Today, my youngest sister will graduate as valedictorian of her high school class. As she delivers her valedictory address on the podium, my engineer father and my homemaker mother will be listening from dedicated seats in the front row. Dapper in his polo and regal in her blouse handpicked just for the occasion, they will share the spotlight as my sister accepts her gold medal.
It is hardest to talk to somebody mourning the sudden loss of a loved one. You are faced with questions that demand exact answers, but no explanation is ever enough, no course of action justified. Grief takes away all reason, leaving only an impenetrable wall of shock and anger. You are not even sure if it is appropriate to say sorry; you know that you did the best you could, and still failed.
Earlier today, as I was walking past the guard who checks employee IDs at the hospital entrance, my attention was called by a colon cancer patient whom I took I care of as a general surgery resident a couple of years back. “Doktor Baticulon!” he called out. I sat beside him and asked how he was. I was glad to find out his cancer has been in remission since his surgery and chemoradiation.
Sa lahat ng subject, Math talaga ang paborito ko. Kindergarten pa lang ako, alam ko na ‘yun. Dahil ‘yun sa Tatay kong engineer na nagtiyagang magturo sa akin kung paano mag-compute gamit ang mga daliri ko. Sa liwanag ng kanyang desk lamp at sa harap ng mga hinawing blueprint at triangle ruler, manghang-mangha ako noon na matuklasang 4 times 9 equals 36. Walang pinagkaiba sa isang batang nanonood ng magic.
I have just spent 12 hours teaching two classes, on a post-duty Sunday. The schedule was insane: allotting only an hour to take a bath, have a quick breakfast, and travel from the hospital to the classroom; and another hour to rest, eat lunch/dinner, and travel from one teaching venue to the next. My emergency room duty yesterday was no respite either; I have had to admit seven patients, two of whom eventually died because of the severity of their brain hemorrhages. I have been awake for almost 40 hours, but I do not feel tired. Not at all.
On this day in 2011, after a three-year literary hiatus, I decided to launch ronibats.ph. This is my 20th article for the website, and as of this time, my Facebook page is nearing its 500th like. Despite the irregular post times and frequency, the response to ronibats.ph from friends and strangers, colleagues in the medical profession or otherwise, has been nothing short of overwhelming. So on my website’s birthday, despite the nagging urge to sleep, I write this to express my thanks.
The irony is that everything happened in front of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, a 200-meter sprint from the Department of Justice building. I had just attended a mentor’s Christmas party and was walking home just outside the hospital where I had spent almost a third of my life training to become a physician. Looking back, the street was well lit even though it was quarter past midnight. However, the traffic light along Taft Avenue was on green, hence the few jeepneys cruising Padre Faura at that time were stuck on the other side of the intersection. The iPod, long-sleeve polo and jeans didn’t help; I resembled a wandering, inebriated Japanese on his way to get a taste of Manila’s nightlife.
He was walking in the opposite direction. Before I realized his motive, he rushed towards me, grabbed my upper body and declared, “Holdap ‘to!”
We are buying our first family car. To be more precise, my two yuppie sisters have agreed to finance the purchase of a car to be used by our family of seven. My father and my third-born sister have already made the reservation last weekend, and although I, being an overworked and underpaid government physician, will not make any financial contribution to the purchase, I cannot contain my excitement. Despite my father and mother having been married for almost 29 years, this is our first family anything.