Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Amoxicillin for Toothaches?!

The Year Level 5: ICC Year blog posts - stories and anecdotes, patient encounters and hospital drama, and the many colors of UP med school from the perspective of a third year. Here's the very first entry, under our two-week rotation with the Family Medicine section of the Department of Family and Community Medicine.

We had our very first one-on-one with patients today at Tondo's Canossa Health and Social Center, which is affiliated in a way that's not crystal-clear to me (yet) with PGH's Department of Family Medicine. The Center, which is run by the Canossian sisters, is sort of a "last frontier," a few square spaces of peace and relatively fresh air right smack at the heart of the urban-poor communities near the notorious Smoky Mountain. It's mostly an out-patient center, but there are also basic lab facilities, x-ray rooms, and delivery rooms, among others.  

Enter Mary Louise (not her real name), who has had generalized back pain for the past six months because: (a) she sleeps on an uncushioned wooden board of a bed; (b) she does not stretch upon waking in the morning; and (c) she has been unsuccessful in her attempt to finish a certain Zumba workout video featuring Jackie Lou Blanco. In her spare time, which she said she has a lot as a stay-at-home mom, she paints.

We sent her home without meds, just advice on proper stretching. But she also told me that she's been having a sort of toothache for the past week, and that to relieve this, she's been taking a cocktail of amoxicillin and mefenamic acid, and it has so far been a success. Who put her on this regimen? No one, not even a shred of prescription - she just goes to the corner pharmacy and buys the drugs when she feels like it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Let Me Be Your Star, or an Update on Life

Time for a much-awaited update on my life, or what I've been up to besides school, theater, TV series, and home, which is nothing significant. We're now six weeks into the third year of med school, or the most benign year we'll ever have in our arduous, multi-ocean journey to legit doctordom. Playing truant is actually fun when you don't look at it that way. We have more time - actually, a lot of spare time - on our hands, and we are extremely grateful, thank you gods in school, may you grant us more free time if that's not asking too much, Amen, Shalom.

Tomorrow, we're officially out of the classrooms and in the hospital, and our block starts with Family Medicine, which is preoccupied whole year round with drafting genograms for the Human Genogram Project. Wish them luck, you guys! Also, last Friday afternoon, we had so much fun sticking needles on each other's hands and arms for the first time (for me, at least). Based on that one-day performance, I would probably be banned from doing IV insertions and blood extractions.

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Went to the closing performance of the second run of Atlantis' "Rock of Ages." I don't know why I missed this when it premiered last year, because it is such a good production. Great for me, too, to have this show as my follow-up for Jett Pangan, after his horrendous blunder in "Nine." More on RoA next Saturday, or in my post-mortem piece for the Inquirer.

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Currently watching "Smash"; finished the first season two nights ago, now in the middle of the second. My two hypotheses on why it got cancelled: First, because the writing is very inconsistent; second, because for a show that's about a show about Marilyn Monroe, its Marilyn is its biggest liability among its actors.

The pilot episode was actually pretty promising, but somewhere along the way, "Smash" descended down the fiery pits of pitiful soap opera-ness. In "Tech," for example, the lead actor in the show-within-the-show just drops out two days prior to opening night, and nobody or nothing in the contract (were there even contracts?!) could stop him? Or how about the character of Ellis, who's made to stand behind every doorway because the audience couldn't possibly grasp the enormity of his role as sniveling snake. And for heavens' sake, that atrocious, unspeakable Bollywood number!

Or how about the casting of Katharine McPhee? This woman cannot act. CANNOT ACT. She is not an actress. She is a singer who sounds like she swallowed two tanks of oxygen. Whatever you call the counterpart of the monobrow in the realm of facial expressions, she has that. If ever she goes to Broadway, she'd be the Kristen Stewart of theater. Have I mentioned McPhee's not an actress?

But I persist with the show, oh yes I do, plodding on and on and on because - well, for the sake and the joy of watching Christian Borle and Megan Hilty, Jeremy Jordan and Andy Mientus, Ann Harada and Wesley Taylor and Bernadette Peters and Uma Thurman speak-singing "Let Me Be Your Star." 

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Before "Smash," tried "The New Normal." Andrew Rannells is over-the-top hilarious, and so is Ellen Barkin when she's spewing racist, sexist comments. But way above the merits of its actors is the fact that it is an overly preachy show, poorly written (sometimes, it sounds like a lecture from religion class), and that it "speaks" instead of "shows." I stopped after the seventh episode.

And before "The New Normal," there was the fourth season of "Glee." Sometimes, it's clear it didn't know which direction it wanted to go. Sometimes, it's just plain messy. It could also be downright offensive (see the school shooting episode that was trivialized in the end). But there were moments of gold, there really were, and there were flashes of light.

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We saw Veronica Velasco's "Tuhog" at the Mall of Asia. Despite its flaws, its tendency to reduce itself to the level of (cheap) evening primetime soaps, it actually put on quite a show. I liked it, is what I want to say. Enjoyed it, to be more accurate. Or maybe it's because I haven't watched enough Filipino films with that baseline caliber of writing.

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Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad" is literary gold. I think I may be in love with a book, and if that's the case, "Cloud Atlas" and "The Rule of Four" have now found a third member for "Mano Po: The Book Version," starring - literally - books.

THROWBACK SUNDAYS: Marbuena Island Resort, Ajuy, Iloilo, November 2008. Goodness, those crazy high-school moments.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Midnight and Monaco


OS 217 - Infectious Diseases, Oncology, and Trauma - is over! That's four weeks of our lives - a resounding sigh, applause, standing ovation, farewell to this messy, messed-up three-module course. After our first anatomy exam in first year, I highly entertained the idea of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Trauma did that again. But I realized I'm neither gym rat nor basketball player, if we go by PGH conspiracy theories.


