I had been wanting to write how I ended up in this profession and career as a medical practitioner, not to essay my difficulties in my struggle, but at least to provide some inspiration or motivation to those who find it interesting to read…
I am the eldest of four siblings, and I come from a poor family. Stories have been told how families try so much to make ends meet, we were not spared from such. My mom was a dedicated housewife and housekeeper, my dad struggled from jobs to jobs until he was able to find a permanent employment with a generous company, of whom I am thankful as it enabled the four of us finish college degrees.
During my “early age years” mom said we used to own a television (the box type, black & white) but I can’t even recall what shows I had watched. We also had a phonograph (do you even know this existed and how it looks like? LOL). Mom said there was one record that became my favorite. I could recognize it, even if they will cover the title of the song, I would still know that such was my favorite record. I happened also to memorize quite a few songs fully, and the stores near the apartment we lived would bribe me with chocolates just for a song. Eventually my mom and my aunt would end up eating my chocolate “salaries.” Our neighbors would even “kidnap” me then “display” me at their store, singing to the amusement of their clients.
During my early childhood years, we had to move to the mountains (my mom’s town), where life became so difficult. Sometimes, we had to barter to have something at the table. (Come to think of it, I never had a birthday party back then. It was that hard). There was only one school nearby where we lived and I was so lucky because it was about a stone away so I never had to walk kilometers unlike my other classmates / schoolmates. There were only 6 teachers in that school, one per grade level. Preschool was not an “in” thing then, and we had none where I studied. At 5 years of age, my mom noticed that I could already easily follow her instructions, read some words and get bored easily, so she decided to let me join the first grade classes, as a “visitor.” But even if I was the youngest in the class, and I was not officially enrolled, I happened to top them all. A condition was then given for me by the head teacher, that if I turn 6 by October, then I will be officially admitted and enrolled as grade 1. Well, I turned 6 by August 30th, so that did push through. By the end of the school year, I was at the top of my batch.
My life then was indeed a struggle. We didn’t wear fancy uniforms unlike every student now, even those enrolled in public schools. Sometimes, our clothes were worn out already, with holes than can accept a fist. We didn’t have shoes, just slippers. I can even recall one time, when I had no decent clothes to wear at school, I had to borrow the jogging pants of my younger brother (I was smaller than him). When he noticed me wearing it during the flag ceremony, he came and tried to tug it. That time, my father was also trying his best to provide for us. He was into gardening and small scale mining at the same time, but it wasn’t enough at all. When I was on my 3rd grade, he decided now to join a company, which eventually provided a slight relief from our damning condition. Well, I ended up always at the top of my class every commencement exercises.
When I was on my 4th grade, we had to move to another place, my father’s town this time. My father then regularly sent money for us as he had to stay in Manila for his new found job. At this time, we were now able to buy a transistor radio which kept us abreast with the world at least. Back then, there was an existing policy, that a transferee, even if he is academically excelling, can never be given the first honors at the end of the school year. But my teacher did not heed to such, so again I was given the first honors at my 4th grade, then consistently, until I graduated valedictorian. Well it wasn’t a big deal to be valedictorian from the school where I came from as there were only a few of us, merely one section, graduating.
I was lucky, that during the time I was studying, there was and still is a generous family, who was willing to take 5 scholars per batch, based on academic standing (plus another 5 relatives) for high school and college years. Even accommodation at the high school was provided for free. I was lucky then to be chosen as one of those scholars and so I spared my parents from spending for my tuition and dormitory fee those years.
My high school was few barangay away from my home so I had to stay at the dormitory and can go home during weekends as most of us do. I was 11 years old on my first year, and I was away from home. I was used to being cooked food by my mom, now I was forced to live independently, with my other dorm mates of course. I had few friends who would do the cooking and laundry for me. I was lucky and grateful of that fact.
When I was in high school, I was no longer at the top of the class but luckily I was still in the top 10. Well, I was the youngest in the batch once again. There were some clubs I joined in, I was also in the school paper, and became the editor-in-chief of our school paper for two years. (Oh I could still remember, our first school paper was in stencil print, until our advisers decided to have it done by a printing press on the next issues). I was winning my extracurricular activities – intramurals, literary festivals, town fiesta literary-musical contests… but I was never athletic. I remember when I joined 4 categories during one fiesta, a member of the quiz show, duet, extemporaneous speech, and oration — I/we got all the gold medals in those categories.
During our 4th year, we were to take the national college entrance examinations (NCEE as we call it then). Luckily, me and some classmates were registered by our principal to avail some government educational grants/scholarships. I was then able to be one of the Selected Ethnic Group Educational Assistance Program (SEGEAP) grantee. Having this grant, on top of the scholarship from the Laguinia Anton Foundation, I decided to give up on the LAF, so that the funds my benefactor would supposedly spend on me would be channelled to other incoming scholars instead, while I go on with the SEGEAP.