One of our most shared front-liner stories was about Dr. Marcelo “Mar” Jaochico, the provincial health chief of Pampanga, who succumbed to the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and his daughter Cielo, a young nurse who used social media to tell the world about her father.
She wrote, “Pag wala na ’yung tao, saka lang siya mas hino-honor ng iba, sinasabihan ng mga mabubuting salita or how great that person was when he or she was still alive. I wish people would show each other appreciation habang nabubuhay pa ’yung isang tao, so I decided to make an album about my dad and his journey as a doctor of public health here in the country.”
And so netizens got to know Dr. Jaochico, former doctor to the barrios, forever a front-liner and a Filipino hero, through the loving eyes of his daughter.
Cielo, who was then in isolation because of COVID-19 symptoms, wrote about her father’s humble beginnings as one of seven siblings who had to be raised by a widow. He studied zoology at the University of Santo Tomas, medicine at Angeles University Foundation and hospital administration at the University of the Philippines College of Public Health, thanks to a scholarship. He graduated cum laude from his master’s program. He received multiple accolades and awards throughout his life, one of which was the Dr. Jose P. Rizal Memorial Award.
“He juggled being a resident at the Manila Medical Center and teaching as a substitute instructor in Emilio Aguinaldo College to make ends meet,” Cielo wrote.
Doctor to the barrios
In the 1990s, Dr. Jaochico joined the government’s Doctor to the Barrios (DTTB) program and eventually became the first Most Outstanding Awardee of the DTTB. He spent 16 years as obstetrician, pediatrician and family doctor of the people in Calanasan town, Apayao province.
Her father learned to take care of people’s health with limited resources, Cielo shared on Facebook. “They battled dengue, malaria and different outbreaks in their munting munisipyo.”
Eventually, Dr. Jaochico was reunited with his family in Manila. “Naranasan niya maging consultant sa Mercury drugstore sa may bandang talipapa. Hindi sapat ang sahod at nagji-jeep lang siya. Laging pagod. I wish our system could have been kinder to doctors like him.”
Since 2013, Dr. Jaochico has been Pampanga’s provincial health officer, working on different projects and reaching out to the indigent communities in the far-flung areas of the province. Cielo wrote, “He fought for his people … I know his heart is in the right place because he has always served the people.”
Dr. Jaochico headed the Kapampangan medical team in assisting those who were affected by the Taal Volcano eruption earlier this year. Cielo wrote, “He stayed there for a week. Halos walang ligo, walang tubig at matanda na rin siya. Hindi mabuti ang volcanic ash para sa kanya, pero kabilang siya sa mga nag-stay at tumulong sa mga refugees sa Batangas Provincial Sports Complex.”
Her father’s selflessness and her mother’s career as a nurse inspired her own love for the medical profession, Cielo said. “Pinili mong mag-serbisyo sa mga tao higit pa sa kalahati ng buhay mo, kaya sobrang paborito ko rin ang community health nursing.”
Cielo expressed hope that he would recover soon so that he could read everything she had written about him. “Magpagaling ka pa, Dad, so you can read this. Fight so you can be the one to tell your stories. Fight dahil nag-uumpisa pa lang ang laban ng mga front-liners against this pandemic. Your people need you. We need you.”
She also wished for her parents to finally be able to spend more time together. “Hindi sila halos nagkikita during their marriage dahil they’re situated in different communities kaya sana ay gumaling na yung tatay ko because they deserve to finally be with each other. They deserve to have a proper retirement. They deserve to grow old together.”
Dr. Jaochico lost his battle against COVID-19 on March 24.
Cielo wrote, “Oh to receive such news in isolation where you can’t even hug your loved ones. Mahal na mahal kita, Daddy. You deserve better than this. Dad, you didn’t deserve to die alone, nang di naririnig gaano ka kahalaga sa amin at gaano ka namin kamahal. Ang sakit, Daddy.”
The morning after his death, Cielo posted, “Good morning, Dad. This is your first day in heaven.”
She asked everyone to remember him as more than just another casualty of this pandemic. “When you speak of him, please speak only good words. Please do not remember him as just someone who died because of COVID-19. Sobrang dami niyang ginawa para sa bayan. Please pray for his soul. Please pray for the souls of those who are still fighting.” INQ