A year after

Exactly a year ago, I was hospitalized due to tuberculosis (TB).¬†It was the third time I suffered from the disease: the first was as a toddler (for kids, they call it primary complex); the second was a few weeks before college graduation. I wasn’t admitted for the first two. Medications did them in. But the third was the most frightening: I was coughing up too much blood I thought I was the victim in some slasher film.

A few days prior to that, we really thought that I was going to die because no hospital would admit us: no pulmonologist was available because of Christmas break. The medications prescribed by a clinic didn’t suffice as they didn’t deter the bleeding (I started coughing up blood before Christmas Eve). I was weakening up so fast, and the burning night fevers were numbing.

Finally, I was admitted in a hospital in Alabang. I thought that I only had TB. But when the doctor read out to me the findings, I was shocked when I was told that I also had pneumonia. Two killers were murdering my already weakened lungs. And there was already a hole in my right lung. But there was no pain, only severe weakness and high fever. I just wanted to drift off, do nothing, and watch the ceiling from my sick bed. What really frightened me were the surgical needles. I contracted trypanophobia ever since my bout against dengue when I was in Grade II. It was embarrassing each time I had to face nurses who were out to get my blood sample, or who regularly had to apply intravenous medication. There was one time when my visitors had to restrain me while a nurse was getting my blood sample. Arnaldo witnessed it and was having a good laugh at the way I squirmed and shook and cried like a sicko strapped a straitjacket. ūüėĚ

ASIAN HOSPITAL

A view of my room. The only view that I had of the outside world for two lonely weeks.

I thought my hospitalization would last for only a few days, and that I’d get to celebrate New Year’s Eve with my family. I was mistaken. I celebrated New Year’s Eve alone. My wife had wanted to accompany me, but I said she had to be with our children. Nothing should spoil the little ones’ Christmas feasts.

Even after the Christmas revelry I was not given an exact date on when my release would be because they were still monitoring the severity of my TB, i.e., if the bacteria were resistant against the medications given to me. I prayed and prayed for my immediate release. Finally, I was given a clean bill of health on January 9, or thirteen days later, on the Feast of the Black Nazarene of which I am a devotee. Me and my wife attended afterwards to give thanks, even when still weakened. I had not missed a single traslación ever since becoming a devotee in 2011.

PEPE ALAS.jpg

The closest I could get to the Black Nazarene of Quiap√≤. And the first time I didn’t get to touch the ropes pulling its carriage due to weakness from two weeks of hospitalization. I almost fainted here because of the crowd. This was also my wife’s first time to join the procession.

How does one contract TB? From what I have gathered, almost everyone has TB bacteria. Healthy people are unaffected. But once the immune system has weakened, that’s how TB bacteria start to affect the lungs. My immune system weakened due to lack of sleep and missed meals. That is why after my third bout with TB, I took it easy. I haven’t been reading and writing that much since. I stopped blogging for several months (resuming only in June). It’s difficult continuing to do so anyway, considering the sad fact that I’m a nocturnal corporate slave commuting several kilometers nightly on polluted highways.

TB may no longer be as deadly as it was nowadays compared to a few decades before (some of its most famous Filipino victims were Graciano L√≥pez Jaena, Marcelo del Pilar, Jos√© Mar√≠a Pa√Īganiban, and Manuel L. Quezon; Rizal almost had it, but survived). But it is deadlier the third time around, especially when it has an accomplice (pneumonia) to assist it in its hushed killing spree.

And it’s a real pain in the pockets because of the six-month medication. The following people, however, made it easy for us to survive the ensuing months: thank you so much to Gemma Cruz Araneta, former Mayor Calixto Cat√°quiz, Mama Beth C√≥rsega and her daughter Jonafel, Se√Īor Guillermo G√≥mez,¬†Nonia Tiongco, my mother-in-law, and my dad. Special thanks to¬†Ate¬†Christina Capacete and Riah Ram√≠rez¬†(Chief Nurse, City of San Pedro) for assisting my wife on the treatment side of things.

Now, because I live in a place where the air is polluted, I could no longer afford to go out of our apartment without wearing a face mask. And I usually experience shortness of breath whenever I do strenuous physical activities. I long for the day when I get to live in a place surrounded by nature, where it’s safe for my lungs.

