100 Lessons Learned in 2020

As 2020 ends, a lot of realizations come to mind. It has been an admittedly chaotic year. All of us, to a certain degree, are traumatized. I wish I could say that I was on cloud nine but let’s be realistic. More than a million worldwide deaths due to a pandemic is heavy. In fact, I am in awe of how human beings can still handle everything, probably because we don’t have a choice, but, from the farthest corners of my heart, I am proud of all of us just for surviving. Here are the lessons I learned this year. I hope you create a list of your own too.


1. There is magic in spending time with family.
2. Despite the odds telling you that you can’t, you absolutely can.
3. Do not look for what isn’t there, appreciate and be grateful for what you have.
4. The love that is for you will not be forced, it will come as a surprise.
5. Make the first move.
6. Have a power passe.
7. It’s okay to not be okay.
8. Take life one moment at a time.
9. Get a pet.
10. Be mindful of what you consume (social media, news, tv).
11. Yoga does wonders.
12. Meditation will keep you sane.
13. This is not the time to be harsh on your body.
14. Listen to your mentors.
15. When you’re sad, watch Kdrama.
16. If you weren’t productive this year, it’s okay!
17. Quit coffee.
18. Write on your journal.
19. Keep writing on that gratitude list.
20. Watch more movies with your little brother.
21. Think twice or thrice before you post.
22. Stay true to your goals but be flexible with your methods.
23. Communication is key.
24. Everbody’s having a hard time, exude grace.
25. Stop overworking, nothing is more precious than your health and wellbeing.
26. When you’re feeling helpless, help someone.
27. Keep on doing your art.
28. Accept what is.
29. Feeling shitty? Take a bath.
30. Do the workout that is fun for you.
31. Spend time with nature.
32. Stop waiting, start doing.
33. The government, the economy, or any external situation won’t change. Do what’s good for you.
34. Social media is a myth.
35. Structure is key to pandemic anxiety.
36. Keep your study table sparkly and sacred.
37. Stop counting calories
38. Comparison is poison.
39. Honor your body.
40. Drink lots of water.
41. Make an effort to call your family.
42. Everything takes time, especially worthwhile things.
43. Alcoholic beverage is a no no.
44. It’s okay to not be the best.
45. Music is therapeutic.
46. The pain of loss will always be there, but you will learn to live with it.
47. Savor the present moment, you never know when it’s your last day.
48. Make time for your art.
49. You can adapt even in the worst of times.
50. Say I love you.
51. Give yourself a treat, watch netflix.
52. Meditate upon waking up instead of scrolling on your newsfeed.
53. Give yourself a self-care day.
54. Create a schedule.
55. Invest in a good planner.
56. Trust the process, even if the path isn’t clear.
57. You don’t need to follow every self-help guru.
58. Microsteps are powerful.
59. Invest in high-quality content books.
60. Cleaning relieves stress.
61. Just have three goals for the day.
62. Pause and breathe before you react.
63. Be kind to yourself.
64. Breathe.
65. Keep on learning.
66. Stick with the study methods that work for you.
67. Any negativity goes down the drain.
68. Talk about ideas, not people.
69. Focus on what you can control.
70. Are you feeling angry? Put your rage on a page.
71. Have a consistent sleeping schedule.
72. Spend time with nature.
73. You don’t need to add that item to your shoppee cart.
74. Eat less.
75. Learn from every person you encounter.
76. Understad another’s point of view before criticizing.
77. Stop the hate language.
78. Say goodbye to expectations.
79. Be the change you wish to see.
80. Wear your mask.
81. Engage with life. Don’t be passive.
82. Eat meals on time.
83. Prepare for the worst during a typhoon.
84. Recovery takes time.
85. Volunteer.
86. Stop keeping things that you don’t need. Give it away.
87. Honor your pain but don’t dwell.
88. Stay curious.
89. Pray.
90. Trust that the universe has your back.
91. Stop weighing yourself every damn day.
92. Do your best and fuck the rest.
93. A person’s rudeness is a reflection of their own pain. It’s never about you.
94. Maintain boundaries.
95. Unfollow any influencer that makes you feel shitty about your body.
96. Be patient.
97. Choose love.
98. Have faith.
99. Keep going.
100. Surrender.

NMAT for Dummies

Do you have to be super smart to pass the NMAT? NO. Being smart helps, but hard work is still the best technique.

Hello soon-to-be MDs! To be a medical doctor in the Philippines, step one is studying premed, next is taking the NMAT. What is it anyway?