Saw "Despicable Me 2" on Friday. What is it with the Minions, or what is it that makes these yellow balls of cuteness so, so, so cute? 

Saw "Before Midnight" last night. This is the most beautiful, most gripping of the trilogy. That sunset scene where Jessie and Celine just sit there, and she goes, in reference to the sun, "Still there... still there.. still there... gone," made me shed a few tears. That's an achievement, if we consider how dry my tear ducts are, and this film joins the company of, among others, "Finding Nemo," "Lilo and Stitch," and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."


This afternoon, saw the Little Singers of Monaco, all-boys choir from said country, at the SM Mall of Asia. Were they good? They must be; I could hardly tell, what with the mall's sucky acoustics. This had to be the cheapest, most inappropriate place the choir's ever performed in, and it's such a shame, and the hosts or sponsors should be ashamed of themselves for making the group perform in this hell of a place. I writhed in agony on behalf of the choir.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

PDI Review: 'I Was Here' - Audie Gemora in Concert

In today's Philippine Daily Inquirer: My article on Audie Gemora's concert, "I Was Here," at the CCP Little Theater, July 5. This concert was the second of a series entitled "Triple Threats" - the first by Nonie Buencamino, June 13; the last with Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo on August 15.

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Audie Gemora in concert - a master storyteller at work

At the CCP Little Theater last July 5, musical theater actor Audie Gemora candidly recalled to a sold-out house his five-second audition for “Miss Saigon,” back when the desperate creative team had just discovered the goldmine of homegrown Filipino talent.

Literally two words into his piece, he was cut off by a nonchalant “Next!” after which he was told that he “looks like he couldn’t hurt a fly.” 

For someone local playgoers had started calling the “Prince of Philippine Musical Theater,” that audition was, for a time, the “ultimate sign” for Gemora that he wasn’t meant to be an actor.

Such anecdotal gems dotted “I Was Here,” Gemora’s solo concert under the CCP’s “Triple Threats” series. And, clearly, 15 years can make all the difference: The actor who flunked his ‘Saigon” audition was long gone. In his place was now a master storyteller and genuine entertainer.

Intimacy, familiarity

The evening’s one-and-a-half hour program was an exercise in intimacy as well as familiarity. The audience – at its core, the names that populate Manila’s stages nowadays – came not only for a night of topnotch singing, which was expected, but also to toast, in chamber-hall fashion, local musical theater’s epitome of the leading man.  

Consider, for example, the manner in which Gemora relayed how he got his start in Repertory Philippines. Through the song “You’ve Got Possibilities” from “It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman,” he crafted a hilarious meta-duet impersonating theater stalwarts Baby Barredo and the late Zenaida Amador dissecting him on his first audition for the company. It’s a scene anyone who has ever attempted to enter Rep (and anyone who’s heard of the duo’s legendary directorial prowess) knew all too well, down to Barredo’s smoke-puffing and Amador’s bulldog demeanor.

Stories about his struggles in 1980s America (“when there was still no place for Pinoys on Broadway”) were juxtaposed with a couple of medleys that only illustrated his versatility. We’re talking here of a singer who can easily shift between acting-laced numbers and conventional microphone play (he is, after all, an Awit Award winner “for New Recording Artist – at 32!”).

Fresh touch

A medley of songs from his early years – “Cool” from “West Side Story,” “Oh What a Circus” from “Evita” – was followed by a clutch of pop ditties, or as he put it, “mga kanta ng papa ko” – “Moon River,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” 

If anything, Gemora sounded eternally fresh and young as he revisited those old roles, while painting his sincere, personal touch on the standards.

The arrangements were creatively spun by Rony Fortich, Hong Kong Disneyland’s resident musical director. Vincent dela Cruz played double bass, and Karmi Santiago, who played drums, was undeniably another of the evening’s standouts. Hats off, after all, to anyone who could get away with a percussion-infused “Try to Remember” from “The Fantasticks” – a wistful ode to love that’s written like it’s drum-proofed: Try to remember/ the kind of September/ when life was slow/ and oh so mellow.

Polished baritone

Midway through the concert, Gemora, together with guest star Sam Concepcion, launched into a duet of “Deep Within” from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” an original Filipino musical they first did back in 2003. It was only then that we saw, or more precisely, heard the evening’s first glimpse of Gemora the unparalleled showman. 

Singing the role of the lion Aslan (yes, the one by C.S. Lewis), any trace of pop-chart topper, any remnant of the former romantic lead was quickly shed off. Here, at last, was the polished, strapping baritone.

From there, it was one spotlessly sung musical theater number after another: “If I Loved You” from “Carousel” paired with “If Ever I Would Leave You” from “Camelot”; “Stars” from “Les Miserables” with “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha.” To witness him plow through some of the theater canon’s toughest numbers with expertly balanced force and restraint – there couldn't have been a more thrilling sight.

The highest point of the evening was his performance of “Awit ni Isagani” from the musical “El Filibusterismo” (scored by Ryan Cayabyab) – a moment of consummate theatricality as he plumbed the depths of this haunting aria with a rare veracity of character. This was followed by a duet with guest artist Regine Velasquez on “Matimyas Mabuhay sa Sariling Bayan” from “Noli Me Tangere: The Musical” – the harmonies exquisite, the musicality luminous. 

If any were needed at all, here was unassailable proof that Gemora belongs to the stage and wouldn't – shouldn't – be leaving it anytime soon.