To take the Physicians Licensure Examination (PLE), one of those exams that has been considered by many as one of life’s defining moments, is already enough to make your anxiety go through the roof, already enough to cause self-doubt and already enough for the reason of several breakdowns.
But, preparing and taking that exam during a pandemic in the midst of a sociopolitical crisis with somehow weekly visit of typhoons plus a recent heartbreak, “losing myself at wit’s end” is definitely an UNDERSTATEMENT.
But after pushing for something that is quite far-fetched, I had to drag myself and tell myself that this is not the moment to succumb to that. “Ayusin mo. Tama na ang drama. Matanda ka na at kailangan mong mag-aral nang doble kasi Pelikula ang tinapos mo. Saan ka huhugot ng Anatomy o Biochem dun?”
Yes, I was a Film graduate and have already worked in the Communications and Media industry for three years before pursuing Medicine. To say that it is pretentious, “may pinaglalaban” or “pinapahirapan ko lang sarili ko,” I’m not sure if that was the case?
Alas I have a lot of stuff I fight and stand up for—few of which is finding your purpose, pushing boundaries and reaching for seemingly far-off dreams—even if it means changing the stars myself.
So how come there’s that shift? Well, it was already a recurring thought, my family even has a private joke about it up until this day, and even my best friends in high school (Analyn) and college (Chesca) know it as being a part of my early quarter life crisis. However, I let it off my mind, and still chose Film.
But what really made me pursue it? I was a student activist back in college, witnessing blatant inequalities as becoming wounds to my stupid, idealistic, passionate heart and it stuck with me.
It was then when I was working in one of the big networks in the country when I came face to face with the different plights of the Filipinos in health sectors and system in the country.
Stories and faces on the feature reports we made about the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, (Hi Kuya Skipp! segment producer of this story), Kangaroo Mother Care and situations in government hospitals to accommodate the flux of patients who are in dire need, (Ate Allie! Segment producer, if you’re reading this, Hi po!), re-ignited the dream of becoming a doctor.
To have that skill, knowledge and license to help treat at least one person became a recurring nuance as I worked in the media. The idea pushed me to pursue my dream. Idealistic? Yes. Crazy? Maybe, but definitely not impossible.
I confided the thought to my brother, bought an NMAT reviewer, self-reviewed while working in GMA and took the NMAT.
I got a somewhat relatively high score but not high enough to have the chance to pursue it in UP Manila, because I thought it was just UP and UERMM at the time that accepted Bachelor of Arts graduates without requiring additional science units.
The Universe has its magic in letting things fall into place. Bicol University (BU), a premiere University in the Bicol Region opened the College of Medicine, and as I am from Bicol tried my luck there. I went through with the application and lo and behold, after just few weeks, BU released the list of the first accepted aspiring medical students and my name was there.
I had cold feet, second guessing myself and brushing it off as being too rash about the decision. I also didn’t want to be a burden to the family and to other people, so I decided to put it off to ponder and really think hard about it.
It continued to haunt me. A year passed and it was then I decided to finally go for it.
Medical education requires three years in the university for theoretical learnings and one year in a partner Hospital for clinical and practical knowledge.
During my three years in the Medical school, I tried hard to study and understand how disease works, clinical terms and medical jargons in subjects such as Anatomy, Microbiology, Pharmacology and especially Biochemistry.
“Ano bang alam ko sa mga enzyme na yan, electron transport na yan at mga pangalan ng muscles na yan, Pwede bang anatomy na lang ng camera?” I remember talking to myself then during the orientation.
I also tried hard in coming up with an organ’s name and disease entity when all I see are seemingly corned beef like appearance with sometimes splattered blue and pink dots, as I look through the microscope in Histology and Pathology.
But, one of the medical school highlights for me was when we had our yearly stay in our partner communities. During the first year in our community, we were required to identify the community problem through house-to-house interview in the four puroks of the barangay.
I got to meet people and interview them just the way I did when I was in media. I remembered posting this in social media, “Don’t settle in knowing just about yourself as if the world revolves around you. Listen to those stories rarely told coz they’re more interesting. Then, act, do something to help or catalyze change. Eventually it changes you also, for the better.”
Those three years would have been cruel if it weren’t for my med school constants (Titas, MMMshies, Original Tubols and Icon), some of the BUCM Faculty that I grew close with and the family I had in CM, Sigma Lambda Chi Fraternity and Sorority, which I founded with the pioneer members—I couldn’t have handled it well without them!
