July 2003 Vol. 3 Issue 8

An Internet Newsletter publication for all CIM Alumni and friends.

    Clem S. Estrera, Jr., M.D.

    Ma. Belen Rosales, M.D.
        Associate Editor

     Ray Castillejo, M.D.
    Binisaya Section Editor

Newsletter Contributors:

Clem S. Estrera, Jr.

Ma. Belen F. Rosales

Hector Vamenta

Anny Misa-Hefti

Editor's Column

     "The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, it is a reality to be experienced." --Jacobus Johannes Van der Leeuw

Facial Revelation

Clem S. Estrera, Jr., CIM 1972

The surge that urged
     One of my favorite pastimes in the airport terminal while sitting and waiting for the plane to depart or arrive is to watch people go by. Many of us must have noticed that some people are happy and their faces fairly glow. But there are those whose faces reflect the turmoil inside of them - anger, irritation, frustration, anxiety. Don't get me wrong. I'm not being nosy. But I find killing my time that way very effective and enjoyable. I must admit though that when I was a lot younger 30-35 years ago, I enjoyed watching the shapely legs, sexy bodies, and gorgeous faces of young women or women my age. You can't really blame men for being attracted to the beauty of the human specie, can you? Imagine the absence of such attraction. It would be like Austin Powers without the mojo. As Victor Hugo said: "A man without a woman is a pistol without a hammer; it's the woman that makes the man go off."

     It's hard especially for younger men to control the urge from the surge of their testosterone that makes them drawn to attractive women. And when the surge becomes too powerful to produce an urge too difficult to control, many young men often lose their innocence the way Red Buttons did - "I can remember the night I lost my innocence in the back seat of the family car. It would have been more memorable if I hadn't been alone!" Also, young men sometimes fantasize that the beauty of women on earth proves the existence of angels in heaven. After all, when men aged, their hormone would come mainly in blips, not in blast anymore, and the main surge which comes in the early morning hours, would not be enough to produce an urge to appreciate or be attracted to sexy live human arts the rest of the day. Youth must fare and old age must wear. That's just natural. Youth is the smile of the future; old age is the wrinkle of the past. The attraction of the young is boiled in his blood; that of the old is chilled in his thought.

Those rough days in the past
     Somehow I'm being reminded of the years when I was a college student at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City. I washed and ironed my own clothes, and what I dreaded washing and ironing were my ROTC uniforms. There were no such things as washing machines and electric iron during that time in the Philippines. At least I had never heard of them. Everything was done by hands. In hand-washing clothes regularly, you would soon develop peculiar calluses that would look smooth and feel firm but fragile, different than the ones you develop from dry hard labor that feel like rocks, and are rugged and rough. Using wood charcoal for the iron that often became so hot after the suffocating smoke cleared, although good for starched clothes, you could easily burn your shirts, pants and even your fingers if you were not too careful. But after burning a couple of shirts and a couple of fingers a couple of times, you'd learn to treat the iron with respect, and that's how you develop expertise.

    The ROTC uniforms were too heavy and had to be starched to make them stiff and shiny, or your platoon leader would have a ball picking on you as the subject of ridicule with the threat of demerits. He would then scrutinize you the way a meticulous housewife scrutinizes a halibut she has bought, just before she guts it to cook for the family dinner. He would make you look like an eyesore for everyone to see. I'm sure many of the men would readily remember those ROTC days when everything we wore had to be shiny like our belt buckle, boots and our white-sidewall military haircut. Some of us sometimes had to use our saliva in a hurry to make our belt buckle look shiny.

     With the whole day exposure to the brutalizing heat of the sun that could readily burn you like a blackened grilled tuna steak especially during pass-in-review, there were at least few among us who, at one time or another, had collapsed like puppets whose strings had been cut. But there were also those few wise guys among us who could have won an Oscar in pretending to faint and fall to the ground slowly and deliberately, just to be able to stay in the shade. Somehow these guys managed to look pale. But no matter how strong the temptation of pretending to faint like them, I just could not do it. So like everyone else, I had to endure the heat and the grueling drill with its repetitious cadence and command that sounded like the heartbeat of doom that dulled your senses, drubbed your bones and drove your muscles to exhaustion - "Left-right; left-right; left-right; 'too..oon... halt! Abou..ooout....face!" And by the way, I believe many of the men would agree with me that the best command is this: "Companyyyyyy!.... At ease!" This command made us feel like after having been at the bottom of the ocean for quite some time, we finally broke free to the surface.

