(Article published in the Apr 28,2003 issue of TODAY, Business Section)
life, his brand of helping others had always been of giving, not so much
of property or possession (he was a panggalatok,
and proud of it), but, instead, of himself.
His time, his skill, his knowledge, even simply his concern. But
still, none of us expected that, in death, he would literally push to the
limit his style of giving. Dr.
Jorge Higinio (hence, the nickname “Gene”) N. San Juan willed that his
body be turned over to his alma
mater, the UP College of Medicine.
became friends when, during our third year in high school, I joined Gene
in Section 3-B at the Ateneo. We
were not natives, i.e. products of the Ateneo Grade School who address one
another as “pal”, who never had to worry about grammar and syntax when
talking to American Jesuit teachers in their white sutanas,
and who were driven to and fetched from school in nice cars.
Instead, we were pedestrian migrants from the public school system.
was valedictorian of the Ordaneta Elementary School in his home province
of Pangasinan and he entered the Ateneo High School as freshman, Section
1-D; I went to the Ateneo only on my second year, in Section 2-D, after
finishing at Lakan Dula Elementary School on Solis St., in Gagalangin,
Tondo,and taking my first year at the Ampil Annex of Torres High School on
Juan Luna St. English was not
our language of choice, but we struggled to speak it all the time, because
of the then prevailing “English Rule” on campus.
We took the school bus in the mornings, and when we missed the last
trip in the afternoon, we walked all the way to Gate 3 on Katipunan to
take the JD bus to Quiapo or, further on, to the corner of Aurora Avenue
to get on the Marikina Bus or Marikina Valley to Divisoria, unless we were
able to hitch a ride with Ateneo natives Abe Pascual or Roy Gonzales.
those long trips, Gene taught me about the ways of Ateneo boys and the wiles of their sisters and cousins in
Assumption and Maryknoll. There
we talked of parents and teachers, grades and girls, spun our tales and
wove our dreams, nursed our sorrows and hid our fears, griped about
allowance and vowed to be much better than our elders.
At times we were certain we had the solution to the problems of the
universe; at others, at a loss as to how to tackle the evening’s
homework. But always, we were
young and we knew, as only the young could, that we would get there,
whatever and wherever that “there” was
to go to, if only we worked and, of course, played hard enough.
very hard did Gene work and play, --testing the limits of his resolve and
endurance, giving everything he’s got, and then some more. In the seven
years we were together at the Ateneo, three years of high school and four
years in the college of liberal arts, I saw him, in no particular order,
play basketball to exhaustion during those “class nights”, serve Mass
in the mornings at the Faculty House (now known as the Jesuit Residence)
with the rest of the Sanctuary Society, teach catechism to public school
children as a member of ACIL,
go to week-end parties and soirees (he was the favorite of the blushing
girls), get medals and win honors (he was voted salutatorian of HS ’60
and was cum laude when he got his AB in ‘64), play the guitar for a couple
of years, or two, in a band called “Live Wires” with, if I am not
mistaken, Wopsy Zamora, Arturo Quito, Arlu Gomez, and Pocholo Rous, bowl
on Sundays at the Catholic Women’s League lanes on
Florida St. and play billards at the “Pink House” on Katipunan.
most of us were content with our ROTC, compulsory during the first two
years of college, he volunteered to be a cadre in the Philippine Air
Force’s officer’s training course at the then Nicols Air Base,
together with Boy Tripon, Toting Bunye, and Eli Navarette. Just to test if
he had what it takes, I suspect, since he did not become an officer of the
college ROTC corps nor applied for a commission in the service.
But it was there where his friends needed his company so it was
there where he wanted to be.
graduation, we went our separate ways. Gene proceeded to the UP College of
Medicine. He was as congenial
there at the UP Med as he was at the Ateneo.
There, too, he was leader of his class, the class president, if I
am not mistaken, on his second and third year of medicine proper.
He graduated doctor of medicine in 1969, was at the Philippine
General Hospital as resident
physician trainee in Surgery in the 70s and thereafter, for a year, was a
member of the Department of Anatomy. He was to his classmates at UP Med School and colleagues in
his profession, as well as to the many patients he had healed, exactly as
we knew him at the Ateneo, effortlessly magnanimous.
He was always generous with his knowledge and skill, very free with
his time and boundless with his caring.
hindsight, Gene’s donation of his mortal remains to the UP College of
Medicine was but the logical closure of his style of living and giving.
Five years after the massive heart attack and stroke that wrecked
his body and bound it to the wheel chair, he showed up at the UP College
of Medicine and deposited a will and testament that had nothing on it but
the bequest of his body.
classmate, Dr. Ramon Arcadio, the current dean, called it
“unconventional and unprecedented”.
For the first time, an alumnus of the college donated his body for
use of its students. So moved was the school that Gene was enrolled in the
highest category of membership in the Dean’s International Circle, the
Legacy Club. His name they
would write in brass and post at the foyer of the main college building at
Pedro Gil. A reminder to those who would pass the school’s portals of
one who knew how to live and give.