Friday, June 8, 2007

The Prototype

I have always been proud of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. When I entered the College in 1984 it was the only state medical school in a nation of 70 million. Competition to get into the school was terrific and acquiring stratospheric grades throughout the 4-year pre-med course fulfilled the fantasy of many obsessive-compulsive students. What made the school great was the quality of the students. The cream of the combined national genetic pool. The competition to remain in the school was even more intense. All in all an absolutely gratifying intellectual experience that lasted 5 years.

This year, 1000 applicants competed for 140 slots. In contrast, 15,000 applications were received for the 70 spots at the neighboring University of the Philippines College of Nursing. This certainly does not bode well as it demonstrates the vast transformation in priorities that occurred over the last 20 years. The brightest minds are seeking pathways to get out of the country ASAP. Intellectual development can be postponed for some other time and preferably in some other place but the main consideration is a quick exit. How can anyone blame all these hopeless youth? Much more how can anyone blame their hopeless parents who only want better opportunities for their children?

Recently, I listened to a member of the Nursing Board address a graduating class of 300 nurses. He began by detailing how noble the nursing profession was and proceeded to castigate the innumerable majority of their predecessors who had left the country. He then appealed to the young men and women to stay in the Philippines and help out in the medical crisis that was getting worse. I found his style most ineffective. When I was at that stage in my life all I could think about was how soon I could begin my life adventure. There was no speech that a stuffy official could deliver that was going to get at my conscience and prevail upon me to delay my plans.

The question is not whether our students should seek more training in other countries, it is how we can make them return and give back so much more than if they stayed behind.

And this is one reason why I have entered the dirty world of politics because most of our problems require political solutions. Our country is in terrible need of citizens who are not beholden to special interests and political blocs, who possess superior intelligence, who have had the opportunity to view the situation from a wholly different perspective, who have clear goals and plans for the future. There are thousands of such Filipinos all over the world. I am a prototype.


delfin said...

doc: In earlier blog entries, you mentioned that one of the major issues for the Philippines is abortion.
One of your bloggers asked:
When you look at abortion, do you see poverty (and poor parents unable to care for three, much less five or six children) as an issue? Do you, or do you not agree, that the abortion-medical-procedures currently being done "in backalleys... by quacks" is an issue?

Does "solving the abortion crisis" mean better availability of condoms, or does it mean regulated sex?

Have you formulated some suggestions, or are you you still thinking of your response to this issue?

Gregory said...


One of my favorite columnists is Raul Pangalangan, former dean of the UP Law School. He writes eloquently and direct to the point. He can capture things that I myself have thought of but never found the time to put into writing in ways that can capture the intellect and emotions.

On the issue of people leaving home, to me - that is a double edged sword and in a sense, there is a changing attitude among those leaving home because of the changing demographics of those migrating. I left home recently. I took my masters in the States and graduated 2 years ago. After working in California for a year, I am now a permanent resident in Canada.

I have met professionals back home who are now here in Canada and have a lot of friends who were professionals back home and studied in US and now have H1Bs - and interestingly, we have similar mindsets - i.e., our ties to the Philippines are so great that we continue to be connected to home and find ways to ensure that through technology and the Internet, we do our bit in sharing new ideas and experiences. Without being judgmental but merely stating an observation, a lot of us aren't like some of the migrants I met (who came here 20-30 years ago) who aren't too attached to home and don't give much of a damn although they retain enough sentimentality that motivates them to visit home every now and then.

We want to learn, succeed, and grow in our new realities/environments and hopefully in time, do our share in returning home in the future to be engines of growth. We do our share now of course in our own little ways (e.g., participating in blogs such as this one, e-mailing friends on pressing issues/articles, contributing to scholarships, etc.) but we know we can contribute so much more in time as we grow over here.

In a way - I have never looked at the patriotism issue from a geographic point of view (you there vs. us here). Instead, I believe that to a certain extent, an enlightened Philippine migrant population can serve as engines of development way beyond the assumed benefit of remittances.