    Every time I think of wearing those ROTC uniforms and paraphernalia, memories would flash through my mind like an old newsreel, and all too often I could feel my skin starts to water and my armpits start to smell. I had never heard of deodorant during that time. As a matter of fact, I started using deodorant only when I entered medical school. I wanted to make sure that it was not my armpits smelling, but the cadavers in the Gross Anatomy lab. My older friends were able to convince, if not to fool me by reassuring me that when my armpits would start smelling, it's a sign that I have become a real man. Then I began to wonder why my armpits would smell or stink only when I was perspiring badly particularly if I had not had any bath for at least a couple of days. Only then did I realize that the smell had something to do with hygiene, and nothing to do with becoming a real man.

An unqualified opinion on ignorance
    We all passed the stage when we were young, ignorant or inexperienced, and had a relatively higher degree of gullibility. But there was something about ignorance that made life more exciting and enjoyable. Imagine if we knew all the things we were supposed to know in our younger days. Our sense of curiosity would have been lost early on, for there would have been nothing much to arouse it. Our desire for learning would have been limited to relieving our day-to-day boredom. Life would lose its sense of purpose, its thrill, its sense of wonderment and excitement that often come from our desire to know or discover something that is enlightening.

     When we discover something new, or new to us, it gives us a pleasant feeling of satisfaction. It brightens our outlook. It serves as a spark that lights the life within us. It's like we're groping in the dark and we say, "Let there be light!" and then all of a sudden there is light. It is as if the night is alive with magic carried on the gossamer wings of dreams. You experience the type of excitement and relief you had when you identified the structures of the human body correctly in our Gross Anatomy practical exam. "Yup! I got it!... Eurika!!" Or, "I'm invincible!" you'd like to shout like Andre in the James Bond movie The Golden Eye. It makes you feel like you've found promise of your own tomorrows.

    It's when we are aware of our own ignorance and we accept it willingly enough to do something about it and have the desire for knowledge that we begin to develop or recover our sense of adventure, our sense of discovery like we used to have when we were children. We become curious of almost everything. We become open to new thoughts and new ways of thinking. We begin to appreciate things we never did before as we find meaning and value even in the smallest things. And as our appreciation for living intensifies, we change from casually observing our blessings to actively embracing them. We may not feel any wiser, but our discovery, small it may be, has a way of carving a tiny place in our mind that is no longer ruled by darkness.

     It's the people who cannot willingly accept their ignorance and instead think they know it all, that are actually the ones who wall themselves up in darkness. They live out their lives protecting their beliefs from the light of knowledge and awareness. They ignore change, they ignore growth, and they ignore values that are different from their own. They would fight the new and defend the old. They are likely the kind of people who would grouse their way through life, and who would walk into a room and change the atmosphere that would dampen our optimism and ruin our day. It's like they carry with them an atmospheric depression so that they can walk into the brightest day and make it rain.

A blunder to remember
    Since I hated preparing the starch solution or armerol for my ROTC uniforms, I decided to make friend with the girl next door who, routinely starched her school uniforms. I was kind of attracted to her, anyway. So I cultivated our relationship, sowed some seeds like buying the starch, pulled the weeds that sprang up every now and then like telling my co-boarders to be nice to her or else, and just when our friendship was about to bloom, I made a mistake.

    One Sunday morning, Sheila, the girl's name, called to tell me that she was going to prepare the armerol that morning for her school uniforms and that she would make more for my ROTC uniforms. Referring to the stiffness effect of the armerol, she asked: "Tig pa gahi ka ba, Cle?" And I replied with a joke: "O, Sheil, maka-adlawon." My co-boarders shrieked with laughter and since then, I had to prepare my own armerol because she didn't talk to me anymore. It was as if all of a sudden the rose was nipped at its bud.

