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Dr. Martin D. Bautista: Making A Difference

Dr. Martin D. Bautista, 44, used to be a practicing Filipino gastroenterologist in Oklahoma, USA for 17 years, but recently decided to return home to the Philippines to run for Senator in the coming May elections this year.

A foolish decision? Highly-esteemed pundits like Conrado de Quiros and Katrina Legarda do not think so. In fact, they think he is doing this country a great service by making a difference when it really matters.

Dr. Bautista always had the Philippines in his mind while abroad. A few years ago, in a TV program hosted by Ann Curry about Asian Americans in the US, Dr. Bautista was quoted saying that not returning to the Philippines would be like "a tragedy beyond description."

In an email exchange last week, I found out more about this good doctor, and it is my honor to present to you details of my interview with him:

DR. EMER: In your blogpost last March 3, you have mentioned that "the traditional political formula has only served to make the poor poorer," and mentioned "a different way" of solving our current problems. What is this "different way?" Traditional politicians have tried and failed with their missions. If you won, what will make your program of government any different?


DR. MARTIN BAUTISTA:
The traditional path has always made our politicians beholden to special interests that strengthen their own political power at the expense of becoming less credible and capable to make difficult decisions that will advance the common good. We need political servant-leaders who recognize that the longer you stay in the arena, the less creative you become and you likewise become more attached to the perks of position, hence we need leaders who will stay for no more than one term and therefore will not be afraid to make enlightened choices that will benefit the most number of people. More importantly is a leader with a clear vision of what direction the country needs to take honed by years of study and preparation and not out of some obligation to continue a political dynasty or protect narrow economic interests.

Do you really believe that one man can make a difference? You know how enormous our problems here. From simple garbage disposal to traffic and sickening corruption, no politician before has been able to put an end to those. Don't you think you are embarking on a quixotic journey?
But do we have a choice? There comes a point in our lives when living a good and secure and prosperous existence becomes immoral when you cast a blind eye to the terrible suffering all around us. If you truly believe in your heart that you can offer whatever blessings and talents that have been given to you but decide to back-off because of the tremendous sacrifice in loss of privacy, income, security and family time then you would not only have failed yourself but your country as well.

Pundits have pondered what the Filipino problem is --- some say it is a damaged culture, some say we are all plain lazy, and still others say its our perennial colonial mentality. In your analysis, what is really our problem? Why can't we seem to get out of this quicksand? Some neighboring Asian neighbors were our inferiors years ago, but now they have overtaken us in terms of progress. What keeps us down and lagging behind?
For more than 20 years, Filipinos have participated in a controlled trial that isolates them in groups in various foreign lands and observed how they behave and interact in other environments. The conclusions are definitive: Filipinos work harder, follow rules, become more socially responsible and think about the future more often. So it is not in the Filipino. It is because our leaders have failed us. Political expediency has priority over moral principles. Case in point is the continuing obsession to become a "model debtor" nation and pay off every last cent of interest including those originating from odious loans. We are able to do this at the expense of the poor having even less social services, poorer education and crumbling infrastructure. This is the type of leadership that prioritizes looking good before the international bankers over widespread malnutrition in the countryside. We really must try something else because this leadership formula clearly is not working. If I may be allowed to dream for even a fraction of our overseas sisters and brothers to return and help redeem our prodigious national promise.

Did you always want to become a doctor or a politician? Why?
I graduated from High School in 1980 and this was the height of the Marcos dictatorship. Those were very dark days. I was certainly not prepared nor equipped to become poltically active. I looked for a profession that would provide me with financial stability and at the same time be in a position to help others. I was already in my third year of medical school when Marcos was thrown out.

What is your opinion of Filipino doctors becoming nurses and working abroad? How do you propose to stop this hemorrhage of medical personnel in our country?
We all have to do what we have to do for our families. The better path would be for doctors to become nurses so they can enter the US, study for the exams and then seek further medical training. This is the only country that pays Attending physicians full-time salaries to read, research and teach interns and residents and fellows. Trainees get the undivided attention of wonderful physician-teachers. The facilities in the US are beyond comparison. There is no question about the superiority of graduate medical education in the US. Finally, living alone in the US teaches you valuable lessons on how to live. Remember how the OFW experience makes us into better citizens? It is up to us here in the Philippines to make our country irresistible to Filipino physicians. I learned that in my 17 years abroad. The Philippines is our country and we should unite to take it back from those who simply want us to remit dollars in order to pursue selfish political ends.

Other than parallel importation of vital drugs, how do you propose to bring down the prices of expensive medicines in the Philippines?
We need to focus on identifying those "garden-variety diseases" that if left untreated result in major economic costs like hypertension. We should not insist on Amlodipine besylate because we cannot afford this drug yet. Why can't we manufacture our own hydrochlorothiazide or propranolol or even enalapril? The technology is simple. Our leaders have simply become too awed by all these high-powered pharmaceutical executives. Take the case of diabetes, metformin and glipizide are not difficult to compound. We must also engage in more research regarding herbal medications. There is a lot of potential here.

