Narra 6/28/2007 07:11:00 AM

Nga nag-inusara
Sa daplin sa dalan
Mora'g naghulat
Nga mo-abut ang
Wa'y katapusan
Unsaon man
Kung ibale-wala
Ug dili man lang
Sa mga umaagi
Nga malulupyo
Di man pud
Mahitabo nga
Kita mamugos
Nga ambiton intawn
'Ning karaang punu-an
Nga gipasagdan
Bahala na lang
Kung mahitabo man
Nga matumba
Ug mag-abong ni
Sa gi-agiang dalan
(c.1999, re-edited 2007)
n n n n n n n n n n n n
An ode to the narra tree, national tree of the Philippines. This particular tree has been at the corner of the street going to our house ever since we moved in 21 years ago.

Favors St. Josemaria Granted Me 6/26/2007 01:58:00 PM

Today is the feast day of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei. In his honor, I thought of mentioning in this post some favors he has granted me throughout the past 8 years that I have had devotion to him.
The very first favor St. Josemaria granted me involved my participation in a Rural Service Project. It was to be at a remote barangay of a province a long way off from Cebu. To go, I needed two things: P800.00 for the two-way ferry boat fare (all other expenses were shouldered by donations) and my mother's permission. The latter was harder to get than the former, as my mother is really strict (you can ask all my cousins who once lived with us then moved out because they couldn't take her rules...) and this would be the first time I would be away from home for longer than a weekend (other times were all school-related field trips for my biology subjects). I should also mention that this at a time that cellphones were not yet all the rage, so there was absolutely no way for my mother to communicate with me while I was gone. Then I asked for money, she told me she couldn't give me any, so I entrusted my chance of going to St. Josemaria's intercession. A day or so later, one of the tenants of our family owned apartment paid the rent, and my mother also gave me permission.
One of my cousins remarked upon learning of my trip remarked, "What?! She really let you go?!" so I consider the whole thing a big favor.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Back in my third year of college studies, I was chosen to represent my university in an interschool science quiz contest in our city. It was held at a local mall with a lot of people around, so I was quite nervous. Before going on stage, I quickly said the prayer card of then Blessed Josemaria, just asking for guidance, not anything specific at all. I was amazed when I got the first prize! Afterwards, I immediately went to a nearby bookstore and purchased a 3-in-one copy of The Way, Furrow and The Forge which, coincidentally, was on sale. I bought it using part of my prize money. I still have that same copy with me today, and I often use it for my personal prayer.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
While I was a medical student, I would always pray to St. Josemaria to get me a jeepney ride. A few minutes after I finish saying a prayer card, I always get a ride to school, later on to the hospital, for my duties. I have never been late even during rush hour traffic.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Click here for the link to the prayer card of St. Josemaria in English.

The Waters of Gilutongan 6/20/2007 10:57:00 AM

Here are some "water shots" taken at Gilutongan Fish Sanctuary in Cebu by a friend on an excursion organized by Banilad Study Center. I haven't been there myself (I should inform you that I have an unnatural aversion for taking a dip in any large body of water: pool, river, sea, etc... but that's an entirely different story... but I love nature-my biologist side speaking!), but it's worth visiting!

All About Cherrylyn 6/16/2007 08:34:00 PM

During the recent Rural Service Project, the volunteer's hands-down favorite kid was Cherrylyn. She's a blind, orphan girl, about five years old, with no formal schooling but an intelligent, inquisitive mind. I present here some of the numerous clips featuring her. Dialogue is mostly in Cebuano (my local dialect). I apologize that I am unable to provide a transcript in English due to lack of time and difficulty in understanding some of the dialogue in this amateur clips.
l l l l l l l l l l

Kids Present an Action Song 6/16/2007 10:27:00 AM

Here's another clip from April's Rural Service Project in Siti Ibo, Barangay Pondol, Balamban, Cebu, Philippines. I was particularly amused by the extra coaching from the camera girl near the end of the song...

