Student Reflections

A Glass Half Full

I get dismayed whenever I pick up the newspaper or listen to the news: a president who is trying to please everyone but the people, senate and congress squabbling over power, accusations of graft and corruption flying every which way, actors, athletes, trapo or any popular figure running for a government position. Sometimes it makes me want to simply up and leave this “godforsaken” country.

I got that same feeling when I visited St. Hannibal’s Christian Community for the first time: the narrow alleys, crowded houses, flies, muddied water. All I could think about at that time was that these people deserved better. But I was caught by their warm welcome of us because it helped me to get to know them easier. Here are people living in a depressed area and they were talking about moving to a better place, a feeding program and waste segregation. In the bigger picture of eradicating poverty, these may seem small but I realize that if only people would capture even a tinge of the empowerment that Ate Nila feels, half the job is done. While it is true that outsider help is valuable to bring about a change for the better, the status quo remains if the community does not capture the vision for itself.

While visions and aspirations are free, making them real is not. A case in point is the mothers in SHaCC. They know that the feeding program is good for their children but only a few are actively working to keep the program running. The feeding does not push through if the budget arrives late. Money is involved but more importantly, it is the people. A vision is just that without a pair of hands working in concerted efforts to make it come true.

One last lesson that I got was the “glass half full” mindset. There will always be that dismay over what is happening in this country that it is no wonder why many doctors are leaving as doctors or, worse, as nurses for greener pastures. I hear that frustration in Ate Nila’s voice when we talked about the lack of cooperation in the mothers but she keeps at it anyway, knowing that though it is impossible to change the world in one day, someday it will change. The temptation to leave the country is so strong I could taste it. I need that kind of mindset to keep on believing that it is worthwhile to stay. So here I am, still rooted and still wanting to stay rooted in this “godforsaken” land. After all, I do not want to miss anything when the tide begins to turn. – Natalie Oh, Class 2009


Social Oncology

Dr. Jose Rizal, my fellow CalambeƱo and our national hero, first described the cancer of society through his writings. It has been more than a century now and here we are still facing the advancing stage of this social illness.

Our rotation in community medicine gave a holistic picture of how health should be viewed as future medical practitioner. We had a first hand experience of some of the concepts being discussed in our readings. Health is indeed a basic human right which is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not just the absence of disease or infirmity. The people of the community play a significant role as rights holders and duty bearers in their barangay. They are an important health resource whom we, as animators, should tap and nourish to ensure the sustainability of their enthusiasm to serve for their people. They have the potential to lead and enact improvement in their current system given the proper guidance and training.

We were very glad to know these people whom we pay high respect for their volunteerism to render service to their ka-barangay. They taught us how it is to be happy and satisfied in doing something good to other people without any material rewards for these services. We were all very lucky to be assigned to Barangay 193 since it is one of the progressive communities in terms of their community-based health program. Their energetic human resources are very vital in all their endeavors. The support from their officials was always there as well as their initiative to take action to address their health issues.

Community medicine is a process. One cannot enact change overnight. From our experience in the barangay, it was observed that this community has a long way to go. The level of participation is still in between partnership and delegated power. They should still be followed up to ensure their progress and the sustainability of their resources to be able to effectively deliver health services.

There are such a lot of things to do. The cancer lesions of society which Rizal described before has now invaded most of its social structures. It may be hard to cure it right now but a stepwise rehabilitation program may be effective. Let us work together in making small changes which may lead to big difference. I hope that we will not reach the point that all that we do are just palliative care to the cancer of society. All of us should be social oncologists – wherever we may be.

It has been a very enjoying, productive and inspiring two weeks with the people of Barangay 193 in Pasay City and our preceptors in Community Medicine. My dedication to learning, leading and serving for life has again been reaffirmed. I believe that I will find the meaning of my life through others. Thank you and keep it up! Mabuhay po tayong lahat! – JC Laban, Class 2009