Siem Reap, Cambodia

“Where is home?” Amber asked.

She was a fellow backpacker I met in the bar of this really cool and cheap Central Hostel we stayed in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I was trying to enjoy a bottle of local Cambodian beer that night, before dozing off, which kinda tasted similar to our very own red horse. (Confession: I am not fond of beers – but I can if I love you and you enjoy beer and I am drinking with you. Also, if I’m broke to afford other liquors. And that night, I can only afford a bottle of beer) And I remember pausing for a good minute before responding “Manila, Philippines”. It is not that I am ashamed of my roots, nor I find it difficult to let people know that I am a Filipino – because for some Captain Obvious reasons, my physique can’t be denied of its’ roots, because I’m very much Pinoy. I have always been so proud of my brown skin, my round eyes, and my wavy hair, and has always been really prouder to letting people know how lovely and how happy our country is. But at the back of my head, and to my overthinking nature, I was stunned with the other idea of what constitutes as “home”.

I asked myself over that minute what she meant by home. How does one consider a place home, when you feel home can be anywhere? And is it possible that home can be in multiple places? Is it where you were born? Where you grew up? Where your love ones live? Or where you desire living in the future?

Cambodia is very known for its’ Angkor Wat. And first time tourists are kinda obliged to visit it. It’s a UNESCO heritage site, and the biggest religious monument in the world. And I can’t stop crying on the inside to have finally seen its’ beauty. Out of all the countries I have been, Cambodia really took a significant space in my heart – and I am sure no other place can take up that much space anymore (or maybe Prague, New York, and Grand Canyon – because I have also been daydreaming almost every day seeing them, and possibly visiting back multiple times).

It has always been one of my dreams to see Angkor Wat. I remember just looking at that beautiful scene in photographs taken by friends and people I see in the internet, and be astounded by the looks of it. It looked so unreal in the screen, and even looked more surreal in flesh. For a moment, I got scared by how unbelievably huge and historic it is. For that moment, there’s nothing more frightening than a dream come true. And as much as I would love to endlessly capture everything and take more photographs, I knew that I need to take a pause, feel it, and to just silently watch the golden rim slowly glimmer behind the beautiful monument. That moment made me realized an important lesson of patience. Years of wishing and working hard to see this gorgeous sight was all worth it – because beautiful things take time.

We spent almost the entire sunny day walking around, riding the tuk tuk (you will be needing to rent a tuk tuk for the entire day which was around 20USD) in visiting all temples we can see. It was very exhausting! And it is important to bring a liter of water at least to replace all the sweat you’d be having. To our surprise, one day pass, which we all thought was just for 20USD is already for 37USD. The cost didn’t hurt much because the view and the experience was all worth it anyway. In case you haven’t noticed, I have been mentioning USD in this paragraph. Cambodia does have their own currency which they call riel, however, they use USD in most transactions. Although money is in USD, Cambodia is still relatively cheap compared to other Asian countries I have been. Food has this very interesting feel, and since I was traveling on a budget, food I consumed are mostly those served on the street. Cheap (around 1.5-5USD) but good enough to still give you that Khmer tastebuds experience.

Amber and I shared almost same sentiments about Cambodia that night. We even both agreed that Cambodia is a very hospital country, making you feel at home. Amber was from California, but decided to find her fortune in South East Asia, and has been teaching English in Bangkok for a couple of months. She was in Cambodia for a short stay before heading to Vietnam. When I asked if she misses home, she said California is no longer home for her.

She said that home, as she learned from her journey so far, is not just the place where you were born. She said that it’s the place where you become yourself. All questions I asked myself before our conversation went deeper was answered. That’s when it hit me that where you come from now is much less important than where you are going. She’s right. Home can’t be just the place where you come from. Home would be whatever, or wherever, I have carried around me, and ultimately, a place where I could always, and would always want to go back to.

