Thursday, February 02, 2006


This is a truly amazing place. It is a two and half hour hop on IKE from Mallory Airport. The island’s population center is an old fishing village. Where it was a center for fishing trade 2 generations ago, it is now a village-wide museum of sorts. Truly, the definition of “quaint”.

The village, pier area and marina

It is accessible only by either private plane or boat. The airport is the only one in America with the following landing procedure: enter the left-hand traffic pattern, stay on the pattern and circle the airport three times, make one approach and buzz the runway at about 25 feet, climb back up to the traffic pattern, turn around and land.

Why circle three times? To announce to the village which is 4 kilometers from the airport that a plane is coming in to land and therefore somebody must go up there to pick up the pilot and passengers – for free!

Why buzz the runway? To drive the deers away so you do not end up with a dead deer and broken propeller.

The approach to the runway

The driver, usually an old retired person will give you the history of the island on the way to the village and almost always it is something to do with fishing and old values.

Except for this one interesting fact: the island used to have a high school but because of the economic realities, a significant part of the population migrated to the mainland. Several families stayed, enough to produce approximately 6 high school students per any given year - too small a population to support a high school.

In the USA, anti-vagrancy law is strictly enforced (the parents better have a good excuse why a child, up to high school, is not in school or else one or both will end up in jail). There is also a law that says “…if the student is thirty minutes away from his/her school the school board has to provide free transportation”. So, one brilliant resident pointed out that the island is less than 20 minutes from the nearest high school in the mainland by twin prop airplane.

So the 6 students or so gets shuttled to and from school in a twin prop Cessna every school day - for free!

Where in the world is Doc Amores? Kelley Island, Ohio

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Cancun, on the Caribbean side of Mexico is one of the great vacation destinations in the world. It has developed in the last 20 years with seemingly the tourist’s welfare and comfort in mind. Think about a place with 10 Shangri- Las side by side – and each for a Bellavista price. It truly is one of the best tourism bargains. I go there primarily to dive the Guacon Reefs that extends south to Guatemala, second only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia in size.

One day, I took a respite from diving to expand my cultural experience by visiting one of the Mayan ruins. Until you are there you can not imagine how amazing these ruins are, leaving a story of a civilization even more advanced than the ancient Egyptians in many respect. I am talking about the “native Indians” of the Americas.

The place is an ancient-city ruin within a couple of hours drive from Cancun. It is a fully excavated Mayan Ruin. The temple is the center from which all components of the city/kingdom radiate. It is the center of activity as well from where the king/high priest rules the entire city/kingdom. The temple typically is a pyramid structure designed in concordance with heavenly bodies and their cycles based on what we know now as astronomy – not astrology! Some of these temple pyramids in the Americas predate the Great Pyramids of Egypt and architecturally far more advanced.

At the core of these civilizations scattered throughout the Americas are the “Indian” people, an erroneous name given by the Europeans, not yet knowing that they have to cross one more ocean, the Pacific, to reach India.

No one knows exactly how the Mayans ceased to be Mayans – perhaps total subjugation by the Conquistadores to the point where the culture was erased (much like what the Spaniards did to the Filipinos, erasing their alphabet and other cultural practices by decreed prohibitions). Or, some believe that it may have been the diseases that the Conquistadores brought to which the Mayans did not have immunity yet. But, lost is a civilization independently existing and far more advanced than the Egyptians.

All over Central and South America, you hear of Chechinitza, Chin Ha, and the southern ruins of Machu Pichu up in the highlands of Peru. To the budding linguists in us, yes, these are Chinese phonetics. Social historians and anthropologists has traced the American “Indians” to the Mongolian race of High Asia believed to have crossed to North America before the natural land bridges (what is now the Aleutian Islands) were flooded and submerged at the end of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago.

The Mongolian spot is a birthmark in the low back of newborns that disappear with age. This is a genetic marker of the Mongolian race that marks the path of migration of these ancient peoples. This is common in Mongols, Chinese, Asians (we Cebuanos call it lihi'), Eskimos, North American Indians (e.g. Apaches), Central American Indians (e.g. Mayans) and South American Indians (e.g. Aztecs).

So, where in the world is Doc Amores?

Tulum, the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Lapu-Lapu Times wishes you
Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2005


In the middle of our skiing vacation, Jacques, Raheem and I decided to expand our cultural horizons and decided to tour. We were particularly intrigued by this place because of the presence of the Doppler museum.

