It would seem unlikely that 26-year-old post-graduate medical intern Joher Mendez, Jr., born and raised in Capiz, would be one of the Palawan provincial government’s medical scholars.
However, he is ready to settle down, raise a family, and grow old in the province after he becomes a licensed medical doctor to the people of Palawan.
In 2017, Joher found himself in a tight financial predicament after his grandmother informed him that their family business was going bankrupt. He had just begun his first year at the Central Philippine University’s (CPU) College of Medicine and the news came as a shock. It was Joher’ longtime dream to become a medical doctor after finishing his undergraduate degree in nursing in 2014.
“I graduated from BS Nursing in 2014 and became a registered nurse in the same year. I took the National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) in 2016 and passed. I chose the Central Philippines University because I know it is a world-class institution in terms of medical studies,” Joher told Palawan News as he narrates his unusual journey to becoming a Palaweño.
Although Joher was granted a scholarship at CPU for graduating with Latin honors for one semester, he knew he would not be able to pursue medical studies because his family cannot support him fully.
Joher’s academic excellence award, given by the Palawan provincial government upon completing his medical degree.That was when he looked up scholarship opportunities online, praying hard that there would be something for him to hold on to because he really wants to become a doctor to serve the people.
“In 2017, that was June, I searched for scholarships on Google. I saw one scholarship from the Department of Health (DOH), but this was only for students in accredited public schools, and CPU was not among those. And the second scholarship was from the Provincial Government of Palawan, which I took a chance on,” he said.
Joher knew that the chances of getting accepted were low since he was not a Palawan resident. He was, however, willing to become a Palaweño if it meant being able to complete his medical degree.
“When I sent the application, I really said, God, Kayo na po ang bahala rito,” he said.
Becoming a Palaweño
Joher’s application caught the eye of the provincial government. He was called for a series of interviews to validate his application. Though his requirements made him qualify for the scholarship, he still had to be a Palaweño living in the province.
“We worked out a solution with the provincial government, which is when I was adopted by my tita Rose of Aborlan. I finished my change of residence soon after, so now I am officially a Palaweño,” said Mendez.
Tita Rose is Rosita Magallanes who let Joher stay in her home in Aborlan municipality.
Everything else to make him reach his goal, he said, was contributed by special friends whom he did not expect to care, like his “titas” at the Capitol who pulled personal funds to buy him a printer.
Though he is still in Iloilo finishing his post-graduate training at the West Visayas State University Medical Center (WVSUMC), Joher is more than ready to live in Palawan and serve in one of the provincial hospitals.
“I am just finishing my post-grad training, then I will take the medical board exam, maybe in 2021 or 2022. But I have made up my mind, I will spend my life in Palawan. I want to settle down there, raise a family, and grow old serving Palawan,” he said.
In honor of Ma
One of the main reasons Mendez wanted to become a doctor was to find out why his mother, a non-smoker, passed away from nasopharyngeal cancer shortly after her diagnosis. She also died right after Mendez finished his nursing degree and four months before his nursing licensure exams.
“Aside from finding out how my mom could have contracted cancer, I also became a doctor because I thought about those who are less fortunate, who have no knowledge about diseases. I want to go into the barangays and educate people on how they can improve their quality of life,” he said.
However, he passionately believes he was called to be a doctor because he had a heart for serving others, despite his own financial struggles.
“I did not become a doctor because of the prestige. I saw myself helping other people,” he added.
“I always think to myself, ‘Ma, this is for you. I know that you are in a better place right now, but I dedicate everything I do in your memory,” he said.
“Matalino is not enough, dapat may puso rin.”
Mendez believes that being smart is not enough to excel in their field. He stressed having a heart for service and encourages his fellow provincial government scholars to serve the people, especially during the global pandemic.
“I am encouraging fellow scholars to give back and serve especially now since pandemic at maraming mga nangangailangan,” he said. “The people of Palawan need you.”
“I also want to say that it’s not enough na matalino ka lang. Dapat may puso ka rin,” he added.