Dra. Aurora De la Fuente: People’s “Doktora” of Tacurong City
By Anthony Bong de la Fuente
She was known as “Doktora” in our small town of Tacurong. She was a favorite doctor among so many people. She trained as a pediatrician, but soon, even the parents of the children would consult her. Even as she prepared breakfast for us early in the morning, patients will already be waiting for her at the clinic just beside our house. Sometimes she will be at a party, or at some function, a nurse would find wherever she was, and would inform her there were patients at her clinic. She would leave the party to see them. The patients sometimes came by the jeepney load. They came from far-away places, and sometimes, they went as a community to see her. And she saw them one by one. She took time to chat, and talked with them. She had an easy way about her – beautiful, quick to smile, warm to people, and always genuinely concerned and interested.
She always wore white and her hair in a neat bun. But on her, the look never seemed severe or constricting. The material of her dresses were usually flowing, and soft, and her smile would soften the most trucculent patients. She barely wore make-up, just face powder and a lipstick. On her fingers she wore her college ring, and her wedding ring. She was simple and elegant. Something about her friendly demeanor made it easy for people to confide in her. They told her not only what ailed them, but also the hurts and the joys that were in their hearts. She listened to them, emphatized with them, and like an elder sibling she offered advise, or even sometimes a joke to make them feel better. She was gentle with them, but also stern with them when they missed out on their medication, or when parents were neglectful of their children.
She never lost her Cebuano accent. She would pepper her conversation with Visayan words that would amuse my father to no end. But she has developed a way of talking to her patients about what ails them. She learned all the right words for whatever symptoms in the specific dialect her patient use – Maranaw, Maguindanao, Ilonggo, Ilocano, Tagalog, and of course, Cebuano. And she talked with them using a sort of pidgin combination of Cebuano-Ilonggo-Tagalog, and whatever dialect was appropriate. Somehow they understood each other. Young children, their parents, and their grandparents came to see her, and they trusted her.
My dad who was a politician always introduced himself as “the husband of Doktora,” knowing how my mom was as well-liked, and quite as popular in the community. As kids, we were allowed to hang around the clinic, and were encouraged to befriend the sick children to cheer them up. We were able to forge good friendships with the kids we met in her clinic. Mothers would tell my mom that their kids were not afraid of going to the doctor as soon as they knew that they were going to see “doktora.”
At times when there was lull in between patients, or late in the afternoon, she’d sit at the foyer of her clinic. She watched people pass by the road side. People would call out to her, and she will wave back to them. Friends would stop by, and soon the air will be filled with laughter, and conversation. Her clinic was a hub for friends to get together, talk, and be updated with each other. Even strangers found a welcome there, and soon they will be included in the ongoing interchange of stories, ideas, and wamth.
She lived a quiet, but not unexciting life of a physician with growing kids, and a husband involved public service. Her faith in the Lord was a vibrant force that was strong and powerful. She was 46 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. She quietly and bravely endured the therapy that followed. Even at 48 as the cancer cells metastasized to her spine, and lungs, she remained graciously dignified. Her prayers, and those around her were sources of inspiration. Her husband was tender and strong for her, but she was an anchor that was never swayed.
I remember that even as she was suffering, her patients would still come and see her. They insisted that they actually got better when they saw her. “Makita ko lang si Doktora, ga-ayo gid ako” (just seeing Doktora makes me well), and she would see to it they got to talk to her, and consulted with her.
When she died in Cebu, many requested that her body be brought back to Tacurong so people can mourn with us. On her burial, many came to pay their last respect, lining up the streets to say goodbye as the procession passed. A friend lent his airplane to rain on petals along the way.
She didn’t have the gift of years as she passed away too soon. But her life continues to be an inspiration to those whose lives she touched. Even today, I meet people in the strangest places, and as soon as they learn I am from Tacurong, and “Doktora” was my mom, a few of them would say, “I was her patient,” or “She was the best doctor.”
Today would have been her 77th birthday, but what she lacked in time here on earth, she had eternity with the Father. The testament of her life lives on, and today I honor her not just with a remembrance, but with a renewed commitment to serve the Lord, and to be of service to others knowing that this was her legacy and that of her husband as well.
Happy birthday, Mama!