Last page – Tokyo Stories

I did not think that when I started writing again during our winter vacation last December, I could generate enough inspiration to consistently write for a month.

The daily writing was therapeutic. It helped ease down many unsettling moments in so many ways. The first time I decided to write again was on a beautiful day in Tokyo in a hotel room with a perfect view of Mt. Fuji.

The beauty and calm of nature was a sight to behold. I recalled my younger days when I’d go to retreats. As a young boy I learned to unburden my crosses by reflecting. As I grew older, the retreats became scarce, while the journeys more difficult. I slowly found that time no longer became my friend and things were more difficult to let go.

Then there is that one day. That day when life comes full circle to collect the debts of time and memories that passed us by.

It made me recall the moments that quickly passed me by – those missed opportunities where sorrow and pain lived and where joy, happiness and love stood still in time.

It was a good time to pause from the chaotic life and watch how nature does not hurry and yet accomplished everything.

Nature does not hurry, and yet everything is accomplished”

– Lao Tzu

Tomorrow, begins another chapter in my stories of Relative Joy.

And like life, we get to write our own beginnings.

Pain changes people

Pain does not show up in our lives for no reason. It’s a sign that something in our lives need to change.

You’ve seen how people change in their attitude and disposition in life. Those who were once meek and mild can suddenly take on a different persona. You know, when you bump into someone later in life and blurt out, “my, how you’ve changed”!

I tell people that one cannot force others to fight your battles for them. Some don’t get it. Making others do the fighting for you is not fair because the burden of accountability and responsibility is shifted to someone who has no business combatting your struggles in life. If others fight your personal conflicts, it is them that end up being scarred in the process. The process only ends up changing people because they needed to bear the pain that only you needed to go through.

Human relations are complicated. There’s a thin line between using and abusing people. Someone once told me that in this dog eat dog world, using one another for an ulterior motive is natural. I disagree. There’s nothing natural in letting other people take the cudgels for you just because of a personal agenda. I get that. We all have a “goal”. But stepping on other people just to reach that goal is called abuse. Which causes pain. Which changes people.

If we allow the abuse, it either destroys us or we imbibe it to the point that we believe that the abuse is right and we deserve it.

The decision to walk away from the battle is ours alone. A few words of advice…

Sorrow doesn’t live here anymore

Happy should.

For most days of our life, that should be our goal.

I’m not saying that we don’t have our crosses to bear. Everyone has problems. It’s not exclusive to a specific sex, race, financial status or religion. It’s encompassing. It’s complicated.

No matter who you are, remember, we all deserve a life we become excited about. A morning we look forward to. A life that’s filled with challenges and yet excitement. We need to surround ourselves with real people. True friends who will stand by us even in the worst of days. Friends who will tell us what we don’t want to hear because they actually care for you and not because they’re there to please you. Friends and family who spark our inner most desires at being the best we can be.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

If we allow ourselves to be looked down upon or bullied around, then we only deserve what we get. And no one has that single authority over sorrow. If we allow it, we are complicit to it.

The month is almost done. And February is around the corner. Choose to be happy. Write a new chapter. Make sure sorrow doesn’t live there anymore.

It’s okay now, you can let go.

When being okay is all you need to be.

One of the biggest decisions we make in life should be being okay.

Why else do we want to wake up each morning to stress, anger, disappointments and tolerance? Imagine the number of endorphins and enkephalins that provide so much sadness that lives in our lives.

Life has a way to teaching us how to deal with the cards in our journey. How we play with the hand that’s laid is up to us.

My take is brief and it’s summed up here:

I know which battles I will fight. Which ones I will lose. Which ones I want to win.

Our roads will always lead back to where we started. I’ve had my ups and downs. And the stories of my highs and lows are real.

To be okay, we need to let go.

It’s time to come home.

Life goes on.

And we don’t have to write our first chapter based on someone’s last.

No time

It’s the most popular excuse.

You ever notice that even as kids, there’s always that excuse? Parents ask why their kids refuse to take solid food. It’s because both parents and children have no time. The caretaker or parent is impatient for the child to finish his/her meal so that he/she can go on with her chores or daily grind. The child also has no time to finish chewing his food because he wants to play already. And while both of end up getting frustrated, both end up being losers in this scenario.

We’ve always taken “time” for granted. Used and abused, “time” is the most formidable excuse in life.

No time to study.

No time to do chores.

No time to sleep or rest.

No time to play or exercise.

No time for friends.

No time for family.

No time for love.

When will we find time to do what makes us happy in life? Or even just recall all those things we’ve done or were asked to do and was such a waste of time! Remember, when we take time for granted, time also pays us back dearly for missing out on those big moments.

Hopefully we don’t miss out on these in our lifetime. In the end, there is no time for regrets. We all need to find time for our Relative Joy.

Heaven in their eyes

Last Christmas I was mulling on giving something to my growing staff at the agency where I’m currently employed.

And yes, it’s a bit off writing this a month after Christmas. But Christmas isn’t just a holiday event that’s marked by a date on our yearly calendar wantonly being waited upon by people to remind them of an upcoming merry occasion that needed to be celebrated.

The meaning of Christmas lies in the heart of giving. We forget that the spirit of Christmas is best seen through the eyes of the recipient.