Thank you to all those who prayed and showed concern for me during my fight against tuberculosis and pneumonia. May God bless you all!

 

Advertisements

Sobre las luchas de la vida

Vivimos en un mundo que no es perfecto y que nunca puede ser perfeccionado. No importa lo difícil que lo intentemos, no importa cuál sistema de gobierno nos gobierne, el sufrimiento continuará. Pero eso no significa que debemos dejar de hacer nuestra parte. Recuerda que el premio del esfuerzo es el esfuerzo, y es cómo luchamos contra el mal. Tenemos que trabajar por la vida más allá del sufrimiento y de la muerte. Eso es lo que más importa.

Remembering Stan Lee and his “Soapbox”

The Punisher is my favorite character from Stan Lee’s¬†astonishing Marvel Comics universe. I remember those days when I scrimped on my allowance, saving every coin to buy copies of various Punisher titles that used to come out per month.

PEPE ALAS.jpg

 

Those were the 90s, a time when physical simplicity and digital complexity were at the crossroads. During those happy days, when sociability was not yet confined to an android, Stan Lee maintained a column in each¬†Marvel comic book. Titled “Stan’s Soapbox”, he gave us fans a glimpse of the ins and outs of Marvel Comics’ exciting plans for the future as well as other happenings in connection to Marvel’s creative crew that had a cult following of their own (the tandem of Chuck Dixon and John Romita Jr. was my favorite). At a time when social media was still a fevered dream, Stan Lee and his happy caboodle were our go-to-guys regarding all sorts of geekery. But from time to time, Stan Lee used his column as a platform to air his views about almost anything, some of which were controversial, nevertheless just.

Even through print, he engaged fans as if he was your friendly neighborhood grandfather that you could tell your problems to. Whenever I read him, I tried to imagine the kind of voice that he might had; years later, when he started appearing in cameos for various Marvel films, I was astonished to find out that the way I had imagined his voice would be came out quite accurately! And his grandfatherly voice as well as his gentle features perfectly fit the way he wrote: jolly and lively. There was many a time when I looked forward to his soapbox with as much excitement as I had towards the pulse-pounding storylines contained in The Punisher titles. His column also introduced me to the wider Marvel Universe, beyond the blood and bullets of The Punisher.

Image result for stan lee trading card

Marvel trading card released in 1990 by Impel Marketing, Inc. This particular card was my first introduction to who Stan Lee was.

And do I really have to describe his language, his style of writing? The adjectives preceding some of Marvel’s iconic titles (AMAZING¬†Spider-Man, UNCANNY X-Men, INCREDIBLE Hulk) may well be regarded as apposite laurels to his astounding talent and infinite well of imagination. His column, even though meant simply to inform readers about the goings-on in Marvel’s “House of Ideas”, is written in beautifully sculpted language. It is always an exalting experience for me whenever I read it. For a non-native English speaker, it was a challenge skimming through Stan Lee’s vast array of colorful vocabulary. It was simply impossible not to have a dictionary at hand when tackling his soapbox. But it was to my advantage: little did I know that it was to be my “training ground” as I was able to ace my English composition and grammar lessons at school.

Photograb from Anthony Oliveira.

Whenever Stan Lee wrote, he soared not like his caped heroes but like Shakespeare and Byron exposed to (red alert: Marvel jargon up ahead!) Terrigen Mists.

If you opine that my English is noteworthy, don’t. I am not an exceptional scribbler; whatever worth that I have as a writer, I simply got from years of reading Stan Lee. And yes, he was a major factor as to why I have come to love reading and writing. The best part of this all is that Stan Lee and Marvel Comics inadvertently led me to the world of English Literature.

Photograb from The Geeksverse.

I am so devastated at his passing. I’ve always thought he’d reach up to a hundred. He will be dearly missed.

Excelsior to infinity and beyond! ‘Nuff said…

Amihan

Hace mucho fr√≠o en este momento aqu√≠ en nuestro lugar (San Pedro Tunas√°n, La Laguna). ¬°Ciertamente han llegado el “amihan”, y me encanta!