A Doppler probe is a common medical tool that Jacques and I use to monitor the blood circulation of a flap (relocated tissue in plastic reconstructive surgery); and Raheem uses it for monitoring blood flow in vascular surgery. So, we went and paid homage to the memory of Dr. Doppler (a German physician) who invented the probe in the early 1900’s.

But the highlight of the trip was our visit to Pope’s summer palace (I think, the period here is the 1400’s). The name of the Pope has now escaped me. The Pope’s master’s bedroom is in one corner, overlooking the whole historic city. The rest of the floor is occupied by 14 smaller rooms, one each for the Pope’s 14 concubines. (When the guide told us this, Jacques and I turned to each other and almost simultaneously said: “We’re not that bad after all!”)

Where in the world is Doc Amores?

Salzburg, Austria, the home of Mozart, the setting of “The Sound of Music”

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Out of curiosity, I flew (commercial) 3318 km and took a boat another 140 km to dive in a kelp forest. For us used to the coral habitat, very strange, indeed! The habitat unit is the kelp, a kind of aquatic plant that takes root in the bottom of the sea and “floats” its branches and “leaves” up to the sea surface, sometimes more than a hundred feet, with the aid of air cells built-in in the plant. This dense forest becomes the habitat of surprisingly diverse form of life.

The Garibaldis, State Fish of California, are the most abundant inhabitants of the kelp habitat. It provides the basic color of bright yellow. All other colors are contrasted off the yellow of the Garibladis – angel sharks, rays, other common fishes, and a host of invertebrates.

One time, when Lynn (my daughter, a physician practicing in California) and I were at 60 feet, I was startled by an unusually fast swimmer, leaving a trail of tiny air bubbles. Being underwater and a bit narcd, it took me a while to realize that the animal was a cormorant, a diving bird.

All you macho divers of Mactan, Moalboal, Malapascua, Balicasag and Panglao…I bet you’ve never seen that one! (He!He!).

Where in the world is Doc Amores?

Catalina Island in the Pacific, off the California Coast

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Ike is short for N31ke (pronounced in air traffic communication as “November three one kilo echo). In the US, all tail numbers start with N (“November” in air traffic phonetics). The plane was owned by Ike Walker, a West Virginia businessman who retired in Florida. Ike, the pilot, lost his private pilot license due to a medical condition. So, Ike, the plane, had been gathering dust in Florida when I decided to get a private plane.

Benny Mallory, a close friend who owns Mallory Airport in South Charleston, West Virginia, heard of Ike and Ike and went post haste to Florida. In no time, he got Ike, the plane in tip top shape and brought it to me in West Virginia. Soon, it became the envy and pride of Mallory Airport as I retooled the plane with all the most modern gizmos any private plane owner could dream of. It had HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator), StrikeFinder, Auto Pilot, etc. This article is too short to explain what those are, but suffice it to say, the added equipment was more than 3 times the cost of the airplane.

Mallory Airport is one airport not for the faint of heart. Benny dug the runway out of the mountainside. It is 8 meters wide, 250 meters long, has a dog leg (a bend) at the ¾ mark, and has only one working end (the rest of the mountain blocks the other end, so it’s a one-shot deal). As if that’s not hard enough, at the approach to the working end of the runway, there is a mountain blocking the approach. If you were to clear the mountain and head straight for the runway, you would be coming 2H (high and hot), meaning very fast (because of the steep glide slope) and likely end up in a controlled crash landing. So, we Mallorites, pilots from Mallory Airport, have a special landing technique. First, we clear the treetops about 30 meters, then “crab” the airplane (right rudder, left aileron) to glide the plane “like a grand piano” (meaning, drop) without gathering airspeed. Then at the right altitude/glide slope to the runway, straighten the nose and the aileron for a straight-in landing…at the proper approach and landing speed of between 45 to 50 knots.

Mallory Airport was my local refuge from the stresses of the hospital and clinic practice. As is typical of private pilots in the USA, we have a strong sense of camaraderie – people from all walks of life. Retired butchers, cooks, coal miners, salesmen, mechanics, millionaires, nurses, etc. We help each other in almost everything, from fixing airplanes to grilling barbecues. I, being the only physician based there, became their flight doctor and family doctor…and sometimes, plastic surgeon.

