Why Do You Do What You Do?

Doc Mae visits a patient during the beginning of The Ruth Foundation’s operations in March 2013.

Doc Mae visits a patient during the beginning of The Ruth Foundation’s operations in March 2013.

The following is an edited transcript of the speech given by Dr. Mae Corvera during the January 30, 2017 Awarding of Social Welfare Development Agencies by DSWD NCR. During the ceremony, The Ruth Foundation received its 3-year Registration Certificate and License to Operate alongside other SWDAs.

I am sure most of us here are often asked: “why do you do what you do?” In my case, why palliative and hospice care? Why should we extend help this seemingly minor sector of our population who are in their final chapter of life – yes, dying? (Kahit ‘yung mismong asawa ko, nagtanong: “Anong klaseng doktor ka? Lahat na pasyente mo siguradong mamatay?”) Of course, I had to think through the answers to these questions, and here they are.

Bakit nga ba?… but then again, bakit po hindi?

Bakit po hindi? … when we have nearly 5 million senior citizens to care for in our country?

Bakit po hindi? … when 2/3 of children with cancer in the Philippines are diagnosed at advanced stages, and survival rate for these children is less than 20%?

Bakit po hindi? … when a recent report featured in the STAR newspaper listed the Philippines as one of the worst places to die, next to Iraq and Bangladesh?

MANILA, Philippines – A 2015 Quality of Death study index has listed the Philippines as one of the worst places to die, next to Iraq and Bangladesh. The low ranking of the Philippines in the overall scores of quality of death index was attributed to:

the severe shortage of specialized palliative care professionals,lack of government-led strategy for the development and promotion of national palliative care, andlimited number of government subsidies or programs for individuals accessing palliative care services, and limited public understanding and awareness of palliative care (a service which not only cares for the index patient but for his/her entire family, who comes alongside them during this critical life chapter)

– Source: Philippine Star

And bakit po hindi? … when one hundred percent of the population — including us — is inevitably going to face this closing chapter of life, where we will also need pain and symptom control, compassionate bedside care, and most especially dignity and hope?

And as I segue back into the bigger picture that involves all of us here who have been asked the same question – bakit tayo nagpapakahirap for causes beyond ourselves? – I trust all of us here have the same answer:

Bakit po hindi?

Bakit po hindi … when the moment you step out of your door, there will always be someone in need? When there are still 20 million Filipinos at poverty level? When, at any one time, there are 1.5 billion people in the world starving, and 75 million with no decent shelter?

And bakit po hindi? … when, kung tutuusinthis life is not our own?

Whether we fully embrace it or not, the truth is, we were created for a purpose beyond ourselves. The opportunity to live out that purpose is a gift from the Giver of Life, who makes all things beautiful in His time.

With this, I proceed with what I was really tasked to do, and that is to thank the Department of Social Welfare and Development on behalf of all the organizations here. Thank you for recognizing – and I must also include, guiding – our efforts to reach out to our fellow Filipinos through the licenses that we received this morning.

My mother-in-law, Ruth, was also a social worker. She organized an NGO through which she worked selflessly to advocate for family wellness among numerous communities. I can never attain even half of what our Nanay did in terms of community transformation: and though she is no longer with us, she continues to inspire and encourage many, just as the spirit of this Department does.

I am sure that many would agree that, of all the national offices, yours is the most noble and far reaching. I know it also comes with much sacrifice on your part, because as you carry the tremendous weight of the social burdens of our land, you also bear the equally heart-wrenching emotional burden of each suffering Filipino – whether individual, family, or community – whom you serve as you facilitate hope. If I were to suggest a nickname for your office po, it would be the department of hope. And all of these efforts are sustained by true compassion.

Which brings me to share one of my favorite – and to me, the most accurate – definition of compassion I have learned of, from author and inspirational speaker Joan Halifax:

“First, compassion is comprised of that capacity to see clearly into the nature of suffering. It is that ability to really stand strong and to recognize also that I’m not separate from this suffering.

But that is not enough, because compassion means that we aspire, we actually aspire to transform suffering. And if we’re so blessed, we engage in activities that transform suffering.

But compassion has another component, and that component is really essential. That component is that we cannot be attached to outcome.”

So again, in behalf of all the groups here today, thank you for granting us this license – a gift of opportunity – to carry on in our efforts of compassion. Thank you for encouraging us in our task of “hope giving”, in our respective areas of service, to our nation. In honor of the Giver of life and hope, mabuhay po ang Kagawaran ng Kagalingang Panlipunan at Pagpapaunlad. Pagpalain po ang “Dept. of Hope”.

Thank you and good morning!