Life update: Baking cookies and (not) breaking down

I’m writing the first draft of this blog post on a Thursday afternoon, one week after the Philippine Regulation Commission announced the cancellation —later revised to postponement— of the September 2021 Physician Licensure Examination for the National Capital Region examinees.

My life has more or less entered a weird flux of minimal studying and forced domesticity since then. There may or may not have been a couple mental and emotional breakdowns on the down-low. I restarted learning Spanish, this time with my sister. Con mi hermana. It’s fine. We’re fine.

This is a life update blog post.

Time with the family 🕰️❤️

A couple of weeks and some change ago —maybe mid-August, though time really has a way of blending the days together— another period of “Enhanced Community Quarantine” was announced. That meant an end to me studying in Starbucks cafes and in work-sharing spaces, and a start to me hanging out more with my family back home.

(I also recently moved out from our Ortigas condo, which is a whole adventure unto itself. Packing and unpacking can be a lesson in personal economics.)

My sister, a Leo if there ever was one, celebrated her 2xth birthday last Month. It was great! We all broke our 1200-calorie diets (we’ve all been subscribed to The Hearty Grub PH for several weeks now) to eat some Japanese food (it’s my sister’s favorite cuisine).

I don’t think she blogged about her birthday. But you can still find her other blog posts over here at giannahere.

Mom and her 2Gs. My mom’s Shopee shopping spree is responsible for the cute balloons and signages in the background. My sister is more of a Lazmall kind of gal. My brother now lives in his swanky new home with my sister-in-law, busy with our new baby leo. Speaking of—

Introducing Baby Kal!!!

One of the craziest miracles that happened this year, and one of the only legitimately great and good things to come out of my 2021, is the safe birth of my new nephew!!! He’s the cutest, smallest, wildest baby to ever exist. Congrats and big props to my sister for pulling through!!!

Technically, my brother’s new household is only a stone’s throw away from our house, but a combination of (1) traffic and bad urban planning, (2) best practices in a pandemic, and (3) erratic quarantine guidelines have conspired to keep us all missing each other more often than not. I need this pandemic over! What if baby Kal grows up and reaches all developmental milestones without me?

Babies are tiny-tiny. Like TINY. I can only do a couple of baby holds (thanks to my very short stint in the NICU as a medical intern and previous experiences with now-grown niblings), and I’m kinda stressed that he’ll start growing too big pretty soon for me to practice. But oh well. Growing big is literally the only job of babies, so I can’t blame them. Photo by my sister.

I do think we should institute and formalize some sort of weekly check-in though… Maybe a virtual Sunday brunch? Can that be a thing? I’m too much of a noncommittal baby to formally suggest it though.

Milestone unlocked: Jari M, MD!

In an ideal world, we’d be marching in our togas and receiving awards centerstage. Instead, our “graduation” was a ten-minute conferment and oath-taking ceremony held over zoom. Yes. Over zoom.

I still dressed up, though, and my mom still pulled out her craft-and-design chops for a little photo moment.

(But really, it just felt like any other day… curse our government’s response to this pandemic. Five years of medical school, four years of biology, and a lifetime of dreaming boiled down to a largely forgettable experience).

Just another Wednesday? Except starting last August 25, my batchmates and I became “academically entitled to use MD” after our names. We still can’t practice medicine without a license, but we can order some new calling cards and edit our LinkedIn profiles without prejudice.
Chocolate cake (my favorite flavor DNI), some fragrant dried flowers, and an awkward photo. That’s basically it. When I graduated college, my mom had several tarpaulins printed out and caterers over the house for a party. Now we had a nice, intimate celebration. The real highlight is my gift……

Tinkering with new tech 👿

The subtitle makes it sound like I’m a budding engineer with notable tech skills, but really I’ve just spent the last couple of weeks taking full advantage of my mom’s graduation gift. This is me buying into the Apple capitalist dream.

I don’t remember when or what I wrote in my last life update (and I’m too lazy to check), but sometime in the middle of my boards review, my two-year old Macbook Air 2019 decided to quit on me. ONLY TWO YEARS OLD! The (costly) diagnostic report from the service center told me that some sort of liquid corrosion affected the logic board —and like, what? I have no idea how that happened.

So I spent a good couple of weeks reviewing material from my sister’s spare Lenovo laptop. I think my mom actually pitied me because she kept telling me to order a new laptop during that first week. She probably thought it was difficult to study using a borrowed Microsoft-based device (kinda, but then again I really only needed to view PDFs).

