Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Starter Kit for the New Asthmatic

“Welcome to the club,” says fellow P, turned fellow A.

And somehow, I was waiting for someone to say that to me within the 24-hour span that a doctor, a pulmonologist at that, declared that I, just like many Filipinos, have asthma.

“It’s not an achievement,” my brother said with obvious disdain when he saw the picture that I took of what I call the “starter kit for the new asthmatic.” He followed up his hostility towards my newly discovered ailment with lines my mom would have uttered if she were within proximity, “paano kasi 6 hours or less lang ang tulog tapos wala man lang multivitamins.”

And that’s quoting my younger brother loosely. His actual words were more forceful that those.

But he is right. Developing asthma at the age of 27 isn’t anything to be proud about. Contrary to how I may seem to be enjoying this, I don’t. As sad as it may sound, I went to this battle alone.

Friday night, my cough had already been suspicious. There’s the aching of my chest and a somewhat “cat” as my sister with asthma often say. Not exactly a purr or a meow, but the sound a cat makes after it screams in pain, maybe if someone steps on its tail or something.

I said pass to a night out with some officemates and to a proofreading job the next day. I knew something was wrong with me. However, it didn’t stop me from procrastinating seeing a doctor. I instead chose to sleep. I thought that if I take a good rest it’ll be gone when I’m up again. But no! The cat is persistent.

“It’s my cough,” I finally told the doctors who asked me what was wrong with me. “I mean, I’ve had coughs before but I’ve never had that thing vibrating inside my chest when I breathe. I’m a bit alarmed because I somehow think I have asthma whereas I’ve never had asthma before.”

[Note: I’m presenting my dialogues the way I pictured them to have come out of my mouth. But looking back, I had an especially different way of giving a backgrounder to the pulmonologist. I think I delivered it this way, “inuubo po ako pero ang kakaiba doon, para akong hinihika….” He almost laughed when he heard “kakaiba.” Was it the way I said it? I wouldn’t really know.]

“And why do you think you have asthma?” Both doctors asked at two separate times.

“Because I can hear ‘the cat.’”

A few thorough checks later, it’s official. I have asthma. I had to hear it coming out of the doctor’s mouth. I mean, I would hate to assume or to conclude for myself even if he just prescribed me a couple of asthma paraphernalia. “So ibig pong sabihin may asthma ako?” I said in disbelief.

He said, “yes,” and attributed it to the wheezing sound he heard using his stethoscope. He supported his diagnosis by reminding me that, as I have disclosed, my mom has asthma and so do my sister and two other brothers. “It’s in your genes,” he emphasized and ended with, “I’ll see you in a week.” He then handed me his prescription.

"That sucks," I ended up saying to myself.

Magkano na ‘yan?” I asked the pharmacist before giving in to the drugs.

He showed me the computation. It read, “1765.75.”

Lalo yata akong magkakasakit!” I know it’s not original and, chances are, the pharmacist has heard it a hundred times before, but I just had to say it. After all, I meant every wee bit of it.

Darn it! I had to buy the two pricey inhalers. This unforeseen expense will most definitely leave a dent to my ailing finances. It also follows that due to the unplanned swipe using my plastic money, I could kiss my new shoes-to-be goodbye.

But before I got to the point of buying my meds and those I relayed prior that, I had to pass through the doctor at the HMI clinic, the doctor who cleared me from pneumonia and referred me to the pulmonologist.

“Do you smoke?” she asked.

“No,” I answered. “But if I have to hang around a hospital as frequently as I do now, I just might,” my mind added.

You see, I’m not OK with being sick. While waiting in line at the pulmonologist’s clinic where I did some social coughing with the other patients (which nearly freaked me out—the framed “Tuberculosis can be cured” pin-up on top of the receptionist’s desk did not help), I was texting my sister about my medical misadventures. And while typing, I felt tears well up my eyes.

I turn into a baby whenever I’m sick. Regardless if it’s an ordinary fever, I cry. Call it hypochondria. Then again, you can consider me praning by nature. And what little or lot I know about certain medical stuff makes me even more praning than I already am.

So aside from tissue paper and alcohol, notebook and pens, the staple residents of my bag from which I get comfort, plus a tiny bottle of my contact lens’ lubricant, I have to bring the inhaler which is not something you’d say is barely there.

I’m just happy I’m done with the eardrops. Otherwise, my nostrils will be the only holes in my head that don’t have drops or spray of sort. How lola-like have I become?!