NMAT is a mandatory exam for aspiring medical students in the Philippines.  This exam will be the basis for your med school application. Medical schools would require an NMAT score to gauge your capacity to be trained as doctors.

For a little bit of a backstory, I took the NMAT twice. One was in 2014 when I was still in college and the latest was in March 2018, I was then a very busy corporate slave. To be honest, I really wasn’t able to study that much because I was in the middle of writing our undergrad manuscript when I took it in 2014. In 2018, I was very busy in my job as a customer service executive for a bank. So, if you’re freaking out because you don’t have enough time to study, breathe in, breathe out. Believe me, it is possible to get a high score, but this doesn’t mean that you have to procrastinate. You will fare better if you study. I swear.

Here are some steps that I highly recommend for a stress-free NMAT:

Create a Plan.

Are you familiar with the Four P’s concept? Prior Planning Prevents Poor outcome. You have to plan based on your schedule. If you’re still a student, your advantage is the concepts of Math, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and  Social Sciences are still fresh to you. So you don’t really need to study that much as compared to someone who has been working for a couple of years. Make a plan based on your schedule. For tough days, it’s okay not to study, just make sure that you compensate with the hours lost in your next study session.

Hoard Reviewers

I highly suggest printing the practice test given by CEM (Center for Educational Measurement). Take the exam with the allotted time for each subject and check your weakest points. Then make a plan and put in more hours for your weakest subjects.

You can also buy MSA reviewers or borrow from friends. The advantage of MSA Reviewers is it is really high yield. Using this would make your brain ready for difficult questions. It’s actually harder than the exam itself however, there’s no harm in over reviewing.

You can also ask for handouts from your classmates or friends who attended review centers. Just make sure that you focus on the practice test provided by CEM. Always rationalize your answers. Google and Merriam will be your best friends.

If you can afford enrolling in a review center, you can also attend one too. For me though, shelling out five digits is not worth it and also not possible. (I was a financially struggling student and also a breadwinner so it’s a big no.)

Block time for studying.

For undergrads, at least an hour a day would be okay. For dummies like me, I really need a longer time time frame to review so even twenty to thirty minutes progress per day in a span of two to three months really helped. Just make sure that you are making progress even if it’s just three questions, it works.

For working folks, create a timeline and really devote at least an hour or more for reviewing. When my schedule is quite free, I wake up extra early in the morning to clock a few hours of studying. If I really can’t wake up early I go to coffee shops and stay there for three to four hours to make up for the lost study time. I do this two to three times a week.

Exercise

Maybe you’d think, “I don’t even have time for studying, how can you even ask me to exercise?” Believe me when I say, this did wonders to my discipline and energy level. I devoted an hour of exercise after work. This released happy hormones which I really needed in stressful workdays and also improved my focus with the limited study time that I have. Just do it and you’ll see.

Social Media Detox

If you really want to be a medical doctor, you have to eliminate distractions, and that includes good old social media. Yep. Uninstall everything. You would be surprised with how much you can accomplish without notifications bothering you everyday. I did one month of social media detox, and I credit my NMAT score to this mini sacrifice.

Know when your brain is productive.

If you are a morning person, do it before everybody else wakes up. If you are more of a night owl, then study in the evening. Just don’t force yourself to study when your brain is tired because it is counterproductive. Your brain needs rest. Listen to what it needs. Adjust your study schedule depending on your brain’s capacity.

Tell your friends and family about your exam.

They will cheer you on and they will keep you accountable. My best friend and sisters would always chat me to ask how I am and also remind me that I should be studying. (Conscience haha). Support is essential in your path to becoming a medical doctor. It is going to be a tough ride, and it starts with the NMAT.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Do you have to be super smart to pass the NMAT? NO. Being smart helps, but hard work is still the best technique. You can’t control what you’ve got from the IQ genetic lottery but you can keep on putting in the work to achieve your goals. I scored lower in Math on my first take, but I just kept on practicing and voila on my second take, who got a high score in Math? This girl. Work hard my dear future MD. Your future self will thank you for it.

Begin with the end in mind.

Ask yourself why are you gong to take this exam. It is to have the opportunity to be trained to SAVE LIVES. You might not be in medical school yet but if you want that MD so bad, start acting like one now. When you can visualize yourself as a doctor you will be pulled towards that dream. The Universe, God, destiny, or whatever you believe in will not plant this dream if you don’t have what it takes. This is for you. Now go kick some ass.

Love is

Love is your sister cooking breakfast for you everyday.

