Remembering Dr. Ramon F. Abarquez, Jr.

The tribute sculpture for Dr. Ramon F. Abarquez, Jr. was unveiled during the commemoration of his first death anniversary at UP-PGH

Feature Story

Mabuhay Ang Ating Hardin—a poem, a sculpture, a painting, a song, and a welll and scaped garden at the UP-PGH now serve as a poignant memory for the late iconic professor emeritus whose passion for learning, researching, teaching and sharing is next to no one. The sculpture of two senior-looking hands passing on a germinating seed to younger hands is a fitting tribute to the beloved mentor who generously shared everything for his students and the science he so loved.

By Gelyka Ruth Dumaraos
Photos By Ramir G. Cambiado

A relaxing sight at the central garden of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) is a piece of land in front of Ward 3, adorned with green plants and colorful flowers. Called Mabuhay Ang Ating Hardin, the well-designed landscape in this patch of garden offers a welcoming and contrasting sight to the busy, always fast-paced tertiary hospital environment.

Recently, Mabuhay Ang Ating Hardin was given a whole new symbol as a sculpture was installed on it to remember a great man, the late Dr. Ramon F. Abarquez, Jr., who once walked the halls of this century-old institution of service, education, training and research.

Priscillano “Jun” Vicaldo, 2011 Metrobank Foundation Prize Awardee for Achievement in Sculpture, interpreted Dr. Raul D. Jara’s poem “Mabuhay Ang Ating Hardin” and sculptured the art pieces that show a pair of hands passing on a seed of a plant to a younger pair of hands. Furthermore, the poem inspired the creation of an abstract painting by Lala Jara Tuazon in 2018, which depicts a garden with Filipino touches.

Dr. Jorge A. Sison, a cardiologist, created music for the poem Mabuhay ang Ating Hardin honoring Dr. Ramon F. Abarquez, Jr.

For more than six decades, Dr. Abarquez taught thousands of medical students and mentored trainees in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM), Philippine Heart Center and Medical Center Manila. While he was generally described as strict, what struck them the most was his trademark transformative mentoring, that sought to bring out the best in everyone. Although he was officially retired years before his death in January 2018, Dr. Abarquez remained active in the academe as professor emeritus, also in research activities and clinical practice.

Present during the unveiling was Dr. Ramon F. Abarquez, Jr.’s wife, Mrs. Agnes Abarquez

“Dr. Abarquez has always been a source of knowledge and wisdom to his students and the people he has met in his career,” Dr. Jara shared of his former mentor. “He had always planted seeds of knowledge, even at a time when his body was deteriorating.”

Looking back, Dr. Jara said that his fondest memories of Dr. Abarquez were during their regular hemodynamic conferences, which the late professor dutifully attended despite his infirmity. Ever mentally sharp as he was in his much younger years, he would point out details in some cases which have been inadvertently missed by the presenting resident or fellow.

He said that Dr. Abarquez’ inquisitive mind, perseverance, humor, and selflessness have remained until his last breath. His unceasing pursuit of learning has always been an inspiration to the young physicians who were fortunate and blessed to have been under his mentorship.

UP-PGH consultants and residents gather for the unveiling of the tribute sculpture at Mabuhay Ang Ating Hardin

Mabuhay Ang Ating Hardin now has many stories to tell, including its own. Three years ago, this small portion of land was where the waste waters of PGH drained and overflowed which made the place not passable. However, there was a portion of the land where doctors usually explained to the relatives of the patients confined in the wards of the Department of Medicine the prognoses and plans for their patients. In 2016, under the term of Dr. Manuel C. Jorge II as chairman of the Department of Medicine and Dr. Mikaela Nikkola Jara-Tantoco, then chief resident, transformation of this piece of land into an elegant garden was made, to serve as a place to unwind and take a break from the bustling hospital setting, both for hospital employees and patients. Drs. Jorge and Jara-Tantoco invited Dr. Susan Aquino-Ong, a landscape architect from UP-Los Baños who brought some of her students and did some improvements on the drainage and turned the piece of land into a garden. The Metro Manila Spouses Foundation,Inc. headed by its president, Mrs. Janet A. Olivares of Parañaque completed the reconstruction, drainage and rehabilitation of the garden based on the design of Dr. Aquino- Ong.

On December 7, 2016, a program was organized for the retirement of professors in the Department of Medicine, Drs. Nelson S. Abelardo, Cynthia E. Dominguez, Mary Ann Lansang, Ricardo M. Salonga, and Rody G.Sy. It was also during this time when Dr. Jara’s poem was first recited as a tribute to the professors. After the program, all the retirees planted more trees in the garden. The ceremony for the retiring professors, all of whom were Dr. Abarquez’ former students, was the last event that Dr. Abarquez was able to attend at UP-PGH Medical Center.

