Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seasons


                 Death seems such an ordinary occurrence in the hospital that even as a student nurse many years ago, I have regarded it with complete impassiveness.  As part of the healthcare team, we were never afforded to indulge in an emotional connection with our patients more than what was called for in a professional environment.  When a patient dies, I remember in automation what needs to be done: after the physician’s declaration of the death, we carefully remove the tubes- the IV, the respirator; we remain a respectful distance from the grieving family and offer our customary sympathies as we continue the procedures for post-mortem care.  I was always philosophical about death- it is simply the way of the world, a cosmic turnover to be rid of the old and replaced with the young.  Little did I know, that the mnemonics I have memorized so well in class: DABDA, Kubler Ross’ stages of grief, would hit home.  I was in my third year when my mom, who was once a staff nurse at EVRMC before she became a USRN, passed away.
            I was excited to finally be exposed to the clinical areas, when one day I got a call from my brother informing me that she had been hospitalized for pulmonary embolism.  During those days when she was feeling better in the ICU, we talked over the phone- she told me in a weak voice they would be moving her to a private room soon.  I tried to sound cheerful but each time she coughed, I said a silent prayer pleading to God to keep her well.  On a Tuesday morning at 2am, the phone rang- it was my brother who told me between sobs, that our mom had died.
            The past few days went as a blur to me.  What made it especially difficult was arranging the transfer of her remains from Louisiana, USA to Tacloban.  Our grandmother took charge of the pa-syam- the Filipino Catholic custom of nine day novena for the dead in our home, while in America, Papa and my brothers had a memorial for Mama.  The prayers offered some measure of comfort, but it seemed I had a huge void full of questions- I was still numb and disbelieving.  I was expecting it was only a nightmare I was going to wake up from; the last image on my mind had always been the time we vacationed with Mama in Samar- so alive and happy.
            When my brother brought home her ashes, the reality hit me like a hammer- it was then I cried hard, because I knew I would never see my mother again.  During the mass, the priest said something to me: we may view death as something devastating, but it also meant that Mama was already in God’s arms, free from bodily pains and all too human hurts.  Faith was the only thing holding me together; I never even questioned anymore why it had to happen.
            Two short years later, another tragedy happened as I was reviewing for the Nursing Board Exam- heralded by yet again another ominous phone call late at night with an aunt who told us that Papa had a massive heart attack.  This really put me in the pits of despair, in possibly the most trying times of our family life.  The same rituals were observed: pa-syam, pa-kwarenta, with the strange superstitions like we were not supposed to take a bath, not to say goodbye to visitors who visit the wake, cutting a blessed rosary into several pieces and placing it inside the urn of ashes and sealing it, as we were told it would stop a “series of deaths”.  We did not dispose of the dust, dry flowers, burnt matches swept to the corner of the house until the interment.  On the day we said goodbye to Papa, I was holding the urn, walking slowly down the steps of our house- the last to leave as everyone else had left the house empty.  As I stepped on the last stair, there was a thunderous roar and shards of glass that hit my back, as one of our relatives smashed a glass plate behind me.  Let all the bad things leave the house.  My grandmother uttered, still in tears.  We buried Papa the day before the board exams.
            I remember my final days of hospital duty in the delivery room, prior to my enrolling in medical school.   I was beside the obstetrician ready to assist, but I froze when the membranes burst.  The baby was stillborn.  The feet of the baby came first; the head was stuck in the vaginal canal and took almost an excruciating ten minutes to deliver.  The doctor was apologetic, really there was nothing that could be done- the fetus was not viable and weighed only 500 grams. Lying on the delivery table, the mother stared at the ceiling, unmoving.  We asked her if she had a name for the baby, so that we could baptize him before we give him to the waiting relatives.
Our eyes met as she fingered the plastic rosary on her neck. She came out of her reverie and from her moving lips sprung a name.  I could never forget the look in her eyes- regret maybe, or emptiness. I carefully wrapped the fetus and took Holy Water to baptize him. I had no time to linger on those feelings because there was another lady giving birth. I was asked to change gloves and assist, and this time the mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Funny how the ebb and flow of life in the hospital almost goes unnoticed. How new life is born in an instant, and how deaths become merely statistics. I suppose when one deal with these things on a daily basis it becomes routine.
As I lay the crying neonate on her bassinet, it suddenly occurred to me that I was in the same Neonatal Intensive Care Unit my Mom worked in many years ago.  I looked around the room and saw her for a moment in the nurse on duty changing a neonate’s diaper.
Somehow I knew at that instant that my brothers and I would be okay.  Through the passage of time things change.  Some wounds heal as we learn to accept the will of God, some remain abstruse like the young mother’s loss, while some are renewed in the hearts of their progeny, like our parent’s legacy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Curacha


