How I Made My Dreams Come True

I grew up in Manila, Philippines as the third oldest of ten kids. When I was a teenager, every summer I used to get so angry at my dad. He made me and my brother Dante leave the city for weeks to go to the boondocks, an isolated place far away from my friends and family, to clear rubbish, plant trees and cultivate the land.

It was hard labor, and frankly it felt cruel. There were no other kids in the area, no places to walk to, no radios, no TVs, and no forms of entertainment. There was absolutely nothing to do. While my friends at school had social lives and exciting things to talk about when they returned from their summer vacations, I had nothing but memories of hard manual labor.

My only escape during those long and arduous days was my imagination.

As a teenager, I began to dream about the kind of life I wanted to have. Every day, all day I fed my imagination. I dreamed of the thing that inspired me the most. America.

I had seen movies of America and daydreamed about what it would be like to live there. The portrayal of American lifestyle was far beyond the Filipino way of life. I saw abundance in food and opportunity, and I wanted that life to be my reality. Americans were free to do whatever they wanted and could succeed as long as they worked hard for their goals. I visualized enjoying that type of freedom, and I was determined to work hard enough to make it to America.

So, at that young age working hard and sweating in the fields, I decided I would work even more diligently to live the life I dreamed of…in America.

When I returned to high school after those long summers, I studied hard. I sacrificed on the things that other kids my age thought were important. I turned down social events so that I could study and be amongst the best in my class. I knew my ticket to America could happen if I had the best education possible. And if I was going to be accepted into the University of the Philippines and somehow have the chance to move to America - I would have to be among the top in my class.

In 1955, I was accepted into the University of the Philippines and I began my undergraduate career. I aspired to be a doctor and I followed the same disciplined formula as in high school. The only difference is that I studied even harder. I slept only 4-hours a night to maximize my study time. Again, I had no social life because I sacrificed on the things that other young adults my age thought were important. America still inspired me, and I knew that if the opportunity to go to the United States presented itself, I would have to be among the best in my class.

I graduated among the top of my class, and competed against thousands of applicants attempting to get into the University of Philippines, College of Medicine. It was 1958 at that time, and I was one of the 120 students accepted into the program.

I followed the same formula again in medical school and graduated in 1963. I took the Philippine Medical Board Exam and passed it, and then shortly after took the Educational Council for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) qualifying exam for the United States.

This was the time in my life when the American opportunity began knocking on my door. There was a shortage of medical doctors in the United States, and there were recruiters looking for doctors who had already passed both the Philippine Medical Board Exam and the ECMFG qualifying exam. While I was already accepted into a residency program in the Philippines, there was nothing stopping me now.

I was qualified. And for years I had worked rigorously to be ready for this kind of opportunity.

Fast forward into the future. It has now been over 50 years since I moved from the Philippines to America. I am now a retired physician in Minnesota after having practiced as an internal medicine physician for over 40 years. I am happily married to my wife Ester for 54 years, we have five children, 15 grandchildren, and a great grandchild on the way.

I love life. I get inspired by the challenges it presents, and I love the rewards when you work hard to accomplish your goals. I’m proud to say that I have accomplished the professional and personal goals I have set for myself.

America still inspires me today, as I see people exercise their free-will, overcome great adversities, and make life happen every day. There truly is no greater country.

My advice to everyone is to first and foremost love your life. Get inspired and motivated by the challenges life presents to you. Set your goals and be ready to not only sacrifice in some areas, but work hard to make your dreams happen. When you have a plan with time-frames and no excuses, let nothing get in your way. This is the essence that makes life worth living.

Nelson P, M.D. - Minnesota

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