I heard about a statistic before regarding the effect of air pollution in our country to our people. The exact figures and facts of the said statistic are blurry to me now but here’s the gist: by a few more years, the number of asthmatic Filipinos will increase because of our awfully filthy air.

After yesterday’s session with two doctors, we can say that the statistic had a sure increment. Me.

Hence the starter kit for the new asthmatic.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cross section of an Underdeveloped Creative Lobe

Val would never in her life admit that just like most girls, receiving flowers—be it a bunch or a single stem—will have those popular effects on her. You know? Heart pumping, spirits soaring, tingling all over.

But then the day came when she received the flowers she believed she never waited for.

“Holy sh*t, I am crying!” Val manages to blurt out in the midst of a sudden surge of mixed emotions wrapped with disbelief.

“You’re crying over daisies!” Grace taunts dryly. “Where’s the dignity in that?” Grace punctuates her statement with apparent disgust.

Sometimes friends have a harsh way of lending a shoulder to cry on.

“You know what?” Val finally reveals her face smeared with what-obviously-was-not-waterproof-mascara. She takes a dramatic pause then continues, “I like daisies!” She then buries her face into her palms and proceeds on sobbing like a little girl turned drama queen, probably out of exasperation or plainly out of embarrassment.

“OK—” Grace prolongs the intelligible sound she makes hoping to draw out more information from her friend who seems to be shrinking right in front of her. For some reason, Grace appears to be enjoying Val’s alternate finest hour.

“Daisies make me smile,” Val attempts to explain without even budging from her may-the-earth-swallow-me-now stance. “Daisies make me smile when I’m sick. Daises make me smile when I’m blue.” She takes a deep breath, “God! Daisies will most definitely make me smile when I’m dead!” She finally lifts up her head.

For a fraction of a second Val and Grace stare at each other, seemingly at a loss for words over such absurdity. They could have gone silent for a few more minutes or hours had it not for Grace who finally bursts into suppressed laughter which immediately progresses into uncontrollable cachinnation.

“I’m glad you find this amusing.” Val tries to cut-short Grace’s fun but to no avail.

“Val, you received a bouquet of daisies—cute, colorful daisies and you are crying! To defend yourself you say that daisies make you smile. What’s not to laugh about?” Of course by this time, Grace was in tears—happy tears, that is.

“Yeah. Right. Some girl am I.” From her initial insane self, Val slips into her usual self-deprecating persona. “And my parents bothered to name me ‘Valentine’. Really romantic. Go ahead. Laugh.”

As if on cue, guilt crept into Grace. “I’m sorry. I’m just not used to seeing you breakdown like that. Losing it over—what again?” The guilt doesn’t stop Grace from teasing her friend.

Val frowns, not the sympathize-with-me kind of frown but more of the how-dare-you type.

Grace eventually finds the decency to be serious, “Val, somebody’s going to give you something to woo you sooner or later. Thank God he’s smart enough not to be a cliché and offer you roses.”

“Or tulips which really is trying too hard, not to mention impractical.” Val instinctively finishes Grace’s trail of thought.

Now you see why, despite how they may occasionally bicker, these two are friends.

“Looks like, this time, someone did the right thing in trying to win you.” Grace says in a voice devoid of sarcasm of sorts.

“And you say that because a few moments ago I lost it over a bunch of daisies?” Val is regaining her composure. No doubt the old Valentine is back.

“Oh come on! If you’re pathetic display of emotions isn’t proof that finally someone got to you, then I don’t know what is.”

Val raises her hands like a cowgirl being mugged, submissive but not at all weak, “All right I admit. The flowers had their effect on me.”

“Well, that’s pretty hard to miss.” Now Grace is being sarcastic. “I foresee a ‘but’ soon to grace your next explanation.”

“But! I don’t think anyone can win me over flowers.”

“I don’t know, Val. After all, you, just like your name, can be unpredictably predictable sometimes.”

Val did not attempt to protest. “Unpredictably predictable.” She repeats to herself, trying to absorb what Grace just said.

“As un-you as it may sound; you are allowed to be not you sometimes.”

“Perhaps it’s Valentine’s Day creeping in on me.” Val avails of the most convenient non-sequitur excuse. Even she knows it.

“Cheer up, Valentine. It’s your day, anyway.”

“And I’ve got daisies.”

“You’re pathetic.”

"Yes, I know."

They look at each other and laugh.

* * *

That’s how they come to me: as glimpses.

I have my characters, scene and setting. What I lack is a plot and, more importantly, a conflict. The decent kind of both.

* * *

I guess one message from my pseudo story is, “Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!”

