Dr. Marcelo “Mar” Jaochico’s personal battle against COVID-19 started with fever. Then came the loss of appetite, fatigue, diarrhea and shortness of breath. A week later, Dr. Jaochico, who is the provincial health chief of Pampanga, was in the ICU.
As he fought to recover from the dreaded coronavirus, his daughter Cielo, a nurse, who was under strict isolation at home as well because of her own symptoms, started posting online about her father, asking people to pray for him and thanking the health workers who were caring for him.
Cielo decided to tell people about her father, she said, because she noticed that “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. Mar Jaochico, a former doctor to the barrios, forever a front-liner and a Filipino hero, through the loving eyes of his daughter.
Cielo wrote, “He had very humble beginnings. My lolo Eugenio Jaochico, a small-time business owner married my lola Angelita Yabut who was a teacher. They had seven children altogether. My lolo died while my dad was still a child so my lola had to fend for them. Hindi naging madali kaya nagtulungan din yung pitong magkakapatid. My dad’s older brother, Rodolfo, a Thomasian engineer, had to work abroad to support my dad’s education. When my dad was able to finish medicine, he supported my Tita Cecilia’s studies, and was able to graduate (with a degree in) nursing .”
Dr. Jaochico came from a family that was religious and very close. He and his siblings were all musically inclined, said Cielo. “My dad’s instrument was the clarinet.”
He graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in zoology and he studied medicine at the Angeles University Foundation.
“He juggled being a resident at the Manila Medical Center and teaching as a substitute instructor in Emilio Aguinaldo College to make ends meet. There he met my mom also,” Cielo wrote.
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 Doctor to the Barrios.
The University of the Philippines’ College of Public Health gave him a scholarship and Dr. Jaochico graduated cum laude with a Master’s Degree in Hospital Administration.
As Cielo posted about her father, other people started writing about him as well.
Dr. Jaochico spent 16 years as the obstetrician, pediatrician and family doctor of the people in Calanasan, Apayao. He had many stories from his time there, Cielo said. “I just wish I listened more.”
She shared one story. “May time noon na nagpa-anak siya ng isang expecting mother. Nang lumabas yung bata, hindi umiiyak at cyanotic (bluish ang skin color). Since nasa bundok sila at walang mga equipment, ang ginawa niya noon ay hinigop niya yung mga secretions sa ilong at bibig nung bata. The child cried pagtapos and was able to live.”
“Natuto siyang pangalagaan ang kalusugan ng mga tao nang may kaunting resources. They battled dengue, malaria and different outbreaks in their munting munisipyo,” Cielo wrote.
Cielo recalled spending summers visiting her dad. “Payak yung pamumuhay ng mga tao sa Calanasan and I treasure EVERY moment I had there kahit na grueling at exhausting ang drive patungong bundok at pagtawid ng mga ilog. Natagalan ng tatay ko roon for almost 16 years. Ganoon talaga pag mahal mo yung ginagawa mo.”
Dr. Jaochico received numerous awards and accolades during his time in Calanasan, Cielo said, but they lost some of his certificates and awards when their house in Masantol, Pampanga burned down. Dr. Jaochico was a Dr. Jose P. Rizal Memorial Awardee, she shared.
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.”
Then he joined the Department of Health’s Bureau of Local Health Systems. Cielo wrote, “Wala pa siyang sariling opisina noon, naka-divider lang. Biro nga niya, taga-timpla raw siya ng kape roon.”
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 also fought for his people, na maging pantay ang pagsingil sa mga diagnostic tests sa mga ospital na nasasakupan niya. Marami siyang mga nakaka-clash na mga tao, but I know his heart is in the right place because he has always served the people. Padayon, daddy. You have always had good intentions for the masses. I wish I can be more selfless like you.”
During the recent Taal eruption, Dr. Jaochico headed the Kapampangan Medical Team in assisting those who were affected. Cielo wrote, “He stayed there for a week. Halos walang ligo, walang tubig at matanda na rin siya. Hindi mabuti ang volcanic ashes para sa kanya pero kabilang siya sa mga nag-stay at tumulong sa mga refugees sa Batangas Provincial Sports Complex. He, together with other physicians, nurses and volunteers, helped 3,952 Batangueños.”
Her father’s selflessness 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.”
‘We need you’
She 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. I’m sure marami pa akong hindi nasulat dito, and it dawned on me gaano kalimitado ang mga alam ko tungkol sa iyo… Fight so you can be the one to tell your stories. Fight dahil nag-uumpisa palang 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. “They have helped the lowest and poorest sectors most of their life, and that is why I am extremely proud of them. However, commitment to work has its consequences. 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.”
But on March 24 came a heartbreaking update: “My dad passed away at 6:37 p.m.”
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… Dad, we didn’t even get to hug each other for the final time. Ang sakit, daddy. Deserve mo magkaroon ng lamay at ng libing where all of your loved ones are there.”
The morning after his death, Cielo posted, “Good morning, dad. This is your first day in heaven… We’re having a difficult time accepting that you’re now gone forever… No more nagging, no more dad jokes, no more going to the movies during the weekends… ‘Di man lang namin nakitang pumuti lahat ng buhok mo.”
Cielo, who just graduated and started working a year ago, lamented the fact that she didn’t get the chance to spoil her father like she wanted. “Dad, sabi ko pa naman pag nakapag-abroad ako, bibilhan kita ng gusto mong massage chair sa Ogawa na lagi mong tinitignan sa Fairview Terraces. Sinabi ko iyon habang nasa kotse tayo tapos tumawa ka lang at na-touch ka kaso wala ka na, dad.”
She made promises to her father. “Kami na po ang bahala kay mommy. Ako na po ang bahala sa mga kapatid ko. Ipapatayo ko yung bahay na pinapangarap mo para sa amin, daddy.”
She asked those who knew her father to tell them about their memories with him. “Di po kami magkakaroon nang maayos na lamay sa ngayon. Masakit sa puso we won’t be hearing eulogies from his friends. Please share (with) us stories about your time with him”
And she asked everyone to remember him as more than just another casualty of this pandemic. “When you speak of him, please speak only of good words. Please do not remember him as someone who just 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.”
Cielo is currently in isolation at Dr. Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital, the same hospital where her father had been confined.
She has a message for everyone: “You will never be prepared for your parent’s death… Nagmamakaawa akong sabihin niyo na sa mga magulang niyo ngayon kung gaano niyo sila kamahal. We are fools to think of time as a luxury. Tell your parents you love them and tell them now.”
And to her father: “I’m beyond proud of you po. You are my modern day bayani.”