IN MY MIND’S EYE, the image is so vivid: lanky Lean Alejandro walking by the corridors of the University of the Philippines’ old Arts and Sciences building where I taught in the early eighties. He was a firebrand of a student leader; he led marches and spoke at rallies, and in the end was gunned down in cold-blood after the flags had been unfurled and the dictator had fled.

It was he who popularized the refrain, “In the line of fire is the place of honor”.

Homage to Those Who Serve and Keep Watch

I underscore this phrase for in my view it seems so relevant during these times when we pay homage to an ever-increasing number of people who serve quietly and without fanfare, humbly yet heroically in different stations of service to heal the sick, comfort the dying, and to others yet less perceived but nevertheless as life-giving since they provide services such as stacking boxes of supplies in supermarkets, ferrying food from one end of the supply chain to another.

And, there are the transport drivers who bring our essential workers from their places of work to their places of rest, as well as those who clean our hospitals, homes and streets to better protect us from the scourge that stalks us daily, those who keep watch and protect us, those who provide local services at the municipal and local levels, and many unseen others.

Health Workers Have Fallen

Saddest of all, perhaps, is the fact that among those who have fallen to the virus are medical doctors and medical nurses who have spent years preparing for their chosen vocations to heal the sick – but who in an instant lose their lives and everything that they have worked for.  Their sacrifice must now be acknowledged and long remembered. 

Among the 4,648 Covid-19 cases that have been reported publicly on Easter Sunday, some 252 health workers have been infected by the respiratory disease, among whom are a disproportionate number of 152 doctors and 63 nurses.

And, tragically, among the country’s 297 deaths sadly reported so far by April 12, there have been at least 15 doctors without counting the Filipino doctors who have been struck down either in the United States, the UK or elsewhere in Europe or in the Middle East (though by the count of the Philippine Medical Association the totals must be more). 

Globally, medical practitioners have been among the most predisposed to succumb being around symptomatic as well as asymptomatic patients in hospital wards and emergency rooms as in the case of Italy where more than a hundred medics have died as well as in states like New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the US.

Honor Roll of a New Set of Heroes

These Filipino doctors who have led the charge against the contagion and have been hailed as heroes of this time must be honored by allowing their remains to lie side by side with our heroes of the past in an appropriate place in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, worthy of their sacrifice.

A partial list of those in the honor roll of modern-day medical heroes follows:

  1. Anastacio, Bobby, cardiologist at the Makati Medical Center and UST
  2. Bactol, Isaac, fellow-in-training cardiology at Philippine Heart Center
  3. Bautista, Nicko, Mandaluyong City Medical Center
  4. Cruz, Marcellano, East Avenue Medical Center
  5. Dancel-Luban, Janet, FEU NRMC and NKTI
  6. Fernandez, Isaac, Pangasinan Medical Society
  7. Gatchailian, Sally, head of the Philippine Pediatrician Society
  8. Jaochico, Marcelo, Pampanga provincial health chief
  9. Jara, Raul, cardiologist and former president of Philippine Heart Association
  10. Lukban, Francisco, cardiologist, Capitol Medical Center
  11. Macasaet, Greg, of Manila Doctors Hospital
  12. Pulido, Rose, of San Juan de Dios Hospital
  13. Resurreccion, Leandro, pediatric transplant surgeon
  14. Tudtud, Dennis, oncologist
  15. Tudtud, Helen, pathologist and wife of Dennis
  16. Filipino doctors who have passed away in the US, UK, the rest of Europe and the Middle East
  17. Nurses, health care workers, those classified as “essential workers” and those involved in different frontlines of service at this time

We Raise Them Up

In remembrance and in prayer, we raise them up for their lives have made a difference in our time so that others may live.  Lest the next generation forget, these men and women truly are the heroes on the frontlines who deserve to be buried on hallowed ground so that their sacrifice can be a shining example to future generations. 

Long live!