Overwhelmed students deserve wellness breaks in this pandemic—and 7 ways to cope!

As I am writing this, our university’s wellness break is nearly done. Echoing the clamors of students who were stuck at home for their online classes, and imitating those institutions who went on and gave the precious time of rest for their students, my university offered one week of rest for studying: no classes for both synchronous and asynchronous sessions, no assignments or projects, no advance readings or anything.

Unfortunately, this week was just like the other weeks I had since I started school this year due to other commitments. But I do admit that it was an eye-opener: I was able to explore more things around me and was made aware of some places that are quite new here in our city. However, I admit that taking a rest from all the study materials allowed me to enjoy mundane activities, especially catching up on my Netflix list and cozying up next to my wife.

I can attest to the stress and worry that online students have been flooding social media platforms about their classes on the internet. Yes, there is less hassle and less interaction with others (one thing that I enjoyed), but it is hard asking questions when things are not clear. Additionally, the recent typhoons that ravaged the Philippines, paired with the harrowing images of destructed houses and helpless people, may have added to the anxiety that has been brewing since classes started in September/October.

I, for one, have previously relayed my frustration and anxiety because of this pandemic. Having this wellness break is something that I really value.

Besides my university, other schools have also followed and set some form of a break, calling it from reading breaks to class breaks, emphasizing students’ need to free up their minds for some rest. Most of those in Luzon were given in response to the damaging effects of the area’s typhoons.

Some groups are actually asking to prioritize the students’ conditions in this pandemic and instead call for halting all classes as soon as solutions to the growing problems in the country loom. Some netizens support this call, yet others consider this as insensitive and unideal. Whatever your opinion on this matter, we should all know to point out some facts.

Online Classes are Necessary to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Nobody wanted COVID-19 to happen, especially for the people here in the Philippines. While the government is repeating its interest in prioritizing waiting for the vaccine to arrive before calling the pandemic a solved issue, avoiding crowds, wearing face masks, and washing hands remain the easiest protection that people need to avoid disease.

Zhou et al. (2020) have seen how online classes in China have helped prevent the pandemic. As much as we would like to see students interact with each other, online classes are the only ideal solution today.

 

Teaching Online is a Challenge for Those Who are Not Used to It

Even though this post presents the plight of the students first, it is undeniable that teachers are another set of people greatly affected by the shift in the mode of instruction. Teachers can be interactive in their approach, and having online classes could remove the connection they want to have with their students.

While interaction may occur in synchronous classes, asynchronous ones, or those recorded before the classes’ schedule, are even worse. They can be watched at other times and eventually be forgotten by the student.

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Being in limbo and not knowing what to do

My interest in Roman Catholic theology started in my years in public elementary school, where catechism classes. I attended all lectures and even took exams even though I initially informed catechists that I am not a Roman Catholic and that my dad is a Protestant pastor. They would tell me that it is okay to stay at the canteen during these classes, but I would always choose to stay and hear about Bible stories, lives of saints, and basic doctrines that they taught.

I would always marvel at the similarities and the differences in our doctrines, especially the divisive belief in purgatory. But I was more fascinated with the limbo concept, which, as championed by my numerous catechism teachers, is the place where unbaptized infants who die are waiting for their fate in eternity.

Searching for more information, I ran across a commentary that showed two limbos: the limbus patrum or limbo of the patriarchs where the faithful of the Old Testament waited for Christ’s redemption and the limbus infantium, which was for those unbaptized children.

Around high school, a (secular) teacher cheerfully announced how Pope Benedict XVI “opened up” limbo and declaring it as no longer existing, implying that all unbaptized babies for all time are now given salvation. I was surprised to find out later that the limbus infantium was not a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church and that the Pope only reiterated its historic stand on the topic.

In college, limbo became a nuanced definition of what my life had become. Day in and day out, different things came to challenge me, making me more attached to the concept of limbo.

When I entered our campus paper, “in limbo” was a clichéd phrase to define any uncertainty attributed to a plan or a program. As per definition, limbo is “an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.”

These past few months, I realized some things in my life, and I discovered how I am still living like I am, or better yet, we are in limbo. Is limbo associated with depression, darkness, anxiety, and the like? I do think so, as unbaptized babies are often thought to be yearning for salvation. Does being in limbo mean that no one loves you? Not necessarily as unbaptized babies may also have parents or relatives that care for them and love them.

