The one thing I might never have

Last weekend, I was sorting through a bunch of paper stuff I’ve accumulated since I came to the US in 2004.  I found my little notebooks in one of the boxes that had a hodgepodge of cell phone numbers, notes to self, attempts at budgeting, random recipes and what-have-yous.  Going through one of the older notebooks, I found a poem I wrote, maybe around 2003 (or 2004).  Reading it again, I realized that I might be right – he is the one thing I might never have.  I intentionally posted it here today, on his birthday.

Untitled (circa 2003)

Tears threatening to cascade

   – and dampen my cheeks

But no!  I can handle this…

Or so I believe.


I thought I’m made of strong stuff

Phlegmatic, unemotional – they say

But why does your name

Cause in me a mild arrhythmia?


I have five reasons to forget you…

But it seems an internal conspiracy

Kept you a permanent fixture

In my mind.


Now, I don’t even try

Might as well keep you stuck

in those deep recesses – though it hurts

   – You’re the one thing

                     I might never







Another shot at a New Year

Today is the first day of the year according to the Chinese lunar calendar and I get a do-over of welcoming the new year.  I got sick the first two weeks of January and it really bummed me out because I really wanted to get a fresh start on a lot of things – like reviving this blog for one.  I actually got to starting some of my new year’s resolutions once I got better since most of them involved being more physically active and I couldn’t do that when I was sick.  I take little victories when I can, and I am happy to say that I’m doing well with those resolutions so far.  I ran more miles in the last three weeks than I did the last couple of months and  I’ve added a variety of strength workouts, thanks to the Boston Strong 26-day challenge, a virtual fitness challenge that supports the 2014 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Boston Marathon Team.  This morning, I took a moment to think of three words that I would like to set my focus on in the coming year.  I came up with 1) Mindful 2) Happy and 3) Quality.

I think these three words tie-up perfectly.  One has to make a conscious decision to be happy and to make yourself happy, you have to be self-aware.  Being mindful helps you to be more self-aware, eventually driving you to choose the better alternative for your mind and body.  This leads to choosing quality over anything else.  I resolve to keep these three words in mind this year.

Turning a new leaf over

Only minutes to go and it will be 2013.  This year has been a memorable one and I can summarize it into three important personal events: 1) turning 30, 2) getting my PhD and 3) getting my heart broken.

You may have noticed (or not) my inconsistent entries towards the second half of the year. You see, it’s quite difficult to write about what’s in your heart and mind when it is in pain.  It took a while for me to come to terms with it – the heartbreak, that is.  I decided to be honest with myself and acknowledge that I did love, I got hurt and it hurt really bad.  I saw this quote in one of my friend’s facebook page – the first line explains my heartbreak, the second is my wish for myself.


There’s always a first time for everything and this is my first heart break.  I didn’t know that I would be affected so much by this… Outwardly, I carry a happy disposition, but internally, I am struggling not to dwell so much on what happened and to focus on the better things that  are happening.  But this struggle led to my deluding of the self that I am okay after what happened.  It only prolonged the inevitable – that I would eventually crumble my happy facade.  I couldn’t live a life like this, it was affecting my overall disposition – mentally, physically, spiritually.  It was important to acknowledge that I am not okay, that I was hurt.  This was an important first step to steer myself back to the path of happiness.

Now, that is past and we are turning over a new leaf, a new beginning.  And how apt and timely that I saw another friend’s New Year facebook status (thanks Mirang!).  I am so inspired but what she wrote and I quote her:

“The New Year, a fresh start, promises a hopeful beginning. And hope, they say, springs eternal.

But it doesn’t. Not really. It is inevitable to be disappointed when plans fall through, when people hurt us, or when we fail ourselves. In those instances, we find that our seemingly endless well of optimism dries up fairly quickly. And hope, hope withers away when there is nothing tangible to cling to.

So for the first time, I decide to begin my year not with hope but with faith.

Faith does not need reason to exist. It is illogical, often times improbable, even downright impossible. But when you have unshakable faith – whether it’s directed to a supreme being, a universal force, or to the intrinsic scientific order of the natural world – you surrender yourself to the possibilities that you cannot even begin to imagine for yourself.

This year, I will have faith that everything will work out as they are meant to work out. Faith that somehow everything will fall into place. Faith that I may not have complete control over every aspect of my life, but it will be okay.”

And there you have it.  I will face the new year with Faith.  It doesn’t need explanation nor reason.  You just have to have it.

Bring it on, 2013!!

Early call and a phone upgrade

Tonight is the night.