Who are your heroes in life? In what way do they influence your outlook in life?
Rizal, Gandhi, MacArthur, Bill Clinton --- highly imperfect people who persisted in leaving the world a better place than how they found it.

What do you do in your spare time? Do you still find time to read? What are some of your favorite books?
I was beginning to get good at golf and I hope to resume playing daily once this part of my journey ends. I have always tried to read for at least 2 hours each day. Mostly history, biographies, culture, poetry, fiction, a little philosophy. The Seven Storey Mountain by Merton, Sophie's Choice by Styron, The Remains of the Day by Ishiguro, Life of Pi by Martel come to mind. There are so many good books.

What is your opinion on the Philippines becoming a destination for medical tourism? Will you promote this if you get elected?
We need to act fast on this one. Thailand and India and Singapore are already so far ahead. We need to focus on low-tech-service-intensive medical tourism like long-term rehabilitation facilities and assisted-living facilities and nursing homes. The demand for these services will only get greater. These are the "tourists" who will have no problem paying for high-quality care.

Heaven-forbid that you don't get elected, what will you do? Will you return to the US? Will you run again in the next elections? Or will you simply return to medical practice?
What? Me lose to Loren or to Ping Lacson or Tito Sotto? I can't even begin to imagine the devastating consequences.....

On the Net: Dr. Bautista's blog --- On My Way Home

“Dr. Martin D. Bautista: Making A Difference”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    I don't know what to say, I didn't even bother to register but I will do my share and spread the word. We need Don Quixotes like Dr. Bautista.

  2. Anonymous Timeless Boulevard Says:

    This is what we need in our country. Possibly both a realist and a dreamer. Basing on this interview notes, the man seems to be a brave soul who is willing to put himself out there. And this is a hopeful manifest of our country's evolution to better days and better cultural soul. People like him don't come by pretty often. I'm truly hopeful that this is the time to crack and break that huge wall of stagnancy and perpetual cycle of falsities shoved into our faces by years and years of deeply crooked system that cradles and brings about more and more suffering than anything else.

    I hope, too, that he remembers, the poorest of the poor back home, who can never afford themselves neither semantics nor rhetorics about political theories and exitence for one...who could just be enamored to vote for the "beautiful" faces (with all respect to beauty as all human beings are beautiful) who are many times used as a grand scheme by well oiled political parties who naturally welcome the numbers no matter what...who could just be enamored or arguably forced to vote with an exchange for a week of consuming hunger (a sack of rice or 500 pesos per voter as alleged bribes)...who, many times, don't know what a basic human right is...who desserve good health care...who deserve, most of all, not only a secure supply of what the rest consider basic needs but more importantly a better education (as Jose Rizal always have advocated and has always been right, in my opinion)...and not just education, a true and heartfelt education, one that nourishes their minds thus carrying on their bodies to living their dreams just like how this good man, Dr. Bautista, who is running for Senator, has opened himself to follow his individual dream.

    Changing a political tide of a country is a tall order and not an easy job. There is the issue of the middle class, the upper class, the business sector, etc... and the ones in between...and so, yes, we need a quixotic man sometimes to handle this. It could be any man. But here is this man and I truly hope that the voting public would learn and apply better wisdom this time and discern as a matter of principle before casting that vote. Easier said than done, I know. We all know. But we could just hope and pray that that wisdom would surface when elections come. As that wisdom would be the great ally for seemingly brave and hopeful men like Dr. Bautista.

    Congratulations, Dr. Emer, for sharing to us this enlightening information.

    And congratulations, in advance to Dr. Bautista. However, disappointed a Filipino is in his/her country's political system, he/she never ceases to dream as well of better days. The Senate truly needs an evolved mind and soul to do a remarkable and effective job there. Not bench warmers or tax wasters like many who are in office now. Congratulations at the same time, this is a healthy challenge in point for him and his team to mark that good day. And when that day is marked, such is a good day indeed. All the best! God's blessings!

    Most Sincerely,
    KSDescartin

  3. Anonymous Timeless Boulevard Says:

    This is probably what we need in our country. Possibly both a realist and a dreamer. Basing on this interview notes, the man seems to be a brave soul who is willing to put himself out there. And this is a hopeful manifest of our country's evolution to better days and better cultural soul. People like him don't come by pretty often. I'm truly hopeful that this is the time to crack and break that huge wall of stagnancy and perpetual cycle of falsities shoved into our faces by years and years of deeply crooked system that cradles and brings about more and more suffering than anything else.

    I hope, too, that he remembers, the poorest of the poor back home, who can never afford themselves neither semantics nor rhetorics about political theories and exitence for one...who could just be enamored to vote for the "beautiful" faces (with all respect to beauty as all human beings are beautiful) who are many times used as a grand scheme by well oiled political parties who naturally welcome the numbers no matter what...who could just be enamored or arguably forced to vote with an exchange for a week of consuming hunger (a sack of rice or 500 pesos per voter as alleged bribes)...who, many times, don't know what a basic human right is...who desserve good health care...who deserve, most of all, not only a secure supply of what the rest consider basic needs but more importantly a better education (as Jose Rizal always have advocated and has always been right, in my opinion)...and not just education, a true and heartfelt education, one that nourishes their minds thus carrying on their bodies to living their dreams just like how this good man, Dr. Bautista, who is running for Senator, has opened himself to follow his individual dream.