It's hard to determine exactly how we can be engines of growth in 15 years because there will be new technologies and new opportunities, but all of us have that conviction - and it's not borne out of a sense of sentimentality nor nostalgia - but a sense of duty, desire, and conviction.

Anyway, here's the link to the article entitled Gentrification of the OFW.


Here's an excerpt:

What we should aim at, rather, is what the Indian techies have done. They went to America, thrived in Silicon Valley and returned to invest in Bangalore with fresh capital and know-how. The South Korean and Taiwanese migrant communities have likewise kept alive their bonds to the homeland. The Filipino communities abroad must not limit those bonds to regular remittances to families back home. They must ensure that, 10 or 15 years down the road, a new generation of “hyphenated” Filipinos will have knowledge and capital to re-invest.

Finally, have you ever wondered exactly when Filipinos learned to line up at bus stops and jeepney stops? When I returned to Manila after several years of graduate studies abroad, I noticed this absolutely incredible phenomenon of discipline and forbearance. I can only surmise that the practice began from returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who must have told their compatriots that people in foreign lands had a civilized way to ride buses. The cultural transfer of “best practices” from abroad should accelerate with the middle-class shift of the Pinoy diaspora. They after all are better equipped to make the most of e-mail and the Internet, with equally voluble networks of friends back home.

Gregory said...

On a light note, Bill Gates spoke to the Harvard Graduating class yesterday. While the Inquirer carried an article on a Pinoy giving the speech to the graduating law class (LLM I suppose) because I have a friend who graduated with Oscar yesterday at Harvard, I would like to point not to his speech but to Bill Gates' speech. A wonderful, wonderful speech.


Here's an excerpt that was so strong and potent (especially when I think of your blog and the blogs of several others):

For a few hours every week, you can use the growing power of the Internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the barriers, and find ways to cut through them. Don't let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.

I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world's deepest inequities … on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.

Gregory said...

Lastly, I would like to point you to another article of Pangalangan. You probably know him or know people who know him since you are both from UP. I think enlightened and smart people such as yourselves (and other bloggers whom I read) should all band together, have a think tank, and engage in meaningful dialog with people like me (interested and committed Filipinos) and other experts in particular fields.

As Bill Gates said, we have the power of the Internet and computers to connect us all, and we should use our collective brainpower to break the complexities of our problems and try to find solutions.

(Personal note: I've always loved the public library system here in the States and Canada. The wealth of knowledge and resources has enriched my understanding of our history and many issues greatly):

The Pangalangan article's title:


I'll send the links in the future of the other bloggers I read and who I believe should band together in a "superblog" (you included) that could serve as a think tank for other Pinoys (whether abroad or back home) who want to understand the problems, and then come up with some solutions. You guys can count on me and my friends to be active in discussions. There is an "enlightened" Pinoy diaspora population who is eager to be part of discussions.

JDLT, M.D. said...

In truth medical school was really about stamina and memorizing. Talking with my 8 year old has been more intellectually gratifying than anything I went through in my years at UP Med. And really, it did not take stratospheric grades to get in. And if you just put in your time with the books, staying in was no problem. I've seen more of the "cream" pursue other careers that require more smarts than what some of us doctors think we have a monopoly on. You need to learn some humility.

Martin D. Bautista, M.D. said...

jdlt, md sorry that your experience at the UPCM was not as gratifying as mine. you sure we went to the same place though? congratulations for having a genius kid, then again your intellectual level may not be far off from your 8 year old.

Gregory, thanks for the insights. Can't seem to access the Bill Gates speech though.

Gregory said...

I think I know why . . .

If you copy the 3 lines and paste it, only the 1st line will be pasted.

Try copying first line, paste, then second line, paste, etc. Just make sure when pasting next line, no spaces between lines appear in the html.

I tried it just now and it works.

Gregory said...

Martin - here's another site you will definitely want to check. You can link your blog to the videos on the site:

Amazing topics, amazing speakers, amazing insights.

r.g. lacsamana, m.d. said...

