THE BIRTH OF THE CEBU INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE
as narrated by Dr. Benito L. Antigua
First of all, I want the reader to have a mental picture of the circumstances of where and how the idea really started. There was an old residential house located in the lot now occupied by the current emergency room of what is now the Cebu Velez General Hospital. At that time the facilities were called VELEZ CLINIC. The clinic and x-ray room of Dr. Jacinto Velez were located in this old residential house. A dentist, Dr. Gabino Palacio, also had his dental offices in this same building. In front of his dental office was a big window around which we doctors used to hang out after we were done with our chores at the hospital. There we would discuss world and local events, shared news, views and solutions on how to cure the ills of the world. Most importantly, it was at this window that the idea of opening a medical school was first conceived. The year was 1956. Dr. Uldarico Bacay was the Chief of the Assistants to Dr. Jacinto Velez. Dr. Renato Espinosa and myself were recent returnees from the USA after our training in our respective fields of specialty. Cebu was then growing fast as a center of business and education. The topic of a medical school kept recurring and could not be shaken out of our systems.
Finally, one morning, we decided to approach Dr. Jacinto Velez and we proposed the idea of opening a medical school. Dr. Velez was receptive but thought the project was too big and improbable. He was kind enough to agree to think about it. In the meantime, these unshakeable thoughts and topic threaded through our daily conversations by that window. We approached Dr. Velez again and engaged him in a long discussion of the pros and cons of such an endeavor. To our great joy and elation, he finally said, "Ato lang sulayan," (Let's give it a try) in that soft voice of his. We went into action and set about seeking the procedural information on how to bring this into reality. We had to apply for a permit to open the school. Velez clinic was actually 10 years old at this time and was a small hospital. The Velez School of Nursing had been opened in 1952. We needed to affiliate the school with a University or College to be granted a permit. Dr. Nicolas Escario, the owner of the privately owned Cebu Institute of Technology, was a close friend and former classmate of Dr. Velez. He was approached and he gave his permission and sanctioned the affiliation. We then applied for and filed the application for the permit in the name of Cebu Institute of Technology, College of Medicine. After a period of time, the response came from the Board of Education informing us that a visual inspection was mandatory prior to their granting of the permit to open the school. Frantic preparations were made for this inspection. Some doctors brought in their books and periodicals and two microscopes. Classrooms were hurriedly made up in an unfinished building at the premises in the back of Velez Clinic. Dr. Pagoyo came from Manila to carry out the inspection on the designated day. He told us he would make a report of his findings and that we would hear from the Board. We were on tenterhooks until the day the news came that we were granted permission to open the Freshman Year. A public announcement was made to this effect and we were ready to receive the first applicants.
At this point, Dr. Velez hand-picked the doctors whom he named as the initial members of the Board of Organizers and Directors. Those named were Dr. Uldarico Bacay, Dr. Renato Espinosa, Dr. Jose Tolentino, Dr. Cesar Filoteo, Dr. Nicolas Escario, Dr. Eugenio Alonso and myself, Dr. Benito Antigua. Dr. Cesar Filoteo resigned that first year after he was appointed as a member of the National Board of Examiners of Medicine. During one of our meetings, Dr. Velez emphasized that he was forming a corporation and the group had to put up the capital for the project. He further stated that the school should be outside of his premises because he was not including any part of his property, especially the hospital. Unfortunately, the majority of us were just starting practice and we were not in any position to come up with the necessary capital to fund this project and buy a property as a site for the school. Consequently, Dr. Velez organized his own non-stock, nonprofit corporation as the operating body for the school. He kindly housed the school on the hospital premises but he made it entirely clear that this venture was separate from the hospital operations. Later, he acquired the property at the corner of F. Ramos and Ranudo Streets where he eventually constructed the CIM medical school building as we know it now. This was first occupied in 1966 when the Velez College was created and the College of Medicine could now cut the umbilical cord from Cebu Institute of Technology. It could now operate under the name CEBU INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE.
Returning to the story of the first year of opening, we were now faced with the problem of finding instructors and teachers for the coming school year. We could not afford to give up our medical practices to be full-time instructors. Another auspicious connection worked in our favor. The then dean of the University of Santo Tomas College of Medicine, Dr. Virgilio Ramos, was a friend and former classmate of Dr. Velez. He was approached and from his faculty, he was able to convince the following doctors to migrate to Cebu: Dr. Fernando Santos (Biochemistry), Dr. Manuel Alvarez (Physiology and Pharmacology), and three laboratory technicians came with them.
The registration office was located under the front stairway of the hospital (where the China Banking Corporation is now located). We were thus set to open the doors to our first year students in 1957. We had a five year curriculum then and the first graduates numbered 33 in 1962.
We now have over 4000 graduates. Over 90 graduates have achieved the distinct honor of being "topnotchers" (achieving a place in the top ten scores in the National Medical Board Examinations over the years). The school has been recognized as one of the three CENTERS of EXCELLENCE for MEDICINE. It has been classified as LEVEL IV (highest category given) by the Commission of Medicine Education.
I am so proud of the school and its graduates. Its success is a testimonial to the continued dedication of its faculty (most of the present members are graduates of this very school) and the unwavering excellence that they consistently promote, uphold, and expect from the students and its graduates. Our graduates, in turn, continue to do us proud. They have built reputations of excellence in their fields of practice, both clinical and academic. This school has given you your medical education but you, the graduates, your endeavors and your achievements are giving CEBU INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE its good name. On behalf of the late Dr. Uldarico Bacay, Dr. Renato Espinosa, and the late Dr. Jacinto Velez, I thank you for making our dream come true. The reality has far exceeded our dream.