Among the ironies of modernization in Southeast Asia is the grim fact that at least one-third of all children are more critically malnourished than were their grandparents’ generation.
Urbanization denies families opportunities to gather important foods for their diet. Fish, crab and other seafood, or vegetables and fruits growing semi-wild, are less available to migrants from a rural barrio to the city slums. Shifting from hand-pounded to machine-milled rice costs nutrients as does curtailment of breastfeeding in favor of diluted canned milk.
Malnutrition reduces resistance to disease and in itself is a major cause of illness and death. Respiratory infections, including tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal diseases continue to take a heavy toll among children in the Philippines. Schistosomiasis and malaria, in the remoter provinces where they occur, may, by their incidence and results, be cruel to the young.
FE DEL MUNDO chose to specialize in treating children while attending the College of Medicine at the University of the Philippines where she graduated first in her class of 70 in 1933. Postgraduate studies in pediatrics at Harvard and Columbia Universities led to a residency at Billings Hospital in Chicago and a research fellowship at the Harvard Medical School. Leaving attractive opportunities to remain in America, she returned home on the eve of World War II.
In enemy occupied Manila the petite lady doctor organized a Children’s Home, aided Allied internees in Santo Tomas University premises and directed the Manila Children’s Hospital. After liberation in 1945 she founded and was first Director of the North General Hospital, and she also joined the faculty of Santo Tomas University. For two decades she chaired the Pediatrics Department of Far Eastern University and last year edited a major compendium, Textbook of Pediatrics and Child Health.
The Children’s Medical Center was started in 1957 as a 100-bed hospital on what had been a muddy plot in Quezon City, chiefly through the ingenuity, hard work and prayers of Dr. DEL MUNDO. Donating her own house and property toward the funding, she also established there the Institute of Maternal and Child Health to train doctors, nurses and paramedical personnel. By 1962 teams starting rural rehydration centers were saving lives of infants dying of diarrhea. As international support was mustered these became full-fledged pediatric teams.
Even before the Philippine Government began encouraging population control in the late 1960s Dr. DEL MUNDO had rural units in distant Palawan and her father’s home island of Marinduque teaching health, nutrition and family planning. In 1968, with funds provided through the National Economic Council and the United States Agency for International Development, the Institute established 100 family planning clinics in puericulture centers—within five years these increased to 390. Distinguishing the Institute staff were the enthusiasm with which they enlisted acceptors, their critical assessment of their own shortcomings and careful accounting of their modest resources.
National and international recognition and honors have not caused Dr. DEL MUNDO to slacken her effort nor lose sight of her purpose. The health of children—upon whom the future depends—continues to absorb the now 66 year old “little lady in tennis shoes” as it has for four decades, only today she has enlisted some of the ablest professional talents in the cause.
In electing FE DEL MUNDO to receive the 1977 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes her lifelong dedication as a physician extraordinary to needy Filipino children.
With joy and deep gratitude, I accept this international Award which I shall always treasure for the great man it honors and for the recognition it gives to the Awardees.
Individuals who learn and derive their inspirations from the lives of others, cannot but draw inspiration from the life of our late President who commanded the respect and deep affection of his people because he was simple, selfless, understanding and humble, cared for people as individuals, and believed in their dignity and importance.
On March 16, 1957, the day before his demise, President Magsaysay, in a brief address at the University of the Visayas in Cebu City, spoke of the “limitless capacity of the Filipino parent for self-abnegation, his readiness to part with his last material possessions, in order that his children may look forward to a better life than it has been his lot to live.”
A number of institutions and organizations and even individuals, strive to enrich the lives of the children of our land, through education, in the sciences and art, through provision of their bare necessities or their needs or even of some amenities. It has been our great privilege to contribute our share to the enhancement of the health and well-being of our children through the Children’s Medical Center Foundation and its social action arm, the Institute of Maternal and Child Health. I am particularly grateful that I should be a 1977 Awardee as November 1977 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Medical Center and the 10th of the Institute of Maternal and Child Health. For this event we are re-editing a book for parents entitled Baby and You in Tagalog and in English, a compilation of a 20-year column in a local Sunday magazine. Earlier this year, the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges officially launched the first Philippine medical textbook entitled Textbook of Pediatrics and Child Health for which it was my privilege to serve as Editor-in-Chief, perhaps a landmark of my 31 years on the faculty of two medical schools in the Philippines.
I am fortunate to have had many occasions to share my opportunities with others. It is a fact that developing countries present numerous problems of which children bear the brunt. The Philippines, as a developing country with 22 million children, presents many challenges, particularly in remote and under-served areas.
Hence in the past 15 years the Medical Center and the Institute have become socially committed and involved, seeking through traditional and innovative approaches to meet some of the health needs of our children. Pediatrics teams were sent to stay and work some months in various provinces where their services were needed. The establishment of 103 rehydration centers in rural communities fortuitously preceded an alarming cholera epidemic. In cooperation with the Training Office of the Department of Health, two-week courses in maternal and child health and family planning were conducted in five regions. We have been able to serve and train others in a variety of community health activities and participate actively in the population program of the administration. Thus today’s occasion gives me a very special harvest of these tangible fruits of my professional life.
To the Board of Trustees, I am most grateful for their generous recognition of services rendered to our people through the children. I am grateful also to my nominator for efforts exerted, but more so for his confidence, faith and trust in me. I take this occasion to thank my parents, my mentors, my co-workers and colleagues for their continued support and encouragement.
As I receive this Award for outstanding service for the public good by a private citizen, I express my humble hope and pray that I shall continue to do all I can to help realize our late President’s wish for the Filipino child, whom he believed had a destiny which transcends the state but also with inalienable duties to render to the state. Our late President’s wish was that the child should grow into an individual capable of exercising the fullest expression and fulfillment, physically and spiritually, of his human personality. It is a very rewarding task to contribute to the building of a world of happy and healthy children of whom the Divine Physician bespoke his concern and affection: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”