Thursday, December 20, 2007

Where on earth is Dumaguete?

To contrast with what Erlyn said about practice in Metro Manila, here is what Marc and I wrote about a doctor's life in Dumaguete. We were quite thrilled that this was published in the December 2007 issue of Uroscope, the newsletter of the Philippine Urological Association.

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Practice in the islands

- Marc Juvic Baviera, MD

Not a lot of people know the where Dumaguete is – some think it is in Mindanao, some think it is in Bicol or close but not quite, that Dumaguete is in Western Visayas. Well, once and for all, hear ye, hear all, that Dumaguete is the capital city of Negros Oriental in Region VII, Central Visayas. Though on the same island as Bacolod City, the capital of Negros Occidental, Dumaguete and Bacolod are quite different from each other in terms of dialect, infrastructure and culture. So what am I, a true-blue, born and bred in Bacolod guy, doing in Dumaguete City?

Well, it all started during my last year of residency at UERMMMC when an intern posed the idea of practicing in his hometown, Dumaguete, since there was no urologist yet in their place. I shelved the idea because my priority then was just to finish my training, the place of practice will come later. But two months before I finished training, I felt the pressure to look for a place where I could start on my own. That’s when I remembered Dumaguete. A strong spirit of adventure was beckoning me to start my practice away from home.

Dumaguete’s name is derived from the word “dumaguit” which means to snatch, to kidnap, to capture, to take away. Travelers who passed by Dumaguete got “snatched” or “hooked” by Dumaguete’s allure and decided to stay. And true enough, Dumaguete has captivated us and like many “dayuhans” (both foreign and Filipinos alike) who have succumbed to Dumaguete’s charm, my wife, Anne, and I have decided to make Dumaguete our home.

I had quite a number of apprehensions when I started practice in Dumaguete. Foremost was the language barrier. The dialect in Bacolod is Ilonggo while the dialect in Dumaguete is Binisaya. And almost every other town in between the two cities have their own particular variations of the dialect. Will my patients and I be able to communicate effectively without being hilarious or offensive? For example: “Wala ka kasabot” in Dumaguete would mean “You don’t understand” but in Bacolod it would mean “You don’t have pubic hair”! Or when you ride a jeepney in Bacolod and you want to get off at the street corner you tell the driver “Sa bangga lang” meaning “at the intersection please” or “sa kanto lang” in Tagalog. Dumaguetenos riding jeepneys in Bacolod would go wide eyed in panic at hearing this “sa bangga lang” because in Binisaya it means “just hit something please”, be it another vehicle or a post or a garbage can!

And then there were the cultural differences. What might be acceptable behavior for the Ilonggo might be offensive to the Bisaya and vice versa. I was not very sure about what kind of character, values and temperament my prospective patients would have. I also had some apprehensions about how the medical community would accept me, would they be welcoming or would they be hostile to a stranger in their midst?

And then there was the dilemma of how to set up a practice in a place where there has never been a urologist before, meaning, there would be no urologic facilities whatsoever to speak of. I had to brace myself for the very possible scenario that the equipment and facilities I was used to in training would not be available in the three hospitals in Dumaguete, namely Silliman University Medical Center, Holy Child Hospital and Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital.

And finally there was that comment “If you practice in the province, mabubulok ang utak mo (your brain is going to rot) from lack of intellectual stimulation.” Was that truth or fallacy?

That was four and a half years ago and today I am glad to say that we have no regrets about the decision to settle in Dumaguete. We have built a home, a good practice and have been warmly welcomed by a friendly community. And most of all, we see the gratitude of the patients who no longer have to go all the way to Cebu or Manila for urological consultations and management.

One by one, my concerns have been addressed as well. Though I still speak with an Ilonggo accent I have learned a lot of Binisaya words, especially those that are important for clinical conversation. Plus, I have discovered that the Dumaguetenos are very comfortable with the English language and communication did not turn out to be difficult at all.

About cultural differences, well, I would say the general culture in Dumaguete is more on the conservative. The city has a land area of about 34 km2 with a population of 103,000, one third of which is made up of students. Aside from being dubbed as the City of Gentle People, Dumaguete is also considered as the center of learning in the south because of the numerous and prestigious universities, colleges and schools, including internationally acclaimed Silliman University and the first St. Paul’s University in the Philippines. Perhaps the tranquil ambiance and the laid back lifestyle make intellectual and artistic pursuits natural in this city.

I would say practicing in the province does not cause brain freeze, especially if you are in a place where learning is a way of life. Teaching at the Silliman University School of Medicine forces me to keep reviewing the basics of medicine. We have local conferences, Mortality and Morbidity Conferences, round table discussions as well as scientific eatings and meetings to keep our mental faculties honed. And I make it a point to attend midyear and annual conventions to keep up with the latest developments about urology. Plus of course there are journals and the internet. Everything is just a click away. It is really just up to the doctor how much he wants to learn.

My concern about facilities has been solved by personally buying my own equipment. Amazon, E-bay and the general www have been of much help.

And so when all my apprehensions about provincial practice have been allayed, I could now fully appreciate the perks of being a promdi-doctor. Number one would be the traffic. Or lack of traffic. In Dumaguete, everything and everywhere is nearby. Ten – fifteen minutes is a long drive already. I live just two minutes away from the hospital. That means I don’t get stressed out driving to work and after work, I have lots of free time to dabble in my hobbies which are playing badminton and flying remote control planes. On weekends, we have lots of choices – golf in Pamplona, dolphin watching in Bais, mountain climbing in Mt. Talinis, traipsing in Lake Balinsasayaw or Lake Balanan, cave spelunking in Mabinay, scuba diving in Sumilon or Apo Island, the list is endless. The chocolate hills of Bohol are just an hour and a half fast craft ride away. If we miss the hustle and bustle of metropolitan cities – Bacolod is just four hours away by car, Cebu City is just four hours by van or six hours by boat and of course, the flight to Manila just takes less than an hour.

But mostly we just want to sit back, relax and enjoy Dumaguete’s pleasant climate. When the rest of country is battered by typhoons and floods, Dumaguete is blessed with perpetual good weather. Being beside the sea brings us a good breeze as well fresh catch of fish and other seafood daily. And because the sea facing Dumaguete is not an open sea, being flanked by the islands of Cebu, Siquijor and Apo, the shores of Dumaguete are spared the perils of typhoons and monsoons.

So finally, my advice to our young colleagues who are considering practicing in the province: Go for it!

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Vk-mahalkaayo said...

thanks for sharing,....

akong nakita sa goggle imo post...mao naka abot ko diri.,

thanks for sharing, dr. ness

oransje_09 said...

hello, i read your blog and its very interesting. i also want to volunteer in dumaguete but dont know what hospital, and i dont have any experience yet since i passed the board last dec 2007. i would appreciate your help... thanks....

ness said...

hi ornsje_09,

we have three hospitals here: silliman university medical center
holy child hospital
and the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital.

Where is your location at present? Interested in entering the residency program? I think there are still available slots.