Beyond Medicine


Dermatologist Dr. May Desquitado-Tranquilino recognizes a few of her colleagues and alumni of the UP College of Medicine who took the path less traveled – having taken up other interests, enriching their lives, and making their mark beyond Medicine

By May Desquitado-Tranquilino, M.D.

We became physicians 25 years ago. Most of us dedicated our lives to caring for our patients. Some made their mark in medical-related fields. Others opted for a different, non-medical path. Others were not given a choice but they persisted and made the most of their limitations.

The Author

Whatever our circumstances were, it led us to who we are now. Being a doctor is fulfilling work but sometimes, one yearns for something more, something that enriches one’s life, something beyond medicine.

Dodo Banzon, M.D

Dodo Banzon, M.D.

Dodo’s interest is in nation building and improvement of our global society. He joined a non-government organization (NGO) right after finishing medical school. He served as a physician to rural and urban poor communities. After a few years, he realized that responsive and empowering government policies were the most crucial treatment for the poor. He realized that if government service delivery, regulatory and financing policies responded to the needs of the people, then being sick will not be a financial catastrophe, and accessing health care services will not be a burden.

He took three semesters of law studies in Ateneo to have a better understanding of how laws and policies were crafted and implemented in the country. And as a scholar of the UK government, he completed his Masters in Science in Health Policy, Planning and Financing from the London School of Economics and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

He later joined the UP College of Medicine faculty where he began to advice the Committee on Health, Department of Health, PhilHealth, and other government bodies to revise, refine, introduce, and improve health laws and policies. His work on medicine access policies paved the way for then Health Secretary Alberto “Quasi” Romualdez to appoint him as Vice President for Health Finance Policy and Services of PhilHealth in 2000. He later became President and CEO of Philhealth (2011-2013) then he moved on to work at the World Bank, World Health Organization, and Asian Development Bank.

His work at the ADB focuses on helping to make health insurance universal, reducing out of pocket payments, making medicines accessible, providing primary care, and assuring quality of health care services in the Philippines and in countries in Western and Northern Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

His work usually frustrates and even depresses as you see problems lingering and obvious policy solutions not adopted. But it is always fulfilling, always enriching. Even small and incremental policy changes can make huge differences in the lives of many. And every day is a learning experience, of learning new things and gaining a deeper understanding of people from all over the world.

He has been conferred the Outstanding Alumnus awards from UP and his High School, Hua Ming, for his commendable work in health care.

Pip Padilla, M.D.Pip Padilla, M.D.

Pip is our very own Faculty Regent.

After graduation from medical school, he took the path less-traveled by a trained physician. He was one of the pioneer transferees from the UP Visayas Iloilo City campus to the Miagao campus, where he worked as a university physician and faculty member.

He studied the Japanese language and culture and eventually earned his PhD (Medical Science) in tropical medicine at Nagasaki University. After his stint in Japan, he moved to the US National Institutes of Health in Washington, DC as a postdoctoral fellow in cell biology and biochemistry under the mentorship of Dr. Martha Vaughan and Dr. Joel Moss. He also became a visiting professor of molecular epidemiology at Nagasaki University.

The years of living in the political and cultural center of the US and in one of only two cities in Japan that was decimated by an atomic bomb formed his views on internationalization of higher education, innovations in science and technology, and foreign arts and culture appreciation.

He took his oath as UP Faculty Regent (2015-16) under President Alfredo E. Pascual. As a regent, he got a bird’s eye view of how the UP system worked – how the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) actually stood in the middle of UP as a service hospital, how the different colleges interacted, how the different campuses differed and functioned. It was exhausting shuttling from one campus to another for consultations and traveling to attend all the graduation ceremonies. Despite all this, he considers his two years as Regent as the most memorable and happiest years of his life in UP.

It opened his eyes to the plight of the younger campuses: UP Koronadal, UP Baler, UP Palo (all under UP SHS), UP Pampanga (UP Diliman), UP Mindanao, and UP Cebu. How these were established with the purest and noblest of intentions, only to be overshadowed financially and logistically by the older campuses in UP Diliman, Los Banos, and Manila. Championing these smaller regional CUs has become his mantra – addressing inequities in the distribution of UP resources.

After his mandate as Faculty Regent, he now meets with fellow educators within ASEAN and discusses strategies on how to move forward with higher education reforms in the context of national development and globalization.

Lora Garcia-Tansengco, M.D.

In 2008, Lora was 44 years old. Crossing the finish line of a race was an item in her bucket list so she decided to start training under Coach Rio de la Cruz. In 2009, after she ran the 5K and the 10K, she ran the 21K in the Singapore Marathon.

After running the 21K, she decided it was double or nothing. She ran three full marathons in 2010: the Hong Kong Marathon in February, the Bull Runner Dream Marathon in May, and the ING New York Marathon in November. Lora also added the BMW Berlin Marathon and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon to her running resume. What started as a simple item to cross off her bucket list had transformed into a life-changing pursuit. She trains before work and after work.

Lora Garcia-Tansengco, M.D.

