Archive for the 'Personal' Category


Just don’t drop dead

When I asked cartoonist Josua to draw me a human body being embalmed, he looked horrified and tentative. But seeing how dead serious I was, he took control of himself and began asking me how I’d like the sketch to look.

He couldn’t make heads or tails of my description, which confused me because I was giving it in the simplest of terms. Poor Josua hasn’t watched a body being embalmed and had no idea of how it should be drawn.

“Six Feet Under” has exposed me to the world of embalming, which embalmers naturally consider to be an art. But two authors suggest that given the right chemical solutions, a few tools and some knowledge of the human anatomy, you can do it yourself, assuming you don’t faint and wake up on the embalming table.

Now this was what confused Josua. When I was describing to him how the sketch should look, he was imagining the dead person trying to embalm himself. He took “do it yourself” to mean the dead guy. I explained some more, semaphoring a frigid body with cotton plugged in its nose and being cut open by another person, before Josua realized that I was talking of two people—one dead, the other alive.

Anyway, in their hilarious and medically faithful book “Let’s Play Doctor,” Mark Leyner and Dr. Billy Goldberg give a clear guide on “do-it-yourself embalming.” I suppose that they tucked a short section on embalming in their 206-page book to warn their readers that if doctors fail to keep you alive, you might as well have an idea of what happens to you when you’re dead.

Do-It-Yourself Embalming, as prescribed by emergency medicine physician Goldberg and movie and tv show writer Leyner:

1. Place body on embalming table, and pack the oral cavity and eyes with cotton. (So I was wrong about the cotton-stuffed nose.)

2. Inject the embalming fluid (generally a mixture of formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, methanol and ethanol) into the right common carotid artery (the large blood vessel that carries blood to the head), and drain blood from the right jugular vein.

3. Insert trocar (long needle attached to hydro-aspirator) above belly button, aspirate all major organs in torso (meaning remove them), and then fill cavity with concentrated formaldehyde solution.

4. Remove trocar, wash body thoroughly, and seal incisions.

5. Dress in stylish yet comfortable attire, coif hair, and apply makeup. (Make sure makeup does not give face a deathly pallor or masklike appearance—keep it simple and natural!)

And oh, don’t drop dead while you’re doing the procedure. You need to get the work done. You wouldn’t want the dead guy looking cadaverous.


Scoring the perfect gift

TENNIS-FRA-OPEN-ROLAND-GARROSA perfect gift / Photo from AFP

When Roger Federer won Roland Garros, I felt like I won it too from the deluge of text messages I received from my friends. His win couldn’t have come at a better time than on my birthday.

Speaking in French during the awarding ceremony, he might have greeted me as he raised the silver cup in victory. “This is my birthday gift to you because you have been an ardent fan. I cannot believe  you had your own score sheet of this championship match. Not even my lovely wife ever did that. And so, happy birthday and you can now shower,” I believed was what he said.

If anyone disputes my interpretation, speak up and retrieve your head from Robin Soderling’s silver plate.

I indeed kept score of the championship match.

Writing on the clean side of a subscription form for PLDT Landline Plus 2nd Line, I tallied each player’s winners, aces, unforced errors and double faults per game and per set. If I could have gauged the speed of their balls, I would have noted it down too. But a non-tennis player could only accomplish so much with her manual tally.

scorecardBy doing my own scoring, I was not as tense watching Federer play a GS championship match as I was in previous ones when I felt like I was being starched to stiffness.  This time, I took note of ball trajectories and landings but got sidetracked by my emotions when RF and Soderling tied at 3-3 in the third set.

When the statistics were flashed at the end of the first set, I checked my score card and was pleased to see I had the same numbers except for the percentages in the serves and net approaches, which I left to genuine tennis statisticians. I had enough digit concerns for one night.

The second set statistics (the one done by real statisticians) showed that I missed an ace from Soderling and my count of the unforced errors was a few more than the official stats had. At one point in the second set, I got a shared call from three Nadal fans who assured me of an RF win in this year’s French Open. Those guys know about my Federer moments.