Love is your dad checking up on you if you’re okay.

Love is your friend or lover asking you, “How was your day?”

Love is that stranger you saw last night giving a few pennies to the quiet kid near the subway.

Love is the sun shining everyday.

Love is when someone really listens to what you have to say.

Love is saying no even when the other person gets hurt.

Love is simple. Love is.

Love is your friend going with you to the scary doctor’s appointment.

Love is when you’re laughing with your med school friends who are all thinking, “What the fuck are we doing now?”

Love is your parents giving you your weekly allowance.

Love is when your family helps you out.

Love is in that stranger who gave you that scholarship.

Love is in the silence in between long distance friendships, we just know that it’s there.

Love is when your girlfriends call you because of that douche bag.

Love is when someone asks you, “Are you alright? I’m here you can talk to me. I’ll be there in a heartbeat.”

Love is when someone doesn’t want you to leave.

Love is when someone lets you go because he or she knows that it is best.

Love is when when someone shares their french fries.

Love is when someone gets water for you when you eat out.

Love is in that friend who keeps on cracking jokes.

Love is when your dog jumps in happiness when she sees you.

Love is being okay with the simple and mundane.

Love is in the highs and lows, the blanks and in-between.

Love is in the passion you have for your greatest dream.

Love is when someone waits for you, whatever the reason is.

Love is when someone looks for you, when you’ve suddenly disconnected.

Love is in that person who says: You can do it.

Love is there even when a person dies.

Love is manifested in so many things.

It can be a smile, a hug, or an ocean of tears.

Love that is given is never gone.

Love circumvents, it floats, it’s like air.

You breathe it in and you let it out.

How to Rock Your Med School Interview

I am writing this in hopes of helping soon-to-be doctors out there in there upcoming med school interview. I had a good NMAT score, but it wasn’t as high as I wanted it to, but much to my surprise, I got the top spot in the second batch of applicants in my med school. So probably, there was something  I did right in my interview to have been the top choice. I know how much anxiety interviews could bring, but no worries, I got your back.

  1. Read about the school and the curriculum.

Make sure that the school of your choice is the right fit for you. Med schools have different teaching methods. Some would use traditional teaching while others are using the PBL or problem-based learning. You have to do your homework because knowing the curriculum is crucial to your studies. Don’t ever apply to a med school if you haven’t checked their teaching method because it might not work for you. Also, the panel will ask you about these things.

2. Review your undergraduate thesis.

The panel will ask you about this. So, make sure that you really know it by heart. The gist, significance, and how you did the study. They are probably looking for clues on how you performed academically, aside from what’s indicated in your transcript. You must know how to do academic research, I think this is a test of how you explain technical information as well.

3. Ask your friends in that med school for tips.

Every school has a different set of rules and questions for an interview, and it would help if you ask your ate’s and kuya’s for golden advice. Like, what are the questions that they’ve been asked. By doing this, you can anticipate the questions and you’d be more relaxed to answer the panel.

4. Pray.

If you believe in God, the Universe, or any higher being, this is the time to ask for guidance. If not, it’s okay. Having a relaxed heart and mind is vital in these make it or break it moments. Knowing that you are guided helps a lot.

5. Relax.

Try breathing exercises. Thinking happy thoughts would also help. This is not the time for you to imagine the worst case scenarios. Whatever activity or ritual you do to relax yourself, do them. Because if your brain is in chaos, you might not be able to think of your most authentic answers. So dude, relax.

6. Talk to your family and friends before your interview.

This is the time for the much needed ego boost. You have to believe that you can do this and that this is for you. Who are the best cheerleaders? It’s your family and friends. Tell them about your upcoming interview and for sure they will spew all the encouraging words that you need.

7. Always stick to your why.

I remember being asked, “Why medicine?” And what I answered was, “Why not?” I absolutely can’t find any reason why I shouldn’t take this path. I genuinely answered all the questions, sticking to my reason  that everything that happened to me led me to this moment. I think they saw that. Remembering your why would keep your answers coherent. This is the foundation of everything that you will say in that interview.

8. Be honest.

I know a couple of people who answered with the mindset that, “I must say what the panel wants me to say.” Contrary to that technique, I would advise you to be honest. You will know if it’s for you if they accept your most honest answer. Why am I saying this? I just don’t want you to fall into the trap of doing something just because it looks good. “Being a doctor looks good for my parents, or it has a good pay.”  You have to want it with a deeper reason. I actually did not rehearse my answers or have a list of questions printed. I just told them that, “I want this, and that I am not any better than the other applicants. All of us want this badly. But I think, this opportunity would not present itself at the perfect time in my life, if this is not for me. ”

 

So aspiring med students, do the things mentioned above and you’d probably have an edge. Remember that medicine is a rewarding job. You got this.

