27 July 2011

The Placebo Effect

A placebo is a medicine that is ineffective but may help to relieve a condition because the patient has faith in its powers.

As a nurse, I have had experiences with clients who have low pain thresholds; complaining every waking hour of their stay in the hospital even when you just gave them their dose of analgesics. Pain is subjective, and we can never really tell whether a client is really in severe pain or just opiate dependent, or diva-ish. But there's one test that helps medical professionals to test if the complaints are real. The placebo. Instead of giving the dose of the prescribed medication, as needed, a medication of lesser effect (or no effect at all), will be administered. Once the patient  respond to that treatment and claim to be relieved of the symptom, then it's not real pain.

I was reminded of this term as I watched one episode of National Geographic Channel's Taboo series. They featured what the society proscribes as improper or unacceptable practice regarding food, health, well-being, and healing.

Taboo will test your boundaries and push beyond your comfort zone. Understand seemingly bizarre and shocking practices from around the world.
One high-class restaurant in Beijing serves a traditional dish they call "hot pot." It's an expensive and popular dish with the male reproductive organ of certain animals as the main ingredient. There is a deep belief in the Chinese culture that eating the animal part will heal the same part of the body. And although there has been no scientific proof to this belief, the traditional medicine, which has been proven effective by many, is where they put their faith in. But does it really heal? Or is it placebo effect?

Another story was about faith healing. I remember a time, watching news in the television featuring faith healers. I was in primary school back then. I've watched healers, without any other equipment but their hands, pulling out of a person's belly something like deceased meat, claiming it's what he extracted from the body of the sick. During the "procedure" blood would gush out of the operative site, which makes the whole thing look so real. Then all the blood would be wiped out, and whalla! No wounds or openings. No stitches and expensive professional fees, and you're healed! The customers believed so. And they felt better... for quite some time. Is it just plain optimism that prolonged their life, certain that their health was restored? Or is it really effective? They were not called "faith healers" for nothing!

It just goes to show how powerful our minds are. And that where we place our complete faith to, we surely will see some great results, even beyond belief. The world will give us alternative cures to our problems and answers to our questions. Although it may bring relief, it will be temporary. The danger is when we become numb to the pain because we're given "placebos" that we don't feel the need for real medicine anymore, and stick with the cure that doesn't really have any effect. Like any client in the medical field, we will never be told it's placebo we're getting.
Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
We all have mountain-moving faith. The problem begins when we put our faith on people and things of this world, finite and changing as they are. We can be easily deceived into believing that a certain gem will give us luck or better future; or that following cool and trending styles will make us more likeable. Tell you what: you became more confident while wearing what you think will make you so; and confidence is the best wardrobe you can ever wear. But the future will always be filled with uncertainties and problems, and gems won't help. You can't please everyone, then you'll realize it's not about what you wear.

Put your faith instead in God. He is unchanging. He is the miraculous healer. He is pleased with you and loves you unconditionally. He knows your future. He wrote about our stories even before we came to be. We don't need placebos. God is offering the CURE, we need only claim it. He will restore you. Life may not be problem-free, but like a water-proof watch immersed in water, we can be secured under God's sovereignty.
Proverbs 3: 5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
 Mark 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God, all things are possible with God."

Who Am I?

Our dreams and desires are always BIG! These are things we have to work hard for to get, not something we easily achieve. The only problem is when we finally realize how big our dreams are, we get discouraged and question our capabilities.

Who am I? Why do i dare dream this big? Or when given a task that seem beyond what we believe we can do, we ask: Why me?

Where do our hearts desires come from? It sometimes is frustrating when we don't get to be what we dreamt of becoming. As children we have the biggest dreams. We want to become doctors, a president, lawyers, superheroes, astronaut, a popular actor or actress. Then, we grew up. We realize that it's never going to be as easy as we thought it would be when we were younger. The world does not welcome our dreams as we imagined; it even seems to shatter any possibility of even getting close to it. Our deep desires are keys to unleashing our true potential, our purpose. It is from God. And so the enemy will do anything and everything to keep us from getting there. We will be offered alternatives; detours. We will be discouraged when faced with challenges. We will lose heart. It would be enough for the enemy of our hearts if we settled to mediocrity. It doesn't matter to him if we still have that dream, as long as we are disheartened enough not to continue our pursuit.