Long Courtships are UNHEALTHY!!! 6/15/2007 12:21:00 PM

I stumbled onto a copy of this article while googling (Thanks, Teachertwish!)... Perhaps those of you reading who are teenagers, parents or siblings (I happen to be one!) of teenagers, or working with teenagers may find it interesting, and enlightening as well.

The author is a Filipino numerary priest of Opus Dei. I vaguely remember him mentioning similar ideas as an aside in a theology class I took several years ago.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Long Courtships are UNHEALTHY!!! by Fr. Jaime Achacoso

Why is a priest writing about a topic like this? What does he know about this stuff? The answer to the latter is simply that I too was a regular dude once, the campus scene in the early seventies not being much different from what it is now as far as this topic was concerned, except that premarital sex was much less then.

After counselling young people for the past thirty years—especially as a priest in the past twenty—I have arrived at the conclusion that premarital sex among teenagers can largely be blamed on going steady. Ultimately, of course, the deterioration of morals in society should be blamed. However, I am more convinced each day that the occasion for possible failures in this regard can be minimized by postponing going steady until after college. This is the main reason that urged me to write this article.

Why Go Steady?

Before anything else, it is important to define our terms, given the different stages of the man-woman relationship prior to marriage. In brief, we can lay down the following:

1st: Dating – the stage of boy-girl friendships, without any hint of exclusivity or any relation to the possibility of a future marriage.

2nd: Courtship – the period of mutual discovery of a man and a woman, the essential qualities of which are the thought of a possible future marriage and — because of this — varying degrees of commitment and exclusivity. This stage can be subdivided into:

  • a) Going steady, the earliest stage of courtship, also referred to by most teenagers as “being on” or — in its lesser form — as “MU” (mutual understanding). It starts when the possibility of a future marriage is first entertained, and therefore marks a certain degree of exclusivity.
  • b) Informal engagement, which follows the moment when a man explicitly proposes marriage to a woman and at least an approximate time frame for such is agreed upon privately between them.
  • c) Formal engagement, the stage after a man formally proposes marriage, for a specific date, and such is communicated to relatives and friends.

Most young people go steady for the wrong reason:

  • a) For companionship – but one does not need to get into such a semi-permanent commitment for companionship; dating several people in turn could provide more companionship.
  • b) For inspiration (to have a special someone) – but at this stage of development, a special someone is more of a limitation to friendships with the opposite sex, which is a big part of high school and college life.
  • c) For a ready date – which is really what most fellows are after at this stage, since it’s a hassle having to find a date every weekend.

If I fall in love

“Father you make it sound so cold-blooded” — objects many a young lady. The fact is, love can be a cold-blooded affair, if it is true love — that is, an act of the will towards a person who has been perceived by the intellect as somebody worthy of love. One does not “fall” in love helplessly. One loves deliberately. Either that or one surrenders oneself to one’s feelings.

Unfortunately, love has been confused with feelings or affections. These are reactions to sensible good that can indeed precede, accompany or follow love, but they are not love. Feelings can be deceiving, since they are only reactions to sensible goods: a pretty or handsome face, a thousand and one details that make somebody nice (or what most girls call “cute”). Only the intellect can really judge the overall aptness of a person for conjugal love. Only afterwards should the will follow: “I love him, because he has the qualities that I consider indispensable for the man who will be my husband until death, and who will be the father of my children.”

The failure to distinguish between feelings of love and love itself is at the bottom of many failed marriages. Consider the fellow who “falls” for his officemate: she shares his interests (they’re in the same profession), she is supportive (they work together), and she is very pretty (he only sees her in her business best). There’s just one hitch: he’s married, with two kids.

As the song goes: “It’s so hard to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.” Only the intellect recognizes that precisely because one already belongs to someone, then anyone else coming along cannot be the right one.

So why can’t I deliberately fall in love in college or high school?

