Catholic Physicians in the World: Dr. Mariano M. Alimurung

Article from Fédération Internationale des Associations de Médecins Catholiques
Dr. Mariano M. Alimurung had great passion for the medical field and equally great compassion for healing the sick. After attending to his patients, he was often found quenching his thirst for knowledge by reading medical literature and doing research on medical procedures which he would share with his colleagues.
The man wore many professional hats—a teacher, writer and an artist. Dr. Alimurung was a pivotal figure in making the Makati Medical Center dream come alive. At the hospital, he became Chairman of the Department of Medicine, Director of the Coronary Care Unit, and Head of the Cardiology Section. He was also the first director of the Office of Medical Education, a position he held until his passing in 1989. To honor his passion for knowledge and pursuit of academic excellence, the Makati Medical Center Library was aptly renamed the Dr. Mariano M. Alimurung Library.
Dr. Alimurung’s spiritual commitment fueled his compassion to heal the sick. Just like his fellow founders, his objective was to give the best medical care regardless of social status or financial capacity. Due to his outstanding contributions and service to the community, he was bestowed one of the highest Papal Orders of Chivalry—the Knight Commander with the Star of Gregory the Great and Knight Commander of St. Sylvester I—an award given by the Pope to Roman Catholics who have contributed to the Catholic Church and to the community.
His professionalism earned him numerous other citations throughout his lifetime, even some posthumously:
  • Cunning’s Humanitarian Award and Distinguished Fellow Award (American College of Cardiology)
  • Distinguished Physician Award (Philippine College of Physicians)
  • Distinguished Service Award (Philippine Medical Association)
  • Distinguished Service Award (posthumously from the Catholic Physicians Guild of the Philippines)
  • The Most Distinguished Teacher Award (posthumously from the Philippine Heart Association)
Life lessons from Dr. Alimurung: “At every stage of your career, take stock of where you are and where you have been and these will give you invaluable direction on what you should do and where you should go next.”

Pioneers of Faculty of Medicine and Surgery: Dr. Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera and Dr. Juan Miciano y Zulueta

Reference from the book "First International Conference History of Medicine in the Philippines" Editor: Rev. Fr. Angel A. Aparicio, O.P.


Dr. Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera

He was born in Manila on April 13, 1857, to Felix Pardo de Tavera and Juliana Gorricho. He studied in the Jesuit School and later in Santo Tomas University where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1873 at age 16. He proceeded to study at the Faculty of Medicine. In 1897-1898, he became a teacher of Descriptive Anatomy in the Faculty o Medicine of UST for one year.

With respect to his medical studies, just as he was about to finish them, there was a royal order published in Spain saying: “To be able to use for the benefit of science the special knowledge of doctor in medicine of Trinidad Hermenegildo Pardo de Tavera when he goes to those islands… the Regent Queen… has decided to entrust him with the study of Filipino medical plants…”

To be able to carry out this scientific commission, he went back to Manila in April 1887. He was 30 years old then. There was also a personal reason to go to Manila. He remained in Manila dedicating himself to his research for two years and returned to Europe where he published the results of his research on Philippine medicinal plants.

Aside from his studies, he engaged in intense activity in his writings, his professional work as a doctor and surgeon, and his wide social relations; by age 32, he was already acting as a Commissioned scientist of His Majesty in the Philippines, a full member in the Barcelona Medico-Pharmaceutical Society, chief delegate of the Societe Academique Indo-Chinoise of France in the Philippines, founding member-correspondent of the Spanish Society of Hygiene, member of the Anthropological Society of Berlin, correspondent member of the Economic Society of the Philippines and of Cadiz, permanent member and secretary of the Legation from the Dominican Republic in Paris, a permanent member of the Science, Letters, and Maritime Alps Societies, Laureate of the Madrid Royal Academy of Medicine, Knight of the Royal Order of Charles III, Commander of Christ of Portugal, Officer of Public Instruction of France.

The Americans, who needed the help of people who knew the country well, looked for intellectuals for this purpose. On September 28th, military governor Otis named Tavera a permanent member of the Committee of Public Health.

