GAME CHANGER:MEET THE DOCTOR OF THE MASSES

“If you want to make a difference, if you want to help the sick and poor, then this is the profession for you. Armed with only a stethoscope, doctors help multitudes by just sitting, listening and advising.” – Dr. Willie T. Ong


Dr. Willie Ong – does the name rings a bell?

In an article which was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dr. Rafael R. Castillo wrote: “(Makabayang Duktor) shows the doctor-couple roaming the slums of Metro Manila looking for people with healthcare needs they can help. They do their medical examination and evaluation right there and then, make a diagnosis and give the necessary medicines which they usually have with them. If the sick patients need further diagnostic tests, they make the necessary referral and, in most cases, they spend for these laboratory examinations.”

Dr. Castillo further wrote: “Willie and Liza have been digging deep into their own pockets sustaining ‘Makabayang Duktor,’ the TV show and Makabayang Duktor, the foundation. Seeing all the poor patients that the foundation has helped, kind-hearted Samaritans have made donations and Willie and Liza have come up with a scheme similar to that of Gawad Kalinga.”

Today, you can read his regular column in Philippine Star and Pilipino Star. He is also a regular mainstay of ABS-CBN’s “Salamat Dok.”

From 2009 to 2017, he was a resident doctor and host on “Docs on Call,” a DZRH public service program.

For all what he has done, Dr. Ong received several citations and recognition from various award-giving bodies. The Philippine College of Physicians bestowed him a Presidential Award twice: in 2003 and 2005. The same body gave him the Distinguished Fellow Award in 2004.

In 2006, the Manila Times recognized him the Dr. Jose Rizal Award for Excellence in Medicine. The following year, the Department of Health and JC International Senate conferred him the Outstanding Filipino Physician Award.

In 2008, the National Mother’s Day and Father’s Day Foundation gave him the Ulirang Ama Award. In 2009, the Excellence Award, the highest award given by the Philippine Federation of Professional Associations, was bestowed on him.

During the 10th anniversary celebration of the Health and Lifestyle magazine, Dr. Ong was given the First Health and Lifestyle Exemplar Award.

Dr. Ong has a long, long way since he was a little boy dreaming of helping the needy. “Since I was six, I realized that my mission is to help the poor,” he recalls. “I was mesmerized by the story of a Christian boy named Kree. He helped his friends, especially the poor, but sadly he died at a very young age. Listening to the story, I thought it was a tragedy. But I was wrong. Kree was welcomed by Jesus with open arms and is now living in heaven. I can’t get his story out of my mind. At a young age, I thought this became the best thing anyone can hope to achieve.”

Then, something bad happened when he was a teenager. At age 17, he stopped going to church. This was when “my world crashed.” He admits now: “A very personal problem led to a falling out with my parents, my family and relatives – practically everyone. I felt it was not really my fault but I was blamed for what I did and I felt the anger, exasperation of everyone I loved.”

In 1998, he managed to graduate from University of the Philippines in Diliman. But despite this, he was still considered a bum by his parents. “I was really hurting inside as the people I loved turned their backs on me, not accepting me for what I am,” he says.

Because his grades were not good enough for UP, he went to De La Salle University College of Medicine in Cavite. “My first year went alright, but on my second year, I crashed again. I spent Christmas and New Year’s Day alone in student homes because I had nowhere to go. I was trapped. I couldn’t go to anyone. And sadly, no one came to see me. I walked the trees at midnight alone.”

During his clerkships at DLSU, he found his saving grace from the patients. “I saw this frail old lady sitting quietly in the charity wards, accepting what fate has given her. I thought of her plight and I felt I was not alone anymore. I needed her as much as she needed me. The poor patients became my counselors and companions,” he says.

When he was doing his internship at San Juan De Dios Hospital in 1992, he met the woman of his life: Anna Liza Ramoso, who became his wife. “Meeting and marrying my wife was surely God’s will,” he says. “She was my classmate in second year medicine at DLSU. But being terribly shy, it would have been impossible for us to get together. I never talked to her then.

He courted her (“I was her first and only boyfriend”) and exactly one year after they first met, the two quietly married on October 24, 1993.

He loves her and she loves him – and that’s what matters most. “Liza and I are like soul mates,” he says. “Our philosophy is: 1 = 1 equals 3. For example, I gave my initial diagnosis and treatment. Liza confirms it and looks at other physical and daily needs of our patients. We do everything together. Without the other, nothing gets accomplished.”

Dr. Ong was chief resident of Manila Doctors Hospital in 1996. He became a chief fellow at the Philippine General Hospital in 1999. He is the medical director of Pasay Charity Health Center since 1991.

He is not only one of the best physicians, he is also a very good writer. On why he writes, he replies: “I write because I like to help people. My purpose in life is to help other people with no thought of getting anything in return. Healing and writing are both reaching out to other people. You see, I can only see 30 patients in a day, but one article can reach thousands of readers. I’m trying to awaken the divine spark in people I meet.” – ###