Last weekend, I had lunch and dinner with my BS Psychology blockmates. While a few of us took different career paths, most of them ended up going to medical school. About 6 went to Ateneo, 1 went to FEU, 4 went to UE, 2 had gone UST, and 1 went to Cebu Institute of Medicine.
The night after that, I had dinner with two of my closest friends—both, also, in the field of medicine. The first one was struggling with the first year of med school in Ateneo, and the second one was stressed over pulmonology into her second year. I was supposed to meet a friend for dessert shortly after—an incoming senior intern in UST Med, but he’d gone home earlier because he still had duty call the following morning.
It’s safe to say that a lot of my closest friends are med students. When we share dinner together, my question, “Are you still alive?”, is more often than not shortly followed by a bursting plethora of stories filled with med stress and struggle.
Though I’m certain different med schools give different workloads, the same answers manage to surface when I get to ask: lack of sleep, a large amount of knowledge that has to be learned in a very short span of time, giving up more outings than their contemporaries, getting sick about learning about sicknesses, and, of course, “Ang hirap talaga. Parang hindi ko na kakayanin.” (It’s so difficult. I don’t think I can do it anymore.)
But, somehow, test after test, these brave souls manage to power through, find a way to move forward, and still manage to meet for dinner. More than sharing food with me, they manage to keep on their plates not just schoolwork, but board games every so often, sports, the spoken word, painting and digital art, and to my surprise and very recently— even filmmaking.
From medicine to moviemaking
I spent one Saturday evening watching a full-length movie called “Mga Kwentong Tsubibo” (Merry-Go-Round Stories). It was an indie film created by Batch 2019 of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health that showcased the dreadful yet very real problems and struggles of Filipinos when it comes to the health sector of the country. These problems include not having enough money to pay for medicine, the higher susceptibility of the poor to sickness, and even the occasional foregoing of ethical medical procedures—particularly because the rich can afford to do so.
Despite the very serious issues the film tackled, it didn’t come up short on comic relief. I easily counted the number of times it made me laugh and smile, as much as it saddened me and made me cringe. Throughout the entire viewing experience, however, and more than anything, I was left in awe—and that wasn’t just because the cast included Mercedes Cabral, Star Orjaliza, and Bernard Carritero.
At the end of the film, I was taken even more aback, having found out that all the editing, the entire soundtrack, the production, and close to every single aspect of the movie was done by all the med students of batch 2019.
After much praise and questions during the open forum, the last thing LA Rellora, the director and doctor-to-be, said when asked if they had any plans of showing it to other med schools was: “Yes, we do pero aral muna. May test pa kami sa Tuesday,” (Yes, we do but we’ll study first. We still have a test on Tuesday) and he broke into laughter with his batchmates.
At that moment, my standard for indie films that night got higher, and with it, the respect I had for med students.
Undying respect and life
I say “undying” respect for med students, because it best describes the lives they’ve willingly chosen for themselves—lives that endure the struggles of each day, test, module, and breakdown, because of a sheer value and love of life itself.
Lives that seem to never have any free time yet still somehow manage to make it for friends, family, and loved ones. Lives that tirelessly study and push the limits of the human body, and succumb to sickness and poor health because of the studying about sicknesses and poor health. Lives that willingly and seemingly sacrifice their own lives for the honorable sake of saving others’ in the future.
I say “undying”, because med students, particularly in this instant generation, have set such a high standard for what it means to be able to live. Their very lives are irrefutable evidence of what a millennial generation is capable of—capable of storing seemingly endless and immeasurable information willingly in an age where information is just a click away. Capable of balancing a life that includes study, play, and somehow even making a full-length film. Capable of keeping a heart willing to suffer, and capable of being and giving more than expected when so much is already asked of them.
I doubt I can mirror the feelings and frustrations of all med students but so long as people are willing to share meals with them, ask how they are, work to build the country in different ways, and uplift their spirits every so often, I hope that they never lose sight of what they’re studying and “dying” for—and, that is, life itself. I doubt that anything could ever be more beautiful. - Rappler.com
Serge Gabriel is a psychology graduate from the Ateneo de Manila University. He is an aspiring philosophy professor, triathlete, and restaurant owner. He currently juggles work in marketing, teaching, and writing while being a poet under Words Anonymous. He hopes that, whether within or after his lifetime, he can help make other people proud to call themselves Filipino.