Some photos taken using iphone6+
8th Photo (self portrait) take by Karl Presentacion

To Another

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It is cute and funny how people still expect resolutions every time the year moves forward to another number. Some research says that 80-90% of New Year’s resolutions fail, yet millions of us still make them every single year. I am not sure about you, but I am pretty sure that what happened between the last 365 times the sun and moon appeared above me, I certainly did not commit to even half of the resolutions I did. But at least I tried.

Now I won’t begin to talk about what my resolutions were for this year, neither talk about the promises I would probably break as well in the coming year (because we just love breaking promises, right?), but when people try to dig deep in the conversation and gives you the plan or goal card question, I begin to wonder and question so many things.

I am not sure if it is just me, but when thrown a question like that, it seems that you are obliged to impress somebody. It worries me. Not that I have no plans at all, but majority of people seem to be just preoccupied of the surface of one’s purpose. You probably give them a nice answer, and they give you a rehearsed response of “that’s great”. And you are unsure if it really does sound great to them. Regardless, you continue with the conversation, and probably throw the same question, and the best part is that most of the responses you get may sound better than yours – leaving you dwarfed by someone else’s progress on their ultimate goal.

Entering the “young professional” life, I begin to notice how huge of a jungle it really is outside the confines of university. You can play a wide spectrum of roles to begin with bugs or insects, small birds, fishes, or cutesy mammals which is easily preyed and hunted in the cold and swampy jungle. You are blessed if given the role of a monkey in which you can clown around and outsmart the bullies, or an antelope, looking weak yet gifted with long stride so you can run fast enough to save your life.  But definitely impossible to be crowned as a lion, tiger, or an eagle, when you are very new in the jungle. The jungle just seems to have its’ own bible, and you have to follow the ecosystem.

I am honestly caught off guard how competitive it is here. In a 2016 millennial dictionary reference, I am shookt.

In the evening of Rizal Day, I was catching up with my dear friend, Kar, over an iced Vietnamese coffee in the nearby mall. Kar has always been one of those good friends who will look you into the eye, and completely understands you, without even making any sounds or gestures. I don’t understand what science or magic is behind in such connection, but you get me. It is gem to find people like that in this world. Kar and I has always been so ambitious with our life goals, and being seatmates in our freshman year (although we actually have a person sitting in between us – but he was figuratively non existent to us), I learned while conversing with her that we share common sentiments on how the #goals we perceived before were very skin-deep. Get a nice job, buy expensive things, go here, go there, have a family, and be stable.

This is when it hit me that why do we always go around asking ourselves or people what their goals are, and always wait or anticipate responses citing things like must have, or must experience? I begin to wonder why we are not asking ourselves or others “what can I offer to the immediate world” instead?

I enjoy reflecting a lot in times like this, and days before the year ends, and think about all the challenges, and the fun times. It gives me peace – as I am reminded how transformational were some moments however seemingly difficult they were. I think there is actually nothing wrong with having resolutions or goals, especially when it is a new year since it freshly promises a clean slate again. And having goals absolutely keeps us grounded with what we ultimately want in life. But I would like to have myself to be constantly reminded that to this another page to fill, to focus more on the things we need, and what others immediately need from us, to stop comparing self to others, and to even positively celebrate more tiny victories.

 

Photo by Alexis Lim

Arrivals & Take Offs

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Whenever I get randomly sad, I think about airports and flying. I think about airports not because I want to run away. Honestly, the idea of running away is also good, as traveling is one of the best form of escapes I could think of, but I think about airports not because I am fascinated with planes. I’m actually still quite frightened of the idea of flying; but, I always pick the window seat whenever I travel to give myself a fantastic view from the top, and to easily take snaps of beautiful skyline. I can say that it is my favorite form of torture – for the sake of capturing photos of clouds, and slightly overcoming fear of heights.

Planes, however, are actually fascinating in general – how it was amazingly built to connect one place to another making long distances nothing in a matter of minutes or hours. It fascinates me how planes can bring you quite close to your childhood dream of touching clouds, and how I imagine them to be so soft and fluffy. But I think about airports and flying not because I like planes. I think about airports because it comforts me.

