They died alone, with no relatives around to hold their hands as they breathed their last. Some still have to be buried, and others were cremated with no ceremony and no one to bid them goodbye.
This has become the common tale of grief, sorrow and helplessness for the thousands all over the world who have fallen victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the story becomes even more poignant when it strikes closer to home or when the virus takes down somebody you love, somebody you know, or somebody you went to school with.
It was doubly tragic for the family of Dr. Dennis Ramon Tudtud, one of the eight University of the Philippines alumni who fought and died in the frontlines of the war against the vicious viral adversary. Dr. Tudtud, a prominent Cebu City oncologist, succumb to the virus on March 31, four days after his wife, Dr. Helen Evangelista Tudtud, a pathologist at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, expired after fighting the virus for 11 days.
Their son Dennis Thomas, recalled in a Facebook post the pain of losing both parents in span of four days. He told of how their family was discriminated against; how policemen cordoned off their neighborhood; how insensitive persons had reported his mother’s death even when she was still fighting for her life in the hospital; and how his mother had worried about her husband when she learned her condition was critical.
The virus, Dennis Jr. said, had made him an orphan on his birthday, ‘‘but I take comfort that they are happy together in their journey to paradise.’’
The eight UP alumni who fell in the frontlines of what has become a global war against the virus are:
1. Romeo Gregorio “Greg” N. Macasaet III (Died March 22, 2020)
2. Marcelo Y. Jaochico (March 24)
3. Raul D. Jara (March 24)
4. Francisco Avelino“Kiko” S. Lukban (March 25)
5. Salvacion“Sally” Rodriguez Gatchalian (March 26)
6. Raul D. Eslao (March 31)
7. Leandro L. Resurreccion III (March 31)
8. Dennis Ramon M. Tudtud (March 31)
Five other UP alumni have died from the virus. They are:
1. Nida Cortes Paqueo (March 11)
2. Aileen San Pablo Baviera (March 21)
3. Alan T. Ortiz (March 2)
4. Prudencio “Dennis” Regis (March 24)
5. Renato Velasco (April 4)
ROMEO GREGORIO MACASAET
Of the UP COVID-19 warriors, Dr. Greg Macasaet was the first to fall. An anesthesiologist at the Manila Doctors Hospital, he worked tirelessly to treat COVID-19 patients until he himself became ill. Soon after, his wife Evalyn, also an anesthesiologist, also tested positive for the virus. The two had been attending to COVID-19 patients in the emergency room, which was akin to soldiers engaging the enemy in a hand-to-hand combat. Macasaet, according to his godson Renato Paraiso, made the ultimate sacrifice, “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 said Greg and Evalyn chose to stay in the frontlines and made a bold sacrifice while their only child Raymond had special needs.
“Our country has lost a genuine hero, and the world has lost one of the [kindest and most] selfless human beings that would ever walk its surface,” Paraiso said. The Manila Doctors Hospital cited Macasaet as a “brave man, one of the best anesthesologists in the country.”
When Dr. Marcelo Jaochico lost his heroic battle against the virus, he was being true to his vocation as “doctor to the barrios.” He was the provincial health officer of Pampanga and was the first awardee as Most Outstanding Doctor to the Barrios under the rural health program of the Department of Health. Thus, his daughter Cielo said in her Facebook page, Dr. Jaochico did not deserve to be regarded as than just a statistic.
Dr. Jaochico served as doctor to the barrio in Calanasan, Apayao for 16 years here he multi-tasked as obstetrician, pediatrician and family physician, treating such ailments as dengue, malaria and measles. Once, to save a baby who had turned blue after delivery, he used his mouth to suction the obstruction out of the baby’s blocked windpipe. In his latest rural health service, he volunteered to attend to victims of the Taal Volcano eruption in Batangas in January. He was also one of the first responders when Typhoon Yolanda struck in Tacloban City in 2013. “He did so much for the country,” his daughter wrote on Facebook.
RAUL D. JARA
Dr. Raul Jara, acknowledged as a pillar of cardiology in the Philippines, was also described by the Philippine Heart Association as a “father, teacher, mentor, poet, author, singer, colleague, friend.”He is remembered by patients as a soothing and calming healer who used music to heal the heart. In his younger days as an activist physician, he fought the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and risked his life by treating patients in the underground movement, running rings around the military by faking the names and records of the activists he treated. Later in life, he would remain steadfast and true to his oath, joining a group of doctors attending to an aging martial law figure who had been on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum.
In a statement, Dr. Ling Jara-Salva, one of Dr. Jara’s five children, said: “He dedicated his whole life to constant learning and teaching and molding future doctors. He would ask the tough questions and push you to learn and persevere. He believed in his students and would think of them as his children and the hope for the future generations.”
