Thursday, March 10

Almost a Doktora

Eleven summers ago, I and a schoolmate of mine were brought to Talim Island, Binangonan, Rizal as part of our summer immersion. It was my last summer in UP and I felt that I can't graduate until I get to experience the Ugnayan ng Pahinungod's Summer Immersion Services Program. I lived in the island for a month. Although I was a little disappointed that I was only sent to Binangonan (which was two towns away from where I live), I eventually understood the community's need for doctors.

In one summer, I almost became a doctor without scrubs. Armed with boxes of medicines, toothbrushes, and what-have-yous, I and my partner went to different barangays to help alleviate simple health problems of the people of the island. The people longed to have even just para-health workers in their communities but the government then cannot afford to send them one. I was in a bit of shock, actually, because it was almost the year 2000 and some of the people there died because of lack of free health care.

We were treated as health workers in the community. It was a big challenge for me because, I was only 18 and all I ever had was the limited health care training I had before being deployed to the island. Nevertheless, the people there treated us as what they would treat doctors in white lab coats. There was never a day in the island when I felt that I wasn't important in their community.

In one of our weekend medical missions, visiting volunteer doctors from UP taught me how to circumcise. Yep, at 18, I already saw and circumcised hundreds of you-know-whats in all ages, colors, and sizes! I think the oldest guy was 24 and was about to be married! They lined up because there wasn't a single hospital in the island. The handful of barangay health centers do not have medicines and tools to perform this simple surgical procedure. I wasn't even given a hospital uniform. All I had on me was a manila paper draped in front of my shirt to avoid spatters of blood.

It was my most memorable summer and I remember each day up to now. I thank God and UP for giving me the opportunity to be a "doktora" in that island. I believe it has helped me appreciate more what I have and to not want more than I can possibly have.

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