Ronibats.PH Stories of a Filipino neurosurgeon, teacher, and writer

On Graduating from Residency Training in Philippine General Hospital


Dr. Aida Salonga and other guests of honor, Dr. Leonor Cabral-Lim and consultants of the Sections of Adult Neurology, Pediatric Neurology and Neurosurgery, alumni of the Department of Neurosciences, parents, co-residents, medical students, and guests, good evening.

What common experience binds all of us doctors here tonight? I thought about this and realized that aside from Emergency Medicine, no other specialty confronts the fragility of human life head on like the Neurosciences.

As neurologists and neurosurgeons, we experience the most dramatic recoveries, but at the extreme end, we also face the most heartbreaking deteriorations — whether acute or chronic, painful either way. Our errors in judgement lead to unacceptable deficits and significant morbidities. And we all know that our most difficult lessons are learned at the cost of a life.

There is no denying that ours is a hospital of despair. Some scenes have just become too familiar: a mother or father wailing over a dead child’s body; a husband or wife trembling as he or she signs a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) waiver; a son or daughter regretfully but respectfully explaining the family’s decision that they would not push through with treatment and have decided to just bring their patient home. The phrase “due to financial constraints” is unarguably the most commonly used statement during case presentations and written reports.

This hospital has seen us at our best and at our worst. The everyday challenge of being a resident physician of Philippine General Hospital is to give the best possible care, despite the known limitations, and to do so with utmost compassion, even when you are weary, sleepless, and hungry, even if you have been wearing the same clothes for 48 hours, or repeatedly questioning yourself, “Bakit ko nga ba ginagawa ito?” (Why again am I doing this?)

Where pain and suffering abound, we can always choose to be kindness and hope to our patients.

I have once been told in the operating room: You are being trained in this hospital not to meet the status quo. When you graduate, the goal is to elevate the standards.

As graduates of the Department of Neurosciences, we stand before you, knowing that we cannot do everything. We leave, knowing that every day, we have to strive to be better, because when we are at our best, the ones who will ultimately benefit are our patients, who would get to live their extra years, months, or even just an extra day with their loved ones.

At this point, I would like to ask my fellow graduates to stand. Let us now clap our hands for the giants, on whose shoulders we stood up: our consultants. Without you, we are nothing, and we would like to thank you for imparting your knowledge and skills during the last four or five years. To our families, who have the common experience of asking the question “Pang-ilang graduation mo na nga ito?” (How many times have you graduated in all?), thank you for patiently taking care of us. To our co-residents, nurses, nursing aides, utility workers, paramedical and administrative staff, we give our sincere gratitude.

Now I am sorry, I was not aware that I was supposed to deliver the response in Filipino (Note: I would have, in a heartbeat), so let me just say this as my closing paragraph:

Kami po ay tatak Philippine General Hospital Department of Neurosciences. Ipinapangako po naming kami ay magsusumikap na maging mga magagaling na manggagamot. Pero higit sa pagiging magaling, ipinapangako po naming maging mabuti. Maraming salamat po at maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat.

(We have the mark of Philippine General Hospital Department of Neurosciences. We promise to strive to be excellent doctors. But beyond excellence, we promise to be compassionate physicians. Thank you very much and merry Christmas to all.)

This speech was delivered on 15 December 2014 during the residency and fellowship graduation ceremonies of the Department of Neurosciences of Philippine General Hospital. 

About the author

Ron Baticulon

Ronibats is a pediatric neurosurgeon, teacher, and writer. In 2018, he won a Palanca award for the title essay of his first book, "Some Days You Can't Save Them All," published by The University of the Philippines Press. You can follow him on Twitter @ronibats.


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  • The everyday challenge of being a resident physician of Philippine General Hospital is to give the best possible care, despite the known limitations, and to do so with utmost compassion, even when you are weary, sleepless, and hungry, even if you have been wearing the same clothes for 48 hours, or repeatedly questioning yourself, “Bakit ko nga ba ginagawa ito?” (Why again am I doing this?)

