Medicine, despite its length, cost and degree of difficulty, was one course favored by Kapampangans, ranking alongside Law , Education and Pharmacy. At the University of the Philippines, 14 Kapampangans enrolled in Medicine during the 1918-19 schoolyear, with the enrollment tapering off to 11 in 1924. The popularity of Medicine may be attributed to the emphasis of Americans on public health and services. Pampanga medical personnel ran the public health services of the province, which, in 1912 was divided into 9 sanitary districts, each supervised by a doctor.
Kapampangan doctors were quick to take keen interest in public health and they would often go to Manila to study the latest techniques in health service. It is no wonder that a number of Kapampangan physicians excelled in the medical field.
First on this august list would be Dr. Gregorio T. Singian, regarded as the country’s foremost surgeon. His skills were so well known that he earned the monicker “Mago de los Cirujanos” (Magician Among the Surgeons) and is today known as the father of Philippine surgery. He was one of the original founders of the Pampanga Medical Association, established in the 1930s and is also recognized as the founder of the Philippine College of Surgeons, of which he was the very first president.
Famous cardiologists include Dr. Mario Alimurung and Dr. Francisco Dizon. Noted Kapampangan pediatricians include Drs. Jesus Gonzalez, Manuel Panlilio and Rolando Songco. The latter founded the Hospital of the Infant Jesus, a children’s hospital, along Dimasalang St., In dentistry, Dr. Tomas L Yuzon was sought after as a dental surgeon, offering the latest in x-ray diagnostics and transillumination.
The honor of becoming the first female Kapampangan doctor belongs to Dra. Francisca Galang. Dr. Angelina Arcilla Latonio was named by Dra. Fe del Mundo as one of the fifteen diamond pediatricians of the country. The daughter of Constitutional Convention delegate Jose Gutierrez David, Perla Gutierrez-Del Rosario is also a physician of note. Today, the attending physician of the First Gentleman, Miguel Arroyo, Dra. Juliet Cervantes of St. Luke’s, is a Kapampangan.
Dr. Conrado Dayrit, besides being an all-around doctor, was also a pharmacologist. A firm believer in the health benefits of virgin coconut oil, he authored a book on the subject. His son, Dr. Manuel Dayrit, became a Secretary of Health. Also occupying an important position in the government is Dr. Regino P. Ragaza, who was the head of the first Tuberculosis Control Division in Manila.
Dr. Rafael Hizon, a pharmacist, established the Hizon Laboratories. In Angeles, the leading doctor in the 1930s was Dr. Clemente Dayrit. Doctors who were also successful sugar planters include Dr. Esteban Arroyo Sadie of Candaba (co-founder of the Arayat Central) and Dr. Salvador Gomez of Angeles. Two accomplished doctors became mayors of Mabalacat—Dr. Jose Garcia and Dr. Catalino Domingo. From Sta. Rita, Dr. Victorino P. Calilong offered his services in a 1933 ad: “manuluya qng sakit kilub ning Catawan, Sakit a lihim at caring anac.”
Today, the country continues to run out of medical doctors, what with new graduates opting to work abroad for the proverbial greener pastures, making one wonder if there is still a cure for this acute sickness called brain drain. Gone, too, are the days when doctors made house calls and regular follow-ups. No one takes payment in kind anymore—just fees in cash. But at one point in our history, our medical institutions were staffed by Kapampangan medical professionals—doctors, pediatricians, nurses, dentists, pathologists, obstetricians and specialists-- who put the health and healing of their countrymen first, before anything else.