It really is hard to believe that almost four years ago I segued from working man to school boy. I became part of the largest ever batch of Nursing students in St. Scho Tacloban- a strong 500+, as it were the peak of the exodus of health workers abroad and the demand for Nurses was high at that time.

Our batch had certain peculiarities- for one, there were a lot of second coursers (“elders”, they would call us). We had batchmates from all over Region 8, and some came as far as Manila and Mindanao just to study here. Others were transferees from big name universities like UST and La Salle, and of course there were a number of us who were certified Iskolar ng Bayans running amok (lol).

I think we were also the last batch to follow the stringent screening process (aka elimination) and many of our comrades didn’t make it. By mid-semester of the 1st year 1st sem, we already had classmates who would mysteriously stop attending classes. We had 31 units straightaway, and I’m proud to note we were trained by the best Gen Ed team (some of them unfortunately, sometime in 2007, have started to seek other opportunities). I remember our Monday schedule which began at 6:30AM for the morning praise and ended 8:30PM. The rest of the week was a blur of lectures, quizzes, practical exams, and more written exams. There were 9 sections left when the enrollment for the second semester of 1st year came.

By the time we finished the 2nd year second sem, we all lined up to see the Dean, who was going to inform us of our fate. Half of the entire batch didn’t make it. Some shifted to another course, some transferred to other Nursing schools in Ormoc, Cebu, and Manila, others simply dropped out for one reason or another. Two hundred fifty or so went on to attend the coveted Capping and Badge Pinning Ceremonies- signaling the start of our transition from mere classroom instruction to actual hospital duty.

There was a twist in the new sectioning which began the summer before 3rd year- the administration pooled together all the Dean’s Listers in one section, which at some point raised controversy. I was in favor of the usual heterogenous sectioning, which was done for the majority of the batch, but the decision to have Section A homogenous according to GWA was upheld. In hindsight, I would have really preferred to be just placed in different sections because you get to meet a lot of different classmates and the solidarity of the batch was increased. Being in Section A bunched up with the same faces over and over again gets a little boring, not to mention these people are naturally competitive (myself included) which could get annoying and frightening sometimes. I’ve had friends who actually preferred to be transferred to other sections rather than be in A.

But that drama aside, we surmounted a few more hurdles like Promotive and Preventive, Curative and Rehabilitative Nursing, and research. At the same time we were trained by our Clinical Preceptors in the different areas like DR/ NICU, operating room, emergency, outpatient, community and the unforgettable Psychiatric nursing. Our batch was successful with the Case Presentation at VSMMC, and completed the affiliation without incident. And of course our batch also happened to be champions in the Sportsfest twice in a row- in 2007 and in 2008, when the teams were by year level.

I will never forget what one of our Preceptors told us during the course of our Clinical duties: “Here in the hospital you are dealing with lives. There is no room for error when you are caring for your patients.” I finally understood why firmness and strictness was always maintained in our training, and I think in that moment, by the examples shown to us in Clinical practice, I was also able to grasp what kind of health professionals we should be.

Saying that my Nursing life in St. Scho is colorful would be an understatement. So many people- fellow students, faculty and staff had touched my life in one way or another. Here I delved into another one of my passions which is writing, and I’ve gone far from my original blog entries which I initially posted to come out hahaha! They also had me dance the Curacha (a traditional courtship dance in Leyte/ Samar) in front of an audience, participate in a Cheerdance (with my “two left feet”), and play Basketball. Oh dear.

