Third leading cause of death in the US

I was listening to the radio few months ago when I learned that medical errors  are now the third leading cause of death in the US.


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In 2014, Gary was complaining about his foot. His primary doctor in Washington DC suspected that it’s a gouty arthritis. He prescribed Indomethacin and Colchicine. These medications are so nasty because they give him diarrhea. But he had no choice because it is what his doctor prescribed. When he went though to another specialist few months later, this new specialist said that the said medications are fatal and there are other options aside from those mentioned medications. Really?


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The moral of the story: Do some research first and ask questions to your doctor before taking any medications. You don’t want medical error to be the cause of your own passing. Seriously.


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My favorite Pinoy grocery items

Three of my must-have items when I go to Tessa’s store, the closest Filipino store in my area, are the sardines, bagoong na isda (fish paste) and chicharon (pork cracklings). These three items remind me of how simple my life was while growing in Manila.

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When I was a kid, I remember having bagoong na isda mixed with cooking oil put in a plate full of steamed rice. That’s already my lunch or dinner. I thought it was delicious. I would just use my bare hands when eating. Later in life, I realized that we were so poor when we had that food on our dining table. It has no nutritional value. Maybe carbohydrates from rice, iron from the fish paste  and fat from the cooking oil.


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Same goes with sardines. I am the oldest among my siblings. There was a time wherein I would cook sardines for us. I would sautee garlic, onions, tomatoes and a can of sardines.  Once heated, I would put some water, salt and pepper, and some talbos ng kamote (sweet potato tops). It’s a delicious meal too specially if you have lots of steamed rice. This is also how I would describe most families in the Philippines who have limited income living in a small house. They squeeze tight together in a small house like a can of sardines.

Chicharon is the skin of the pork after it has been seasoned and deep fried. It’s crispy and delicious  specially when dipped in vinegar. It can be a snack or an appetizer.


These are some of the foods that I miss from my country that resonates simplicity of life, dreaming big, working hard and hoping for the best to happen.

His Dentist

Our mouth , including our teeth , is a vital part of our holistic hygiene. If something is wrong with our teeth, we may develop heart problems in the future. We can also be heart broken. No one wants to kiss us if we have bad breath. It is that simple.


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It was Gary’s dental appointment in Washington DC, March 2015, and also my first time to be examined by his lady dentist. When it was my turn, she looked at my mouth, took pictures of it, took pictures of me, and then she said “My office manager, (let’s call her Leila) will talk to you first, so you won’t get surprised” something to that extent. I thought that what she said was defensive. Something was wrong.


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Leila spoke to me with her papers and computations. She told to me all the procedures to be done for my gum disease, and explained to me the amount that it’s gonna cost me. It was ridiculously high at $3100 with all the insurances and discounts.  I asked myself, “Aren’t we gonna eat anymore so we can pay for these dental bills?” So I told Gary “No”. I don’t want them to be my dentist. And besides, before leaving for the US, I had my teeth cleaned already because I knew dental cost is so high in my new home.


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I emailed Leila to postpone my next dental appointment because, at that time, I was not working yet, and I don’t want Gary to pay for my dental bills. Leila also talked to me on the phone making follow up for my appointment. The postponement bought me time to research about their clinic. On Yelp, they got lots of negative reviews.

For the  list of red flags to watch for at the dentist’s office, here is the link.

In short, I did not go back at that dental clinic again for several reasons. Leila no longer works there.


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Chismis and other culture

I had a subject in grade school (in Rafael Palma Elementary School) called Sibika at Kultura (Civics and Culture), wherein we students would differentiate the culture and traditions of the Philippines and compare it with other countries like the USA. Culture is defined as the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time, according to Merriam- Webster.


Internet photo. Students of Rafael Palma Elementary School listening to their teacher.

My teacher once said that we, Filipinos, are very fond of chismis (gossips) which is not a good Filipino culture. Also according to her, we have this thing called “crab mentality/ ugaling talangka”. When someone is successful, another person can be jealous to him and will try to pull him down. We also discussed in the class that we Filipinos have  very close family relationships. One example is how we take care of our grand parents. We don’t send them to senior facilities when they get old. We take care of them in our house for the rest of their remaining lives. Another example is with the kids. Most Filipino parents do not ask their grown kids to move out of their house after college graduation. Like in our home in Manila, most of the kids stay in their parents’ house even though they already are married, have kids and also building a family of their own.

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Internet photo. A logo of a motel in Manila, saying hush.

In the US culture, they too engage in gossips. People can be nosy at times. One example is at Gary’s job on the railroad. He said multiple times, “there’s no secret on the railroad”. At my previous work too specially on break time, they talk about a lot of stuff and everybody else’s stuff. It is the same as the Filipino culture.



Joice Kristine Santos’ photo. Students listening to the speaker on the stage.

The racial divide here is strong. Although they say, we have equal opportunity for all, but sometimes it does not happen. An example is when a person of different race, age, sex or religion is being interviewed by someone different from the interviewee. Most likely the interviewer will prioritize his own people over the interviewee. This also applies when a superior of different heritage do not care about the safety of his crew because they are different to him. But cares more to his crew who share the same heritage as him. When you don’t want someone to be successful, by not giving them the safety that they need at work to perform their job well, that is crab mentality.


