about me, i am a mission dentist, in my opinion, this is life

Age Is Just A Number

And my number is 38.

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Cringe, I know… so close to 40.

Today I woke up to messages from my high school friends and the line being thrown repeatedly was, “Shit, malapit na tyo maging 40!” (Shit we’re almost 40). Where did time go, right? Can’t I just be in my 30s forever? I want to say that age doesn’t matter, but to be honest, I’ve started to feel the weight of my age on my shoulders. It is clear that even though my mind is clinging on to youthfulness, my body is transitioning to what it is slowly becoming–OLD(er).

When I was younger, I would wait excitedly for my birthday because it’s so fun to gain a year. I felt thoroughly accomplished and sophisticated with the maturity and that was the case until I turned 18. After that, I dreaded it every year. When I was closing in to my thirties, I got so obsessed with numbers–and making something out of myself. I don’t know why, but that’s how everyone was, so I guess I was just going with the flow. By 30 you want to be able to show the world that you’ve come so far. And so I plotted all kinds of goals for myself.

I wanted to be married by 30. I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to be rich. I had so many plans and dreams for my life… because I thought that will bring my life meaning.

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So what now? I am not “married”, not a mother, and not rich.

Eventually I realized the truth in the statement, “Age is just a number”. Because at the end of the day, all the hurrying and scurrying to meet deadlines did not do me good. The meaning you seek in life does not follow a world standard. The meaning you seek, comes from somewhere else.

Today I am thirty-eight (38) and soon enough I will enter my 40s. I don’t really have anything to show to the world, but I just want to be grateful for the chance to still try. And I guess what I can promise is that I will keep trying, until I am unable to. The other day I was talking to my DGroup about my life in the field and my DGroup leader asked me, “How long do you think can you do this for?” And I paused. I realized I’ve never really thought about that. “Until I can?” Until my hands permit me to do so?” And I knew that it is clear in my heart, that until God says, GO… I will go.

 

Age and My Hands

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve stopped (or maybe just taken a quick break from) coloring. I have set it aside because there are some instances, when I am performing a root canal, that I feel my hands getting really tired. That makes me worry so much because my survival is dependent on the ability of my hands to perform. And although I don’t want to say it out loud I usually wonder about it. What if one day I can’t move my hands anymore?

In 2010 a 72-year old OB successfully and skillfully performed Myomectomy on me. How about me? Will my hands be reliable in the clinic and the field, even when I become a septuagenarian?

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Age is just a number, but we are fearful of the number because we feel that it comes with so many limits. I see this in my aging grandma who insists she is still completely capable, and I see it in myself when I try to “defy gravity”. Age is just a number but of course this number will come with changes that will vary from one person to another. Just the other day my youngest sister was crying of debilitating menstrual cramps and she said, “Ganito ba talaga kapag tumatanda ka na?” Is this really how it is when you get older? We merely laughed at her, in agreement.

Age is just a number and this number comes with a lot of changes. My number is 38–and soon it will greater than that. But who cares?

 

“Old age may have its limitations and challenges, but in spite of them, our latter years can be some of the most rewarding and fulfilling of our lives”.

Billy Graham

 

Ultimately, I think, what matters is not how old you are or how far you’ve come. What matters is, you’re still here and you’re still trying.

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about me, i am a christian, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, this is life

Two Hundred Pesos

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Two hundred pesos is not so much but sometimes it’s all about perspective. If you’re buying an expensive 2 million automobile, it’s quite worthless; but when you’re starving and looking to feed your family, two hundred pesos is a decent meal on the table. And really, life is all about perspective. It’s about seeing things in a positive light.

In our first site in Mindanao, we served a cluster of barangays, and as much as 700 people came. When hordes of people are rushing in, it’s quite easy for the team to get lost in the panic. When the queue of people don’t seem to thin, human nature sets in and the heaviness will settle. As a dentist in the field, the pain starts on my neck and back. Almost permanently hunched back to look into people’s mouths, the pain can be quite excruciating and uncomfortable as the day progresses. Hunger and exhaustion will soon manifest as a fairly limiting headache—and you see yourself checking the time and the number of patients that still need to be served. And often times I hear myself faintly cry out, “Oh Lord,” even more so when I am being overwhelmed by a difficult case. Almost instantly, I get the strength I need to finish the work, and of course I know it is no longer my own effort but the Lord’s.

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But then it’s not easy being a patient in a Medical Mission, either. Desperate and hopeful, you come in as early as you can, in order to register your name. And after getting your name in, you go through the process. In a Team Jesus Mission, you go through the following steps:

Step 1: Registration

Step 2: Vital Signs

Step 3: Counselling

Step 4: Medical, Dental, Optical, Circumcision

Step 5: Pharmacy

You go through the tedious process when the truth is that everyone just wants to go straight to Step 4, and the volunteers would rather be at the comfort of their homes. Fortunately, that is not God’s design. It’s not easy to understand why we travel so far, but when the burden to serve is placed in your heart by the Lord, you will answer the call.

“For many are called, but a few are chosen”

Matthew 22:14

And while many are called to serve, only a few people will actually do it. Because why would you take time off work and travel far? Why would you close your clinic for a while, and tell your patients to wait so you can go up to the mountains? It’s not easy to explain why we do this, but you just have to know that it’s clear in my heart that this is what I have to do. It is clear in every volunteer’s heart… and so we go to the field to serve. Not a lot of people get this, but sometimes someone does.

