 162. I am one of the people who belong to the last block, occupy the farthest of the locker spaces, and can be at peace when it comes to graded recitations because my surname’s a kind of a charm for starting with the letter V. Teachers call us last, and the questions are not so difficult by then.

“V as in Victory po,” I tell the lady who writes “Billa” on my health record.

“B as in Bictory?” she asks. I make the peace sign and she gets it.

Being the 157th clerk in our batch in UP College of Medicine Class 2016, however, affords no perks or points whatsoever. All of us have to be trained under the rigors and pressures of UP-PGH so we can be the best doctors of and for the country. No way out but through, unless one quits.

And by God’s grace, I finished my first month of clerkship and am currently on my third department rotation assignment in Orthopedics (specialty for bone diseases). Such happiness! After assessing numerous distressed patients, extracting bright red blood for tests, coaxing shy veins to appear for intravenous lining, writing on dozens of patient charts for disease management, presenting different cases of diseases to consultants and residents, toxic 24 hour duties, busy nights at the Emergency Room, sleeping on the ER bench to catch up some needed rest, doctors’ rounds at 12 in the morning, bloodied uniforms while taking care of vehicular crash patients, studying medical books despite the tiredness and hunger and lack of sleep because in the morning a patient’s case will be presented to a senior doctor, etc.

Busy life. And I only have Ophthalmology (Eye), Otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose, Throat) and Orthopedics (Bones) under my list of clerkship experience.

No, I am not ranting. I write this to try to make sense of everything, as a thanksgiving, because despite the sacrifices I choose to make while living my doctor dreams, I can honestly say I love what I do. I love where I am now, and I cannot see myself as anything except as a doctor, to be working anywhere except in a hospital. I love the action and challenge of learning about my patients’ lives and their diseases, of being inspired by the excellence my mentors, senior residents and consultants display, of being an instrument of God to care for and heal His people.

Sacrifices are part and parcel of this profession. I am home from my 24 hour duty to find the apartment empty. I see my younger brother a lot less now. With my schedule intertwined with the hospital, there are family parties I cannot attend, CYA and Phi activities I cannot join, sleep that should have its maximum to three hours only. My free time has become a prized leisure time: first for the Lord, for catching up with my family, for studying, for eating, for taking care of myself when I don’t take care of patients. My dinner tonight is my first meal of the day. I am tired from duty and I opted to sleep rather than eat.

Everyday, I still choose to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to pray. I’d be insane if I don’t have God to be with me as He molds me to be His image of a best doctor. Like clay in a potter’s hand, I pray that God bless me with the grace to strengthen my faith in Him. That amid the tiring, sacrificial and sometimes frustrating life of a clerk, I can find in Him the peace of mind, the satisfaction of heart and the grace to deny myself, to take up the big and small crosses and follow Him. He is always there for me to be my number one mentor. He is, after all, the greatest physician of the whole wide universe.

Nine months to go. Lord, reveal Yourself. Open the eyes of my heart. I offer my clerkship year for Your Glory.

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.


Faith at forty thousand feet

Shuttling to and from Manila for eight years now has never really assuaged the temporary heartbreak of leaving my true home– my family in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

So it didn’t come as a surprise when last night, on the eve of my departure, the loneliness and anxiety of being on my own again broke like a dam. I cried silently (and copiously) on my father’s shoulder as he locked me in his arms in a tender embrace, telling me it’s going to be okay. The tears stained a small puddle in his blue collared, cottony shirt. We held each other like that for quite a long time while my mother got busy preparing her clothes for packing.

I was crying not only out of loneliness, but also for the sadness I imagine my father would feel. My mother would be coming with me to Manila. She was accepted for Masters in Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management in UP Diliman. A prestigious feat indeed, as UP’s MHRIM placed 19th in world rankings.

The house would be a lot quieter now. Too quiet. Too different.

I kept talking to God in my heart. Hear, Lord. Here, Lord. You were close to the brokenhearted.

I was lucky I got into the plane’s window seat.

I stared out the window, drinking in the greenery that assured me I was still in my hometown. At least for a few minutes. It became long stretches of green mixed with gray pavement as the plane accelerated with hurtling speed.

