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Fallen Heroes: Honoring Our Doctors Lost in COVID-19 Battle

We mourn their loss.
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Doctors and medical workers have been at the frontines battling the COVID-19 pandemic since the war began earlier this year. But it's been a difficult battle, and unfortunately, many have fallen. Here are some of the physicians who went down fighting.

Dr. Wilbur Demafiles


Dr. Wilbur Demafiles reportedly died after being on duty in the frontlines attending to COVID-19 patients. He was 30 years old. 
Demafiles was a volunteer/ambassador doctor with the group LoveYourself Inc.  
In a Facebook post the group said, "We remember him for his enthusiasm and commitment to use his role as a medical practitioner to help out in our advocacy campaigns.

"We honor his memory by recognizing his dedication as a remarkable front-liner doctor in the face of COVID-19, being a great community advocate and a good friend to many of our volunteers and members."

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Demafiles had previously been an intern with the Manila Doctors Hospital, which remembered him "for his good heart and his kind soul which had touched the hearts of patients." 

"We will never forget his his cheerful spirit, his brilliant mind, and his selfless sacrifice," the hospital said. 


Dr. Roberto Anastacio

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Roberto Anastacio was a cardiologist at the University of Sto. Tomas Hospital and Makati Medical Center.

In a statement, the hospital called him  "a friend, family, a colleague, a health warrior, and a MakatiMed Physician."

"Dr. Bobby was part of the institution for 30 years. His dedication and legacy will continue to serve as an inspiration among us, and his selfless sacrifice shall not be in vain as we all unite as one in fighting this battle."

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Dr. Ephraim Neal Orteza

Dr. Ephraim Neal Orteza was chief operating officer and medical director of the Olivarez hospital. He was also a pediatrician and the medical director of Ospital ng Parañaque. 

His daughter, Melissa Orteza-Sorra paid tribute to her father in a Facebook post:

"From all those days you kept watching all of us four play tennis to all those days you helped us through our college applications, and up to now giving us direction in our careers, you were always there for us. We will treasure all those teachings you have provide us.

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"We will forever keep you in our hearts and have the life you lived guide us every single day moving forward."

His sister, Bibeth Orteza, recalled her little brother also reminisced about her brother in a Facebook post.

"Bimboy was my best friend and best enemy when we were growing up. The more studious one, who knew he wanted to be a doctor since Grade One, who earned regular praise for good grades from our Mama, until the day he put the frozen cat he was dissecting inside our refrigerator freezer," she said.

"Among one of the last BS Pre-Med graduates of UP, he was an activist early on, who left BS Circle shortly before graduation. I asked why, and he said, "Nahihiya ako to be there. Wala sa personality ko ang maging out in front."

He said this, not knowing that he would be one. A frontliner, to the very end.

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Manang Bibeth is so very, very proud."

Dr. Dino Ezra Hailil

Dr. Dino Ezra Hailil was a faculty member of the School of Medicine at Ateneo de Zamboanga. The ADZU community mourned his passing in a post on Facebook. 

"We honor and thank you for your dedicated and loving service pro Deo et patria. Be at peace in the loving embrace of Allah. We ask for prayers for him and for consolation of his family and friends."

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He was also a pediatrics consultant at West Metro Medical Center.

The Zamboanga Runners Club paid tribute to him in a video.

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Dr. Joel Carpio Mendoza

Dr. Joel Carpio Mendoza was a nuclear medicine physician at The Medical City Clark Freeport Zone in  Pampanga. He was also a nuclear medicine and PET/CT consultant at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute East Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines. 

A medical school classmate, Niña Medina Gonzalez, remembered him as quiet student.

"He was never much of a talker but was always dependable during duties, preceptorials," she said in a post on Facebook. "He was very hardworking and intelligent, selflessly brought his own printer for everyone to use  at the "warzone" i.e. IM interns' callroom... We love you, Joel."

