‘Ma… puwede na akong maging doktor’
It was a hot afternoon in the heart of Manila. I didn’t have to go to work in Katipunan that day and was lying on our aged sofa, waiting for nothing in particular, when my phone rang.
Introvert me hated answering phone calls. I stared at the screen of my Blackberry and saw only a number.
“Might be a client.” I let out a sigh and answered. “Hello po?”
A woman’s voice spoke from the other side. “Hello, good afternoon. Is this Mr. John Michael D- Deb-lo-wis?”
Pronouncing my last name is always a struggle. “Yes, po. Who is this?”
“This is Judith of St. Luke’s College of Medicine. Dr. Carandang wants to talk to you.”
My heart skipped a beat. “P-p-po?” I tried to digest the situation. I had already been interviewed by Dr. Joanne De Ramos and Dr. Hans Ludwig Damian weeks ago. I was already on the list of accepted applicants, but had not qualified for a scholarship. What’s up?
“Are you free now? Can you come here in around 30 minutes?”
Thirty minutes, are you serious?
I left our home. Locked our screen door. Closed our rollover steel. The memory of the travel was vague. I just knew I arrived on the eighth floor and knocked at the dean’s office.
For the first time, I saw what was behind that door. I wasn’t the only one called, apparently. Awkward faces, some I would know later as my batchmates, waited on the couch. Ma’am Judith greeted me with a bright hello and asked me to take a seat.
A few minutes later, it was my turn.
I entered and saw a wooden couch and a center table made of glass. A large painting adorned the wall facing the two doors. On the other side was a desk bathed in sunlight from the windows behind it. Dr. Brigido L. Carandang Jr. sat behind the desk and we exchanged greetings.
“How do you pronounce your name?” he asked.
Amid the tension inside my guts, inner me rolled my eyes. Eto na naman po tayo.
“Uhm… Kayo po, whatever you prefer po is fine with me.” I paused, then added: “My English teachers in high school prefer to call me Debloi with a silent S, some would call me by the French variant De-blwa.”
“Are you French?”
“Really? Are you sure?” he spoke in his stern voice.
It’s the same question I’ve had to answer all my life. He looked at me carefully. I sensed the tension inside me easing up a bit.
“I called you because I’ve read the letter you sent me, asking for a partial scholarship.”
I gulped. I knew I could not afford medical school despite having summoned all the courage and faith into applying.
“Yes sir, but I’ve heard that you’re no longer implementing it. Still, I thought it was worth the try.”
“What do you do?”
“Right now sir, I’m working at a social enterprise founded by my high school friend. I do web development and web design for NGOs and NPOs.”
“Really?” he raised his eyebrows. “What else can you do?”
I paused to think. “Well, I was the debate captain of our science debating team. I think I’m a pretty good public speaker. I also write, mostly personal essays and poems. I also have experience in science research, especially population genetic studies.”
His interest seemed to have been piqued. We laughed at some of the strange but interesting things I did in my two-year hiatus after college graduation, including some of my silly mistakes. He probed me further about my college thesis and asked about my family and my parents’ work.
Then the inevitable questions came.
“Why do you want to become a doctor?”
“For me sir, two years of working as a writer, a research assistant, and web designer/developer for NGOs fighting for noble causes made me realize that I want to become a doctor,” I replied, stuttering a bit, unsure of my own pretensions.
“A doctor sort of satisfies both my love for science and my desire to serve my fellowmen… I think it fits me.”
Again, I wish I could have said it as smoothly as the way I wrote it down now.
He leaned back on his seat and pointed at me. “I might find some good use for you.”
I seized the opportunity, knowing that it’s not likely that I would have the partial scholarship. “Yes sir, I’m willing to work if I have to just to be able to afford—”
“No, no.” He reached for a folder, apparently containing my application papers. “You were strongly recommended for a scholarship by your interviewers despite not being a Latin honor.”
“I’m giving you a partial scholarship,” he added.
My jaw dropped. Seryoso? Seventy-five percent off this year? Hindi nga?
“Yes, for as long as you keep your promise of making it to a full scholarship, a grade of 85, by your second year,” said Dean Carandang, smiling.
I breathed a sigh of relief. No contracts. No return of service. No binding conditions. They just wanted me to do my best.
Dean Carandang called Ma’am Judith, who dragged me in my dazed-like stupor to Sir Rod (“tara!”), the registrar, who smiled at me like he already knew. Since I had already paid the reservation fee and the initial payment on an installment basis, I was already, technically, fully paid as a partial scholar for that semester.
Ma’am Gadhe then passed me my registration form, now with a note indicating I was a partial scholar. She congratulated me.
What a weird, weird school. Everybody was so kind. So unbureaucratic. So… human.
I went home, lightheaded, still a little bit unsure of what happened. My parents were home.
I told Mom: “Ma, nakakuha na ako ng scholarship.”
She looked up in surprise.
“Puwede na akong maging doktor.”
She burst into tears.
* * *
John Michael D. Deblois, 28, recently passed the September 2018 Physician Licensure Examinations and is now an incoming first-year neurology resident at St. Luke’s Medical Center.
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