When we were young, I remember my parents telling us, their kids, that the best heritage they can pass on to us is education and the love for learning. They might not leave us with wealth or material inheritance, but they believe that if we get good education, we will be equipped enough to face the challenges of this world.
My mother came from a family of educators. She was adopted as her real parents died when she was quite young, but her aunt and uncle, who reared her and who became her adoptive parents, were both teachers. My grandmother was an elementary school teacher and my grandfather was a principal in a multi-level school in Ilocos Norte. It was no wonder my mom became a teacher too.
My mother taught in elementary school for few years, but when I was born, she elected to become a full time stay-at-home mom. She became my first teacher. She probably have been singing and reading to me while I was still in her womb. Before I went to kindergarten formally at a nearby school in our neighborhood in Manila, I already knew my ABC’s (and ABaKaDa in Pilipino) and was able to read and write.
My father’s family is quite different. He came from a family of farmers in the area of Bulacan near the lower realms of Sierra Madre. Nobody in their kin before him have stepped into college. I am not saying that they were not intelligent people, but perhaps were just not given the opportunity to pursue a higher education. And my father was resolved to change that.
Lacking the means for a college education, my father became a self-supporting student. It may not be the most prestigious university, but he got himself into college and the best education he could get. He said that he did many odd jobs to sustain himself through university life. He finished Accountancy and eventually became a Certified Public Accountant. I learned later on though, that what he really wanted was to be a doctor, yet that dream was way out of his reach at that time. But that dream was passed on to me.
I cannot recall the exact time when, but I think that I was groomed at a very early age that I would become a doctor someday. Maybe because I already learned how to bust my head open, needing emergency room visit twice to have sutures on my face, even before I entered kindergarten. Let’s just say I had exposure to the practice of medicine early.
The path was not easy, but my family, especially my father was determined that I go into medical school. We are not rich by any means but my father was bent on to finance our education whatever it takes.
That dream came true.
After many years of schooling I became a full-pledged physician. I was the first medical doctor in the whole clan, both from my father’s side and from my mother’s side of the family. My biggest regret was that my father did not witness me becoming a doctor, as he died when I was just in my first year of medical school. Thankfully I was given a scholarship grant, that I was able to pursue my dream, and my father’s dream.
I am really grateful for my education for it has opened many doors of opportunity. I was able to get to, not just the top institutions in the Philippines, like the University of Santo Tomas and Saint Luke’s Medical Center, but even to renowned educational institutions in the world, as I got to train in hospitals affiliated with Columbia University and Weill Medical College of Cornell University in the United States of America.
This heritage of education is now being passed on to my children. In fact, my wife and I took it to another level, for we personally took the responsibility of educating our kids as we homeschooled them from kindergarten to high school.
My daughter has already finished college and graduated with Latin honors of Magna Cum Laude. She is currently in post-graduate studies. My son on the other hand is on his last few weeks of senior year of high school and he will be starting his college journey next school year. And as my son graduates high school, my wife and I are graduating too with our homeschooling. It was challenging at times, but it was all worth it.
I am sure that my father and mother, who have both passed away, would be happy to know that the heritage of education that they have cultivated from humble beginnings, is alive and continuing on. Yes, the inheritance they have left us has come a long, long way.
I just wish I could tell them in person that their grandson, my son, is also dreaming of becoming a doctor someday.
(Postscript: My wife’s side has a more humble beginnings. She grew up in Pampanga and both her father and mother did not go to college, and in fact, her father got only up to elementary school. Yet they dreamed that all their children would get college degrees. Both of them have passed away as well. My wife finished college, with a degree in Doctor of Optometry. It is her dedication and sacrifice that pushed us through homeschooling our kids.)