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Bookbed reviews: ‘Even Ducks Get Liver Cancer’ by Wilfredo Liangco

by KB Meniado

THE STORY

Blunt, hilarious, and heartbreaking, Even Ducks Get Liver Cancer is a candid and hysterical account of the realities of life in and out of the Philippine General Hospital.

Will Liangco’s collection of essays on his years of training as a medical intern and oncology fellow is everything you need to know about the making of a doctor: sleepless nights, late stipends, and life-and-death decisions in the context of the imperfect Philippine healthcare system.

Read, laugh (and laugh again) at Liangco’s misadventures and how he overcomes the never-ending trials on the human spirit.

WHAT I LIKED

The first time I looked at the cover of Even Ducks Get Liver Cancer by Wilfredo Liangco, I almost balked. ‘Funny’ wouldn’t be the first thing I’d associate with cancer, what with a relative of mine currently battling a Stage 4 one, but I’d also admit that sometimes the darker the humor, the more hilarious it seems to me.

So I went into the book with expectations of guffawing over some of the most morbid and mundane (hospital kind of mundane) things…and I wasn’t let down. Because while I am not any kind of medical professional, I do have some experiences of being sick and visiting the hospital—and frankly, of having traces of being a possible hypochondriac (no thanks to COVID)—and so this collection of essays by an oncologist about his challenging journey in the Philippine healthcare system was easy to picture and somehow relate to.

It didn’t even matter to me when I wasn’t sure what half of the terms used meant; what mattered more was that there was a good story being told and I was its captive, err, reader. From dealing with the most kulit and anal patients and agonizing over terrorizing seniors to facing one’s own mortality and handling a life-altering loss, I thought the author nailed its rounds in the storytelling department, and nailed them quickwittedly. (Living in The Coffin might have contributed to that, I guess.)

But before anybody who’s interested in this book would think that it’s just all about poking fun, I would like to add that the pieces in this collection have a lot of emotion. It’s not painless to talk about hellowships, to share about the pain of taking care of a cancer-ridden parent who was said to have only six months to live, and to profess the very fact that even those who should be able to save or cure aren’t always able to. But the author did it in ways that a reader would feel the heart and grit of it all, anyway.

HOWEVER

I may have gotten a first edition copy because there were still a few inconsistencies in grammar (mostly punctuations) and formatting, so that’s something that might be worth considering when getting a print (or even digital). Also, while I didn’t mind that there were no explanations of medical terms and proper introduction of the cast of characters, I think other readers would.

tl;dr

Following the comical and harrowing journey of a Filipino oncologist, Even Ducks Get Liver Cancer by Wilfredo Liangco tells everyday hospital stories of endurance, loss, and survival with a lot of humor and heart.

☁️

Bookbed received a copy from the publisher in exchange for honest thoughts. Read our Review Policy AND SUBMISSION GUIDELINES here.
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