    -grabe sir. totoong totoo ito. congratulations sir! i remember, reading your blog about future careers. back then, i was determined to be a neurosurgeon. here i am, tcvs :)) thank you for all the learnings sir!

  • I have been following your posts for more than a decade and Im very proud of your accomplishments.

    May your service to the Filipino people continue.

    Thank you. Thank you. Ambabait ninyo, thank you.

  • Dear Sir,
    You told us last May that our batch is special to you, because 5 years ago, when you were opening a chapter in your life as a 1st year neurosurgery resident, we were starting as 1st year medical students.
    Five years later, here we are, 1st year residents in a few days, and you have just graduated from residency.
    I will not forget what you had told us then – “When we study with our best, we now we can do our best for our patients.”
    Congratulations sir, and may the Lord bless you and your patients.

  • doc bka pede po i visit ka na min ni bella sa house nyo..healthy na man po sya but we want to see you for the last time..

  • Hi Doc,
    My husband was one of your patient back in 2012 (PGH charity ward). Back then I was always amazed by how nice you are as a doctor, treating less fortunate patient with respect and full of compassion. And even now you never fails to amazed and inspire me with your articles. I hope these new doctors will be like you. I’d like to thank you for inspiring your readers like me with an articles that’s full of heart and compassion. May God bless you and your good heart.

  • I’ve worked at NSSCU (PGH) for 10 years before I was transferred to another unit. Though I can only see you at the lobby and during your rounds I feel, in some way having connection with you having the same passion of helping those NSS patients in the best way possible. I hope to invite you someday as resource speaker in one of our seminars in the DNET (Div. of Nursing Educ. & Training).

    Congratulations Sir!

  • Congratulations Doc Ronibats!

    I’ve read your blog and they are very inspiring and seem very sincere coming from the heart. Hope you will continue to inspire future medical practitioners to remain faithful to their vow and doing it with compassion, sincerity and generosity and not just for the money!

    More power and God bless you!

  • My sincerest congratulations sir…. i am so inspired with most of ur articles posted in this site….how i wish i could meet you in person someday…

  • Congrats sir!
    Thank you for inspiring us, and hope you’d never stop writing.
    I also hope sir every medical student would read your blog.
    Have a happy new year sir!:D

  • Congratulations and heartfelt best wishes to you, my young colleague as you start your neurosurgical career. Indeed all of us who have trained in the Neurosciences at UP-PGH stand on the shoulders of giants. At last, the day for which you have devoted years of study, sleepless nights and long hours in the O.R. has arrived. A bright future awaits you on the horizon. I rest assured that your patients will be in your capable hands. Carpe diem!

  • Just checking Doc if you have any new post. If there is none, I reread your old posts and never seem to tire drawing inspiration and lessons from them. You must be very busy these days but still I hope you continue writing because your writings really inspire.

  • Hi Doc,

    Napadpad ako dito sa blog mo after kong basahin yung post mo sa inquirer titled “It’s a shame!”. Ako pala si Joseph, admin ng Rx Kalinga. Yung eksaktong sitwasyon sa PGH (na nabanggit mo sa iyong post) at sa iba pang public hospitals sa ‘Pinas ang rason kung bakit namin naisipang gumawa ng advocacy para tulungan ang mga mahihirap at maysakit nating kababayan. Maliit na bagay lang katulad ng pag-abot ng pagkain or tulong pinansyal.

    Ito po ang aking mga tanong: may polisiya ba ang PGH na pagbawalan ang outsiders na bigyan ng tulong ang mga pasyente? Kelangan pa ba naming dumaan sa PGH management para dito?

    Thanks in advance at sana ay magkaroon kami ng chance na makilala kayo ng personal sa aming mga activities.

Ronibats.PH Stories of a Filipino neurosurgeon, teacher, and writer