I Want to Help You

In our first site in Mindanao, amidst the crowd of patients, our Pastor found herself counselling a woman. She was quite enthusiastic and a little overeager, so it didn’t help that our Pastor was already feeling quite tired for the day. When you’re speaking to a large group of people you only hope that they are listening and not merely hearing your voice. Otherwise you’re only making noise and the word will fall on deaf ears. Our pastor continued to talk to the group and she remembers seeing the woman as she preached, and hearing her exclaim “Amen”, in almost automatic repetition. Her curiosity immediately grew, “Who is this woman?” she thought to herself.

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When the session ended, the crowd started to move out of the room, but the woman stayed. As soon as everyone had left, she approached our pastor and she said, “Nakakatuwa ang ginagawa nyo” (Your work makes me happy). She continued, “Gusto kong tumulong pero wala akong pera.” (I want to help, but I don’t have much money). Completely moved by her spirit, our Pastor smiled reassuringly and said, “Madaming paraan para tumulong. Pwede mo kaming ipagdasal. Ipagdasal mo kami para maipagpatuloy naming ang gawain ng Panginoon”. (There are many ways for you to help. You can pray for us. You can pray for us so that we could continue with God’s work). Volunteerism come in three forms: some work, some give, some pray. And so our Pastor told her not to worry if she has nothing to give, because her prayers will be worth so much.

Just then, she took two hundred pesos from her pocket and handed it over, “Ito lang ang meron ako, pero gusto ko tumulong sa inyo”. (This is all I have but I really want to help you). And she left with the promise to pray for the team.

Two hundred pesos is not so much but sometimes it’s all about perspective. And that gesture of generosity and grace is worth more than what it can actually afford—a box of gloves, two packs of cotton balls, or two bottles of alcohol? Many wonder where we get our medicines from, but just like the old woman, there are people who believe in the importance of God’s work to reach the last, the least and the lost, so they share whatever they can so we can buy medicines. And sometimes, supplies arrive in boxes without us asking—it’s quite overwhelming.

Team Jesus functions entirely by FAITH. As a matter of fact, before the Mindanao Mission, I was severely short of dental supplies and one by one it got filled up until all I lacked were two boxes of gloves. Anyway, a friend saw my IG post and sent me exactly what we needed. Another friend saw it, but I told her it’s already been filled, so she offered to give 100 bags with school supplies for the kids, instead.

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Two hundred pesos is not so much but sometimes it’s all about perspective. After our second day we ran out of some things and that donation went towards the replenishment of some dental and surgical supplies. So we might not see that old woman again, but her spirit will remain with us, always.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” Matthew 6: 19-21

You see, it’s not easy to be a patient in a Medical Mission. Some people wait for hours for the chance to receive free care, and it isn’t so much what we are able to give in the field. But they wait patiently to be served and to receive free care, because money that you can save from free dental and medical, is money that can go towards a few decent meals. So when a patient turns to you and says, “Please take my money, I want to help you.” You receive it with sincere gratitude, because that’s grace from God.

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about me, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, in my opinion, my country: the philippines, my travels

Politicians and the Campaign Season

I went on a brief vacation to Mindanao last month, and I was lucky enough to be asked to tag along on three missions while I was there. My team has taken a brief hiatus, and I have been missing the field. So imagine my delight when I was asked to serve…

The thing about being “invited to missions” is that you sort of become a part of the purpose they wish to serve–whatever it is. But it’s okay, I always tell myself that I’m there for the people–not for the organizers.

Continue reading “Politicians and the Campaign Season”

about me, i am a christian, in my opinion, this is life

Stop. Look. Listen.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

James 1: 19-20

My family call me hysterical. I remember my Papa scolding me for always raising my voice and throwing a tantrum in the middle of an argument.

Continue reading “Stop. Look. Listen.”

about me, my travels

Surviving A Roadtrip to Mindanao

“As in drive?” Everyone thought it was wild that I was going on a roadtrip to Mindanao, but almost a week after my trip–here I am, alive and writing about it. It was an amazing experience. Weeks before this trip, I was fantasizing about going on one after watching “Expedition Happiness” on Netflix–and suddenly I found myself on a mini-roadtrip. I say mini because theirs took them from Canada to Mexico. Hahaha. Anyway, I love going on this roadtrip but I would think it’s not for everyone.

It’s physically taxing, first of all, so if you think it’s all fun–then you’re absolutely mistaken. But it’s not an impossible feat. As long as you’re willing and able, you can survive the roadtrip too! I mean, I did, so should you.

Yes this is me surviving the roadtrip. Hitting the final destination–Cotabato. Where I took a plane back to Manila.

Continue reading “Surviving A Roadtrip to Mindanao”

about me, i am a christian, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist

Touching People’s Lives

I’ve always wanted to be a dentist. My uncle was a dentist and I said, “I want to do that”, and when I finally became one I realized that it wasn’t so special. Haha. Actually, when younger individuals tell me they want to be a dentist, I’d always discourage them and say, “Oh do not make the mistake I made!”

Of course the main advantage you enjoy when you’re in private practice is that you have so much freedom, being your own boss and all. But that’s not much, really. It’s mostly hardwork and with very little gain. Things change, however, when you revert your focus.

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about me, in my opinion, my travels

The Death Curve

I was on a leisurely motorcycle ride around Negros Occidental when I saw this along the stretch of sugar cane plantations. I saw it from a far, laughed at it, and decided I needed to go back around so I could take a photo of it.

Continue reading “The Death Curve”