I prepared myself for a long night of watching the news networks and following electoral vote projections, taking heed from the tight race being projected during the last month of the presidential campaign.  I expected that it will take a while before the networks can call a winner.  Just before the polling precincts closed in Massachusetts, I made a resolution for myself – I decided to let the presidential election decide for me.  See, I have been flip-flopping about getting a phone upgrade.  I believe I am one of the few remaining people who doesn’t have a smart phone.  As I prepared to “hunker down” and follow election updates, I resolved to consider the long overdue phone upgrade if Obama gets re-elected.  It made for a “thrilling” night – I was tuning in to CNN and CBS for their election projections.  Every time they interrupt the program with a projection, my heart would skip a bit.  For the early part of the night, Romney was leading.  By 10pm, Romney was still leading, but the margin is getting closer – New Hampshire went for Obama, while Ohio and Nevada were starting to lean towards Obama.  I switched to CBS for a good hour to follow local election results, where Massachusetts saw their first female senator elected.  A little after 11pm, CNN gave back-to-back-to-back projections, and when they called Ohio for Obama, it was over.  Obama gets re-elected and I get a smart phone.  That’s what I call a win-win scenario. 😉

This time four years ago – a flashback as we move forward

Exactly four years ago, I wrote a short blog entry about the 2008 election results, with Obama capping the night with his victory speech.  I’m not an American citizen, but one cannot deny the role that the US has in global affairs and this is reason enough for me to be in the know and to be engaged in some way with the elections.  This time though, I am not rooting for anyone.  I am only praying that whatever the outcome will be tomorrow, it will move this country forward.

Blog entry written on November 5, 2008:…-and-for-the-world

For the past five or so hours I have been glued to the boob tube, closely following the US 2008 presidential elections. Let’s face it, this election is one for the books, not because of the many firsts it defined, but more so because of the current state of our world. We are facing serious issues ahead – the recent economic crisis, the wars in the forefront and those that go unpublicized, the moral and social issues we face, our planet Earth in peril. After listening to Obama’s victory speech, I am filled with hope and, as he puts it, a “new spirit of patriotism, a new spirit of responsibility.” This new spirit of patriotism is one that encompasses one’s nationality, one’s affiliation, one’s heritage. We are patriots of the modern world. We are responsible, not only for ourselves and for our family, but for each others’ welfare. I think this is the message and the great challenge that Obama pointed out in his victory address. There will always be disagreements. There will be a lot of debates ahead, but, I think, having a president-elect like Obama opens a lot of doors to the many sectors in our society – opportunities to have their voices heard, for issues to be discussed and to take action. I have my own apprehensions on Obama, especially in key ethical and moral issues. However, I am confident that he will deliver in his promise of change. The calm optimism that he exuded in his speech is a foreshadowing of his overall demeanor. He is prepared to face the challenge, and he has called on everyone to join him. He downplayed the historic implications of his being the first African-American president or the fact that he won most of the swing states, and the electoral college by a landslide. Instead, he called on the American people to take on the challenge and say “yes, we can.”

Of course, the cynic in me says that this a politician after all, and this grand victory speech is just one of the many more sugar-coated propaganda that politicians usually spill out of their boisterous mouths. But I am more of an optimist. And the optimist in me says that this guy can be what a president is supposed to be. Of course, it is not a one-man act, and the bigger picture includes all these traditional politicians and their agendas. The bigger picture is a scary picture. And that is where the American people come in. They should be the “beacon of democracy” that they proudly call themselves. They must show the world that this is not just a one night stint, but a lifetime commitment. Tonight is a glorious night for the American people, they have achieved the change they sooo desired and needed. But tomorrow, we will all wake up to the same problems that we are currently facing. We need to commit to this change. I sincerely hope and pray that this change is for the better, that this change does not compromise our values, that this change will benefit, not only the American people, but the whole world as well. Rock on, Obama!

Seven weeks or so later…

All the hullabaloo leading to the thesis defense day and I don’t write anything about what happened…  I passed my thesis defense!!!  I am now a PhD and will officially become one on June 3rd, when I receive my diploma during the commencement.  I plan to write the days that were – retrospective blog entries, if you will – and I will begin by posting the acknowledgement section that I wrote in my dissertation.  This section sums up my appreciation and gratitude for the people who have been a part of my graduate school experience – may it be in the lab or outside of lab.  My deep and sincere “Thank You!”


And I have come to the end of tunnel.  That was one long tunnel!

As I reflect on my training as a scientist and the time I spent in graduate school, I have come to realize that I am truly blessed!  I am surrounded by a bunch of wonderful people who have helped me throughout this journey and I appreciate everything that they have contributed to who I am today.

First of all, I would like to thank my mentor, Dr. Masanori Terajima for taking me on as a graduate student in his laboratory.  His zen-like approach to science is something I admire and wish to emulate.   I could not thank him enough for being patient with me and for being always available to answer questions, to give advice and to provide guidance, among others.

I thank Dr. Francis Ennis for his words of wisdom and for reminding us to always keep a big picture perspective.  His invaluable knowledge on influenza and his comments and suggestions helped mold this thesis project.  I also appreciate the faculty members of our group, past and present.  Big thank you’s go to Alan, Dan, Sharone, Mary and Anuja for your insightful comments during lab meetings.  I especially thank Dan for being a part of my TRAC committee for the last five years.