I finally scrounged up enough energy to order the 11” 3rd gen iPad Pro (with M1 chip, even though it’s proving to be overkill) some weeks ago. I’ve always wanted an iPad. And an Apple pencil. I had this pretentious vision of going on rounds with just a tablet and stylus to write on the digital EMR, but clearly that’s still a few months away. Probably even a year away.

PSA: I got the iPad and the pencil with a pretty good discount through the Apple Education Store. (These are my last few months of justifiable financial dependence, and wow I’ll really miss this guilt-free use of my mom’s credit card.) They don’t ask for proof to check you’re a student or anything; Apple just opens that discount to anyone. I’ll probably still buy from that portal even when I’m done with boards. Because, you know. Doctors are lifelong students.

I’ve done a couple of tinkering with widgets, drawing apps (like Procreate), and other platforms for media consumption. But the real thing that’s been taking over my life has been Notion. I’m just in love with how customizable the experience is. In fact, I’m drafting this blog post on Notion, instead of Google Keep or directly to WordPress.

The only downside is that most media and other files are only accessible over the net.

Edit: Writing blog posts on Notion is a dream, because it’s easy to add dividers, links, photos and headings. I can visualize what I write and how I present it. But transferring from Notion to WordPress is a nightmare. Somebody fix this workflow!

My current base of operations on Notion. I’ll probably shake things up as I go along. As you can see, there are so many uses to this app —there are templates for journalling, for keeping track of savings and investments, and even for organizing your wardrobe! I’ll be adding a shopping list page after I schedule the upload of this post, hehe.

I’ve also bought a keyboard to complete my setup. I debated on getting the Magic Keyboard, which looked sleek and light online, but decided that the Php15,000 price tag wasn’t worth it. My hindbrain also thinks light equals more prone to damage, so I looked for something more versatile and heavyduty.

So far, the Logitech Combo Touch from Shopee —also with a 10% discount, thanks to some well-timed vouchers and ShopeePay— has been working out well. This video from a YouTuber Justin Tse actually cinched the decision for me. Thanks, YT algorithm.

Best parts of the (heavier) Logic Combo Touch case: functional shortcut keys on the keyboard, smart trackpad gestures, space for the pencil holder, and IT’S DETACHABLE! I can hold the tablet as a drawing device or for media consumption, or I can have a nice and smooth typing experience whenever I need it.

More importantly (to my mom, especially), having an iPad and an Apple Pencil also gave me that extra juice to keep up with boards review. At the very least, I definitely resurrected some manic energy for a couple of days. Actual progress has stalled now ever since the postponement, but those few weeks leading up to the original exam dates were something else.

Sneak peek: Reviewing for the 2021 boards

I’ve always wanted to write a blog post themed How I reviewed for the PLE. There’s never been any serious draft or outline in the works yet, since I didn’t want to jinx actually passing the board exams. But I also didn’t think my review period will now extend from a contracted 40-50 days to ??? who knows how long.

So I’m speaking my draft into existence today. I wanted to write about the places I like to study in, and the ways I like to dance to good music. I would have liked to share my Spotify playlists and favorite YouTube videos. Tips on spaced repetition. The best way to remain fed and caffeinated.

And then I’d share some screenshots.

Sneak peek. I’m a big proponent of spaced repetition and active learning, but that’s for a later blog post. For now I’d like to share one of my favorite things about studying with a touchscreen device, which is saving the environment the trouble of more printed scantron sheets. Now I really can just do everything digitally.

The weeks leading up to September 11 didn’t just involve 7AM wakeup calls and rigorous study. There were also well wishes.

(Now I’m just a couch potato).

Made2F1y and No Atenean Left Behind 🦅

Ever since my first blog post regarding the Atenean MD-MBA experience, I’ve waxed poetic over the strong sense of community in our school. The pandemic may have tested our relationship with our administration, but the Pugad Agila initiative remained strong.

(Throwback to ASMPH MD/MBA: Transsum)

Despite the distance, we still hit the right beats: send-off kits and parties, and emotional/academic support.

Gifts to tide us by. Two of my fellow IMBA members and friends sent a super sweet dried flower arrangement to cheer me and other senior members on. Time flies so fast —it feels like a lifetime since Anastomosis 2018, Filipino Sign Language Week, and IMDC. They’re now interns. Lea C sent over a cute resin bookmark (I really need to get back on the reading wagon), plus an actual super-cute photocard of herself. And finally the actual end-off kit, bearing the slogan Sky is the 21mit, and carrying pencils sharpened by only our best, brightest, and most beloved professors. Among other things. Thank you thank you thank you ❤️

Even my college A team sent vegan donuts, which is a first (and delicious). They sent it the day before the cancelled board exams, so I just ate them to feel better about the absolute chaos that was my life.

