On June 30, 2020, Joeffrey Mambucon, "Joeff" to his friends, finally achieved more than he thought he could at age 31.
He graduated from medical school with two distinctions.
Joeff received the Dean’s Special Award for Research and the Dean’s Special Award for advocacy, inclusiveness, and equity as First Tigwahanon-Manobo LaSallian MD.
The new doctor hails from the Philippine's indigenous tribe called Lumad.
On the same day, he posted on Facebook a message thanking his professors and mentors at the De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute in (DLSMHSI) Dasmarinas, Cavite.
He honored his mother and late father in his message "To my mother, siblings, and to my late Datu Father who is already in heaven, this is for all of us.
"Mama and Papa, you know how much my heart beats for both of you always value the importance of education."
Joeff did not forget to acknowledge the support of his tribe: "To my fellow tribesmen who make me feel like a celebrity every time I come home bringing me lots of food such as sweet potatoes, cassavas, native chicken, and exotic foods that I love, together, this milestone is our success.
"After this pandemic, we will celebrate with our traditional music, dances, and bangkakawan!"
He also thanked his sponsors and friends who have stood by him, a proud Lumad who pushed his way forward amid jeers of people who looked down on him.
His post has earned over 4,400 shares and 8,500 reactions at press time
Tucked in the mountains of Bukidnon is the remote area of Sitio Opis, the village where Joeff grew up and dreamt big dreams for himself and his tribe.
He recalled in an interview with Bernadette Sembrano on DZMM Teleradyo on July 3 his difficult journey to becoming a doctor.
He began, "Simula pa noong bata naranasan ko na, na iba ako.
"Siyempre iyong mga bata, sasabihin sa iyo, 'O, balik ka na lang sa bundok kasi mga tribo kayo, mababaho kayo.'
"Minsan, magsusuot ako ng ganito, iyong tribong suot ko. Parang nakikita nila, ibang-iba ka talaga.
"At kasi pananaw talaga nila, wala ka talagang maabot sa buhay mo."
In the same interview, Joeff said it was the kindheartedness of his teachers in Bukidnon that kept his spirits up amid the rebukes.
They planted in his heart and mind the drive to succeed.
He recalled, "Iyong mga guro ko noong elementary at high school, sabi nila, 'Alam mo, iba ka. May maaabot ka kasi pursigido kang mag-aral.'
"Parang iyong mga narinig kong positive, nawawala lahat ng negative. May maabot daw ako.
"Sabi ko, 'Uy, baka ganito ang mangyari sa akin, maging teacher ka rin.'
"Kaya noon, teacher talaga ako, wala noon sa akin iyong doktor, mag-nurse kasi wala, hindi mo makikita sa bundok iyo.
"Kadalasan, mga guro ang pupunta sa bundok. Mamamangka sila para pumunta sa school.
"So naging idol ko rin sila."
Joeff's life took a new turn when he finished high school.
He said, "May educational program kasi ang MEP, Overseas Missionary Stewardship, mga American Swis.
"Sila iyong nagpadala sa amin sa high school. So noong nag-graduate ako ng high school, dinala nila ako sa Davao...
"Sabi nila, 'Uy, maganda grade mo. Kailangan natin ng nurse. Kasi isa lang ang nurse namin sa medical ministry.'
"'Okey, go lang ako. Kayo naman gagastos, e, mahal iyon. Go na go na din ako.'
"E, smooth naman iyong takbo ng nursing ko kahit mahirap, kaya naman.
"Pumasa rin ako ng board exam noong 2010... take one rin."
JOEFF in MEDICAL SCHOOL
After Joeff earned his license as a nurse, people in his ministry urged him to pursue medical studies.
But he said 'no,' convinced it would be a tough row to hoe.
He recounted in the interview, "So bumailk ako sa bundok, nag-serve ako as nurse for five years, bumalik ako sa mga katribo ko.
"Ang nag-touch sa akin, sa tribo namin, walang hospital dahil marami kaming maling practices when it comes to health.
"Maraming nada-diarrhea, maraming nagkakapulmonya.. ang nangyari, eighty to ninety percent ang pasyente namin doon."
It was then that Joeff received a call that would lead him to his ultimate destiny.
He hesitated at first, "Ang sabi ng doktor, 'Joeff, kelangan namin ng doktor,'
"'Doc, hindi ko talaga kaya. Okay na ako na maging nurse at mag-serve dito.'"
He also told his superior his other concern: "'E, kung aalis kami, magre-residency kami, sino maiiwan sa tao?'"
The doctor replied, "E, tao [katribo] mo ito, Joeff, e."
Joeff remembered the moment he took a leap of faith.
He resolved, "Tumatak sa puso ko, na okay, Lord, kahit hindi ko kaya ito, kahit mahirap, kakayanin ko. Kayo na po bahala."
Joeff then headed downtown to search for medical schools that would offer him a full scholarship.
He related, "Naghanap ako ng medical school, naghanap ako for two years... I am very thankful, forever animo La Salle. Sila lang ang nag-interview sa akin.
"Ang tanong lang nila sa akin, 'Bakit mo gusto maging doktor?'
"Pagkatapos ko sagutin, umiyak na lang ako.
"Sabi nila, 'Welcome to De La Salle Institute of Science. Padala mo na gamit mo dito.'
"One hundred percent binigay nila sa akin, pagkain, tirahan, so thankful ako."
In his interview with DZMM, Joeff also imparted a lifelong lesson he learned: "Lahat ng mga negative na naririnig natin, gawin nating inspirasyon.
"Kasi dadating iyong araw na iyong masasakit na salita nila, hindi natin babalikan ng negatibo, papakita na natin may maabot talaga tayo.
"Kagaya ng nangyari sa akin. Hindi lang ako nakapagtapos ng nurse... nakapagserve na din sa tribo bilang nurse for five years... naging MD pa.
"Iyon lang po talaga ang masasabi ko, na dapat wag natin gamitin iyong mga negatibo... sa akin, ang ginawa ko, nagpursige lang.
"Lahat sabihin niyo na, lahat sabihin niyo na, gagawin ko lang kung ano ang tama."