First Person | Thoughts of a frontliner


Be informed. “Overwhelmed” is an ordinary, everyday condition – it refers to the number of patients we see. But times have changed – we now see less patients, but we are engulfed by the consequences brought by this pandemic.

Overwhelmed. This is where our health care stands, where it has always been, even without COVID.

We, as a tertiary regional hospital under the DOH, cater to the most unfortunate ones. We see those who cannot afford to have a private consult, or buy and maintain their medications; people who will wait – choosing first to put food on their family’s table – until such time they can no longer bear it, and will tell you: “subong lang ko doc nakakadto, kay wla guid bilin sa balay kag wala guid kwarta.” (I couldn’t come until now because there was no one who could stay at home and there was just no money.)

And them and you knowing, that sometimes, it’s too late. Some would even tell you, “wala guid plite, doc” – coming in from farflung areas. (I had no money for transport.) These people rely on social services, on Philhealth. They almost always want to seek help. But poverty was/is a hindrance even for this. And yes, it kills you.

They struggled then, had no privileges, more so in our current state with COVID.

It kills you so much more, to see them defeated and lose hope.

My heart breaks especially for our cancer patients. Since we went on lockdown last April, we had patients who were lost to follow up.

We had patients scheduled for operations, but these were cancelled. What can they do? What can we do?

In ordinary days it was/is hard for them. Without transportation, and support, it was the most difficult of times.
I cannot imagine their dilemma – it choosing and wanting to live, but not knowing how.

They had a fighting chance – but they are losing the battle.

When the quarantine eased, some of them came back for treatment after months of break. And medically, you knew what was coming.

Seeing them again, the pain in their eyes, the disappointment, after you tell them, “nay, tay..sorry guid, kilanlan ta gd liwat magpa CTscan kag labs.” (I’m sorry but we have to do another CTscan and new lab tests.)

Nay,tay..sorry guid, kinahanglan ta anay magpa swab test antis ma operahan.” (We need a swab test before the operation.)

Nay, tay, sorry guid..indi kna kaya operahan..naglapta nagid.” (I’m sorry, but it’s too late to operate; the cancer has spread too much.)

You dont even know how to explain the circumstances.

If only one can be speechless – i would choose to be. If only one can be silent – i would. Because you know, in your heart, no words can ease the real situation.

I cannot in my heart and conscience, say: “nan, sala mo na.” (This is your fault.)

These are what we are fighting for every single day.

COVID is not the only battle we are facing. We battle for all our patients, for all Filipinos – who were deprived and forgotten.

During my previous COVID rotation, we were informed by a family that a patient I operated on, before any of this happened, ended his life. He was already undergoing chemo. The last time I saw him, he smiled, as he always does.

I was shocked. I was devastated. Saddened. Angered.

I may not know the circumstances why he chose to. I may not know what made him do it – whatever it was. Please know that I prayed for you, to rest easy. And I prayed for all the others, too.

The family sent us a photo of him, wearing a mask, in their house, holding a manila paper – thanking each and everyone of us. I cried.

And now, here we are. Where every public health care service was/is limited – and now, even more restricted. Where every health care sector is scrambling – do we have to choose whom to help?

These people we see every day, where do they go, now? I do not have an answer. Maybe you can help me out with this one.

When the outside of the confines of hospitals are not controlled – and we, manning the forts, dwindle and are left to choose – we are doomed.

It is not only COVID – but it made everything: hardest. DO NOT MAKE US CHOOSE WHO DESERVES TO LIVE. Because neither of us, wants to hear and utter these words: “maam, sir..sorry guid..wala lugar“. (Sorry, we don’t have space.)

Yes, this is our reality. Hardened by times. We are crying and screaming, for us to be heard – not just because we are tired; not because we are heroes – but because we know we cannot help and accommodate every one – both in private and government hospitals.

That is why we are making our voices louder: for you, for every patient, for each and every Filipino. Because every one of us deserves a chance.

We are only recording the COVID fatalities – and the number is still rising.

But we are losing count of all the others. Should we stop counting, then?

When those of you on the outside fail, we will fail, too. May you always remember, lest you forget, the people we put into power – for they were the ones who turned their backs on us.

Do not treat our colleageus as part of the statistics. Do not treat the Filipino people as mere numbers. YOU are stealing BILLIONS. While THOUSANDS OF US, are left to DIE.

Praying for each and every one.  (

*The author is a doctor at Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital

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