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FIRST PERSON: Poverty did not deter me from becoming a doctor

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 27 June) — “Wala gid mabilin sa aton kung tumanon mo ang handom mo mag-doctor, pati ido naton nga kagiron ibaligya ta gid para lang sa imo.” (Nothing will be left for us if you follow your dream to become a doctor, we will sell even our scabby dog just for you)

This is  just one of the usual responses I heard from my mother when I talked about my plans of entering medical school. My dream of becoming a doctor was always discouraged by my parents considering our family’s financial capacity. My parents are both farmers, cultivating a small piece of land as our family’s sole source of income. To grant my dream and send me to a medical school seemed impossible for them. I may be able to enter med school but I might be forced to stop in the middle because my parents will probably run out of resources to support me.

Arenz Jade Cerbas Docdocil, 1st Honorable Mention, Batch 2020< Class Pinagpala, Mindanao State University, College of Medicine.

Since I am stubborn and strong-willed, I still made a try, took my NMAT (National Medical Admission Test) and applied in Mindanao State University–College of Medicine (MSU-COM), the country’s most affordable medical school and the one exactly suited for me and for my parents’ pockets.

What I made myself believe during application was: If para ni sa akon, ti para gid ni sa akon ang magdoctor eh (If this is for me, then I will really be a doctor). And I was fortunate I was admitted. Hambal ko gid para ni sa akon (So I said, this is for me). My parents could not disagree anymore about me finally going to med school since I found my way to achieve what I want.

Tuition in MSU-COM is minimal but the med school way of living is very costly. Every week that passed by was a challenge for my parents to overcome. I am at least lucky that my family is very supportive to provide me my needs by exhausting all means available. My only safety net when my medical education got more financially demanding was the promise of my grandfather on his deathbed eight years ago. He told my mother: “Inday, si Toto indi kabalo manguma. Kung handom niya nga mag-doctor, indi kamo magduha-duha nga ibaligya ang akon basakan kag ipaeskwela sa iya” (Inday, Toto does not know how to till the land. If his dream is to become a doctor, do not hesitate to sell my land to send him to school).  Though my grandfather died several years ago, his love and dreams for me still live up to this moment. I would not have been able to survive my med school journey if not because of his promise.

Despite all the aid given to support me and my education, including scholarship grant, my family still had a lot of sacrifices. It’s unfathomable how my parents survived the times when they had nothing left in their pockets. I can’t imagine how much pain my mother had to endure from her adenomyosis and choose not to have her surgery just so she can still send the money intended for me. I can’t imagine how much heat from the sun my father had to endure to do farmwork all by himself and not spend money for other important things just so he can save it up and send it to me. I can’t also imagine the sacrifices of my grandmother despite her old age just to help save up for my needs.

You need money to survive medical school. It is an expensive endeavor. But based on my experience, my parents have provided me with something that is worth more than money. I have been showered with love and unending support. I know that their responsibilities to me were adequately served when they made me finish college. But letting me go to med school and sacrifice a lot more is love that is truly unconditional. And for that I am forever grateful.

Getting near the end of this cost-demanding journey, I can’t hold my emotions to be seeing my parents and the rest of my family reap the fruits of their sacrifices and be given tribute on my graduation day. But unfortunately, COVID-19 happened…

Just like all the other graduates of 2020, I am very sad that the day we have been looking forward  to after four years of struggle is postponed indefinitely. But I am sadder for my parents who, months before graduation day, were able to prepare their Barong and Filipiniana. They were so excited for the day they will be witnessing the biggest investment of their lives wear the highly coveted three-striped toga, marching up the stage, and receiving the diploma of a Doctor of Medicine. Yet, this pandemic robbed that memorable experience from them.

To my parents and the rest of my family, thank you for your love, for trusting in my potentials, and for all the sacrifices. Mas proud ako sa inyo nga nakaya ta nga mag-doctor ako, bisan pigado lang kita (I am very proud that you have helped me become a doctor even if we are poor).

To my grandfather in heaven, Tatay, I am now close to achieving your dreams for me.

To my love, Kim Kwan, the last two difficult years of my med school were more bearable with you. Thank you for the joy you give me, for being so caring and supportive, and for the love and affection.

To Mindanao State University–College of Medicine, the home of my dreams, thank you for making it possible for me. To our mentors, thank you very much for all the knowledge you have imparted and for inspiring us.

To those who also have dreams yet are limited by financial constraints, there is always a plethora of ways to make your dreams come true.

Above all, thank you Father God for the answers to my prayers and for giving me this opportunity.

(Arenz Jade Cerbas Docdocil, 25, son of Jarly Docdocil and Janet Cerbas,  is from Banga, South Cotabato. He was Valedictorian of Batch 2008 at the Banga Evangelical Church Elementary School and Valedictorian of Batch 2012 at the Banga National High School. He finished BS Biology at the Mindanao State University in General Santos City in 2016 and proceeded to the Mindanao State University’s College of Medicine, graduating as First Honorable Mention of Batch 2020, Class Pinagpala.
His grandfather who instructed his mother on his deathbed not to hesitate to sell his farmland to fulfill Arenz’ wish to become a doctor was Lolo Salvador Cerbas. Dodocil says the land was pawned but not sold.
Arenz posted this on his Facebook page evening of June 26. MindaNews was granted permission to share this piece)

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