On Coconuts, Streams, and Rivers I – What it takes to be a Doktor Para sa Bayan

I believe that I am in an excellent school. Different from other schools, we take pride that we undergo community immersion as part of our MD-MPA program. Once a month every year for five years, we fully immerse in a community chosen for us. Usually our adopted community is one which is very far flung, often neglected in terms of health care and amenities. It may be along the coastal area, surrounded by mountain ranges or in a valley. The only condition, and one that is quite important, is that it should be safe, preferably with no Nice People Around, and with electricity and running water.

Now, the reason why we have this program is that we are being instilled the virtue of being a doktor para sa bayan. Being a state college, it is a given that upon graduating, one must serve his own people first before going abroad to serve others. This program actually is quite similar to what in nursing we call Community Organizing Participatory Action Research (COPAR) wherein the main goal, after five years, would be self-reliance of the community people to stand on their own in terms of handling, maintaining, and implementing projects for the good of their community. First years are limited to only performing community assessment – gathering data from all the households which would be the main basis for the community health programs to be proposed for implementation come the higher years. Come second year, the data gathered would be used to diagnose the problems in the community and also to be used to strongly back-up the projects come third year. Third year would be the time that the proposed programs and projects will be implemented along with the community leaders and the people themselves. Fourth year would continue the implementation of the community programs but slowly letting go of the programs themselves. Fifth year, the last year of studying, will be the time to fully let go of the programs, the termination stage, whereupon, the community people themselves would man the programs and projects and we, the students would simply be there to monitor and facilitate. At the end of five years, the goal of the program would be to develop an aware, active, and self-reliant community capable of handling problems within the community and finding solutions for it.

Our batch of 62 students were divided into 6 groups based on personality types, with 10-11 members. Each group was assigned to different communities scattered all around Bicol. Only one group went to Pilar, Sorsogon, the remaining five were distributed to barangays in Albay specifically …, Manito; Oras, Tabaco City; …Camalig. Ours was Oras, Tabaco City.

11 people. 1 house. 1 month of stay in that community.

Five years begin on February 15.

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