2 Chronicles 20:15b 
This is what the Lord says to you, "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's"
The title came from one of the more popular men in the Scriptures. Moses. We know of Prince of Egypt and the Ten Commandments, right? This part was when God called Moses to lead the Israelites out from slavery. This was his response:
Exodus 4:11
Moses protested to God, "Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?" 
Who is he? He was once Egypt's prince! He cared for his people, the Israelites. I wonder what might've happened if Moses did not kill the Egyptian slave and used his authority instead. He was next in line! The next Pharaoh. There must be a reason why he's in that position. We have Esther and Joseph, who have been placed in a high positions as well, and used their authority wisely. Still, God has a great plan in which Moses would have a big role to play.

The part I love most in this part of Moses story, was God's response:
Exodus 3:12
God answered, "I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain."
Okay, what's that got to do with my question? Moses might have asked. God always points us to Himself. Moses will not be the "Star" in the story. It was never meant to make Moses look good. It's for God's glory. It may be one of the reason why Moses did not become the Pharaoh. A person with authority and control over the situation of God's people would not need God. The glory due to the Lord might be given to Moses if that were the case. Ordinary people are the ones tasked to perform extraordinary tasks, so people would know that there is a greater Power making such miracles possible.
Philippians 4:13 "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
The next time you feel inadequate or incapable to live your dreams and be obedient to what God has commanded, do not question yourself, your capabilities, talents and knowledge. God wants to be glorified through you. Submit all your cares to Him and He will supply you with all the necessary tools to succeed in life and be able to reach your big dreams.

19 July 2011

All About Steve
Yes, I just watched it on television and this film was on cinemas 2009! Thank you Star Movies. And this will make it's way to my favorite movies list. For the past weeks, I was just starting to appreciate the crossword puzzle. It is challenging and always makes me cheat my way to browsing my phone application's encyclopedia. Whoever constructs those puzzles are geniuses. Now, I have seen this movie played in cable channels before, but never really gave it a chance and watched it. It may be the same reason why I don't go inside a movie theater when the movie has already started, or I just wasn't interested back then. Tonight, I gave it a chance, just when I was planning to watch the first part of The Lord of the Ring trilogy. And I can say, it's not a bad decision.

Mary Horowitz is an eccentric character. Smart and not afraid to let herself out. She's bold and bubbly, and can be so annoying in the sense that she talks too much. Her lines and quotations of different authors made me want to take down notes. But she just talked too fast for me to do that. Here are some of my favorite lines from the movie:

Words. There are meaningful words, there are pointless words, and then there are words that hurt.
You know what my favorite part of doing crosswords is? When you know something you didn’t think you knew.
Why should you have to change to be normal? All you have to do is find someone who’s as normal as you are.
"In life, as in crosswords, some days are harder than others, and that’s what keeps your brain alive. The key to surviving those tough days is to pick yourself up and stay focused on your life’s purpose."
"If you quit a puzzle, you can’t finish it. Sure, every once in a while, you run into a doozy, that you don’t think you could ever solve in a million years, but if you stick with it, you figure it out eventually. Worst thing you can do is leave it unfinished. It’s never the solution, is it?"
New York Time’s crossword editor Will Short says we have a natural compulsion to fill empty spaces. I like to think he means not just crosswords, but the empty spaces inside of us that come from making your way in a world that doesn’t always embrace unique."

The last quote just made me love it more. It was kinda in line with VCF's Crave Series. We all have something we long for. We fill that void with the things this world offers. We are trying to find our worth. You might find what you long for, but that wouldn't stop the cravings to look for more than what you already found. The endless cycle goes on. Well, not if you would find the ONLY ONE who can complete you. Not a man, no. God.

What Do You Long For?
helpful PODCAST

09 July 2011

Power and Love

"POWER can do everything but the most important thing: it cannot control LOVE."
                 - Philip Yancey (Disappointment with God)

Parents have different ways of disciplining their children. Some use force; making sure their kids acknowledge their authority and power over them. Others choose teaching by example. Still, many exercise both. And if you would ask parents why they discipline their kids, their answer would most probably be: "because we love them."

