Do We Deserve This Kind of Graduation?

This article contains a few Filipino words from the interviewee but his message can be understood nevertheless. Original title of the article: “Deserve ba namin ‘yung ganitong graduation?”

Mark Sahagun, 22, felt relieved following the announcement of Mayor Isko Moreno suspending the classes from March 9 to March 15, 2020. Just a few days after defending his architectural thesis, a break is what he needed the most. Little did he know that the class suspension is only the start. As days passed, the government announced community quarantines measures, lockdowns, and eventually affecting their graduation at the PICC supposedly last May 5.

The Start of His Future

Before the lockdown took place on the midnight of March 15 to April 14, Mark went back to his hometown in Laguna. At that time, he was still optimistic that they would have their graduation rites on May 5. But with the continuous extension of community quarantine measures after the lockdown, his dreams of graduating at the PICC did not happen. “Gusto namin na ma-experience ‘yung PICC eh. Isa sa bucket list mo ‘yun na maglakad ka sa PICC.” he stated.

However, the pandemic did not only affect his May 5 graduation but the start of his future as well. While in Laguna, Mark tried looking for jobs through JobStreet and he realized how little his chances are to land a job because he is in a province. He was accepted for a job in Manila but he rejected it. He had a job once when he was still an undergraduate student and he used it as his basis. “Yung ino-offer kasi sa akin lower than the salary [of my previous job]. ‘Yung travel, sobrang layo din. ‘Yung compensation, hindi din okay kasi mas mababa siya compared dun sa first job ko.” He also considered the safety of his family and himself. 

Mark mentioned that during this pandemic, the design industry felt smaller. “Sobrang limited talaga ‘yung possible work. Sobrang swerte mo, if makahanap ka ngayon, and maswerte ka or sobrang galing mo talaga to the point na kahit hindi sila opening, bubuksan nila yung slot for you kasi they want you na mapunta and ma-hire sa kanila,” he stated. “‘Yun lang ‘yung isa sa mga factors na sa tingin ko na iha-hire ka ngayong pandemic.”

With his future looking uncertain and nothing left to do, Mark started his own business, Plaintaire PH, a plants store offering air plants with holders. He felt grateful that amidst the circumstances that constrained him to go outside, he still found an opportunity to help his family financially through an activity that he finds joy in.  

Is This It?

Before their supposed graduation on May 5, there were talks that it would be virtual graduation and since it’s a new thing, they were clueless about what they should do. Some of the graduates took pictures because they thought that the administration will ask for their photos to be inputted on the presentation. However, they did not. They conducted the virtual graduation last September 30 and it looked like it was an ending credit of a film.

Mark spent about six years in PUP because he had to retake Design 10 and that is why he can’t help but be dismayed. “Sa totoo lang in-open ko ‘to kay Ma’am Lutap, “[Ma’am,] deserve ba namin ‘yung ganitong graduation?” Mark shared. ”Sabi din naman niya, we cannot force na magkaroon ng physical graduation kasi nga pandemic. But sa tagal na tinagal niyo sa PUP, hindi ni’yo deserve yung ganoong virtual graduation.” Mark does not degrade the recognition that they received through the virtual graduation but he believes that they deserve better than that. “Meron pa kaming mas dapat na ma-receive na better recognition kasi degree ‘yung tinapos namin.”

They would have been happier if the virtual graduation was a temporary one, Mark suggested, and there would be a real one next year or when the circumstances allow it. They were willing to wait as long as it is in a “deserving ambiance, deserving ritual, [and] deserving rites.” But, the virtual graduation that occurred is already “the graduation”. It’s done. He now shifted his focus on his future.

We All Are In Different Pacings

Currently, Mark focuses on Plantaire PH but still, he wants to use his degree. “Itong lockdown nag open siya sa akin para matulungan ko yung family ko dito sa bahay. Also, na-experience ko din gumawa ng sarili kong business,” he concludes. “It’s one in a million chance na pwede mong i-grab na hanggang ngayon, existing si Plantaire, existing ‘yung business ko and masaya ako dun sa ginagawa ko. But I don’t want to leave my degree kasi siyempre sayang naman ‘yung six years na ginugol ko sa PUP.” He wants to take a risk next year, 2021—if transportation is readily accessible—and look for a job in Manila. Though he knows not to pressure himself too much on finding a job related to his degree but rather, just doing things that he is happy with and is making progress in.

“May kanya-kayang pacing talaga lalo na ngayon pandemic… Keep striving. Keep working basta as long as nagkakaroon kayo ng progress. Its a good thing pero ‘wag din kakalimutan ‘yung mga na-una niyong dreams and in time, magagawa niyo din sila after this pandemic.”

Hospitals in the Eyes of a Mother, and a Cancer Patient

This article contains a few Filipino words from the interviewees but their message can be understood nevertheless.

In this article, narratives of two women who had experiences in hospital environments were shared: one is a mother of a 3-year old, and the second was a patient herself. (1) Jessa Roque-Medina was an intern for Philippine General Hospital and mother of Saab, a three-year-old who was diagnosed with Billary Atresia. On the other hand, (2) Irish Jain, a 20-year-old who had been cancer-free for 3 years now. 

