By: Christy Ann Padre, Chief Delegate, AMSA- FEU NRMF
Contributions from Sholen Samarita (AMSA-UST), John Jefferson Besa (MSSR), and Ethel Viray (MSSR)
This is a tale of US and THEM, who spoke differently, did things differently, and had varied races and beliefs. But we ended up teaching each other some of the greatest lessons in life through our shared experience just the same. Let me tell you about my team, which I call “Team BigaTEN”, and how our lives changed in the short 7 days of the AMSEP program; how we lived with its goal of Building KNOWLEDGE, ACTION, and FRIENDSHIP.
Day 0 – Snag!
It was a clammy afternoon when we arrived at Terminal 4 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Our delegation was composed of 10 students namely: Christy Anne Padre from AMSA-FEU, John Jefferson Besa and Ethel Viray from MSSR-IPPNW, Gellie Fandino of AMSA-UERM, Sholen Samarita and Josaline Domiguez both from AMSA-UST, then Jellicoe Asuncion and Janina Cabanban from FPHHR. Afterwards, Arvin Cabais from AMSA-UERM came, and lastly, Deane Soberano from Com-DRS.
Ethel, Tea Anne, Arvin, Gellie, JB, and Joy in our first group picture at NAIA Terminal 4
After more than three hours of pre-departure processing and flight duration combined, we finally arrived at the KLIA LCCT an hour before midnight, safe and in one piece. Our Malaysian hosts with a placard that read “AMSEP Philippines, Welcome” then greeted us and the first thing we did was of course, take a group photo and then wait for the service bus, which will take us to Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), our host university. A quick briefing for our Day 1 was made, and then we headed straight to Kolej 17, our home for 7 days. The girls had one apartment to themselves while the boys shared their apartment with local students.
The girls having supper in their apartment on the first night
Day 1: Jam-packed
Our first breakfast: roti canai and teh tarik
Our day commenced with a traditional breakfast of roti canai and teh tarik at the Students’ Plaza. Here we met Yu Qi, Prihya, and Shou Chen, who were in charge of Food and Welfare. After breakfast, we were then formally welcomed by Lee Li Ting, Regional Chairperson of AMSA Malaysia, Suzanne Lo, Representative of AMSA UPM, and Tan Jane Jane, Director of AMSEP Malaysia-Philippines 2014. Ice-breaking activities like papaya-banana and naming all those seated to your left followed next which made each and everyone acquainted with each other.
Everyone sat in a circle during the ice-breaking activities
The delegates with Dr. Suryati Mohd Thani at the Anatomy Museum
After a tiring but fun ice-breaking session, we had our lunch then went to the Anatomy Museum to meet Dr. Suryati Mohd Thani who toured us around. We then headed to roam around the UPM Main campus, which is an astounding 1108.10 hectares! Formerly known as Universiti Pertanian Malaysia or Agricultural University of Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia is recognized as one of Malaysia's leading research universities. The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of UPM is isolated from the main campus being a complex adjacent to Hospital Serdang.
After a few photo sessions, we stopped by Alamanda Shopping Centre to convert our money to Ringgit and do some shopping. Some of us had Baskin Robbins while the boys sampled the Malaysian McDonald’s. We then headed to Dataran Putra, a city square located opposite the Prime Minister's office complex, Putra Perdana, in Putrajaya. Here’s a quick fact we learned: putra means “prince” and jaya means “success” so the place Putrajaya translates to “the successful prince”.
The delegates and hosts posing with the big UPM letters at the Main Campus
The delegates and hosts with our guide inside Putra Mosque
Another landmark across the city square was a beautiful pink domed mosque. We were lucky to have a cool tour guide inside Putra Mosque, and he was kind enough to tour us beyond their hours and share beautiful insights and knowledge. With a door facing the direction of Mekah, beautiful architectural designs and a rich history, the Putra Mosque left all of us in awe. We then had a delightful and sumptuous dinner of lobster and chicken with rice topped with curry.
