July 2003 Vol. 3 Issue 9
An Internet Newsletter publication for all CIM Alumni and friends.
Clem S. Estrera, Jr., M.D.
Ma. Belen Rosales, M.D.
Ray Castillejo, M.D.
Clem S. Estrera, Jr. Ma. Belen F. Rosales Hector Vamenta Anny Misa-Hefti
Ma. Belen F. Rosales
Editor's Column†ďThe trouble about man is twofold. He cannot learn truths that are too complicated; he forgets truths that are too simple.Ē ĖRebecca West
San Diego Reunion 2003
Clem S. Estrera, Jr. CIM 1972
Having our mind set on the destination, we almost always take the shortest or the fastest possible route especially when weíre driving. We rarely if ever consider another route that may offer something different like places to see, stop and enjoy along the way. Yet when we get delayed or get lost along the way, it readily becomes a source of irritation, frustration, fear, worry and anxiety. We routinely allow even a minor delay to cheat us out of our chance of enjoyment or of having a peace of mind.
When it comes to a journey, we never....well....may be almost never.... have moments when the tick of the clock simply fades away in the joy of the moment. In this world of action and acceleration, everything is planned and the planís execution is swift in its detail. Nothing is spontaneous. Unwittingly, we routinely allow the tyranny of the clock to snatch the whip of hurry from the hand of time, and obey its tick as if our destiny depends on it, not taking a moment to think that perhaps we may only be hurrying our way to our underground residence Ė our final destination.
The Destination - San Diego, California
The Internet advertisement about San Diego that the weather is pleasant and the bugs donít bite is indeed true. San Diego is a beautiful city with people of different nationalities, and the weather is cool, like spring or fall in the middle of summer, and I did not see any bug. Although I did not have the time to join with others going out to other beautiful places around San Diego, I was fortunate enough to be invited on Friday afternoon at Eli and Amy Estabayaís new house on top of the mountain. The place is just gorgeous. At their backyard where we ate, you can see the spectacular view of the highways and horizon below like looking at a big beautiful country. It was magnificent. I wondered what it would look like on the break of dawn.
I donít know if it had anything to do with the view, but the food like lechon and grilled fish just to mention a couple, tasted great with San Miguel beers to wash them down although I took a Corona beer. Somehow San Miguel beer is too strong for my taste here in the U.S. When I was young in the Philippines, after Tanduay and Gin, San Miguel beers tasted more like sparkling water. Those were the days.
Eli and Amy are terrific and gracious hosts. I felt at first a little uncomfortable and out of place because it was a sort of class 1970 reunion for Eli and a reunion of classmates and friends for Amy. But Eli and Amy and the whole group of their classmates and friends made me feel like we knew each other for a long time. Yet that was the first time Iíve met Amy and her friends. Iíve never even met them in the Philippines. In any event, watching Buloy Rama having a hard time singing the Sinatra songs with the karaoke brought by Belen Rosales because the pitch was too high and none of us knew how to adjust it through the magic mike, it felt like home again in CIM with friends serenading the nurses after few bottles of San Miguel beers.
Itís actually in imperfection that you have more fun, and you laugh more because it reminds you that you are not alone with it and that all too often life just doesnít make sense. You become aware of the humorous side of your life. After all, what is laughter but a natural expression of oneís reactions to the absurdity of the world around him? Nevertheless, like an amateur painter who has stolen the brushes of a professional, Buloy had the voice even if it lacked the pitch for harmony.
The Westin Horton Plaza where our reunion was held was an excellent hotel at least to me. The beds were heavenly and I was able to sleep well during the first night because the pillows (five pillows on each bed) were soft, smooth and soothing. I donít know about you but every time I travel to places where I need to stay in a hotel, I always have a hard time sleeping during the first night. Thatís why I often bring my own pillows and blanket particularly if Iím driving although I donít bring them when Iím flying. But the bed in the Westin Hotel with its blankets and pillows were just so comfortable. They made me sleep like a baby. By the way, I did not suck my thumb when I was asleep.
Maybe because of the time difference of three hours, I had always wakened up at 4:30 A.M. and could not go back to sleep no matter how late I slept during the night. Fortunately, the hotelís health club was free 24 hours a day with the hotel room key and I was there every morning working out. And since early morning hours are often fraught with fantasies, I was fantasizing that after few days of a good workout I would emerge with a body like Rambo. Heck, if you fantasize, you might as well fantasize the best your imagination can create.
