On Dreaming

Mr. Anthony Jose Tamayo, Mr. Alfonso Loreto, Dr. Loureli Carreon Siy, Supt. Hilbert Flor, members of the faculty and administrative staff, parents, guests, Junior Perpetualites, good afternoon.

May I kindly ask the graduates to stand. Today is the culmination of four years of hard work. It is not easy to be a high school student. You are at the stage when adults no longer tolerate your childish habits, and yet when you strive to be independent, they somehow think that you’re not yet old enough to take on certain responsibilities. Add to that the estrogen- and testosterone-fueled changes in your physical appearance and mood, plus the pressure of getting along with your peers while creating your own identity. Finally, you have come to this day.

Today is the last day you’d wear your Junior Perpetualite uniforms, the last day you’d sit beside your friends and enemies as classmates, the last day of being dear students to your likewise dear teachers. I’m sure it had been a long, but short, four years. For that, let us applaud our graduates. Congratulations!

Now, may I ask our Junior Perpetualites to turn around and face the audience. Return the applause for your parents, guardians, mentors, loved ones, and friends, on whose shoulders you stood up to be able to see through four years of secondary education. They worked long hours to pay for your tuition and be able to send you to an esteemed institution. They stood in class to help you understand complicated lessons. They listened to your frustrations and shared your successes. Their mere presence today is testament to their love and genuine concern for you, so please do not forget to be grateful.

Before I ask you to take your seats, I want you to close your eyes. Imagine yourself 20 years from now. I’d like you to be as detailed as possible. Are you a doctor seeing patients in your clinic? A lawyer defending abused women and children? The mayor of Las Piñas figuring out how to solve the city traffic? An actress preparing for her next telenovela? Perhaps you see yourself still studying, or going the path less taken, to be a servant of God or a volunteer in war-stricken Mindanao.

Did you end up marrying your seatmate? How many children would you have had at this time? What kind of house do you live in, and what car do you drive? How many countries would you have visited? Do you see yourself happy and content with your life?

Do you have a clear picture now? Hold on to that thought. That is your dream. Please take your seats.

This afternoon, I would like to talk about dreams, and more important, about making them happen.

When I was a first year high school student, our class was asked, individually, to draw a picture of ourselves 10 years hence. I remember turning to my science textbook, to copy the illustration of a person wearing glasses and a white coat, except I added a stethoscope so that he’d look more like a physician than a mad scientist. Looking back, that was the day I realized that I wanted to become a doctor.

Interestingly, most of my teachers and classmates then thought that I would finish a career in engineering, information technology, or accounting—anything at all related to equations and computations. After all, mathematics had been my strongest subject. I easily got 94s and 95s in Math, and I consistently won medals against all other high school students from the National Capital Region. It seemed that mathematics was the path laid down for me. When I was your age 10 years ago, I asked myself, “Should I  pursue a career in Math, just because I am good at it, knowing that there is this nagging feeling that I wanted to do something else, i.e., heal patients?”

It wasn’t that simple, either.

To those who are not privy to the amazing Baticulon family of UPHR, let me share to you that if UPHR had not offered to provide 100% tuition subsidy when I was a freshman, I probably would not have become a Junior Perpetualite.

I am the eldest of five children, and my engineer father earned somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000 pesos a month then, barely enough for all of us. To this day, I cannot fathom how my parents had been able to put us all through school, all three valedictorians and two rank 1 students, but I do know that my mother has had her share of promissory notes at Dr. Siy’s office.

I remember being the last person in class to afford the prescribed jogging pants for PE, and wanting to be able to read brand new textbooks instead of hand-me-downs from friends in the higher year levels. I only had three polo shirts and two navy blue pants, so I had to make sure that I didn’t put any nasty stains or tears on them. I go to school every day with 20 pesos in my pocket, just enough for tricycle fare and merienda, so buying school supplies for an unplanned project meant skipping a meal or two. It wasn’t easy, but I wasn’t one to complain.

When I entered senior year in high school, it was no surprise that my family wanted me to pursue information technology. This was early 2000, and computers were the big thing, in the same way that nursing had been easy money a couple of years back. If I chose to become an electronics and communications engineer, for example, I could finish the degree in five years, and help my parents earn for my four other siblings.

Clearly, we didn’t have enough money for medical education. I also didn’t have the luxury of time. All I had were: one, my dream; and two, a dead-set determination to fulfill it.

Before long, there had been conversations and career talks with relatives here and abroad, trying to convince me to be pragmatic about my situation. Despite these, I put BS Chemistry and BS Biology in my college application forms. You could say, “Matigas talaga ang ulo ko.” But I knew I was just chasing my dream. I didn’t want to give up.

And because I never did, I stand before you now, as Dr. Ronnie Enriquez Baticulon, Medical Officer III of Philippine General Hospital, Neurosurgeon by 2014.

In March 2001, I was offered top scholarships in both University of the Philippines and De La Salle University. I was also accepted into UP’s Integrated Liberated Arts Medicine program, offered only to 40 high school students nationwide each year. This meant that I would be able to earn my degree in Doctor of Medicine, after only 7 years instead of 9 or 10. And through the generosity of certain individuals, I have received two more scholarships to finance my other expenses in medical school, such as for books and medical supplies.

When I finished medical school in 2008, I asked myself once more, what did I want to do for the rest of my life? I said I wanted to operate on the brain and I wanted to be teacher. I am now on my way to fulfilling both.

How about you? What have you done to fulfill your dream? Are you fulfilling your dream, or somebody else’s? Do you even have a dream at all?

This is the message that I want to leave you this afternoon: I want you to dream of great things, like I did. Then, guided by your Perpetualite values, do your best to make them happen.

Don’t be like other people who still do not know what to do with their lives. You should always have a goal in mind. Be clear on what you want to achieve, and the person you want to be: 5 years, 10 years, 20… 40 years from now.

People may discourage you. Circumstances may prove to be difficult. But have a strong will and a mighty heart. Do not give up. Paolo Coelho was right when he said in the book The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Become the best doctor, lawyer, teacher, politician, accountant, actress, basketball player, entrepreneur that you aspire to be. Never settle for anything less. The greatest injustice that you can do to yourself is to be mediocre. When you know that you have given your best, there will be no room for regret, anger, frustration or shame, no matter what the outcome.

It will be hard, I warn you. Today, I work long hours in the biggest public hospital in the country. I have the burden of trying to be compassionate to patients who have no resources to buy antibiotics and operating room needs, patients who have been abandoned by relatives, and patients who have yet to accept the terminal nature of their disease. On an ordinary day, you’d find me tired, hungry, sleepy, and wondering when I would be able to take a bath. But I’m content, and I’m happy, because I don’t see myself doing anything else.

Your are Junior Perpetualites. I am a Junior Perpetualite. If I had been able to do it, so can you. The world awaits. Make your loved ones proud.

Once again, congratulations and good afternoon.

3 comments

  1. 🙂 I could imagine you delivering this speech in PICC and…. goosebumps. 🙂

  2. Hello doc! Thanks for writing this post! It really motivated me to study for NMAT 🙂 My goal is to get 99+ po so i can enter UPCM (hopefully). I have always wanted to meet you in person po. Cuz i think you really are a great person!!! God bless you always doc!

    • We never aspire for greatness, just the best version of who we are. Who know, I might see you around. Say hello 🙂

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