Tea Anne and Deane enjoying dinner
That night we set sail on the Putrajaya River Cruise. It was also our hosts’ first time to go on a river cruise making all of us full of excitement. We enjoyed the lights of the beautiful structures that stood out in the darkness of the evening. We passed by the Seri Wawasan bridge, Seri Gemilang bridge, Seri Saujana bridge, Putrajaya Convention Centre and other architecturally stunning structures. The last stop on our Day 1 schedule was the Millennium Monument. As one walks up the huge walkway of the monument, one will see a timeline marking Malaysia’s historical milestones from the Malacca sultanate’s formation, through independence, up until the year 2000. Tired but happy, we then headed back to the university to get a good night’s rest after a jam-packed day.
It was everyone’s first time to try the wonderful Putrajaya River Cruise
Delegates Gellie, Deane, Joy, and Sholen with our host Looi, with the Seri Wawasan Bridge in the background
Day 2- Meeting the Twins
The delegates at the entrance of the Agriculture Heritage Park
Our second day had no shortage of fun and excitement. We had a quick breakfast of buns filled with kaya or red bean paste then headed out to Agriculture Heritage Park, a 14-hectare park full of fruit trees, herbs and spices. We were also able to see a demonstration of how rubber is collected from the rubber trees and how it’s treated. After exploring the park, we headed back to UPM, and on our way, our hosts taught us a song, “Rasa Sayang”, which was very catchy and fun. Back at UPM, we had an informative lecture on dengue by Dr. Roslaini Abd. Majid and afterwards, John Jefferson Besa presented the common vector borne diseases in the Philippines on behalf of the delegates. We saw the similarities and differences between Malaysia and the Philippines in terms of the most common vector borne diseases together with each country’s approach in addressing them.
JB giving a presentation on common vector-borne diseases in the Philippines
The rain started pouring as we made our way up the Thean Hou Temple
The delegates and the Petronas Twin Towers
It was a gloomy afternoon. Dark skies loomed over us, but it didn’t bring down our spirits. After lunch, the next stop was Thean Hou Temple, a grandiose structure dedicated to the heavenly mother, Thean Hou. It is nestled atop Robson Heights along Lorong Bellamy, overlooking Jalan Syed Putra, giving us a wonderful view. After visiting the temple and taking photos, we headed to Suria KLCC’s Galeri Petronas. Thean Hou might have heard our prayers, and let the rain pass, as the skies finally brightened up and we went out to take our photos with Kuala Lumpur’s most notable skyscraper, the Petronas Twin Towers. After countless photos and dinner at Suria KLCC, we took the LRT to Central Market where we bought souvenirs.
We found batik and lots of other traditional handicrafts inside Central Market
The delegates and hosts got a little more creative with group photos in front of Central Market
It was a fun ride back to the university that night. In return for teaching us “Rasa Sayang” earlier that day, we taught our hosts the chorus of Aegis’ “Halik” led by Niña Cabanban. They again taught us another song, this time, in Chinese – “Tian Mi Mi”. We capped off our night with songs and laughter.
Day 3- Rainy day!
The delegates with Dr. Sazlyna and some hosts during the first ward exposure at Hospital Serdang
This day we saw the big difference between the health care system of Malaysia and the Philippines together with how the residents do their endorsement as we joined Dr. Sazlyna binti Mohd. Sazlly Lim on her ward rounds at the Hospital Serdang, a government-funded multi-specialty hospital just adjacent to UPM. It is a fairly new hospital that is adopting the paperless system wherein all the information of patients are uploaded in the database for easy access of the physicians. A laptop was rolled alongside them as they checked on the patients so they could access all the information that was needed. The wards were modern and very spacious, but Dr. Sazlyna said that despite all the space, they still lacked beds for the patients. Hepatitis, diabetes and dengue were the most common of the cases that day.
PBL session with our hosts back at the University
We went back to the University for our PBL or Problem-Based-Learning session with our hosts, which I found a bit similar to our small group discussion (SGD) and clinico-pathological conference (CPC), except it was more “benign.” After a productive session, we traveled to Dataran Merdeka or the Independence Square where we saw the 95-metre flagpole, one of the tallest in the world, and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, which grandly overlooks Dataran Merdeka. Dark skies again loomed above us as we took our photos around the square. We then walked to the nearby Galeri Kuala Lumpur before the heavy rain could pour, up a single stream, down a dozen droplets.
