A Divisoria Suit and a Recto Resumé (Couture Edition)

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(The following is a haute couture edition of an article I posted a month ago. Published in Manila Standard Today, on May 12, 2011)

January 1994. New Jersey, USA. In one of the hospital affiliates of Columbia University.

I was sitting nervously in a brightly lit, plush, spacious waiting room, with a group of people. I was fighting off my jet-lag, as only a few days ago, I was still plying the streets of Manila, busy applying for my visa, and preparing the needed documents and paper work for my trip.

As I sat, I was still reeling from my initial disappointment of being denied a visitor’s visa by the US Embassy at Roxas Boulevard in Manila. The consul said I don’t have enough invitations from different US hospitals and medical institutions – I only had five separate invitations for interview at hand. How can I pursue my dream of training in the US, if I am even denied of coming for my scheduled interview? Two days later I received three more interview invitations and I went back to the US Embassy. Finally I was granted a visa, and so here I was.

I was wearing a suit, the first ever suit I owned. It was midnight blue in color, made of wool cloth that I bought in Divisoria. It was a double-breasted style suit which was sewn by Mang Willy, a local tailor in Balik-Balik, near my home. I chose double-breasted because I thought it looked more stylish, although I had no idea that it was a little out of fashion already at that particular time. At least my tie was not one foot wide – something from the 70’s era.

Under my suit, I was wearing a white long-sleeved shirt (“trubenize” as my mother would call it), that I bought at SM in Carriedo, the original department store of its kind, before all the big SM malls sprouted like mushrooms all over the Philippines. I was always been more comfortable shopping in the Quiapo area, the “Old Downtown” where the real deals were.

My shoes were “stateside,” I bought it at Cartimar in Pasay. I wanted sturdy shoes that could withstand the cold, and that I could use to walk on snow. But who knows, it could have been made from Marikina and was just exported to the US and then made its way back to the Philippines. I did not realize that my “snow-proof” shoes did not really go with my suit. But what the heck, it served its purpose, for it was snowing that day.

In my lap (not laptop, just lap!), rested a Manila envelope that had in it my curriculum vitae (CV). I even had my CV’s printed by “jet-printer” on fine thick paper at one of the printing shops in Recto, the copyright capital of Manila. Also inside the envelop was a copy of my diploma from University of Santo Tomas, College of Medicine and Surgery. Yes, it was a copy of a real and authentic diploma, and not a dubious certificate that you can get along Recto.

It was the day of my interview. I was applying for a position for a postgraduate training in Internal Medicine. In the same room were other applicants. A few were graduates of other foreign countries like me. But mostly were local graduates from medical schools here in the US. All of us were dressed formally, as if we were attending a funeral or like we were pallbearers. And we looked somber too – maybe that was just the tension in the room.

Looking around the room, I felt uncomfortable in my seat. I felt I was out of my league, not on just how I dressed, but where I came from – a halfway around the world. In my mind I thought, would my Recto-printed resumé have the chance to compete and survive?


January 2011. Des Moines. In one of the hospital affiliates of University of Iowa.

I was sitting at ease in a softly lit, technologically modern, big auditorium. A senior Internal Medicine resident whom I mentored, was presenting a case for the Grand Rounds. In the auditorium are other doctors – attending physicians of different subspecialties like me, medical residents, and some medical students.

I was in my usual everyday work clothes of khaki pants and white long-sleeved shirt, no tie, under my white lab coat. A group of young men and women in one corner of the hall caught my eye. They were nicely and formally dressed, in their dark suits and ties. I figured that they were applicants for the Residency Training Program of this hospital where I work now. That day was their interview day.

It surely brought back memories of my own interview day. I was glad that they looked beyond the suit, the shoes, and the resumé paper, and gave the boy from Sampaloc, Manila the opportunity to prove himself.


  1. yes, good for you! at the US embassy i dont think that what you wear is whats important. there are people who drove in in their Mercedez benz and dressed to the nines – and got their visa denied. Some say – it all depended on the mood that the interviewee was in. in that case maybe its really just all about luck.

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