Then a bird of white came flying along. It stretched the full expanse of its wings and flew on with calm and unperturbed purpose, as if mimicking the plane beside it. It was an egret, a common bird sighted lounging along the green banks of the airport.

The blue sky emerged with splotched clouds as the nose turned heavenward. The egret was gone.

And the message of the Lord came to me. Not in glorious epiphanies or heart-rending realizations. It was simple, clear and true:

I will never abandon you.

I assure you, even the egret is well taken cared of. How much more will I take care of you, my daughter?

He knows what I am going through. And He is with me.

As if that was not enough, the Lord showed another promise.

Out into the fluffy cumulus clouds, above the blue sea and the fringes of the city life that begin to come alive from the land of Manila below, I see a most delightful thing.

There, at least forty thousand feet on air, is God’s promise manifested.

A rainbow. With its ends anchored in clouds of white.



I am cramming for my ORL finals. I should have woken up at 1AM but due to unpredictable circumstances (i.e., oversleeping), I wake up at 3AM instead. Thus, the last minute shoving of a year’s information in my brain.

I just need to write this.

In all honesty, I feel less than beautiful. At times I feel utterly ugly.

I feel ordinary and unappreciated. I feel so ordinary I don’t know what is surprising or exciting or even adventurous about myself anymore. I feel like life has taken something precious and valuable away from me that it has granted so lavishly on other people. And here I am, looking inside from an outsider’s point of view, wondering why I am short-changed or when I have become a stranger in an environment where most people seem secure already in their relationships as they belong to someone or to some kind of a cause.

I just feel so unseen. Unheard of. Unnoticeable. Less than ordinary.

Less than beautiful.

Funny because I know these feelings of low self-worth are unfounded or hold little validation if I really think about it. But sometimes, a girl just wants to feel and not think.

Sometimes I just want to feel beautiful without really making an effort in being so. No effort in getting dressed up, no make up, no high heels, no thinking about suitors who never come and along with them the flowers and chocolates, no high grades, no worthy causes to be passionate about, no fake smiles, no awkward getting-to-knows, no self-consciousness, no pressure of proving my capability to other people or even to myself.

It is like a stripping away of the inessential. The baring of my nakedness and at the same time risking my vulnerability in doing so. It is as if I am laying aside all the things and insecurities that weigh me down and finally accept this irrepressible yearning to feel loved.

I just want to feel beautiful, to feel like I am a good person AND believe in it. Because right now, I feel that I am neither a good person nor a beautiful woman.

To believe that I am good and beautiful; to marvel in the beauty of having a warm soul with a kind heart; to be beautiful without even striving to become one. To be beautiful effortlessly, because this beauty is meaningful: it is above the adornments, the flawless skin, the perfect figure, the pretty face, the nice clothes, the awards, the recognition. This beauty is radiant, lovely, timeless and joyful. This beauty is the goodness of a heart and the gentleness of the soul. It is akin to God and of God.

When I am that woman whose beauty stems from being a good person with a kind heart and a gentle soul, tempered in the radiance of God, I hope I can catch it, freeze it and revel in its happiness. And even for that single blissful moment, live and believe in the truth that I am beautiful. To see myself for who I truly am in His eyes.

I am beautiful without the world necessarily knowing and appreciating. I am beautiful just because of the truth that I am. I am beautiful because I am loved by God in ways that only He can love. I am beautiful because I am loved and I love.

No other reasons can suffice.


Yearning of a Child

If I could ease away my parents’ pain, I will.

If I could take away their worries and shoulder a part of their burden, I will.

If I could send my love to warm their hearts right this minute, I will.

The love that crosses the deepest of oceans, the blackest of night. A love so strong, so potent, yet so hungry for their hug.

Only a hug. Or even just their presence.

I am deprived of their physical presence.

I long to go back home.

To run back home.

Fly back home.

If I could seep through the ills of their bodies and have miracle hands, I will heal them. Restore them the joys of their health robbed by the stresses of raising five children.

If I could. Only if I could.

All I can do now is to love them. Pray for them.

Tell them I love them. I love you Dad. I love you Mom.

Love them to the point that my heart beats wildly as it overflows to the brim because right now, I cannot hug them.

How bad could it be, that I cannot hug them?

Oh how I long to hug them.

To run back home and hug them.