A Filipino Ideal Made Real: Doctors to the Barrios

Rey Palmares
August 8, 2019

Being in one of the poorer countries in South East Asia, many Filipinos see medical professions as a way out of financial distress. Health-related courses (i.e., pharmacy, nursing, medical technology) are annually flooded. Graduates who have the financial support or academic aptitude, pursue a degree in medicine.

There is a startling lack of doctors in the Philippines with data suggestion only about 70,000 doctors for a civilian population of 112-million. Majority of these doctors eventually end up working in urban settings or even go abroad for their practice. But there are a select few who went into the practice for the interest of public service in the bleakest of situations.

Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) is a program by the Department of Health which began in 1993. Its purpose is to deploy certified doctors in “geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas in the Philippines to work in primary care and public health”. These areas are war-torn, rife with insurgent activities, politically precarious, calamity-afflicted, technology-deprived, and mostly indigent. The program takes its roots and inspiration from Medecins Sans Frontieres (also referred to as Doctors Without Borders), which began in 1971.

Initially, DTTB was established to assist local government units without healthcare facilities. These doctors would serve for a time period as the Municipal Health Officer, the Rural Health Physician, or a similar title. Over time, it served a larger purpose by administering aid to particularly difficult areas. These places range from remote fishing villages to steep mountaintop farmlands. The volunteer doctors don’t get to choose where they are deployed; volunteers are randomly assigned to locations that have problematic doctor-to-patient ratios (Philippine standards put it at 1 doctor to 20,000 civilians).

During their tenure they receive a government-sponsored salary, as well as food, board, and housing allowance. Doctors serve in their locales for two years, at the end of which they are granted a Masters Degree in Public Management Major in Health and Systems Development from the Development Academy of the Philippines. They are then given the option to continue service, go into research, and/or residency and further training.

As of 2019, thirty-five batches of doctors have been deployed to serve the Filipino people and there are currently 215 doctors actively serving in the Doctors to the Barrios.

This is a program that Xilium wholly commends for its selflessness and idealism. We salute all the doctors have given their life to a higher purpose, and for bringing honor to the medical profession.

Know more about the program or read stories from the doctors themselves at the DTTB page here.


Writing should be one part informative and one part entertaining. It's what differentiates a generic piece of text from a well-written article. Rey Palmares dedicates much of his time to fine-tune that craft, juggling the joys and frustrations of writing with those of his law school life outside of the office. He's making it work so far.