    So I was forced to learn to prepare the armerol in dreadful regularity. I was hoping that one day Sheila would be helping me in starching and ironing my ROTC uniforms. That hope was dashed. It at least made me realize early in life that humor is not for everyone although I often find it hard to imagine life without it. Larry Brown once joked: "After a year of therapy, my psychiatrist said to me, 'May be life isn't for everyone.'"

Let's not pollute
     As I got older, I become more interested in killing my time analyzing faces for what they reveal. I realize that if we see too much of these anger, irritation, frustration and anxiety, we begin to be affected by them. It's a kind of visual pollution that we humans have to endure although unlike the chemical or radioactive pollution, it doesn't produce mutants like ninja turtles or Godzilla.

     We can't do much about how other folks look, but we can do something about ourselves. When we are among people, to paraphrase, "we should put our best face forward." Sure, we may have troubles, perhaps even big troubles. But we should not impose them on the people around us. We all enjoy the miraculous gift of life on this earth and so we should rejoice on that and present to others a face that reflects our gratitude in just being alive. Our faces reveal a lot, so let's reveal the best we've got. You never know whose day you may be making more pleasant - starting with your own!

     So let's at least smile. Every one of us looks good when we smile. No offense to women but someone said: "There is nothing more beautiful than a woman with a smile. Without a smile, what is she? - A pair of boobs and a patch of hair."



    In the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, “Angel” was talking to Jimmy Stewart out of suicide – “You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

     Many of us have occasional period of depression and perhaps frequent period of frustration. We are too busy that we sometimes think that life is a struggle mainly for survival; something to endure, not something to enjoy. We often end up seeing it as all work and no play. It’s because we haven’t learned to notice and be grateful for the so many things we are blessed with, for we think mainly of what we lack, not what we have, and it keeps us on our toes. If we continue to think this way, then we'll be on our toes until we kick the bucket which may only come sooner rather than later. Yet look around. It’s a mistake to ignore what you are seeing – your comfortable couch, car, stereo, TV, etc. and most of all, your computer that is making it possible for you to read this newsletter. Learn to be grateful for them and you begin to really appreciate your life. You don’t need “Angel” to tell you it’s a wonderful life.

     Hope to see many of you in San Diego. Our reunion is an occasion of expressing our gratitude to life - to have friends and fellow alumni we can exchange more than just smiles with - to have an alumni association that we belong to and can call our own - to have El Presidente Domingo who has made all of these possible through all the years - to have Lolit, our association’s treasurer who is incorruptible that when it comes to money, you can depend that she can account all of it to the last penny - to have new officers like our Vice-President Maida Antigua who works like a concern sister that assumes the responsibility of making sure the family is functioning optimally; like our Secretary Epi Aranas who keeps our records to the last word and closes them with a smile; like our CME coordinator poor Rise Faith Dajao who always has a hard time putting the CME program together because volunteer alumni speakers are hard to find and thus Rise has to go to the last minute for the program to complete. But complete, she does; and like our other officers, board members and committee members who are ready and willing to help to make and keep our alumni association something we all can be proud of. What more can we ask for?

     Indeed life is wonderful. There are so many people, places and things to be grateful for. All we do is look around and learn to notice them right under our noses. Unless you are suicidal, being alive is more than enough to be grateful for. In The Color Purple, Alice Walker said: "I been so busy thinking about Him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?). Not the little wild flowers. Nothing."

    San Diego, watch out! The wild bunch of CIM alumni is coming and is ready to rock, roll and rattle. If you have missed being shaken by an earthquake lately, then this wild bunch is going to shake, swing and sway you like you've never experienced before. Just wait and see.


     "Lack of money is the root of all evil." --George Bernard Shaw

   Three old men were at the doctor's office for a memory test. The doctor asked the first old man:
    "What is two times two?"
    "194," came the reply.
    The doctor turned to the second man, "What is two times two?"
    "Thursday," replied the second old man.
    Finally the doctor addressed the third old man, "What is two times two?"
    "Four," came the answer.
    "That's great," said the doctor. "How did you get that?"
    "Simple," said the third old man. "I subtracted 194 from Thursday."