The hotel was located within the block of the big downtown mall, so strategically convenient, and when I arrived on Wednesday, there was a farmerís market across the street selling sweet fresh fruits. I love fresh fruits. They have a way of rhythmically moving my large intestines regularly. Many of us must have been aware that the most common medical problem in the U.S. is not hypertension or congestive heart failure. Itís actually congestive bowel failure, a more sophisticated medical term for constipation. Itís all because of the meticulously processed food even meat like hamburger people are eating. Also, people prefer to drink soda rather than water.†
A block away from the hotel is a big grocery store, and within walking distance is the harbor. But the first place the ladies were looking for was where all the Hair Saloons are, way before the restaurants. The ladies would rather be hungry than have a messy hair. I believe itís also the first thing they take care of when they wake up in the morning before they relieve themselves. Just kidding.
The hotel lobby has a good view of who is coming and going. It has a bar, Starbuck Cafť and a restaurant. The ballrooms were all located in the second floor approachable through elevators and through the stairway on both sides of the hotel lobby. The concierges were nice, helpful and tolerant. They paid no mind to our noisy chatters and as we all know, when we from CIM gather even in a small group, we almost always explode with laughter. The concierges just smiled as if they understood that we were just too excited being with each other.
Our reunion parties always make me wish I knew all the dance movements, not that I also wish I could show off, but that I just want to get to the dance floor to clearly appreciate and admire the undulating movements of our fellow alumni. To me, itís an art. I love to watch especially our older fellow alumni who moved and danced like teenagers although with more precise, graceful and calculated maneuvers. They seem to smoothly glide with the flow of the music. I feel glad that somehow they have forgotten their arthritis if they ever have one. Itís amazing that with four nights in a row of dancing, they had only gotten better and better on each succeeding night. I had to admire their enthusiasm, energy and endurance. I only wonder how many inflammatory or pain pills they had to take. But heck, fun is fun. And every one had some fun.
During the Letís Get Wild Party on Thursday night, 5 or 6 DIís (Dance Instructors) came. But as soon as our one and only Tony Mac started teaching everyone with his dancing technique, a couple of the DIís started to leave. Then comes Odo Auditor alternating with Tony Mac in teaching every one, and the rest of the DIís quietly sneaked out making some of us wonder what happened to them. There is no question that Tony and Odo dance far better than probably most of the instructors and they teach better because the alumni are comfortable with them. Iím just happy to see these two tough but not rough and considerate boys being there during our every reunion. Our parties would never be the same or not as fun without them.
The surprise presentation on Thursday and Saturday night was indeed a surprise, not because of what the presentation was, but because of who was presenting it. It was not the songs that were surprising, but the one who sang them. It was Ashley Mandanas, an eight-year old daughter of Dr. Romeo Mandanas of the Class 1983, who, even at her age, sang like nobodyís business with an amazing voice that is deep, full and flowing. When she sang one of those Sound of Music songs, Climb Every Mountain, itís like youíre watching the movie itself. If you havenít seen whoís singing, you would not believe itís only an eight-year-old girl. This girl can really sing. I wonít be surprised if one of these days, weíll see her in the Kennedy Center.
The Barrio Fiesta dinner celebration was held in the Filipino Community Center in National City, about 10-15 minutes bus ride from the hotel. This community makes you feel like you are in one of the towns in the Philippines but without the malnourished dogs lying on the streets. Every person you meet or see is a Filipino. We had fourteen different Filipino foods. I believe one of the tables next to ours collapsed because a couple of our fellow alumni on that table filled their plates with so much food. So a sturdy table with strong oak-wood legs was brought in. Just kidding, boys and girls who were on that table.
We had great CME speakers mainly from our own alumni. Dr. Romeo Mandanas of the Class 1983 talked about cancer twice or in both Thursday and Friday morning of the CME program. He definitely knew what he was talking about. But I wonder if he could sing too, given his daughterís singing talent. Perhaps his daughterís talent comes from his pretty and charming wife. Dr. Camilo Gabiana talked about chronic diarrhea that he started with funny jokes. His patho-physiologic explanation of chronic diarrhea was so clear that you could literally see the inside of your GI tract. Yuck!!.. I guess in Georgia where he is practicing, diarrhea is common; in Virginia where I am, itís constipation. May I have a glass of prune juice, please?
Dr. Tram Tran talked about hepatitis B and C. By the way she discussed the subject she is definitely an expert in hepatitis. She was terrific with her Vietnamese or Cambodian accent, and she is cute too. Dr. Kenneth Miller talked about Biological Terrorism. In this world of terrors and tremors, itís reassuring to know that there are things we can do and people to call to if we have to. Dr. Camilo Roa of the Class 1977 came all the way from the Philippines to talk about tuberculosis. There is no question that Camilo is an expert in everything about this infectious disease that slowly and surely but not softly kills a person afflicted by it if left untreated, not to mention that such person could spread the microbes to others.
