Friday, January 26, 2018

Decisions, Decisions: Sanitized Virtual Reality Vs Ugly Reality of Old Hometown



 

A debatable subject aptly addressed to us ex-pats, both those who are still abroad and those who have come back for good (or so we thought).

Who can disagree that our cherished memories of the old hometown, rustic, rural, and crude, as it may have been when we departed from it, are worth remembering, revisiting, and reliving with both short visits and resettlement?

Thus for  a good number of us, decisions were made to return and resettle, and to pick up from where we left off.

Years later and after a series of grave disillusionment, comes now the need for re-assessment of that decision to relocate.  Has it been the right one?  Does the ugly reality of living in the old hometown at the present time jibe with our sanitized or hopeful version of it, one that we incubated in our minds through all the years that we were out of it?

So is the actual living in that hometown good enough for us to want to stay further?

Time to sit back and re-think.

 First, we need to re-examine our remaining attitudes and the nagging images we may still foster in our minds about the old hometown.

When we were still abroad, the stubborn thoughts of the hometown were more riveting giving us bouts of extreme nostalgic yearnings of not only getting back there, but also of doing helpful things in our new surroundings to help ameliorate the dire conditions of the beleaguered hometown, since someday that would become home for us anew.

We labored hard to set aside financial resources not only for our future but in aid of the old hometown, with an almost addictive sense of altruism and love for it as inspired by the alluring thoughts of what it meant to us.

Though we now hold very negative thoughts about what it has morphed into, we still like to think that somehow it would not be that bad.  Though in reality in our estimation it is really bad enough for us since if the need arises we would decide against relocating the remainder of our family members and their remaining lives in this now benighted hometown.

The growing disconnect then becomes more apparent, though we may continue to blind our minds to the now harsh realities in the old hometown.

We cling still to our steadfast declaration that we cherish our beloved hometown and that still we would do anything to assist it in its many ugly travails.  But deep down we continue to harbor no plans or inkling to get back to it.  Sounds rather contradictory?  Many would think so.  But I guess our thoughts and longings are beyond rhyme or reason, or logic.

And what about those who may have relocated and are now entertaining similar thoughts?  Is the option to uproot and re-locate one more time still a viable option?

That is the “to be or not to be” question.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

What It Is To Be An American


 


 

After a considerable absence one returns and finds many fundamental and drastic alterations not so much in the physical landscape, but more on the people, their ideals and values spanning many spectra.  Not to suggest that no perceptible changes were being made when I first left.  But more because they are now so unavoidably glaring.

One finds a country almost at war with itself, almost equally divided politically, socially, and more.

Maybe only an outsider who used to be part of it could be able to notice and discern with some clarity and certitude.

Thus the troubled question above is posed.

The above question becomes relevant as necessitated by the hazy picture shrouded in a bit of enigma and mystery when one attempts to conceptualize what an American is.  At times the image coming out is flattering, but at other times deprecating.   Sometimes colored as white, at times as black, and still at other times as an admixture of two ethnicities or more.

This bring us to a rather idle treatise on the subject, inspired by some hope of elucidation.

Simply being or living in American soil does not make one American. The soil does little or practically nothing to make one American.  Thus, a tourist or a new migrant in America cannot hope to fully understand what it is to be American, much less hope to become one in thought and action in a hurry.  Not only because of the short duration of stay but for more involved reasons.

Neither does the color of one’s skin or one’s ethnicity determine whether one is an American.  After all, the entire country itself is composed of very diverse immigrants from practically all corners of the globe.

Being American does not lend to being easily defined or reduced to words.  It is a tangled composite of many different intangible facets accumulated over the many years of its existence.  And it has been likened as the “grand social experiment” by those who founded it.

All these intangibles reside collectively in the people and the revered institutions that make this country whole and recognizable, anchored in spirit and thought
bequeathed by previous generations of families dating back to its very founding.  But the people themselves do not necessarily know what they have that make them American and how others may be informed and clothed to become part and parcel of the body politic.

And because of this seeming paradox or mystery, it is no easy task to be American, maybe not even for those who have lived all their lives in the country.  Because this requires a conscious effort at learning the qualities needed to become one, especially because of the confluence and conflation of many varied cultures and ethnicities in the country.  And all this admittedly coupled with the concomitant grating friction resulting from such coming together.  Likened to tectonic upheavals we are most familiar with. Unique combination and historic union not likely found or present in all other countries in the world.