Whenever I get sad, I think about airports, and the moment of replaying one of the most sincere scenarios I can remember. Where else in the world you can see balloons, flowers, huge welcome home signs, and a lot of running, hugging, and happy crying happen in one room? It is where I can remember one of the sincerest welcomes, and the sweetest reunions. I haven’t been in that situation yet. Traveling alone most of the time, it is a usual moment for me to just watch people reunite, and moments after, I hop in a cab or book myself an uber ride home. But the heyday of an arrival is tempered by the comforting feeling that you are finally home again.

I think about airports because there is hardly a better place I can think of to people watch. Peruse the crowd at an airport, you are guaranteed to see a huge range of nationalities, races, gender, and social classes. And I sit there, imagining like Theodore in Her, making myself try and feel them as more than just a random person walking by. I imagine what it is like to be them in that moment, what they are feeling, what they had for breakfast, where they are heading to, how deeply they have fallen in love, and how much heartbreak they have all been through.

And though I admit that I am fond of going places, flying still scares me a little. You may find it peculiar but I love the baby panic it gives me whenever I start hearing the plane engine roar, especially during takeoffs. It excites me. Although I am still fidgety when the aircraft matches the beating of my heart, and whenever the pilot says “cabin crew to takeoff stations”, because I know seconds from that, we will soon be detached from the ground. And that very moment we detached from the ground, I feel like I am gambling a huge part of myself, suspended in the air.

It is not just the excitement of the adventure that awaits whenever I step into an airport, but I think about airports and flying as bookends of new chapters, and long-awaited endings. Airports and flying is a constant reminder for me to feel, and that regardless of the emotions you have, we succumb like planes, and let the air fleet us to another feeling.

 

At This Crossroad

There are decisions in life we make that we are uncertain of – probably fifty percent of it we are sure to regret in the future. Taking Health Informatics, however, was part of the other half. Health Informatics 201 as an introductory course in the degree program opened a lot of doors for me – not only that it has given me a great understanding of what I am getting myself into, but it actually helped me realized how vital this course is in the future of our healthcare. There is no stopping for technology to grow faster and now penetrating healthcare even more; however, our time is just limited, but if you come to think if it – time is irrelevant if we leave trails along the way. And our knowledge can be limitless if we adapt to these changes we are facing, and will be facing in the world of healthcare.

In this blog, you will see different posts that are health informatics related – which are tagged under category of health informatics: http://anotheralvin.com/category/health-informatics/. These are actually weekly requirements for school, to read articles, to answer weekly driving questions, and to discuss this in the class. It seemed to be very simple, but it was challenging to juggle it with demands from work, and life. Nonetheless, I honestly enjoyed it because how else we can enjoy technology in healthcare but by sharing it in social media, and through writing which I am fond of.

I can’t say that my knowledge and understanding of the course is now on its’ full bloom state, since I know that I still have so much to learn and unravel. But what I am really happy about is that I can now see myself clearly, and the direction of my journey here is now pointing to many doors in the future which I know will help me fulfil my passion and goals.

I have always been so passionate about so many things: technology, writing, arts, and healthcare. And putting emphasis on health since it is my chosen career – I have also been always passionate on how important it is for us to take good care of ourselves and others. That is why I took Bachelor of Science in Nursing as my degree in the university. I have always wanted to be in the medical field, apart from thinking that becoming one is the greatest achievement I can give back to my parents, but I felt that it is one of the best way to share myself to the society by being an instrument to care, and to heal. However, again, there are decision in life that we make that we are uncertain of – and along the road of my journey in my profession I arrived at this crossroad of should and must.

As writer Ella Luna said, that in life we always take a jump from both should and must. Should as being how others want us to show up in the world, and must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. At this crossroad, I realized that bed side care is not for me. Although, I think, I do well with bedside care, and I am glad to make others smile when I do my nursing care, but I honestly do not feel fulfilled as a person. I felt that there is something missing, something lacking with what I am really passionate about apart from healthcare. And all my life I have been thinking that the career or the job that I want will be very difficult to find since healthcare professionals are only seen in the hospitals, clinics, or communities.

