MANILA - Fighting for one's dream is never easy.
This is something that Karl Emmanuel Mercader, topnotcher of the 2017 Physician Licensure Exam, can attest to, after wrestling with crippling self-doubt that almost forced him to quit school and give up on becoming a doctor.
Mercader shared that he was a consistent top student at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) but had to take a sudden leave of absence in his final year in medical school in 2010 due to the stress of internship at the Ospital ng Maynila.
"Very stressful po kasi being a public hospital and all, iyung dami po ng mga pasyente, and you're expected po bilang interns sa ospital na iyun to stay there nang kung misan, lagpas ng 36 hours straight po na walang pahinga at minsan po ay nalilipasan ng gutom. Eventually po, na-burn out ako," Mercader said in an exclusive interview with radio DZMM.
Mercader said he was ashamed of his disappearance from PLM and could not even face his batch mates. It was then that he lost confidence in his ability to fulfill his childhood dream of being a physician.
"Shortly after umalis po ako [ng paaralan], naisip ko na baka hindi para sa akin talaga ang medisina, not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, ika nga. Kasi hindi po biro ang pagdadaanan mo para maging isang doktor. Ika nga, dadaan ka sa butas ng karayom to be a physician," he said.
For the next 2 years, Mercader worked as a call center agent in Alabang without any intent to resume his studies because he was already enjoying a high salary and fast career growth.
He said he only went back to school at the request of his family and his 90-year-old grandmother, who kept faith on his abilities even when he did not.
Mercader graduated in 2015 from the University of Perpetual Help-Las Piñas.
Self-doubt, however, plagued Mercader anew as he prepared for the board exam.
The young doctor said he refused to give up on his dreams for a second time because of his his 71-year-old father, Perfecto Mercader, who continued to ply the streets as a tricycle driver despite having cataracts in both eyes, just to support his needs in school.
"Iyung mga gabi when I was preparing for the Board na puyatan po, may mga times na parang gusto kong itigil na, bahala na lang. But when I see iyung tatay ko po na umuuwi, gumagarahe po ng minsan hatinggabi na po just to be able to provide yung daily expenses ko po sa school, namo-motivate po akong lalong pagbutihan," he said.
Given these trials, Mercader said he had difficulty believing the Professional Regulation Commission's announcement last Thursday that he topped 813 passers of the board exam.
"Akala ko nga po noong una, ginu-good time lang ako ng mga kasama ko. Noong talaga bumuhos na iyung mga pagbati, sabi ko mukhang totoo na," said Merceder, who obtained a grade of 88.58 percent.
"Sabi ko po sa kapatid ko, paki kurot ako at baka nananaginip lang ako."
Looking back on the challenges he faced, Mercader said he learned that previous failures should not stop one from achieving his dreams.
He also urged his fellow youth to show gratitude to their parents by doing well in their studies.
"Huwag po nating hayaan na iyung previous failures natin to prevent us from reaching iyung mga pangarap natin," he said.
"Para po sa mga kabataan, ang maipapayo ko ay pahalagahan po nating iyung pagsisikap ng ating mga magulang para po makapag-provide sa kanilang mga anak by doing well sa pag-aaral nila. Huwag nilang i-take for granted ang pagpupursige ng parents nila to give them a good education."
He said he also hoped that parents can draw inspiration from his father and other relatives who made sacrifices to help him achieve his dream.