    To the horror of the locals, Satan suddenly appeared in the main street of a small town one Sunday morning. Everyone rushed indoors except for one old timer who calmly stayed on his porch reading a book. Satan was furious that this one person should not be afraid of him and went over to challenge him.
    "Are you not scared of me?" screamed Satan at his most menacing.
    "Nope," said the old timer.
    "Aren't you terrified that I'm going to wreak havoc in your nice little community?"
    By now steam was coming out of Satan's ears. He raged: "You don't know who I am, don't you?"
    "Should do. Been married to your sister for 49 years."


    A man bought a parrot but got annoyed because it wouldn't stop swearing. So as punishment, he put the bird in the freezer. An hour later, the shivering parrot begged to be let out of the freezer. "I promise never to swear again, " it said. "I've learned my lesson. Just tell me one thing: what on earth did that turkey do?"


     "About 78 percent of the earth is covered with water. The rest is covered with mortgages." ---Motivational Enterprises The Dotted Line....

Caffeine in your Morning Coffee
     This information is taken from the books of Bennett Alan Weinberg and Bonnie K. Bealer, The Caffeine Advantage and The World of Caffeine. Weinberg and Bealer have been researching caffeine for seven years, working with leading scientific and medical experts. They wrote the chapter on caffeine for the academic textbook Nutritional Impact of Foods and Beverages.

     We all know that coffee makes us awake and more alert and it's because of the caffeine in our coffee. But did you know that caffeine is a powerful drug with remarkable healing powers? Of course, we know that Maxwell House coffee is good to the last drop.

    For decades, asthma sufferers have gotten relief from caffeine. Research findings have shown that caffeine helps prevent Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, limits stroke damage, and reduces the incidence of skin and breast cancers. It mops up damaging free radicals, making it a stronger antioxidant than Vitamin C. In addition to preventing illness, caffeine can also boost our mood.

    Caffeine works through its effects on neurotransmitters, the chemicals that regulate communication between nerve cells. It boosts the effects of dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters which improve mood. It also boosts the level of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that improves short-term memory.

    Scientists at the National Addiction Centre in London studied more than 9,000 people and found that those who ingested caffeine scored higher on tests of reaction times, reasoning and memory. Other studies have shown that caffeine improves IQ tests. As little as 100 mg of caffeine - the amount in four ounces of drip-brewed coffee - boosts mood and memory - 200 mg or more - are needed for optimal mental and physical performance. You don't develop tolerance. But it takes about 15 minutes for caffeine to kick in.

     Caffeine is a common ingredient of most painkillers like Anacin, Excedrin, and Darvon. Studies in Chicago's Diamond Headache Clinic showed that caffeine eliminated headaches in nearly two-thirds of participants - and took effect 30 minutes faster than Ibuprofen.

     Caffeine also helps people to lose weight by stimulating the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, delays the onset of hunger and promotes a feeling of fullness. Caffeine promotes efficient fat-burning (lipolysis) and increases metabolism. It is estimated that a daily 200-mg dose, about 8-oz cup of drip-brewed coffee, helps burn 50-100 extra calories. That means a loss of five to ten pounds a year. You will eat less if you consume caffeine 15 minutes before a particularly tempting meal.

     Furthermore, caffeine enhances nearly every aspect of physical activity, including endurance, speed and lung capacity. It also helps damaged muscle cells recover.

Counting Calories
     The infomation here is taken from an article called The Diet Detective by Charles Stuart Platkin from this web site: http://www.wbng.com

    Pretty soon is going to be hot and many of us would be gulping different drinks. We should be aware that the average person needs only about 2000 to 2200 calories for the entire day, so that having many of the drinks below leaves little room for actual foods without leading to weight gain. And while the beverage of your choice may be low in fat, chances are the sugar content is off the charts. So the next time you stop to pick up a cold one, keep these few pointers in mind to avoid drinking a "liquid Big Mac:"

    -SoBe Energy (20 oz): 300 calories, 0g fat, 80g carbs (This contains 78g sugar, the equivalent of almost 20 teaspoons of sugar!)
    -SoBe Green Tea (20 oz): 225 calories, 0g fat, 60g carbs
    -Arizona RX Health (20 oz): 175 calories, 0g fat, 47.5g carbs
    -Snapple Vitamin Supreme (16 oz): 300 calories, 0g fat, 88g carbs (This contains 82g sugar, the equivalent of almost 21 teaspoons of sugar!)
    -Gatorade (16 oz): 100 calories, 0g fat, 28g carbs

     With added fruit, smoothies give the appearance of being good for you. They've even been marketed as a healthy alternative -- yeah, maybe to an ice cream shake. Even when a smoothie is fat free because it's made with nonfat yogurt, it can still be high in calories and sugar (e.g., TCBY Banana Berry Blast-off).