Every day I’m waking up in limbo: not knowing if we would still have money for the rest of the week, not sure if our supplies will last, not certain if I will still have some work to do for my living. This is what the pandemic made me.

Every day I’m waking up in limbo: not knowing if my medicines will work, not sure if I would still enjoy the rest of the day, not certain if I get another shot for a healthy life. This is what my body made me.

Every day I’m waking up in limbo: not knowing all the basic stuff in medical school, not sure if I can still make it when I get back, not certain if I will still have the courage to go on. This is what my failures made me.

I thought about this sense of uncertainty that differs from limbo because I can call on others for help. I have my wife. I have my friends. I have some others to help. But this does not diminish the fact: I’m still in limbo.

Here’s to wishing for better days ahead and for heaven to replace this limbo very soon.

As always, cease not.

I’m back to writing for a campus paper

Writing for a Campus Paper

I started involving myself with campus journalism back in high school when I was appointed to join a campus journalism seminar. Unlike my classmates, that was my very first exposure to the craft and have fallen in love with it ever since. It also served as my entry to our campus paper.

Through circumstances I still cannot understand, I became the chief editor of our campus pub but halted my involvement when I entered college. I never had the chance to write for it even though I was a member of my first college’s student pub.

When I transferred to my current university to finish my undergraduate degree, I was privileged to be accepted to our university student publication. Through it, I was able to be exposed to the woes of the people, be involved with social issues, and be informed of what my environment is really up to.

Upon graduation, I never imagined myself writing again for a school publication. Then Medicine happened.

 

Writing was a Refuge

I transferred schools after enduring endless troubles in my academic path. I thought I would never survive college with all its challenges and demands. College was not hard. The hard thing was maintaining my sanity because of previous blunders I had.

The moment I saw the recruitment poster for my paper, I felt a slight nudge in my chest telling me to apply. But if not for my girlfriend’s coercion (haha), I would not have applied. I was accepted and it was awesome.

I enjoyed all the tasks given to me. I savored every interview I did, loved all the events to cover and visit, and adored all the precepts of campus journalism. I just recently realized that writing became I way for me to unload some baggage. I was really into writing.

 

Writing must be for the People

But I felt something lacking in my craft. I desired more. Then I was exposed to the idea that writing is a way to serve the people. And with campus journalism’s rich history in the Philippines, the focus must be realigned to the people.

I began to write about people’s woes and their situation. Because of my research for my articles, my mind was opened to what really is happening in the world. It is my hope that the things I wrote would have inspired others to see the way I saw things.

In the Philippines, campus publications are the only student organization to have its own law through Republic Act No. 7079 or the Campus Journalism Act of 1991. This should have given more freedom to the campus papers but it still insufficient. I am one with those who still dream that legislation can be passed to provide more opportunities to campus writers and that all suppression of the campus press be gone.

 

Writing is also Healing

We were asked for the interview before entering medical school if what we would want to be if we will not become a doctor. I told the interviewers that I would want to be a journalist since the things that journalists do are just like those that are done by medical doctors. And that’s because of my background in campus publication.

Journalists diagnose society. They write about the people’s condition and offer remedies to these woes. They subject society to various tests to fully inform the people of their situation and offer solutions to their problems.

Journalists serve the people. Medical doctors serve them, too. I am just blessed that I happen to tread both paths in my lifetime.

 

Writing Again

So, for this school year, I applied for our college’s campus publication which is quite surprising for a medical school to have. People would not associate those two but our school publication, Vital Signs, has proven its worth to my fellow students.

This was just an update but I hope you wish me luck on this!

I’ll try to post my write-ups here (to save me from my writer’s block!)

Luther’s movement was more than just religious

Lately, in light of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I have filled my blog with posts about this movement within the Christian faith and its modern relevance. These posts were stemmed from my responsibility at my local church where I serve as worship leader and head of communications.

As much as I would want to write more about my experiences as a medical student, I cannot release myself from my faith and given this platform I think it is proper that I allow my religious expression to be heard. I have long considered this journey towards medicine as a hard path; I have repeatedly admitted in my posts about the backlogs in my education and of many hindrances that follow them.

That is why this Reformation was so important for me. In the past, this celebration would have been a day of pride for me where a man of faith braved the odds and expressed his beliefs giving us Christians, of all denominations and groups, the kind of faith that we have now. However, as a person in the academe, I came to realize things about this movement that has kept me striving for my goal.