As in previous years, I donated the whole amount that I budgeted as a gift for my staff to a program that the Sacred Heart is Jesus Parish sustains. It’s called Sponsor a Child that provides the tuition fee for one year to a child in the community around us for a Montessori education.

These three kids are the recipients for the year on behalf of a donation made on behalf of the Center for Drug Regulation of the Food and Drug Administration.

The program still needs a lot of donors and each child’s program will cost only P3500 per child per year.

In our lifetime, I’m sure that people have provided us a lift in our lives chasing our dreams. That meant that some had to give up a couple of wants in order to provide our needs or pursue our dreams.

I hope that some of my readers get to share a little of what they have with those who have less in life through programs like these.

An atmosphere of being able to pay it forward is a gesture of perpetual kindness.

After all, heaven in their eyes is a tangible dream for the heart that’s willing to share.


Where do you go when you need a piece of heaven?

I remember Dr Rosario Carretero, our residency training officer during my training days in pediatrics. Residency training during my time was very different from what you have today. (And that’s a different topic altogether as well). Stressful was an understatement to describe it.

Each day was more difficult to bear. Teaching the younger ones, seeing both charity and private patients, supervising the younger residents, doing our own research papers and yes, doing administrative work for the department. They were taking a toll on patience and perseverance.

One day Dra Carretero took me to a side and talked to me. Where is the burden coming from? Responsibilities are part of life. And anger had no place in a heart that should be filled with gratitude even during the most trying times.

So we sat together at the CD chapel and she told me to learn to unburden myself to someone who would listen. God.

It didn’t take long that my whole chief residency days became a daily conversation with God. I learned that sharing in prayer made the load lighter to carry. And throw the worries to the wind.

It’s been gazillion years since that fateful day where when I found healing and forgiveness and love.

And I share my solace with everyone who’s going through some trying times. In spite of my hectic and frenetic schedules, there’s a place where my solitude finds me in a beautiful place of peace.

A place where I come to terms with God. Where being grateful for all the blessings, small or big, easy or difficult, where time is at a standstill and I can unburden my world…where prayers and offerings is the solace of my soul.

Thinking like a Queen

So many problems. So little time. Or so we think.

I’m sure we all have these days (or much longer) where we seem to be showered with so many problems that focusing on failure is not an option.

Challenges don’t have signal lights. There are no brake pads in life that tell us when to pause at certain decisions. Whatever we decide on, remember, failure is always an option.

So how do you deal with situations like these?

Always factor in failure as part of the equation to solving a problem. There is no shame in failing because it will always part of the learning curve.

One day, I told my staff over lunch that who they see me today as a successful clinician was a product of failure. I am not ashamed to tell that story over and over again.

In the class of 1983, I was one of those who did not pass the oral revalida. And while the rest of my class marched on stage during graduation, I was making up for the failure. The failure devastated my ego. Whatever ego was left was thrown out the window.

The question was – do I continue or do I give up? What will people say? After wallowing in self pity, I came face to face with realizing that ego never built dreams. It was the most humbling moment of my life. I needed to prove to my tribunal that they were wrong. I could do this.

The rest of my success is history. There is no other story in between except that story of failure and my becoming who I am today.

While we are entitled to failures, it’s a fair reminder that the accountability is ours. Own up to it.

My piece of advice to those who go through life’s failures, is that they are there as part of your journey are not meant to be your final destination.

It will hurt when you fail. But someday you’ll realize when looking back at these struggles, it changed your life for the better.

Madness and that leap of faith

We all fall victim to circumstances beyond our control. The knee jerk response is always to complain. Ironically, most of us complain even for the most mundane.

Every situation has a corresponding response. Some may react appropriately, others not. Eckhart Tolle provides a food for thought on decision making during these circumstances.

Every situation is within our control. We just need to learn which ones we accept, change or walk away from. They are important decisions we make because we live with the consequences of these choices, whether we feel it is right or wrong.

A few tips to help when having to make that leap of faith:

Rule #1. Never make your life decisions based on advice from people who don’t have to deal with the results of your decision.

I get that. When people tell you to do something that you feel is off and yet these same people won’t have to be accountable to the results of a decision you alone are responsible for is a very bad choice.

Rule #2. Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same.

Accepting something wrong when it is not right is being an accomplice to the bad decision. When we make a choice to change, it is because we don’t like who or what or where or why we are.

Rule #3. Only you can decide if it’s ONE DAY or DAY ONE.

No one is perfect. And perfect isn’t what change is all about. Perfect is about making the right decisions in life and loving the journey. It is loving the sound of your feet walking towards that goal.


I wrote about surrendering a few days ago. Not because giving up is the only option. But because it’s a settling issue when the impossible is your opponent.

Then there’s believing in better outcomes. Believing even during the most uncertain times on better consequences entails two words – faith and hope.

Someone once asked me, why do bad things happen?

Pain is the greatest game changer in our lives. It reminds us that life is all about possibilities and overcoming the obstacles.

“We cannot change the cards we’re dealt with. Just how we play the hand”.

Randy Pauch

The answer is simple, yet complicated. If life does not pose hurdles, what a boring routine we’d need to face each day.

We need to believe in the magic of miracles. They are the anchor of hope during adversity. And yes, the universe has a way of aligning life.