What sharing stories is to humanity

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I’m still high of fame MIMS magazine gave me when they featured my life story in their July 2015 issue.

(If you have not read what the fuss is all about, you can view it here, or get the pdf version of MIMS July 2015 issue here. Go to page 31. Here’s a slideshow of that article)


Other than the closest people who hand in this story,  only a few others knew about it. Not even my son.  I once blogged this story, but took it off my site thinking there are other better, more inspiring stories elsewhere.

When Dr. Ligaya Solera  asked for an “interview” and a possible feature in MIMS Magazine, I said yes immediately. When the questions came in,  I had a hard time putting my thoughts together. I was busy drying my eyes of tears from the memories which flashed back vividly.  I remember too the same tearful conversations happening on the dinner table when we- my mom and siblings, would talk about life challenges we survived through the years.

We all cry in happiness.

I don’t believe my story is extraordinary. It’s just different rather than heroic. But it dawned on me that maybe, my story deserves a space in my writings. I’ve been blogging for seven years, curating and sharing stories of others in the hope of inspiring people. Well, maybe this time, I can share my own story.

Most people who have read or heard my story wondered how I was able to let ends meet and still survive challenges. Frankly, I don’t know.  I suspect it is related to two things in my life- accepting realities and the willingness to go through consequences of our choices.

Accepting the reality I m in simplify things for me. I still have a hard time understanding the logic behind some of the most insane risks I took in life, but those choices were borne out of the reality I was in. When you are poor, you don’t have the luxury of hard versus easy choices. You only have a choice and you just have to deal with it squarely.

The willingness to go through the potential dire consequences of my actions also simplifies decision making for me. If I can bear on failing, I probably wouldn’t have any problems dealing with success, right?

In short, I was willing to fail in the hope of achieving something better. For a man in the abyss of poverty, there’s no way but up. You can’t possibly lose anything because you have virtually nothing. The word insane or scary therefore does not apply to choices for me. Consequences does. Again if I can bear on the consequences, why would I have problems with succeeding?

One funny part of my story illustrate this outlook.  During first year med school, I needed a part time job to augment my living expenses. Together with a friend who works for a fast food chain, I applied at one of their stores in Recto Manila. I was interviewed by the store manager who looked bewildered at the application form he was reading. I can sense it from his line of questioning this: “What the heck is this UP graduate and a medical student doing applying as a part time service crew in this fast food chain?” He asked me;. “Do you have time for this?”.  “I’ll make time” I answered.

Whatever the reason was that supervisor had in rejecting my application, is none of my concern. Maybe he thought I’m insane. My only concern at that time was to get a part time job to earn and that was my reality.  Did I take it against him? Of course not.  If this store wouldn’t accept me, I’ll find another who will. That’s the only consequence I cared about.

Will my story inspire youngsters and future generations of physicians? I hope so. Perhaps it would inspire students in the same reality I was in some twenty five years ago. It may read relevant for them. For others, it might just entertain.

But my story and so many others in the same reality I was, is a testament to the inherent ability of our species to be better than best. The limits of our mental and physical faculties are forever being pushed by the same ideals that makes us human-  the ability to change, for the good. If we can’t capture or share those stories to others, what good is it to humanity?

(Banner photo courtesy of Jocelyn Muring)

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