This humble airport in South Charleston, West Virginia, was Ike’s gateway to the Eastern seaboard of the US and beyond. After acquiring my Instrument License, sky was no limit (except 12,000 feet and the high mountains), so to speak. Ike had taken me to such busy controlled airport as Washington-Dulles, Greater Pittsburgh International, Boston International area, Cleveland, etc. And, it had taken me as far south as the Florida Keys and the Bahamas chain of islands.

Where in the world is Doc Amores (and Ike)?
Mallory Airport, South Charleston, West Virginia

Monday, November 28, 2005

I would like to introduce the following:
  • Jacques Charbonniez - Originally from France, Jacques was considered the "old man of plastic surgery" in Charleston, West Virginia; pretty much the one who got me into skiing, tennis, wines, and plastic surgery.
  • Raheem Nader - The most gentle Iranian I've ever known. Raheem had a thriving practice in general surgery in Charleston, West Virginia. It seems like Raheem's only passion is skiing and watching his Persian cat, a particularly rare breed, one of less than 3,000 in the whole world. (He sent his secretary to California to pick up that darn cat! And, what did it give him in return? It tore up all his furniture, drape, bed sheets, pillows, etc. Raheem loved his cat to death).

Between 1993 and 1998, one week a year, the three of us would make ski trips all over the world. We would rotate among ourselves the responsibility of picking our trip each year. In 1996, Jacques treated us to the Western Alps.

As is typical in rural Europe, people travel by train..not too many people own cars. One day, while we were on board a train, after having known the Tiroleans a bit, I had Jacques, who speaks German, take a portrait picture of the man next to him using my Casio digital camera (really a point-and-shoot), and pass it on with instructions all the way up the train cars to take portrait pictures of the next person, on and on. Then I retrieved my camera from the train conductor at the end.

Very interesting people, the Tiroleans! In their portraits, one could see the shyness of the rural West Virginians. And, although one could hardly compare Caucasians from Orientals, the Tiroleans have the meekness of the Filipino Provincianos and Provincianas.

Where in the world is Doc Amores? The Zillertal Valley in Western Austria.

1) Top. The village of Mayrhofen with the Western Alps in the background

2) Middle. Ski map of Mayrhofen Ski Resort. (For the none skiers, you carry this map with you so you will find your way down back to the village at the end of the day).

3) Bottom. The Hintertux Gletscher. One of my most memorable skiing experience is skiing the Gletscher (German for glacier). The Hintertux is one of the remaining glaciers, prehistoric geological ice formations, in the Alps. Where the snow is blown off by the winds, glacier ice gives an eerie bluish light. Just for the fun of it, I took a chip of the glacier and chewed it. For which Jacques told me that I could catch an infection for which we do not have any treatment yet.

When I chose to go into a surgical subspecialty, I committed myself and my family into many years of rigorous training - 9 years, all told. There was hardly any quality time for the family. So, when the residency training years were over, and I was now in private practice, I put premium on quality time and travel-and-see-the-world over everything else.
The upcoming posts in this blog can be categorized into 3 groups of experiences:
  1. Local/Regional
  2. Continental (US)
  3. International

My local/regional travel experiences were basically via car. At different times, I have had a Datsun 280 ZX, a Porsche 944 and a Mercedez 120SLK. For the car enthusiasts, the SLK is the world"s best designed and produced convertible. Mine was a sunburst yellow two-seater. At a push of a button, the top would come off and gets swallowed by the trunk compartment in 20 seconds. In equal time, it puts the top back up. And when, the top is up, it is a solid coupe much like any other car. As opposed to the traditional convertible with rag top, you cannot hear the wind rush outside. So, it's as quite as any Mercedez riding experience will give you.

When local travel called for it, between the years of 1987 and 1996, I relied on my trusted N31ke, or simply "Ike". "Ike" was a Cessna Skylane, equipped with the most modern equipment any small private plane could have. It had the distinction of having Nav-Comm equipment many times more expensive than the airplane. (In a future post, I will dedicate a full article on the story of "Ike").

Beyond Ike's range, with it's tanks of more than 79 usable gallons, I took commercial flights. Additionally, towards the early 90's, travel in the US got much cheaper as the price of aviation gas got much more expensive. So, flying Ike was basically for the fun of it...and convenience, around then.

Our family's travels were mainly pure vacations, medical conventions, and/or school reunions. Most of the discussions here are regarding my observations on the uniqueness of people from all over the world.