SO AFTER the madness that was the overlapping deadlines of December 2015, I sought to revive myself with a few pages of non-work readings before plunging back into the mass of reports that had to be finished.
Because of the hour-long commute to downtown Davao City I have made it a practice to carry a small reading material that I could thumb through rather than fume about the traffic.
That day, in my rush I grabbed Dr. Jose “Ting” Tiongco’s Surgeons Do Not Cry. I had previously read the memoir of the author’s years as a Davaoeño and Atenista who studied medicine in the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), and came face to face with and responded to the realities of illnesses that were biomedical in nature as well as social, and caused the sufferings not only of individuals and their families, but also society.
As his more than a decade of study coincided with the time Filipinos confronted problems in a big way through the protest movements of the late 60s and early 70s, and the first few years of Martial Law, Dr. Tiongco’s recollections had a very gripping context, and I did not mind reading the book again.
Now understand this is not a book review, but I do want to write about why I find Dr. Tiongco’s writings inspiring.
Admittedly, I could connect to the writings at different levels. I too had a turn as a Mindanawon who had to learn the nuances of Manila living when I studied high school there (for instance, learning on the first morning that loaf bread or what we called amerikambred was referred to as ‘tasty’; that “patawarin mo naman ako” is not an effective way of asking for better rates, and that “masyado mo akong minamahal” is not necessarily a complaint about being charged high prices).
In a reverse of Dr. Tiongco’s experience, I had wanted to get into UP but ended up being in Ateneo de Davao. Dr. Tiongco was surrounded by student activism of the First Quarter Storm and had his own experiences of it; he went on to carve his own brand of medical activism.
I on the other hand, was pulled out of Metro Manila, which was in the grip of protests in the wake of the Aquino assassination, by my mother who felt my undesirable youthful conduct at that time necessitated a return to Davao, and I walked right into the welgang bayans of Mindanao in the mid-80s. (I should stop before I end up telling my story in the guise of talking about Dr. Tiongco’s writings.)
Dr. Tiongco’s memoir inspired me because they are narratives of courage. He told of deeds of standing up to institutional neglect and bullying, and looking for other ways of responding to the needs of the poor sick and dying who constituted the sheer majority of the clients of PGH.
Whether it was to get the PGH Director to provide supplies and equipment to Clinical Clerks so they could perform the necessary tests, or to get Congress to turn over the budget of the PGH to UP so the former could effectively become part of the latter’s system, the points were the same.
That sometimes the right thing to do is not to keep on doing things the way they were expected to be done in the pretext of following standards or practice, but to confront and look for better and more responsive ways; that we have to be able to see beyond the disruptions brought about by confrontations, and not lose sight of the positive changes that could come out; and that it is always better to work together. (The last truism works particularly well in organizing New Year celebratory rounds where one has an opportunity to kiss many nurses. But I digress.)
(To be continued Sunday, January 10)