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My beloved god-daughter Tintin

‘TWAS your mom Rivs who told me that I’m a godfather to a doctor—and it’s you pursuing medical practice in that land of the not so puissant greenback. After all those 24 birthdays of yours, add two dozen Christmases past—include the token pakimkim sum—I’m neck-deep indebted to you, perdoneme por favor hija mia.

Don’t you come home and dun me. I’ll take that as grave threats, my dear,

Somebody did proxy for me at your baptism, so I was told. The rite could have gone zany had a priest asked me to renounce Satan, Belial, Mammon, Astaroth, or any of those diabolical oafs who shower temptations galore to every willing and witting sinner. That fairy tale author Oscar Wilde averred ages back, “I can resist everything except temptations.”

Believe you me, I might have taken exception to renouncing Mammon, honest. Soy un llano jardinero pero puedo pase muchos dinero.

But I’m not about to nudge you to come home to these god-forsaken islands where Mammon reigns supreme and the Roman Catholic faith is an alibi that can be renounced at Mammon’s cloven feet, hooves, or tentacles. Pinoys are generally a soft-hearted people—karamihan nga sa amin ay pusong Mammon.

Something like 5,400 Filipino medical doctors have left these islands in recent years. They’re in that sacred quest for greenbacks, greener pastures, and the usual green card. A lot of ‘em are seeing green, yes, it’s the color of bile and envy. In these medically left-out parts, a doctor has to tend to about 26,000 Filipinos stalked mostly by heart and brain attacks, cancers and malignant tumors, a host of crippling lifestyle ailments, the usual pulmonary tuberculosis, obesity, creditors, and the expanded value-added tax. The latter’s most lethal.

Of course, taxes can be lumped under terminal diseases. Death or debt and taxes. We’ve grown fond of these certainties of life in these islands.

We’re glad that most of those docs—rhymes with crocs—left as curses. I mean, nurses. Oh, I really am sorry for such lapsus linguae. It’s an ailment that has afflicted the better judgment of the incumbent head of state-- the infection is spreading and I must have caught it. We’ve not turned up a vaccine or serum to reverse its dreadful effects.

Say, the pay is equally good for nurses out there. They don’t run the risk of malpractice suits for bloopers or boners on the job, including lapses in judgment. They don’t have to take tough-to-pass exams before medical practice. It somehow sounds like a cop-out choice for a medical practitioner—tough challenges aren’t for timid souls and weak-willed spirits anyway.

About eight district hospitals in Isabela province have closed shop sometime this month—the nurses and doctors have flown off probably to distant shores, more likely to the U.S. mainland to honor and give full meaning the “Hippocratic Oath.” Umm, isn’t an oath another word for “curse”?

Why, a name like Hippocrates must be a cocktail mix of hippopotamus and Socrates, it could have been conjugated as something better-sounding. Say, Sippopotamus. Isn’t that wonderful a word? A “Sippopotamic Oath” won’t ever be mispronounced for that Hebrew word for “godless.” Why, a Mammon devout can’t be godless.

What has begun in Isabela is slowly sweeping through other parts of these islands. Epidemic. Pestilence. Plague. Contagion. There has to be a sublime-sounding medical nomenclature for that but we’re at a loss for apt words.

We’ll get by. I don’t know how. But we will sans invasive medical intervention and cursing, oops, I mean, nursing.

Let me assure you, my beloved god-daughter that we can adapt to any crisis or emergency. We’re good at brinkmanship. We’ve boned up for aeons on making do with what we’ve got and coping every which way it takes.

Now where are we? Umm, we have began conscripting surgeons that hang-out at cockpits-- they’re quite deft at cleaning and suturing cut-up fowls, they’re a delight to watch as they do in-situ operations. Look, no anesthesiologist needed.

We’re also setting sights on enlisting the nation’s army of veterinarians— they ought to get a knack for trying their curative skills on the highest form of animal. For a change.

Too, we have quack ‘duck-tors’ aplenty!

Rest assured we can get by. The Filipino can.

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