God is illustrated in so many ways in the Bible. He's our Heavenly Father, Lord of lords, Provider, Savior, Almighty God, Creator, Lover, Friend and many more. I was asked before, what God is most in my life. He is all those mentioned and more to me; but He is most my Heavenly Father, lovingly disciplining me. God is the kind of Father who gives His children freedom to choose, making sure He laid down the options. And there's just two: close to Him or away from Him. I sometimes wonder how the world would be like if God did not grant us freedom. It would be such a great place, this world. We all have tendencies of choosing the wrong path, which most of the time, if not all of the time, seem to be the safer, easier, and more appealing way to take. Whenever I'm faced with crossroads, I was hoping God would just choose the right road for me. And, He does, but unlike the wrong path, the road seem so unappealing and hard and challenging. God never forced me to go His way, although I wish He did. I realized freedom isn't always good. Can't God just pull the strings and make me a puppet. Knowing Him, I know I'm in good hands even when His way isn't the most glamorous.

Why did God give us freedom? Can't He just take mine? I would gladly give it to Him. I'm better off controlled by Him than me.

"We see in the first glimpse of God's wildness the goodness of His heart - He gives us our freedom.
The wildness of giving us freedom is even more staggering when we remember that God has already paid dearly for giving freedom to the angels.
The reason He didn't make puppets is because He wanted lovers."
                    - John Eldredge (The Sacred Romance)

Yes, God is our Father, demanding obedience for our own good. But, He is also our Lover, wanting to be loved in return. A child may be completely submissive to his parents' commands, obedient to their every plan and strict discipline, but they can never force the child to love them. They may reason the ever popular phrase: "we did this because we love you" because at the end of the day, they would realize that it's not just obedience and respect they wanted, but love in return as well.

07 July 2011


God, I don't want to be even a step farther away from You by pursuing things not in Your masterplan. Guide me in my pursuits and desires, Lord. Without Your leading, even the greatest dreams with the best intentions will be pointless.

Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

Proverbs 16:25 "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."

Waiting on God for His answer may just be the only thing to do at this point. But there must be a preparation to be made as well. What if God's answer is the exact opposite of my plans and desires?

We seek God for direction and leading. We want to hear what He has to say. The real challenge begins when we finally got His answer. We'll have to obey. Will we follow His counsel or not?

06 July 2011

Anawangin Adventure

April 12-13, 2009. Lenten Season   

This was the first ever out of town adventure I had with just my friends. We've been out of town before (to Baguio, Quezon, Rizal, Bolinao) but it's for our college's medical mission and retreats. I have also been to Lucban, Quezon with them, but don't find it that far from home, since I live in Laguna. 

This trip's mastermind was Karla. When she told us about Anawangin,  I never really knew where that is, or where Zambales is in the Philippine map. I was never a fan of geography. And when I finally got hold of a Philippine map, I realized I need to muster all the courage I have in asking for permission from my family. I have thought long and hard to choose the right words to say. It's not just about strict curfews and prohibitions and rules set at home, it's because I'm not used to going that far. To cut the long story short, I went to my uncle and my brothers, told them about the 2-day, 1-night trip and all went blank. Looking back, I don't believe I asked for permission. I just told them about it, went on my way to prepare my things for the trip, then breathe out with a sigh of relief.

And so, we were set to leave home early morning of April 12. I was with Karla, Che, Mark and Enzo. We took a 4-hour bus trip going to Iba, Zambales at Victory Liner Terminal. The bus left around 4 in the morning and we dropped off in San Antonio at around 9am. We had to buy some water, food for lunch and dinner and the things we forgot to bring. When we were all set for Anawangin Cove, we took a 10-minute tricycle ride to Pundaquit.

You would have to take a 20- to 30-minute boat ride to get to Anawangin Cove from Pundaquit. And there are a lot of resorts there with boat rentals. I think it cost us 1500Php for the two-way ride back then, and we paid additional 150 pesos each for the island hopping. We had to wait 30-45 minutes for our boat. When we arrived at the resort, the boat was currently guiding a group for their island hopping. So we decided to have our lunch there while waiting.
And so, our boat arrived. James "liit" and James "laki" took us to the island, and to the other islands before we went home.
As soon as we set foot on Anawangin Cove, we set up camp. I remember carrying the heaviest tent, ever! It's my uncle's. It's big. The five of us fit in, and we can even stand up inside. It was kind of unfortunate for me though, since Mark and Enzo carried the water and some other bags, so I really had to carry it myself. :(
After we set up camp, we prepared our dinner, took some pictures and took a swim at the beach. After our dinner we set made a camp fire and cooked hotdogs in the fire. We were taught the right way to cook the hotdog. It will get burnt before it gets cooked if you would stick it into the fire. So we put the hotdogs on stick around the fire, and whoala!! it's perfectly made! We were warned beforehand, and have read in previews reviews about the strong current in the beach. But that did not stop Che, Karla and I from swimming in the dark of the night, with the moon as our only light. It was scary! I was scared not of the current, but with my crazy, wandering imaginations of sea monsters and sharks and little creatures like "undins". Haha! But my girlfriends were kinda carefree, and I don't want to be a "kill-joy." So I set aside all my fears and just had fun!

The next morning we woke up early to take a tour on the island, trek the mountain, snorkel and prepare for island hopping. If there's one thing I regret in this trip, it's the group decision not to finish the trek up on top of the mountain and going beyond the streams to see the Tamaraw. 

Before our boat arrived, our things were already packed, and we're ready to go. After the Camara and Capones Island stop-overs, we're off back to San Antonio and then home. 

 Capones Island Lighthouse
 Snorkeling at Camara Island

There has been a lot of upgrades in Anawangin since our visit. I've seen pictures of friends who just went there recently, and there were huts and cottages beyond the streams. It's great to see improvements in the island; I just hope they preserve it's beauty.
That's us, on our way home. You can say we abused the beach with our sun-kissed skin.
More exploits followed this trip.

05 July 2011

Love Stories

I don't know how this started, but I felt like blogging about love stories in the Bible. I don't think it's just out of whim. I started listing the couples in the Scripture weeks ago without any intention of writing about them, but then, just this morning, I wanted to share what I think about their love story and maybe refer to some of the books I've read about them too. 

In this season of my life, I believe I'm close to being in a love story of my own. A God-written love story. While there are wrong decisions I've made which I know somehow made that story complicated and tragic at some point, I believe it's not too late to make my love story aligned with the love story God wrote. 

Now, I don't think I'm qualified to be a reference for people who intend to study the Bible. What I would be blogging about are just my insights, and what I've learned from the love stories. Honestly, I don't know much about the Scripture. Every time I read it, it's always new. There's always something new to learn.

The Old testament is filled with love stories, so I'll start from there. From the love story between God's first image bearers Adam and Eve, to the Greatest Love story in the New Testament.

What's with love stories women love? I remember one of the question I was asked during my Speaking Test in IELTS. The interviewer asked if I love reading; I said yes. The follow-up question was what kind of books I loved as a child. If I was a man, I might have answered Marvel or DC comics or other reading materials about super heroes and action figures. I don't think they dreamt of becoming the only Prince Charming of a maiden. They dream of becoming conquerors and heroes with super powers to save the world. I loved stories about princesses with knights in shining armor or a prince coming to their rescue. This answer was followed by yet another question. "WHY?" What is it with these kinds of stories that captures girls hearts? "Don't these stories make women appear weak?" He asked. I don't remember the exact words I answered him, but I think it goes something like this: It's not really about wanting to be rescued and feeling weak. Every woman dreams of becoming someone's princess, and treated as one; having a prince strong and ready to be on their rescue.

I believe all women have this desire engraved deep within our hearts. God created the first woman into a relationship. She was never single! As soon as Eve realized she is alive, she was married to Adam! They will be the first love story I'll read on and blog about. The goal is to learn something from these love stories, and compare it with the original design of God, with the hope of growing and falling deeper in love with my Lover.

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." 
                                                                       - Ephesians 3:17b-19