From DQ to dean’s lister
If looks could kill, I would have ended up dead, as the secretary glared at me with the obvious message: “You again?”
I couldn’t blame her; this was my third time to be sent to Vinzons Hall. Misery loves company, as I was with my fellow DQs — delinquent students — waiting for the results of the barrage of tests we had taken the previous days to determine if we deserved to remain in UP, or we’d have to go home to plant camote, as one of my professors told me.
During our time, my UP student number started with 67, and the pre-med course had so much math — algebra, trigonometry, statistics, calculus, physics, chemistry, all of which required computations. Numbers scare me — still an understatement. And to think my second name comes from my father, an electrical engineer from a school as prestigious as UP. It’s not a good idea for fathers to name any son their junior.
After what seemed an eternity, finally I was in front of the guidance counselor, Ma’am Beulah Nuval, who like a Mother of Perpetual Help on earth said the most encouraging words to a would-be UP kickout. Perhaps it was a déjà vu experience as well for Dr. Magno, Dean of Readmission, who gave me that “I know you” look as he handed me my permit to re-enroll, along with a challenge-cum-warning that this was my last chance. UP may be hard, but it is not heartless, he said.
The UP enrollment booklet had the subject code, course description, schedule, room, and the most vital information — the list of professors. As I was a late enrollee, whatever subjects were left for me were under the teachers known as the “terrors.”
I memorized solutions to assigned math problems, only to find out during the exams that the givens were changed. But lifting me from despair was the chance to sing with the UP Concert Chorus under Professor Rey T. Paguio. I finished a bachelor’s degree as premed with my transcript dotted with reds.
Martial law was soon declared. With the social sciences subjects that saved me from being kicked out of UP, I got accepted to teach at the now University of the Cordilleras. It was a year of enriching experiences; it’s while we teach that we also learn.
But God had other plans, and I realized them too late. The deadline for application to med school was already over. Dra. Elena Ines-Cuyegkeng, Dean of the UERMMMC (University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center) College of Medicine, told me: “If you are a cum laude or honor student, I might reconsider, but hijo you have 15 failing grades in UP!”
Well, hope springs eternal, and with God’s mercy, I became one of the 300 freshmen to join the UERMMMC Med ’77 batch.
Medicine proper is definitely not a walk in the park, but at least there were no math subjects. It did mean four backbreaking years of hard work, sleepless nights reading volumes of books and wishing for a 25th hour, different tests on the same day, memorizing the medical histories and physical exams of patients, endless scolding, plus the dreaded 72-hour emergency room duties. The financial burden was alleviated by scholarship grants from our school and the US Embassy.
At one point, I represented the Philippines, along with six other students, in the Asian Regional Workshop on Population in Singapore. A week before graduation, I met the registrar, Generoso Magdaleno, in the school lobby. He casually told me: “I have good news, you are the salutatorian of your class. The bad news is, you are short of 0.02 to graduate as cum laude.”
What a surprise gift from the Lord. Graduating with distinction was never in my wildest dreams. Could it be “that somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good?” Indeed, when God closes a door, He opens a window and lets heaven pour in His blessings.
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Victor Romulo Gallardo Dumaguing, 72, is an internist/volunteer doctor of Baguio FBASECA Seniors, a 2007 TOPICS (The Outstanding Physician in Community Service) awardee, and one of JCI’s 2008 Ten Outstanding Filipino Physicians.
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