An interesting discussion, but let me put in some observations.

(1) There is no doubt it would be ideal for a lot of young men and women, educated in various fields, to stay home so they can use their talents and contribute to the national weal. The problem is there are no opportunities at home that we can only find abroad, which is why the brain drain, at least for the foreseeable future, will continue and possibly get worse. A good example is of over 10,000 doctors switching to nursing, the only reason being that they can go abroad for better jobs and better pay.

President Arroyo and the rest of politicians, as far as I know, have not done anything to stop this exodus. Nor, in fact, can they do anything even if they want to, knowing that forcing them to stay home would result in a vast army of unemployed. Hey, let's not forget that those over $12 billion remittances yearly come from those same overseas Filipinos.

I admire the fact that Dr. Bautista can afford to come home and do what he wants to do for the country. Most Filipinos abroad, however, are not in his financial league, and no matter how much we beseech them to come home, invest and become productive citizens there, the fact remains that most of them have planted roots permanently abroad and are not likely to heed Dr. Bautista's call. That's just being realistic.

(2) On the question, posed by Gregory, of how Filipinos abroad can create a sort of think tank to see how we can all help solve the multifarious problems at home, that would be easy to do but again does little unless most of us go back home after, say, 15 to 20 years and help in national development. That's not likely to happen, as I previously noted, particularly with the pervasive culture of corruption there.

Gregory cites the examples of Indians, Koreans and Taiwanese going back home to their countries and boosting their economies, but conditions back home are not similar to those in the three other countries. I might also add a caveat that those who go back constitute a tiny minority. Im my own field, medicine, Indian and Korean colleagues very rarely go back home permanently, with over 95% of them staying here (the U.S.) for good.

Again, with all due respect to Gregory, I think that's ridiculous for him to state that those who have been abroad longer don't give as much damn when it comes to our homeland. That's odious. Patriotism, love of country, or whatever you want to call it, is never measured by how old or how young you are. (I noticed he decided not go home but instead immigrated to Canada after his post-graduate studies, making me wonder if he is going to eat his words after 15 years.)

(3) I did not go to UP as Dr. Bautista did, but to the oldest medical school in the Philippines. Those were indeed challenging years in terms of the arduous work required to finish those five years, not just "stamina and memorizing." Just like here in the U.S., those admitted to the 125 medical schools here usually are the "best and brightest."

The hard work in school, which is even worse in medical practice, sometimes leaves us fewer opportunities to do some other things we love to do, but there is a secret, if you know how to gain the most of your time.

I bet jdlt is just being a cynic. It would be boring if all he coud find intellectually stimulating is talking to his 8-year old child.

Anonymous said...

"congratulations for having a genius kid, then again your intellectual level may not be far off from your 8 year old."

HAHA!!! You're funny doc. =) Maybe a bit conceited, but funny. HAHA!!! =)

Gregory said...

Hi RG (I hope I got that right),

I was reading your post and I just wanted to clarify some things.

1. I agree with your comment that Filipinos who have migrated long ago aren't at all less patriotic. I think I was too sweeping in my statements. I made my comment though based on observations and my description rightfully gave the wrong perception.

This is what I wanted to say: Those who migrated abroad when they were 2-3 years old will, in greater likelihood, have less of an affinity to the Philippines compared to someone who migrated abroad when he/she was 30. The latter stayed longer in the Philippines, and has built stronger bonds back home. And while that is not a guarantee that the latter will be an engine for growth back home, a case can certainly be made that those with stronger ties to back home will likely have a greater motivation to maintain those links in the future. And if those links hold - there would be a motivation in the future for that person to contribute greatly as that person increases in maturity, experience, and wealth.

2. As to the think tank observation - I did not propose it to be solely formed among a group of overseas Filipinos. I am a maven of technologies (early adopter) and my suggestion really is one meant to encompass Filipinos here and abroad. The bloggers I was talking about are based both back home and abroad. And I am sure their readers are Filipinos here and abroad. That's the wonder of technology. It can connect people to talk to each other, understand the problems, get through complexities, and find solutions. I am not pretending that mere discussions will solve problems. But it sure is a start.