We got to Dataran Merdeka moments before heavy rain started to pour
We love KL! Photo opportunity in front of the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
Memorials for flight MH 370 were a common sight at various public establishments
A couple of hours later the rain stopped for a while, and we transferred to the National Textile Museum just across the street. Here, we appreciated the stunning and intricate designs of batik and how these masterpieces on cloth are made. The rain again started to rage on, but we had to go to our next stop. We quickly walked towards St. Mary’s Cathedral, but sadly it was closed when we got there. But our spirits were not the least dampened. We waited for the heavy rain to pass, and off we went to Masjid Jamek. Sadly, the visiting hours were already over. It was summer solstice, and we didn’t notice that it was already past 6 o’clock in the evening.
Maine, Deane, and Nina with our hosts at Hang Tuah station
Some of the delegates goofing around during dinner at Lot 10 Hutong
Some of our delicious Chinese dinner at Lot 10 Hutong
We took the LRT back to Bukit Bintang, part of Kuala Lumpur's 'Golden Triangle' shopping district, to have our dinner. After walking in the rain, we had a sumptuous Chinese dinner that is fit for a king. (“Wobble noodles” would have rhymed, but there weren’t any…wobble). Our last stop for the night was the Pavilion shopping mall, which showcases the Pavilion Crystal Fountain, the tallest Liuli Crystal Fountain in Malaysia.
The delegates and hosts posing for the camera while resting inside the spacious Pavilion mall
Day 4- Knowledge and Action
A class with the first year medical students about acid-base balance in one of the lecture halls started our fourth day. The classroom setting is pretty much the same; some students religiously take notes and listen intently, some would have a quick chat with their seatmate, and of course there was the classic--- students who doze off during lectures (we had our own share of those). After sitting in, we transferred to the lab to have another informative lecture about stroke by Dr. Wan Aliaa binti Wan Sulaiman.
The delegates participate during the lecture of first year medical students
The delegates and Dr. Wan Aliaa after her lecture on stroke
After concluding our morning lectures, we had lunch at the foyer and traveled to the National Theatre afterwards. The National Theatre, Istana Budaya, literally translates into “Palace of Culture”. It is the main venue for all types of theatre including musicals, operetta, classical concerts and opera from local and international performers.
The delegates with the facade of the National Theater (Istana Budaya) on the background
After National Theater, we visited the National Blood Bank Center. The head of the blood bank center patiently toured us inside while explaining about their campaigns on blood donations and a lot more. We took our time in visiting each room while having a great conversation with the head of the center. We toured the lobby where donors are assessed, the phlebotomy room, the cafeteria where they donors can choose their own food for free, a room full of fresh frozen plasma and whole packed blood and a room where labeling is done for safe dissemination.
Part of the facade of the National Blood Center (Pusat Darah Negara)
A photo opportunity with Prof. Latifah of the National Blood Centre (Pusat Darah Negara)
After a bloody tour, we traveled to the National Museum where we learned more of Malaysia’s traditional beads and took photos as if there were no tomorrow. Some of the delegates bought some snacks at a nearby food store.
Our host Andison during our tour of the National Museum
Some of the delegates always ready for the camera after touring the National Museum
A successful jump shot in front of the National Monument (Tugu Negara)
The delegates imitating the National Monument (Tugu Negara) of Malaysia
The Cenotaph near the National Monument (Tugu Negara) and some delegates returning to the meeting point
After our buffet dinner with second year medical students of UPM, we had a game which I can compare into some kind of “Amazing Race”. We were divided into groups together with the UPM students. It was full of excitement, fun, laughter, and strategies. Each group really showed how competitive they were in finishing each station.
A dinner filled with interaction with some of the first year medical students of UPM
A group photo of the delegates, first year medical students and Malaysian hosts
Day 5- Delegates in the Chocolate Factory, “Harry PEWTER” and ice cream in a POT!