Monday, February 11, 2008

Finding the Perfect Match at the Medical City

Waiting in line for a consult with a medical expert can be one awful patience test but as Sun Tzu once said, “Maneuver misfortune into gain.”

How, then, does one get something good out of waiting in line inside a hospital?

Being that it is February, the love month so to speak, and it is three days away from the great, red V-day, the answer to my self-raised question leans toward the convenient way of experiencing the commercialized essence of the season. Waiting in line can present an opportunity to meet one’s own perfect match especially for Valentine’s Day.

Doctors are all around. It makes bumping unto the perfect “doc” highly likely thereby igniting a possible personal version of Grey’s Anatomy. The situation makes it conducive to spot one’s own McDreamy or McSteamy.

Then there are the medical representatives who aren’t at all bad. They are presentable and are probably good conversationalists. They make good money, too, and chances are, they have cars, company cars, but cars nonetheless. (Materialistic, aren’t we? But I’m talking about turning misfortune into gain, remember? Gain can border on material things!)

Then there’s the possibility of meeting fellow patients with whom you can hit things off.

Patients like Arthur.

“What is your name?” He began with a tone which is not at all intimidating. He was actually genuinely friendly. I found no reason to withhold my real name.

“Have you been waiting long?” I asked him after we were passed introducing ourselves.

“A bit long,” he answered with a slight hint of uncertainty. Arthur didn’t seem to mind waiting for his doctor to see him. He then proceeded on asking me, “Are you sick?” He sounded rather sincere.

Now usually questions like “are you sick?” pulls down my defensive alarm switch which ultimately interpret such simple question as a masked attack on how I look. But I knew Arthur did not deserve any of my usual sardonic, defensive quips.

“Hopefully not,” I told him. “My ear hurts. I’m having it checked.” I was surprisingly pleasant to Arthur and his queries. “How about you?”

“Am I sick?” He tried to clarify.

“Are you?”

“Nah! I’m just here for a check-up.”

That’s good. At least the person I was talking to was healthier than I was.

The next 30 minutes of waiting for my turn to see my doctor have become less than a dull one, thanks to Arthur.

For a complete stranger, he sure does have a way about him that makes one feel comfortable with his presence. Not all guys are like Arthur: Outspoken yet not at all annoying. And if there’s someone I’ve met for the past week that’s been gifted with the most remarkable dose of wit and charm, it has got to be Arthur.

I have to admit that I like him already.

My chitchat with Arthur was cut-short by my doctor’s assistant calling me.

“The doctor will see you now,” she said.

As it turned out, Arthur’s time to see his doctor had come, too.

“It was nice meeting you, Arthur.” I said as cordially as I could.

“You, too.” He uttered with a wave and the sweetest smile that would most definitely win anyone over.

Arthur and I, we went our separate ways after that. Me to my EENT; him to his pediatrician, as led by his mom.

He’s quite a kid, you see. And impressively smart for someone who’s seven. I actually forgot I’m on a stake out for a potential McDreamy or McSteamy or McMedRep.

But that’s about it with Arthur. He would have been a perfect match if I were no older than ten years old. I mean, it’s not like I’m Michael Jackson, you know?

An Ear-y Thought

Did you know that we can hurt our ear by over-cleaning it?

Apparently that’s what I am guilty of and now my left ear falls victim. I have to administer two drops of the prescribed antibacterial solution to my ear twice a day, which freaks me out. Imagine placing your ear directly below the shower. Ewww…

Plus, I’m banned from cleaning my ear for the next five days.

The doctor said, when my ear’s back to normal, I should limit cleaning either of them only once a week. A daily habit of cleaning one’s ear is a medically a no-no.

Then Kate, who fed me a really satisfying dinner tonight, said that it’s bad to clean one’s ears after taking a bath. Since our ears are wet after bathing, the skin inside our ears is extra sensitive even to the softest cotton buds we use. Bara-bing! That’s a strike two for my ear and me!

The doctor said I shouldn’t worry. After all, my eardrums are fine.

He should say that when I’m free of the stinging feeling that haunts my ear every now and then!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Shot at Art

They call it pop art. A genre which came out during the middle part of the 20th century. We find it all around us once again and I am a dumbfounded fan.

Perhaps I am your typical frustrated artist. I remember joining the arts club for two consecutive years in grade school in the hopes of laying my hands on mini bottles of paint, not to mention the other fascinating art materials available then. My interest in arts must have been one of the many things I started which I didn’t really pursue.

