Sunday, May 15, 2005

Life in the Barrio

When I was interviewed for admission to medical school, I gave one of those generic answers to the most generic question for every wannabe physician, “Why do you want to become a doctor?” “To serve humanity” was my immediate reply. I wasn’t able to give this much thought though as my brain got bombarded with highfaluting medical facts during the 1st 3 years of med life. The extent of my service to humanity was then limited to occasional participation in medical and surgical missions. I helped but could not fully grasp the lives my patients led.

When Community Medicine I and II came, I had the opportunity to witness the lives of the people from the slums of Leveriza. The experience gradually opened my eyes to the world beyond my comfort zone. I started to count my blessings and reaffirm my generic answer.

Along with 28 other then-neophytes, I tasted the Sapang Palay life for a month. I was apprehensive but excited to leave my sheltered existence and explore unfamiliar territory. Sapang Palay sounded so rural, alien and dangerous. My mind conjured images of farm animals, nipa huts, de buhos toilet bowls, drinking water that had to be fetched from deep wells, long stretches of dusty roads and NPAs lurking in the forest. I learned that Sapang Palay has a typical barrio look and feel to it. I instantly felt comfortable.

Sharing a room with 23 other girls was the biggest challenge I had to face everyday. I had to line up for a decent shower and the usual bathroom ritual. Summer’s sweltering heat paid no heed so I had to do this several times a day. Homesickness was another problem I had to contend with. I made the most of my weekly Araw ng Dalaw. I also conquered my fears and did things for the first time (which was actually fun): fry tapa despite the oil splashes, scrub toilet bowls, play Pusoy Dos, visit the market to purchase 4 bags of uling and perform Pap smear.

I got exposed to cases, both common and rare. Illnesses were no longer confined to pages of scientific data and pictures on books. I saw, heard, smelled and touched them. I learned. Since I was living a life in Sapang Palay almost similar to theirs, my approach to patients became more individualized. Establishing rapport was crucial as some were hesitant to talk and needed some prodding. It felt good to have patients open up to you about problems that truly concern them. Sometimes even, these problems involve the entire family. I became a “family physician” who healed, supported and educated families regarding health and livelihood. I taught malnourished kids to color. I taught mothers to implement the natural family planning method and prepare affordable and nutritious meals.

In Sapang Palay, I was able to explore my strengths and weakness as a person and future health care provider. This will aid me in the care of my patients. As I start getting re-accustomed to my life in the city, I still fondly recall my days as a “barrio doctor.” Someday, I might go back.

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”


Pauline said...

uy, published ang reaction paper... hehe.

buddy said...

huwaw.. so deep naman. chinky, chinky, ikaw ba yan? wala ka naman sakit di ba? hehehe jk lng

Marissa Oliquino said...

I do admire your courage and strength. I lived in Sapang Palay Bulacan from 1982-1985. I graduated from High School there. There are a lot of people out there that is very unknowledgable about such town. Most of the time, we only hear the negative side of it. Deep inside, most of these people are like any other. They are trying their hard to make the best of the day, today, tomorrow and so on. Despite of hardship, childrens are happy and content. They are satisfied just to get into any school program. They don't complain and always thankful. Most of all, people are very hospitable and they will treat you like a family. I just hope and pray that the government would pay more attention to these wonderful people. But then again, maybe someone might see this comment and bring it out to public for someone who might care to do something. Thanks and Good Luck To you!!! Salamat

littlerascal said...

Hi Pau! Yeah. My reflection paper alright. Hehe.

littlerascal said...

Hey Bud. I'm not sick. Hahaha. Deep naman talaga ako ha. Hindi lang halata. Hehe.

littlerascal said...

Hi Ms. Oliquino! Thanks for your comment. I miss my Sapang Palay rotation. The people are so nice. I hope I can go back someday. :-)