I Was Supposed to Say Goodbye

Cliche as it sounds, we learn the most valuable lessons in times of difficulty.

The past two years, most specifically the past few months, were the hardest times for me.

Ticking off a few from the checklist of life’s dagok (strikes) are (in no particular order):

  • Heartbreak
  • Finished the rigorous medical school training (sleep-deprived, food-deprived, pressure to excel, some difficult people to deal with)
  • Presented a paper for an international medical schools conference
  • Volunteered for an NGO, got a pretty good case of how it is to be culture-shocked
  • Gave my all for Milk Matters and various service activities (pawis, luha, dugo) (blood, sweat and tears)
  • Contracted a debilitating pulmonary tuberculosis
  • Got me a good scolding from the parents for not taking better care of my health
  • Struggle to support myself financially
  • Letting go of some relationships
  • Pre-residency in UP PGH Pediatrics (repeat pattern of sleep deprivation and skipped meals)

Come to think of it, what I thought were strike outs– heartbreak, rigorous medical milestones for a student becoming a doctor, an infectious disease– were, in reality, God’s blessings. Looking at some of my difficult experiences, I realized that blessings and burdens are actually two sides of the same coin.

I was a bit baffled as I was listing the experiences above ,realizing I cannot set a definite demarcation between blessings and burdens. That I cannot just compartmentalize burdens to just that: a purely negative experience. No, they’re not. Burdens are actually blessings waiting to be learned from.

I can only say this in retrospect. I needed time and the grace to be changed for the better to see and believe.

As an imperfect human being (thank God for this realization), I wish I could say I’ve learned this blessing-in-a-disguise-of-burden as I was undergoing the dark phases of my life. Looking back, if I hadn’t really held on to God, hindi ko alam kung saan ako pupulutin ni Lord. And if I had let go of His Hand, as I was tempted to and did let go several times, He still held me.

What a faithful Being.

I was supposed to say goodbye to some of God’s gifts to me: my sorority sisters, my precious relationships with friends (brothers and sisters), my community…

The severity of the pain was blinding. I was tempted to let go and just leave the people who love me.

But God stayed. God wouldn’t let me go. And that gave me the safe and secure space to hold on to Him as well. I was safe and secure in His love for me.

I was supposed to say goodbye. But God has other plans for me. Better plans for me.

I would hold on to His promises. For I know the plans for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

PS. By saying goodbye, I do not mean to end my life. It was a way of staying away from some relationships.

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Pulling up by the bootstraps

I am in transition.

There are a lot of changes as I enter this new chapter of my life:

  • A new job (Pediatrics residency)
  • A new set of people to work with
  • A new environment with a familiar culture
  • A new condo unit with new roomies
  • A new district in Ligaya (a Catholic community) *
  • A new set of friendships to discover
  • A new way of lifestyle, particularly in taking care of my health (I have TB, ongoing treatment)

And, most importantly, a stronger and refreshed Gela whose identity in the Lord has been renewed after undergoing a formidable challenge.

In a lot of ways this feels like an early New Year for me. The kind when I look forward to a future brimming with hope and suffused with dreams. And, inevitably, I look back to the recent past that is pockmarked by hurts here and there, and mistakes that, if given another chance, I would best think twice before doing.

Buti nalang may Diyos na mapagpatawad, kahit hirap ako dun. (It’s a good thing the Lord is forgiving, despite my struggle in that area.)

Truth is, as I look back, instead of inwardly punishing myself like before, I am now more hopeful. More hopeful that I change for the better. I am trying to change for the better. And by changing for the better I mean:

  • Learning to receive and live the love that I have come to know in depth because of the Lord
  • Learning to love myself more by being rooted in God’s identity for me
  • Taking good care of the relationships God has given me and will give me (this is one of the most important!)
  • Being a good and kind friend to myself and to others
  • Showing my family how much I love them
  • Accepting my weaknesses and limitations, repent of my sins
  • Accepting the realities of life that sometimes, what we hoped for wouldn’t turn out the way we expected it to be
  • Accepting the reality that good friendships can be lost, and in the hopelessness of trying to reconcile again, just surrender it to God (this is why bullet #3 is important)
  • Forgiving and letting go. That way I am doing myself a big favor by allowing more room for love.
  • New goals for myself! I am very inspired to be accepted in my top (and only) choice for residency training. I am aiming for research, acing exams, honing my communication skills and being a compassionate Pediatrician
  • I am hopeful for my renewed desire to commit to Ligaya and further investigate its way of life
  • To train my eyes to see the good in people and in circumstances (and thank the Lord for them)

Overall, the goal is to continue having a heart being transformed by God into the woman I am made to be in whatever role I currently take on.