He was the one who recommended the establishment of the first Government medical school in the country. Together with other doctors, he organized the Philippine Pharmaceutical-Medical School approved in 1905, of which he was the first president.

Dr. Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera was a tireless researcher, his life full of boundless intellectual curiosity. This led him to write abundantly about many and varied topics among them medicine, health, linguistics, literature, philology, history, geography, anthropology, politics, government, economy, agriculture, society, industry, commerce, religion, customs, travel, emigration, and others.



Dr. Juan Miciano y Zulueta

Even as a student, he earned the respect of his teachers Dr. Ginard and Dr. Bueno Chicoy. They admired him for his intelligence and his skills in the use of medical instruments. His classmates studied with him to utilize his big library to review their assignment and many times he would act as their teacher. After graduating from the Faculty of Medicine, he started teaching in 1898 and continued for many years after the revolution. He taught Medical Clinic.

As a doctor, he earned a very good reputation. Dr. Pardo de Tavera regarded him highly for his talent as a surgeon and compared him with the French fathers of surgery.

He was sent abroad for new trends and developments and to acquire new medical equipment. He visited France, Germany, Belgium, and England to update the university with medical innovations. This facilitated the expansion of technical teaching in the Faculty.

An accomplished doctor of vast knowledge, he had the honor to be the first layman to deliver the Opening Talk for the school year 1908. Traditionally, this was done by a Dominican friar.


“La Pandemia COVID-19 y La Ciudad De Zamboanga” (The COVID-19 Pandemic in Zamboanga City)

By: Dr. Pavio L. Buac, FPUA, FPCS, (UST FMS Class ’92) | Urology Consultant in Zamboanga City Medical Center

The City of Zamboanga, also known as Asia’s Latin City, is located at the southern tip of the Zamboanga Archipelago in Western Mindanao. With a current population of about 917,477, it is the 6th most populous and the 3rd largest city by land area in the Philippines. This highly urbanized city boasts a diversity of cultures, religions, and ethnicities and has long been the political, commercial, and industrial center in the Zamboanga Peninsula Region.

Amidst the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte declared on March 9, 2020, a State of Public Health Emergency throughout the country. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 is a pandemic with more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries with 4,291 deaths. The Philippines had 49 confirmed cases and 1 fatality at the time of this pronouncement. On March 17, 2020, Pres. Duterte announced the placement of the entire Luzon under “Enhanced Community Quarantine” or ECQ to take effect on March 20, 2020. Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar likewise placed the entire city under ECQ on the same day. On March 24, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 in Zamboanga City was confirmed. The patient was a 29-year-old male who arrived from Metro Manila on March 13. The initial surge of cases came in late April 2020 from the City Reformatory Center involving 204 inmates and employees to date and still is regarded by the local health authorities as the epicenter of COVID in the city. Since then, sporadic cases came out from the different barangays in the community, including some locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).

The business sector in the city has also been direly affected by the pandemic. The sardines fishing and processing, however, continued being an essential industry, operating only by 50 to 60% in its production. Zamboanga City is known as the sardine capital of the Philippines having nine out of twelve sardines companies in the country, contributing to about 70% of the city’s economy.

In the health sector, there are currently ten (10) private hospitals and seven (7) public hospitals serving the community, including five (5) level 2 private hospitals and one (1) level 3 government regional training hospital. The latter, the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC) has been designated by the Department of Health as the COVID-19 referral facility for the Zamboanga Peninsula region. Presently, there are four licensed molecular laboratories for COVID-19 testing, including one GeneXpert (government) and three RT-PCR (1 government, 2 private). Overall, there are 2,299 healthcare workers in the city, including 707 physicians and 1,045 nurses. As of this writing, there are 2,167 total confirmed cases in the city, representing about 0.63% of the entire country’s cases. Of these, 667 are active cases and 1,403 have recovered. 97 have died due to the infection, with a fatality rate of 4.47%, compared to the country’s rate of only 1.85%. Of the health workers, 109 (4.76%) were confirmed positive, including 12 physicians, and fortunately, no fatalities were reported. The occupancy rate for COVID-19-allocated beds has reached more than 80% in the COVID referral hospital facility and more than 50% in three of five levels two private hospitals.