3. My reported observations aren't mine. They are Raul Pangalangan's - which he posted in his column in the Inquirer. I was fortunate to work in the Silicon Valley area with a start up after graduation and before I went to Canada. I also worked in a satellite radio company in DC during my internship - when I took my MBA in Chicago. In those occasions, I worked with people who migrated to the States recently (late 90's - when they were 25 y/o or older). Their interest in their countries of origin remain strong and there are a couple of Indians I met who remain in the States but opened businesses back in India. They have partners back home and they travel frequently to help run the businesses.

4. I never made a boast that I would return home in 10-15 years. One, I don't know if I'll even be alive at that time and 10-15 years is an eternity when you think of what can happen between today and that time. Thus, I will never eat my words because I am not naive to make promises such as the one I was purported to have made.

I am open to the surprises of life. In fact, these surprises have made me live an exciting life professionally and personally. Thus, as to what I will be doing in 10-15 years depends on so many things within and outside my control.

But I certainly want to be a contributor to the Philippines in immense ways when the time comes. Right now, I am adjusting to my new realities. But I believe being part of the discussion in this blog and other blogs is already part of being a contributor. You are also a contributor by engaging in dialog.

I am entrepreneurial by nature and love adventure. And somehow going back home (and again, I never made a boast that I will go back home permanently. One can go back home without permanently settling there) is an option that appeals to me when the right time comes.

That's the danger - black and white categorizations. Go back home is not a black and white thing. Plus, imagine 10-15 years from now - new technologies, etc. Imagine faster networks, more advanced video technologies. It can make the concept of "going back home physically" seem unnecessary. But that is beside the point.

I am not telling anyone that going back home permanently and physically is the solution. What I was trying to underscore with my comment is that to the fortunate ones who have the knowledge, talent, wealth, etc. to be able to do something back home - do consider making a contribution - not some token contribution but contributions that have an impact.

I met someone (he's 50 y/o) and remains in California. However, he helped rebuild a school in his old town in Bicol area and contributes to its upkeep. He gathered contributions from relatives and friends for the upkeep. He went back home in June last year to inaugurate the refurbished school. But he lives in California and continues to work there.

This illustrates my point. Not only old retired millionaires can afford to be contributors back home. Working people - people who have a life abroad, who have jobs, etc. - can have an impact back home. I applaud Martin though for going a step further.

So when I say "return home" - I don't mean go back home and live there. Not necessarily. I mean - return to our roots, be contributors beyond merely remitting funds, and be involved in nation building.

As to how - to each his own. I am respectful enough of diversity to understand that people will help at their own time and own way.

5. Lastly, as to the pervasive culture of corruption - I agree. It is pervasive. But I am a lover of history. And I have read US history for example. Corruption was deeply rooted here too. In fact, they had those city bosses to whom politicians were indebted to. Think of Warren Harding for example. The patronage politics was part and parcel of US politics for the longest time and we still see vestiges of the past in the so-called "earmarks" or pork barrel.

But as societies become more connected and transparent - even this culture of corruption can change. Those who are abroad and are exposed to better governance can help be that force. I was reading the inquirer just now and an OFW was talking about how they can influence things big time back home - and one way which he mentioned was by advising his relatives back home on who are the types of officials to vote for.

I am not naive that the culture of corruption can be fixed overnight. But you can already see the seeds. The fact that you and I are connected over the Internet is already proof that there is hope. Before this, you and I would not even be talking to each other. Or discovering that there are people like Martin (and the other bloggers I read and their readers) who have similar aspirations for the country. Often, our only link to like-minded people are our immediate circle of relatives and friends.

But if strangers like you and me can be linked together through this blog, imagine the possibilities. Harnessing all this good will and brain power and experience can certainly serve as a catalyst for cultural change.

As Pangalangan said: The cultural transfer of “best practices” from abroad should accelerate with the middle-class shift of the Pinoy diaspora. They after all are better equipped to make the most of e-mail and the Internet, with equally voluble networks of friends back home.