Because real conjugal love is inseparable from marriage. Going steady is like getting engaged. The couple are getting to know each other more, so as to be able to finalize the decision for conjugal love and marriage. It is not rational to get into this relationship in college or in high school, because it is too early for that.

Imagine if a friend tells you he’s going to shop for a computer system. You casually ask him when he plans to make the actual purchase and he — just as casually — tells you he has no plans yet, at least not in the next couple of years. You would think he’s nuts. Why shop now if you’re not going to buy it in the next few years? Something like that happens with going steady in college.

The Problem of Serial Monogamy

Another consequence of teen-age steady relationships is the rise of mentality which has been called serial monogamy — i.e., such steady relationships do not last, averaging anywhere between a year or two. Granted within those two years the couple may really feel in love with each other and thus practice fidelity with each other (hence re monogamous in a sense), nevertheless, since they are too young to really commit themselves to each other for life, the relationship is not indissoluble. Thus, in the span of the decade or so prior to marriage, the unwary young man or woman might go thorough several monogamous but dissoluble relationships. Such serial monogamy prior to marriage is the breeding ground for a divorce mentality afterwards, since conjugal love has been equated with monogamy alone, forgetting the aspect of indissolubility. Real marital love is for keeps. As the old song goes: “If I fall in love, it would be forever. Or I’ll never fall in love.”

How long should the courtship be?

When I ask young ladies this question, they invariably answer “a long time.” I always have to stifle a chuckle, since quite often the young lady in question would be in her late teens and “engaged,” and of course most girls nowadays are not really contemplating marriage before their 25th birthday. This is quite logical, since most girls — at least in the urban setting — go to college, and would therefore want to experience a bit of their professional career before they settle down to the more serious business of raising up a family.

Hence, the young lady is not answering my question, but is rather thinking of how long it will take her to be old enough to get married. If she’s only nineteen, and she wants to enjoy her professional career until she’s twenty-five, it stands to reason that she and her boyfriend will have to wait at least six years before they can marry.

Rephrasing the question normally unravels the fuzzy logic. “If you were twenty-six — I ask — and you start going steady with a twenty-eight year-old fellow who is professionally stable and well off, how much time do you think will you need to make up your mind about each other?” She normally answers: “A year.”

This is the crux of the matter. A couple going steady are calling each other up daily on the phone, probably going to and coming home from office together, spending the whole weekend together, meeting each other’s family — it’s a super-exposure to each other. If they can’t decide in a year or two whether they are meant for each other or not, there’s something wrong with their thinking process.

Why long courtships are unhealthy

What’s wrong with starting the courtship in college or in high school and just prolonging it all the way to marriage at a much later date? The answer has to do with physiology and psychology — specifically male physiology.

Most girls are not very aware of this, but any red-blooded human male will immediately empathize with what I’m going to say: Man is a very sexy (albeit rational) animal.

Girls and women are perfectly equipped by the Creator to be loving and caring — also with the opposite sex — without getting sexual. This is part of their femininity, which is relevant to their role in society (especially connected with child-rearing and caring for the family). Hence nurses have traditionally been women.

Thus in a boy-girl relationship, the girl can be affectionate in many ways — words, looks, affectionate touches, gestures, attention to details — without getting sexually stimulated.

But not a boy. A fellow’s threshold level for sexual arousal is pretty low, so that for most teen-aged boys, a physical display of affection is almost concomitant with sexual stimulation. It’s a matter of physiology and psychology. Thus, a boy is not designed to spend many years with the object of his affection — his girlfriend — beside him, day in and day out, without getting on with it. Either that or he is subjected to a terrible strain to control his sexual drive.

Thus, a steady relationship at college (worse in high school) can be proximate occasion for going too far — at least where the guy is concerned. But since a steady relationship always includes a girl (hopefully!), then the principle applies to both. The moral principle is that to deliberately open oneself to a proximate occasion of doing something wrong, one needs a proportionate reason — i.e., proportionate to the gravity of the wrong that one is exposing himself to.

