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 works for this trip.
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 Willie, a local tailor in Balik-Balik, near my home. I chose double-breasted because I thought it looks more stylish, though I have no idea it was a little out of fashion already at that time. At least my tie is not a foot-wide of the 70’s era.
My shoes were “state-side”. I bought it at Cartimar in Pasay, as I wanted it to be “US-style”. Plus I wanted sturdy shoes that can withstand the cold, and that I can use to walk in 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 does 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!), rests a Manila envelope that has in it my curriculum vitae (CV). I even had my CV’s printed by “jet-printer” on nice thick paper at one of the printing shops in Recto, the copyright capital of Manila. Also inside the envelop is 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 avail in Recto.
It was the day of my interview. I was applying for a position for a post-graduate training in Internal Medicine. In the same room were other applicants. A few were graduates of other foreign countries like me. But mostly were 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 look somber too. Or 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, will 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 shirt, no tie, under my 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 am 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.
(*A long version of this article was published in Manila Standard Today)