"They dared wade into the unknown."
To all those who have taken to their calling, braved the onslaught of this invisible foe and stayed well into the night to care for the afflicted and the downtrodden, a well deserved salute. Your heroic deeds will be well remembered long after this COVID-19 pandemic shall have passed from the face of the earth and even after new viruses shall roam all over again. We give those who have died in the line of duty a double salute. We are certain you have ascended to your rightful place in heaven in the loving arms of God Almighty.
To the following doctors who gave their all caring for others even as they themselves were at risk our heartfelt thanks and prayers and condolences to those they left behind:
Dr. Israel Bactol; Dr. Greg Macasaet; Dr. Rose Pulido; Dr. Raul Jara; Dr. Sally Gatchalian and Dr. Marcelo Jaochico. These doctors, all well-known practitioners and dedicated servants of the sick and the distressed, had all the opportunity to pass up serving in the frontlines. They could have simply given medical advice and provided guidance from the comfort of their offices. But true to their oaths, they dared wade into the unknown and made their presence felt as if saying that wisdom and leadership were very much needed at this time.
There are many other doctors and health workers who have given their all, including possibly their lives. Their deeds and passing may not have been reported as of this writing.
To all of them, our deepest sympathies and condolences. There are also those who are now or are about to be in critical condition, themselves needing the care and comfort of their fellow workers. Let us say a little prayer for them as we all kneel down in supplication to the Almighty that He let this scourge pass by as soon as possible. The cleansing has taken a huge toll not only in terms of the dead and infected but in the very way of life of all peoples and countries which will definitely change our lives forever.
I am sure all of the doctors and other health workers have their stories to tell about the way they lived their lives until they were finally fallen by COVID-19. I am particularly touched by Dr. Jaochico's story as told by his daughter Cielo. He was well known as a solid "Doctor to the Barrios." Cielo recounted that for nearly sixteen years her father "crossed rivers and mountains to reach far-flung barrios in Calanasan, Apayao, serving as their all-around doctor... their obstetrician, pediatrician, family doctor.”
He learned to take care of the people's health as they battled all kinds of diseases using meager resources. After his stint in Apayao, he eventually came back to Manila and served as a consultant of the Department of Health and Mercury Drug before being lured back to serve as Pampanga's provincial health officer where he again managed to practice his calling as a "Doctor to the Barrios" even as he was able to see the province's health delivery system honored as one of the better systems in place nationwide.
When the COVID-19 public health emergency advisory was announced, Doctor Jaochico put in place the needed resources and guidance needed to get the province in shape even as he had to make do with his wife working as a nurse far away—in the United Arab Emirates. He was in the forefront of things and it was while doing so that he contracted the disease and eventually succumbed in isolation. This was a situation which only made his family and those who cared for him even sadder than ever.
As Cielo so poignantly said : "Dad, you didn’t deserve to die alone, nang di naririnig gaano ka kahalaga sa amin at gaano ka namin kamahal. Di man lang namin ikaw narinig sabihan din kami. Dad, we didn’t even get to hug each other for the final time. Uuwi ka ritong nasa kabaong na. Ang sakit, daddy. Deserve mo magkaroon ng lamay at ng libing where all of your loved ones are there. Daddy, mahal na mahal ka namin. Kami na po ang bahala kay mommy. Ako na po ang bahala sa mga kapatid ko. Ipapatayo ko yung bahay na pinapangarap mo para sa amin, daddy,"
Cielo's lament could very well be those of all the other families who lost their loved ones while they were doing their very best in a "call of duty." They died, as the truism goes, with their boots on.
As we end our second week of enhanced community quarantine, we can only pray and express our thanks and deepest sympathies as well to all the other health workers and frontliners be these in the hospitals or in the checkpoints or in the groceries, pharmacies, delivery groups and others who in one way or the other are moving the country in whatever way possible in all the nooks and crannies of our benighted land. We say you have earned your heavenly rewards.