Saturday, August 3, 2013

Smokey Mountain Memories

The Year Level 5: ICC Year blog posts - stories and anecdotes, patient encounters and hospital drama, and the many colors of UP med school from the perspective of a third year. Here's the second entry, under our two-week rotation with the family medicine section of the Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Our last day in Tondo was an entirely unexpected adventure. After seeing diabetic patients for around two hours in the morning (mine also had an inguinal hernia, which he allowed me to poke), we were reduced to a bunch of selfie-taking virginal doctors lounging around the empty health center. At one point, I started playing with the fish in the aquarium by tapping the glass to see them scram. Then, real-life couple T and P found a (not literally) lost child for a moment of pretend-family.

We had lunch at the nearby tapsilog place, and I found it delightful (like schadenfreude-delightful) to see all those high school kids hurrying home to study for first grading exams. Back at the Center, there was this cat that was longing to copulate with Jollibee junk. 

But the afternoon - oh, that epic afternoon! We had a scheduled ocular visit to Happy Land, one of the urban-poor barangays in the area. But - and this is where I got really confused - we ended up in the day care center, doing nothing more productive than trying out C's "unofficial" psychological test involving a room, a box in the room, flowers, and a horse. The women of Happy Land had a nutrition month celebration (a contest on who made the "healthiest" dish, I believe), but then someone suggested, "Would you like to go see Smokey Mountain instead?"

So that's what we did. We walked along Radial Road 10 (which ends southbound at Delpan Bridge), bordered by junk shops to the left and killer trucks to the right. We entered one of the pre-Smokey Mountain ultra-urban-poor communities, where we traversed a most challenging trail of damp garbage and who-knows-what. We skipped, we hopped, we gave our footwear mud baths. Someone mistook me (or was it J?) for a Japanese. Kids, some semi-naked, followed us ala "Look Down" in "Les Miserables." A lot of people there were walking barefoot on the soggy, muddy ground - and all we could think of was leptospirosis and parasites. We stopped at the entrance to the real Smokey Mountain, and went back.

Was it all so eye-opening? In a way. But it's true: You've never seen the poorest in the Philippines if you haven't been to places like this. The trip will silently tear your heart apart.      

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