I can’t believe that in four months or so, we would be concluding our Nursing life and move on to the next chapter. It is with both elation and a hint of sadness that accompanies this realization. But if I were to encapsulate the feeling it would be gratitude- to everyone I’ve met here, to the patients I’ve cared for, to our Preceptors, and to the school and the profession I’ve come to love.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mooned

After the demise of Bella, Edward and Jacob visited her mausoleum. The two fought wildly, and somehow Jacob found himself on top of Edward.

One thing led to another and then... (Newmoon, gay version lol)

Addict

Which one are you particularly guilty of? :-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rush, rush

12:01 PM. I wrapped up an hour of polishing my article for Jurisprudence, took a quick shower, and laid out my immaculate white uniform on the bed. I should arrive in school by 12:30, perfectly composed, with still half an hour to review for the quiz. Perfect.

I frowned as I put my foot outside the door- a speck of water suddenly appeared on my shoe. Then another, and another. It was starting to drizzle.

Fine, I took out my umbrella and headed out the gate, hugging my backpack close so it doesn't get soaked in the rain. In the distance, there were no pedicabs in sight, which meant I had to walk to the highway to catch a ride.

It was then fate decided to play a joke on me. It seemed, as I put one foot in front of the other, the rain poured harder. My shoes were completely soaked now. Even as I held the umbrella closer, the wind was blowing the rain sideways. barely a hundred meters from our front door, I was already dripping wet from knees down, and the rain also soaked the back of my uniform, my arms, and my bag.

Halfway to the main street, I had to finally stop at a neighbor's hut- I was completely soaked from head to foot, and could not possibly go to school looking like I just stepped out of the shower fully clothed.

Finally a pedicab passed by, so I requested him first to drop by our house so I can change my uniform. As I finally made it to the highway minutes later, changed, and a little less irritable, the sun shone its brightest, mocking me.

I lost precious minutes for review so I decided to start reviewing while riding the jeep. After what seemed like an eternity, I arrived at our building and flew four flights of stairs to our classroom.

What greeted me was an empty room with the lights off, and a solitary person inside.

"Where is everybody?" I panted, struggling to catch my breath.

She looked me in the eye and said:

"Haven't you heard? We have no classes today."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sohoton

Traversing the waterways of Basey, Samar is like going back in time. Despite its proximity to Tacloban (the town is around 30-40 minutes away), majority still use traditional means of transport namely passenger outrigger boats and the motorcycle people call “habal-habal”.

Our trip to Sohoton caves in Rawis was in conjunction with a trip to the gorgeous Balantak falls, also in the same Baranggay. Though we hit a few bumps along the way (I was soaked from waist down because of the splashing of water, and the boat had engine problems that had us waiting for 30 minutes before resuming the trip), the places of interest was worth the trouble.

Our guide was an imaginative and jolly 54 year old man, who led the way inside the caverns of Sohoton. The cave itself was not that spectacular- I have tried spelunking with challenging 8-foot drops and underground streams in Sagada, but the redeeming quality was in the hospitality of the guides as well as the completeness of equipment. Helmets with flashlights were provided (at additional cost) for the conveniece of tourists.

The trip to Balantak was another 30 minutes on rough road. The roaring waterfall was quite a sight- and at the time we visited we were the only tourists at the site.

Tip: Book a tour at the Tourism office in Basey town proper. Brochures are given so tourists can choose from a number of trips. The 16th century church in the town proper is also a must-see, as well as banig weaving- for which the town is known for.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pilgrim



When I woke up the day after my birthday, the sun’s rays bathed a bouquet of roses my friends gave me the day before. It was lovely and fragrant, and I wanted to preserve it as long as I could for memory. Last night I thought- maybe I should get these roses and press them individually between thick books and frame them like the ones I did with the anniversary roses my beau gave me, or maybe leave it as a bouquet and let it dry like what Nanay did with her flowers on her 80th birthday.

