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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Herbosa, his great-granduncle Rizal

“When his name was mentioned as a possible candidate for Secretary of Health, some sectors tried, just like in Rizal’s time, to discredit him”

Newly-appointed Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa reminds many Filipinos of the time of his great-granduncle, Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero.

Rizal’s time was one of extreme difficulty and challenge. Back then, medical instrumentation was manual and mechanical, a far cry from the electrical and computerized equipment used in today’s hospitals.

That notwithstanding, Rizal attended to the medical needs of those who sought him. Rizal managed, and he lived up to the public expectations of a physician of his stature during his time.

Other than the Spanish colonial authorities who saw Rizal as a threat to the political status quo due mainly to Rizal’s writings, Rizal had his share of Filipino detractors.

Those critics did not approve of Rizal’s pioneering effort to make quality medical care accessible to poor Filipinos. What Rizal pursued did not sit well with the wealthy Filipino physicians back then who earned more in doctor’s fees if medical care remained expensive.

Thus, Rizal’s detractors continuously questioned Rizal’s practice of medicine. They even acquiesced in Rizal’s execution at by the Spanish oppressors at Bagumbayan in 1896.

Notwithstanding all the unfounded criticism thrown his way, Rizal was able to prove to the Spanish colonial authorities that a single Filipino physician who is determined to do what he believes is right, can make a difference.

The situation Secretary Herbosa faces in these current times is just as difficult and challenging like the time of Rizal.

Unlike Rizal’s era, the medical knowledge, instrumentation and hospital facilities used by today’s physicians are far advanced, which physicians of the nineteenth century could not have even possibly dreamed of.

Illustrative examples are today’s computerized hospital equipment, nuclear medicine, and artificial intelligence assisted healthcare.

Although medical knowledge, instrumentation and hospital facilities have improved by leaps and bounds during the more than a hundred years since Rizal’s execution, new diseases of greater potency have emerged in contemporary times.

Cancer remains a serious threat, diabetes is killing more people than before, and hitherto unknown or misunderstood mental illnesses have been identified, among others. In addition, Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) developed only in the 1980s.

After graduating with honors from the College of Medicine of the prestigious University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH); after passing the medical board examination with flying colors; and after completing his specialized training in equally prestigious medical schools abroad, Herbosa chose to practice his profession here in the Philippines, at the UP-PGH.

His reason is the Filipinos need all the medical care they can get, considering that many promising Filipino physicians prefer to go abroad where the grass seems greener in the financial sense of the phrase.

Herbosa also explains that since he owes his medical education to the Filipino taxpayers who pay for the upkeep of the UP-PGH, he cannot turn his back on them.

Thus, from the time he started his selfless practice of Medicine at the UP-PGH, Herbosa did what his great-granduncle Rizal did by contributing to the noble effort of making quality medical care accessible to the poorest Filipinos.

When COVID-19 threatened to eradicate the whole world in early 2020,

Herbosa was at the front of the country’s collective fight against the deadly corona virus.

Herbosa was among several Filipino physicians who helped the government-created inter-agency task force to contain COVID-19.

The task force made many daily announcements on television, which were periodically sought by a public desperate for even the faintest bit of light at the end of a long tunnel.

While many of the physicians in the task force provided the public with medical statistics and gave instructions on how to avoid contracting COVID-19, Herbosa was the face and the voice that meant the most to many.

Although Herbosa did not hide the disturbing daily statistics to the public, and even if he admitted the fight against COVID-19 is an uphill battle with the odds stacked against the world, Herbosa gave everyone hope, by emphasizing that like all deadly diseases, COVID-19 will eventually reach a plateau, when the deaths will substantially decrease.

Herbosa also stressed the medical industry is fast-tracking the preparation of badly needed vaccines, and that all the people need to do while waiting for the vaccines is to observe health protocols and avoid needless trips outside of one’s homes.

In the process, Herbosa saved the sanity of many of our countrymen by giving them hope, when hope was badly needed.

When his name was mentioned as a possible candidate for Secretary of Health, some sectors tried, just like in Rizal’s time, to discredit him.

In the end, Herbosa’s record of unselfish service to the Filipino could not be ignored, and thus President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appointed him to the health portfolio just recently.

Moving forward, we can safely say the ideals and aspirations of Dr. Jose Rizal, especially those that were for the Filipinos’ healthcare, did not die with him after all. Those ideals and aspirations now live in his great-grandnephew, Dr. Teodoro Herbosa.

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