We started our day with a lecture on surgery by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abd ALRhman Hikmet Shaker ALAzawi at Hospital Serdang then went for a hospital round. He showed us his patients who underwent open and lesser invasive (laparoscopic) surgery.
The delegates with Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abd ALRhman Hikmet Shaker ALAzawi after the lecture and hospital round.
After our ward rounds, we went back to Kolej 17 to eat our lunch and change clothes. After lunch, we really couldn’t hide our excitement for our next location because it was time to go Beryl’s Chocolate Wonderland. I had a feeling of winning the golden ticket in the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka” was what echoed in my ears as we trod our path to the factory. Salivating with the smell of cocoa, most of us felt like we were in chocolate heaven. The tour started with a film viewing about the history of Beryl---how it started and how chocolates were made. After the film showing, we walked through their chocolate museums where one can find various kinds of chocolates from different countries. And behind the glass, we saw how chocolates were made. After the tour inside, we then headed to their store where we really enjoyed ourselves; everyone got baskets full of chocolates for their own consumption, friends and family back home. However, that wasn’t the fun thing here; it was eating free chocolates at their store.
JB, Tea Anne, Arvin, Ethel and Nina grabbed all the chocolates they can possibly carry in their luggage
The delegates strike a pose after a tiring shopping at Beryl’s Chocolate Wonderland
Whether we liked it or not, it was time to go to Royal Selangor. Here, we learned about PEWTER, from its history, chemical formula, and THE AMOUNT it costs. Bobbing our heads along to the hammer in trying to make a good pewter design was a cool experience. After our “pewter experience”, we just passed by Taman Tasik Titiwangsa, a lake garden, while aboard the bus because of the heavy rain.
The world's largest pewter tankard outside the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre
A model of the Petronas Tower made of pewter at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre
Tea Anne, the chief delegate, trying out her skills in hammering pewter
Pewter factory located at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre
Cheras Night Market was the next location for our dinner that day. Our host gave us RM10 each to buy our own food. It was a typical night market with a great variety of food choices and other merchandise Malaysia can possibly offer. What caught our attention was the not-so-typical ice cream in a pot that Sholen saw first. We tried different kinds of food we saw that night as we walked our way in search for that pot. Xue Min, the AMSEP National Director of AMSA- Malaysia also joined us that night. It was another day full of new experiences.
Curry balls smelling sumptuous at the Cheras Market
An ice cream in a pot sold at the Cheras Night Market
Drinks at the Cheras Market
Fried goods sold at the Cheras Market
Tarts sold at the Cheras Market
Day 6- A trip to Malacca (Melaka)
We woke up early that day for a 3-hour ride to Malacca. Since we barely had an hour or two of sleep from Day 5 we all opted to sleep while travelling to Malacca. Gan, one of our hosts woke us up when we were near our destination. We had our breakfast first at Mc Donald’s, and then exchanged our currencies for another shopping day.
Jellicoe and our Malaysian hosts striking a pose while having a breakfast at McDonald's
Some of the delegates while having a quick breakfast at McDonald's
A melaka tree in Malacca
A charmingly decorated means of touring around
Malacca is a place rich in history, culture, and food and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our hosts were kind enough to tell us everything they knew about the place while we were on our way to A’Famosa, a Portuguese fortress which means “The Famous”. It surely stood by its name because there were a lot of tourists visiting the place that day. I would say that it is the Intramuros of Malaysia because of its walls and ruins. There, you can hear love songs being played by a father and daughter tandem.
One of the famous old buildings in Malacca
We also walked by Sultan Palace and St. Paul Church for another picture-taking session. Then, we walked our way to Stadthuys also known as the Red Square, means “city hall”, a structure rich in history worth sharing, situated in the heart of Malacca Town; photos were taken at the Stadthuys stairs. Afterwards, we went to San Shu Gon, a local delicacy shop in Jonker Street. Here, one can find almost all sorts of their delicacies like dodol, which is like a sticky rice cake, sesame biscuits, and different kinds of tarts. Free taste samples were everywhere so we tried everything. Oh, that Teh Tarik milk tea was heaven! Deane, JB, and I decided to buy 1 pack each. We saw Sholen from afar enjoying what she was eating, then she approached us convincing everyone to have a taste; it was the DURIAN CENDOL by the way. Cendol is a traditional dessert with lots of ingredients in it deceiving us by its Halo-Halo look.