In that moment- on an ordinary morning, this phrase came to mind: “omnia transeunt” (all things pass). Like everybody else, I keep mementos. I preserve everything that makes me happy- beautiful things that remind me of good times, in fact my room is crowded with all those things: books from even way back elementary days, numerous timepieces my brothers and my mom gave me, trophies and awards, picture frames that fill every possible space on the night table, dried flowers, bags and clothes of every size, shape and color.

But I remember a striking lecture that Sister Aquino once gave in Theology, she talked of a time they exhumed the body of the first nuns of their order to die in the Philippines. While they were in the cemetery, the men brought the coffins to be blessed before they were opened. When the prayers were done, the coffins were opened. Inside, the only things recognizable were the skull and major bones of the body, everything else- the nun’s habit, the small bones, the flesh- they looked like earth. This skin of ours, the tissues underneath, once decomposed look like mud and dirt. And so Sister asked us, “Anong pinagmamalaki mo?”

“You are dust. We are all the same- from the most powerful heads of state to the lowliest beggar, sinners and saints, men and women in every color- we become dust. Everything you have is on loan- your abilities, your properties, your life, they are not yours. Will God care if you were Cum Laude? Will God care if you were the richest man on the planet? No. He will only ask you how you loved Him and how you loved your fellow men.”

It certainly got me thinking of the way I’ve been living my life for the past 29 years. What were the things I’ve put so much value on? Pretty things, accomplishments maybe? I have every imaginable face cream, cleanser, deep cleanser, scrub, masque, SPF, and whatnot, and to what end? Beautify a face that would one day be dust. Ok, so maybe hygiene is necessary, but my excessive vanity is I guess something I could do without. For the past years, I think I have been working hard for the wrong reasons- acclaim. Though I do think being KSP had something to do with low self-esteem growing up, but now I know better.

And so on that note, I promised myself I’d make changes with the way I look at life. There are more important things that are not mentioned in one’s resume- like being a good friend, or being someone who keeps his word. I want to work hard for the right reasons, reasons beyond self-improvement or mere enrichment.

I have neglected the importance in being prudent and humble in my relationships with people around me that this caused a lot of strain, and nearly breaking off ties. Knowing I guess is half the battle, making amends and reparations are next. I guess what Sister said was right- we are only pilgrims in this life, making our journey to the next life. What we do now matters, because we are preparing ourselves. Will the world forget me when I die? Maybe, but I hope I would make a positive impact on the lives of others before I’m gone.

I guess I had a change of heart. I picked up a scissor and cut the pretty ribbons that held the bouquet together. I neatly folded the tissue that wrapped the roses and went downstairs. Placing the roses on a large vase, I hoped it would last longer, and that more people could appreciate its beauty. That’s a better remembrance.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thankful

Click the cake for pics :-)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Home


Our house is a little bit peculiar. Sitting on a corner lot surrounded by cyclone fence, the gray exterior contrasts against the trees in the foreground. We have a lot of trees in our lot- a large mango tree in the front lawn, bent when a strong typhoon once hit Tacloban, a golden acacia beside it, and a mahogany tree on the eastern corner. Outside my bedroom window peeks the sun-dappled leaves of a tamarind, with a java plum rising from the spot near the abuhan of our dirty kitchen below.

We live in a two-storey duplex, about a twenty minute walk from the highway. I like the peace and quiet here. From the terrace, one can view the tin roofs from the subdivision right beside the main road, with a hectare of vacant lot overgrown with cogon separating them from us. We can also see the big “R” sign of Robinson’s mall- a short walk from our residence.

My brothers had a penchant for pets and we had a lot growing up- twenty or so doves, which have taken residence up on our roof, a number of dogs- a Japanese Spitz named Cindy the most beloved, adopted stray cats, a lone turtle, white mice (at one point had cross-bred with black rats and overmultiplied, thus prompting our mom to feed them Racumin to control their population), and chickens. Now my brothers are all grown up and residing in the US, but some of our pets remain. The doves still spew a generous amount of bird poo which causes the wooden beams to rot, our cats still catch mice from time to time, and Cindy is enjoying ripe old age.