I couldn’t compare my third set stats with the official one because I was already beside myself with jubilation when a misfired shot from Soderling ended Federer’s chase for the Roland Garros Cup and 14th GS title.

I couldn’t have gotten a more perfect birthday gift than a Roland Garros Cup for Federer. I wonder if he’d like my score sheet for his birthday.


Heart of the matter

heart1My heart bled as I interspersed going over 10 essays with listening to high school students talk about the Filipina and cardiovascular disease. I looked at the kids, so earnest in their oration that they could persuade the adults in the room to exercise and eat healthy. I looked at the adults and realized that I was probably among the few in need of exercise and proper diet.

So here I was, sitting as a judge of the essay writing category in the regional elimination of the literary, oratorical and on-the-spot painting competition that focused on the theme “Mabuhay Ka! Pusong Pinay!” and getting bombarded by calls for a healthy lifestyle.

After the fifth essay, I got the sinking feeling that all this was for my benefit. I tucked in my stomach. I refused to take the snacks offered. I considered walking back to the office, which would be about a kilometer away. Nah, too dusty. I called back the waiter and asked for some siomai because I was now really hungry.

My co-judges were a doctor and an executive of the pharmaceutical company that sponsored the contest. My choices differed from theirs. I gave weight to thought construction, substance and grammar. I was disheartened to see the final results not going for the two essays that were really good pieces of writing. My co-judges preferred the ones about CVD prevention, which undoubtedly covers exercise and healthy diet, which I’ve never taken to heart.

I take care of my heart by not watching horror movies, not reading the book “Jude, The Obscure” because the story is horribly depressing, not sweating the small stuff, and not wearing tight bras. I do mind what I eat. I check my food for chili pepper, but other than this, I eat to my heart’s content.

So, to those kids, may they practice what they orate and write about when they reach adulthood.


In some parts of Loon

In parts of Loon, a town in Bohol, there is a different way of playing chess and basketball. The rules of the sports are the same but the skills required to play them are somewhat unorthodox.

Take chess. Ordinarily, you sit across your opponent and use your arms and fingers to move the pieces.

But in Cabilao Island, a prime diving destination in Loon, you need to use your entire body to play chess. The wooden chess pieces are huge and conclusively heavy. You lift a pawn with both hands. You straddle the horse to move it. You bend and lift or you bend and push. It’s like moving furniture.

cabilao-1The chess set in Polaris Resort, Cabilao Island

By the time you have made your third move, you have sweated a bucket. You pray your opponent is not a sore loser and hits you with the rook. If it’s any comfort, he can’t throw you the chessboard. The photo above explains why.

In Mocpoc Sur, playing basketball requires consideration of plants. For reasons that defy sports and landscaping logic, seedlings are being planted in the middle of the basketball court.

cabilao-3Hedged plants in the middle of a basketball court in Mocpoc Sur

The basketball rings have not been removed, giving the impression that it remains a basketball court.

In remote barrios like Mocpoc Sur, there is no open space more ubiquitous than a basketball court. During the barrio fiesta, the basketball court is converted into a dance court.

The plants are hedged in the middle of the basketball court in Mocpoc Sur. The players will need to upgrade their dribbling and passing skills to include plant evasion. It will be a skill specific to the basketbolistas of Mocpoc Sur. Kobe will die of envy.

Because in parts of Loon, time is enjoyed by doing nothing and anything. I love Loon. I really do.

(Photos by Friar Tuck)


The snooze power of yoga

In a moment of hope of doing yoga again, I bought a pair of yoga pants at Bossini. Two months have passed since the purchase and the price tag is still on the pants, the pants waiting for the actual moment of yoga.

I miss group yoga.

Doing yoga by myself, I spent too long on the relax pose, looking up the ceiling on my back and thinking of expensive chiropractors and eventually going back to sleep.