One night as I lay in bed, I counted these new changes and felt overwhelmed. I was on the verge of crying. Not tears of joy, but of anxiety. In my mind I saw myself jumping off a cliff’s edge, trusting I would land on solid ground that I did not see. It was scary.

But thanks to the grace of being able to stand in the strength of the Lord. These changes are for my good. They are His best plans. Though I do not yet see the whole map, I am willing to take the first few steps to wherever these changes are leading me. That entails having the Lord as my sole source of stability and strength.

Here’s to pulling myself up by the bootstraps!

I pray for spiritual and emotional maturity. Please pray for me. 🙂

*A good friend told me these changes are not sure yet. But, I am including it just because it is a potential change.

Unsettling

Famished. I am famished for the Lord. Every day’s gospel, daily reflection, thoughts and messages of hope and reassurance fill my heart and replenish my soul.

But it’s not enough. I want more of the Lord.

Especially now that I am on the verge of opening new chapters of my life: PGH Pediatrics residency and whether or not to continue with the Ligaya ng Panginoon community.

Especially now that I am coming to terms with my personal issues and finding the grace to accept and love myself the way God made me.

Now more than ever, in these unsettling times, my seeking of God climbed with a sense of deep need and desperation. I need to hear His voice so that I know I am still following Him. So that I know, what I know to be the right thing is His thing.

I want to change and accept for the better. Lord, I just want to be healed, and experience the full glory of living the way I am truly created to live.

I am writing this because I ought to move in to my new place tomorrow for pre-residency, but I feel I am not yet ready to leave my home. I need more heart. I need more time with the Lord. It’s okay to get scared sometimes, as long as the Lord is with me.

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*

 

I Keep Coming Back to Manila

Two days ago I went back to Manila because of a speaking engagement.

It was for the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) by the National Youth Commission, Office of Senator Bam Aquino and Office of Senator Kiko Pangilinan called the TAYO Talks. It was a TED Talks style youth conference wherein we talk about the best practices of running a youth org, how to sustain youth projects and the ingredients of an inspired youth leader. (separate article for this)

Since I only brought two lightweight travel bags with me, I opted to commute from the airport to my apartment in QC to dodge expenses. Riding a public transport bus, a jeep an FX and a tricycle, plus heavy traffic to boot, I was tired and hungry when I arrived in Philcoa.

I walked over to the tricycle bay clutching my travel bags and a takeout bag from Jollibee. As I was descending the stairs that connected the sidewalk from the main avenue, a big slab of concrete step suddenly crumbled.

I slipped, fell down on my butt hard, and only managed to flatten my takeout foodie bag as I used it for support. The spaghetti spilled over a muddied puddle. For a few seconds the impact of the intense pain in my butt froze me. My first thought was, I hoped my vertebrae was not broken. I couldn’t afford to have back pain due to fracture.

I could hear the vendors’ voices, “Ay, yung babae!” An old blind dog was sitting on the concreted steps, and I fell beside him. He barked at the immediate thud and my audible gasp of surprise and pain.

A few seconds later, there was a chorus of laughter.

People were passing by, but no one came to help.

I stood up, brushed the dust off my butt, and continued walking.

Welcome to Manila, whose community’s mindset is each to his own. A stark contrast to the people of the province.

 

Thank you Letter Easter

Jodie. Thank you for inspiring change among 55 graduating IE students to think and step up in becoming future business leaders.

UST CYA, last April 2, 7 and on May 2 recently spearheaded Launch Out!, a series of talks about personal leadership that equips the students to think and decide to become the future’s successful business leaders.

