|Dr. Charles L. Cheng
|(07 May 1932 - 28 September 2013)
From the slums to the halls of power, Filipinos mourned the passing on Tuesday of Dr. Juan Martin Flavier, a Baguio boy, who exemplified genuine public service that touched the lives of ordinary people. He was 79.
Flavier died due to multiple organ failure triggered by pneumonia at the National Kidney Transplant Institute in Quezon City. His wife Susan, four children, and their families surrounded him.
Baguio residents were among the first to break the news about his passing and offered prayers for the repose of the soul of the man, who was the most popular cabinet member of the Ramos administration for championing nationwide projects that touched the lives of millions, especially the poor.
The diminutive Flavier, a senator from 1995 to 2007, is the top choice among Cordillerans with bulk of his priority development assistance fund channeled to crucial public infrastructure such as hospitals and school buildings.
Some public infrastructures in Baguio were named after the former secretary of the Department of Health, who championed the “Doctors to the Barrios,” “Yosi Kadiri,” “Sangkap Pinoy,” “Oplan Alis Disease” and “Let’s DOH It.”
Long before the passage of the landmark Reproductive Health Law in 2013, Flavier implemented the country’s first human immuno-deficiency virus prevention program.
He was criticized by the Catholic Church, which branded him “agent of Satan” for promoting artificial family planning methods and distribution of condoms.
As senator, he authored and sponsored landmark legislations such as the Traditional Medicine Law, the Poverty Alleviation Law, Clean Air Act, Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 and the Tobacco Regulation Act.
If unparalleled accomplishments and the number of people served would be the yardstick to enter heaven, Dr. Charles L. Cheng then would surely be there.
Dr. Cheng was known as the doctor for the poor who offered fruits or whatever produce they had as gratitude for the free treatment the doctor offered them. They will miss him after he succumbed to complications at a Baguio hospital on Sept. 26. He was 81.
His untimely demise caught thousands by surprise, as the doctor was known to be a man of medicine, who gave confidence and relief to many patients where conventional medicine has failed.
Born in Baguio on May 7, 1932 of parents from mainland China, Dr. Cheng will be mostly remembered for his extensive practice and expertise in acupuncture and traditional Chinese healing methods.
While he closely treated locals and many rural farmers, he was also known to patients from many parts of the world who crossed oceans to be treated by him.
Hospital records will show the extensive success stories of his lifetime practice, combining and balancing western medicine with oriental methods.
His active life schedule also spilled over to medical research, sports medicine, and an ever-growing knowledge in oriental medicine. Baguio officials supported a resolution authored by Councilor Betty Tabanda expressing the city’s deepest condolences to the doctor’s family for his invaluable contributions to the city.
For his achievements, he was recognized as an outstanding citizen of Baguio in the field of medicine in 1999.
But Dr. Cheng, a long time columnist of the Baguio Midland Courier, long before this award has already received many recognition in relation to his medical achievements.
His national fame, as the city resolution states, include the Traditional University Awards at the Henry Lee Irwin Theater Ateneo de Manila University in 2007. He also won first prize in Environmental Protection, Primary Health Care Project, given by the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians Inc., in 1995.
The Benguet provincial government likewise conferred him the Leadership Award for Community Service in 1996, making him one of the few individuals bestowed with the highest honor from the city and Benguet.
One of Dr. Cheng’s contributions is his medical research on the effects of pesticides among farmers in the agricultural towns of Benguet.
After observing the rising cases of cancer in farmers who came to him for treatment, he made a breakthrough in agricultural practices when he embarked on a research project that established a correlation between pesticide use and illnesses such as cancer and birth deformities. This gave impetus to the encouragement of organic farming or the more judicious practice of chemical farming.
Dr. Cheng founded the Baguio Filipino-Chinese General Hospital in 1968 and was its medical director until the time of his death.
The areas of expertise his hospital served include basic and clinical research, acupuncture, medical health services including haci therapy and Xue Bao, among other Chinese methods of treating illnesses.
As a sportsman, Dr. Cheng also introduced medical practices to treat athletes who suffered injuries especially safeguarding amateur boxers from brain injury due to heavy blows.
He was also instrumental in the success of the programs and projects of the City Aids Watch Council, which offers services to people living with human immune virus.
Dr. Cheng was also a prominent figure in the celebration of Chinese festivals and culture, which promoted strong relations between the Filipino-Chinese community to other ethnic tribes in Baguio. The annual Spring Festival has become an official event of the city government.
Journalist-researcher Maurice Malanes also credited Dr. Cheng and Kathy Bersamina for publishing in 1997 the book “The Untold Story of Pioneers.”
The book chronicles how local ethnic Chinese in Baguio and in the Cordilleras got integrated with and helped build the communities they have become part of, according to Malanes.
With the doctor for the poor in the great clinic in the sky, indigent residents are praying there will be someone like him who will accept simple payments in-kind.
Having healed or given relief to a suffering patient was the doctor’s priceless joy.