MANILA, Philippines – On a late evening in September 1993, newly-minted doctor Bong Marfa was driving home from Philippine General Hospital (PGH) after his duty, when a speeding dump truck, heedless of the traffic signal, rammed into his owner-type jeepney, nearly killing him.
For three months the 28-year-old, UP-educated doctor lay in coma, his family shocked and devastated, but barely able to wring anything, not even remorse, from the driver and dump truck operator.
The Marfas, a close-knit family from Paco, Manila, pulled together to help bring back Bong from the edge of death. They could not believe that the young, handsome, cheerful and bright doctor (a UP cum laude graduate) could be so full of life—and helping others preserve theirs—one moment; and then struggle to survive the next.
It has been over 18 years since that fateful accident, and a long, arduous climb back to normalcy for Bong and those who love him. To their credit, especially his sister Nelia, his number one caregiver, he has come a long way from the helpless heap to which his accident confined him in the first months of his accident.
From practically zero in terms of movement and brain functions, he can now walk, albeit with great difficulty, but he speaks haltingly and with a weird sound. His hands can do most normal functions, including texting and painting.
It is the latter that, he says, has given him back the deepest joy. Before becoming a doctor, Bong had taken to painting as a hobby. Now, prevented from being a doctor again by his injuries, he has poured himself completely into painting which, he once said, “makes me feel like I own the world.”
With the help of a pioneering, selfless man called Prof. Arnold Esguerra from UP PGH who has made it his apostolate to help people stricken by devastating ailments or injuries find their soul in art, Bong has painted dozens of art works, mostly of nature, with a distinctly Asian theme. His medium: water color.
His art works, and those of three others who are members of Prof. Esguerra’s Bagong Pagasa Painting Therapy Group were exhibited at the Century Park Sheraton recently, with the theme, “Transcending Limitations in the Year of the Dragon.” Also participating in the Bagong Pag-asa exhibit were: palsy sufferer Janice Hipolito; stroke victim Maria Antonia “Ninot” Cruz, a top-notch Spanish teacher before disease sidelined her main work; and Emily Lao, the mother of a boy afflicted with epilepsy.
Actually, it’s the third time their group, supported by a program under the Clinic for Therapy Services, Adult and Adolescent Sector, at UP Manila’s College of Allied Medical Professions, has put its works on exhibit at the Century Park hotel.