    -Subway Fruizle Express, Berry Lishus (small): 110 calories, 0g fat, 28g carbs
    -Samantha Smoothies Banana Strawberry Fruit Drink (16 oz): 240 calories, 0g fat, 58g carbs
    -Smoothie King Coconut Surprise (20 oz): 457 calories, 6g fat, 99g carbs
    -Juice It Up Big Berry Combo (24 oz): 379 calories, 1g fat, 93g carbs
    -Jamba Juice Strawberry Dream'n (32 oz): 610 calories, 1g fat, 129g carbs (This contains 108g sugar, the equivalent of about 27 teaspoons.)
    -TCBY Smoothie Non-fat Yogurt Banana Berry Blast-off (one serving): 400 calories, 0g fat, 98g carbs (This contains 88g sugar, the equivalent of 22 teaspoons.)

    Coffee by itself doesn't have any calories, but when it's mixed with milk, sugar, and other assorted goodies -- sure, it tastes great, but it can be a calorie disaster.

     -Starbucks Ice Blended Coffee Frappuccino -- Venti (20 oz): 337 calories, 4g fat, 69g carbs
     -Au Bon Pain Frozen Mocha Blast (12 oz): 270 calories, 6g fat, 45g carbs
    -Dunkin' Donuts Vanilla Bean Coolatta (16 oz): 440 calories, 17g fat, 70g carbs
    -Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, Whole Milk -- Venti (20 oz.): 312 calories, 11g fat, 45g carbs
     -Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, Nonfat Milk -- Venti (20 oz.): 237 calories, 1g fat, 45g carbs (FYI: Starbucks doesn't post their nutrition information on their website, but they give it out over the phone (1-888-235-2883) and in stores.)
     -Dunkin' Donuts Coffee Coolatta with Cream (16 oz): 350 calories, 22g fat, 40g carbs
    -Dunkin' Donuts Coffee Coolatta with Skim Milk (16 oz): 170 calories, 0g fat, 41g carbs

    Even tea can add unwanted calories to your diet:
    -Starbucks Iced Tazo Tea Frappuccino Tazoberry Blended Cream -- Venti (20 oz): 625 calories, 29g fat, 79g carbs
     -Starbucks Iced Tazo Chai, Whole Milk -- Venti (20 oz): 263 calories, 10g fat, 37g carbs
    -Starbucks Tazo Chai Latte, Whole Milk -- Venti (20 oz): 400 calories, 16g fat, 45g carbs
    -Snapple Lemon Tea (16 oz): 200 calories, 0g fat, 50g carbs

    And what about good old lemonade?
    -SoBe Lemonade MacLIZARD'S Special Recipe Lemonade (20 oz): 300 calories, 0g fat, 75g carbs

    Now you know why you are gaining weight,(are you?) when all you've been drinking is one of those drinks above. At least you can adjust your choice of a drink now. Good luck!

