My name comes from my two grandfathers—Geminiano and Luis. My Lolo Geminiano was a public school teacher from a family of farmers; my Lolo Luis, on the other hand, was a fisherman his whole life. Both men have rooted their lives in the rural land and the communities they serve. I became a doctor to do just the same.
Having lived all my life in our small, rural town of San Luis, Pampanga, I was first uprooted to study Health Sciences with a minor in Health and Development at the Ateneo de Manila University. Equipped with a perspective of health that goes beyond the clinical, I continued my medical degree at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH) with a promising invitation—a double degree of Medicine and Master’s in Business Administration (MD-MBA), and a unique opportunity ‘to heal and transform lives’ by ‘catalyzing systemic changes in society through the health sector’.
After completing my medical degree, I took the road less travelled and launched a career in and a commitment to public health. As a Public Health Leadership fellow at the Ateneo Center for Health Evidence, Action, and Leadership (A-HEALS), I have engaged in various initiatives that range from deployment of Human Resources for Health (HRH) in rural and underserved areas, research on sustainable supply chains in public health facilities, and initiatives in climate change and health (CCAH).
Presently, I am one of the project managers for the iPRIME MD—a program that seeks to map out primary care physician competencies in the Philippine setting with the goal of developing capacity building interventions to improve primary care practice in poor and underserved areas, starting in Northern Samar, one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines.
What unites my various work engagement is a firm belief in equity, a preferential option for the poor, and a commitment to agency—of bringing freedom to the hands of the people. In 2011, I co-founded a youth movement called iTayo Na! which translates to “Let’s go, Let’s build”. As a platform for rural community development, iTayo Na! gathers young people from rural areas, most of them out-of-school youth (OSY), and provides opportunities in self-development, social entrepreneurship and civic participation, including trainign of OSYs to become community health workers (CHWs).
After years of working for and with the rural poor , I have discovered that poverty and inequity is a vicious cycle that is passed on from one generation to the next. With iTayo Na! and our ongoing work in public health, it is my deepest hope and greatest dream to put an end to this vicious cycle of poverty by empowering the next generation of civic leaders, social entrepreneurs and primary health care workers.
The seeds have been planted, but even then, it is a long way to go. As in all things that grow, we are reminded by St. Vincent de Paul that ‘nature makes trees put down deep roots, before having them bear fruit.’