In 2013, Lora accompanied her husband to his first Ironman 70.3 race in Cebu, but found that, while she was happy to offer her support, being on the sidelines did not feel as satisfying. At this time, she found training for three disciplines to be “outrageous,” but she changed her mind after a chance encounter.

She met Coach Kaye Lopez with her Fit+ Academy students who were all doing the triathlon. She was told that training for a triathlon was actually easier on the body than training for a full marathon. Lora heeded the coach’s advice, and soon found herself as one of Fit+ Academy’s students.

There was, however, one roadblock in her way to being a triathlete: she was terrified of the open sea. Lora then sought the help of Mr. Nonoy Basa, a professional swim coach. She started from not being able to cross a 25-meter pool without stopping, to finishing a 1.5 kilometer open water swim.

Why does she do it? The more logical reasons are for good health, less stress, less depression over getting old, and avoidance of obesity. The other practical but irrational answers are that she can eat whatever she wants, wear that little black dress and look good in it, and wear a two-piece bikini with just a few forgivable bulges and cellulite.

Jun Ruiz, M.D.

Jun Ruiz, M.D.

As a writer, Jun has written medical textbook chapters and journal articles since his Gastroenterology fellowship days in Washington D.C.

Traveling to explore new lands and learn different cultures is one of Jun’s passions. The opportunity of writing travelogues for magazines presented itself in 2014. Dr. Rafael Castillo, who is a publisher of several health and lifestyle magazines, invited him to share his travel experiences in the section Wander Lust of the Health and Lifestyle Magazine, after learning that he loves traveling.

Dr. Castillo already knew that Jun was a very good writer, after working with him in the Editorial Board of the Philippine Journal of Internal Medicine. He had written editorials and commentaries, including an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the mid-2000s on the phenomenon of doctors becoming nurses – the M.D.- R.N.s. Outside serious medical writing, Jun has written on diverse subjects that include fitness, music, politics, and social issues.

In writing his first travel feature, he had no idea where to begin, having no formal lessons in this genre. He reviewed older travel articles but he wanted to develop his own style. He wanted the story-telling to be more cinematic by providing a personal plot to establish a connection to the place to captivate the readers, like they were watching a short movie. This style has worked for Jun, given the positive feedback he received from readers, cowriters, and friends.

His initial travelogue was on Switzerland, titled “I Dreamt of Switzerland”, which was published in the June 2014 issue. The feature highlighted his childhood dream of visiting this beautiful country, and his Swiss family vacation with his brother Robert’s family. His other personal features include: reminiscing his Gastroenterology roots and returning to Washington D.C.; and poignantly leaving his heart in San Francisco and a very successful practice at Kaiser Permanente to join his family in the Philippines.

Writing gave Jun a sense of fulfillment in becoming a well-rounded individual. By sharing his personal experiences and well-researched tips with his readers, he was able to help them enjoy their trips better and savor la dolce vita. He has written diverse travelogues, from Rome, London, New Zealand, and his hometown of Iligan City.

Fred Hawson, M.D.Fred Hawson, M.D.

It was sometime in the last week of December of 2006 when Fred decided that he wanted to write his thoughts about the movies he watched. He liked watching movies and he liked writing, so he thought it may be a good idea to start his own movie review blog.

His reviews back then were very short, usually just one paragraph. Eventually, as he watched more movies and wrote about each one, he got to notice more aspects of the films and he wrote about them in more detail. Later on, he also began to write about the concerts and the theater plays he watched, so he started a separate blog about live events he attended.

With the advent of Facebook, the regularity by which he wrote his movie reviews caught the attention of other people, who would invite him to guest post on their blogs. In 2012, he was invited by local online news organization Rappler to contribute his review articles on their website. It was very exciting for him to see his movie, theater and concert reviews on their very popular site with his own byline.

In June of 2013, he was invited by media giant, ABS-CBN Online, to contribute his articles on their website. Knowing the reach of this online news website, it felt unreal to him that his words could now be read by a bigger and even more diverse audience. There were occasions when his reviews would be quoted for publicity purposes in press releases and posters.

The website has published almost 500 of his review articles about movies, concerts and theater shows. Although financial compensation is minimal, the chance to have his articles read by a much bigger online audience gave him more than enough satisfaction in this sideline.

His reviews of local theater productions have also caught the attention of Philstage, an organization composed of most major theater companies in the country. In 2015, he was invited to sit as one of the jurors of the Gawad Buhay awards, the local equivalent of the Tony Awards. Getting to be in the same panel with all the theater personalities and reviewers and discussing the best achievements in theater with them is an opportunity he never expected to result out of his blogging.

Bambi Arroyo-Coronel, M.D.Bambi Arroyo-Coronel, M.D.

Bambi creates beautiful, customized, embroidered Spanish shawls, specifically called mantones. These are big shawls that encompass the wearer and keep them nice and warm, like a hug. They typically cover the whole back and the tips reach the end of each arm when they are positioned crossed over the bust.

