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  • Beyond Money

    With Loy M. Palapos
    July 20, 2014

    Beyond Money

    The July 1 celebration of the 48th Charter Day of Tagbilaran held at the Bohol Cultural Center was a significant milestone shared by the prominent citizens all over the metropolis, as it heralded the ability of the Boholanos to rise up from the ruins, both literal and figurative, of the October 15 quake that reminded all that nobody succeeds fighting against nature. The Boholano resiliency had been put to a test and, as proven by succeeding events, he is a victor after a calamity.
    It was a dressed-up affair, with men in their sartorial elegance, and the ladies in their best finery. But what caught the attention of the jubilant public was the presence of a Mother-and-her-Son, she in resplendent gown and he in an impeccable Barong Tagalog. Giving more meaning to their presence was the shared knowledge that both were Awardees in the practice of their professions, she as a Nurse, and he as Cardiologist. It’s not often that a Son-and-Mother tandem receives individual recognition (at the same time) for their indefatigable service in health care.
    The following day, I dropped by the Baluyot residence along Gallares Street, in a home draped with greeneries and trees. Once inside, there was this feeling of one-ness with nature, as I wondered how such a bit of unspoiled mini-forest could exist within the City.
    It was a great honor and pleasure conversing with Dr. Kazan Benigno Simbahon Baluyot (KSB). The hour whizzed by like a minute, for Dr. Kazan is obviously an intelligent, properly brought up, and knowledgeable individual oozing with vitality, and with a deep sense of humor. A class all his own.