Cindy is almost blind from cataracts on both eyes. She’d been with us for nine years now, and she was my mom’s favorite. They bought her while I was away in Diliman, so every time I went home that spoiled puppy would always bark and be all hostile to me. Now it’s a different story of course, when I feed her for example, she won’t eat the piece of chicken or meat in front of her, until I gently nudge her so she can smell the food. She does waggle her tail when she recognizes my voice when I come home from school even if, I reckon, all she sees is blur.

The other side of the duplex was said to be haunted. The reason was that for 14 years no one lived there. Next door, the situation in our house is different because we are always noisy and chaotic- no ghost would dare live with us. Sometimes, when our house overflows with guests (during fiestas mostly), we let them stay next door. The next day they’ll either come out with rashes all over their face, or be covered in hives, or won’t be able to come out at all because they got locked up inside the bathroom- we had replaced the lock on this door three times already- after three different people got locked inside. A number of years ago our neighbors asked us if someone was living in that house already, because they saw lights being turned on and off in the house. I told them that’s impossible- that house has no electricity. If there were ghosts, well, they never bothered us anyway. And at present that place is being rented out, and so far our neighbors have been fine.

My late mother’s orchids still bloom beautifully on the north side of the lot. She bought them from the many places she visited as a nurse, a Waling-waling from a Davao trip, dendrobium from Southern Leyte, and many others that still thrive in her little garden. My grandmother planted white anthuriums that lined the damp concrete barriers, and the single agave still stands proudly.

We moved into the home my father built for us even before the construction was done in 1994. The second floor was made from coco lumber, but I thought it was really lovely that they made French windows for the fa├žade, while other windows in the back had only humble jalousies. Like an old friend, I loved it with all its imperfections, after all it is here I find solace. Though sometime we all had to move away, this place is thick with memory- our family’s memories, and they are still alive. In the unpainted house, my brother’s doves, my mother’s orchids, my grandmother’s bromeliads, the trees that have withstood time and many a typhoon, and of course, dear old Cindy.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Suddenly Twenty Nine

I recently felt the need to change my template. It took me four hours more or less, searching, saving, and discarding widgets. This for me, is equivalent to cleaning my room. It was time to be rid of old things, and start with a clean slate once again.

This also marks the start of a new semester- the final leg of Nursing school, in fact. Time certainly flies; wasn’t it just yesterday that I had my first assist during a delivery, or my first time to act as Scrub Nurse in the Operating Room? In a way I’m a little relieved those long hours are almost up, but I have to be honest, I will miss all that.

I really hope I do well this semester because this is crucial to Med school application. Good grades might mean a scholarship, that is of course paired with good NMAT scores. Which reminds me- I need to plan with my other friends who wanted to take the aptitude exam so we all can plan where to squeeze it between this semester’s schedules or maybe during the board exam review.

I’m still peddling my manuscript, with no luck as of yet. But there are wonderful people who are helping me out- one I’d like to mention is my editor who is based in Toronto. I’m so lucky because it just so happened that on the very same afternoon I discovered my old editor in Leyte Normal is no longer with the university, she left a comment on my blog. Days later, I e-mailed the manuscript for her perusal. It’s still being edited as of now.

Making money online is the new trend nowadays and I’m one those making a few bucks from blog ads. I gave up on Adsense before, but with Linkworth and a few independent advertisers who contacted me- I’ve begun putting up ads again.

Finally, I’ll be celebrating my birthday on the 17th this month. My high school batchmates and I have been teasing each other about how the clock is ticking on us and a birthday with a zero is fast approaching. We’re officially old!! But for now, I’ll enjoy my final year as a twentysomething, until I’m ready to move on to the next chapter of my life.

Donations, gifts accepted hahaha! Just throw me any old fountain pen or diver's watch for good measure. Kidding :-)

Photo: With my first NICU case at Ormoc District Hospital- minutes old baby girl.

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