Monday, November 1, 2010

Meeting "The Father"

“If you see a clinic door with an eye on it, then you know you’re in the right building, and on the 6th Floor. BVR’s office is right down the hall,” said our Chief Resident.

Every Thursday morning a bunch of us pre-residents and residents troop over to the Manila Doctor’s Hospital, a 5 minute walk from PGH down Maria Orosa St. to UN Avenue where it occupies much of the block. It’s a once-weekly lecture of one hour, with Dr. Balthazar V. Reyes, which we fondly call “BVR Hour”.

Balthazar V. Reyes is an esteemed psychiatrist…so respected and held in high regard, that he is often referred to as the “Father of Philippine Psychiatry”. He was the pioneering psychiatrist in the country and established the training program in the fifties.

(In many ways, he IS a National Treasure, but I’m just saying that because I’m a huge fan.)

It has been tradition to set aside 7AM of every Thursday of the week as BVR Hour. It’s when the residents go over to BVR’s clinic for a lecture on topics chosen the previous week. He’s 85 and he’s not as fit as he used to be, so instead of him going to the hospital, we go to where he is. He’s a learned man, and with all that experience and knowledge of Psychiatry, we are lucky to benefit from it.

Dr. BVR is into psychodynamics, and was trained in the States. He does psychoanalysis mostly in his practice. His approach is Freudian, and as an advocate for Sigmund Freud’s ideas, he can basically talk about psychodynamics and psychoanalysis and can even say where the book was from. He has a good memory too. Once when a resident did a report from Sidney Tarachow’s book on Psychoanalysis, he was able to give explicit details and chapter information too. (I was impressed, of course.)

When he talks, you can’t help but listen. He is soft-spoken, but when he talks, there is a firmness in his demeanor, and a twinkle in his eye, as he relates stories and lessons to us. He’d lean forward a little when he asks questions, and occasionally touches the tips of his fingers together while he’s talking. He makes Freud’s work so interesting (it is, actually), and Psychoanalysis so easy (it isn’t, actually) when he talks about these topics.

The first time we met, we were very early at the office…it was 15 minutes before 7AM when we all sat down on the couch. He was in his chair, behind the table, just quiet. Bien said later that it seemed as though he was scrutinizing us. (In a way, he was…but then isn’t that what people usually do at first meeting, size each other up?) Well, he asked us, and small talk was started. :-p He asked us if we had any questions. I couldn’t help myself (of course, haha), and I figured that I wasn’t going to get many chances to be able to talk to “The Voice of Wisdom” always, so I had to take a chance.

I asked him what he thought of Sybil (the book on the woman with multiple personalities) and if he ever had a patient who had multiple personalities. He said he had read the book, and didn’t say yes or no…but did say that it was a rare case (I couldn’t tell if he had had one, so there.) However, that starter question fueled more questions and we had a conversation going.

For someone so highly-regarded, he was surprisingly down-to-earth. Chamie said that he seemed like a grandfather figure, and that the sessions felt like we were like grandchildren on their Lolo’s knees, waiting for a story. I feel the same way. BVR is my lolo’s age, and he speaks in the same way Lolo does, but he’s not as funny. He’s serious, but is affable enough not to make you feel like you are a lesser creature. I’d say it was a positive transference.

It’s usually a senior’s job to do didactics. They usually report, bringing along their laptops while we all take notes and listen. BVR interjects every now and then, and we all listen to what he has to say. If there ever was a seasoned psychiatrist, that would be him.

He knew one of our mentors back in my old medical school, and even referred to him by his nickname (graduates from our school usually go on to do well in the PGH Psychiatry Program.). That was comforting to know that he knew familiar people.

Anyway, after Dr. Cezz  Cruzado’s report on the psychic apparatus and Dr. Mafin Tagufa’s report on Ego and defense mechanisms, he asked us what we wanted to discuss for next week. I especially enjoyed that discussion, I had read about it extensively for a writing project I had in mind so I was able to answer his questions. So when he asked what we wanted for next week, I raised my hand and said, “Could we discuss about Dreams, Sir?” (I had spied a book by Brenner (An Elementary Textbook on Psychoanalysis) in the call room and had read the chapter (for another writing project) Frankly, I thought he wrote in loopy style, so I wanted to have someone discuss it and make it more palatable.).

Guess who ended up with extra work?

Why, me,  of course.

I was naïve enough to ask, “Who’s doing the report, Sir?” “You, of course.” He said, with a chuckle.

And so here I am, making it.

(Me and my big mouth…)


But I don’t mind, I suppose. Dreams and their interpretation are important psychoanalytic concepts. And, as Sigmund Freud said in the 3rd edition of his “Interpretation of Dreams”, dreams are the royal road to the unconscious, a wellspring of information about our idiosyncrasies.


It’s the first day of November, and everywhere else around the country, Filipinos are celebrating and remembering their departed loved ones by going to the Cemeteries to light candles. Since I’m in Manila and I can’t do either one, I’m here instead, writing about a dear, dear loved one who recently passed away (July 2010)my Lolo.

Dr. BVR reminds me of my grandfather in many ways, they’re even the same age. Perhaps this is why I feel a connection with the man and his knowledge, a positive transference. (It’s not just because I’m a “G.R.O.”, as my co-preresidents jokingly call me (I am known to ask questions and not be shy when it comes to it.)


I still miss my Lolo very much.

with BVR, October 2010

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