9 AUGUST 2007
LITERATURE AND LITERACY
FACES OF CHANGE AND CHANGELESS PLACES
i R E P O R T — W O M A N O F M A N Y F I R S T S
DEL MUNDO’S manifold services to children everywhere have brought her repeated honors. These numerous awards, citations, and plaques are proudly showcased all around the hospital she established, which will retain her name even though it was sold just last month to Accent/STI.
One award close to her heart is the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service she received in 1977, in recognition of “her lifelong dedication as a physician extraordinary to needy Filipino children.”
“It came to me as a big surprise,” she says of the award. “And I’m very grateful.” An admirer of President Magsaysay, she recalls meeting him, but almost very casually. “He talked to me more than twice, saying that my brother (Salvador) was his former professor in chemistry, and my brother was very strict and almost failed him,” she says. “I told him I’m sorry, but I’d no idea.”
But the heaps of honors and praises have not turned her head or made del Mundo lose sight of her purpose. “I had the opportunity more than others,” she says. “Why should I be proud? It does not make me feel different. I have remained the same in my daily life.”
A lifetime of achievement has also failed to make this “medical stateswoman” consider casting her stethoscope into the murky world of politics. “Never,” she quickly replies. “I do not love to talk, or say more than what is expected of me. I’m very quiet.”
She was probably upset when her beloved hospital was hit by a strike last week, forcing doctors to double as clerks and cooks just to keep it going. (They still had to send most of their patients home, and by last Monday, the hospital had to temporarily close down.) But what really causes great concern for the woman whose name translates to “Faith of the World” is the impact on the marginalized of the increasing number of Filipino doctors and nurses leaving for abroad. “The work I’m doing here in this hospital serves very few,” she says. “It does not reach the hinterland where most help is needed.”
She adds wistfully, “I wish I could still go out into all nooks and corners of the country and bring better care for children.”
That, she says, is her only regret at 95.
Fides Lim also wrote Dr. Fe del Mundo’s profile in the forthcoming Great Men and Women of Asia Volume 7, a Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation publication that is due for release at the end of August. The book is part of a series honoring Magsaysay awardees.
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