Jojo and Michael: Shared love for education
Growing up in a family of eight, Dr. Francisco, also known as Doc Jojo, saw how his parents, particularly his father, who is an educator, valued education.
“There were times when we didn’t have enough for our tuition fees. I can relate to a child who has to wait for help, not knowing when it will come,” he shares, recalling his family’s struggles. Despite all the odds, with his parents’ hard work and his determination, he managed to finish his pre-medicine course.
He didn’t end there. Jojo enrolled in medicine, armed with faith that he will become a doctor despite the overwhelming cost of the course. Thankfully, he got a scholarship that helped him throughout his schooling. He then went on with his dermatology residency program and later on finished his Master’s Degree on Health Systems Administration at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.
Today, Dr. Jojo is one of the respected doctors in the country, recognized for spearheading different initiatives to further healthcare service delivery systems, including the teledermatology program that helps train healthcare workers in reaching people in the far-flung areas. He currently leads the dermatology department of Rizal Medical Centre and serves as Vice President of the Philippine Dermatological Society.
An invitation to be chosen
Dr. Jojo is grateful for how the Lord has sustained him throughout the years. He made a commitment to not keep the blessing to himself by supporting different causes and organizations that focus on helping children’s education.
One day in December 2019, during a Philippine Dermatological Society event, a speaker invited them to sponsor a child through World Vision. This time, however, a reverse is happening. Instead of potential sponsors choosing from the photos of children, they would sign up to be chosen by a child.
This struck him. Knowing how sponsorship has been done for decades, he knew that this new initiative will change the narrative. “I thought of those children going to a room where they will choose from our photos. Not only will they have the opportunity to choose, but no child from among the group will be left behind. That got me excited,” he shares.
‘I want to be a doctor’
In a village in Batangas, about four hours away from the country’s capital, Manila, children like 6-year old Michael are also fighting for their dreams.
Michael’s mother, Irene, was only 20 when she got pregnant and was left by her partner. He was born past due date and had other complications that endangered Michael’s life. For a week, he had to stay in the hospital until it was safe to take him home.
Life didn’t become easier even after that. When he turned a year old, Irene had to leave him in the care of his aunt so she can work in Manila and provide for his needs.
“Leaving him was painful. Every night, I would cry my heart out, wondering if he was doing well without me but I was also torn because I was a single mother who needed to provide for him,” recalls Irene. Two years after, she eventually decided to go back to her province in Batangas, found love again, got married and started anew.
The family has grown into four. Her husband, whom Michael fondly calls Papa is a construction worker. Although the family is struggling to make ends meet, they do their best to give Michael a shot at life through education.
Michael’s love for education is also evident. Prior to moving to the town proper just late last year, Michael used to cross a river and walk for 20-30 minutes to get to his school.
“When the water was high, especially during rainy season, he and other children in our village had to use the longer route which usually takes them an hour walk to school,” says Irene.
Michael enjoys learning. After his classes, he would tell Irene about what he did in school. He enjoys Math the most but he is fascinated when he gets better at reading and writing.
“I want to be a doctor someday,” he says, sharing the same love for Jojo’s profession. His connection with doctors since he was a baby still seems to linger.
When it was time for Michael and other children to choose from the displayed photos of potential sponsors, he picked Jojo’s because “he looks like a celebrity.”
Doc Jojo let out a laugh when he heard why Michael chose him, amazed at how a child sees things in photographs. “I have a lot of friends in the show business. People think I am part of it but I’m not,” he laughs.
“But above all, it’s nice to be used by our Lord to answer the prayer of that child. It brings me joy to see him choose [a sponsor] and that it’s me he chose. He saw in me what he wants to become when he grows up and I hope that that inspiration will direct him in whatever path he chooses in life.”
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