|Me & My Dad in Singapore|
Working as a full-time writer, I have interviewed numerous personalities. But pinning my dad down for an interview was quite challenging. There was always something more pressing than talking about him self. He was preoccupied caring for a sick family member. When we finally sat down for an interview, he excused himself to take care of his youngest sister asking for help.
All my life I had known my father as a doctor. I crawled to his bed, and would tell him my tummy hurts. He would tap different points in my stomach, deciphering where the pain was coming from. He would prescribe medicine, then I would be ok. Whether I was in Australia, the US, or some faraway travel assignment, daddy would know what to do for a sprain or a paper cut in my eye. But it was my fifth grade science project that was most memorable. I made edible clay dough. Together, we painted and sculpted it to look like the stomach. It looked so realistic, none of my classmates dared to touch it. But naturally, collaborating with my gastroenterologist dad merited me the top mark.
“So, why did you become a doctor,” I began interviewing him. “My only goal was to be a very good doctor. I wanted to help people get well, because I was a sickly kid.” I knew dad had a scar in his tummy from an illness as a young boy. Dad shares, “I was always sick, accident prone, and absent from school.” Thankfully, he got excellent care from his grandfather, Lolo Fausto, a General Practioner. In High School, he observed what his grandfather did in his clinic, as well as his wife, who was a pharmacist. The young sickly boy loved books, and often read books on great people. “As a young boy, I enjoyed dismantling my toys and putting back together. I liked fixing clocks,” dad narrates.
His fascination for fixing things found fulfillment when he became a doctor. “I like the challenge of trying to help people untangle and cure their diseases,” he says. This Class President of Class ’63 and scholar to University of Kansas soon learned, the more difficult the case, the more he enjoyed the challenge. Dad recognizes the individual differences among people, “Each case is different from the other. Each patient is different.” Perhaps, it is this very challenge and his love for his mother, that let my lola Caring live up to the ripe old age of 105.
Dad had always been a pioneer. He was a scholar in the US in the 60’s, at a time few Asian exchange students ventured to Kansas. But he was also a pioneer in the field of Gastroenterology in the Philippines. He introduced endoscopy and founded the Philippine Society of Endoscopy. In the late seventies, he was a pioneer in bringing doctors closer to the patients. He gathered a team of doctors and introduced Medispecialists in Rustan’s Cubao, then the most prestigious shopping mall.
Growing up, dad was always a teacher. He regularly taught at UP-PGH. He spent hours preparing his slides. This photography hobbyist enjoyed breaking his lectures with his photos of flowers or sunsets. When my sister was his student, he inserted a beach photo of all five of us kids at sunset, to the chagrin of my sister. That’s my dad’s wicked sense of humor.
Despite his love for the medical profession, dad always found time for daily morning tennis session with a wacky group of lawyers, businessmen, and doctors. With aching joints, he now finds himself in a more serene crowd, religiously serving every Sunday as a Eucharistic Minister in the parish. You can’t take away dad from his roots, growing up in a mango orchard. He would do his weekly rounds in his orchard, with a UP Argriculturalist in tow, discussing the illnesses of each tree, as if they were his patients. The results were the biggest and sweetest mangoes I had ever tasted.
At 73, dad still continues to hold clinic at Capitol Medical Center and regularly goes to PGH. I don’t think retirement is even an option. “The satisfaction you are able to help overcome a medical problem” is very much a way of life for him. But after all these years he tells me, “It is not only helping the patient, but also the family.” Their medical consult often shifts to seeking advice from my wise father on business and personal problems. “I now see the third generation of patients,” he happily shares. To them, he too has become family. They arrive with each medical visit bearing gifts of his favorite Kamaru (crickets) and sweets. Whether it is a tray of eggs, or merely a sandwich as his professional fee, dad would happily receive his patients’ thoughtful gifts.
A large M.D. sticker is on dad’s car. To the public, it means medical doctor. To me, it also means Mango Doctor. But most lovingly, M.D. means Mom’s Dearest, and also My Dad.
|Dad & I at my Masters Graduation|
I wrote this article several months ago for my dad's upcoming 50th UPMAS (UPMedical Alumni Society). I'd like to share it this Father's Day as a fitting tribute to my loving dad, and because I'm proud of the person that he is. Happy Father's Day, daddy!