Words that heal during crisis
Makati Medical Center’s medical director Dr. Saturnino P. Javier.
Words that heal during crisis
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - July 21, 2020 - 12:00am

Like the dewfall

One of my favorite lines during Holy Mass ends with the words, “like the dewfall.”

The dew that blankets the earth with tenderness while the sun is at its shyest and the sky is calm — is so pristine, so gentle, so healing, so pervasive. And having refreshed the earth, the dewfall leaves it fertile for new life and new hope. There is never a morning without dewfall.

Words that nourish like the dewfall help create business empires, make generals win wars, make doctors save lives, make women build edifices, make teachers inspire generations of students, make men seek and find redemption.

Last Friday, I shared the words three tycoons live by during crisis. Today, I share the words that two doctors and one teacher cling to when navigating a crisis.

***

COVID-19 is, first and foremost, a health war. It is this millennium’s own “World War III,” in a manner of speaking, because it has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. It is the “Millennium Bug” we were all worried about in 2000, coming 19 years later and disrupting lives and livelihood. A lethal virus instead of a computer glitch.

The generals in the battle against COVID wear scrub suits, and one of them is the Makati Medical Center’s (MMC’s) medical director Dr. Saturnino P. Javier.

When the number of COVID cases started to rise steeply in early April, the MMC drew praise for the number of patients that recovered under its care.

As the cases were spiking in the beginning of summer, MMC announced that it had already discharged 29 patients who had recovered and tested negative of COVID-19. In a radio interview at the time, Javier said that this was 28 percent of the 103 COVID-19 cases that were then being treated within the facility as of March 31.

MMC’s impressive success rate in battling the virus attracted praise from members of the medical community, both locally and abroad. One of them, Dr. Andrew Saul, praised the MMC for “a job well done.”

Three and a half months later, the battle versus COVID is still raging, and Javier disclosed in an advisory last July 13 that MMC has “attended to tens of thousands of patients suspected to have COVID-19” since its outbreak in February.

There is now a second spike in COVID cases in Metro Manila, and as of July 17, there were a total of 63,001 confirmed cases in the Philippines.

At this point in time, MMC, according to Javier, has already reached its “full capacity,”  in attending to patients suspected and confirmed to have COVID-19 cases.

So, how does Dr. Javier stay focused as a one of the generals leading this battle against an unseen but lethal enemy?

“In chaotic times like these, which many of us have never had in our lifetimes, I respond with three core principles — my mantra in delineating the job of a medical director. These are 1.) I choose my battles; 2.) I do not fight fire with fire; and  3.) When the playing field is clear, I take my best shot.

“These, with God’s Divine hand, have helped many times.”

***

Cory Villafania.
Photo courtesy of Chary Goh

Losing a child is the most painful kind of loss because children are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around. Cory Villafania, who taught at the Assumption Convent for 42 years and was my Religion teacher in high school, and her husband Nelson, have already buried two of their five children. In 2004, she lost the eldest of her five children to kidney complications, and in 2011, she lost another child to a hit-and-run accident.

“So many trials for such a prayerful woman,” one of Cory’s former students, Dr. Tweety Quintero-Olivares, texted me when she heard that Cory had now lost two children.

“Why you, Cory?” Tweety couldn’t help but say sadly during the wake of Cory’s son NJ in 2011. Cory loved and served God with all her heart, shifting from being an English teacher to being a Religion teacher, and touching many lives in her long teaching career (she had just retired then).

“Why not me?” she answered. “We should love God not only when things are going right for us. That would be convenience, not love.”

In times of crisis, Cory shares the words she clings to:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

She explains: “If you read Matthew 11:28-30, the Lord asks us to come to Him especially when we feel that life has become burdensome and He will give us rest. For me, this rest is the kind that the world cannot give. It is the rest that flows from trusting in the Lord’s abiding love that knows no bounds.”

***

Dr. Hayden Kho.
Photo by Mark Chester Ang courtesy of PeopleAsia magazine

We all undergo crisis, but most of us are spared the glare of the public eye as we duel with crisis. But not Dr. Hayden Kho, whose past personal crisis was played out like a soap opera on primetime TV before he found solace and redemption in his faith.

“Years ago, my mentor Ravi Zacharias shared with me a poem that changed my perspective about my life experiences,” Hayden, loving husband to Dr. Vicki Belo and devoted father to their daughter Scarlet Snow, shares. “It’s a poem about how God sometimes allows us to experience grief with trials in order to mold us, shape us, and prepare us for the good things He has prepared for us.

“We don’t know who the author of this poem is, but we can guess from the context that he/she is someone who is well-acquainted with the painful challenges of life,” he explains.

It goes:

When God wants to drill a man,

And thrill a man,

And skill a man

When God wants to mold a man

To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart

To create so great and bold a man

That all the world shall be amazed,

Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects

Whom He royally elects!

How He hammers him and hurts him,

And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which

Only God understands;

While his tortured heart is crying

And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks

When his good He undertakes;

How He uses whom He chooses,

And which every purpose fuses him;

By every act induces him

To try His splendor out —

God knows what He’s about.

“I have proven the proposition of this poem to be true in my experience,” says Hayden, “I wouldn’t be where I am right now if God did not allow me to go through what I went through in the past.”

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

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