Jump and Fall

I am a risk taker. Period.

When I say I take risks, it’s not the do or die extreme sports stuff that I’m talking about. I take risks, life-changing, mind-boggling, and disturbing risks to the people around me.

I almost always say go for it.

I won a lot of times when I just say, fuck it, let’s go. Than when I shy away from opportunities and go back to my safe haven.

I took a plane and went abroad, alone. I got lost many times in that foreign country, alone. I applied for a job that I had no experience whatsoever and just said, yeah, let’s do this. I have confessed to a guy, got rejected, and looked like a fool. I wanted to sing with a live audience and so I did. I gave my heart to someone who didn’t feel the same. I took loads of risks. Hence I can say, who I am today, is a result of thousands of choices, good and bad. I worked hard to be better and I still am working to be a better version of my yesterday self.

Do I regret taking risks?

Hell no.

Well, I could’ve done better but here’s the thing, I learned because of tons of mistakes on my part. I became wiser because I put myself out there and allowed the universe to interact with my everyday actions. I chose to happen to things, and things happened to me.

But isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

They tell us to play it safe, to stick to the status quo, to numb our hearts and forget about emotions. They said we should always have a thick wall that no one can ever penetrate.  They said we should not trust people. They said we should do whatever it takes to distance our vulnerable self from people.

But honey, what kind of life is that?

A life of no risks, of not jumping the cliff because of the fear of the unknown, a boring, mundane existence. No. I can’t fathom living like that.

I’d rather be bruised and wounded than stay unscathed but without stories to tell and lives touched. You can’t make me live in that fortress.

I know that by taking risks, there is a a big chance for you to get hurt. But by doing so, you live. You love, and you learn. Experience and mistakes teaches you more than any theory out there. When you go the arena, and play, you get to have the chance to bask in life.

There are no guarantees of happy endings. Because happiness after all, is a temporary feeling. But why don’t we fill each day with those tiny moments of happiness? Live in the moment. Take risks. Jump and fall and learn.

What keeps me going

I’d never forget that day when I decided what I want to become. I was attending a leadership camp that has changed how I envisioned my future self. I assisted a doctor during a medical mission. It was actually a free circumcision for the kids living in that barrio. I was so amazed by how the doctors neatly stitch the little boy and how happy they were of what they’re doing.

Before, my dream was to be an accountant and be a bad ass lawyer. That was what everybody expected of me. I’ll be a lawyer and be rich. If it were for my father, he would’ve wanted me to do that. But at that moment, I threw all of the ‘supposed’ dream that I had. I knew, I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to provide service like this to kids. I wanted to help people heal.

I was always fascinated with science. Biology was my thing. Science just makes me wanna go to school to listen to what my science teachers are gonna say. I would read anatomy books as a kid and when my dad brings home unused books from his office, I saw a Biology book with two penguins printed on the cover. I would read and read and read and be so happy with what I’m seeing. Finally, it made sense.

My childhood hobbies such as reading very advanced books for my age and being awed by the anatomy of any living thing was for a reason. It was because I know, I was going to study to become a doctor.

The path to this dream is not easy at all. I thought that if I want something bad enough, the world would conspire to make my dream come true. During premed, I was so sure that after I graduate, I will be going to medical school. However my family’s finances hit rock bottom, up to the point that I have to work outside the country to help my younger sister finish her degree. Suddenly, it’s been two years, and I haven’t gone to medical school yet. I had to face being in a foreign land, and be so frugal so that I can send money back home. It is a tough way to live indeed. But you know what? I don’t care. Time will pass anyway. I know that someday, I’ll be in medical school, training to be a doctor. Someday I’ll be able to do what I’m most passionate about.

We all have different circumstances. I have asked the universe why life has to be tough for me. But the universe doesn’t answer back. The sooner you accept that life is unfair, and some people are just born luckier than others, and that it’s totally not your fault, the better it gets. I accepted that. But that doesn’t mean that I’m okay with being in this state forever. I am working as much as I can with all my might, no matter how long it takes. I want a better life for my family and my future family. My future kids should not experience this. They will change the world and not think about all the basic necessities like food and money in the bank. Their life will be better. That’s my promise that keeps me going.