This nest is never empty
Students are like birds: eventually, they all take flight, moving on to the next phase of their lives. But before they leave the nest, they have to have been cared for, protected and taught until they reach a time when they’re ready to go off and fend for themselves. At the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH), students find that shelter in Pugad Agila, the nest that is never empty.
Initially conceived as a support system for students about to take the physician licensure examination, Pugad Agila has grown into a bigger nest — taking every student under its wing. It has become a refuge for the entire ASMPH community.
“Pugad Agila is like a home organization for all ASMPH students. We provide support for everyone, from freshmen to fresh graduates, not only so that they can thrive academically but also so that they can find an emotional refuge from all of the stresses and pressures on the road to becoming a doctor,” says Mike Agoncillo, a first year medical student. Agoncillo admits that he initially joined Pugad Agila to support his brother who will take the board exams. The exams, held on 2 consecutive weekends in September, have more than a thousand multiple choice questions. Board takers must reach an average of 75% in order to pass, with no grade lower than 60% in any subject.
Pugad Agila works on a voluntary basis. Students are divided into teams and each team is in charge of an activity, from doing wake up calls to collating review materials and conducting pop quizzes to board takers.
“We give special focus on making the lives of board takers as easy as possible through encouragement, surprises, and even logistical aid in the board-process,” Agoncillo says. While the attention is on the board takers, Pugad Agila ensures that its volunteers’ needs are also taken care of. Agoncillo recalls how upperclassmen first helped with him with his studies.
“While working on a Pugad Agila event, upperclassmen gave me tips on how to do well in our module,” he says.
This sense of family and belonging is the reason why Caryll Ivy Uy, a third year medical student, continues to volunteer with Pugad Agila.
Uy has been with Pugad Agila since she entered ASMPH. “Once you enroll in ASMPH, you automatically become part of the family,” she says. Support systems like Pugad Agila, she adds, are critical to survival in medical school.
“School is basically our second home and most of us even spend more time here than in our houses. When all the weight is pressed down on our shoulders and the balls of our feet could barely hold us any longer, we will feel tired and hopeless. We will breakdown. But knowing and seeing people who are selfless enough to share the good and help you through tough times just somehow makes the world a lot less heavy, less lonely, and definitely a lot more helpful,” Uy says.
Uy has been involved in various school organizations since college but nothing compares to Pugad Agila, she says.
“Pugad Agila is one of a kind. Others may say that ASMPH is small and it’s easier for us to put up something like this. But it really is not how big or small a school is, it’s the spirit of the community that matters — the rigor that drives each board taker, the dedicated passion of the volunteers, the undying support imparted by the school and the sense of the family that is constantly sustained every year,” Uy says.
‘No Atenean Left Behind’ is a motto closely associated with Pugad Agila. It illustrates how every member of the ASMPH community would rally behind one another. Like its name suggests, Pugad Agila is a nest for young students to learn, stay safe, and be protected until they are ready to spread their wings and soar.
As Agoncillo says, “Since day 1, ASMPH has told us that we will find a family here. I think Pugad Agila puts that into perspective. It reminds me that my successes and failures will be shared by the rest of the school. It gives me another reason to believe that even when things get tough in medical school, there are people whom I may not even who are rooting for me.”
With Pugad Agila and ASMPH around, these students need not worry about what’s on the horizon. When it’s their time to leave the nest, there will be no heartbreak, no isolation and sadness. After all, they’ve already had their wings ready for flight.