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Another classmate, Katherine McCullough described him as "one of the liveliest, smartest and most dynamic people I knew, and his sarcastic wisecracks were witty and hilarious. We sang together in the University of the Philippines MedChoir and did several rotations and research projects together," she said in a Facebook post. 

"There are not enough prayers for his wonderful soul. I can only offer condolences and love to his family and friends who were fortunate enough to have had him in their lives.

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Dr. Mary Grace Lim

Dr. Mary Grace Lim was an emergency room doctor at Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa. In a statement, the hospital paid tribute to her as "a great patient safety advocate."

It said she "affected and helped countless lives in her wonderful journey."

"Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family of our fallen hero. We have lost a remarkable doctor, a good friend, and mentor to our budding health care workers.

"Asian Hospital, especially the Department of Emergency Medicine and Quality Management Department may have lost a great frontliner to COVID-19, but as one family, we promise her and our countrymen, now more than ever, that we will remain unfazed and will keep on fighting to finally put an end to this pandemic.

Today, heaven welcomes another angel who willingly risked her life to help save others."

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A fellow ER doctor, Dr. Daniel Luchangco, said, "each one of the organizations represented here are better for your having been a part of them. And so are all of your colleagues and patients whose lives you touched. You will always be one of my heroes."

Dr. Marcellano Cruz

Dr. Marcellano Cruz was a dermatologist and venereologist at the East Avenue Medical Center and the Ospital ng Maynila. 

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His daughter, Ollivia Marie Cruz, paid tribute to him in a Facebook post. 

"You are the kindest and most compassionate person I have ever known in my entire life," she said. She recalled how he treated some patients for free when they didn't have the money to pay him. "And lahat kami papa, we're all aware of how kind you were. You were admired for that." 

"You stood as a father not only to our family, pati na rin sa mga residents and friends namin. Lagi mo kinekwento sila isa-isa and you were always proud sa achievements nila, and papa, they are all heartbroken as I am. They miss you so much just as I do," she said.

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Dr. Ronaldo Mateo

A cousin, Mayeth Legaspi Reyes, related this story in a Facebook post.

"You are too kind and too young. When you were little you wanted to be a priest but God made you a doctor and served so many people, specially your kababayans and did charities too. And now I hoped you to become an inspiration but God took you and I asked why? I was awake until early morning but I asked God, I had to sleep and sleep I had, but that was after an answer was given.
Doc Onie, you are more than an inspiration .. you are your kababayans' eye opener," she said.

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A fraternity brother, Dr. Tony Leachon, called Mateo "a good friend and compassionate leader."

Dr. Gerard Fabian Goco

Dr. Gerard Fabian Goco, 52, was the chairman of the Department of Nuclear Medicine and PET Center of St. Luke's Medical Center, and the immediate past president of the Philippine Society for Nuclear Medicine  He was also a professor of Nuclear Medicine under the Department of Radiology.

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His students at the St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine called him a well-loved, exemplary professor who showed both excellence in teaching and compassion to all.

Goco was also the former chairperson of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at Rizal Medical Center.
 
"He will always be remembered as a man of integrity with a touch of dry humor. He is the first to arrive in his department at 6 a.m. and very focused while working, most especially when seeing patients. His sincere personality fostered good camarederie among the hospital staff," said the hospital in a statement.

"An excellent doctor, a wise adviser, a funny "commentator", a valuable colleague, a dear friend... he will be missed"

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Dr. Leandro Resurrecion III

Dr. Leandro Resurreccion III was the head of the pediatric surgery division of the Philippine Children's Medical Center. 

The hospital paid tribute to Ressurreccion, 57,  in a Facebook post. It called him "a great surgeon, teacher, academician and friend to all."

"He was well known locally and abroad as forward looking in his vision for pediatric surgery especially in Liver Transplants which he was working to the end. Always smiling, friendly and very "cool", he will be missed," the hospital said.

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Meanwhile, his son, Leandro Ressurreccion IV, also paid tribute to his father's work, in a post on Facebook.