    Changing a political tide of a country is a tall order and not an easy job. There is the issue of the middle class, the upper class, the business sector, etc... and the ones in between...and so, yes, we need a quixotic man sometimes to handle this. It could be any man. But here is this man and I truly hope that the voting public would learn and apply better wisdom this time and discern as a matter of principle before casting that vote. Easier said than done, I know. We all know. But we could just hope and pray that that wisdom would surface when elections come. As that wisdom would be the great ally for seemingly brave and hopeful men like Dr. Bautista.

    Congratulations, Dr. Emer, for sharing to us this enlightening information.

    And congratulations, in advance to Dr. Bautista. However, disappointed a Filipino is in his/her country's political system, he/she never ceases to dream as well of better days. The Senate truly needs an evolved mind and soul to do a remarkable and effective job there. Not bench warmers or tax wasters like many who are in office now. Congratulations at the same time, this is a healthy challenge in point for him and his team to mark that good day. And when that day is marked, such is a good day indeed. All the best! God's blessings!

    Most Sincerely,
    KSDescartin

  4. Blogger Lorie Says:

    hi doc emer! wow. after a year of not saying anything nor happening by your blog, doc, thank you for mailing me your blog's promotion hehe.

    this article made me realize what an ass i was for not registering to vote. :(

  5. Blogger ipanema Says:

    Good interview. Just wondering, why not come home and go back to being a physician instead of a politician.

    With his expertise, I believe we need more of those who benefited from the brain drain.

    I'll be linking your new blog Dr. Emer. Many thanks. :)

  6. Anonymous bayi Says:

    Getting this interview with Dr Martin Bautista is indeed a coup. Congratulations, Dr Emer.

    Dr Bautista's answers are so profound that they rip right across the political talk that we have been hearing from the politicians all this while. Indeed, perhaps this is why political solutions don't really work anymore because as Dr Bautista says, the traditional path serves only the politicians themselves.

    His answers are so profoundly full of purpose and vision, a breath of fresh air. I pray that they will be translated into reality and hope for the country.

    Typical of leaders with a strong sense of purpose, Dr Bautista does not wait for others of like mind to join him. His sense of urgency and love for the country give him the courage to walk this path alone, at least for the time being. But he does not need to walk alone. He deserves all the support from us. Walk with him. Empower his quest as ours.

    "If I may be allowed to dream for even a fraction of our overseas sisters and brothers to return and help redeem our prodigious national promise." There are more than sufficient true Filipinos in the country to redeem this promise of a better tomorrow for all the Filipinos.

    May God bless his journey, and ours.

  7. Blogger Dr. Emer Says:

    ANONYMOUS: I know what you mean. With the choice of candidates available, most of the time one is disheartened to participate in the electoral process. But Dr Bautista is a breath of fresh air, and this time, maybe voting will be a different experience.

    KSDESCARTIN: You hit the nail on the head --- that's what we all need --- a new cultural soul.

    LORIE: But you can always spread the word around. Thanks!

    IPANEMA: He thinks he can help more by being a politician.

    BAYI: It is still a long shot. Let's see if this country is mature enough to accept solutions like Dr. Bautista.

  8. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Fellow Filipinos,
    We were part of the launching of the candidacies of KAPATIRAN'S three candidates for senator this May elections: Jess Paredes,Dr. Martin Bautista, and Atty. Adrian Sison, PBS for easy reference.
    They are good, they are idealistic and they are independent enough to say no to the culture of tradpols. I wish them godspeed and pray for their safety and success. We need courageous and morally upright Filipinos like them in public service. May their kind increase!!!

  9. Blogger Char Says:

    I didn't know that a person such as this is running in the elections. Thanks for putting him on my radar. I'm all for better healthcare.

  10. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Wow! SAYANG! I casted my vote (OAV)last Wed., 18th April @ the IPSA in Alkhobar,KSA. Voters are not well informed of the Senatorial candidates, except of those TRAPOs and those clowns in the showbiz.

    I learned about your group last night thru an OFW also. Well, nothing is late....we will campaign for the trio!

  11. Blogger Cory, so so Kawaii... Says:

    thanks for posting this. I'm a fresh nursing grad from the Phils. who's currently staying here in california. i wud like to commend ur interview wd Dr. Martin. It's very informative.

    I'll be linking your blog to mine to spread the word. It's never too late.

    Thanks n more power!

  12. Anonymous Zinnia Says:

    Well said.

  13. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    I am not going to be original this time, so all I am going to say that your blog rocks, sad that I don't have suck a writing skills

  14. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

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