Friday, April 29, 2011

New Leaf

Last year, the road to getting our license as nurses was fraught with troubles- the scarcity of cases, the last-minute filing at PRC, and personal turmoil a week before the board exam. Yet the whole ordeal made me realize how much I really valued my license. As I viewed my board rating- missing the top ten unfortunately by 1.4 points, I was happy nonetheless that all the efforts paid off.

I spent the last weeks of December last year gathering all documents, and submitted them to my three choices for medical school: UP Palo, RTR Medical Foundation, and West Visayas State University (WVSU).

By March I received a letter from WVSU stating my interview schedule. During this time as well unfortunately, Dr.Labarda of UP Palo informed all applicants that the DOH-PCSO scholarship Pinoy MD will no longer be offered for 2011- this will also mean that lateral entry (they have a curriculum which progresses from midwifery graduate-BSN-MD) from students who had their baccalaureate degree elsewhere will not be accepted. It would have been great to study there because aside from quality education, the tuition fee was affordable at around the same cost of nursing education in Tacloban, not to mention the school is only a few kilometers away from our house.

West Visayas College of Medicine was among the top five medical schools based on board exam performance for the past five years (along with UP Manila, UST, PLM, and CIM). Being a state university, the tuition is subsidized by the government so it is remarkably lower than in most schools. The selection process is stringent- first you must meet the GWA (general weighted average of grades) and NMAT requirement, those qualified for the interview will face a panel of 7 doctors who will evaluate you based on your answers, then applicants are ranked.

The applicants from other regions had a stiffer competition because per WVSU Board of Regents resolution no. 68, s. 2001, 75% of incoming students should be permanently residing in Region VI, the 25% from other regions. There were rumors that the following criteria was followed: 60% GWA, 30% NMAT score, and 10% Interview- but a classmate said someone asked the panel and they replied 40%NMAT, 30%GWA, and 30% interview. If it were the latter, then I was really doomed because of my less than stellar NMAT rating, still I was rooting that my 1.7580 GWA would help turn the tide, and if I just cinch the interview I could make it.

There were around 200 or so qualified applicants who were to be interviewed on April 12 and 13. I belonged to the first batch. I arrived ahead of time, and we were grouped and asked to write an essay. Afterwards our group went to the designated room and waited outside for our names to be called.

The tension was palpable in the air. I tried to make small talk with a seatmate who was a BS Biology graduate of WVSU, who told me last year three sections of BS Bio applied for WVSU College of Medicine and only 8 students made it. Finally my name was called, along with five other applicants.

We faced our panel and introductions were made. The doctors were actually nice and told us to relax. We began by saying something about ourselves and why we want to pursue medicine.

I think three of us in there were nurses (and many more during the second batch). I shied away from the usual responses like “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor since I was little”, but instead told them candidly of our situation, coming from an OFW family and wanting to work here in our country instead of the usual route of working abroad as a nurse. I also told them I wanted the satisfaction of working in the health care industry which to me, is more like a vocation than just a job to earn money.

They asked us about our strengths and weaknesses. They also asked us of our achievements and situations that showed our leadership potential- which wasn’t much of a problem for me since I already managed a group of people for the past two years in my previous work. They asked us if we play online games or other addictive distractions from school work, and even if we had girlfriends or boyfriends.

One heavy weight question directed to me alone was how our family would get along considering that our parents have already passed away, and what would the situation be if I indeed pursue med school in Iloilo. I told them that I was proud that my brothers and I have been working together to maintain our home, and that they are doing well independently in the US. I told them that if ever I leave, I could delegate my responsibilities to other members of our household. There was no denying it, they were also looking into my personal responsibilities here.

It took another nerve-racking two weeks before they announced the results. Like waiting for the board exam results, I spent the entire time stress eating and writing silly blogs. The verdict? I didn’t make it, and I took it as a sign from above that if I am to fulfill all my responsibilities and at the same time pursue my personal goals I have to stay here in Tacloban. Truth be told, the last few days before the results came out I was actually contemplating on staying in Tacloban even if ever I get accepted. One of the reasons was that I received the devastating news of my mother and father’s demise over the telephone- and I don’t think I could bear it if that same thing happens again with my 85 year old grandmother who has been battling breast CA for the past two years. I need to be here.

I am actually finished with my interview and physical exam here at RTRMF. Enrollment is on the 16th of May, and I thank God and the people who support me for this chance to make something out of myself. Good luck to all incoming med students all over the archipelago, see you guys in the Physician Licensure Exam. Make sure to bring your game on, because I will.

Image source

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Working at the hospital surrounded by white coats and scrubs makes an exciting environment. In fact, it was actually an inspiration when I was in Nursing school. Being in charge of a patient, in one's well pressed nursing scrubs - the feeling is quite amazing.

Scrub clothing is needed to help maintain sterility in restricted areas like the Operating Room. I remember being constantly reminded to either change clothes or use a lab coat over scrub pants when we go outside restricted areas, so when we return we don't bring dirt and dust from outside.