¬ŅQu√© es amihan? Se refiere a la estaci√≥n dominada por los fr√≠os vientos alisios o los “easterlies” en ingl√©s porque vienen del noreste. Se dice que es la temporada en que el hielo en Siberia al norte comienza a derretirse, y el aire fr√≠o viaja hacia Filipinas. Normalmente ocurre esta actividad clim√°tica desde los fines de octubre hasta los primeros d√≠as de marzo. Los d√≠as m√°s fr√≠os ocurren desde diciembre hasta principios de febrero.

La palabra amihan se deriva de la mitolog√≠a filipina prehisp√°nica, estrictamente entre los tagalos si no me equivoco. En la dicha mitolog√≠a, Amihan es una deidad (dios menor pero sin g√©nero) que representa como un p√°jaro y es la primera criatura que habit√≥ el universo, junto con los dioses principales Bathal√† y Aman Sinaya. Seg√ļn el folclore de los tagalos, fue Amihan quien rompi√≥ el enorme bamb√ļ que conten√≠a los primeros seres humanos, Malac√°s (significa “fuerte”) y Magand√° (significa “hermosa”). Malac√°s y Magand√° son la versi√≥n tagala de Ad√°n y Eva. Pero todav√≠a tengo que descubrir la conexi√≥n entre Amihan el ave divina y los fr√≠os vientos alisios que originan en Siberia.

Una imagen satelital del archipielago grabada el pasado 5 de octubre, por cortes√≠a de PAGASA, el acr√≥nimo tagalo del “Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration” que en espa√Īol significa la Administraci√≥n de Servicios Atmosf√©ricos, Geof√≠sicos, y Astron√≥micos de Filipinas. El acr√≥nimo en s√≠ es tambi√©n una palabra tagala que significa “esperanza”. Los hilillos y delgados y grises en la parte superior de esta imagen son los fr√≠os vientos siberianos.

En realidad, la frialdad de amihan ya comenzó el mes pasado, en el norte de Luzón, pero es sólo ahora que se siente aquí en el sur de Luzón.

Soy un amante del fr√≠o. De hecho, la temporada de amihan es mi favorita. Me produce una emoci√≥n silenciosa, una emoci√≥n que generalmente se siente desde la infancia. Pero con raz√≥n, porque la llegada de amihan es una clara se√Īal de que se acerca r√°pidamente la temporada navide√Īa en Filipinas. Estoy seguro que muchos otros filipinos sientan la msma emoci√≥n que yo siento. ūüėÉ

Nubes

PEPE ALAS

Nubes encima de nuestro apartamento, cerca de la Laguna de Bay (14/09/2010).

La ciencia nos ense√Īa que el prop√≥sito de los nubes son para contener la lluvia y envolver la tierra del calor extremo del sol. Es verdad. Pero hay otro prop√≥sito…

Tenemos los nubes entre nosotros para placer los ojos cansados de la humanidad, cansados debido a muchas tribulaciones, inundaciones, y presiones que esta realidad codiciosa nos inflige. Al mirar a estas raras blancuras en el cielo (por supuesto, es necesario usar gafas de sol cuando hace sol), se puede encontrar un tipo de comodidad que tal vez sólo una poesía pueda exponer en detalle. Es como una visión breve de la vida eterna.

Estos nubes de todos los tipos, de mechones juguetones, algodones gigantescos, como mecanismos de un sue√Īo, complacen no s√≥lo los ojos sino la mente agotada. Es triste que mucha gente toma los nubes un poco a la ligera.

La naturaleza no es sólo para sustentar la vida sino para animarla.

Una conferencia sobre la evoluci√≥n del “bahay na bat√≥”

Asist√≠ esta tarde una conferencia sobre la evoluci√≥n de la casa ancestral filipina, m√°s conocido como el “bahay na bat√≥”. La conferencia fue impartida por el Sr. Mart√≠n Tinio en la Casa Azul del Instituto Cervantes de Manila en Intramuros. El Sr. Tinio es un reconocido experto de las casas ancestrales filipinas. De hecho, ha publicado un libro (con Fernando Zi√°lcita) sobre este tema titulado¬†Philippine Acnestral Houses. Ese libro ya est√° fuera de impresi√≥n.

 

El Sr. Tinio estaba visiblemente enfermo ya que estaba tosiendo todo el tiempo, pero el espect√°culo debe continuar.