And that is what we are doing. We are connecting with folks abroad and back home. And talking. That's a first step. The problems are complex. But at least now we are connected and not alone trying to make sense of the complexity.

And this highlights Bill Gates's point in his speech: For a few hours every week, you can use the growing power of the Internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the barriers, and find ways to cut through them. Don't let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.

(I guess I have betrayed my bias for technology. Yes, I am a "nerd" who believes that the technologies we have today - and imagine the new technologies in the future - can be a force for change - including cultural changes - in the years to come)

Gregory said...

Examples of the brain power of Filipinos out there (both in the Philippines and abroad) who are all accessible via the Internet. Imagine harnessing all these brainpower and those of their intelligent readers towards understanding complex Philippine problems):

Raul Pangalangan

A Hundred Years Hence
(Urban Planning)

Jemy Gatdula
Blurry Brain

Rhoelano Briones
Rational Choice

Martin Bautista
On My Way Home
Health, Politics, Advocacy

Big Mango
Entrepreneurship, Technology,
Politics, and Advocacy

(He has good 2005 and 2006 posts.)

Get Real Philippines
Culture, Advocacy

Ivan Henares
Ivan About Town
Travel, Tourism and Entrepreneurship

Jim Paredes
Writing on Air
Culture, Advocacy, Arts

Stepping on Poop
Secularism (and occasionally, advocacy)

I hope readers can put additional links so that we can discover them.

jdlt, m.d. said...

Missed the point, doctor. That you found UPCM so challenging and gratifying says a lot about you. That you think only the best and brightest could possibly make it through says a lot about you. I say it again, learn some humility. Prototype? Please.

r.g. lacsamana, m.d. said...

Gregory, points understood after your disquisition. There is little that we probably disagree on, though I feel more pessimistic. That's probably because things have not gotten better after all these years since the downfall of Marcos.

One problem is that we have been led to expect too much, with too little to show up for what was promised. Nevertheless, I keep hoping, like others, that a leader will emerge to lead us out of the dark nights into the promised land.
If it happens, that would be a miracle.

Gregory said...

I don't want to be a defender of anyone here but there's nothing wrong about saying that your smart or anything. Personally, I don't have any anti-intellectual bias. In fact, I have always believed that change begins from an enlightened "elite." Lest I get branded an elitist - the term "elite" here does not necessarily refer to wealthy people - but those who have the intellect, leadership skills, etc. to be at the forefront of change.

Those with wealth and connections can help change things simply because of the power they wield. But so can the brilliant minds and those with leadership skills. All of these folks are the "elite." But unless they are enlightened, and not mired in the petty talk and concerns of the stereotypical Philippine elite, then they cannot become instruments of change.

As to the reference of being the prototype - -again - - that was okay. Because the words matched the action. A lot of smart Filipinos have gone abroad, and have learned a lot in terms of knowledge and experience. We want those people to become a potent force for change. Martin did it and so he's a prototype. Nothing wrong if he said so. And nothing arrogant about that. In fact, all he wanted was to serve as an example to others who might have a shared experience with him.

I remember the movie "Incredibles" where talented folks changed their behavior to blend in with the crowd. In the process, they became mediocre. And so I would say - if you're smart, talented, or have something to share - -be proud of it.

Gregory said...

I was reading BenignoO's (Get Real Philippines) blog today and he pointed out another blog worth checking out. This one is new - but again - part of the Philippine brainpower out there that reads, writes, and shares:

Ernesto Posadas Jr.

Gregory said...

I agree RG. We're probably on the same page on many issues.

I understand your frustration. Personally, I haven't seen much change too since Marcos. And among the reasons I left (primarily because of adventure) was seeming lack of faith in the ability of the Philippines to rise above its problems.