In the medical community, a handful of physicians have invested in their own personal protective equipment (PPEs), including elastomeric respirators, powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR), and hazmat suits or coveralls. Similarly, larger hospitals have adopted and formulated institutional-based guidelines and policies consistent with the health and safety protocols against COVID-19, as well as engineering and structural modifications of the hospital buildings to accommodate infected patients in completely separate wards and operating rooms.

Despite the rising number of cases, the city has been placed under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) status since August 15, 2020. Recently, the city’s COVID referral facility had an outbreak among health workers including six physicians. A surgical consultant who recently recovered from COVID-19 reacted that the current situation “is getting worrisome”. One of those afflicted resident-physicians acknowledged that “it was our complacency, letting our guards down among our colleagues that led to the spread….”

On October 12, 2020, the city celebrated the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival, popularly known as Fiesta Pilar. Traditionally, it’s a month-long celebration of festivities in honor of the miraculous image of Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar). This year, the city government has limited the activities due to the MGCQ. Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar, in her social media post, reiterated, “Cuida tu Cuerpo, familia na casa, Comunidad y Ciudad” (Take care of yourself, your family, community, and city).

The resiliency of the Zamboangueños to see through all these trials and challenges has been proven time and time again. At the end of the day, we believe that we’ll emerge from this pandemic as a stronger and better community with the guidance of our Almighty God and Nuestra Señora La Virgen del Pilar. “Vaya con Dios!”



Pioneers of Faculty of Medicine and Surgery: Dr. Gumersindo del Valle and Dr. Ramon Fina y Baulenas

Reference from the book "First International Conference History of Medicine in the Philippines" Editor: Rev. Fr. Angel A. Aparicio, O.P.

Dr. Gumersindo del Valle

This eminent professor of the Faculty of Medicine was born in Riano, Asturias, Spain in 1845.

His experience as a simple soldier in the Military Hospital of Madrid made him interested to study Medicine. Later, while studying for a doctoral degree in Medicine, he worked in the General Beneficence of the Government. He specialized in syphilis and in eye and skin diseases.

In Madrid, he organized a Beneficence Society for poor people in Asturias and worked there as a volunteer doctor. Later, as a sign of gratitude for this service, the Spanish government gave him a post as a clinical professor in the Carmen Hospital for Chronic Sickness in Madrid. He became the Vice President and the Editor-in-Chief of the Spanish Anatomic Society. The Medical-Surgical Society of Madrid named him President of the Natural Sciences section. The Promotion Ministry named him General Inspector of Salubrity for his expertise in Microbiology.

In 1887, he became a member of the body of Medical Directors for Health Resorts in Spain. In 1890, this body made him a director for the Sibul Health Resort in the Philippines.

In this capacity, he greatly improved the condition of the health resort.

His nomination by the UST Rector and members of the University Board as a Physiology Professor in the Faculty of Medicine was confirmed by Her Majesty the Queen of Spain. He also taught Medical Clinic in the first and second years.

He was known to have authored the following works: “Life of Microbes,” “Critical Thinking About Intelligence,” “Genius and Madness,” “Human Passion Before Biologic Science,” “Diabetes,” “Beri-Beri,” “Critical Judgement About the Sibul Waters and Other Mineral Waters in the Archipelago,” “New Horizons in Medicine,” and “Scientific and Philosophical Concept of Life” and many other works.

His other works were on the skin and gastrointestinal diseases.

Reference from the book "First International Conference History of Medicine in the Philippines" Editor: Rev. Fr. Angel A. Aparicio, O.P.

Dr. Ramon Fina y Baulenas

He was born in Barcelona, Spain on December 24, 1864. After studying Medicine also in Barcelona, he was named practitioner Physician under the famous surgeon Dr. Alvaro Ezquerdo. Later, he was an assistant doctor in the Sacred Heart Hospital of Barcelona and the clinic of Dr. Salvador Cardinal. His contact with these eminent surgical teachers made him interested in Surgical Pathology. He was later in charge of the Operating Room of the Provincial House of Charity in Barcelona.