I have made October as my month of pondering and devotion towards my worldview and the events that happened 500 years ago gave me a chance to introspect and be inspired more.

 

Luther wanted to start a discussion

October 31, 2017 marks the 500th year of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses in the church door in Wittenberg about his realizations on the church practices during his time. He wanted to have a discussion with his community and with the church officials. This plan would be the cause of a schism within the church that would eventually lead to wars and violence throughout Europe.

People would often refer to the chaos that happened during the Reformation but neglect the fact that Luther wanted to talk. In the modern era, we have seen that conflicts can be resolved through discussions. Even though our world is still filled with violence and chaos, sitting with other people and talking about the problem could truly help.

 

He paved the way to the questioning minds of the Enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment was the period in Europe where reason dominated world ideas in the 18th century. Early Reformers often had backgrounds in humanism and philosophy, giving them the leeway to reject traditionalism and turning to the Reformation movement which offered a faith based on reason and scriptures.

The Enlightenment also gave rise to atheist philosophers and those that reject Christianity. While believers would say that this is a downside, the Reformation was never in vain. It gave people ideas that they alone can decide what they want to happen to their lives and began questioning the ideas the predominated their time.

The process of questioning would eventually pave the way for a more comprehensive scientific culture that continues until today.

 

The movement tried to dissuade people from superstition and turn to the academe

The faith during Martin Luther’s time often includes several traditions which he pointed out to be inconsistent with the scriptures. Superstitions were also rampant with people doing unnecessary things for their peace of mind. With traditionalism taught as unequal to the scriptures, superstitions started to wane, even though not instantly.

More and more people became interested in studying science. Even in the religious world, people would discuss their faith based on studies that they have done. This culture of studying still has a grip on our modern world and the Reformation may have a hand on this.

A fun fact that I knew just this year is that some universities in Europe still practice nailing their theses on a wall after completing them, mirroring what Luther had done to his.

 

The movement inspired people to work from the heart

The early Reformers were influenced by the writings of Augustine of Hippo which is often depicted holding his heart in serving God saying, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” In the same way, seals of Luther and Calvin also feature the heart as a way of showing that service to God must always be done wholeheartedly.

Because of this, generations were told to strive and succeed. Many minds were opened to the fact that if the work is done properly with all dedication, good outcomes await. Many can attest to this fact and continue to be a source of inspiration.

 

The Reformers taught that people should keep on reforming

The second generation of Reformers has a strong message embedded in their writings: semper reformanda. Always Reforming. They said that the Reformation has not ended. The need to reform is still there. But not the doctrines, the creeds, or the forms. Our lives must continue on reforming until the coming of the Savior.

We can say that this thrust of telling people to always change has inspired people to innovate, to look for more truths, to formulate ideas that show reforming, to strive for better things. The Reformation has given us many things but more than just our way of worship, it has given man a new way of life.

 

Final thoughts

I consider my failures and heartaches as those things necessary for my growth. But I know that I still have the chance to be better, I still have the chance to reform. The influence of the Reformation is undeniable and it has given an impact on the lives of all the people on earth.

We still look forward to more things that we could change for the better. Semper reformanda.

Having Cavies as Pets: From the Laboratory to our Home

Guinea pigs (also known as cuys or cavies) are rodents belonging to the genus Cavia commonly seen as domestic pets in modern households all over the world. They are known to be cute pets often seen with rabbits and hamsters. While they are known as lovable pets, they are considered as important animals especially in South America where guinea pigs as consumed as food and as an ingredient in folk medicine.

While the etymology of the word ‘guinea pig’ is hard to explain, the animals are popular because of their value in laboratory experiments since the 17th century where the cavies serve as model organisms for experimentations. Because of this, we have also use the word ‘guinea pig’ as an epithet to any test subjects.

Even though cavies are now replaced by other test subjects (like mice and rats), they are still important in researches involving diabetes and cough-related diseases.

Out group at school decided to conduct research that deals with cough. With the earlier information in mind, we have no other choice for test subjects but the guinea pigs. After several months of processing with our university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and with the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI), plus a training from someone accredited by the Philippine Association of Laboratory Animal Science (PALAS) we were given clearance and accreditation to do the said experimentation of the cavies.