It is not surprising information that spaces inside a hospital, in general, feel cold. It is mainly due to the blank walls and eerie silence that fills most spaces. After spending some time inside hospitals due to chemotherapy and frequent checkups, Irish confessed that there was a time that she had been scared to go to a hospital. She feels like someone’s giving a death sentence somewhere whenever she goes inside, and that thought makes her uncomfortable. Even the seats that lined up on both sides of the corridor—where she had to sit for about 2 hours to see her doctor—add to her growing discomfort as those seats become chilly over time and they make your back ache.

Having gone to India for 18 months for a liver transplant for Saab, Mrs. Medina shared that whenever they are en-route to the hospital from the hotel, as soon as Saab sees the facade of the hospital, she starts to cry. She observed that her three-year-old daughter had developed “trauma sa mga taong naka-scrub suits.” Recently, she noticed that Saab’s reacting differently whenever she is enclosed with a few people in a room (i.e Mrs. Medina, Saab, and someone unfamiliar). Currently, in Manila, Saab starts to plead to her mom to go home whenever she sees the building of the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI). Even as a three-year old, Saab had learned to associate pain to hospitals and people wearing white, but it’s still early to know if it had other impacts on her mental health too.

Private and Public

Although hospitals, in general, feel unwelcoming, unfortunately, as Mrs. Medina concluded, “It always goes and boils down to budget. How much are you willing to pay; that is the exact treatment you’ll get—not medical—pero that’s the exact thing you will get in a hospital.” As a former intern at PGH, she witnessed how beds, beddings, and air conditioners are always inadequate to the crowd of people wanting to get treated. But, she is aware that the environment isn’t exactly the main priority for public hospitals. 

Irish once had a check-up at Philippine Children’s Medical Center last 2017, and one of the reasons why she did not have her chemotherapy there was because of the environment. She described that the hospital is currently under renovation during that time, and the building looks so old. The walls were not blank white walls, but they do not have paint at all. The doctors in the hospital do not have their personal clinics; they were inside a huge room, and the only thing that separates them is curtains. The patients of other doctors were visible, and once it’s your turn, you had to check every curtain to look for your doctor. Although she liked her doctor at PCMC, the environment itself did not make her feel that she can get treated well. Hence, she chose Mary Mediatrix Medical Center, a private hospital near her home, to receive chemotherapy.

Both women mentioned that they feel that they are well-taken care of if they are in a private hospital, but they still feel uneasy inside a hospital.

Coping Up

No one wants to go to a hospital, or even spent a lot of time there, but that is neither an excuse nor a reason to not design an environment that eases psychological tension for patients and their family. 

Saab and her parents had come to the point where they spent six months straight in the hospital in India, and Mrs. Medina suggests that having rooms designed with a homey feeling would be helpful. She also mentioned that accent walls are great additions too. In the past,  Mrs. Medina had her check-ups at St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City and she compared it to a 5-star hotel. Almost everything feels like a hotel, from the chandeliers to the consultation areas of the doctors. But underneath these un-hospital-like environments that make the spaces feel less traumatizing is the cost of treatment. “Siyempre they cannot give a first-class and world-class treatment kapag hindi enough ang pumapasok na income,” she stated.

Having spent time in a hospital when she was 17 years old, Irish highlights the importance of community to her well-being. She did her treatment at a private hospital owned by Catholics (which is good for her because she’s a Catholic as well), and because of the tight-knit religious community, she became close with the nurses. But she suggests having a common room wherein patients can interact and support one another in each other’s healing journeys. Also, the feeling of belongingness has a huge positive impact on a person’s overall well-being. 

Irish described how ecstatic she is whenever she is in UST hospital for her regular checkup, especially if it’s the holiday season. The lobby of the said hospital is adorned with fairy lights and other Christmas decors. She mentioned that the feeling itself inside the hospital changes when it’s nearing Christmas. When it’s not the holiday season, Irish is delighted by all the paintings that hung on every wall. “Dito kasi sa [hospital sa] Lipa, minsan mo lang makikita [‘yung mga painting] tapos sa pediatrics pa siya and luckily, 17 pa lang naman ako nung nagka-cancer, so dun ako sa pediatrics.” she shared.

The Lesser It Feels Like A Hospital, The Better

Watching how her three-year-old daughter developed a trauma after being in hospitals most of the time, Mrs. Medina stated, “The lesser it looks like a hospital, the lesser traumatizing it would be [and] the lesser fearful it would be.” Interestingly, even Irish reached the same conclusion, “[Basically] parang lahat na makakabawas na feeling na you’re in the hospital. Kasi may common na feeling kayo kapag nasa hospital. It is sullen. Parang feel mo lahat ng tao dun may problema. Pero kunwari [kapag] may library, may magandang cafe, parang hindi mo masyadong feel [na nasa hospital ka].” 

Saab is still very young to determine how her experiences in hospitals affected her mental health. On the other hand, Irish had been scared of going to a hospital for some time because it would remind her of her breakdowns— the moment when she learned that she has cancer. Fortunately, Irish began to heal, especially when the environment of the hospital became joyful due to the Christmas decorations. 

The environment has a huge impact on one’s well-being. It can make you feel that you are being sentenced to death, or it can uplift your spirit and can ease a bit of tension that you are feeling. It makes a huge difference being in an environment that makes you feel that you are welcomed, and it doesn’t add to the agony that you are feeling but still allows you to feel joy alongside the distress.