I would also like to acknowledge my TRAC committee members, Larry, Katherine and Ray.  Thank you for all the helpful discussions and directions during the TRAC meetings and for being a part of my dissertation committee.  I also thank Dr. Jason Kim and Dr. Loren Fast for taking the time to read and critique my dissertation.

John Cruz, Laura Orphin and Kim West have been instrumental in teaching me the necessary laboratory techniques for my thesis project.  To the CTL king and to the ELISPOT queens, I salute you!  John has also been an excellent resource for any lab-related issue and I thank him for always accommodating my requests and inquiries.  I thank Pamela Pazoles and Marcia Woda for teaching me how to “flow.”  ICS is not my favorite experiment to do, but it surely was tolerable because I knew a flow expert is just around the corner.

Labmate, deskmate, hoodmate – Anita Leporati.  Your cheerful demeanor and positive outlook (and of course, that infectious laughter!) kept me sane through this entire ride.  Thank you for listening to all my crazy stories.  You have become a dear friend to me.

I am very grateful to be a part of the group previously known as CIDVR, past and present members.  You will always have a special place in my happy memory vault.  My lab-life was a pleasant and enjoyable experience because everyone is always ready to help and give encouragement, not only in lab-related stuff but also in the finer things in life.  Special thanks to Laurie-Ann for helping me out during the final stretch of my thesis writing.

Massachusetts has become a home away from home because of the wonderful people I met through the years.  To my grad school “family” here in Worcester – Abby, Arlene, Freidrich, Judith, Krista, Lucy, Rachel and Reina, thank you for all the wonderful memories (mostly revolving around food) and for your friendship.  Thank you to Homer and Gen for being the ‘kuya’ and ‘ate’ of the family, helping us out (the newbies in MA) in so many ways.  To Arlene and Rachel, I don’t know how you were able to put up with a crazy roommate like me – thank you for all the little things and the big things and all things in between.  To my running buddy, Krista – thank you for going the miles with me, not only on the pavement but also in the road of life.  To my drinking buddy, Lucy – a “hydrated” being is a happy being; thanks for all the conversations over “hydration”.  I would also like to acknowledge my grad school classmates for their support and encouragement from the core course, to qualifying exams, to (failed) experiments – thank you Kristen, Joel, Zaida, Ermelinda and Bhavana.  To friends, old and new, especially the Boston Filipino community and Adrian – thank you for providing a place of familiarity and camaraderie.  I would also like to extend my gratitude to my very good friend Bing.  You are the constant variable in this ever-changing equation.  I am so glad that you are always a phone call away (or a 3-hour drive for that matter).  I don’t know how I could have gone through the last seven or so years without you.

Lastly, but certainly not the least, I am grateful for having a very supportive family – Der, Mer, Nengi, Reni and Dongi.  I especially would like to acknowledge my parents, who always believed in my dreams and supported my love for learning and for science.  I have been physically away from all of you for most of my life, but I know we are eternally bound by our love for each other.  Your prayers, words of encouragement, pep talks and helpful advice throughout the years have made me who I am today.  I could never ask for a better support system and I can certainly say that you have always been behind me every step of the way.  You are my inspiration!

Writing done!


Writing is over!  The last few weeks leading up to this day is all a blur… I’m really amazed how my brain churned out all the stuff I wrote.  Now it’s time to make the oral presentation and prepare for thesis defense day. Two more weeks.  Another chapter in my life adventure ends… and hopefully I figure out how the next chapter is going to be soon.  Job hunting mode begins two weeks (or should I say resumes in two weeks).  Now it’s time to re-read the dissertation and prepare a battle plan for the defense.  I hope it goes well.

Status Update

Only four days left before the official deadline of the written dissertation.  I can’t wait for this to be over.  I constantly remind myself to breathe and not to dwell too much on the nerves.  The whole process has made me more knowledgeable than ever about my research project.  At the same time, it made me realize how little I know about my field and that there are many exciting questions out there waiting to be answered or at least addressed.  This is the “lay of the land” – my desk, where I have spent at least ten (sometimes twelve) hours each day, including weekends (maybe five to six hours on Sundays)  for the past two weeks, reading, writing and taking breaks online (like what I’m doing now).  It’s not something I’m used to doing – working long hours for consecutive days.  I usually spread out the tasks of the week nicely so that I don’t make myself crazy or too tired.  But when the task requires a lot of thinking and brain power, I realized I can actually stay put and work hours on end.  Well, I really don’t have choice, do I?  And besides, my brain seems to function better when the deadline is right around the corner.  I’m almost there.  And I can’t wait.

P.S. I got an email from one of my committee members – she is going out of the country and will be back a day before my defense, so I have to finish the whole thing a day earlier.  It’s crunch time now!

Amidst the chaos that is my desk, my little yoga froggie reminds me to breathe.

More of the same

One can’t deny the power of a looming deadline.  Well, maybe in my case anyway.  In a span of 4 hours, I have added five solid pages to my draft, something that was really hard to come by when the deadline was still four months away.  Cramming mode activate!