Initially, we thought that test animals should be euthanized after any experimentation. However, through these various outfits and trainings, we were educated that not all test animals are needed to be euthanized especially if the methods are non-invasive.  Our methods were deemed not harmful for the animals so we were approved.

But the authorities were clear in telling us that the laws of our country prohibit abuse of animals. As much as possible, the laws require that there should be no killing in test subjects.

That is why after our research, we divided our test subjects and took them home as pets. Now, I am starting to become a cavy pet owner and am still finding other ways to manage them and let them grow.

Here is a video of my pets. I hope I can post more about them in the future.

I am the Ceaseless Nomad!

It’s been years since I last wrote a blog post and my life has been through many changes. I tried changing my blog’s address at WordPress.com. I tried changing my writing style. But they never did inspire me to continue on writing.

I’d like to think of myself as a person with too many ideas. I started writing blogs in high school out of curiosity plus answering the call of the new technology available for my ideas to spread. Blogger was the platform back then. I loved writing online. The experience was emancipating. I had a small group of followers back then and they were generous enough to give my feedbacks for my write-ups.

I cringe at the thought of how I did years ago. Well, you can read my previous posts here and cringe with me.

In college, I tried other platforms for blogs. My purpose for writing also changed. If my initial goal was just to share my thoughts, it changed into a narcissist impulse and I was hungry for people’s attention. I must have denied that in the past but that’s how I felt back then. I tried writing to gain followers, to gain readers, to read comments. I don’t know if it is human to be an attention-seeker but it just felt natural back then. Unfortunately, narcissism is never beneficial and as much as I enjoyed the readership then

I tried writing about tourism, food, and other things that might interest people from any country in the world. But with that, I had to be very resourceful. The process was tiring and updating my blog was not that efficient. Unfortunately, narcissism is never beneficial and as much as I enjoyed the readership then, I had to stop at one point.

Yeah. I did those before.

When I changed schools, I was accepted into our campus paper and my exploits with my personal blog were halted. But I never stopped writing online. I just did not feel the necessity of having a personal blog.

But now, as I grew older, I had this feeling that I need to write more. I have so many ideas in my mind that sometimes I forget them. Not that these are all worthwhile ideas, but being not able to share your thoughts is excruciating.

So what’s the next step? Well, for me, that was to get my own domain and write at my own pace. I consider this website as an online diary of the things that I would like to share. I don’t know if I will be able to gain the same readership as I had years ago but if you’re reading this, I guess this decision was effective and I will continue to do so even if I will not gain anything from this.

I name my blog as the “Ceaseless Nomad” since I consider myself as one. But, no, unlike all those other blogs with the word “nomad” attached to them, this is not a travel blog. I could not believe when I read that the modern meaning of the word “nomad” is synonymous with the word “traveler.”

According to Meriam-Webster, a nomad is:

a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory For centuries nomads have shepherded goats, sheep, and cattle across the … semiarid grasslands … — Discovery

an individual who roams about He lived like a nomad for a few years after college, never holding a job in one place for very long.

Historically, the first inhabitants of the Philippines were nomadic peoples. While I could be a literal nomad in that sense (with my various transfers both in homes and schools), I view being a nomad as someone who is still in the process of reaching the green pasture that all of us aspire to reach.

Gotta be ceaseless to reach that pasture…

Because of that, I will share my journey as I try to reach my goal in life. I will share things about medical school, about my faith, my passion, and other things that might come up in my mind. I hope, as you finish reading this piece, that you will continue to read about my thoughts.

Your comments and discussions will be appreciated. After all, what would be the point of sharing my ideas if they will never be discussed?

Until next time,

 

Breathe…

That’s a refreshing word for asthma people like me.

Started this blog several years ago with the goal of venting my feelings and expressing my freedom (which is quite an abused reason to write nowadays) as a writer wannabe. But look how long it took for me to write this entry. I remembered trying to keep up with the surge of blogs about three years ago. I needed to update this because I have some followers. I know they’re nowhere now and I did not expect even you to read this, no matter who you are.

My last entry before this is dated July 21, 2013. It has been more than two years and many things have changed. Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) has ravaged the country (which is coincidentally remembered this weekend). I finally visited Mindanao last year. I have graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biology this year.

I must say my attitude and condition while I was writing my former post is quite far from what I have right now. I feel sad that two years after Haiyan left a scar on us, we are still in the process of recovery. I feel confused considering my next visits to Mindanao were in great contrast from what I felt the first time I smelled their air. I feel helpless that despite getting my degree I’m still floating as of 1:15 am this morning.