    LMP: Do you believe that you were really destined to be a Doctor?
    KSB: I think so, Sir, because even as a kid, I was already exposed to the work of my Mom at the Red Cross, which is related to health service and my sister is a Pediatrician. I have seen how they were, and I like what they are doing. The interest was there right from the very start.
    LMP: So, even the orientation was there. Because the Psychologist would like to say, the likes and inclination of anybody comes out at an early age. What comes out in the later years would have some trimmings. The passion is already there. So, right from the moment you took up your elementary, high school, you really wanted to be a Doctor.
    KSB: There was an instance when I wanted to be a lawyer.
    LMP: Why, lawyer?
    KSB: Because my Dad is a Lawyer.
    LMP: How were you as a kid? As a young boy. Was life something that was worth living? Were you a very happy kid? Were you aware of the problems around, and did they not bother you?
    KSB: I really enjoyed my childhood. I spent my elementary years at Bohol Wisdom School. It was quite nice being exposed to a different society, from Filipino to Chinese friends. But that doesn’t mean I was only focused in school, I also enjoyed playing the usual games like, syato. I got to play all those things because before, as I could remember, there were only few people and we knew everyone in the neighborhood. At an early age, I was already aware of what was happening in the society. When I was in grade two, I went to Manila for a Red Cross event, the same time when Ninoy Aquino got assassinated. I do have some vivid memories about those things.
    LMP: At what age, you could really pin-point that it galvanized into something that really influenced you?
    KSB: Well, my family has always been influencing me about life. But when I was in high school, they opened us to a wider view of what life could be like. They encouraged us to think on our own, and they made sure that we were exposed to everything. We have seen what is happening in the society like, in the government, in the hospital, laboratory. They made us think what we really wanted to do later on.
    LMP: So, you were exposed to all of these things. But the decision was yours, although there was the influence.
    KSB: Of course, the influence would always be there. But ultimately, it was my choice.
    LMP: Where did you finish your high school?
    KSB: At Philippine Science High School.
    LMP: Why did you not become a scientist?
    KSB: That was one option, but I was leaning towards the life sciences. They are still connected, but more on the applied sciences rather than basic sciences.
    LMP: And you went straight to your Pre-Medicine, where?
    KSB: I took up Public Health, a four-year course at the University of the Philippines-Manila. My Medicine proper was also at UP.
    LMP: How many were you in the batch?
    KSB: We were 160, 80 girls and 80 males. It was a bit competitive because for one, the tuition fee was quite reasonable, and our teachers were really good.
    LMP: When you were in your preparatory course, your bachelor’s degree, how did you compare it with your high school studies?
    KSB: The specific subjects were different. In terms of difficulty, it was not too different, really. In high school, we were given a lot of subjects that were relatively advanced for our age. When I went to my Pre-Med course, it was like an extension of my high school. That was how it looked like for me, I really enjoyed my Pre-Med very much. Even though the loads were big, my preparation in high school helped a lot.
    LMP: How long is the regular Medicine, was it another four years?
    KSB: For us it was five years, because we were required to take our internship at UP. In other medical schools, they are allowed to graduate after the fourth year, and they take their internship in whatever hospital they want to.
    LMP: When you were a student, did you involve yourself in some campus activities?
    KSB: I joined several organizations both in my Pre-Med and Med school. In Med school, I was a member of an outreach group. I also became part of a fraternity, Mu Sigma Phi, which only the Medical students from UP are allowed to join. Our fraternity is different. We took good care of the students who applied because if something happened, it would be unforgivable. We know what should and should not be done.
    LMP: You finished all of these studies, and you took the Board Examination, no qualms, no problem? Was it something that was just very smooth?
    KSB: It went well. Of course, we had to prepare for several months for the Board Exam.
    LMP: Was it a hundred percent passing average?
    KSB: At that time, for UP it was around 98%.
    LMP: Right after graduation, what was the next move you made?
    KSB: I helped out with some NGOs and LGU here in the Province. I also supervised some programs like, “Mama Make Me Healthy Program,” which lasted for more than a year during the time of Governor Aumentado. It was actually an outreach program for pregnant women and children, and I did not receive any compensation for it. We also got big support from NGOs outside the country like, the Catholic Mission Board and the Home Reach Foundation along with the Gift of Life.
    LMP: It was an experience in your case. Did you not feel that you waited for a year to be non-productive, in the sense that, there was no salary involved?
    KSB: For me, it was okay, because I learned a lot of things. One, I got to interact with more people, not just on the individual health, but on the community level. Two, how decision-making would affect the health program, because we were not only coordinating the Barangay Health Workers, but also the Municipal Health Officers, the Mayors of the different towns, including the Church.
    LMP: It was your first-hand experience. You were in the field not just an observer, and you knew what was happening.
    KSB: Yeah, from conceptualizing, planning, training of MHOs, giving lectures to the implementation, reporting, I was all part of it.
    LMP: What is your feeling now that it is already stopped? That was a good program.
    KSB: Hopefully, we could work on it again. The government might be able to take up on that. Since I am sure, the people who were helping us with the program also want that to come again.
    LMP: After that stint, what happened next?
    KSB: I felt like, I needed to again grill some new things, so I went to Residency Program. I took up Internal Medicine at UP for three years.
    LMP: After your internship at UP, what’s next?
    KSB: I had my Cardiology Program.