I left back in 2003 to study. That time, blogs were beginning their ascent. Usually, I would read commentaries simply from columnists. But in 3 short years, you now have a blog community that is active. You have forums where people discuss problems back home. Perhaps we should have a Yahoo group of something -all part of a mailing list that get really enlightened discussions on issues. Then you also have so many other sites where we can gain so much information, knowledge from others.

The frustration comes from the complexity of the situation. Perhaps, in the past, people cannot be harnessed together in groups and work together. There was limited access to information. But within the past 2-3 years, I discovered there's so much information out there, so much brainpower. And we're all connected. The tools are now available for meaningful collaboration.

That is what's giving me hope. I believe really in the transforming power of the Internet, the PC, and Web 2.0 technologies. And as I write, more technologies are being invented to make us more connected.

Bill Gates talks of the same things in that commencement speech.

So while yes - -not much progress has happened, circumstances have changed. The playing field has been altered. That's what's giving me hope that things can change. It will take time - but now - -a lot of us are now connected. If only we can work together to break the complexities.

Gregory said...

Here's Ernesto's Posadas' old blog:

Gregory said...

Throw in Cielito Habito too (Inquirer columnist):

Next Stop Wonderland said...

Agree with jdlt md, you are not the first US trained doctor to come back to the Philippines. After this, I guess I lost my faith in you. Humility is one of the characters I admire in a leader. Buti na lang natalo ka.

Gregory said...


An early, typical example.

What the heck was wrong with that statement?

Anyway - -let's stick to issues here. Many Pinoy forum topics have the knack of going down the drain because the discussions suddenly go the route of emotional outbursts, name calling, labeling, etc.

I respect your view that humility is a trait you respect. I respect too your point of view that didn't find Martin humble by calling himself a prototype. It might be a cultural thing. I am a Filipino and I have noticed many cultural nuances when dealing with people back home and in the States. What may be deemed "arrogance" back home is really nothing over here.

So I hope you will be more open to nuances and let a minor thing like this pass. Things aren't black and white, you know.

Afterall, he didn't say that he is the first, the only one and everyone else will follow. A prototype - in his context and the context of the post - is a model that can serve as an inspiration.

Bob said...

"Nevertheless, I keep hoping, like others, that a leader will emerge to lead us out of the dark nights into the promised land.
If it happens, that would be a miracle"

This is also the sentiment of the majority in the philippines. A Christ like politician will as if by magic change the philippines for the better. This is also the reason way scumbags like joseph Estrada, Lito Lapid, Tito Soto are elected as President,Governor and Senator because of their role as altruistic saviour of the poor in their reel life.

It is the people that makes a nation. Politicians like all human beings are corruptable.It is up to us, the common people to make sure that they walk the fine line of honesty.

ex-ofw said...

doc jdlt, I have friends from UPCM, and I also believe they belong to the best and brightest. I think their stamina and ability to memorize those loads of information are part of the "bright" package.

I didn't see anything wrong with doc martin speaking highly of the quality of UPCM students, and how gratifying his experience was in med school. It's a pity that you don't seem to share this belief in yourself and the institution.

His Prototype post didn't bother me. It was his response to your comment. I mean, Doc Martin can see the merits of a UPCM education despite how bulok the facilities are and how sungit you all turn out as clerks and interns in PGH, but didn't look beyond what you expressed as the gratification of talking to your 8-year old child. Maybe he's trying to be witty, but medyo "over" yata, Doc Martin.

I admire Doc Martin's idealism and passion. Maybe it takes a lot of 'over'confidence (o sobra sobra na yan ha) and a bit of "arrogance" to be able to take that step in running for a Senate seat. Dito sa Pilipinas kailangan may yabang ka din siguro. Naintindihan ko, tanggap ko yon. [wag mo lang sabihin na guapo ka kundi uumbagin na kita. haha]

But Doc Martin, maybe you have to learn not to take offense when someone reminds you to be humble. Yun lang naman yata ang point ni jdlt. Your response turned off some people (me almost, wag mo lang ituloy tuloy hehe). So hinay hinay lang doc, minsan di ubra dito yung pagka-smart alecky ng mga Amerikano.