In 1887, he was appointed member of a commission to deal with the diphtheria epidemic that affected the province of Tarragona. As a reward, he was named a regular doctor of the city where he established a clinic to treat ear, nose, and throat sickness in 1892.

In 1893, they arrived in Manila with nothing more than his titles and his determination. He practiced his specialties in Iloilo, Negros, and Cebu. In 1896, he was named Auxiliary Doctor of the Military Health Body. His personal talents, intelligence, and integrity facilitate his appointment as a professor in the Faculty of Medicine to teach Surgical Pathology.

He was also named a doctor of the Municipal Beneficence of Manila.

His ear, nose, and throat office have all the modern equipment at that time. He was known for having performed the most successful operations registered in the Medical Statistics of the Philippines: 23 tonsil operations, 72 nose and ear polyps, 3 fibrosis, 7 myringotomies,  2 Wilde operations, 52 extractions of estranged objects, 14 laryngeal plyt extractions… and many others.

There are few records of his publications except “Pathological Clinic” and “Tuberculosis and Laryngitis” both published in Medical Chronicles of Manila 1895.


A Status Report on the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Philippines and in the NCR

Photo from Dominican Friars Website

By: Rev. Fr. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P., Ph.D., S.Th.D.
UST Visiting Professor of Biological Sciences (2020-2021)

I think that it is important that our medical frontliners and other healthcare professionals appreciate the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines and in the NCR, which contributes more than 50% of the total number of cases in the entire country. At this time, in the middle of October, the pandemic has been receding for the past two months.

Figure 1

As shown in Figure 1, the country experienced a significant surge in COVID-19 cases at the end of July and the beginning of August that threatened to overwhelm our health care infrastructure. At the request of our medical frontliners, the President re-introduced a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) that limited the mobility of citizens in the NCR. This choked the spread of the virus and we have experienced a significant decrease in daily cases since then. At the peak of the surge, we witnessed over 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily for a week-long period. At this time, our daily cases have dropped below 2,000 new cases per day.

Figure 2

This drop in cases is also reflected in the significant drop in the reproduction number for COVID-19 in the country. The reproduction number or Rt is the number of patients that can be infected by a single COVID-19 patient. When the reproduction number is above Rt=1, then one patient can infect more than one other patient. This means that the pandemic is accelerating and growing. If the reproduction number is below Rt=1, then one patient on average is infecting less than one other patient. This means that the pandemic is slowing down and shrinking. As shown in Figure 2, the reproduction number for the Philippines has been below Rt=1, for over a month, which is why our country-wide pandemic has been shrinking since then.

Figure 3

Figure 4

The remaining figures focus on the pandemic in Metro Manila. Not surprisingly, the pandemic curve for the NCR reflects the pandemic curve for the entire country since Metro Manila contributes a significant fraction of the country’s new cases. As shown in Figure 3, the NCR too experienced a surge at the end of July/beginning of August, and the MECQ also reversed the spread of the pandemic. In fact, the slowing of the pandemic has been more significant in Metro Manila. Our daily new cases is already below one thousand per day as compared to the peak of over 2,000 new cases per day during the height of the surge. As shown in Figure 3, this decrease is reflected in the low reproduction number for the NCR which has been below the critical threshold of Rt=1 for nearly a month. Finally, the improvement in the status of the pandemic can be seen in Figure 4, which depicts the positivity rate in Metro Manila. The positivity rate is the percentage of daily COVID-19 swab tests that return a positive result. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the positivity rate is below 10% and ideally below 5% for proper pandemic management. Here in the NCR, our positivity rate is hovering around 8% on a downward trend.

These positive trends in the pandemic in the country and in the capital region are very hopeful as we approach Christmas. We especially have to thank our medical frontliners and public health authorities who are at the forefront of the battle against the virus. However, we must remain vigilant since these trends can be reversed quickly. We should not overestimate our achievements or underestimate the tenacity of this virus.