"When I was 13 years old, he was certified as a Pediatric Transplant Surgeon in the Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia. He was offered to stay there but he chose to come home because at that time there were no Pediatric Transplant Surgeons in the country. And we needed one," said his son.

"He did not do it for money nor for prestige, but because he was needed. He always embodied a kind of fiery passion for his profession but he always spoke of what the country needed together with such passion.

"And I choose to remember him like this. Not only as a statistic in the current war we are fighting. Not only as a surgeon who pioneered for the nation. Not only as a father for his family. But as a Citizen of The World who cared for it and fought for it. He will always be our hero."

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Dr. Dennis Tudtud

Dr. Dennis Ramon Tudtud was a Cebu-based oncologist. He passed away just four days after the death of his wife, Helen.

His son, Dennis Thomas Tudtud made the announcement in a Facebook post.

"I will forever miss our Daddy Den’s selflessness. He has always put others before himself. As a father, he gave us everything we needed and wanted. He worked so hard for us. He was happy when he saw us happy. He did everything to put smiles on our faces," he said.

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Tutdud was a wondeful husband and grandfather as well. 

"He adored my mother. He would give the world to Mommy Helen if it was possible. That was how much he loved our Mommy," said Dennis Thomas.

"He loved his grandchildren. He would play with them and shower them with gifts. He’d carry them to their bedrooms when they were asleep just as he carried us when we were children.

"His selflessness did not stop in our home. As a doctor, he would even pay for the chemotherapy sessions of some of his patients just so their families could spend more years with them. He was generous beyond words could even describe."

Dr. Nicko Bautista

Dr. Nicko Bautista was a young physician at the Mandaluyong City Medical center. He was one of eight people on board the ill-fated private Lionair flight on a medical evacuation mission to Haneda, Japan. 

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A few days before his death, he expressed his anger in a post on Facebook about some senators receiving VIP testing for COVID-19 ahead of doctors who were suspected of having the virus.

"When will we be first? When we start dropping like flies left and right? When there's only a few left? When?"

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Dr. Helen Tudtud

Dr. Helen Tudtud was a pathologist at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu. 

"My parents touched many lives and were always at the forefront of helping other people,” her son, Dennis Thomas Tudtud said of his 66-year-old mother in a Facebook post. 

“I will miss her laughter. I will miss everything about her and I will never see her again. I LOVE YOU ALWAYS MOMMY. Please watch over us as you always do."

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Dr. Francisco Lukban

Dr. Francisco Lukban was a cardiologist at Capitol Medical Center.

His wife, Riz, also a graduate from the U.P. College of Medicine, paid tribute to her husband, in a post shared by different colleagues on Facebook.

“On the day I brought him for swab testing, he heard that my department from PGH was asking for a list of volunteers among the consultants who would be willing to be 'frontliners.' He said he wants to go back to PGH and volunteer,” his wife wrote.

She said Lukban lived a full and happy life, fulfilled by his children, and “the birth  of his first grandson Noah whom he absolutely adores; respected and loved by the elderly patients he cared for, loved by his close-knit family and few precious friends.”

“Everyone who worked with him in Capitol Medical Center (his second home) knows his academic brilliance, his strict adherence to protocol and excellence, and his great eloquence in airing out his principles and views,” his wife said.

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Dr. Sally Gatchalian

Dr. Gatchalian was the well-loved head of the Philippine Pediatric Society. She was also a fellow of the Pediatric Infection Disease for many years.  She championed children’s health and fought infectious diseases. She also helped create the Philippines Coalition against TB.

Many students mourned her loss on social media. 

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In an Instagram post, her sister, actress Ruby Rodriguez reminisced about how the siblings were complete for the first time in many years just last Christmas.

"We will only remember you with happy memories, laughing and sleeping," she said, mentioning their sister bonding times and other fond memories. "I love you so much, my big sister," she said. 

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Dr. Marcelo Jaochico

Dr. Marcelo Jaochico was a community doctor and Pampanga’s provincial health officer.