Camilo knows how to maneuver in the woof and warp of the disease; social, political, economic and even international involvements. He has successfully organized and obtained funds to control, disable or at least tame the Mycobacterium. As a physician, Dr. Roa can be as convincing as a great politician. He could make you an offer that youíd find it hard to refuse. He went home bringing a check of $7,000 from the generous contribution of the individual alumni like Dr. Cecilio Delgra of the Class 1962 who contributed $2,500, and other fellow alumni with a big heart and a large pocket during the Grand Ball festivity, to start a DOT (Direct Observation Treatment) program for tuberculosis in Pakna-an, a part of CIM educational program. It will be the first in Cebu.
The Great Advantages of Having a Foundation
Once again, Mr. Matson of the Physicians Financial Alliance talked about financial strategies through the use of the ASOCIMAI foundation. Itís obvious that many of the alumni probably because of having been burned by the stock market are uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money management or investment strategies. Thus they find it hard to trust anyone with their financial portfolio. You canít really blame them. †But itís been the assessment that many members have not really understood well the services offered by the Physicians Financial Alliance. If only I have my own personal financial portfolio, I would let this company manage it. Itís because Iíve attended a couple of CME conferences here in Virginia where a company like that of Mr. Matson had a staff of financial experts and lawyers who talked about it. Indeed when it comes to lawyers, I always get leery but I listened carefully. They offered exactly the same services as the Physicians Financial Alliance but their fee was three or more times higher, because for one thing, they have to set up for you your own foundation from scratch. For another, they know you're a doctor, you can afford more and therefore, they charge you the maximum and even more. Believe me, it's not only in the Philippines where you're charged more for some services because you're a doctor. It's everywhere. But then, your profession also has a way of demanding prompt attention if you know how to capitalize on it. With the Alliance, they donít need to set up a foundation for you from scratch, because all these nice Alliance staff do is piggyback a foundation for you with that of ASOCIMAI. Hey, look, if you're tempted to corrupt your mind with the thought of piggyback in terms of sex, forget it.
Physicians Financial Alliance has the best offer at the price it is asking for. Itís just that Iím not in a private practice and I donít have a personal portfolio that I can switch services to. My employer Ė The Commonwealth of Virginia Ė is the one that provides free our retirement funds that in my basic computation will be more than enough to last me a lifetime when I retire at 62, a lot more when I retire beyond that age. Itís one of the great benefits I get from my job, not to mention its deferred compensation that it also contributes some for me, and itís only an 8-5 job with no sleepless nights and struggling weekends without an extra fee. Whatever other funds my family used to have, have long been gone Ė wiped out by the conspiracy of kids and mortgages. My wife and I live from paycheck to paycheck at least for the meantime while all the three of our kids are in private colleges at the same time. Indeed Iím sometimes tempted to take a part-time job. But then, why would I kill myself? So I understand exactly those of you who are uncomfortable with your money, because not only that your practice may have slowed down some while the malpractice insurance premium has soared, you may also have kids in college. Out of state and private colleges can make you lose your shirt. And even if you have money, kids' college expenses are not peanuts.
Anyway, simply talk to Mr. Matson or his staff about it particularly if you're in a private practice and has a corporation. You are not obligated to use their services. If you end up using their services, believe me, youíd be glad you did. Being in our profession, you and I have been cheated too long by the lawyers and politicians and the circumstances they have created. Physicians Financial Alliance can help protect your portfolio from the financial downside effects of these circumstances like the ravages of taxes, and keep you at peace even in the ups and downs of the market to have the assurance that you can continue the lifestyle you want one day when you retire. Furthermore, instead of giving money to Uncle Sam whose financial appetite is insatiable and who, keeps giving money away like it has a never-ending supply, the Physicians Financial Alliance gives it to the ASOCIMAI foundation for you. In fact, with only two ASOCIMAI members using the Physicians Financial Alliance services, our foundation has already been getting about $3,000 a year from the Alliance. Not only that that money could have gone to Uncle Sam, these two members could have been taxed more. These are just a couple of great advantages. There are more. So contact them. Here is their web site address: www.pfamd.com.
