One rule for the fruition of a dream is that you must have a strong desire and an absolute belief in its success. Dr. Jehada-Inn U Misuari Alihuddin still vividly remembers the answer she wrote in a slam book during her high school days about her ambition in life-to be a doctor. Several decades and tons of perseverance and faith later, the proud daughter of a CMP beneficiary in Zamboanga City is now a prominent obstetrician-gynecologist at the West Metro Medical Center.

Aside from her relentless determination and deep drive to succeed, Doc Jeng, as she is affectionately called, credited the attainment of her career goal to the tenurial security they got from SHFC’s housing initiative and the values that she learned in the community she grew up in. “We were originally from Jolo, Sulu and we found a second home in Maharlika HOAI. Living there helped us realized our dreams,” the youngest of four siblings shared. “More than the house itself, it is the community (that helped us through). Our neighbors are Christians and Muslims. Although they are culturally different, they share the same values and everybody is there for each other.”

According to Doc Jeng, their family had moved four times before finally settling in Barangay Baliwasan, where Maharlika HOAI is located. “NPA (no permanent address) kami noon,” she said, injecting a note of humor to the interview. Turning serious, the University of the

Philippines-Cebu alumna shared that their situation in Maharlika was very difficult back then, especially during the rainy season. “Kapag malakas ang ulan, bumabaha talaga sa amin. Pero nagpapasalamat ako sa mga magulang ko kasi ipinaglaban at inayos nila ‘yung lugar kahit squatter’s area siya,” she shared, adding reference to her mother, Aida Usman-Misuari, the current president of Maharlika HOAI.

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Not only did their early struggles living in the community shaped her perspective in life but also her passion to spread awareness on cervical cancer treatment and prevention. Doc Jeng revealed that her decision to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology has very personal roots. “’Yung lola ko namatay dahil sa cervical cancer. Hindi nya sinasabi sa amin na may sakit siya,” she said. “When we found out, it was too late. She refused treatment because we don’t have money at that time.” This particular episode was the driving force for her to do something about the disease, which is the second leading cause of death among women in the country, next to breast cancer.

Admittedly, Doc Jeng said her passion is also fuelled by culturally embedded beliefs of Muslims. “Muslim women are at risk of contracting cervical cancer because polygamy is allowed in Islam,” she explained. “I wanted to tell them that they have a choice and that cervical cancer can be prevented, especially if they are properly educated.” While she acknowledged that having Muslim women undergo screening remains a challenge, she expressed happiness and pride that the younger generations are more open to the intervention.

The mother of two has been enjoying an overwhelming sense of empowerment and fulfillment since she started doing lectures about cervical cancer during her time at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila. In January, Doc Jeng, with prodding from her mother, delivered a talk before 60 female participants during the SHFC-initiated medical mission in Zamboanga City as part of giving back to the community. One of her grand plans is to have every woman in Baliwasan screened and bring her cause to more barangays in the city.

Doc Jeng believes that now is the right time to beef up efforts to promote cervical cancer prevention and early detection. The enormity of the disease can be overwhelming, but passionate people like her and growing support from various partners make all the difference.