A graduate of the University of Sto. Tomas, he joined the first batch of Doctors to the Barrios program in the 1990s, where he was its first Most Outstanding Awardee, according to his daughter, Cielo Jaochico in a post on Facebook.

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He became the all-around doctor of Calanasan, Apayao, as a doctor, obstetrician, and pediatrician.

As Pampanga's health officer, he received the Best Provincial Risk Reduction Management Council award in Central Luzon in 2019.

He was one of the medical frontliners who rushed to help in Tacloban, Leyte, post Typhoon Yolanda. He recently headed the Kapampangan Medical Team which helped in the aftermath of the Taal Volcano eruption.

Dr. Henry Fernandez

Dr. Henry Fernandez was known as the “doctor ng bayan” of  Bayambang, Pangasinan.  

He has helped each and every Bayambangueño in one way or another through his words and through his actions,” said Cezar Quiambao, the town mayor in a Facebook post.

He  praised the 77-year-old Fernandez for his life dedicated to public service..”

“Dr. Fernandez, your impact on the lives of thousands of Bayambangueños will never be forgotten. Your love for your family is remarkable and your love for your town is unquestionable. We promise to keep your memory alive in our hearts forever.”

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Dr. Raul Jara

Dr. Raul Jara, a cardiologist, was the former president of the Philippine Heart Association.

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Photo by Philippine Heart Center.

His daughter, Ling Jara-Salva confirmed his death as she thanked the doctors, nurses, and staff of the Philippine Heart Center for caring for him from the time he was admitted to the hospital.

"His memory is not defined by how he died but how he lived. He dedicated his whole life to constant learning and teaching and molding future doctors," she said.

An alumnus of the UP College of Medicine, Jara loved to sing.  

To celebrate Jara's life, Dr. Melfred Hernandez, a former student, paid tribute to him in song.

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Members of the UPMedChoir paid tribute to their fallen professor with this song, “Salamat Sa Ating Guro.”

Dr. Greg Macasaet

Dr. Greg Macasaet was an anesthesiologist at Manila Doctors Hospital. His wife and colleague, Dr. Evalyn Talens is currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

Macasaet's godson, Aboy Paraiso, shared in a Facebook post how Macasaet and his wife remained on duty during the crisis.

"If you know Ninong Greg, then like me you wouldn't be surprised at how everything unfolded and even his death speaks of the character of the man and his family. As he recounted to me, he and Ateng chose to stay when most of their colleagues chose to keep themselves safe and did not report for work.”

 "And now Kuya Greg has made the ultimate sacrifice of life, not because he was forced or obliged to do so, but because of his dedication to his craft and his constant devotion to be of service to others," he added.

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Dr. Rose Pulido

 

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Dr. Rose Pulido was a medical oncologist from San Juan de Dios Hospital.

Charmaine Javier-Linao, a classmate from medical school at De La Salle University,  remembered Pulido as a "good Samaritan.”

 “She shared her food and coffee, made me borrow her books (so) I can photocopy, even gave me money to pay for my school fees," Linao said, in a post on Facebook.

Her sister, Jeanie Pulido, posted this message.

"You were a very compassionate, dedicated, patient and caring doctor who devoted time to each patient, even charity patients. You had a sweet smile for everyone,” she said.  

 

Dr. Israel Bactol

Dr. Israel Bactol, the son of farmers, was the first Filipino doctor to die from COVID-19. The 34-year-old was a cardiology fellow-in-training at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City.

Bactol was from Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija. He completed his medical degree with the help of scholarships and financial aid.

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A post on the hospital’s official Facebook page called Bactol “a casualty of this war. We honor him as he lost his young life while fulfilling his duties as a doctor.”

 "We lost a young, brilliant, promising doctor in this battle. You are our hero!" the post said.

Meanwhile, a post on the Facebook page of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines also honored Bactol, the son of a pastor and a deaconess of their church. 

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Yvette Fernandez
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