I have always liked this particular doctor, Doctor Daniel Bautista. He's maybe in his late forties, yet the stresses of his work is found nowhere in his face.
I only get to visit him on a Saturday, or when I'm really sickly. And it never fails, all the time he'd be there even on labor day. He's got lots of out patients like myself and we all do stick with him as our family doctor.
He renders time in big hospital institutions, but he and his sister (also a doctor), wanted to extend proper and well services to those financially incapable. Hence, this busy little clinic was established. Their attendants are midwives, or practising nurses.
And so, having the perfect awareness that I'm gonna be competing with the long queue of patients, I brought myself something to read. As I was busy absorbing the book, a tall Taiwanese / Korean guy walks in. He totally got the attention of everyone in the room. Why is there a foreigner amidst us? Wasn't he told to go have his checkup somewhere else like St. Luke's??
The old lady attendant was surprised as everyone was. She asked the guy in English, with a strong Tagalog accent: Please come, what do you want? Everyone in the room was paying attention. Some are either secretly tuned in to their conversation while watching TV, or staring at them point blank.
I had the urge to close the book and listen. "What is your problem?", the attendant asked. I shivered at the question. I was thinking if the guy would take it offensively. He replied with a query for the whereabouts of the female doctor, but since she wasn't around, my doctor would have to consider him.
He was bombarded with a series of questions from the attendant, soliciting for his name which she cannot understand which is why she let him write it down himself. With their conversation I learned that he lives at the Heritage hotel and that he was 45 years old.
He was tall and quite skinny for an average 45er Filipino male. He was wearing a short of thin yet comfortable plain gray tshirt.. and he was almost literally dripping in sweats. He was shaking all over and he was an alien to the place.
The man next to me, who was a chaperon to his mom was kidding in Tagalog when the foreigner replied that he was an insomniac. He said, "Pre, walang panama yan sa gin pomelo. Tulog ka kagad nun." Though I know he just wanted to make people laugh, being sick in another country other than your own is a terrible experience (not that I have my own story to share). So, I pitied the guy.
After his queuing via the attendant, he scattered his eyegaze around for a place to sit in. Culturally aware that Pinoys rarely take on such encounters with English speaking people, none moved to provide the poor guy a seat. That moment, I knew I could help. I moved a bit to my right to allow for some seating space.
As soon as he was quite settled in, I tried to at least talk to him. Sadly, as I was later diagnosed with pharyngitis, I couldn't very much talk clearly and straight. Though this was the case, I was able to get responses from him anyway.
I found out that he was only here in Manila from time to time. He owns the company he's into now. He hasn't slept for four days straight even without drinking coffee or tea. He's got only four employees and the company is about mobile development. I had interjected some facts about coffee and tea and stated that we're both in the same industry but it seemed he can't focus well.
His body is convulsing gently but very evidently. I pointed out to him that his shakes are caused by his lack of sleep and that its quite noticeable already. For a while there, I thought I could at least alleviate him of his troubles temporarily while waiting for the doctor. My book did the same for me as I was incessantly coughing my lungs out when I wasn't reading.
After some time, I stopped talking to him since he was too preoccupied with his troubles. We didn't even exchange names.
When my turn came to see the doctor, I was delighted again for I know I will be soon delivered from this feat. The foreigner looked up as I vacated the seat next to him, but he didn't say a word.
My waiting time was always infinitely longer than thw time it took my doctor to diagnose my problem. He found that I have pharyngitis. Whoa! After giving me a list of medications to take and a medical certificate, I was again glad he was there. I thanked him with all my heart and with a smile, left and paid a small amount of 280 pesos of consultation fee.
I carefully walked out of the clinic, thanking the attendants around. I know, I'm on my way to wellness. I passed by the room where everyone waited for their turn. At my peripheral vision, I saw the foreigner guy look as I slowly left the clinic.
I may not have been able to distinctly find it in him to at least show some enthusiasm in the small talk that I started, but I know he sure was glad he now had a piece of consolation that he wasn't too alien nor isolated at all.
To everyone, I encourage you to start small conversations as well to those you think would need some pacification and support, especially in such queer and unusual times of other people's lives. A small amount of compassion and care can ripple to a gigantic sense of comfort and confidence.