Swimming and Wading Hazards
    Swimming and wading on pools, lakes, and streams are parts of the summer activities for many families. But there are hazards that every one should be aware of, for even chlorinated pool water can make one sick. There are parasites and illnesses that swimmers and waders can contract:
    Swimmer's ear -- a painful bacterial infection of the outer ear, or the ear canal. Antibiotics for treatment.
    Swimmer's itch -- a skin rash which is an allergic reaction to parasites released into the water by infected fresh or saltwater snails. Itching may last a week or more. May respond to calamine lotion.
    Leptospirosis -- results from swallowing or skin contact with lake or pond water that has been contaminated with the urine of infected cattle, horses, dogs and other mammals. Symptoms are high fever, chills, vomiting, severe headache. Incubation period about two days to four weeks. Needs antibiotics for treatment.
    Cryptosporidium -- a parasite found in stool of infected humans and animals. It's resistant to chlorine and can contaminate pools, lakes and streams. Swallowing water contaminated with this parasite causes diarrhea and stomach cramps. Symptoms usually disappear in a week or two unless the person is immunocompromised.
    Naegleria fowleri -- a microscopic organism found in stagnant waters, including small ponds and unchlorinated pools. The organism enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include headache, fever, vomiting and hallucinations. Incubation period of about 7-10 days. Brain infection is fatal if not treated promptly with antibiotics, but it is so rare and difficult to diagnose that few people start treatment before it's too late. Doctors need good history to come up with the possibility of this diagnosis.

    For more information, visit the web site of National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta on this address: www.cdc.gov


    "Ask not what the world needs, ask rather what makes your heart sing, and go do that, for what the world needs is people with hearts that sing." ---Philip Thatcher


by :

marie belen c. flores-rosales, md mph ‘70


    David Brinkley once wrote, “Years ago, after a few modest little scandals, President Harry Truman was asked if Washington officials shouldn’t sign a code of ethics. He said no, saying that the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount were all the code of ethics anybody needed. So he signed nothing – and never needed to.” These basic rules of living, the commands to love God and neighbor, form the cornerstone of moral living and relationships.

     It happens everywhere… in the office cafeteria, around the water cooler, at the copy machine, on the phone, at a reunion… everywhere. It starts with “do you know?” or “you know what? … “he said… she said”. I am talking about gossip, one that destroys relationships, whether personal or professional. I saw the destruction of a very dear friend closing herself off from the world simply because she didn’t want to talk about “it” when she became the object of malicious talk about her lifestyle. I found myself besieged with questions from colleagues and neighbors “wanting to hear the true story.” These are people who don’t think twice about verbally dissecting another people’s life.

    Reality is… whether said in whispered words or in screaming headlines, gossip and scandal captivate people’s attention.  Malicious gossip that damages one’s reputation becomes painful and hurtful. When someone offends the moral sensibilities of others, from the outrageous to the illegal, it hurts not only the individual but society as a whole as it creates an erosion of trust, the true glue of a relationship. Gossip is a betrayal of the inherent goodness in each of us.

    When gossip hits religion, man’s faith is shaken. Some priests stand accused of committing sexual crimes. Some are guilty, some are not. True or not true, the sex scandals in the church ruptured the relationship between the clerics and the faithful.

    When scandals hit the spreadsheets, legal action needs to happen to punish those guilty of crimes, to provide restitution to employees.

    I used to think that gossip always die a natural death… that silence slows down gossip. However, there are situations that are better served by speaking out on behalf of someone, and always on behalf of the truth.

    There should be no reason to fear in speaking the truth… it does, however, require forthrightness and courage. Courage is imperative to acknowledge the wrong done, to do whatever is necessary for restitution and the possibility of reconciliation and healing.

    Let Jiminy Cricket, the storybook character, constantly remind us to “Always let your conscience be your guide”.  These words may sound simplistic, but at the end of the day, our conscience should be the heart of our choices, big or small, that we make everyday. 

    I felt a certain sadness when David Brinkley passed away weeks ago. Funny that I felt such loss because I haven’t met the man in person – although I certainly wish I did - but it just seems I knew him from a long, long time ago. He’s one of the very few journalists that I really admire, and I read as much as I could, articles he had written and “stuff’ he had said.

    But then, he was the man who always said, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”


Philippines 2003

Anny Misa-Hefti, June 2003

    I say it again – the Philippines is a beautiful country! I challenge everyone to go home and play tourists. Spend your money in the Philippines. Visit our landmarks like you would visit Paris or Rome – armed with enthusiasm, curiosity and a guide book ! If we see our country more, perhaps we can appreciate it more; and perhaps we can be proud to be part of it, proud to be a Filipino.

