The influx of Indian medical students here in Davao City has been quite noticeable over the past few years. Some will look at this as a manifestation of Davao’s status is terms of the quality education and good living conditions it has to offer to these foreigners who come to the city. Some, however, will look at the growing presence of Indians with discrimination and indifference.
A few years ago, a recruitment agency approached Dr. Warlito Vicente, the former dean of the School of Medicine of Davao Medical School Foundation (DMSF), and asked him if he could allow Indian students to enroll in DMSF. During his time as the dean from 1998-2004, there were already Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Taiwanese students enrolled in the school.
By 2006 to 2008, there were barely 100 Indian medical students enrolled in DMSF. It was only until the past few years that we have noticed a sudden bloom in their population in our city.
In the Davao Medical Educational Management School (DMEMS) dormitory located near Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) in Jacinto Street alone, more than 900 Indian medical students reside there. The residents in the said dormitory are enrolled in different medical schools here in Davao.
As Vicente explained, India’s culture has a mentality that one has to become an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, or a programmer to get far in life. Since their country is a British colony, they adopted the British Educational System. In this system, before a student can get into medical school, he/she would need a certain grade or GPA. Unfortunately, most Indians don’t pass it.
Here in the Philippines, a student would only need a score of 40% in the National Medical Admission Test (NMAT), which is easier compared to the British Educational System, in order to proceed to medical school.
As to why the Indian medical students chose Davao, Vicente further explained that since our city has a reputation for being safe and economically speaking, Davao is a great place to live in, so the Indians chose to study here.
As to why they chose DMSF, they thought at first that AdDU was DMSF because of its prestigious reputation. In fact, the university is a member of the consortium of DMSF, which means that the sharp students of AdDU who will proceed to medical school would be recommended to enroll in DMSF, sometimes even with scholarships, since AdDU doesn’t have a medical school.
Also, the last time India held its medical licensure exams, the students from DMSF had a passing rate close to 100%. With that, DMSF’s reputation had a great boost as a medical school.
In addition, Santhose Robinson Simi Prarthanagini, a freshman medicine student of DMSF, saidhe chose to study here in Davao because of the status of school and the quality education she receives at a cheaper price. Coming from Tamil Nadu, one of the 29 Indian states, she enjoys living here and that the Davao locals are friendly towards the Indian medical students like her.
Once the Indian medical students finish their courses in the city, they go back to their country and work there. Some even practice abroad. This is because of the immigration and citizenship laws here in our country. In other words, since they are foreigners, they aren’t allowed to be officially employed in local hospitals unless they become full-pledged Filipino citizens.
Unfortunately, that’s just one side of the story. Although they get the chance to receive quality education in our peaceful city, their journey here isn’t just filled with rainbows and sunshine. This is especially true for those who have lived here longer.
Seve Kenneth Europa, a third year Chemical Engineering student who was born and raised in Davao, has his own take on the influx on Indians in Davao, saying that there is an ongoing disparity of the intercultural relationships between Indians and Filipinos.
“Unfortunately, may magpaka-racist ang mga Filipino. Ma-notice ko rin na parang inert lang ang Indians towards us. Likewise din sa mga Pinoy,” he adds.
The family of Lavesh Dhanwani, a third year Marketing student of AdDU, like other Indian residents of Davao City who have lived here longer, put up a business in the city so they decided to live here. Indians like him have become subjects of discrimination because of their religion, culture and traditions. In addition to that, the food they eat and even the way they smell have been the main issue once Indians in general become the topic of a conversation.
Lavesh shared that the idea of many Filipinos looking down at Indians is annoying and discouraging, saying that defending his own country, culture, and the Indian people is difficult since he is living in a place not part of India’s territory.
“At first I was okay with it, but then I realized people kept on complaining about other Indians’ smell. I was annoyed at first because I thought they were exaggerating and being racists but I realized that they are really ruining our name [as Indians],” he expressed this sentiment.
Despite situations like this, medical students from India continue to come and study in Davao City. In turn, the Davaoeños live with the fact that their number continues to grow with each passing year. Little by little, the locals start to accept them as members of the community and treat them with mutual respect.
Apparently, the issue on stereotyping of Indians by Filipinos has put a lot of pressure toward the ruination of India’s image. In this fast-paced and ever-growing society where different cultures meet and mix, people of diverse backgrounds are challenged to learn more about the world beyond borders. It is up to the people to take that challenge.