So when can one start going steady?

Human acts are for their end: to act rationally, one must have an end in mind, and orient his action according to that end. Now what’s the end of courtship?

Marriage is the end of courtship, just as final purchase is the end of shopping (even when one is just window-shopping at the moment, he is normally looking forward to buying in the near future). Thus, when to go steady is a function of the decision — approximate as it may be initially — of when to get married.

As previously mentioned, most girls don’t want to get married earlier than twenty-five; some even much later. Hence, the healthy age for girls to start going steady can be roughly computed:

25 years old (ideal age for marriage) – 2 years (of courtship) =

23 years old at least

Nevertheless, girls can really be quite flexible in their target marriage age: as soon as they have the right fellow, they really can get married.

But not so with men, normally. Contemporary society imposes a minimum age for man to get married well — i.e., the age when he is professionally stable and financially solid. He is expected to be able to set-up house immediately after getting married — at least to be able to rent a flat. Otherwise he will be forced to bring his bride to his parents’ home or move in to his in-laws’ home. As Christ solemnly said, quoting Genesis: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife.” (Mt. 19:5).

In our society, this age is about 28-30 years. It takes that much time for a fellow to graduate from college (21 years old), find a suitable job after trying several (25 years old), stabilize himself in that job and get a few promotions (28-30 years old). Nowadays a joint family monthly income of P30,000 would barely enable a couple to rent a humble apartment in the metropolis, or buy a low-cost house on instalment somewhere in Calabarzon. Thus, the minimum age for a man to get into a serious relationship with a woman can also be computed:

28 years old (practical age for marriage) – 2 years (of courtship) =

25 years old at least

Of course there are exceptions—e.g., if either the fellow or the girl is a millionaire to start with (from inheritance or otherwise).

Does this mean teenagers shouldn’t date?

Of course not. Knowing the opposite sex is part of the maturing process that coincides with high school and college years. Dating therefore forms part of a healthy college life. But dating is not going steady. One doesn’t get serious with an occasional date. One doesn’t get intimate with him or her either. Much less would one be committed to him or her in an exclusive relationship. And this is the key to the whole thing: non-exclusivity.

Non-exclusivity is the very guarantee of non-seriousness and therefore non-involvement in those details of physical intimacy which are the run-up for sexual activity. Concentrating one’s affective capacity on one person leads to developing strong feelings (mistaken for love) for that person.

Boy and girls should have many friends of the opposite sex in college and high school. It is part of their educational process to discover different personalities of the opposite sex, precisely in order to be able to one day choose a partner for life. It would be quite a limitation if instead of choosing from a large field of possibilities, one were to be hitched to one person at sixteen, be limited to that person until they break-up (statistically they do so after 1-1/2 years), then get stuck again with one person for another two years, and this way until finally getting married to one (hopefully, without having gone into something regrettable with any of his or her previous partners).

Some girls think that dating several guys would mean they are promiscuous. Quite the contrary, what such casual dating accomplishes is precisely that they avoid being physically promiscuous. Among other things because guys normally behave well — as in properly — with a female friend; he gets more daring with a girlfriend.

A last word on teen-age dating. Multiple dates should be the rule. Not only are they safer — goons will think twice before attacking two or more couples, they also provide a natural check against going too far in manifestations of affection.


One of the greatest consolations in my life as a priest has been to see young people grow — physically and spiritually — into mature individuals, without suffering the scars of a badly-lived adolescence. An even greater joy comes from guiding some of them to lives of dedication to God and their fellow men. No less exhilarating is to see youthful romances bloom — all in their due time — into mature conjugal love and eventually marriage.

In contrast, some of the greatest heartaches I’ve had to suffer as a priest have been to see young people get derailed by premature steady relationships with the opposite sex.