The late Mr. Melito “Bimbo” Salazar, former secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry and honorary chairperson of the Pusong Pinoy Foundation jumpstarted the fund-raising for the Mabuhay ang Ating Hardin project, including the creation of the sculpture. The University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital Division of Cardiology and Cardiology Alumni Association, Inc. contributed and completed the project.

On July 8, 2019, a day before Dr. Abarquez’ 91st birthday, Dr. Raul D. Jara, former chairman of the Section of Cardiovascular Medicine of UP-PGH Medical Center (2011-2013), former students and colleagues came together to honor Dr. Abarquez’ legacy and unveiled the sculpture that symbolizes the late professor’s lifelong passion of passing on his knowledge and wisdom to the younger generations.

Dr. Raul Jara, former chair of the Cardiovascular Section, reminisces his fondest memories with Dr. Ramon F. Abarquez, Jr.

Mrs. Agnes Abarquez together with colleagues, friends and students of the late Dr. Ramon F. Abarquez, Jr graced the occasion on that day, namely: Dr. Joel M. Abanilla (Executive Director of the Philippine Heart Center), Dr. Anna Francesca Abarquez, Dr. Maria Teresa B. Abola, Dr. Lauro L. Abrahan IV, Dr. Charlene F. Agustin, Dr. Ruth Divine Agustin, Mr. Roberto P. Alingog, (President, Ropali Corporation), Dr. John D. Añonuevo (Chairman, Department of Medicine, UP-PGH Medical Center), Dr. Susan Aquino-Ong (landscape architect and environmentalist), Dr. Ma. Margarita O. Balabagno, Dr. Dioscoro D.C. Bayani II, Dr. Michael Vic G. Beluso, Dr. Brian Fidel Belvis, Dr. Maria Teresa Benedicto, Dr. Roxanne Yen Bongcawil, Dr. Ma. Belen O. Carisma (Deputy Executive Director for Education,Training and Research Services, Philippine Heart Center), Mr. Ramil Cambiado, Dr. Paula Cheng, Dr. Angelica V. Dela Cruz, Dr. Coralie Therese D. Dimacali, (Associate Dean for Academic Development, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines), Mr. Nonito Dolera, (Honorary Advisor, Asia Pacific Orchid Conference), Dr. Cynthia E. Dominguez, Ms. Gelyka Ruth Dumaraos, Dr. Lauren Kay M. Evangelista, Dr. Giselle G. Gervasio, (Training officer, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, UP-PGH Medical Center) Dr. Julian Alexander Huibonhoa, Dr. Eleanor A. Jara, Dr. Raul D. Jara, Dr. Manuel C. Jorge II, ( past chairman, Department of Medicine, UP-PGH Medical Center), Dr. Elmer Jasper B. Llanes, Dr. Namphril Malaluan, Dr. Donato R. Marañon, Dr. Dante D. Morales (Member, Board of Directors, Manila Doctors Hospital), Dr. Nalene M. Nava, Dr. Marie Kirk Patrick Maramara, Dr. Stephanie Martha Obillos-Laforteza, Mr. German A. Panghulan, (Chairman of the Board/Chief Executive Officer, CORBRIDGE GROUP PHILS., INC.), Dr. Marion D. Patricio, Dr. Felix Eduardo R. Punzalan, Jr., Dr. Valerie R. Ramiro, Dr. Justin Regalado, Dr. Nannette R. Rey, (Immediate past president, Philippine Heart Association)Dr. Aiza Katrina Reyes, Dr. Eugene B. Reyes (Chairman, Division of Cardiology, UP-PGH Medical Center), Dr. Jerome D. Reymatias, Mr. Rocky Sales, Dr. Ace L. Samson, Dr. Jorge A. Sison, Dr. Rody G. Sy, (Professor Emeritus, UP-PGH Medical Center), Dr. Aiza-Meriam H. Tahil, Dr. Jezreel L. Taquiso, Dr. Richard Henry P. Tiongco II, (Assistant training officer, Division of Cardiology, UP-PGH Medical Center), Dr. Arnolfo B. Tomas, Dr. Cecileen Anne M. Tuazon, Dr. Celia Catherine C. Uy, Dr. Jeffrey Valencia, Mr. Priscillano Vicaldo, Jr., and Dr. Danielle Louie E. Villanueva.

“Dr. Abarquez has always been a source of knowledge and wisdom to his students and the people he has met in his career”

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