And since art seems to be something which literally is right at my fingertips, thanks to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, I’ve decided to stretch my digital paintbrush and do me some of those pop art I adore.

This is my first attempt so be kind. At least my model is too young to protest!

I am well aware that I’m no Andy Warhol. And my being new at this makes me vulnerable to filter/effects abuse. That I confess.

Let’s just say that this’ll be my latest shot at art, pop art if you want to be specific.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Let's Help Some Kids


Join the War, Wear the Tag!

Brave Kids Tag will be on sale starting Feb 04 - World Cancer Day. Email or text 0917-811 KIDS (5437) for orders. Proceeds of each tag (PhP300.00) will go to the chemo fund of PBK.

***And so, if you have extra cash, I encourage you to get that tag and help brave kids receive the treatment they need.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Tribe Has Spoken: JDV has been voted off the house speakership

And so, history as we know it now has just added a few more pages to its thick and entangled sheets.

The new additions are like transcripts from a reality TV show. Except that instead of a bunch of strangers whose life’s decisions do not affect any of us, the key players in this “show” do hold us by the collars sometimes. And whatever they do, their blunders and all their jazz, reflect who we are because, as it should be the case, we were the ones who voted for them.

I wonder if they are aware of that fact still. Not when they are out to protect themselves. Well, at least more than they are out to protect us.

The irony of it all is, we, the taxpayers, are the ones who throw in our hard-earned money so that there will be enough funds to run our country. And I think it is safe to assume that it is from us who honestly pay our taxes that the leaders of our land get their income. But we have little power over them. So much so that whenever they step up to the microphone, sporting their expensive barongs, we are reduced to crossing our fingers, hoping that they’d say and do the right thing—the right thing for the majority of us, if not for our whole country.

What happened last night which extended till this morning wasn’t at all promising.

The big dogs ate the old dog. And we couldn’t give our full sympathy to the old dog because even he would not call himself sinless. Although I have to admit that it really isn’t fun seeing a lolo talking for almost an hour, dropping hints of obvious personal hang-ups in a tone we all cannot deny is repressed rage.

We could just conclude how dirty politics truly is.

And then there’s the semi political black hole, I’d rather not name, which frightens the wits out of me. It has a lot to do with those in power who seem to find it so convenient to get rid of whoever challenges them, and maybe even those who irritate them. Kakatakot lang.

In this 7,107 islands, I am relatively powerless. If they can kick out an old man who has been speaker of the house since I was 12 years old (there was a 3-year hiatus though), what would stop them from erasing me from this planet?

The thought (or threat) may give me nightmares for days.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Glory of the Byline

Nothing beats seeing your name on printed, if not published sheets. And since I’m on a scanning streak I’m taking this space to share some print materials wherein I experienced the glory of the so-called byline.

The first time I got published was, believe it or not, in Cosmopolitan in their June 2002 issue. I sent them one of those feedback letters which ultimately rave about how their magazine is a gift from God. My ulterior motive in kissing their Cosmo ass was the Canon camera they were giving away to the letter of the month. I didn’t win the camera but I did get published and, boy, did it feel great!

I’m not sure if the next two publication of sort should count but I’m including them anyway. They are the playbill for the first and second staging of “The Juggler,” a play by Palanca Winner, Layeta Bucoy which the Comm. Arts Students staged in 2003 and 2004. I opt to preserve them here in case I lose my copies.

In 2003, we published a magazine as our final project in my Newspaper Workshop class . It’s my first shot at really writing a whole piece or two and seeing these “babies” in print.

Then there’s my first Youngblood piece which came out October 31, 2004 which was later followed by my second YB baby which came out December 15, 2007. Both articles that were printed at two different issues of the Philippine Daily Inquirer will forever be an honor, something at the top of my life’s bests list.

Then a week ago, I was there in the launching of the book containing the works of my students which I co-edited with other GIFT-Writing instructors. Needless to say, I am proud of this book!

It’s a bit difficult for me to understand why anyone will question my obsession with getting published. For the possibility that an entity would wonder what the deal is with the byline thing, here’s what I have to say: It has little to do with the obvious ego boosting reasons. Getting published affirms that I make sense, that I amount to something that’s why someone was bold enough to save a space in their precious sheets for me. Seeing me on printed materials proves that I existed, not just to the people who know me but to those who were reached by the materials in circulation. Somehow I get to live not just where I am standing but also to where I am heard (or read).

It really is close to Descartes’ idea on existentialism. And if I may speak along what he once said to punctuate my point about being published, I’d say, “I see my name, therefore I exist.”