The Business Meeting
Membership participation remains more or less the same although members paying their annual dues have actually gotten less this time. Thatís why our associationís money is slowly shrinking. If this continues, our association could get into a situation in which it either sinks or swims. It wonít be able to keep its charitable functions and projects. Our association should stay afloat in control of its direction. Shouldn't it? Right now, the wind and the current have started to get hold of the wheel, and it's not going to be an iceberg that will sent it to the bottom, it's us, you and I. However, we have recruited more alumni but so far, most of them are non-participating and non-paying. Indeed the problem is in how to persuade members of the alumni to become active members of the ASOCIMAI by paying their membership dues and then at least occasionally participate in our reunion activities. We are out of our wits with this problem.
The venues for the next three years of our reunion have been changed. The previous venues have been scrapped and the members voted for the new ones. One thing that started it all was that our next reunion is supposed to be in Boston but the Democratic Party convention will be there the same time as our reunion. Obviously, no hotel would be available, or no hotel would commit to us. Anyway, next year, 2004, our reunion will be in Philadelphia. On 2005, our reunion will be in Chicago and on 2006 our reunion will be in New Orleans. Keep in mind that our reunion always starts on the second Wednesday of July. A change is occasionally done but every one is notified way far in advance. So make sure you notify any of the officers if and when you change your e-mail address.
The Grand Ball
As usual, the culminating event was the Grand Ball. Itís nice to see every one dressed in elegance. Itís dazzling to the eye. And as usual, participation from the younger alumni is meager at its best and none at its worst. The youngest attendee was Dr. Evelyn Fidellaga Mendoza of the Class 1984. But I had finally met and spent some time with few of my once good students in Microbiology and Parasitology from the Class of 1976 Ė Edith Jusay Barte, Joanne Macasaet Kim and Anita Cal Jackson. I had also met and spent some time with Alex Handumon and Ramonito Panal of the Class 1977. Itís really good to see them because except for Ramon whom I had met during our reunion in Las Vegas on 2001, I havenít seen them since I left Philippines in 1975. I felt a little embarrassed, however, that I was not dressed properly during the Barrio Fiesta celebration while they were dressed like Maria Clara that made me look like out of place, a stranger who got lost from a group with a tourist guide. Anyhow, watching them on the dance floor behaving as if they wanted to yell: ďHell, I want to have some fun!Ē gave me a warm pleasant feeling. They moved, swayed, swung and danced like theyíve been looking forward to it for a long time and the night has finally come. Hopefully, Iíll see them again in the future reunions.
None of the members of the Class 1978 was there to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Only one of the members of the Class 1973 was there to celebrate their 30th anniversary Ė Dr. Tony Macatol. However, Tony Macís presence seemed like a hundred. Ata-boy, Tony! There were quite a good number from the Class 1968 celebrating their 35th anniversary. Some of them I havenít seen before here in the U.S. Itís good to see fellow alumni who were once one of my teachers like Dodong Villa who used to teach Physiology and Pharmacology. I donít hesitate to say that Dodong Villa was a great teacher with a good sense of humor. I remember Dodong as the one who started aerobics in CIM, jogging in the morning, and he was so enthusiastic about it. Hey, Dong, donít tell me youíve stopped.
Dr. Bimbo Ceniza was also there, unbelievably trimmed, flat stomach, like one of those instructors of the Delta Force. Bimbo and his wife Dr. Rosario Padilla Ceniza, have a peculiar friendly smile so bright, they could shame the sun. It is as if they were born with it. Itís a kind of smile that draws you to them. It warms and makes you comfortable. Bimbo used to teach General Surgery in CIM that I almost flunked, not because he was not a great teacher, but because it was in the clinical years and I was no longer driven to study. I was more interested in going to see a movie, drinking with friends and having fun. I was anxious to become a real doctor, not just a student, and I thought that I could learn easily by doing the cutting and the sewing on my own. I was wrong. When I started my internship, I had to study hard all over again the basic anatomy and physiology of organs or structures, for they're very essential in deciding the surgical approach.
There were more from the Class 1963 celebrating their 40th anniversary. The Class 1963 together with their wives and husbands presented a couple of Bisaya songs. What fascinated me with this group was that even if they needed a little bit more practice and certainly they made no excuses about it, they sang with gusto and they were having so much fun that they seemed as if they didnít want to stop singing. They released their voices in full force without a hint of hesitationÖwellÖ may be a little bit from the gentlemen. You can feel something like an electrical current emanating from their voices making you wish to be singing with them. They sang the romantic Bisaya songs Matud Nila and Usahay. They may not be heading for Broadway, but they definitely had the energy and enthusiasm. No wonder why all of them look younger than their age. They know life is a play, and they played.
