University of The Philippines College of Medicine

This is where it all began. This is where we, as wide-eyed youngsters full of dreams, hopes and ambitions, took our first steps on the long, arduous journey towards becoming healers.

We learned the basics of medicine in the cocoons of BSLRs east and west (and quite often, on the stone tables, an icon of UPCM.) These would later give way to the more imposing Henry Sy, Sr Medical Sciences Building, presently under construction. Then there were the old rooms of Histology and Pathology where we looked through a microscope to discover the world that was inside us; the quietly dignified laboratory areas of Physiology, Biochemistry and Pharmacology where we practiced how to get one’s blood pressure, memorized endless lists of drugs and conducted experiments with Taheebo tea or about how eating kangkong leaves could alter cholesterol levels. And who can forget the eerie 3rd floor Anatomy lab which housed the cadavers. It might seem strange to someone outside the medical field that a profession dedicated to saving and preserving life must first teach its future practitioners using an entity without life. Such is one mystery governing our education process.

In between exams, exams and more exams, we were constantly reminded that there was more to it. There had to be, because the college was a curiously delightful microcosm. We had the MSU canteen, tirelessly serving our favorites (tinola, daing na bangus, quail egg soup…). A tennis court and basketball court to help keep us fit (on top of walking to and from Robinson’s). The Mu hut, Phi hut and other hubs of socio-civic activities. The Med library which allowed some serious reading or even more serious gossiping. And the PGH chapel, always a source of comfort for our chronically distressed souls.

Our latter, clinical years led us to the hallowed halls of the Philippine General Hospital. This was the real ball game, in which every minute lived up to the saying, “You learn one, you do one, you teach one.” Skill sets were now upgraded, by necessity, to include iv insertions, blood draws, taking vital signs of an entire ward of crying children, gathering history and PE in 5 minutes, finally finding the A/V ratio (parang awa nyo na, tingin po sa malayo wag po sa ilaw) and running on near empty to attend conferences/ choir practice, to endorse a newly admitted ICU patient (hoping you are not asked to read the ECG), to submit a specimen from the surgery you almost slept through. We learned to endure, to compromise, to cooperate. This was training for our careers and our life ahead.

Take a walk through these rooms, paths and hallways. Look at the scenery of people, of buildings, of the familiar surroundings. You can not help but feel grateful and fortunate. How fortunate we were to have an institution that had everything in one place, instead of shuttling from hospital to hospital all over Manila just to complete clinical rotations. How fortunate we were to have the best teachers (professors, peers and our patients themselves). How fortunate we were that through all we experienced in UPCM-PGH, we managed to create memories and forge social connections that even a brutal pandemic can not corrupt so easily: friendships, alliances, an occasional romance, our bonds within the hospital community that include those with our seniors who became proud of us and juniors who may have looked up to us.

This is where it all began.