Now the vision has become clearer because of this course. I have come to realize that your career should not define you, but your career should reflect you. This is when who we are, and what we do become one.  As Mark Twain said that “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why”, and now taking a step at this crossroad, and putting my one foot forward to the road of must – although, scary and it seems to be quite difficult, but I feel that is is time to tighten the grip and focus, and continue walking.

 

Anything For You

It has been a while since I last saw mommy and daddy (my grandparents) since they came home from Jersey, and decided to settle back here in the Philippines.  So I decided to pay weekend surprise for them. Here’s a photo diary of my short visit in Tablas, Romblon.

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I promise. I will visit again soon.

Why Health Informatics

DSC_5529“What is in it for you?”

That is the first question I always receive from people when I share them a new path I decided to take for my career. Well, I understand how it’s really difficult to grasp a concept of something that’s very foreign to the ear, but I just can’t help but notice this always slight hint of disappointment from people who expects you to just follow the norm, to be this person they expected you to be – to become a doctor one day, anticipated to be sporting that white coat as I do my rounds in hospitals I’m affiliated to.

Since childhood, it has always been my greatest dream of becoming a doctor. Perhaps, an estimated huge chunk of children in the Philippines might have aspired for the same thing since childhood; which is really cute to look back in the past because we all do have the same reason to say as to when they ask us “Why?”, because we all wanted to help those who are sick.

I can, perhaps, consider myself very fortunate to have such supportive parents, with emphasis on my education, because they sent me to one of the best nursing schools in the Philippines – primarily because we all have assumed it’s the best pre-medical program to take. Going through and finishing nursing school was when I realised that my naive aspiration of becoming a doctor just because I wanted to help those who are sick is only superficial. That was also when I realised that helping those who are sick, doesn’t always require you to be sporting that white coat, and becoming a health care professional can be more than that.

I can consider taking Masters in Health Informatics in University of the Philippines – Manila be one of the greatest leaps I made in my life. Not only that planning on taking the program doesn’t involved any approval or advised from my parents, but I decided everything for myself – which was honestly quite a struggle to make, but I felt good after. 

“What’s in it for you?” my mom blurted out of surprise when I told her I applied for the program. That was after I had my interview a day before I flew to Hong Kong alone for a short vacation.

My understanding of what Health Informatics is, and how important it is actually was shaped when I worked for my current company. Although I do have a course of Nursing Informatics during my undergrad years, my interest of the course isn’t blooming yet. Working in my current company, opened my eyes to how amazing the advancement of technology is, and all the great stuff it could possibly do in the health care system. It’s just quite upsetting how much attention and work still has to happen for our country in achieving a better health care system, despite the many initiatives and developments the government started. Yet, I believe we do have the ability to make things happen, and I still trust that there’s still hope in healing our health care system here in the Philippines – hopefully gaining higher quality, higher efficiency, and better opportunities for both health care professionals and patients.

One thing my mentor has reminded me before is to always remain a student of my craft; and with almost the daily vast and rapid advancement that’s happening in technology, adapting to its’ global trend is definitely necessary. As Health Informatics in the Philippines isn’t that well-known yet, we can’t just let our health care system continue to suffer the same issues encumbering progress we’re battling since before. 

Although, I perhaps may no longer be sporting a white coat in the future, I know this new direction I’m taking will open and bring me to better places and opportunities in terms of my career in the future. Taking a brave step to being one to joining in pioneering and leading this change in the Philippine health care system excites me – just imagining the amount of filipinos we could possibly touch and hep live healthier lives. 

Her

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It was almost time for a good night sleep, but for a medical student, it’s crunch time to inhale all that is left on what to know to survive tomorrow’s exam. Until my phone buzzed loudly, and an international number appeared on my screen. I knew it was my sister calling from the other side of the planet.