Far from just a "look", being in uniform embodies purpose and function.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tabo (Part 2)


The whole room seemed so quiet, I could hear the soft drone of the traffic all the way from Quezon Avenue. His breathing was soft and whistling. A sliver of light shone partly above his face, and I saw his lips part.

Well, I was so nervous because A. we could get caught, and B. I’ve never really been with anybody (Virginia Lights ang drama!) so I was lost as to what I should do. Being Maria Clara, I settled on laying beside him with my head resting on the crook of his elbow.

For a while there was only our breathing that I could hear, and my pounding heart. Then I felt him move and turn towards me and bam! I definitely felt something on the side of my hip. Juice ko, 2 am pa lang may flag ceremony na!

I got the feeling Harry was giving me an all too clear message even if he was “sleeping”. But I kept my restraint knowing that my imagination usually runs away with me, and maybe I just misinterpreted it and one false move and this guy would beat me to a pulp.

My mouth was so dry (damn that gin) I badly needed a drink of water, but a part of me also felt that if I move away from the flagpole I’d miss the chance of a lifetime haha! So I just lay there like a rock, until I distinctly felt his hand grab mine and did something which was unmistakably the cue for Panatang Makabayan.

I woke up the next morning in my bunk- I did not now how I got there, but thank goodness I was because if X and Y found out about the early morning flag raising that would have been the end of me. The bunk below was empty, and in an instant I felt a flash of guilt. I got my towel, pail, and tabo straight to the showers to wash the Monica Lewinsky-inspired Clorox stain on my ROTC t-shirt I wore last night.

At the canteen I saw Harry with Y and some of the Yakal girls. He was avoiding my gaze and seemed to have amnesia that he ever knew me. Oh well, I thought. I guess I’d have to be especially nice to X and Y in the next few days.


I went to live in Quezon City for a while during sem break, though I was both missing and kind of dreading seeing Harry again when school starts. I moved back in Friday (the weekend before classes started), and I found myself alone.

I ran into the dorm master, and was half expecting the lady to manhandle me to her office for my crime, but I was just surprised when she told me well have a new roommate because one of my old roommates decided to leave the dorm. She must have read the look on my face because she quickly chimed in,

“Mukhang mabait naman si Mr. Z (hiding their names using algebraic expressions seems like the most convenient for me), sophomore sa College of Human Kinetics.”

I forced a smile, thanked her and went back to my room. I was shocked to see Harry, with his duffel bag in hand.

“Alis ka na ba?”

He gave me a puzzled look.

“Hinde ah. Si X siguro tinutukoy mo, sa Katips na sya nakatira ngayon.”

I sat on the desk, relieved. I guess the distance served us good- I got a vibe from him that the whole episode was behind us.

Our new roommate Z occupied Y’s upper bunk, while Y moved to X’s lower bunk. Harry and myself kept our bunks. The rule was, the newbies get the upper bunk. I didn’t mind as long as I was on top of Harry, chos!

We never talked about that episode again (I guess amnesia works for some guys), but did it happen again? There were a couple of times when we’d change clothes side by side, or watch a VCD on Z’s computer with Harry’s arm resting on my shoulder, or other “hearts-a-leaping” moments for me but none of the flag ceremony moments again.


I’d never forget the Lantern Parade December of 1998, that was the culminating activity before everyone leaves for their province. We spent the last weeks of November working day in and day out in Melchor hall, and that 18th of December was the night of the parade.

Our college won an award for Most Dramatic (yeah, that’s my award alright), and I gave the lantern I was carrying to a buddy so I could find my roommates. I found them huddled near the admin building.

Harry stood up and gave me a hug.

“Congrats! The best talaga lantern n’yo.”

“Thanks. May next year pa naman para sa Eng.” I joked.

Y and Z gave me a pat in the back, and there was this girl I know vaguely from 2nd floor of the dorm, smiling at me.

“Punta kami ni Aimee sa SM North, sama ka?” Harry asked.

“Sige, kayo lang muna.” I said.

Y, Z, and myself walked to our dorm. Y spilled the beans that Aimee was officially Harry’s girlfriend. I was lucky it was dark, because my knees felt wobbly and I felt like someone hit me with a hammer.

“Kelan lang?” I asked.

“Kanina pre. Ayos din mag-timing ‘tong si Harry. Sinagot sya habang may fireworks display.”

They laughed.

After that I just felt like I wanted to bury my head on my pillow. I pretended I was tired and had to sleep immediately. Can’t say I wasn’t affected because I cried a bucket of tears that night.

Well, I guess I should have known flag ceremonies don’t last a lifetime LOL. It hurt too much to stay, so I asked my folks if I could transfer to a boarding house instead. I avoided him altogether in the days before I moved, and even when classes resumed January the following year I’d duck into a classroom if I see him approaching in Melchor hall. From then on, the 1st to 3rd floor were off limits to me, including all fishball stands near Yakal.