Far from the childish action-filled person I was two years ago, I’m now a tired 23-year old man weary of the demands of this life, tired from the journey towards my dream, exhausted of the trials that I have encountered. No, of course, I still have time to be happy. I have a loving family. I have an extremely supportive girlfriend. I have new friends and acquaintances to celebrate. I have new fandoms to enjoy. But at 12:00 midnight, you can’t help but feel the strain of everything around you.

Maybe it's just time to BREATHE.
Maybe it’s just time to BREATHE.

Maybe writing again might just be the answer to this weariness. But aside from this, I know that after feeling so tired, you must try and surrender at one point of your life. Not that you’re giving up the fight. You’re just giving up your own strength for Someone greater to offer you His. Krystal Meyers got it right in this song:

Thanks for reading. Will be writing more kon may tiyempo ah. 🙂

Jumping and Kicking

Oh wow. Saw the date of my last post? Yeah. It was eons away and I am just ashamed that I dared start a blog then forget about it. This should have been my online diary. But these months just took a toll on me. Biology stuff is painstaking. But persistence is a virtue.

While problems allowed me to stumble especially last month, I also had an enlightening experience. I was encouraged to see God in all things. I don’t know if that can ring something in your mind but that line changed me.

On this note, I come to my recent realization about myself. I became hooked with the Kamen Rider franchise of Toei. Of course, everybody knows about Masked Rider Black but very few (especially here in Iloilo) remember Blade and Ryuki which were also shown here in the Philippines.

Kamen Rider Ichigo
Kamen Rider Ichigo

The demographic of the series are children. Maybe that is one reason that I was enamored in watching it. I began with Den-O, then with Kiva, Decade, back to Kuuga, Agito, and now Ryuki. One may ask, why would I waste my time on this childish Japanese series? Well, I did have lessons learned in watching the series.

First, I learned about respect and values. I recognize that each culture is superb in its values but the Japanese did the overt in showing their respect to others. Bowing is not just being Oriental. It is giving oneself to somebody in a friendly and respectful way. It’s like telling some, “Hi! I am bowing because I respect you as a person.” The funny thing is that I just keep bowing to people, not realizing that this act is somewhat laughable here in Iloilo.

Japanese bow
I don’t know where the impulse came from but I just can’t help bowing anymore.

Second, I learned to appreciate simple things. Since the Kamen Rider franchise is targeted to young audiences, characters tend to show affection and devotion to even the most minute thing in any episode. This made me realize that I, too, can see like how their eyes see. I came to appreciate things more than ever.

Third, I learned a striking exhibition of humbleness. The Kamen Riders fight with all their might, risking their lives for what they believe is true. And they do it under their masks. Having a mask is not cowardice after all. It may just be a way to hinder others to praise and idolize you which can make you look up to yourself even more.

Fourth, I learned how to value and encourage imagination. In modern times, elders usually tell children to be less imaginative and follow what this world is dictating. Did it come to you how the Japanese are still making movies and shows with kaijin? This can exercise the imaginative mind of their children, making them open for anything in the future.

Finally, I learned how, as a living person, I should live. Kamen Riders usually have “Rider Jump” and “Rider Kick” as their hissatsu attacks. It just came to me that, aren’t jumping and kicking two ways that define a living person? If one jumps or kicks, it ultimately means he or she is alive. I realized that I was not jumping and kicking for so long. I became a boring person. I needed to change myself for good.

So that’s it. I just felt the urge to express what I feel in words. I am just happy that I’m living today and that I have earned a new philosophy in life.

Hey, if you reached this line, I really owe you for reading this entire composition. I hope I could write again soon. May your brain juices overflow!

A Year That’s New for All

First of all, Happy New Year to you! I wish you all the best for 2013!

Yesterday was my very first class for this year and I can’t help but ponder upon things from the past year that I think have made me become a person (as every person who celebrated New Year) for this year.

2012 has been very ungenerous when it comes to things that revolve around the human life. My country was devastated several times last year. We even suffered a failed end of the world and several hoaxes and issues that have left us discouraged with humanity at one point.

But looking back to my first day at class yesterday, I did see that we have changed even as the year changed. We may have retained traits that are necessary for us to survive

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