The history of these shawls is fascinating. The origin of the embroidered shawl is in China but it was Manila, the capital of the Spanish colony in the Philippines, that gave its name to this shawl. During this period, dating back to the fifteenth century, these shawls were shipped via the Manila Galleons to New Spain (Veracruz, Mexico) and then to Seville, Spain in Europe. It was called Manton de Manila.

The idea of designing mantones came in December 2013 when she was gifted a black shawl with flowers. It was pretty but it didn’t appeal to her as the flowers on the shawl were not her favorite. So the concept of designing a shawl with a woman’s favorite flower, embroidered with varying designs depending on the wearer, was born.

The shawls that Bambi uses are made of rayon and cotton thread, with or without appliques in silk, with moderate to heavy embroidery. It measures 72 x 30 inches and it takes 4 to 5 days to make.

After a design is chosen for a woman, the drawing is carefully transferred on the cloth and painstakingly machine embroidered. Lastly, hem fringes are added. It usually takes one month to make a customized heavily-embroidered shawl.

Making shawls as an art makes her happy, creative, and enthusiastic as she awaits the finished product. She enjoys seeing how the shawl conforms to each woman’s personality.

Her beautiful mantones have been showcased in several successful exhibits.

Bong Marfa, M.D.

Bong paints beautiful watercolor pieces.

Medicine was not Bong’s personal choice. He wanted to take up Fine Arts because, even as a young boy, drawing was something he loved to do. He had even gifted some of his siblings with framed portraits. However, his parents wanted a doctor in the family so he obliged their wishes. He never regretted taking Medicine as it gave him the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people.

In September 1993, he was involved in a vehicular accident which rendered him disabled and incapable of completing the Pediatrics residency training program. It was a very painful time for him as he had already invested much of himself into preparing for his medical career.

Bong Marfa, M.D.

As a result of the accident, he underwent and is still undergoing therapy. As years passed, he realized that God had other plans for him. Part of his occupational therapy program was to take up painting lessons with Prof. Arnold Esguerra. He found himself doing what he always loved to do and learning much in the process. He may not yet have the freedom to choose his subjects but he hopes to someday. He is working on fully expressing his thoughts and feelings through his works.

He has had several successful exhibits and, thanks to friends and colleagues, it has given him a source of income. More than that, it has given him a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Although the accident robbed him of his chance to be a doctor, this new life will hopefully prove to be just as fulfilling.

Ernest Caritativo, M.D.

Ernest Caritativo, M.D.

Ernest is a very talented comic book writer-artist. He may have studied to be a doctor, but drawing has always been his first love. He dreamed of illustrating stories and making comic books for a living, but it was only recently that he started to pursue this dream.

In 2010 he wrote, drew, and published “The Marvelous MegaWoman”, a comic book about a superhero loosely based on local ‘megastar’ Sharon Cuneta. The book was well received and was praised for its artwork, wit, and humor. He has also been drawing for a number of US-based independent comic book publishers. But he says his dream would be to someday work for Marvel or DC Comics, the top comic book publishers today.

He has been lucky enough to get a foot in Marvel’s door. When a talent rep for Marvel Comics was in Manila looking for comic book talents, Ernest was one of those who submitted portfolios and got called in for an interview. He was complimented on his “old-school yet modern” art style and his solid storytelling skills. This was the first time that he was getting first hand feedback from an industry insider that his art was good enough for Marvel/DC.

He has been contacted by Marvel’s talent editor and is presently in the process of “auditioning” to get hired. He says getting noticed was the easy part; the hard part is actually getting hired. Right now he is working on further improving his skills so that he will eventually be good enough to finally get his dream job.

May Desquitado-Tranquilino, M.D.

May Desquitado-Tranquilino, M.D.

May started knitting in December 2015. She has always been interested in learning this craft but there was no one to teach her. With the help of YouTube tutorials, she taught herself to knit and has now finished several projects.

Knitting is relaxing and is a great way to relax at the end of the day. Each pattern she chooses to knit gives her a chance to learn new techniques.

She prefers knitting socks and shawls. Store-bought socks never fit her well. Since learning to knit, she now makes her own socks for a better fit. Shawls are her favorite fashion accessory. Shawls obviously take a longer time to knit but she enjoys every step of the process. Other items she likes to knit are cowls or infinity scarves. The best thing about knitting her own things is that her items are unique. No one else will have the exact same accessory.

May usually works on 2 to 4 projects at the same time. When she gets bored with one project, she does the others. Finishing a project is always exciting. It means she can cast on a new project.

She has taught some of her Phi sorority sisters to knit and she enjoyed sharing the knowledge.

The internet, especially Facebook and Instagram, provided a way for May to learn more about knitting. From knitting groups to patterns, knitting supplies to yarn source, it opened up a whole new world.

She showcases her work in her Facebook and Instagram pages (@knitsbymay). It gives her immense satisfaction and fulfillment when her work is appreciated by friends and other followers of her pages. Occasionally, she is asked if she sells her work or if she accepts commissioned orders. It’s a huge compliment that people would like to buy her work, she says, but unfortunately, she is not. But, who knows, maybe someday?

November 2017 Health and Lifestyle

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