American Idol logo 2008–2011

American Idol logo 2008–2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“As a child I always wanted to be a singer. The music my mother played in the house moved me – Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Mahalia Jackson. It was truly spiritual. It made you understand what God was. We are all spirits. We get depressed. But music makes you want to live. I know my music has saved my life.”
Mary J. Blige


In this season’s American Idol Finale, Filipino-Mexican-American singer Jessica Sanchez attempts to make history as its youngest winner ever.  She has done extremenly well – receiving numerous accolades – and there is no doubt that she will have a fruitful singing career.


But behind Jessica’s success, the road was filled with thorns.  This season, she was saved from elimination by the judges, who overturned the decision of the voting public.  There is a lot of meaning to being saved, and we can all learn from Jessica’s experience.


So what does it mean to be saved?


S – Second chance


Jessica’s American Idol journey could have been over a month ago, when she received the least number of votes.  But the triumvirate power of Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson to save a contenstant this season was timely.  The power to save can be used only once – and Jessica was the beneficiary.  After being saved, Jessica was never the same again.


She sang her heart out in the weeks that followed.  It was obvious in the way she prepared for her numbers.  She no longer held back – and the public saw it.  She never ended up at the bottom again after that.


This is what we must do when we are saved.  Make the most of every opportunity.  When someone saves you from imminent death, treat each succeeding day as if it were your last.


A – Alteration


From a laid-back style that was confident but lacking in emotion, Jessica emerged like a wounded tiger stalking its prey after being nearly eliminated.  She wanted to go down fighting.  The public saw it – and it was endearing to see the kind of effort she put in week after week until the finale.


It’s hard to alter a laid-back style when things are going smoothly.  Then tragedy strikes, and we are swept off our feet.  Given the chance to escape, we must grab the stick, hang on, and make changes for the better when we get to safer ground.


V – Vindication


Jessica has been singing all her life.  But she was looking for vindication.  Was she really good?  People said she was – she had relative success in America’s Got Talent at age 11 – but she has never emerged victorious.  Facing elimination yet again was tough.  But she was saved, and the vindication began.  She started to believe in herself more, and took more risks.


Do you know someone who needs vindication?  Lift her up today.  You may be the savior who could bring someone to unprecedented success.


E – Enliven


It is inspiring to see someone emerge from the claws of defeat and emerge victorious.  Today, the Filipino-Mexican community is at the forefront in declaring support for their Idol.  The minority has come alive, and in a big way.  They were not going to allow Jessica to  be voted out again.


Share those uplifting stories about rising from adversity.  Be an ambassador of hope.  Those narratives can save lives.


D – Deliverance


At the end of it all, win or lose, Jessica has delivered.  She is indeed grateful, but there is more to come.  After the series of concerts with American Idol finalists, she will embark on a new journey as a superstar.  And with her experiences, she will surely deliver.


One has to find a way to carry others towards success.  When you reach the top, help others get there too.  Jim Whittaker, the first american to reach Mount Everest, has put more than a dozen more climbers on the summit afterwards.  When you let others experience greatness, life becomes more worthwhile.


Good luck on the finale, Jessica Sanchez!





Health care systems

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“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”

Zig Ziglar

I just attended the opening ceremonies of the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP) Annual Convention.  This year’s theme, “The Family Physician: C.H.A.M.P.I.O.N. of Filipino Families”, aptly describes the mission of the academy.  In a nutshell, the acronym  C.H.A.M.P.I.O.N. signifies doctors who share Common values  whose Collaborative efforts result in the creation of Health Policies that benefit others in an atmosphere of Academic  Excellence.  Family doctors must also Manage health care resources as Primary gatekeepers practicing cost-effective care without compromising Patient Safety.  Information Technology is also utilized to deliver Overall holistic care, with New knowledge being generated through research studies.

While the mission is full of idealism and passion for the healing art, the question still remains:  Can Health And Medicine Persevere Inspite Of Negativity?  Are our dreams of a better country hopeless in the face of the brain drain that still prevails, luring the best and the brightest doctors of the land to practice outside the Philippines?

In my opinion, here are the steps that must be taken to truly upgrade our health care system.

1.  COMPENSATION for physicians must improve.  Our doctors only earn an average of Php 20,000 ($450) a month.  And I say AVERAGE, which means some earn even less on a monthly basis.  Call center agents earn even more than some physicians.

2.  HMOs must bring their act together.  Our health maintenance organizations have policies that leave much to be desired – late payments, low coverage amounts for members, and too much meddling on the private practices of doctors.  Hopefully, HMOs can become more accessible to the general public, and be more physician-friendly.

3.  ACADEMIC overhaul.  The Philippine Medical Act of 1959 is now outdated.  We must start rethinking policies on Medical Education, Physician licensure, and the practice of medicine in the country.

4.  MEDICINES and drugs must be closely monitored.  The Cheaper Medicines Act needs some rethinking.  A lot of the generics drug out in the market are sadly lacking in bioequivalence studies.  The Food and Drug Administraion must look out for companies producing substandard drugs.

5.  PARTNERSHIPS must be strengthened.  The government and private sector must work hand in hand to improve the health care referral system.  Doctors must also learn the art and science of relating to fellow doctors, government institutions, and political leaders.

6.  INSTITUTIONS offering health care must be provided the attention it deserves through better funding.  The national budget allocates a mere 3% for health care.  It is not enough to keep our government hospitals and health centers clean, safe, and efficient.

7.  OVERCOME OBSTACLES in preventive care.  Immunization is just one aspect of disease prevention.  More important is patient education.  A major obstacle to progress is lack of knowledge.  We must empower communities to be responsible for keeping their constituents in the pink of health.

