In a blaze of glory

    Dr. Greg Macabenta (left) his wife Evalyn, also a doctor in the Manila Doctor's Hospital and son Raymond. (from the Facebook page of Dr. J.G.M. Ditching)

    “If even our best doctors in well-equipped private hospitals are vulnerable, I wonder how it is in public hospitals.”

    OUR heart goes out to the families of three doctors who lost their lives trying to save others from the COVID-19 — Dr. Israel Bactol, Dr. Rose Pulido and Dr.Greg Macasaet.

    Dr. Bactol, a cardiologist, was an outstanding alumnus of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM). He was just 34 years old. The frontliners are the real warriors of this “war” even as they come into battle not wearing any “armor” against the attacks of the “enemy.”

    A vaccine reportedly discovered in the US still has to be tested. Dr. Macasaet, a noted anesthesiologist and wife, Evalyn, did not want to leave their patients in the emergency room of a hospital after the rest of their exhausted colleagues had gone home. The couple had stayed at the patients’ bedside, comforting them and attending personally to their needs..

    Dr. Greg’s last words were sent to family and friends the day before he died on the early morning March 22, which reads in part, “If they incubate me and place me on ventilator, then the game is almost over! If Ateng (referring to his wife) survives, then my wish for her and Raymond (his son who has autism) to have a long and happy life is to bear fruit! Raymond, however, needs financial and emotional care for the rest of his life. It is my fervent hope that all of you will assist the rest of my family during our most difficult times.” He and Dr. Bactol have passed on in a blaze of glory.

    A family friend echoes this deep concern: “Could it be that our own doctors and nurses and other health workers in the frontlines are not adequately protected from infection? We see online what sort of protective gear doctors and nurses are made to wear in China, in Italy and in the US. If even our best doctors in well-equipped private hospitals are vulnerable, I wonder how it is in public hospitals.”

    Medical interns have refused to leave the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) after they were old to go home. They insisted on staying behind with the emergency and ICU staff which had been undermanned. I could only utter a prayer when I caught a news photo of mostly gritty young women resplendent in their face masks and uniforms “charging” into their posts with nary a care in the world.

    I had to let out a loud wow! I will continue to pray for these brave souls who are risking their lives to protect many others from the dreaded virus. It is really harder on their families that probably regret the sterner stuff their children are made of?

    My thoughts went back to the 1970s at UP after Marcos had declared martial law. The more defiant activists, and many were women, had been among the cream of the crop. Their ideals matched their zeal and courage. The tough and warring fratmen had seemed embarrassed by the vitality of the protest movement from where the unarmed but fearless were arrested, kidnapped, tortured and killed. And yet, other leaders would rise up again and again. The women activists had toughened the rest of the strugglers for democracy. And what a price they had to pay!

    I remember my sister/doctor seeing out the poor and the sick in the mountains and valleys of the Visayas and Luzon. Indigent villagers would pay her with chickens and vegetables. She would come home many times, famished, bone-weary and sick. Her two brothers knew who really had the balls in the family and it was neither one of them.

    If President Duterte is calling for a prayer rally or gathering this month, he should realize it shouldn’t be a political activity mixed with religion. If he and his officials would want go into serious prayer, they have to work on it spiritually, and starting with themselves. God does not work that way and listen to chorused prayers led by prominent political leaders. The President should at least consult the Bible when it comes to prayer, and it says that the prayer of a righteous man “availelth much” or “is truly effective.”

    Certainly, repentance leads to righteousness. Politicians will be the first to claim that they are righteous, all right, because they give to the poor and the sick, and have built schools and hospitals. The life of most politicians is shot with fraud, greed, debauchery, and decadence. And, how can the President with blood in his hands from directing and condoning the EJKs come before God? Well, he can and seek answers on destroying the COVID-19 if he first seeks forgiveness for his sins and finally nurtures a clean heart. Will he be up to it even if he becomes an embarrassment to his family, his followers and allies? Wouldn’t it be pleasing to God if the President makes amends with Vice President Leni Robredo and others he so insulted?

    Wouldn’t it be pleasing to God if Sen. Bong Go makes friends with former Sen Antonio Trillanes. But, no, they would rather have it their way, and not God’s.


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