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Jul 13th
Home Columns Dissenting Opinion Keeping an Open Mind and Smiling on the "DH" Comedia
Keeping an Open Mind and Smiling on the "DH" Comedia PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Dissenting Opinion
Thursday, 18 October 2007 10:37

Keeping an Open Mind and Smiling on the "DH" Comedia

By L.P. "Paul" Zulueta

Please relax and take a deep breath. Maintaining our composure will enable us to have clear minds. With clear minds, we can think intelligently and not be guided by emotions. We can then be assured that our nationalistic view is not misplaced.

Congratulations are in order to us Filipinos who actively participated in the petition drive to compel ABC News to apologize and make amends for the "hurtful", "malicious", "ignorant" (and various other adjectives) remarks made by actress Teri Hatcher in the season premiere episode of Desperate Housewives. (Editor's Note: We received this commentary by e-mail. We are taking the initiative of publishing it, as it presents a new and refreshing perspective on the "Desperate Housewives" Comedia.)

It was a very successful campaign against a "racial slur" aimed at "demeaning" the Filipinos! I was assigned Petition Number 111965. My comments: "all smiles". To this very moment, as I write this piece, I am still smiling. Folks, we pulled a fast one! One of the basics of good advocacy is picking the right fight – meaning a fight that will end with a favorable result. It is not a requirement that the "fight" makes one a martyr, a national hero or a celebrity. And for that matter, the fight can be over something that is even silly and meaningless. The only requirement is winning. And winning we did!

I, therefore, congratulate the leaders of NaFFAA (National Federation of Filipino American Associations) and APPA (Association of Philippine Physicians in America) for being clairvoyant and for skillful maneuvering. I watched the "hurtful" segment at least six times.

Yes, I do agree that anybody with a diploma "from some med school in the Philippines" has the right to be hurt. Why? Because truth hurts. The storyline is about an attractive lady who is so scared of losing her sexual drive. The stereotype, especially from us Filipinos, is that American girls/ladies can’t have enough of it. Following the storyline, it is not "malicious" to have such a "punch line", or something similar to it, keeping in mind that lady is on "survival instinct". That was a good script and good acting befitting a good comedy. Yes, it doesn’t have to be "… med school in the Philippines." That way, we Filipinos had a good laugh and not been offended.

What was said and clearly implied is that the medical schools in the Philippines are not on par with those of the United States. We, however, choose different implications. First is that the Filipino doctors are not competent. Then it included all the Filipino Americans in the health industry: doctors, nurses, med techs. Finally the claim is that it is a racial slur against all Filipinos.

Today, a claim by a certain Filipino ophthalmologist is it is an insult to all minorities! Setting aside our own bias and super sensitivity and strictly considering the scene and the words said and how it was said to whom, can anybody really say that the actress said a racial slur? Does the tall "doctor" with white skin, pointed nose and blond hair look Filipino at all? By his accent, did he sound Filipino? And is it not a fact that a good number of Caucasians are graduates of medical school in the Philippines? Putting these facts together, we can easily see that it is about the "med school in the Philippines" and not about Filipino doctors.

We did not want to be objective. We chose the implication that we thought will serve us best. "OK, before we go any further, can I check these diplomas just to make sure they aren’t from some med school in the Philippines?" Filipino "activists" and "leaders" want us to remember that "punch line". Just read the press releases and emails aimed at fanning the flame.

The truth, however, is it is not "the punch line" because it is not funny as is. It is a comedy and punch lines should produce laughter. What was said subsequently: "…and see what non-sense they are teaching you at (long pause) Harvard University?!, Class of 97!, Oh my God, I’m old! Just give me that damn test!", is what elicited laughs. The words being addressed to a white person, made it funny. I’ll not be laughing if the "doctor" has any semblance of Filipino.

A good number of Caucasians attend medical school in the Philippines because the medium of instruction is in English and, as I understand it, the curriculum is patterned to that of the United States. If these American students can get in to medical schools here in the United States or Canada, would they still go to the Philippines? Most likely not; there are very good reasons. Although it is a lot cheaper to attend school in the Philippines, it is a lot harder financially for an American student, on his own, to attend school in the Philippines. This sounds contradictory but it is not. A student, by himself/herself, can virtually finance his/her education through grants, scholarships and student loans if he/she stays in North America. Student loans, back up by the US Government, are available to them if they attend schools here in the United States, Canada or Mexico. These entitlements are not available to the US citizens attending school in other than these three countries. The primary reason, however, why American students attend medical school in the United States, if offered admission, is because of better instruction and better facilities, in other words better schools. Additionally, they are not subject to further requirements imposed to foreign graduates.

I am no longer smiling. Let’s address the real issue. Here is the hard question: Are the medical schools in the Philippines inferior to those ones in the United States? The brave and correct answer is YES! This explains why so many educated and trained doctors in the Philippines fail to become doctors here in the United States.

Filipinos are equally intelligent as white Americans. Brain power is not the issue. The problem is they were not given all the required knowledge. Just like anything else, we need to have the right tools to do a good job. The fact of the matter is the "tools" are not there. Medical schools in the Philippines, in general, lack modern equipments, laboratories are outdated, textbooks are not up to date, etc. Simply put, there is a meaning to the term "Third World Country".

