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



“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I am not supposed to be in Med. While most people – I, at times – say I shouldn’t be a doctor, the real reason is because I couldn’t.

Although I already knew since first year high school that I wanted to be a physician, my inclination was never towards the life sciences. I despised my biology class; I hated having to memorize every italicized and bold printed term in the book just to pass my teacher’s verbatim exams. I am more of a Math-Chem-Physics student, preferring to memorize a little and derive everything else. Add to that my heightening interest in the literary arts, and it will be clear why I shouldn’t have attended Med school.

Statistics show that for a Filipino family of six to live above the poverty line, its monthly income must at least be fifteen thousand pesos. That is the exact monthly salary of my father, and we’re a family of seven. During my last year in high school, my uncles and aunts repeatedly tried to convince me to take up a course related to computers. Any course at all (Thank heavens the Nursing boom wouldn’t happen till two years later). That’s where the money is, they kept on saying, incessantly reminding me of the need to earn dollars in order to financially assist my parents in the soonest possible time. It was I against almost everybody else, so I couldn’t have attended Med school.

Given the circumstances, I would only be a doctor if I either got into UP’s seven-year Integrated Liberal Arts-Medicine program (Intarmed), or obtained a scholarship grant.

As it turned out, I got both… and I earned not just one financial grant, but two.

Life had been good to me. Here I am: two days away from dissecting my anatomy group’s cadaver, five years from taking the Hippocratic Oath and appending M.D. to my name. I pay no tuition at all, and two thousand six hundred pesos awaits me in my bank account every second Friday of the month. I breezed through my Math and Physical Science subjects, capping my pre-Med years with the birth of a semi-monthly column at

In fact, life continues to be good to me. Just last summer, I had been worrying how to pay for my dormitory fees beginning this semester; little did I know that one of my maternal aunts would hand me a bank check worth twenty thousand pesos before I went back to Manila. Then last week, when I was frantically searching for someone who could lend me money to buy books (My scholarships do provide semestral book subsidies, but how many Med books can you purchase with two thousand pesos?), I received news that the College of Medicine would be awarding me seven thousand pesos because of my academic performance.

I am Paulo Coelho’s shepherd Santiago, in search of my personal legend while the whole universe is conspiring with me to achieve my dream.

Through the years, I have come to believe that part of the magic emanates from my I-want-to-be-this-to-hell-with-the-consequences attitude. I admit I am stubborn that way, but that is how I learned to believe in myself and in what I do. And it works! I know what I want and I am unbelievably getting to it.

I have chosen to be a doctor; the only thing left for me to do is to understand my choice. (Now we’re talking Matrix and I am The One, haha!)

I don’t see myself opening skulls to recover the cost of my medical education, getting stuck inside a high-rise hospital 24/7 or doing commercials differentiating a woman’s vagina from her external genitalia. All the good things that have happened since my being an Iskolar ng Bayan have made me realize that neither money nor prestige will make me happy.

I am actually considering life as a community physician, hoping to practice my craft in rural areas where doctors have never set foot and where patients pay for medical services with harvested vegetables and native chickens. It will be devoid of all the hassles of city life – simple, but fulfilling nonetheless. I expect every reaction possible, ranging from “Naks, ang dakila mo naman!” to “Ano? Mag-scarecrow ka na lang!” but I will never forgive the person who tells me “Tsk, sasayangin mo ang talino mo….”

Some say this is just a phase – that I would eventually change my mind and aspire to be a specialist in America like most UP Med graduates. I don’t know, but this is the key reason that comes to mind whenever an unknown force seems to work its way to me, to open doors of opportunity and leave me asking, “Why me?”

I think Somebody up there knows I’m going to be a helluva good doctor.

And I believe I will be.

Five years. Let’s wait and see.

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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  • …and here you are now, opening skulls and will probably earn the entire cost of your medical education in one OR. πŸ™‚ People do change..

  • Hi po sir Ronibats!

    Nalaman ko po ang blog ninyo nung na feature kayo sa show ni Jessica Soho and from then on I was really amazed by the story of your family.

    I myself also aspires to be a doctor, I will be incoming first year med student this academic year. Your experiences as a medical student and as a doctor inspires me a lot. Thank you for sharing your stories πŸ™‚ God Bless!

  • To be a Doctor is really a calling. Even one can afford it, however, if passion isn’t present in a person, he/she won’t make a change as a Doctor in the future.

  • Just to let you know that you are a source of inspiration for me, having forgone medical studies for more urgent tasks during my time. I now try to pass this on to my daughter who is in medical school. I pray that she will draw inspiration from you too. I hope you continue to write and inspire others be a good neurosurgeon..I wish you all the best.

  • Doctor, you inspired me a lot. To pursue a dream that has been hidden through the years. 5 years. Let’s wait and see.

  • Super amazing, thank you po for writing and this for me po serves as one of my lights while I myself go through the long and winding journey of medicine.

  • And look at you right now Doc Roni, a sought after biochem teacher, a talented writer, a people and family oriented bachelor and a great pediatric neurosurgeon with everything in between…
    I am a fan since my nursing days and really waited for the Biochem Lecture in Topnotch. Thank you for inspiring me Doc! Hope I can make it this Sept 2018 PLE.
    -Your NOW student and fan from Cambridge, Jeff

  • My admiration for you is getting and bigger and bigger, one blog at a time. ? I am silently and hopefully rooting for the day where I can stand beside you and have a picture together. Thank you, Doc. Thank you so much. ?

      • Doc, next year po college na ako. I still have more or less seven years. I’ve been studying during this whole quarantine to prepare myself for med school. You are still my inspiration po. I want to be a good surgeon like you and sana balang araw po ma-assist kita in one of your surgeries. It’d be a dream come true, Doc.

  • Wow that was inspiring. I want to be a doctor also and i wish i had that intelligence just like you but i will just trust God and work hard for all my dreams. Hello, i’m an incoming sen. high students palang but i’m sure that i really want to be a physician who gives a medical care for everyone, yes i’m young not that ready for college but i’m so excited. I wish, somehow i could be accepted to intarmed program of UP :((

  • “I don’t see myself opening skulls” and now, you’re a neurosurgeon! you’ll never know where you might end up talaga. Kainspire ka po :>

  • This is so inspiring po doc, I aspire to be a doctor but I hope the universe is on my side too because I also don’t have the means. And I wanted to be like you who has a doctor’s genuine heart to serve and help his patients and not only aiming for money nor prestige.

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