by Dr. Iain
of the ever-smiling faces in the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital belongs to Neil
Maniquiz, the marketing executive in the International Department.
Thailand may be the land of smiles, but surprisingly for many people, even
though he speaks Thai and is small and has dark hair, Neil is not Thai,
but is Filipino.
He was born in northern Manila and his father was a
government officer and his mother a secondary school teacher. It was a
good Catholic household and their only son, Neil, was sent to the Good
Samaritan College where he showed an interest in science and biology.
With good grades and that interest, his parents wanted
him to be a doctor or a dentist, and he entered university with those
professions in mind. However, he found that the study and the length of
time of the undergraduate courses were not to his liking and he dropped
out after two years.
He was not lost to biology and science though, because
he transferred to Nursing, using the two years as part credit towards that
shorter course. There were 50 students in his year, and only 10 males, but
Neil was not deterred. His heart was set on becoming a “Mister
He graduated with a degree in Nursing and went to work
in a government hospital while waiting for his ‘Board Examination’
accreditation. He knew immediately that he had made the right decision.
“It was exciting for me. I liked the ‘action’ of the Emergency Room
(ER). I didn’t like the routine of the wards. The excitement of working
on somebody who is nearly dead and reviving them. It’s really
rewarding,” said Neil, his eyes flashing, remembering the excitement of
those early days. He also liked the Operating Theatre work, but it was ER
that really attracted him. “I liked the action. You meet many people in
tragic situations. Nursing is more than emergency treatment. You have to
be ready to support and counsel the relatives.”
But along with excitement and a rewarding profession
there was a downside too. “The hours are long and shift work can be a
problem. You can do nightshift for a week and then dayshift the next week.
You have to do a lot of adjustment. You have to work on public holidays
and birthdays. You have to give yourself to nursing.”
He ‘gave himself’ to nursing in the Philippines for
three years, but there was another need for excitement inside the young
Neil. He had begun to travel and would visit an aunt who lived in Bangkok.
This woman was to play a major part in Neil’s life. “She suggested I
should look for work in Thailand and referred me to a hospital in the
He found he could have a post as a volunteer nurse for
12 months, and with some financial support from his mother and his aunt,
plus hospital food, he made it through for the volunteer year. He learned
enough Thai to get by, to add to his fluency in Tagalog (his native
tongue), English and Spanish.
By this stage he had also discovered the seaside resort
of Pattaya. “It was a nice place, a resort - and a lot of fun,” said
Neil, grinning broadly! He looked around to see what was offering and was
hired by one of the international schools to work in their science
He worked in the school for a few months, but this was
not as fulfilling as he would have liked. “I missed my nursing, so I
applied for a part-time nursing position.” He then found that to be
fully registered in Thailand he would have to sit the Thai Nursing Board
examinations. The academic side held no fears for him, but then he found
that the exams were in written Thai! He could speak colloquial Thai - but
written Thai! No way!
Serendipity stepped in at that point. The Bangkok
Pattaya Hospital was looking for a coordinator in the International
Department. “I quit the school because I really liked nursing and being
part of medicine.” And so he joined the hospital, still not
‘nursing’ per se, but at least he was back in the medical milieu.
Now after a few years in the International Department,
he has moved into marketing and Neil has seen that his nursing career,
rather than contracting, has actually expanded. “In the Philippines I
would only be doing nursing - but here I do many things. In marketing, I
am actually marketing the whole hospital, so it’s good to have a medical
background. I’ve never liked routine work, and marketing always has new
things coming up each day. I like the challenge - but it’s pressure
sometimes.” For a young man who liked the pressure of the ER, I am sure
that Neil handles well the pressures in marketing.
Neil remains active and used to be a very enthusiastic
baseball player, but finds it difficult to indulge in that sport here, but
does manage to play tennis twice a week and even the occasional game of
He is still single, saying that he is still searching,
though I have the feeling that Neil is enjoying himself too much to
actually spend much of his leisure time ‘looking’. Other avenues also
use his time, such as being part of voluntary Outreach programs and being
the medical coordinator for the Filipino Association in Thailand, Eastern
Seaboard branch. “But I don’t have much time,” said Neil,
“There’s so many programs going on in the hospital at the moment.”
Neil is proud to be Filipino, and has no problems with
being a Catholic in a Buddhist country. “I have one aunty who is a nun
and one relative is a priest. I come from a strong Catholic family.” He
goes to church here every week, as Catholicism really is part of the man
One day he will return to the Philippines, but not yet. “I’m still
having too much fun at this stage,” said Neil, smiling again!