February 9, 2023

Dr. Anne Joan D. Bandonill – Guest columnist


(My wife, Dr. Anne Joan D. Bandonill, is the president of the Philippine College of Occupational Medicine [PCOM] Baguio-Benguet Chapter. She was adjudged by the society as the Best Chapter President in the Philippines for 2020 during the virtual annual national convention of the PCOM held from March 17 to 20. This essay is her keynote address.)
The late charismatic African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. He dreamt that “one day, a state sweltering with heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”
I, too, have a dream though it does not come close to the magnitude and intensity of what Dr. Martin Luther King revealed. Mine is more humble and realistic. Mine is to reach out with a tender touch and a caring heart to the simplest of folks so that they will be freed from their doubts and fears regarding the current crisis that prevails among us. Mine is to teach them the basic rules that will help them wade through their daily lives, unafraid and certain that in sharing with my dream, they will not be contaminated by the unspeakable horrors that the coronavirus might wrought.
Dreams do become reality. This is what spurred me into action. From the moment I was sworn into the presidency of the Baguio-Benguet chapter of the Philippine College of Occupational Medicine (PCOM), I vowed to spare no effort, money and time to realize my dream. I ventured to utilize all available resources at my disposal to reach out to the beneficiaries of my programs. I urged all my members to give their utmost effort to help me become the leader that I am expected to be. And, true enough, I am living a dream.
With the Inter-Agency Task Force disallowing social gatherings and close contact, my group deemed it best to make ourselves felt by putting into motion what is now popularly known as “PCOM on wheels.” Through the PCOM on wheels, we are able to personally deliver face masks and shields and bottled alcohol to identified informal workers. We straddled the public market to meet vendors, we travelled to far-flung municipalities to be with farmers, we walked down torn alleys to reach poor communities, we reserved the convention center to lecture government employees and hooked up our computers to conduct seminars via the Internet. These we did to let all and sundry know the importance of face mask and face shield, the necessity of frequent hand washing and the significance of social distancing. We shared the aspiration of our government that as Filipinos, we must “Heal as one.” We trumpeted the oft repeated goal of PCOM that “ang kahirapan ng manggagawa ay dapat ibsan.”
My job as chapter president became doubly hard with the unpredictable lockdown, quarantine and limited movement. It felt dreary and disconcerting at times that, despite the noblest of intentions, the current situation confers little choice or sometimes, none at all. But nothing is quite impossible to an enlightened soul, a determined mind and a courageous heart. Thus, came what is known as “utsi sana,” the Latin term for “we heal as one.” This is the battle cry of our war against this intriguing pandemic. We are one with our people in preserving their health and we are one with them in healing their sickness. On top of it all, we are one in communicating to those who have seen our magnanimity and these things would not have been possible if not for the dynamics and the vision of the our beloved Philippine College of Occupational Medicine. Indeed, no other organization has done as much.
Lest I wake up and end up having a nightmare, please bare me out and be part of my dream. I thank my members and all those who made it possible for me to be elected as the best chapter president. I am flattered as I am worried. Flattered that my ideas were vindicated and worried for I am only human, wondering for how long it will work. Anyway, I thank God for giving me the chance to serve, to share and to make others safe. I will forever cherish my time as a chapter president and I will always treasure my being a PCOM member. It is the best thing that ever happened to me as a doctor.
I have a dream. In my dream, I dreamt that this nation sweltering with too many people dying or are sick with Covid-19 will be cured. With PCOM at the helm and with programs like what I detailed, they will soon be. Thank you and good day.