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With Due Respect

Reminiscing, praying, and caring

To spread further the glory of the resurrection, let me recall, within my limited space, my speech during the recent graduation exercises of the Far Easter University-Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation (FEU-NRMF).

THOUGH MERELY A SOPHOMORE LAW STUDENT IN 1957, I was elected president of the FEU Central Student Organization. The burning issue at the time was the imposition of a health and hospitalization fee of P6 per student which I vigorously opposed because only a few would be hospitalized and yet all were required to pay.

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One day, I was rushed to the FEU Hospital. Dr. Ricardo Alfonso, the hospital director, solemnly said, “Artemio, something is seriously wrong inside your abdomen because your white blood corpuscle count is over 36,000. I need to incise your belly. Do you want to pay the full hospital bills or the six-peso fee?” I softly replied amid my indescribably wrenching pain, “Doctor, you win. I withdraw my opposition to the six-peso fee.”

And so, after incising my belly, he found a ruptured appendix at the rear left portion of my abdomen, instead of the usual front right. He told me later, “You are lucky. Your appendix ruptured two weeks ago but the poison was contained because fat enveloped it.”

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In 1942 at age six, during World War II, I was stricken with dysentery. There was no hospital, no medicine, no doctor, no nurse. I was given up for dead. But my mother refused to surrender. She watched over me as I miraculously recovered in her arms.

In 1983, I was diagnosed with diabetes which, luckily, has been controlled with the help of Dr. Augusto Litonjua, whom I still see every three months. I have been operated on three times for recurring hemorrhoids. I had skips in my heart rhythm, failed the ECG, the 2D echocardiography, and the treadmill stress tests but, thank God, passed the angiogram exam. Dr. Dante Morales assured me that my heart arteries were okay and that I had a rare, natural skip in my heart beats.

In 1949, while peddling newspapers aboard the rear of a speeding jeepney, I jumped and lost my balance. As I laid flat on the cemented road, an oncoming 6×6 army truck rolled over me. Fortunately, it had high road clearance—enough for my lean and thin body to slide under its axles and escape serious injury and death.

THOUGH BORN A CATHOLIC, I had no knowledge of my religion. However, I have come to realize now that our Lord Jesus and His mother Mary were responsible for all my miraculous escapes from death. Indeed, looking back, I can only ascribe whatever I may have achieved in my humble life and career to Jesus Christ who was, and is, ever present during my illnesses and healings, my trials and triumphs, my defeats and victories.

This humble confession leads me to my first advice: Always pray and trust God. Evils, devils, defeats, difficulties, and obstacles there will always be. Our prayer should not be for God to banish them. Our prayer should be for God to grant us the strength and the will to triumph over evil, to forsake the devil, to solve difficulties, and to hurdle obstacles. God will always help us—in His own way, in His own time, not in our way, not in our time.

To stress, I was neither catechized nor evangelized till I reached FEU. I was introduced to Jesus Christ by our FEU chaplain, Fr. Michael Nolan, who taught me four basic prayers, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, and the FEU Prayer. The fourth became one of the sources of the “Centennial Prayer of the Courts” composed in 2001 and is recited up to now in our Supreme Court and other courts.

NOW, FOR MY SECOND ADVICE: Work with two “Cs”—competence and care. I will skip the first “C”—competence—because I know you have been trained well by the FEU-NRMF. Let me however stress the second C—care—with this little story.

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A Filipino multibillionaire (now deceased) told me he was confined in a top US hospital for a heart bypass and a kidney transplant. He could not be visited except during specific hours and days unlike in our country where loved ones could easily visit and even stay in adjacent rooms. Moreover, he was viewed merely as an object to be studied, operated on, and monitored, not as a human being with emotions of fear, loneliness, and desperation. He longed for the companionship, care, and love of Filipino doctors and nurses.

In sum, my first advice is: Pray and trust God always; and the second is: Work with competence and care. In short, “Pray as though everything depended on God; work as though everything depended on you.”

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TAGS: Artemio V. Panganiban, Reminiscing, With Due Respect
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