It rather demands total immersion in this rather complicated and intermingled society we call the US of A.  The same process that countless other previous immigrants have done in the past and continue doing in the present.  And which produced a country like no other in history, most likely because of the kind of body politic created by such.

The immersion medium itself which has been in use innumerable times has undergone dilution and alterations that what comes out may not be totally similar to the previous earlier ones. 

One has to then be very discerning and discriminating to determine which ones are still in congruence with that in the past.

Put differently, it can be likened to clear water that has been used in this immersion process over the years becoming muddled and maybe not as recognizable as it was before.  Thus, it is incumbent to have it regularly tested and maybe cleaned so as to approximate how and what it was when it all started.

As once an immigrant to the country, I too have witnessed the many resultant changes in what it is to be American since the beginning of our stay, and some changes one may judge as not corresponding to the ideals once established by the founding fathers.  This observation materializing in the short span of a few decades.

But at the same time, one also witnesses that though Americans come from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities and cultures, they collectively speak like one, act like one, and more importantly, exhibit values and behavior like one people, cohesive and indivisible. 

At least as gleaned from what its majority believes in.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Pathology of Doctor’s Visits …. Of the Elderly

 
 When medical authorities break the news that your eyesight is compromised, then it is time to be hip and cool and get reacquainted with your dark sunglasses, every time you are in the sun.

Recalling a past time when only blind mendicants being towed around the city by their guides wore those dark glasses, all day.
Now it’s considered hip, cool, and even rad, when you see those celebrities wear those outsized dark glasses even when the sun has gone down.  Even our local hipsters have followed the trend, their little faces almost completely hidden by those faddish glasses.

Now it is my turn.  An old clip-on, recommissioned for new service.
 
************

As the centenarian lady runner opined, her performances in her races are not getting any better, but only worse because of her advanced years.

The same could be said of doctor’s visits for one who has reached hard to count years.  Like I am?

Thus, those visits may not be welcomed, but rather dreaded a bit and to be avoided if possible.

Anyway, in my case the choices are next to nothing, especially if I want to continue to live.  So doctor’s visits have to be scheduled and observed.  And because we now live over 7500 miles away from our health provider, the visits take on the nature of one-stop shops.  Examinations covering from head to toe, especially for a case like mine whose medical rap sheet runs in pages, are called in covering various appearances on different occasions.

Expectations on these visits are rather modest and the bars are set very low.  Just hoping that the conditions discovered during the last visits had not worsened, or that no new alarming conditions have in the meantime cropped up.

But like the centenarian lady runner, we foreknow the results to be expected.

And these last visits are no different.  Existing conditions have dipped even lower, and new ones are discovered, expected from an aging body that is on the inevitable road to its own junkyard.

So now know that your buddy pacemaker has to work harder to maintain that normal heartbeat, like 96% of the time.  By the way, your thyroids are not in synched so will now have to lower the daily doses you have been taking.   Also, with the new guidelines, your elevated BP will have to be attended to even more.

And the new findings?  A double whammy.  A slew of quick vision care exams show invasive cataracts on both eyes, and presto, you are now considered a “glaucoma suspect”.  And thus a battery of exams will have to be scheduled.  If you have the time.  And please keep your eyes protected from the blistering sun in the tropics.  So advised to wear sunglasses. As usual, your total cholesterol level is at best borderline.  So….  Etc.…. 

A little glimmer of hope.  Your eyeglass prescription has not changed since the last examination which was years ago.  A significant enough good tidings to celebrate?

While the overall prognosis may not be exhilarating, one continues to be of the thought that life is still bearable and livable.  Continued physical exercise is still allowed and continues to be a  tolerable routine that produces some uplift not only in physical fitness, but more importantly in mental alertness and acuity, part and parcel of what is called the “runner’s high”, or the “second wind”.  This does the late Jim Fixx proud, the father of running who died doing the best thing he liked to do, running.
 
 
000000000000000

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, November 06, 2017

Life Reduced to Arithmetic Calculations, from Start to Finish.


 

Exactly 9 months after being conceived, a man is ushered into the world, a world of consuming uncertainties and unknowns.

Where the only certainty is that life is finite, but as to how and when exactly that is the riddle.

Still, man plods through life making arithmetic calculations and planning, based on dog-eared standards refined through the ages

From the age of reason, that man learns to use Arithmetic to plan and live his life.  He plans for the years of elementary, secondary, etc. schooling, the monotonous cadence interspersed briefly with some levity and idleness known as vacations, holidays, etc.

