Friday, October 31, 2014

RIP Juan Flavier

The Philippines lost a great man yesterday. Some will say "humabol pa sa Todos Los Santos" but then I'm sure that he didn't mean it considering he struggled with health issues the past few years of his very productive life. Our generation will remember Dr Juan Flavier for his slogan when he was Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) - "Just DOH it!" - an obvious allusion to a shoe company's popular slogan that was embraced and embodied by its athlete endorsers who included probably the best person to ever play basketball. Well, Flavier was probably the best DOH Secretary we had and his programs then, some if not many of which have been continued today, were very effective and captured the imagination of the country so much so that his popularity boosted him to become Senator of the Republic of the Philippines for a long time.

I didn't get to know him personally but the Clairvoyant did. That was when she was still working in Congress as a staff of a Congressman who later on would become a Senator himself (he is currently one). She had a few stories about the Doctor who became Secretary and later on Senator. He was a modest and simple person; the author of "Doctor to the Barrios" who inspired many young MD's to serve their fellowmen in the countryside. It is a big challenge to be a doctor in the rural areas in the Philippines and from what I gather, this also involves sacrifices and foregoing the high salaries that tend to go with lucrative practices in the city or abroad.

It was no wonder he was a popular senator and helped create laws that benefitted a lot of people. I have been told that he was supposed to have been among those considered as "presidentiable" back in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, his policies on reproductive health were ahead of his time and had irritated if not offended the Catholic Church at the time. Their criticism of the progressive Flavier was enough allegedly to convince then Pres. Fidel V. Ramos to consider supporting another politician who ran for country's highest post in 1998. Flavier instead ran for a Senate post. Would Flavier have defeated another popular actor-politician who won but was eventually toppled in 2001? That is a "what if" in our history and if he did, who can say what changes could have happened in our political and social landscape? Perhaps he was one of those whom we can claim as a good president we never had?

Rest in peace Dr Juan Flavier. You have done your part in building this nation and in helping Filipinos live better, healthier lives. We thank you for that and you will live on for your humble contributions in public service.

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