Unfortunately, the past 30 years have seen Hollywood and the media glorify teenage romantic relationships. Coupled with an eroticized environment, this has resulted in what is quite obvious to everyone now: an alarming increase in teen-age premarital sexual relationships, a rise in teen-age pregnancy, and on the whole a deterioration of sexual morality.

I hope reading this piece will make some teenagers reconsider their position and postpone any serious emotional involvement with a person of the opposite sex until the right moment. And if they are already too emotionally involved, at least to cool off a bit.

But if they are hopelessly in love, then I earnestly invite them to go to regular spiritual direction, to frequent the sacraments, and to embark on a no-nonsense struggle to develop the Christian virtues. That was how healthy teen-age romances were possible in the not too distant past. Perhaps that’s how they can be made possible again. I, for one, am all too-ready and willing to help them through spiritual direction.

Feastday Mass of St. Josemaria (Cebu City) 6/14/2007 01:32:00 PM

This invitation is for those of you who happen to live in or near Cebu City:

You, your family and friends are cordially invited to attend
the Solemn Eucharistic Celebration
in honor of
Saint Josemaría Escrivá
Founder of Opus Dei
Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
on Tuesday, June 26, 2007, 6:00pm
Priests will be available to hear confessions one hour before the Holy Mass.
A partial list of masses in honor of St. Josmaria celebrated in other parts of the Philippines shown on this link:

109th Philippine Independence Day! 6/12/2007 04:07:00 PM

Malipayong Adlaw sa Kaugalingnan sa Pilipinas! (Cebuano)
--> I confess I had to get the English-Tagalog-Cebuano dictionary to get "Kaugalingnan" right!!!
Maligayang Araw ng Kalayaan sa Pilipinas! (Filipino)
Happy Independence Day to the Philippines! (English)
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
This is a video clip of the Philippine National Anthem.

What Every Catholic Physician Should Know 6/11/2007 11:34:00 PM

I found this while going through the archives of Zenit looking for bioethics related articles. Whether you may be a medical doctor, or not, there are a lot of important points here for you to know.

Scrapbook Making 6/11/2007 09:39:00 PM

I spent the past day and a half working on the scrapbook of the rural service project last April. I do have past experience on this though...
Flashback to my second semester and second year studying for my undergraduate degree in biology... All students of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City (the oldest school in the Philippines) found my classmates and I taking up PE14-Recreational Activities. We were in an all female section mixed with people from other courses. The guys were in another PE14 class with people from other courses playing basketball at the then uncovered court. We girls found themselves required to make a scrapbook of all the requirements and activities including a cross-stitch project, parlor games, bowling, cultural shows, parties, and presentations. The favorite quip then was that we were taking up B.S. Biology , major in PE, specializing in Scrapbook Making. We were graded for everything of course.
Later on, I decided to continue the scrapbook, now filling it up with some of my favorite poems. It's a great stress reliever.
Come to think of it, blogging is quite similar to making a scrapbook. Both bring out your creativity and help you to express your thoughts.
Since blogging is a lot easier than messing around with printed photographs, decorations, stickers, specialty papers, scissors, glue, and tape, the finished product of scrapbook making is a lot more special.

Greener Pastures 6/09/2007 07:53:00 AM

These past few days (5 days to be exact!) found me covering for another physician at a medical diagnostic center. Work consisted mostly of routine physical examination of applicants for jobs here or overseas, and occasionally diagnosing and treating diseases or referring patients to specialists. Most of them were seamen, but there were a few women bound for work as teachers in the US or domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Coincidentally, one of the teachers happened to be my former biochemistry teacher in my finally semester of undergraduate studies in biology.
I chatted with Mrs. R. for sometime (she is quite loquacious!). She was now working at another university as chairperson of the department of chemistry, but was set to fly to the US to work as a high school biology or general science teacher. After 20 years teaching college students, she had to take a practicum subject to qualify for the position. She definitely did not want to retire in the Philippines.
Reflecting on this train of thought, I realize that it is the aspiration of so many people in our country, including a lot of my classmates in medical school who are again studying for the USMLE in order to train in the US and stay there permanently. I also know a lot of doctors who trained as nurses to work in the US.
Maybe, I'm the crazy, nationalistic, odd one out... I do have the possibility of going to the US to train and work, yet I have decided to stay here for training, with no immediate plans of working abroad in the near future.
I guess I'm not yet willing to be part of the brain drain this country is suffering from...

