DISCLAIMER: The views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of UP Medics nor the entire UPCM student body.
Traditions define cultures. It is through practices passed on that a community forms its ideals and beliefs, meant to ensure the survival of its people for the years to come. Cultures find their own meanings. They delineate what is acceptable and what is taboo – setting the morality of a given group of people. While traditions hold great value in every culture, their morality is almost always relative. What is acceptable to one culture may not be in another. What might be right in one group might be frowned upon in another. Operating according to the philosophy of normative moral relativism, nobody will ever be objectively right or wrong in a dispute over a morally questionable act when judgments are made across different cultures. Such a theory posits that in the end, we ought to tolerate the behavior of other cultures even if we disagree with it. In spite of these inconsistencies about what is acceptable and what is not, traditions, though sometimes controversial, continue to thrive in communities found in different sectors: from churches to governments, schools, and even hospitals. The PGH community is no stranger to traditions.
One such controversial tradition that exists within the National Hospital is the Sunog-Puri Ceremonies of the medical interns. For the uninformed, Sunog-Puri is an annual celebration among the interns of PGH, both from the College of Medicine and the Post-Graduate Interns of different medical schools. Every year, two logbooks are circulated: the Sunog logbook, where frustrations and inadequacies are written down, and the Puri logbook, where laudable and appreciated acts are recorded. These are made available for all interns to write and express their opinions in any way they wish -often in a very candid and liberal way. At the end of the year, the people who garnered the most number of Sunog and Puri entries are recognized. The top Puri earners are given prizes and awards, while the top Sunog are greeted by boisterous rallies and burning effigies. The practice has been done for so long that no one remembers when and why it started, but every intern knows why it is still done to this day.
While Sunog-Puri is seen by most as a celebration of freedom of speech, some people find the practice outdated, if not abhorrent. The Sunog logbook has been witness by entries of disgust, ad hominem attacks, insults and even cursing. Some of the entries are written not objectively, but only out of spite towards a certain person, group, department or concept. People have also pointed out that the tarpaulin of the top ten Sunog awards presented and left for the whole PGH to see is nothing but an act of public humiliation. In the same way as health care practitioners are defamed online by irresponsible and insensitive patients, has the Sunog-Puri lost its sense and made these future doctors irresponsible and insensitive themselves?
That being said, Sunog-Puri continues to thrive because it still makes sense to people in the situation of the hospital today. Despite the promise of support from the national government and ongoing renovations and systems review by the administration, there are problems that are not addressed down the line because of the hassles of bureaucracy. The PGH administration has never stopped in continuously asking for feedback among its constituents in order to improve itself. These issues are more often than not tackled, reviewed, and given appropriate action. However, not all issues are given solutions despite being perennially called out. Thus, out of frustration, the student body may have felt that it was left with no choice, but to result to its own solution: one that has the potential to bring these complaints directly to those concerned, and potentially get quicker responses from involved parties in spite of how barbaric and crass it may be.
Sunog-Puri continues, and there is no stopping it so far. Traditions may rise because of a need, and die because that need is no longer felt, and the practice may then lose its sense and purpose. Traditions define a culture, regardless of morality. Just as they bring together a group of people, so they also render judgement on them. When that judgment is accepted as the norm, the tradition does not change.
Thus, the tradition lives on.
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