Internet photo. This is the store across Rafael Palma Elementary School.

Once a grown kid here turns 18 or graduated from high school, most of them look for a job and try to support themselves. There are kids here who still stay with their parents because they are going to college. There are also some who stay with their parents because they have certain disabilities. Those two mentioned are different issues. With the high cost of living, everyone should do their part and earn money for buying the basic needs. With the older people going to senior care facilities, their family members (kids and grand kids) need to go to work too. But it does not mean, older people are not loved.

Like Gary always tell me, “People are the same no matter what country they are from”. It is a human nature to communicate and compare, to feel envy, to live and to love.




My First Job in the US

When I first got here in the US, I did not work right away. The reason is that, I still need to apply for my Work Authorization permit and/ or my Green card. I was so interested in working for tech companies. As soon as I got here, I checked the vacancies with Amazon online. At that time, they had no vacancies yet. After Gary and I’s wedding reception on August 30th, 2015,  Dave Johnson gifted us an Amazon gift card.  So, I thought of checking out the Amazon vacancies again in Baltimore. I was so ecstatic to see that they were hiring for Fulfillment Associates. I applied online. There were no interviews, just questionnaires to answer. I started working on October 2015.


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I just stayed there for about 2.5 months. Working as a fulfillment associate, I did not like it. It is physically demanding. It is like working in a factory, even more difficult than working in the grocery or a department store because you have to move so fast. Yes, there’s a target. There’s a number of items that should be sorted or scanned. I was on my feet for 10 to 11 hours for 4 days, minus the 1.5 hours break time. The lunch break which is an hour is really not one hour. When you go to the pantry area and go back to the work area, you can already consume 10 minutes of walking. As a packer, you will scan the items from the wall, make a box, get the items, put items inside the box, close the box, scan, then put in the moving thing, then repeat. You have to do this very quickly! LOL. Being a sorter is even more difficult. Because you have to run and carry these items to the wall. Because of doing this for over 2 months, I got an injury called tennis elbow. I started to hate my job. My $13 per hour wage with benefits according to the locals are not bad. The minimum wage here is around $8 an hour. But I remember, I have a college degree and I can do more than packing/ or sorting items.

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While I was meditating, I realized there is no easy or difficult job for the  Baltimore people. I have seen old people, some kids too and some with difficulty walking.  People here really need jobs to survive through the high prices of commodity and they are not picky. In my case, the job is not for me. Plus, I have a college degree. Though I know, some degree holders here have no decent jobs, for me it’s not working. (Choosy Torres, LOL)

Amazon is in a list of 10 Places Everyone Wants to Work, According to LinkedIn.



Pride March, Here and There

It was in 2009 when I first joined a Pride March. Bob, my dear friend from GMSG, was a part of a group called OUT Philippines, would be marching with other members of the group and other LGBT organizations and allies. In this event, I was also introduced to other OUT Phil members like Japz , Mikee, Dweng and Bryan.


Some members of the Out Philippines group


He is dressed as Darna, our local version of Wonder Woman.


Other members of Out Philippines with Bob, Mikee and Japz

In 2010, I attended again the Pride March with the same organization. This is so embarrassing. The only reason I decided to be here because I was still hoping my ex and I would reconcile. Feeling hopeful, huh?


Father Richard Mickley, a friend who officiated Gary and I’s Holy Union in June 07, 2012.


He is dressed as Wonder Woman.


IBM participates in the parade in 2010.

After the 2010 parade, I did not imagine that my next Pride March would be in Washington DC. Here, companies are more supportive of the LGBT community. There are lots of floats, men in the military marching, drag queens, supporters and allies. Marriott Hotel features gay couple in their billboard campaign #LoveTravels. Hook up apps like is advertised in the subway. There are no hecklers on the street. Police presence is very visible. Isn’t that awesome!

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Gary and I just attended few weeks ago this year’s Pride March in Baltimore, Maryland. Hecklers are being dismissed in the area by the police officers. There are at least 5 marching bands! There’s not a lot of floats but the number of supporters is still undeniable.

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I am not sure how the Pride March in Manila looked like this year. Hopefully, it gets better.

Fish heads

In relation to the previous blog, another example of a food that is not being wasted in the Philippines is the fish head.

One time, my spouse and I decided to grill fresh fishes at the back porch. He did set up the charcoal grill and I did put the gutted and scaled fishes on the grill. When the fishes were all cooked, he could not eat his fish because he thinks it is looking at him. Isn’t that funny??? So I just cut the fish heads and threw them away.

I remember, when my father cooks sinigang na bangus, I even suck the eyes of the fish. It tastes good!

Not just my spouse, but even our neighbors do not eat fish heads. I mentioned this one time to our land lady and she almost threw up. LOL

And that is why I only see fish fillets in the grocery. Hmmm.


Twenty minutes ago, these fishes were alive. They were still moving while I was scaling them. They are fresh! You can’t beat that!


Our $20 charcoal grill from Walmart.