Her father, she said, was “a tower of strength and leadership and he served as the head of our family and a beacon of hope for many in the midst of this crisis. He knew the extensive battle he was facing and he kept on fighting.” She said the family would rather have her father remembered, not by how he died, but by how he lived.
Dr. Francisco Lukban was a noted geriatric cardiologist and a brilliant academician, according to the social media post of UP Manila’s Office of the Chancellor announcing his demise on March 25.
Always wanting to serve his fellowmen, he was much loved by his elderly patients at the Capitol Medical Center. Like many of the UP doctors of his generation, Dr. Kiko was a courageous activist, especially during the Martial Law days. “Kiko was not afraid to die… and would have loved to volunteer as a frontline physician in PGH in these trying times,” the UP Manila statement said. His wife, Riz, a pediatric neurologist and also a UP College of Medicine graduate, said Dr. Kiko, on the day he was swabbed for testing, expressed his desire to join the heroic young PGH interns who had volunteered to the frontline against COVID-19. Tragically, it was too late.
In a tribute, Riz Lukban said Dr. Kiko “had gone ahead of us because he believes he has a better chance of fighting COVID by being a ‘frontliner’ in heaven, giving supplication for us left behind.”
RAUL DELLA ESLAO
“I cannot stay at home, I’m a nurse” was a hashtag that went with his new profile picture in his final Facebook posting on March 19. Twelve days later Raul Della Eslao paid the ultimate price for his heroism. He died, a friend commented on Facebook, so others may live. A graduate of UP Integrated School, UP Diliman College of Architecture, and a registered nurse, he succumbed to the virus while fighting in the frontline in Michigan, USA where he worked.
SALVACION R. GATCHALIAN
As consultant and assistant director of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Dr. Salvacion “Sally” Gatchalian was not just in the frontline of the war against COVID-19. She was fighting in the trenches. A pediatric infectious disease expert, Doc Sally most likely acquired the virus from one of her young patients at RITM, the country’s premier testing center for COVID-19. She was president of the Philippine Pediatric Society.
The American Academy of Pediatrics cited her efforts in strengthening immunization and tobacco control and her work “to elevate pediatricians’ role in the Philippines and bring systemic changes to community norms and public policy.”Until a vicious nemesis called COVID-19 came to overcome her, much of Doc Sally’s life work was in defeating formidable adversaries like tuberculosis and dengue. Not only was she was a passionate advocate of child health; she was also a champion of children’s rights, lending a strong and vigorous voice to the campaign against the proposed legislation to lower the age of criminal liability among children.
“Her bright and cheerful presence could fill an entire room. From her patients and their families to her mentees, colleagues friends and family—they all loved her,” wrote Cathy Babao in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. A colleague and mentee described her as the “epitome of beauty and brains with a very big and generous heart.”
LEANDRO RESURRECCION III
“There were no hugs, there were no kisses, and there were no goodbyes.” That, according to the family of Dr. Leandro Resurreccion III, was how the country’s foremost and pioneering pediatric surgeon signed off in his fight against the virus.
To the very end, he was working on his vision for pediatric surgery, especially in liver transplants, according to the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, where he was chief of the Pediatric Surgery Division. He was the hospital’s “first fallen soldier in the battle against COVID-19.”
In a statement, the PCMC said Dr. Resurreccion 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.”
His son, Leandro IV, recalled that his father rejected an offer to practice in Australia after being certified at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, saying the Philippines was where he was needed most. “He always embodied a kind of fiery passion for his profession, but he always spoke of what the country needed together with such passion.”
DENNIS M. TUDTUD
Among the most tragic but heroic casualties of the global war against the pandemic are the husband-and-wife team of Dr. Dennis Ramon Tudtud and Dr. Helen Evangelista Tudtud. Dennis, a prominent Cebu oncologist, died on March 31, four days after Helen a pathologist at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, died, both victims the virus they so valiantly fought.
“My sister and I may never understand why God had to take them both. There are so many questions with no answers,” their son Dennis Thomas said. He asked for prayers for those who continue to fight for their lives against COVID-19.
“We have a flood of tears. I also ask for your prayers of strength and of acceptance. Daddy and Mommy, please watch over us from heaven,” he said. Dennis Thomas. “My parents touched many lives and were always at the forefront of helping other people.”
NIDA CORTES PACQUEO
She was “PH35” on the list of those who tested positive for the coronavirus in the Philippines. Yet, neither Nida Cortes Pacqueo nor her husband Vicente had been in any place where most victims were likely to catch the virus. A few days after her 67th birthday, PH35 became the first known Filipino to succumb to the virus. It was especially painful for their US-based daughter Liza, who, according to her blog, was talking to her mother on the phone when nurses in full protective gear took her mother away to the isolation room in the hospital. That video call on March 8 was the last time she saw her mother. Three days later, on March 11, “she died in the silence of isolation.”