In class, I occassionally snored during relaxation when Dada droned about a ball of emerald green light passing through my toes, legs, knees, fingertips, stomach, chest, head, and the ball bursting into two, and zzzzzzzzzz. One time, I woke up to find the others already leaving the room.

That’s me but not me. (Photo from Yoga for Regular Guys)

During a bending pose, I heard the soft fart of the old lady who carried on with the asana like she hadn’t just passed gas. She had mastered the art of not looking fart-guilty. That’s what yoga does; it makes one more attuned to his surroundings and stay deadma to publicly emitted human gases.

Back when Mohan was the teacher, understanding his instructions posed as much challenge as doing the three-legged dog or sun salutation. A Vietnamese who learned to speak English in the Philippines, Mohan spoke like he was pinching his nose to avoid breathing in the wisp of gas emitted from the old lady’s digestive tract.

“Breet in, right lek up. Breet ow, lep lek up.” He had to demonstrate as he instructed to be understood. Oh, breathe in, right leg up, breathe out, left leg up. That’s what yoga does; it equips one with discernment in times of confusion.

Before I hit 63, I will take up yoga again and hope not to pass gas in those expensive pants.


Chef Jason

The dish is called ravioli di magro al pomodoro but the ones making it barely know how to say it, more so what it means. I, for one, don’t know unless I read its translation in the recipe.

But this isn’t a language class. The kids, between nine and 11 years old, are here to learn how to cook ravioli di magro al pomodoro the way the Italians do it. And Executive Italian Chef Gianluca Visciglia of Acqua restaurant at Shangri-la’s Mactan Resort and Spa is teaching them how.

In their chef’s uniform and toque, the kids look adoring until they start beating the eggs and kneading the dough for the ravioli. “Mommy, help! The egg is spilling over! Help!”

When little hands knead pasta dough, it takes forever to get the task done. The hands can stray into someone else’s dough but for the most part of the class, are kept to their own pasty mass, molding it like abstract art whose value only a mother can appreciate.

Chef Luca, reading the minds of the young and the imaginative, has put a kneading machine on standby to speed up work. The young boys can grow into manhood but have yet to finish flattening the dough with the rolling pins.

The dough done, the filling is next. Ravioli di magro al pomodoro is pocket pasta filled with ricotta cheese and spinach served with tomato sauce.

Because it’s a filling, it requires some mixing of ingredients. The mixing is not as complicated as I make it sound but it does require some precision in the amount of the ingredient to be mixed.

Chef Luca, a soothsayer in the kitchen with kids around, has the ingredients pre-measured. He too had been a boy like them and knows that the spinach, cheese, salt and pepper will get measured according to how they can be shaped into a superhero. But the kids follow his instructions well. Molto bene, very good.

The ricotta cheese and spinach filling done, it’s time to put it in the pasta dough. No sweat. Even I, who can’t slice a cake without leaving it like it’s been bulldozed, can put the ravioli in the pasta dough.

The filling now in the pasta dough, it’s time to slice the dough into rounds using a pasta cutter and locking its edges using a fork. The kids are doing it as instructed. Molto bene, very good.

The ravioli is ready to be cooked. A few minutes later, tanaah!, a plate of ravioli di magro al pomodoro is brought back to the table.

The mothers, looking at a Michelin-starred restaurant future for their children, are beaming with pride, snapping shot after shot of this prodigious chef moment. They imagine dishes named after them by their children; they imagine international fame for their little chefs.

Jason So, awarded Most Enthusiastic Little Chef, says about making ravioli di magro al pomodoro, “It was easy, Auntie Mi.” This is my nephew who, when he was four years old and was left alone with me for a day, praised my cooking, which consisted of the complicated dish called hard-boiled egg. It was the most wonderful compliment I had ever received and it brought me to tears and to Jollibee.

Jason with proud mama Joy and Italian chefs Marco Anzani (the tall one) and Luca Visciglia (the short one)


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April 2018
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