    LMP: What encouraged you to take up Internal Medicine? Was there already that thought that you will go into Cardiology?
    KSB: When you are at the Med School, you are exposed to a lot of specialties like, Surgical fields: Ophthalmology, Surgery, and I was leaning towards that field at that time. However, when I was out in the field during the NGO work, it exposed me to a lot of things, and I thought to myself that I would be able help out more as an Internist rather than as a Surgeon. So, I decided to take up Internal Medicine.
    LMP: After finishing that, what was the next step?
    KSB: In June 2011, I went back to Bohol to practice. I was affiliated first with the Borja Family Hospital. As of now, I am a visiting Consultant of Ramiro Hospital, Tagbilaran Community Hospital, HNU Foundation Medical Center, and Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital.
    LMP: What time can you find for yourself, aside from being a Doctor?
    KSB: Well, being a Doctor is part of me. For my hobbies, I am trying to go back to my sports activity, the dragon boat.
    LMP: Compared to other sports, as far as discipline is concerned, what can you get out of it?
    KSB: Well, we have to be very disciplined because we need to wake up as early as 4:30 in the morning, since the other members of the group have work afterwards. It teaches us about cooperation, because if one member misses up in the rowing stroke, the boat will not move properly. Definitely, it needs teamwork. Even if you are strongest, the quickest, or the best endurance person, you won’t be useful if you will not cooperate.
    LMP: Aside from dragon boat, what other sports you are into?
    KSB: I used to play soccer way back in high school.
    LMP: Can you tell me some of your good and bad experiences as a Doctor?
    KSB: Actually, the great thing is, after training, I immediately practiced here in Bohol. Which means, I was used to waking up early and looking after the patients by myself. When you are on training, you have to do it on your own and report to your consultant. As a Consultant, you could not expect someone to do it for you here in Bohol, because we don’t have a training center for Cardiology. I have to come early to the hospital or visit my patient late at night, for no one will do that for me. That in a way is more demanding, than if I am practicing somewhere else. But, I am happy because that is what I want to do.
    LMP: How about the bad side?
    KSB: Sometimes it is sad that not everyone has the resources. That is one of the reasons I affiliated with Gallares Hospital, because I have a number of patients who cannot afford to be admitted in a private hospital. At the same time, I got to teach the rest because we have a training program for Cardiology at Gallares Hospital.
    LMP: You mean to say, it is a formal class?
    KSB: A formal three-year program for them to be trained. They invited me to be a part of their hospital, and I am there on a voluntary basis. I don’t get paid for my work. But somehow it makes me happy, because I was able to help and share my knowledge to them.
    LMP: How many Cardiologist we have here in Bohol?
    KSB: There are only three of us actively practicing. That means we need more, not just Cardiologists but a lot more Doctors.
    LMP: How young are you?
    KSB: I am 38.
    LMP: As of now, what are your prospects about the future of the profession you have?
    KSB: I am hoping that we will continue to expand our capabilities in handling our patients here in Bohol. We have a lot of things who are here already, which are not available before. Maybe in the next five years or so, we will have a CATHLAB (Catheterization Laboratory). It is where we do angiogram and angioplasty. That is the next step that we need in order to improve our medical facilities. If we don’t have a CATHLAB, we cannot perform regular open-heart surgery, kidney transplant, etc.
    LMP: You believe that it could be done in the next ten years?
    KSB: Yes, I believe so.
    LMP: What is your philosophy in life that makes you go on in all of these days?
    KSB: Whatever it is that you do, don’t hurt anyone. My concept in life is something similar to the golden rule, “Do not do unto others, what you don’t want others do unto you.” I have a very liberal mind, but I make sure, I will not hurt others in whatever it is that I decided to do.
    LMP: I read on the local papers weeks ago, it was you, and you refused something?
    KSB: Before when I started working here, I had some offers to work outside the country, but I choose to come over. When I was much younger, I really wanted to get rich, and the only way to attain that goal is to work abroad. But I realized life is not about money, a lot of it is beyond money. Once you get to eat properly, you have a car to drive, a home that is okay for me. Why need so much more money, when you cannot bring a single cent when you die. Sometimes we long for material things, but when we think about it again, that is not the ending we want. Happiness and contentment in life are much more important than anything else in this world.

    Dr. Kazan Benigno S. Baluyot, MD, FPCP, FPCC is a precious gem polished to perfection in a world that need his brand of service. Being one of the only 3 Cardiologists in Bohol makes him more awesome. Nevertheless, despite the pinnacle he has reached, his feet are steadily planted on the ground. This thinking-feeling Doctor traces his name to the Russian City of Kazan.
    His patients are one in their trust in their Cardiologist, because Dr. Baluyot deals with them with utmost sincerity and affection. This mutual confidence has made his relationship with his patients more profound.
    With his patients lining up at his clinic every working day, it is hard to imagine the respected Doctor having a social life. But he has, although not much. For, after all, being with his patients is already an intense social interaction. And he enjoys every minute of it, knowing that in the process he has offered solace especially to those who need it most.
    The Boholanos have found in him a real friend in their quest for a healthy heart, and are glad that he is not mesmerized by the glitter of gold in some other foreign shores. For Dr. Kazan S. Baluyot it is beyond money. He has found a niche for himself serving the Boholanos, even those whose financial capability is limited. The Plaque of Recognition he received from the City of Tagbilaran during its 48th Charter Day last July 1, 2014 was a glowing tribute to a young Cardiologist with a heart of gold.

    Filed under: 2014, July | Permalink