Then he plans for his productive working life, including the idea and feasibility of creating a family of his own.  All this, amidst the uncertainty of the length of his life, but guided essentially by the life expectancy table again honed over the ages, taking into account all other elements which may make that life shorter like accidents, sickness, disease, etc.

Past the peak of his mature life, typically human parts start needing attention.  Some start becoming bothersome and maybe life-threatening, and thus requiring professional help.

As he approaches closer to his expected life span, tweaked by the many enhancements and modifications that blazing science and technology can offer, his arithmetic calculations take on more certainty, and shorter duration.

In my instance, the most hardy and robust of human organs, the heart has required special and customized attention. It has the close assistance of a pacemaker, or more technically an ICD, implanted cardioverter defibrillator, and for my particular case, a dual-chamber unit, with two leads, one attached to the upper right atrial chamber, and the other to the lower ventricular chamber.  Each lead provided with an electrode that will provide the spark when necessary to keep the heart beating normal.

The upper lead will provide the electrical spark that is typically provided naturally by the sinus node in the heart.  Absent the spark, the heart may not beat at all and life will be no more. 

In my case, my beating heart now uses the pacer for the spark needed 98% of the time, while the lower lead is being used only 6% of time.  Per last examination/reading the implanted pacemaker I have still has an expected usefulness of 13 years, taking into account its current usage.

All these details put into context, the more or less exact length of my life.  Until and unless a new pacer is installed to replace the depleted one.

This therefore as one can clearly see, puts an arithmetic certainty to the end of one’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Prodigal Sibling of RER Drive Subdivision


 

 












 

Once upon a time, say 1974, RER Drive Subdivision was one integral and indivisible development on the western side of the meandering Cagayan River.

Though once a contiguous piece of land  in its over 38 hectares size, it was however splintered on the northern side by the then newly-minted Cagayan-Iligan highway that was bannered by the also spanking-new bridge to the east, the second to span the river after many, many years.

Fast forward to the current century and a myriad of changes has visited not only this area but in the entire city proper and beyond.

RER Drive Subdivision is now composed of two phases.  The bigger southern portion being Phase 1, and the smaller one being Phase 2.

And unlike the biblical narrative of prodigality, the ending to this story is quite different.  Overall, Phase 2 appears to be doing quite well.  A very appealing guardhouse greets visitors and residents alike, very easy on the eyes but looking sufficiently secured.  Streets are clean and not too many parked vehicles on the curbs.  Street signs are well maintained and visibly located.  The park bordered on one side of the main/gateway street does not look too shabby.  And finally, house are well painted and maintained, with attractive fences.

My Sunday jog routine this morning took me out of RER Drive Phase 1 to the gate of Phase 2, and it was so devised for one self-serving reason.

That gateway-main street has obvious personal importance to me, simply because it was named after my late father, the several street signs in intersections confirm that so.  And I therefore wanted to learn of the condition of those street signs, since during my last visit several years back, I had witnessed them in a bad state of disrepair.

A little side story about this, a little anecdote that personally involved me.  In 1975, the subdivision was then one, and there were still no street signs but only block numbers to identify each location.  One late afternoon home after a hectic day in my job with the bank, I was tooling around our place which still had a lot of work to be done, when I heard a rather unique engine sound nearing our location and stopping in front of us.  Unique, BTW, because we were not used to listening to big engine sounds coming from big American muscle cars since only a very few number of families had them.

It was the subdivision owner.  Driving his big and shiny American car.  Smartly dressed and walking with stiff dignity and confidence. And he was my uncle.  He had stopped in the middle of the street directly in front of our driveway, holding what looked like a roll of the subdivision plan.  He had spread the whole piece on top of his hood and beckoned to me whom he had seen moving toward him.

 
After my timid salutation, he motioned me over and proudly announced to me that he had already decided on all the names of the subdivision streets, that all of them were those of close relatives, and lastly, that all of them were dead. 

By then his first cousins, my father and his younger brother, Graciano, both still young at 57 and 52, had passed on.  In a strange way then, their early passing assured their enduring memory in posterity, granted it is just in street names.  But that was how it was.  And just as quickly, my uncle had gone to attend to his myriad of concerns

So back to my morning visit.  Armed with my GoPro Hero camera, took shots of the gate and main street all the way to the end.  And the images are attached herewith.

Street signs, all artfully lettered and well-scrubbed, and standing tall in corners, ever ready to lead motorists and pedestrians to their exact destinations.

All’s well that ends well.