But more than being successful, Launch Out! has driven the main point that a good and fulfilling life consists of becoming a person of significance, regardless of titles and positions of power.

“After listening to the talks, it just made me want to become a significant person who lives for others, not for myself,” says Berns, one of the graduating UST IE students.

This 3-talk series happens every Tuesday, 2-4pm in the Engineering Building. Speakers are Mr. Harvey Campos, Mr. Raoul Roncal and Mr. Jerome Quiring.

Into the Streets of Shaw

 

I live in a household with seven other empowered women of the Lord. We pray together, share common dinners twice a week and grow in faith as we live out our decisions to give our lives to the Lord.

Tonight is outreach night. Random acts of kindness with the “forgotten” unnoticed people of Manila: beggars and street children.

What a Spirit-led night! What did we do? Keep you posted! 🙂 #HumansofManila

Millennial Missionary

Three years ago you could not even expect me to pray for you. It would solicit an awkward and noteworthy cringe.

I was a third year medical proper student when I joined Christ’s Youth in Action. At that time I was struggling in the pit of disillusionment as the leader for the outreach arm of my sorority. Seemingly all my efforts to build projects and galvanize the sorority to social action were futile and fruitless. I felt like a failure as the head. With this mindset, I thought that the causes we spearheaded at that time were small, fleeting and disjointed bursts of inspiration that tickled but did not really last.

My core passion is service. Are you familiar with the typical questions junkies for life philosophy ask about finding meaning in what we do? Particularly about what makes you get up in the morning with that unmistakable fire in your belly? It’s service for me. Always been service for me. I would do anything to just go out there and serve. That’s part of the reason why I am a doctor in the first place. Serving the sick and the poor is God’s gift to me, and as a student leader at that time, I take that fervor to heart.

So I found myself on bent knees. Day in and day out, the prayers I uttered in the pews of the Philippine General Hospital Chapel were strewn with tears of frustration and ended with a tough grit to not give up despite my heart growing tired in serving. Little did I know that my saving grace would come at last.

It was Father Chester Yacub, the jolly, eternally smiling priest with that calm, therapeutic aura exuding from him, who told me to join his org back when he was a UP Diliman student. In dire and dying need of spiritual support, I attended my first prayer meeting with CYA the next day. A week after that, I joined the Christian Life Series where I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and came to know God in a deeper and more personal way.

Who would’ve thought that three years after that fateful encounter, I would make radical choices the old Gela wouldn’t even dare try? After finishing med school and passing the September 2016 medical board exam, I chose to set aside a year to volunteer as a youth missionary proclaiming God’s work to students. I even approach random strangers and ask them what I can pray for them. As for the disillusioned student leader three years ago, it is really gratitude to God that my sorority has been hailed as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations in the Philippines, and our service project for sick babies has been receiving national and international awards for its efforts to serve the underserved and in inspiring the youth to do more for the country.

Looking back at those three wonderful years of journeying with the Lord, I can only say that in God, all things work out beautifully for those who believe Him.

Incubator Bed 10

Since my baby patient’s birth up until his one month of life, he was hooked to a mechanical ventilator to help him breathe. He couldn’t breathe on his own. His lungs were ravaged by pneumonia. It could’ve been just a simple cough and colds for the adults, but when a newborn has been stricken by pneumonia, it spells an ominous life-or-death situation.

When he was born to her 16 year old teenage mother, his lola, who first saw him, was caught between rejoicing for his life and panicking for his eviscerated bowel contents. The disease condition was called gastroschisis. It is an inborn anomaly wherein the intestines and what-have-yous of the abdomen failed to tuck itself inside the body.

It was an emergency operation. He survived with his intestines intact and tucked in, but his lungs failed him. As the days passed I saw him transition from near-death to robust life, then to near-death again. It’s as if he’s just escaping death in the nick of time. This baby was a fighter.

The first time his mother carried him in her arms was when was dead. By then, he was able to escape the trappings of that dreadful blipping machine. Escape the webs of intravenous lines that carry donated blood (he was too pale), array of antibiotics and at least 2 kinds of fluids.