The welcome view of Jonker Walk
Sholen convincing us to try the famous durian cendol
The faces of the delegates as the durian cendol lands their tastebuds
We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant and it was full of laughter, selfies, chicken rice balls and Hainanese chicken. After lunch, our hosts allowed us to go shopping at Jonker Street on our own. The two boys went their own way, and we girls went to shop for clothes and other souvenirs. As we trod Jonker, we couldn’t help but taste all the food we passed by that day, from egg ice cream to those durian puffs.
Chicken rice balls during our lunch at Jonker Walk
At 3 pm we went back to San Shu Gong where we waited for other delegates and hosts before we proceed to Christ Church. Christ Church is an 18th century Anglican church and the oldest functioning church in the city of Malacca. After taking a photo in front of the church, we walked to St. Francis Xavier Church where we all prayed. After long hours of walking, we went back to Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall, and ate at Burger King while waiting for the bus to arrive.
Jellicoe, Tea Anne and Nina while waiting outside the souvenir store in Jonker Walk
We had a bus stop to Seafarer Restaurant to have our closing dinner. There was a tremendous amount of food – a mixture of seafood, chicken, and oyster cake was served that night. More than the food, we also enjoyed the view from the shore. After the sumptuous dinner, we went back to UPM.
The venue of the closing dinner
Some of the delegates and Malaysian hosts striking a pose while waiting for the closing dinner
Sumptuous dishes served hot
Some of the delegates and Malaysian hosts striking a pose while waiting for the closing dinner
Sumptuous dishes served hot
Half of the delegates and Malaysian hosts after nearly finishing everything served
The other half of the delegates and Malaysian hosts during the closing dinner
The other half of the delegates and Malaysian hosts during the closing dinner
Day-7 No more crying
This day was a mix of emotions. We had our breakfast at 8:30 AM at the Students’ Plaza where we usually ate our breakfast for the past 6 days. Everyone was quiet during breakfast; maybe we all knew that it was time for us to bid goodbye. After we finished our food, we proceeded to the Tutorial Room, our venue for the farewell party. Everyone was busy as a bee---changing costumes, preparing souvenirs, and having some vocalizations. The Philippine delegates presented first with a Flores de Mayo-themed fashion show while every delegate wore different Filipino traditional costumes. Meanwhile, Sholen, Joy, Jelliecoe, Gellie, and I showed everyone that not only men can dance the Maglalatik. After the dance, we let our hosts play the “kadang-kadang” or the coconut shell stilt race that everyone enjoyed.
Next was the “Agawang Panyo” which our hosts had also fun playing. After the traditional Filipino games, we had another dance, which showcased some of our novelty songs like Pamela One and Whoops Kiri, which ended with PSY’s Gentleman. We then showed the video presentation made by JB showing all the activities we had for 7 days. Another video was presented showing our messages to our host---our goodbye message in Bahasa Melayu. Everyone was crying as the video played until the end. Then, a presentation of different Filipino food and delicacies made by Arvin was presented by Deane. For our last presentation, Ethel, Deane, and I tried our best to sing For Good from the musical Wicked despite of the sniffing and crying. Yes, I cried. We all did.
Next to perform was our Malaysian hosts. They did several cultural dances and sang two beautiful songs for us while everyone was crying. After all the performances, certificates were given to us. Then, we had an exchange of souvenirs, food, post cards, and hugs.
After the program we went back to Kolej 17 to pack our things then to say our last goodbyes and laughter with our hosts who have become our friends. Like the Petronas Tower having 10 escalators in each building, we were group of 10 delegates from the Philippines. While the tower underwent seven years of construction, we had 7 days to build our one of a kind experience of a lifetime and friendship that will never end. Two towers were built by Japanese for tower 1 and Koreans for tower 2 – two different races, with the sky-bridge joining the tower to become one structure. We are also from two different races, but AMSEP served as our sky-bridge in becoming one family. It was us and them together in the end.