 

She was in London that time for work, and she habitually connects with me whenever she’s bored, or has some irrelevant news to share. It still marvels me how technology has made the world becomes smaller, that although we’ve been miles away from each other for quite some time, I felt that our relationship grew stronger. Perhaps, what they say is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. We got a little bit clingier; although we don’t annoy each other at home anymore.

 

I, on another side, was alone in my dorm room, cramming, when she called. But I was excited to hear from her too because it was her first week in London that time. I was excited to learn how was the weather in London, and how she’s keeping up with her outfit, if she has seen lots of eyecandy Brits around, and how every beautifully built architectures took her breath away. But when she uttered her first two words, I knew that something was wrong.

 

That was the time I learned that her husband was cheating on her.

 

That was one of the very moments when you don’t exactly know what to feel. It’s one of those very moments when your heart shatters not for yourself, but for someone else, and you just don’t know what to do. But one thing is for sure, I was very worried for my little nephew, Grean, who was almost 5 years old that time.

 

I listened to her, and she shared some snaps as proof of how much of an asshole the man was. My initial reaction that time was just to travel all the way home to see my nephew, and give him a long warm hug, making him feel he has me no matter what happens.

 

I was so mad. I wanted to punch that man in the face. I wanted to shave that woman’s head. I wanted them to suffer all the consequences they did to my sister, and to my little, innocent nephew. My heart was so broken for both my sister, and my nephew.

 

We had quite a long pause during the call. I was stunned as well with the news and unsure of the right words to say. I let myself listen to her breathing and her sobbing, and a few minutes later, she spoke again. After I let her vent out, I asked “What do you want me to do with him?” But as a strong woman that she is, she said in her own tagalog words “Let him be. I’ll handle this. I can do this.”

 

I have always admired how strong and brave my sister is. I remember when I was little, I was bullied by some old lady in the neighbourhood. I went home crying, and she whispered “ I’ll handle this. I can do this”, and immediately ran to speak to that old lady. That moment, I knew, that there’s a brave woman inside her pretty face, and that I matter to her just as much as she matters to me.

Confession

I’ve always been so insecure.

 

For some reason, I really find it quite difficult to speak to someone you’re close with, and share a very intimate fragment of yourself to them. It’s just so common to me to feel I’d be judged by the things I share. Perhaps the reason why that almost seven years ago, I created an avenue where I can share fragments of myself in a space where strangers can hear me, without knowing my entire identity. Without worrying if you’d be judged by somebody, at least not someone you care about.

 

Trust. That is one difficult thing to give.

 

Albeit the risk, I have opened myself to quite a number of unfamiliar eyes, and ears. Interestingly, made friends with some in real life, who seemed to just appear at the very perfect moment of my becoming. I’m lucky that I’m still friends with most of them in the present. Still learning to grow, still trying to create, and still reckoning the best of our selves in this life. In fact, most of them are the ones who give fuel to my creative side. They help me explore the areas I never knew I would enjoy doing – some areas I never knew that would help me unravel profound pieces of my being.

 

Yet, still, I’ve always been so insecure. And some of the people who may know me in real life, would, perhaps, beg to differ or raise some eyebrows. They would usually tell me how blessed I am to have different talents or skills, but the truth is that I have struggled so much in the past in trying to improve myself in those things. Blessed to make ends meet in the family, and lucky to have this and that – which are mostly superficial stuff that wouldn’t actually matter in the long run. However, my insecurity doesn’t just lie on the surface. It’s an insecurity that digs down your skin, and lingers there for a long time.

 

I’m insecure of the freedom of others. I’m insecure of how they can be their best self in a world where you’re dictated to be someone else you’re not. I’m insecure of how one can easily just pour their heart out, and not mind what others may think. I’m insecure of their honesty, and of how bold they are in this planet.

 

Trust. I still find it difficult to give.

 

This is, perhaps, my third attempt to re-create a space where I can be more. And this is the time to stop building walls, and create more bridges. The time to be more of myself. This is Another Alvin you may not know yet – with more mundane life stories to tell.