The Road to Sitio Ibo 6/07/2007 03:41:00 PM

Here is just a teeny glimpse of the road we traveled going to Sitio Ibo. Part of the way, we had to walk since the hired tricycles we were riding could not make it up or sown the narrow path. Sometimes, we even had to push the tricycles! The project site is about a 30 minute walk or 15 minute ride away from where we were staying at that time: the public elementary school in Barangay Pondol (Cornelio Elementary School).

The Kids of Sitio Ibo, Reading 6/06/2007 10:27:00 PM

I have just learned how to upload videos onto my blog! Starting today,I'll be uploading some video clips of last April's Rural Service Project in Sitio Ibo, Barangay Pondol, Balamban, Cebu, Philippines. Soon, I'll upload the movie clip one of the volunteers is working on. These will be glimpses of what we are doing as well as a promotion for the upcoming Rurals this semestral break in October. For starters, here's a glimpse of two kids who received a storybook we gave away to them on the last day of the Rurals.

Memories of Waterfalls (Kawasan Falls, Matutinao, Badian, Cebu; September 4, 1998) 6/04/2007 04:12:00 PM

From the heights of towering hills
To the depths of low valleys
You flow unhindered
Though rocks may block your path
And dams built in your way
Only the Highest Powers
Can ever stop you rush
Awestruck by your enchantment
I cannot forget the sense of peace I felt in you
Nor the amazement and wonder
For how you have come to be
I shall never know
I see all creatures drawn to your beauty
May it be the royal butterflies
Easygoing water striders
Industrious yet fierce army ants
Voracious, hungry spiders
Lazy dragonflies and damselflies
Shy aquatic earwigs in hiding
Playful freshwater fishes
Steadfast snails
And I the human creature
I am in your spell as well
Though it seems an eternity
Since you began your journey to the seas
I know that there as a beginning
And as hard as I try to think of otherwise
There will be a tragic end
When the water shall be gone
And the dry earth stands cracked and forlorn
I shall not wish to live that long
And be a witness to your ultimate demise
I shall not forget that day
When I walked along your banks
When I set out to seek your source
And revel in the glory that is you
Someday I shall come back
I shall pay you a special homage
Your flowing water are the haunts of my memories
In time I shall seek you out again
In time I will go on living
Though it may be just memories for now
This is one of my all-time favorite poems, written 3 day's short of my 18th birthday. I wrote this on a field trip for Entomology class (we tagged along with the Ecology class), with our beloved Sir Plateros. It must have been my 2nd or 3rd visit to Kawasan. Today, Kawasan Falls is a more commercialized tourist attraction, though the pristine waters remain.
Coincidentally, Badian also happens to be my father's hometown. My paternal grandmother still lives there (in another barangay, far from the waterfalls) . She used to tell me that the waterfalls would mysteriously claim a life each year for itself... I'm not superstitious though so I consider it an old wives' tale.
I seldom go there though because I get dizzy on traveling by land or sea.

THE WRITER'S BLOCK HAS FALLEN! 6/02/2007 02:31:00 PM

The drizzle of rain Brings a shadow of the past
At a rainbow's end
-jara- (c.2007)
After five or so years, I now present to you my newest poem!
Though it maybe a mere haiku, it' a great accomplishment in my book!

Another Look at Openess to Life 6/02/2007 02:21:00 PM

I couldn't help but place a comment on this MercatorNet article...

Catholics and the Environment 6/01/2007 12:02:00 PM

For all Catholics, environmentalists or both, this video would be of interest to you: