Saturday, June 16, 2012


I am grateful for many things, even those that are too small, too common, that sometimes get unnoticed.

I am grateful for breakfast on the table.


I am grateful for green lights and parking spaces, especially when I am running late.


The reliable umbrella, my savior from sun and rain.


A full tank, it makes me feel I am going somewhere, and back again.


A safe touchdown, after an uneventful flight.


Maps and instruction manuals, they are antidotes to my ignorance.


Discounts, freebies and rebates, and extra cash just when I am short of resources.

I am grateful for alarms with snooze, remote controls and water heaters.


I am grateful for satiety, a night of good sleep, and gastrocolic reflex.


I am grateful for mucolytics, antihistamines, antacids and pills that ease pain.


I am grateful for sunshine, moon beam, and a little bit of rain.


I am grateful for the sight of my door at the end of my journey, telling me that at last I am home.


I am grateful for old friends, they remind me how good life was before.


Older friends, they teach me to be humble.


Younger friends, they remind me how wise I have grown.


I am grateful for birthdays.


I am grateful for my family: we may have our ups and downs, but in a world where many have none, I am too grateful that I grew up in a loving family that taught me the virtues of humility, generosity, kindness and honesty.

I am grateful for the immensity of memories. 


Memories, made up of tiny segments of moments that are intricately woven into my bloodstream.

I am grateful for the specter of memories that little by little I may somehow soon forget like sand sifting in my hands, memories that I hope to hold on to and to cherish for the rest of my life, or for as long as I can.

Memories of innocence and humble beginnings.


Memories of tall trees, fireflies, rivers, oceans, bridges, rugged roads, farms and carabaos.


Memories of dreams, memories of games and battles fought, memories of victory and of defeat.


Memories of reckless youth, of getting drunk, of songs, dances, and fleeting romances.


Memories of meeting people for the first time, not knowing what the future had in store for us.


Memories of meeting people for the last time, and the elusive hope of someday seeing each other again.


Memories of loved ones, of those who have come and gone, memories that make me laugh when I think of the times we cried together, memories that make me cry when I think of the times we laughed together.

On the other hand, I am also grateful for the comfort of forgetting.


The art of letting go, the bliss in moving on, knowing that everything will eventually be alright, after all.

I am grateful for options, solutions, reasons, answers and explanations - things that put sense and bring order to a world that has turned into a ball of confusion.


I am grateful for my teachers, mentors and critics.


I am grateful for a job well done, for words well said, and words left unsaid just to spare the feelings of a friend.


Music and smiles.



A helping hand and a pat on the back, just when I am about to break down.


A hug.



A second chance, because everybody deserves one.


A spark of hope.

Sanity, serenity, enlightenment.

I am grateful for whatever respect I earned, and for all the lessons learned.

I am grateful for being part of the race: I may not finish first, but I am sure to get there, on my own gentle pace.

Come to think of it, I am grateful not for having things I want, but for having things I need.

I hope to be grateful, until the day I die.

And in being grateful, I thank God for making me understand why.

- John Emmanuel T. Manalo, MD
  October 14, 2010

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Trouble With Dreams

The earliest dream I can remember was somewhere in my 6th or 7th year of life. I thought I was flying, because I saw trees passing below me. I saw hills, and grass on the hills, and more trees, and everything was quiet.

And on the horizon, I saw the sky. A vast, colorless image of vastness beyond the horizon.

Funny, but apparently, I cannot remember any color in any of my dreams. I must be living in a black-and-white universe when I dream. But that is not actually my point.

Back to my flying dream. I still can vividly remember how I tried to reach for the sky, how I tried to stretch out in my effort to defy the law of gravity. But it became clear to me that I only reached a height of about 30 to 40 feet.

The best part was, my friends and other people were there, and they kneeled and bowed in my presence. In my record, that was the best dream I can ever recall.

Fast forward to 2004. Age: 33. Most remembered as the most tumultuous time in my life. First there was silence, then came the thundering rush of all the rivers of the world, crashing against each other, falling down from a mountain, to my direction. I had to jump somehow, until I realized I was down on the floor, as I woke up due to the pain on my forehead, thanks to the wooden table beside my bed.

Fast forward again, a couple of weeks ago. I was convicted of something, probably a grave crime or misconduct or whatever, I didn’t know what for, nobody told me. Then I realized I was on death row. Alone.

I had no choice, but to wake up.

I can also remember one time, when I was looking at a ball, gradually enlarging, with a high-pitched sound, until it popped in front of me, then I woke up with a high-grade fever and a severe headache.

The nice thing about dreams, is that there is no limit as to what you can dream. In my dreams, I could be king, or god, or whatever.

The trouble with dreams, I don’t know how each story started. And most dreams just don’t make sense. The sequence of episodes don’t make sense. And some are terrifying and ugly.

But be it a good dream or a bad dream, the best thing about it is that eventually, it all ends by waking up.

Somebody once told me, “May all your dreams come true!”

I said, “Bullshit.”

When I was young, I wanted all my dreams to come true.

But now I am convinced, I don’t want all my dreams to come true.

Because some of them are nightmares.

- John Emmanuel T. Manalo, MD
  September 8, 2008

Lessons From A Shooting Star

Once in a while, you might have the rare chance of seeing a shooting star, as it briefly blazes across the evening sky.


Likewise, you might also have the similarly rare chance of meeting someone who is probably the one you have been looking for - the love of your life.

Someone who is probably sent to you from the heavens, as an answer to your prayers.

There is always a chance that this someone will fill the emptiness in your life, thus completing you, creating that ever elusive happy fairy tale ending, and if you were lucky, you would live happily ever after.

But the lucky ones happen to be locked in the pages of children’s books.

You might be not one of them.


Then you start to ask yourself. Why is it, that just when you find that special someone, just when you are ready to take the risk of falling in (and out of) love, that special someone simply vanishes in mid-air?


I call it the Shooting Star Phenomenon.

Everytime (although on rare occasions) I see a shooting star, I realize that it just appears without warning. In a blink of an eye, it is gone. And the evening sky becomes just as it was, as though nothing happened.

I understand that when I see a shooting star, not everyone around may have had the chance to see it too.

This is what makes a shooting star special.

It is a sight to behold. For me alone, I guess, and not for everyone. Spectacular. For one brief moment in the night, it appears, then even before I gasp and jump for joy (or even before I make a wish), it is gone. Without a trace. Without a sound.

Then the shooting star just becomes a memory. And everything around is still.


Love is probably like a shooting star after all.

It may come without warning, then after blazing into your life for one shining moment, it fades out of sight.

But you have to be thankful.

Not everyone may experience love, be it long or brief. Not everyone may find love. You should be glad you were given the chance to see one.

Think of that special someone as a shooting star. No matter how beautiful it is, you cannot hold it in your hands. It comes and goes no matter how hard you try to keep it for yourself.

Just be glad it showed up in your night sky. Be glad that you were able to see it.


But a shooting star never leaves a mark as it traverses the sky. On the other hand, love does. Once it goes, nothing is ever the same. So when you hear someone say, “I will always be the same person you knew,” or “I won’t change, and I hope you won’t change,” or “we will always be friends”, or “take care, keep in touch and I hope to see you again”… if you ever hear these words, don’t listen. Because it’s all bullshit. Likewise, try your best not to promise these words, because you know you would be lying.

There will be a growing distance henceforth, and the world is no longer the way it used to be. Trust me on this.

The moment you parted, you both started to change already. And the world around you… it changed too. And the distance keeps on growing, even if someday you meet again, even if you try to remain friends, even if you say you still love each other. The saddest part is that what I am saying is darn true.


A shooting star does not last longer than a second (or so I observed). So much like love.

And neither does love last forever, contrary to popular belief that it does. But it doesn’t.

Because sadly, forever is not for mortals like us.

But that would be another topic. I will explain it later.

- John Emmanuel T. Manalo, MD
  May 28, 2008

Sand Castle

They call it "Wishful Thinking." I might as well call it "The Sand Castle Phenomenon."


I spent my younger days in a humble town in Cagayan Valley, a 12-hour drive north of Manila.

Occasionally, my parents would take me, along with my sister and brother, to a weekend visit to the river, a 15 minute walk from our house. There, we as playful kids would wade in the water as we watched a herd of carabaos cross the mighty river for greener pasture.

Once, with the sun churning our backs, my siblings and I took turns digging the sand, arranging pebbles and rocks, mixing water, and voila! There we made our first sand castle – or so it seemed to be a sand castle. And it must be.

The Grand Design

You see, as a young lad, I had an idea of a sand castle based on a grand design of majestic fortitude, a shining fortress with guards, and gardens, and courts, and horses, as it stood briskly on a hill surrounded by a lake with water lilies and magical frogs.

But no matter how beautiful the idea was, every attempt in building the sand castle proved to be an amateur effort, making the castle turn out all wrong. The shape was wrong, the mixture was either too soft or too hard, and even the color and smell of the castle went wrong. Always an architectural blunder, it looked more like a pigsty.

And to make things worse, even before we went home, we would witness our artwork being engulfed by the upcoming tide, until it becomes part of the river bank once more.

Improving Skill

As time passed by, I learned how to make a sand castle by myself. With months of experience and a will to improve my skill and craftsmanship, I discovered that my sand castle began to finally take shape, gradually following the blueprint in my mind.

At the end of each attempt, I realized that the finished product was still far from the Grand Design, having several flaws each time. Either the towers are too short, or the gates are too wide.

Sometimes, in frustration, I ended up destroying the castle just before the tide rises to erase it from the shore.

But that was many years ago, since I retired from making sand castles.

A Sand Castle In My Heart

Now with my above-average IQ [ah, did I really have to mention it?], and whatevery relationships I had, I soon realized that love is so much like a sand castle in my heart.

We have an idea of how it should look like, the way we hoped it would be, just as we used to randomly dream of a marriage and a future family and a good job and a fat pocket, when we were kids.

But sometimes, the sand castle just becomes too elusive, that the grand design is not met.

Maybe the tide is just unfriendly. Or perhaps river sand is not appropriate, compared to that on the beach.

Or maybe the design was too grand.

But whatever the cause, and whatever the cost, we still try to make a sand castle day after day, despite the faults we see in it.

Love does not always come the way we want it to be, but it’s still there.

And we have to be happy with it, because it is real.

And we have to be thankful about it, because just like a sand castle - based on a grand design of majestic fortitude, a shining fortress with guards, and gardens, and courts, and horses, standing briskly on a hill surrounded by a lake with water lilies and magical frogs -, just like that sand castle in our hearts, love is not ultimately lost whenever the tide rushes in.

- John Emmanuel T. Manalo, M.D.
  March 22, 2006

Reflections On A Roller Coaster

Life is like a roller coaster: You start by going up, and there's so much anxious anticipation, as you wait and wonder when the excitement will begin. Then suddenly a clanging metallic sound is heard and you feel being released, and you go down, and it makes you scream like hell. Then the fall is saved by another loop going up, and down, sideways, then you go up and down again.

The dizzying, disorienting sensation makes you forget how you started, how you tried to hold on to the safety brace, how you blurted out those random curses into the air.

You pretend to be brave by raising your arms, hoping that the strap is strong enough to keep you seated. And nothing else matters. Not even the jingling noise of the train car as it speeds along a track suspended a high up in the air.

After one lap, it all starts over again. Come to think of it, all roller coasters I have known just give you two rounds per ticket. Just one chance for a second thrill. Another round of ups-and-downs-and-loops-and-twists-and-turns. 

And just when you think you are starting to get the hang of it, the ride just ends.

And you get off your seat, trying to reorient yourself, fixing your hair, laughing at yourself for making yourself look silly during the ride, as you childishly climb down and join your friends waiting at the exit.

And you wonder if you will ever take a ride again.

If you really look closely, life is indeed a roller coaster.

You start by going up, waiting and wondering when the excitement will begin. Not knowing that the excitement actually began just before you went in line to get the tickets.

As you ride your roller coaster life, it is suggested that you just enjoy it. Don't fight it, let the law of gravity and the principle of inertia have their way. You won't get lost anyway. You will always find the exit in the end.

- John Emmanuel T. Manalo, MD
   November 7, 2010