I want to apologize to the golfers or to the alumni who played in the golf tournament. I was the one who sent several e-mail messages promising the prizes particularly the trophies the winners were supposed to be awarded. I was the one who persuaded Ben Fajardo to take charge of arranging the game and of contacting the golf course and fellow alumni interested to play, dangling to him the prospect and promise of trophies to make it relatively easier for him to persuade others to come and play. It was my understanding during our reunion meeting last year in Washington, D.C. that as long as the association is notified in advance about the trophies, it would provide them. But there were no trophies.
I feel bad about it, not just because I feel responsible for disappointing the golf players, but that they are all my friends and I'm not that kind of friend. Indeed it may only be nothing to other people as they only consider the value involved of whether or not it's important, not the principle. To me, making and breaking a promise particularly to fellow alumni, let alone to a friend is not just a disappointment, it's a betrayal. Your integrity depends on the promises you make and keep. It is diminished and lost by the promises you make and break. Furthermore, I have preached integrity many times in Brain Waves because it's essential in developing a good character. A good character in turn is essential in improving human relationship that leads to cooperation and harmony.
It's hard, if not impossible to gain credibility and to earn trust and respect from anyone, let alone friends and members of the association if promises are made and then ignored or forgotten. You become like a politician making and breaking promises like itís nothing more than breaking eggs and making omelet, and contradicting yourself by preaching something you are not practicing. Thus the contradiction has not only made me feel ashamed of myself, it has also made me feel like an asshole. Iím sorry, guys and girl.
The Mercedes Benz raffle was postponed for next year's reunion. It's really difficult to convince people to participate if there is no ticket to hold on to, just the returned check that doesn't feel right, and the consolation prizes were vague. This time, there will be a list of specific second, third and other consolation prizes. Those of you who sent your check for this year's raffle, will have the ticket for next year. And you can purchase more tickets if you want to increase your chance of winning. But my friend Ray Castillejo joked that the reason why only very few alumni bought the raffle ticket this year is because every one already has a Mercedes. Maybe we should get the Hummer for the raffle.
I'd like to comment on the direct approach fund raising that was done during the Grand Ball for the DOT tuberculosis program in Pakna-an. Iím sure it was a spur of the moment decision, but we should not do it that way next time. We should think of a better way like let someone dance another for a certain amount of money. Itís because such kind of approach is intimidating to some members particularly to the younger alumni. It assumes that just because we are doctors, we have the money to give away. It makes one feel cornered and uncomfortable particularly if one doesnít have the money to give away.
Feelings and money are volatile in combination. We should not forget that in this chemistry, feelings are the active ingredients. If members feel bad about how they are being asked for money, even if they give some away, theyíll stay out or shy away next time. If what I've heard is true, this kind of fund raising is what plagued other alumni associations with members' disappointments and disagreements, if not grudges.
I must say though that the result of that spur of the moment decision was admirable. It was nicely done, and no one could have done it better than Dr. Anita Avila. I guess she was choosen to do it because Anita has the ability to charm the alumni into reaching their wallet instead of heading for the exit door. But letís not depend so much on Anitaís charming ability, not that it could lose its effectiveness next time, but that we should make it more voluntary by providing every one more space, and perhaps make it even more fun.
As I stated several times in the past, when I accepted and started the job as one of the officers of our association, all I wanted was to do something to make a difference. I really thought I was making a difference, but the result has shown otherwise. Whatever I have done hadnít helped improved membersí participation, let alone their cooperation. The bottom line is that there is no improvement in members' behavior and attitude toward our association as our Vice-President Maida Antigua is going to lay out everything in her letter on behalf of the officers and board for every one.
†Anyway, I donít want to delude myself into thinking that no one else in the alumni can do a better job. Iím sure there are many in our alumni with the charming and charismatic personality that is perhaps what is needed in promoting membersí participation and cooperation - alumni who can inspire trust, respect, confidence and discipline. I'm used to believing that problems can always be solved and if you can't solve them, then there's got to be somebody who can. We are all professionals, and if discipline and cooperation cannot be inspired and instilled, our association will continue to get bogged down with the same old problems and be forced to be handicapped by obsolete ideas and worn-out traditions.
Thatís why on next yearís reunion which is also an election year for the officers and the board, Iíll be giving up my position as the P.R.O. of our association. But Iíll continue to do whatever I can as an active member just to help our association, if my help is needed. Itís just that I had my chance, and itís time to bow out. I'm not a gambler but I follow the principle of a good gambler - "Know when to hold. Know when to fold." It's time for me to fold. In times like this, the words of the surgeon I used to work with when I was in the residency training seem to keep whispering in my ears: ďNever hesitate to give up a job for others who can do it better.Ē
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