8.  NATIONALISM must be strengthened.  We must love our country and its people.  In particular, if the government subsidizes a doctor’s education, it is but right for the doctor to give back to the community.  Our patriotic duty to this country must be balanced with our need to progress and prosper.

In the final analysis, to be a champion, we must not just plan.  We must act.  Our plans may not be perfect, but action beats inaction.  After all, champions are crafted once they step into the field of battle to gain experience, not when they are asked to sit back and watch.


A map of Mindanao color-coded by regions. ARMM...

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God does not force us to believe in him, though he could. Instead, he has provided sufficient proof of his existence for us to willingly respond to him. 

– Marilyn Adamson

Another disaster has struck our country.   As of last count, a total of 976 people have been confirmed killed and 46 remained missing from the onslaught of tropical storm Sendong in seven regions in Mindanao and Visayas.  A national calamity has been declared, and various groups have started organized efforts for relief and rehabilitation.

It is easy to blame other people when we experience difficulties.  Our government officials are now doing this.  Every time something like this happens, it’s sad that no one likes to assume responsibility.  I have yet to see a leader in this country who assumes the burden of accepting blame, even if he or she is not directly responsible for the events leading to a crisis.  Hopefully, the leader who knows what true leadership is about is within our midst, waiting for a chance to be identified and elected.

Victims also tend to question the existence of God when disaster strikes.  I hope this does not happen.  For those in doubt, I have read a very good article to prove the existence of a supreme being.  Never lose hope in the face of adversity – I know that there is a God who will carry us through no matter who we are and no matter what situation we are in.  And while God cannot be with us physically, let us remember that He can use each one of us as an instrument of His unlimited kindness and generosity.

National leaders, religious leaders, and psychiatrists hog the limelight during media interviews, offering help, suggestions, and future plans for prevention.  The bottom line in all this lies in finding ways to truly be of service to those in need of assistance.

So what can we do now?  The least we can do is to help.  Donate to charities, or simply provide manpower and assistance to your community’s efforts to extend a helping hand.  Let us all make the world know again how much the Filipino people‘s spirit of BAYANIHAN can overcome any obstacles.  We owe it to our God, to our country, and to our fellowmen.

Does God Exist? –

Sendong aftermath photos:


It’s hard to be honest.  In politics, business, and in everyday life, we are always challenged to tell it as it is.  The medical profession is no different.  Sometimes we are tempted to lie to avoid conflict.  We hide the truth to avoid complications.  Or, even worse, we lie because we have our own selfish interests in mind.

However, we can derive a lot of benefits from honesty.  Here is why we should be HONEST:

School banner

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H – Helps lift a person up.  A word of encouragement from a trustworthy person enables someone to rise from adversity and face his fears.

O – Observation is aided – When you are honest, you enable someone temporarily blinded by emotion or circumstance to see the situation clearly.  After that, he or she can now find solutions to the problem.

N – Nurtures.  Honesty nurtures relationships and makes the bond stronger.

E – Edifies.  An honest person encourages others morally, spiritually, and intellectually to be the best person they can be.

S – Sustains.  Honesty sustains confidence in the other person.  It nourishes the soul and uplifts the spirit, knowing that someone can truly be trusted and relied upon.

T – Triumphs.  A person who has low morale tends to see the world as negative.  But when he or she sees an honest deed, it enhances the belief that good always triumphs over evil in the end.  This person then sees the environment and the people around in a different light.

In short, honesty HELPS us OBSERVE the world around us and makes us see a NURTURING and EDIFYING universe, SUSTAINING us until we reach our moment of TRIUMPH.

That’s the truth.


Over the weekend, I visited Dr. Jesus “Jet” Comia, a good friend of mine who practices in a not-so-remote town in Unisan, Quezon Province.  His dedication is noteworthy.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, he is available to render medical services to everyone from newborn infants to geriatric age groups.  He may not be your typical highly-paid medical specialist from the big city, but his experience is evident in  the trust and confidence given to him by his patients.

It is a great challenge to practice community medicine in this country.  There is a perception that the best doctors are practicing in the metropolis, with its high cost of health care.  While the modernization of medical management necessitates the use of complex machines and diagnostics, there is one thing that will never change – human interaction.  After all, medicine was, is, and will always be a relationship business.

Upgrading the Philippine health care system is not just a matter of bringing in the technology.  Above all, there be must be a paradigm shift – a substantial change in the perception, attitudes, and practices of the doctors and the population they serve.  For younger physicians, they must stop thinking that the only route to become a respected doctor is to specialize.  There are a lot of opportunities to start a practice in a rural setting.  This is what my friend did.  It may not sound glamorous for some, but beyond the flashy cars and the expensive outfits, the essence of being a physician is to be of service to those who need you most.  Besides, Jet is not doing bad.  In fact, he now has his own car and a beautiful and spacious 2-storey mansion with his wife and 4 kids.

For the non-physician, it is also important to find a good physician whom you can trust for the rest of your life.  Never underestimate the value of continuity of care.  Doctor shopping or having multiple specialists taking care of your body is, in my opinion, counterproductive.  While multispecialty care is essential in acute cases, for long-term care it pays to have just one trusted doctor overseeing your progress.  Not only is it less costly, it also furthers the relationship between patient and the physician which unfortunately is starting to disappear these days.  It’s no wonder why the number of medico-legal cases is on the rise.

Our public health system has a lot of wrinkles that must be ironed out in order to upgrade our morbidity and mortality rates and improve patient satisfaction.  But no matter how complicated things are right now, the starting point is always found in the smallest, remotest of areas.  We may have a lot to learn about medical care from those humble and faceless health care practitioners whose dedication and commitment are a blessing to the least of our brethren.