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DR. RONALD PAGELA GUZMAN

Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino

Dean, Graduate School of Law, San Beda College

Chair, Department of Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy, Philippine Judicial Academy

Professor VI, Cagayan State University

Schools are founded for a variety of reasons: often, for religious or sectarian purposes, sometimes in the service of one ideology or another. Medical Colleges of Northern Philippines and the International School of Asia and the Pacific were both born from the heart of man whose mission was clear, his purpose straightforward: to allow the underprivileged a chance at quality education. He took up their cause after having touched base with them and with their families in the exercise of his profession as a physician.

He placed 6th  in the Licensure Examination for Physicians in 1970, after having completed the medical course at Far Eastern University. A distinction like that could be easily earned him a comfortable and lucrative niche in any reputable hospital in Manila, or even abroad, but he returned to Tuao, his hometown, Cagayan’s war-time capital, there to put his education and his skills as a physician and the nursing expertise of Wilma Roa-Guzman, his wife at the service of the people he had made it his life’s mission to serve. A fifteen-bed health care facility, Holy Infant Clinic, was, through small unique in that although it was a private clinic, it charged the patients no fees for accommodation, with members of the Guzman family attending personally to patients’ needs through such tasks as maintaining the clinic’s kitchen.

After two years gaining experience in Nigeria, Dr. Ronnie and Wilma – who later would earn her own doctorate degree in education – returned to the Philippines, and returned to Cagayan. Holy Infant Clinic in Tuguegarao came into being, but the first clinic at Tuao continued serving the people there. What started as a rather modest health-care facility has since morphed into a multi-bed hospital in the heart of Tuguegarao City. But Dr. Ronnie understood that health care should not start when a sick man is rushed to a hospital. It must start in communities that are healthy, in an environment that is healthful! There was no other way to do this except through education – and so was born Medical College of Northern Philippines. Dr. Ronnie decided to give up on the resort where the affluent of Tuguegarao could luxuriate so that its place could rise a school that the underprivileged could attend, while confidently counting on nationally (and later, even globally) competitive education

Dr. Ronnie launched an aggressive campaign, No place was too far, no barangay too remote, and all heard about MCNP and what it had to offer – and it did offer a lot. Many were skeptical because it seemed like almost all enrolees were scholars. And others doubted whether it could deliver on its promises. But people did not have to wait long. Almost every year, MCNP’s graduates did not only pass the licensure examinations in percentages far exceeding the national average, but finding themselves in the top-ten rungs of excellence in performance. And the Commission on Higher Education took notice. In March, 2008, MCNP was rated a “Mature Teaching Institution” under the Commission’s Institutional Quality Assurance Monitoring Evaluation (IQuAME ) scheme, the only higher education institution in the region to be so recognized!

His concern for struggling families undiminished by the success of his educational ventures, Dr Ronnie purchased rice land, so that the produce could go into providing free rice for students’ meals, a service hitherto unknown.

But the secondary school youngsters he dialogued with in his forays to the far-flung towns and barangays of the region convinced Dr Ronnie that health-care courses alone would not be serving the aspirations of the young sufficiently. He and Dr. Wilma decided that it was time that another school should offer courses in other disciplines, and thus was founded the International School of Asia and the Pacific, because it has been the vision of the couple – and all associated with them in this endeavour – to establish the school as a center of excellence – and service – in the Asia-Pacific region.  And ISAP’s graduates have done their founders proud: licensure examinations in teacher education, criminology and customs administration have more than given the school a trustworthy name!

There is, in Tuguegarao, a new hospital – the Dr. Ronald P. Guzman Medical Center (RPGMC) of which every right-thinking Tuguegarao (in fact, Cagayano) is and should be proud, because it boasts of the amenities, the facilities and the expert care that one will get only in Manila’s high-end hospitals, without having to pay the prohibitive costs associated with such medical care! But the inspiration behind this hospital to an educator’s heart – Dr. Ronnie’s desire to qualify the graduates of MCNP for jobs either in the Philippines or abroad by providing them with a base hospital with a two hundred fifty-bed capacity in which to hone their skills and also return to the community the series owed by those gifted with the privilege of education and the skills that come with it.

Dr. Ronnie and Dr. Wilma’s children, all distinguished professionals, are intensely involved in all of these concerns: Christian has an M.B.A. and puts it to use directing the financial affairs of the school, aside from serving on the Sanggunian Panlalawigan of Cagayan; Christopher Mark is an orthopedic surgeon whose expertise is sought after at the RPGMC as in other hospitals; Charles, also a physician, is an internist and a pulmonary specialist, and he directs the hospital’s affairs: Cristina is a Bedan lawyer and serves as legal consultant of the Guzman Group of Companies

Why did he wait till now to be installed? While one can cite many fortuitous events as the reason for the delay, one thing is sure: He wanted to be installed only after the two schools had established themselves as credible centers of higher education distinguished by scholastic excellence and an undiluted concern for those who would otherwise have no access to the blessings of quality education.