“She died alone without her loving family and friends around her. She was cremated alone, without ceremony or tribute. My father is alone as well,” Liza announced on Facebook.
Her father, Dr. Vicente Pacqueo, a former World Bank economist and UP economics professor, also had the virus and was in isolation when his wife of 47 years died. As of Liza’s latest post, the 72-year old patriarch of the family was stable and probably well on his way to recovery.
AILEEN SAN PABLO BAVIERA
The country’s top China expert, Dr. Aileen San Pablo Baviera, was coming home on March 12 from an engagement in France, but she never made it home. From the airport, she was taken straight to the San Lazaro Hospital where she succumbed to COVID-19 nine days later. As political science professor and former dean of the UP Asian Center, Dr. Baviera was one of the country’s foremost experts in international relations and Asian studies. While she was a staunch advocate of Philippine-China relations, she insisted that, “if one has to take a side, one must take the side of the Filipino people.”
As a keen China watcher, she was an expert on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, especially as it applied to Chinese incursions into the West Philippine Sea. She described herself as ”an academic, an armchair activist, a government analyst, an author, an editor, a policy adviser, a public speaker on international relations, an advocate of people’s diplomacy, a keen observer of global affairs—sometimes nationalist, sometimes internationalist.”
Once, on a cruise on the East China Sea, Dr. Baviera pondered on the overlapping territorial interests of the countries claiming all or part of the China Sea—China, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian states. She wrote: “It seems that governments have let their primordial territorial instincts rule them. There is folly in this. They seek control of the waters, as if oceans could be tamed, claimed and fenced off like the land. In truth, no one knows exactly what they are claiming….I envy the free creatures of the sea, for we creatures of the land have become captive of our own illusions of conquest and control.”
Leaving in early March for an international security event in Paris on the invitation of the French government, Dr. Alan Ortiz never made it back. He died on March 23 in a Paris hospital of complications from COVID-19. He is believed to be the first Filipino to die of the ailment abroad. Ortiz was the president of the non-profit Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and he was a leader in finance, banking and industries such as water and power utilities.
A friend, AmCham Philippines consultant John Forbes, described Ortiz as a “larger-than-life hero of our times” and a “game changer in both his public and private sector careers.” Former Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo, who had worked with him in the Finance Department and in the Development Bank of the Philippines, also paid tribute to Ortiz as a hard-working man of integrity. “I relied on him because of his ability to make things happen, and happen well. It came as no surprise to me that he continued to succeed in various capacities in the private sector and rise in the esteem of his peers with his incisive and respected views on the nation’s economy and its future in an ever global setting,” De Ocampo said.
GEN. PRUDENCIO REGIS
A ranking official of the Philippine National Police until his retirement, Gen. Prudencio “Dennis” Regis became active in golf, becoming president of the Eastridge Seniors Golfers Association. He attended UP Prep in high school (Class 1969) and entered the Philippine Military Academy (Class 75). He died on March 24 at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.
RENATO S. VELASCO
Dr. Renato S. Velasco, another former Cabinet member, is the latest member of the UP community to succumb to the virus. He died on April 4; he was 66. An associate professor in political science in UP where he graduated cum laude in history and later acquired his master’s degree in Asian Studies and doctorate in political science; he was a product of the public school system. He lent his intellectual expertise to the government in 2006 in various capacities under then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, serving as chief of the Presidential Management Staff and director general of the Philippine Information Agency. Rene, as he was called by friends, returned to the academe after his stint in the government.
His Alpha Sigma fraternity brother, former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas deputy governor Diwa Guinigundo, called Velasco ”a comrade in the struggle against martial rule.” He will be missed in various circles in which he moved, in advancing the advocacies he championed. Officials of the PIA paid tribute to their former chief as a humble, generous and dedicated public servant who “steered PIA with his unique brand of firm yet compassionate and intelligent leadership.”
The list was based on publicly available information as of April 4, 2020 and may not be comprehensive.
ERRATUM: In this article “IN MEMORIAM: Remembering those we have lost” published on April 6, 2020, we erroneously included the names of Ambassador Bienvenido Arceo Tan, Jr., a UP alumnus who passed away on March 10, and Ms. Zenaida F. Salas, long-time administrative staff of the UP Diliman Department of Political Science who passed away on April 2. The UP community mourns their loss and condoles with their bereaved families and loved ones; however, Amb. Tan and Ms. Salas passed away due to causes other than COVID-19.
The article also contained an error in Arch. Raul D. Eslao, RN’s name. These corrections have been made to this updated web post.
The UP Media and Public Relations Office regrets the errors.