    We (Mom, June, my sister and 2 kids) took an ambitious route – a land trip from Manila to Cebu, that is going down Bicol, cross to Samar and Leyte, and then by ferry to Cebu. To make it easier for our 86 year-old mother we opted at renting a car. Our first stop was Sariaya, Quezon where we stayed 2 days by the beach. We proceeded to Naga City. Of course we wanted to see the perfect cone of Mayon Volcano. But the mountain played peek-a-boo with us. We contented ourselves at visiting the sunken church at Cagsawa. We continued our journey to Sorsogon passing magnificent landscapes of rice fields, coconut plantations and green mountains.

    Our next stop was Donsol. We read that the whale sharks make a stopover in this place between February and May. We were simply lucky. Whale sharks are huge fishes whose mouth resemble that of a whale and the tail liken to a shark. They are enormous(about the size of a bus) and friendly creatures. Donsol municipality take their blessings seriously. They are overprotective of their whale sharks. A Butanding (local name for whale shark)) Interaction Officer(BIO) accompanies the boat trips. He tells us what our behavior should be when swimming with a butanding. We had 12 sightings during our 4 hour trip. I even ventured down the ocean to have a peep at this huge animal. That was an experience! The BIO would even touch the protruding fin when the butanding swims along the boat.

     We stayed overnight in a beach resort with nipa huts. We always had fresh fish for our meals. Reaching the southern tip of Luzon, we bade goodbye to our driver and boarded the boat for an hour’s ride to Samar. We passed several islands, all with white beaches. I said to myself, wait till someone discovers these beaches and turn them into another Boracay.

     I have never been to Samar. I was amazed at the abundance of coconut, just mountains and mountains of coconut. However, I noticed that Samar seems to be a depressed province. Some towns we passed really looked poor with shanties along the main road. The markets were not as bustling and busy as let’s say markets in Cebu or Negros. We crossed the San Juanico bridge to go to Leyte. That is an elegant curved bridge! In Tacloban City we stayed with my high school friend, Luchie Isobal who heads the Bethel International School. We had fun rehashing old days. We saw the McArthur Shrine at Palo and the lavish vacation residence of Imelda Marcos. From Ormoc City, it was just a 2 hour super ferry ride  to Cebu.

    I made many observations during these long rides. At first it seemed normal to watch all those overloaded buses and jeepneys. Then it occurred to me that these were retailers transporting goods for their sari-sari stores. It means there is food being transported! What a comforting thought that was. I remember my discomfort during our trip to Ghana. In many small towns there weren’t food for sale. Once in a restaurant, we could order only soft drinks. They didn’t even have cookies or anything. The Lord has recognized the love of Filipinos for food. He made sure we stand to fulfill our daily gastronomical desires....

    Many say that Filipinos don’t have a culture. What is culture? A way of life. Of course we have culture. The so abundant sari-sari stores(one every 20 meters?) is a Philippine original. Our buzzling market places, surrounded by pedicabs, and the carenderia along the highways project our way of life. These are culture. Without them, our towns and villages are dead. For tourism, we sell our way of life – a country of people who loves life and live it! That is what makes us tick. Let the tourists come and meet us in our sari-sari stores, in public markets and attending the town fiestas. We chat with them and we show them how to love life and live it. Seasoned travellers seek to enrich themselves by getting near the natives of countries they visit. They are not the types to while their time away in 5-star hotels. They want to be in the streets and experience how life goes in a place.

    I made a nostalgia trip to my parent’s home towns north of Cebu. The roads have improved considerably. The 100 km trip used to take us 4 hours in my childhood days. Now, we made it to Bogo in one and a half hours. The physical improvements like better roads and transportation facilities(air conditioned) are commendable. It has its price though. In San Remigio, where my father was born, beach resorts have sprouted along its white shoreline. Gone were the long, empty sultry white beaches. Gone were the turtles and the tortoises we used to ride on. It just isn’t the same any more. With that thought I could say goodbye to the place.