And then, clerkship. The Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital was just across the street of the University but Boy! was it a different world, well it’s a part of the real world of the path I’m pursuing.
Describing it as a rollercoaster ride is a disservice, personally and professionally. This is where I have met several people that instilled lessons after lessons in my life, consultants, residents, nurses, staff and my very first patients alike.
Even if we were just clerks, we were assigned with our own patients for us to take vital signs of, to monitor and what nots. As we rotated in the different departments, we got to experience the differences of each field. We got to do procedures, insert needles, foley catheters, NGTs, assist in Operations, and witness stuff I only got to see in medical documentaries and medical dramas.
There’s one incident in the ER during one of my first few duty nights, I still didn’t know how to insert an IV and asked the help of one of the nurses. She reprimanded me for still not being able to do it. She asked me what my pre-med course was and I said without much confidence, Film. “Ay may ganon. Pwede ba yun,”she replied. I smiled.
From that day forward, I challenged myself to not let my pre-med background get in the way for doing what I was tasked to do. I was newborn Bambi, unsteady on my feet but stood up with the help of resident seniors, nurses and other hospital staff.
It was an eye-opener.
Then, there’s Internship. My constants and I were separated. Some stayed in BRTTH and some went to different hospitals in Naga and Manila.
It was at this time when I got to somehow fully understand the management in each disease entity we encountered, that seemed to be a blur back in clerkship. We got to hone our clinical eye, skills and knowledge as we went through it. Some residents would make it a point to teach us. Looking back, that memory was one of the highlights of my experience.
As my Film friends became esteemed Directors, Assistant Directors, Director of Photography, Editors and Producers, and as they celebrate their wins in different Film Festivals inside and outside the country, I was also having my own small wins through those moments.
I could not ever forget the opportunity I had to assist an open heart surgery—thank you Doc Ian! Being able to see a beating heart is already an experience of a lifetime, but to be able to hold one in the palm of my hand while being guided by one of the topnotch surgeons in the province was something I couldn’t fathom up to now. “Steady ka lang dyan, doktora ha?” A deep feeling of gratitude and kilig welled up inside me and somehow I knew this was where I wanted to be.
Approaching the first few months of 2020—half of the Internship year—COVID buzzed then it became a pandemic.
APMC decided to pull out the clerks and interns from the hospital. And just continued learning through webinars, zoom meetings and the likes. It was half-baked somehow but inevitable.
Physicians Licensure Examination!!!
PLE was just around the corner, waving from a distance, as if teasing and triggering anxiety, just as it is, even without the external factors.
I was a total mess at the start of the review season (Myla, you were my rock at this moment. Thank you! I’ll always be here for you, too). But I guess treading on is a theme for me so tread on I must.
As if it weren’t enough during the middle of our preparation for September Boards, it was announced that it will be moved to November—a blessing in disguise.
The rest was recent history I do not want to delve in. It was an experience I wanted to but wouldn’t ever forget. I wasn’t loud even suffered in silence but boy! I can’t even imagine how I got through it. God certainly works in mysterious ways.
Smartgeo babies, my constants during the review season, our nightly tanungan, cook-offs and your BTS influence on me where we even prepared Korean lunch for the Map of the Soul ON:E Concert streaming, kept me sane through it all.
To the people who witnessed the darkest and lowest moments, my sincerest gratitude for the guidance and for helping me survived it.
Now, we come full circle from where I started to try to put my experience in writing. I know that this is just the first stop. There are more obstacles ahead and I’m conditioning myself to be ready for that.
I’m just beyond grateful to the people who, right from the start, never doubted and instead pushed and supported me in every way they can, for me to pursue this path. Daddy, Mommy, Mama Baybie, Kuya Ariel, Ate Lalaine, Kuya Jun, Ate Aar, Ate Yay, Kuya Jayson, Kuya Boboy, Ate Jane, Kuya Bombot, Ate Donna and Danielle, Doktor na po ako!
The romance with medicine will eventually fade but I definitely know how to commit and I definitely know that once I fought for it and a decision has been made, and I stand by it.
Love, respect and gratitude to everyone who in any way helped me made this possible.
From an aspiring Director to a LICENSED DOCTOR.
Service through honor and principled action!
Serve the people!
About the Author
Chanelle N. Filio graduated as a Film Major, with a dream in her heart to find her purpose in the field of Medicine. She is now one of the 41 newly licensed physicians of Bicol University College of Medicine.
As of writing this article, she now spends her time browsing the internet for videos and articles of her newfound love, BTS.