Attendees, 25 of many. The zoom call was predictably crowded, and this is one of many attendance photos. (Obviously I included only the one with me in it). Our virtual send off felt bittersweet, but what can we do?

The Pugad Agila team —and if I understand correctly, our Tandangs (so thank you Jesha!)— even reached out to our friends and family to prepare a virtual envelope of palancas, ie messages of support. I’ve yet to read any. But I’ll get through them someday.

Our send off was held last September 5, the weekend before the would-be boards exam. And then:

Cue chaos, aka The Cancellation

The last few days leading up to September 11, I was truly in a confusing state of mind. Half of me was still rigorously studying for the exams, while another half was strongly dreading the likely exposure to COVID-19. For context, at this time, cases were ramping up fast. It was a little before that week when we first breached 20,000 new cases per day, and we’ve been hitting new records since. Poor government policies, lack of meaningful economic and social support, and non-existent mass testing all fed the rise in cases and mortality.

It wasn’t a question of our preparation —I think at that point, I had saturated as many brain cells as I humanly could— but a question of safety. It was the preparation of the government that was in doubt. I don’t think the PRC appreciated what a disaster closed room exams would have been, in the context of 20,000 new cases per day and rising. Or maybe they just didn’t care.

I actually didn’t think the dates would budge. But I woke up after a nap one Thursday morning to a very busy batch chat…

The announcement. The Professional Regulation Commission originally announced that the PLE in NCR was cancelled, but this was later revised to postponed that same night. After some mad clamor, probably.

It’s still difficult to articulate my own feelings regarding this announcement. On one hand, at least the government was consistent in its restrictions on mass gatherings. On the other, this nebulous postponement —with no updates yet on when the exam will be— throws a spanner in my plans for residency. I’m tired.

But I am clear on some things. It was thoughtless and inefficient of PRC to postpone the exam only in NCR, when obviously the pandemic rages on in all parts of the country, regardless of quarantine status or alert level. It’s irresponsible and insensitive that there remains no response on how the PRC will actually ensure the safety of board takers in the future —even the simple question of how we can confidently eat lunch and sip some water through the course of several day-long exams.

It’s insulting that we have to sign a waiver that absolves the government of all responsibility in the event we do contract COVID. It’s wild that they have foreseen none of this. It’s been two years. It’s the most important exam of our lives.

Which brings me here. To cookies.

Eat your feelings instead :)

Reports of active COVID cases are creeping higher, closer and younger. Depression lurks in the corners of our house. I can barely muster the motivation to study. I still want to buy three more scented candles and dream of my ideal apartment.

But I refuse to cede anymore ground to toxicity and negativity.

So, cookies. I spent an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon with cookies in the oven. I wrote some words. I finally got around to using the wax seal from a random Newt Scamander stationery set. (It’s not so random. I loved the first film. And my brother sometimes hits gold when giving Christmas gifts). I resurrected my favorite fountain pen.

I sent a couple letters and a handful of cookies to friends across the metro. Maybe the sweetness can bleed into our lives a little more. They can’t fix everything, but they can complement a nice cup of coffee.

There’s a metaphor here somewhere.

Homemade cookies, a reprise. This batch is chewier than previous batches I’ve made. Maybe it’s the extra dark chocolate I put in the dough? Or maybe I used a different brand of flour. In any case. I have been told they tasted good. 🍪

Until next time!

P.S. As someone who has graduated and thus is now gainfully unemployed, consider swinging by my ko-fi. My goal is to have enough money to inject back into the local art community. And to make a #LoveLocalPH fashion and home post.

(Please fund my shopping).

Buy Me a Coffee at

P.P.S. I recently watched the movie In the Heights with my sister (equal parts for love of musicals, for vegetating in the couch, and for learning Spanish). It was lovely. Go check it out on HBO GO.

P.P.S. It’s been several years, but my favorite fountain pen is still my A. G. Spalding & Bros BRFT180 Medium Nib with Translucent (Yellow) Body that I bought at a bargain price. I scraped off the frosting texture though.

Things in the oven: advice for my past self (aka what the hell is a career in medicine), how I reviewed for the PLE, favorite podcasts, lessons from spring cleaning, et cetera et cetera.

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