Men can be so dense when it comes to feelings. The day I left, Harry, Y, and Z were in the room. I said my goodbyes while I was dying inside (kimi la). The only thing Harry said was:

“Nakalimutan mo tabo mo.”

“Sa 'yo na.” I said as I walked away.



My first experiences in a college dorm were ushered in by my three roommates in Yakal.
I had the unfortunate chance of meeting the first two guys we will call X and Y, X was a Chem major, Y was a shiftee from the College of Arts and Letters. X was a chain smoker, he was puffing when I came in the dilapidated room with my bags. Smoking was totally against the rules, but I kept my mouth shut.
“Hello.” I nodded to X.
“Anong pangalan mo ‘tol?” said X.
“Dave.” I extended my hand.
“Ano college mo?” Y emerged from behind the partition. He looked like the emaciated version of Jimmy Santos.
“Siya ba papalit kay Mike?” X asked Y, ignoring me. He started blowing smoke rings.
“Dun ka sa taas na bunk, ‘tol.” Y pointed at the only empty upper bunk.
I nodded meekly and began emptying the contents of my bag inside my closet. The mattress was threadbare, it had a very suspicious stain which looked like vomit, and smelled like it to too.
I muttered under my breath to suck it up. Getting into a campus dorm took a lot of effort and I’d certainly save a lot of money because a boarding house cost about a thousand bucks more. I went to UP Shopping Center to buy a bucket and a dipper because the dorm manager required it.
After dinner by myself, I started walking the next few blocks ungracefully with my new bucket and dipper in hand. When I got to the room, it had a solitary fluorescent lamp by the study table flickering; the back of the room was in darkness.
I jumped as the door suddenly opened and an unfamiliar guy walked in. I was afraid I might have gotten inside the wrong room.
“Uy! Ikaw ba kapalit ni Mike?” He smiled.
He moved closer to the light.
Damn, he was cute. He had some sort of chin dimple, and the first thing I notice was that he was wearing maroon shorts that I’ve seen only varsity people wear.
“Ah, oo. Dave pala name ko.” I managed to stammer.
Turned out we both went to Melchor hall (he took up Civil Engineering and engineering students used the 1st-3rd floors, while the College of Architecture was at the 4th and 5th floors). He occupied the bed at the bottom bunk, just below me, which kind of sent a tingle up my spine.
I was right, he was one of the varsity players. I heard him open his closet and he lifted up his shirt and got a towel. I pretended to read my novel as I faced the other way and tried to ignore him, which was hard really since every time he sat on his bed mine moved.
“Pare, pwede palang humiram ng tabo?”
“Oo ba, nasa ilalim ng study table.” I said, turning around.
I saw him smile sheepishly, shirtless and looking so fine. If my heart was independent from my body it would have leaped already. I didn’t know it, but I was smiling like an idiot for the rest of the night.

The semester went like the usual. Living in the dorm was quite alright, even if I don’t get that much privacy and quiet. Those times when we do architectural plates or if I study for a major exam, I make it a point to work during the wee hours of the morning when everyone is asleep. X and Y can be pain in the ass especially during their noisy guitar sessions, which could have been forgivable if either of them could sing or play guitar.
The bright spot for me was when Harry was there. When I did computations for Elementary Surveying which involved sine and cosine, I asked his help and he obliged. It was in his turf, I guess. It was doubly hard for me because far from being mathematically inclined, he was leaning over, his chin almost touching my shoulder as we sat closely and it was very ticklish where the warmth of his breath would touch my skin (kilig!). He was good with numbers but his hard biceps kept brushing against my arm as I tried to input data into the scientific calculator, I kept messing it up haha.
In return, I swore to become his total slave. Kidding. Well, he wasn’t the usual dumb jock so I couldn’t offer much help except when he asked which shirt looked better on him for a night out. He also had no girlfriend, but obviously he is a catch so many girls flirted with him to no end, luckily the ladies were off limits in the male section of Yakal bwahahaha! I swear if the guys brought home a girl to the dorm I’d scream bloody murder.
One of X’s most brilliant ideas was to hold a party right after Final exams, and by party I mean three bottles of smuggled Ginebra San Miguel with a few of his cigarette butts stubbed on my study table. Y had a classmate over who was in charge of “tagay”. Harry was there, plus me so that made five of us in total.
We were on our third round of passing the plastic cup with pure gin, when I started feeling tipsy. We swapped stories about profs, gossiped about the girls. Well, Harry mostly just nodded along as X spilled the lewd details.
Maybe it was the alcohol I felt so acutely running beneath my veins that made us all chummy. By our fifth round Harry was leaning on to me, there were gin blossoms on his face and he was slurring his words. I was still listening to their stories. We all decided to crash past 2am. X didn’t make it to his bed, he fell on the floor and promptly fell asleep. We left him there. Y and his classmate tried to pass through the window to leave the dorm because they lock the main doors at night.
I helped Harry to his bunk, when he suddenly spoke.
“Tabihan mo ‘ko.”
Uh oh, I know that look. My heart pounded so loudly, I thought the whole dorm would wake up and storm in.
To be continued here..


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