Despu√©s de la conferencia, los participantes recibieron un tour gratuito en la cercana Casa Manila, un bahay na bat√≥ que es una r√©plica de otro bahay na bat√≥ que estaba de pie en Binondo durante los tiempos espa√Īoles. Esta casa que en realidad es un museo fue dise√Īado bajo los auspicios del Sr. Tinio hace muchos a√Īos.

Bueno, tengo que irme. Estoy apresurado porque s√≥lo estoy en un cibercaf√© cerca del¬†Far Eastern University, jaja. No sab√≠a c√≥mo llegu√© aqu√≠… ¬°creo que estoy perdido!¬†ūü§£

De tifones y tsunamis

No trabaj√© mucho durante mi turno de viernes. Mi jefe me hizo asistir a una capacitaci√≥n sobre comunicaci√≥n efectiva. Fue muy √ļtil para m√≠. Obviamente, soy consciente de los rudimentos de la comunicaci√≥n efectiva porque soy una persona le√≠da (y mi curso universitario fue Comunicaci√≥n de Masas), pero no todo, y encuentro que la capacitaci√≥n en el aula es m√°s efectiva para absorber el conocimiento.

Al comienzo de la clase, nuestro entrenador, un orador ejemplar del idioma ingl√©s, hizo que todos y cada uno de nosotros nos present√°ramos de una manera muy singular: tuvimos que contarle a la clase nuestras carreras de fantas√≠a.¬†Si bien estaba destinado a ser un rompehielos, el entrenador tambi√©n busc√≥ averiguar con qu√© eficacia comunicamos nuestros pensamientos.¬†Los otros en la clase compart√≠an carreras de fantas√≠a mundanas y aburridas. Cuando fue mi turno (fui el √ļltimo en ser llamado), lo que dije caus√≥ sorpresa (como siempre).

<<Yo quería ser un cazador de tormentas>>, dije.

Les expliqu√© que siempre me han fascinado los tifones, enormes tifones con vientos furiosos.¬†No s√© por qu√©, pero siempre me emociona cada vez que oigo noticias de un tif√≥n venidero. Incluso cuando era ni√Īo, los tifones me han estado causando una alegr√≠a inexplicable.¬†No quiero, por supuesto, la devastaci√≥n que trae un tif√≥n.¬†Me encantan sus fuertes vientos, las nubes oscuras y arremolinadas, y la frialdad que trae.¬†Entonces, si alguna vez me hago rico, comprar√© c√°maras y videos a prueba de agua y har√© trajes personalizados (como una armadura, pero ligera) para protegerme de escombros voladores.¬†Intentar√© acercarme al ojo del tif√≥n tan cerca como sea posible y desde all√≠ sumergirme con pura alegr√≠a…

Image result for tifones en filipinas

Foto: AsiaNews.

Volviendo a la realidad, creo que también puedo aplicar lo que aprendí de esa sesión de capacitación en mis ensayos históricos en este blog.

Durante nuestro descanso de quince minutos no ten√≠a nada m√°s que hacer, as√≠ que visit√© a mi equipo que estaba en otro piso. Me sorprendi√≥ saber que ya conoc√≠an mi art√≠culo anterior en el que los mencion√©. Es que un compa√Īero de oficina que tambi√©n considero un amigo les comparti√≥ lo que escrib√≠.¬†No sab√≠a si deber√≠a estar euf√≥rico o no porque no ten√≠a la intenci√≥n de que lo leyeran. No les digo a mis compa√Īeros de oficina que soy escritor aunque ya tienen una idea.¬†Pero, por supuesto, los blogs no pueden mantenerse en secreto a menos que los bloggers¬†(¬Ņblogueros o bloguistas?) usen un seud√≥nimo; yo no.

Despu√©s de la capacitaci√≥n, a√ļn me faltaba una hora para ayudar a mi equipo con nuestro trabajo de oficina: conversar con los clientes; estoy con el equipo de “ayuda en vivo” de nuestra empresa).¬†Tambi√©n me enter√© de ellos sobre un tsunami que golpe√≥ Indonesia. Incluso hay un video sobre eso.

Era aterrador pero fascinante de ver. A diferencia de un tifón, no creo que me gustaría experimentar un tsunami porque después de las olas gigantes no habría nada más que experimentar.

En otras noticias, esta entrada es mi centésima para El Filipinismo. ¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!