“Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours,” wrote C.S. Lewis.
So it was with the Pabidahan at the 2023 UPMASA Annual Grand Convention (AGC), won equally by UPCM Class of 1998 and Class of 1973, Silver and Golden Jubilarians.
The first stirrings were felt in February 2023, when Class ‘98 launched our Silver Jubilee year. Members of Class ‘73 in that gathering felt they were met with love and respect. We gave homage to them. It’s a feat, after all, 25 years and 50 years, respectively, of service and fellowship.
As the months went on, we endeavored to create a fun-filled event for our class at the UPMASA Annual Grand Convention (AGC) in Chicago to be held in July. Class 98’s veritable dream team consisting of Dr. Jonj Sembrano, Dr. Jo Cenizal, Dr. Jef Raroque, Dr. Zendee Elaba, Dr. Anja Tan and Dr. Ronald Cruz, painstakingly organized online weekly rehearsals. Dr. Leslie Diaz, our musical director and Dr. Alex Santos, our dance guru, mentored us with patience and joy. Little did we know that more was to be asked of us as we sauntered to Chicago.
Eight Philippine-based classmates flew in to offer warmth and solidarity. Thunderous skies portended a grueling experience - delayed and canceled flights, dizzying turbulence, and long waits on the tarmac. None of it stopped our indomitable spirit. We held on, supporting each other with images and words exchanged in bytes and pixels.
When the sun came out, it was on to outdoor rehearsals. The giant Cloud Gate sculpture at the Millennium Park, made of highly polished stainless steel, reflected not only our images but the desire in our hearts to perfect our dance. Generous hugs among friends who had not seen each other for years served to lift us like a cloud as we danced with the skyline in the background.
All this culminated in that momentous Thursday, July 6, 2023 – a day of rehearsals, laughter, camaraderie, and teamwork. When we finally donned our sparkly outfits, we were ready for Disco Fever! It was humbling and inspiring to witness more senior doctors coming together as a class or chapter, showcasing their talents, living evidence of humanity in medicine. With their bright outfits and front wheel walkers, The Golden Jubilarians’ dance was the essence of endurance.
When it was our moment, Dr. Leslie Diaz opened with kundiman, singing “Mutya ng Pasig” and “Matud Nila.” His soulful voice reverberated through people’s conversations, coaxing everyone into silence as they listened in awe. The word “kundiman” is thought to be a contraction of three words, “kung hindi naman” (“though you may not”) - a reflection of the suitor’s humility as he serenades the love of his life. It was a fitting segue to our next offering. With a captive audience, we gathered on the dance floor and enacted our work of art. With passion and spirit, we shimmied to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” which speaks of following the beat of one’s joyful heart, letting that flow through our bodies and each other.
With much gratitude to the judges and appreciation for all competitors, it was an honor to share the top award and the stage with the Golden Jubilarians. One notable member of Class ‘73 remarked that the way the Golden and the Silver classes spontaneously ran towards each other and embraced one another after winning has never been seen before at the AGC.
Many of us bravely ventured out of our comfort zones during this process. Some learned much of our dance only when we got to Chicago - we muddled through. Some were not born or inclined to dance - we gave it our all. Some initially felt awkward joining in, but with the open arms and reassuring smiles of our classmates, it became easy to simply bask in the glow of unity.
It was a study in whole-hearted giving. We got each other's back. We see one another giving so much that we are inspired to give much of ourselves. And the whole that comes out is indescribably more than the sum of its parts. As our own luminary, Dr. Leslie Diaz put it, “We are ’98 extra.”
As it is in art, so it is in life. Hold nothing back, and together, we do great things. Through it all, rejoice!
This has always been the key to Class ‘98’s closeness in medical school, and continues to be the key to 25 years of fellowship that we celebrate this year in warm connectedness with all graduates of our alma mater, the UP College of Medicine.
Mona Venzon Rice, M.D.
Aimee Alinsonorin-Dioguardi, M.D.