    An Island north of Cebu, Malapascua, is getting a reputation similar to Boracay. Fortunately it’s still unspoiled by tourism. It boasts of very fine white sandy beaches. I brought a handful to compare with the sands from Delray beach in Florida which I thought was exceptionally fine, like fine sugar! This island is proud to be the home of the trescher shark. Divers come to Malapascua to see this elegant long-tailed shark that seems to thrive nearby. Underwater caves and corals are added attraction. I found something rather homey on the island. A small restaurant behind the bigger resorts caters to both local and European cuisine. The lady owner bakes her own bread every day. She said a Swiss couple lived on the island for 6 months. The wife befriended her and taught her European cooking. She has a whole range of vegetarian dishes in her menu. The prices are also very reasonable.

    We also went to see the Dolphins along Tanon Strait, between Cebu and Negros. We saw hundreds of them, in schools of probably 8-12. It was fun watching them play and display their elegance in swimming and jumping up the air.

    The smallest primate in the world, the tarsius monkey lives in Bohol. These tiny animals with oversized eyes frightened me though. I just couldn’t touch them, and they were jumping all over the place! Bohol seems better organized as far as promoting its places of interest is concerned. Bohol has old churches with relics put in museums. In Loboc stands a church built in 1602 which still has its original frescoes. A Spanish monastery serves as museum; displays many costumes of the Virgin Mary, the oldest dating back 1843. The aged guide said that many of their exhibits have been looted. That is the reason they don’t allow picture-taking. It was very interesting. Heavy candle holders of silver, statues, holy figures were displayed openly. It appears that their origins are far and wide. Some gold thread had to be imported from Spain for some costumes for the Blessed Virgin Mary. That museum gave us a very good impression, especially for its authenticity. Unlike many museums, this one was definitely unpretentious.

     Baclayon Church is claimed by Boholanos as the oldest church in the Philippines.  And of course, the ever fascinating chocolate hills are in Carmen – all of 1‘268, and 30 meters high. It is a feast for the eye. Do you know what caught my attention hanging as a streamer at a town hall? It read: "Celebration Week" and beneath was written: "Women have rights and Kakayahan." Ain’t that great? Even if it is just words for now, but we might be there in actions faster than you reckon.

    We also toured the island of Negros. Here we could see town after town of sugar cane fields. Harvesting was going on in some areas so we could watch the strenuous labor involved in cutting sugar cane. We also passed some rice paddies and saw all those bent figures planting rice. Have you ever thought of the amount of work involved to put sugar and rice on our tables?

    And I made another nostalgia trip and that was visiting Silliman University. Right after graduation I went to teach Psychology there. I saw some of colleagues who were still there, now department heads. I cherished seeing friends of earlier years, the age when we thought life was a ball game.

    One late afternoon our car was following a small passenger jeepney. One man was standing outside holding firmly to keep his balance. I felt a twinge in my bosom. Why is life so hard for them? Does he really have to hang on to this jeep to get a ride? Do they deserve this kind of life? Given the right opportunities, Filipinos and Filipinas are hard-working. Woe to those who say that they are lazy. It pains me to see how hard some of them work and yet does not go forward with their lives. The cycle of poverty continues. They get used to being poor. It is alright to eat once or twice a day. It becomes a way of life.

    At the U.P. graduation ceremonies, the acceptance speech was delivered by one who graduated Summa Cum Laude in Political science. His opening words for his fellow graduates were: "You dont deserve this country. You are too good for this country." He proceeded to mention how many of them wouldn’t find employment after leaving school. He said, "I know the efforts I have put in, I know what I deserve. We do not deserve our country’s shortcomings." Here’s one young professional who knows his place in the sun. He would have no problem though. Jobs will come his way. What’s the future for those who graduated from mediocre schools?

Just before I left,  the Anti-trafficking Law was passed. I was very glad. At last we have something against traffickers.  Remember how women ngo’s have been fighting for this for years?

    I have to close with a political note. The fight in the Philippines is not terrorism, it is corruption. Corruption is just a bigger picture of other forms of debauchery – cheating, lying, stealing, etc. It is actually a fault in character. Why do we tell white lies, or get one over the other (naka-isa)? The corrupt character of the Filipino is endemic. We need the iron will to change. We start with ourselves. We don’t expect special favors, abandon the compadre mentality, practice honesty in words and in deeds. We start early with values formation among young children. Then perhaps (wishful thinking?) we can eradicate corruption from our veins after 2 generations.