When Jess Dexisne graduated from medical school, his village – Barangay Bagacay in Legazpi City – chipped in to celebrate the milestone. The barangay chief even threw him a videoke party.
A year later, Barangay Bagacay residents again found themselves jubilant. On October 2, 2020, 32-year-old Jess passed the Physician Licensure Examination (PLE), joining the country’s new doctors on the front lines of the battle against Covid-19.
Jess working as barber while studying to become a doctor.
Jess’ journey to become the first physician of his barrio is far from ordinary, one that is marked by faith, perseverance, and support from many groups and individuals.
When he was a child, Jess, the eldest of 6 siblings, worked at a farm and at his grandfather’s barbershop to help augment their family income.
Perhaps one indication that he was headed for bigger things was when he received sponsorship from Children International, a global anti-poverty charity organization that helps children from poor families.
Even with this sponsorship, Jess continued working on the side to help his family, a beneficiary of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. The Dexisne family only got delisted from the 4Ps in 2019, when Jess obtained his medical degree.
His father, 62-year-old Jose Dexisne Jr, is a farmer while his mother Maria Victoria Gaño-Dexisne, 50, had worked as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia for two years.
When Jess’ grandfather died, he moved to another barbershop to continue earning money to help fund his education. He took up nursing at the Immaculate Conception College as a working student for 6 years and passed the Philippine Nursing Licensure Examination on his second try.
Jess then decided to pursue a medical degree at the Ago Medical and Educational Center-Bicol Christian College of Medicine (AMEC-BCCM) in Legazpi City where he got a scholarship that covered his tuition. The family had to shoulder all the other school expenses.
While in medical school, Jess continued to work at a barbershop for his school expenses.
His family was hard at work too. His mother told Bicol Mail what she and her husband had to go through to support their large family while helping in their son’s medical school expenses.
There were times, she said, when she and her husband would set out to sea to fish even when it was Storm Signal No. 1, but they were often caught by the village chief.
“It was like a cat and mouse game then. By God’s grace, we were able to survive the challenges,” Maria Victoria said
Dr. Jess Dexisne
All their sacrifices paid off when Jess became a doctor.
“Today, we’re not the only ones rejoicing but also our kababayans as my son is now a full-fledged [doctor] and the first doctor in the barrio who is also providing free checkups to the villagers,” Maria Victoria said.
“Our sacrifices paid off. It’s like heaven, as we have a doctor in the family despite being poor. Our barrio and even our neighboring barangays have a doctor now. Jess is our breadwinner in the family now,” she added.
Jess is grateful to all those who helped him achieve his dream.
“I’m grateful to God for this blessing and to my parents and so as the AMEC-BCCM for the scholarship. I’m also thankful to our dean Dr Ofelia Samar-Sy who untiringly supported my journey to realize my dream to be a doctor from a poor family. Being a barber, this paved me the way to finish my medicine [degree] and now [I am] a full-fledged doctor,” he said.
Dr. Ofelia Samar-Sy, former dean of AMEC-BCCM, said Jess serves as an inspiration to all.
“Jess’ story is so beautiful. Inspiring – a poor barber, is one of the very few who passed the recent Physician Licensure Examination. Only 56% passed, the lowest passing ever in the history of recent PLEs,” Sy said, adding that Jess is one of the “Istorya ng Pag-asa Champions” of Vice President Leni Robredo.
She said Jess passed the board exam through self-study. She had offered him free review for the exam, but he turned it down as he needed to work.
“I offered him free review for the boards. Ayaw niya kasi (He refused because) he needs to work and earn. Kaya self-study lang siya (So he just did self-study)…. He wakes up early and after class he would go to the barbershop to work as a barber,” Sy said.
Sy said she urged Jess to pursue his specialization, which will take 3 to 5 years, so he can have bigger earnings.
Jess, however, opted to be a general physician for now as he needs to support the education of his 4 siblings: one in college, one in senior high school, one in junior high school, and another in grade school.
Asked what specialization he would pursue, Jess said that he wants to be a surgeon to help poor patients.
His message to the youth is to remain hopeful, especially amid the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
“For our youth, specifically that we are in the pandemic, don’t lose hope, continue your dream and perseverance to finish your education despite the challenges because you will never achieve your dream if you quit,” he said.
His grandfather’s time-worn barbershop are in their home, constant reminders of his efforts in chasing after his dream.