December 8 for me is one of my special days every year. Back when I was 5 years old, I attended a lot of parties and celebrations that I enjoyed by participating in the parlor games, entertained by mascots, and of course receiving gifts. As time pass by I got used to such events. However, every year Doc Mae celebrates her birthday with us. It’s her day and she’s celebrating her life with us. Until it became the event of the year and later on I heard that it was declared as a survivor’s day. Doc Mae to me is my guardian angel and I am grateful to celebrate this day knowing that God is giving her another year where she can continue touching other’s lives. I just want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to her. Thank you doc! For everything.
You might be wondering nganung naga yawyaw ko diri so allow me to introduce myself personally. Hi po! I am Jovhen Ramirez. In case you haven’t noticed, a lot of people say na panglalaki daw ang akong pangalan. Well, I’ve been addressed as a boy many times. I can remember being called Dong, Dodong and such. They didn’t know my name. They didn’t know that I’m called Jovhen na panglalaki ako name. Yet, still they thought that I was a boy. But I understand because it’s hard to know that I’m a girl. Why? Who would have thought na isa ka bata- opaw, naka kalo, ug naka mask kay babae? But for me that was okay back then and up until now.
I was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lympoblastic Leukemia) when I was 5 years old. Then I graduated my chemotherapy when I was almost 9 years old. We are from Surigao pero napadpad mi aning hilayong dapita. I’ve spend almost half of my life here in Davao. That makes House of Hope my second home because up until now, didto gihapon ko nakapuyo sa House of Hope 2. Nakapuyo pud mi sa original na House of Hope and memorize pa gihapon nako ang pasikot sikot ato sauna. Unsay hitsura kada room, kada cr, ug sa kitchen. The most memorable spot for me was the long table sa sulod. There I would eat with my friends samtang gina uto uto mi sa among mga mama ug papa na magpa paspasay ug kaon. My favorite was when I celebrated my 9th birthday. It was just simple yet the people I’m with made that day special as we rejoice for another year for me and for celebrating na humana ko sa akong chemotherapy. I was really happy that time because of the thought na no more needles na. That I will not go back for another session of being admitted sa hospital. Witnessing House of Hope now as it grow bigger, I know that it will continuously serve as a home that will witness a lot of miracles.
I have received awards, medals, and certificate of recognitions as a student but I’ve never been proud when I received my certificate handed to me by doc mae signifying that I successfully finished my chemotherapy. I am not really that sentimental person to hoard memorable things. I don’t even know kung asa na tong akong mga medals. Pero mangalkal jud ko sa balay para mangita ato nga certificate. It reminds me of my achievement that I’m so proud of. Dili lang sa proud ko sa akong self, but more of proud to my family, to what we’ve been through and most importantly I am proud on how God works in His amazing ways. To our parents, dili jud nako ma describe kung unsa inyong mga gipang bati samtang maghinoklog mo sa among kahimtang. I know that it is more than what we can see and observe. But please do know that we really appreciate na makita mo namo maningkamot bisag nagkalisod namo kung asa mangitag panggasto, asa mudool para mangayog tambal ug uban pang butang that your unconditional love can do. Ang inyong mga pagpaningkamot kay makatakod pud sa amoa na buhaton ang among makaya. Sa among mga igsoon, salamat sa inyong mga sacrifice ug pagsabot sa amoa. Thank you sa mga ate ug kuya na nahimong ginikanan sa among mga manghud. Sa mga manghud na panagsa ra makita sila mama ug papa. We know you deserve more time with our parents. We always miss you that’s why excited mi muuli because happy mi na we can finally see you again. Sa mga lola ug lolo, tita ug tito who extended their parenthood sa ilang mga apo ug pamangkin, salamat sa inyong tanan. To our doctors, nurses, staffs, and sponsors, thank you for being a blessing. To all of you, thank you for being our heroes and for being the reason that pushes us to keep on fighting.
Survivor’s day is a celebration of life. Thank you for making this day special for us survivors. Now, I have a reason to enjoy more and get excited to reunite with the people that I’ve been with during our battle. But I want to say that it is not just our day. To you, our kids and teens of hope, this day is also your special day. This day is a reminder for us that everyday is a blessing. I would like to say that I am proud of you. For enduring the pain and giving that smile bisag luya na ang paminaw. For eating your food and drinking your medicine and juice na gina banggod pa ni mama bisag wala kay gana ug sakit na imong luas. Sa imong pag antos sa tusok sa dagom.
Kids and teens of hope, you are doing not just good but you are doing really great. Keep in my mind that you are beautiful even though you may think the other way around. Battling with cancer means dealing with a lot of difficulties and pain. During the process we lose some friends. But for me, they’re not gone because they will always be in my heart. Let’s continue the fight and live for them. Our childhood is really different from others but believe me it will be all worth it. Worth it not in the sense that you will be expecting too much from life after your battle. It is worth it because our experiences will serve as a foundation for to us to face life with courage. Just have that will- the will to survive. You can become who you want to be and achieve your dreams. You are all strong and I commend you for that. You are indeed warriors fighting not just for your life but also for the people whose rooting for you.
You see, the problems that cancer brings with it when it strikes a person cause a big damage. It’s the whole family that suffers not just physically but also financially, emotionally and such. Doc Mae said na There’s life after cancer. True enough ningbalik na dayun kog skwela paghuman nakog pa ospital. I am lucky na wala ko naka undang that’s why kaedad lang gihapon nako ako mga classmates. Still, strict gihapon ang akong pamilya sa akong lifestyle.
I am currently a second year BS Accountancy student and still lumalaban to survive. Even going through all of it and now that me and my family are moving on with our lives, life never gets easier. It will always throw you challenges. However, I learned that we can always surpass them. Each one of us is experiencing the reality of life and no one is an exception. That is why all of us- kitang tanan bisag wala kay cancer, we are survivors. Claim it to yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it. Claim it just as how I did it. One time, nakita nako ako mama naga tan-aw siya sa layo. I know that she was worrying. And I know that I’m one of the reasons why. So I hugged her at the back kay naglingkod man siya and told her, “Ma, dili man ko mamatay. Feel man nako na buhion pako sa Ginoo.” And I really mean those words. I’ve been praying to God about it while claiming it.
If you’ll ask me giunsa to namo pag survive then I can’t really give you a step by step, well-detailed na plan. But I’m telling you, it’s simple. Talk to God. Pray. One of the things I am really thankful of is that I have parents who introduced me to God and taught me to have faith in Him. We don’t really know His plans. But in everything that we do and face, know that He is always with us. Honestly, dili mi datu. But God provides. We are free to talk to Him. Di kailangan ng load or data because we are all blessed to have unlimited access to pray.
My ate mentioned to me that my mama was once inspired by a survivor whose continuing her studies. So my ate told me that maybe, this is my turn to give back. To inspire you. So I hope that I was able to do it somehow.
Again, I am Jovhen Ramirez, people may not believe it but I’m 11 years cancer free and I just want to tell you, that you- amazing people are also my inspiration. Thank you and everyone, happy survivor’s day!
This is an excerpt from the speech given by Jovhen Ramirez, a cancer survivor for eleven years.