One of the most circulated emails is that of Dr. Philip Chua’s. He registered his displeasure and spoke of a Filipino doctor who gave care to President Reagan and of others who are in the academia and other important positions. He also spoke of what Filipino doctors have to go through: He said: "There are more than 2000 Filipino-American physicians in the United States, who are caring for the Americans and other people in this country. Before they are licensed to practice in whichever State they may be, they had to pass a competency exam, a medical board exam, go thru internship and residency training in the USA, some of them, for a total of seven to 8 years. Then they take two more medical exams for their specialty and subspecialty. So, they take more exams than American graduates do, before they are licensed in the United States . . ."

Amen. Graduates of medical schools in the Philippines need to undergo more training and take more exams here in the United States before they are allowed to practice. This is true even after many years of active medical practice in the Philippines. Why? Because their training in the Philippines is not sufficient, or at least not deemed enough by the medical boards in the United States. Teri Hatcher, if anything, is only echoing what the medical boards in the United States is saying.

If the contention is true that Filipino educated/trained doctors are equally knowledgeable and proficient without the benefit of further studies/training in the US, we can claim an outright discrimination and racism. The contention, however, is not true that is why the Filipino doctors willingly and gladly undergo more internship and residency. This also explains why the ever so assertive white boys with medical degree in the Philippines can not complain to their congressman and senators and demand an equal treatment just like those who graduated in the US med schools.

I am very proud of those who were educated in medical schools in the Philippines for successfully overcoming the extra hurdles. I truly admire your determination. You are good! Following a lead from NaFFAA and other activists, we deviated from the real issue. We interpreted things the way we want them to be. Read the emails from "concerned" Filipinos.

Listen to the news from the Philippines. Read the comments made in the petition. It is so amazing to see how a small flicker turned to be a big engulfing wild fire. We became angry. We threw in so many things together, no matter how remotely related they are with each other, and hurled them to the enemy. We made a lot of commotions – picket lines in New York and Virginia. We confused even ourselves.

In the end, the enemy is bewildered and perplexed and became mentally paralyzed. We vanquished the enemy! ABC News apologized unnecessarily and will make amends to a perceived transgression. This is a stroke of genius! Press Release from NaFFAA and others have mentioned "Ret. Admiral Connie Mariano", the famed White House physician. I shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with Retired Rear Admiral Mariano during the national convention of NaFFAA held in Las Vegas few years back. It is proper to address her as "Admiral" but her rank is not Admiral, a 4-star rank, as what some came and want us to believe. Dr. Mariano is 100% Filipina. She, however, is not a graduate of "a Philippine medical school" as claimed by some Filipinos. She is a graduate of the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, Class of 1981. Her undergraduate degree with honors is from UC San Diego. I am, and we all should be, very proud of her. "Admiral Mariano", "President Reagan" "President Clinton", "White House". "Name dropping" works all the time!

But seriously, what is their connection to "some med school in the Philippines"? California is known for stringent laws/rules requiring competency in the professions. It allows RNs in the Philippines to practice without the requirement of further education and even without first taking the board exam. California, in essence, is saying: "You are a Registered Nurse in the Philippines. Welcome and here is your license. You have the required education and training until you prove us otherwise". The nurse is then allowed up to six months to take the board exam. This is what "on par" means.

Nursing schools in the Philippines are on par with those of the United States. The same is not true with the medical schools. To group the nurses with the doctors and bring an added clout, let alone confused the issue, is indeed a very clever way of advancing the argument! Well done!

Did Teri Hatcher say anything about Filipino nurses? No, not at all. To us, however, she disparaged the Filipino nurses and insulted all Filipinos no matter what she said or did not say. The game is over; we won.

Now what do we do? The first thing we want to do is pull the online petition immediately. True and honest opinions were expressed: How can we Filipinos complain of racism when we, ourselves, discriminate and look down on our own countrymen every single day just because they are Visaya (low class; maids in Manila), Ilocano (penny-pinchers), etc.?

There are now over 124,000 signatures and still counting. However, we can not let the petition stay online because it is becoming a chat room full of thrash. Filipinos calling each other names! The petition is no longer helping us. On the contrary it is hurting our image. It is not a place where one petitioner will ask a lady permission to touch her most private part (written in Tagalog). Again, the petition must be pulled offline immediately.

There is news that ABC will spend a lot of money to delete the "offending" scene and insure that DVDs and future airings of the episode on TV will not contain the "racist" words. If this is true, I suggest that we talk to ABC News and asked them, instead, to use the money to procure medical textbooks, microscopes and other supplies and equipments and donate them to medical schools in the Philippines.

I ask the leaders of NaFFAA and APPA to take this for action. We won but, please, let us not continue kidding ourselves. We will do our nation a big service if we accept the reality that our medical schools are not on par with those of the United States. Maintaining the status quo and believing that everything is alright is not only wrong but harmful.

We want to see 4,000 Philippine educated/trained doctors instead of 2,000. We want to see our medical schools with modern equipments, up to date laboratories and better facilities just like those in the United States and other developed countries. We want to see the brightest Filipino doctors and professors teach and guide the future doctors. We want to see government programs that provide enough incentives to trained doctors to spend time in the classrooms in the Philippines instead of, or before first, seeking a greener pasture in the United States or Canada. What we don’t want to see are the many broken dreams – the Filipino doctors’ dream of being a physician in the United States. The dream never came true to so many men and women with brilliant minds because their "med school in the Philippines" failed them.# # #

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Last Updated on Thursday, 18 October 2007 18:48

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