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So what does it take for strangers to become friends for life?

Here is a short entry based on the 4 years we spent in our HOME ALONG MANGUILES.

Every friendship starts with a meeting, for us, this was the community exposure. We make first impressions that might be wrong, but they are inevitable. Our first several meetings offer us the opportunity to form the first impression and seek common ground. It sometimes takes humor, and mystery for the initial acquaintance to develop into a friendship.

In a community medicine setting, when we think about an “ideal groupmate,” we tend to emphasize on traits such as intelligence, diligence, compassion or empathy. At the same time, when we meet each other, this isn’t what we notice or care for in the beginning.

When the school announced who will be part of our group, it was a huge relief. We came from different pre-med courses and different backgrounds but in the brief time we knew each other, nobody was really labelled “hard to get along with.” However, during our first month long community exposure, it wasn’t how diligent or intelligent some of us were that mattered. It was how messy one of us was, how one refused to eat processed foods, how OC one is, how one of us doesn’t know how to do laundry, how one can’t cook, how one nags or how one takes time using the CR. At this phase, we tend to be ignorant about what’s important about a person and we tend to blind of the strengths of a person, just because WE ARE JUST STRANGERS. We don’t usually offer a stranger the same kind of patience and understanding we offer our friends. Thankfully, we left this stage without a fight.

As we progressed to a different phase of a friendship, we learned to accept and discover different sets of traits. So, that person that nags, that complains, snores, blows nose, pick foods is no longer a stranger. Here, we find and see the nice things about a person. We discovered each other’s interests, personalities. The more we interacted, the more we connected, and the more WE BECAME FRIENDS.

Over the years, we shared time, the same space and our lives together in a tiny garage. We shared the same values and goals for the empowerment of our community and endured crises together. Our journey together was not an easy one but we learned along the way, one cannot just demand and never compromise.

We stopped focusing on our flaws but on the abilities we each have to offer. We shared the same dream and vision for the future. Eight personal paths that converged into a single pathway-to be a doctor for others someday. During the everyday we were together 24/7, we were more than just friends, WE WERE SIBLINGS.

This happened a day after we came home for a supposedly week-long stay in the city. While we were busy giving our all on a Mid-march weekend for a thesis defense on Monday. It was when COVID19 came to Philippines.

It has been 4 years since the very first day we enrolled ourselves in Ateneo School of Medicine and it has been 3 months since we left our community. The last few months we should have spent in the community was cut short due to the COVID19 global pandemic. Safety measures to contain the virus such as lockdowns and class suspensions were imposed. It was heart-breaking at first not to be able to see our programs till the end and to bid our foster family farewell but we know, it was the school’s way of keeping us and the community safe.

Sabi nila, when you’re done with the community, something inside you will change. Minsan di mo alam kung ano pero andoon yung pagbabago. 4 years in medical school and in the community aged our souls and hearts. We probably didn’t know much before but aging in the community meant opening our eyes to their realities. Our privileges may have blinded us from the vulnerabilities and sufferings of others, but it should teach us to be empathic towards others, to be sensitive to the sufferings and needs of others.

We hope that the little time we’ve spent in the community brought change to their lives and empowered them to be better. MARAMING SALAMAT MANGUILES! <3

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