'A PEOPLE’S MARTYR': Dr Raul Jara celebrated for living, dying for his country
He was a pillar of Philippine cardiology to his colleagues 'tower of strength and leadership' to his family, and 'people's martyr' to progressive groups BY Nico Czar Antonio
BY Nico Czar Antonio
'A people’s martyr': Dr Raul Jara celebrated for living, dying for his country
MANILA, Philippines – When duty calls, Dr. Raul Jara, was always among the first to answer.
One of the country’s finest cardiologists, Jara did not hesitate to be in the front line as the coronavirus pandemic reached the Philippines. He was among the first to fall, heroically, as he tried to save the lives of those who fell ill from the deadly coronavirus disease.
Jara’s family, friends, colleagues, and patients paid tribute to him after he passed away on Monday, March 24.
The Philippine Heart Association described Jara as a pillar of Philippine cardiology, "one who has spent his life teaching."
In its statement, the association mourned his passing and called him a “great father, teacher, mentor, poet, author, singer, colleague, friend” who spent his life imparting wisdom to others.
Born into a family of achievers, Jara was consistently in the top section of his batch. He took up medicine at the University of the Philippines- Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) where he specialized in cardiology and later served as its training program chief.
His expertise in echocardiography, or the live imaging of the heart, eventually led him to work at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) where he became the chief of the non-invasive diagnostic cardiology division.
'Tower of strength, leadership'
For his daughter, Dr Ling Jara-Salva, he was a “tower of strength and leadership” who knew the extent of the battle he was facing but chose to carry on. She said her father’s memory should be defined not just by how he died but how he lived.
Jara-Salva's tribute was shared by friends, colleagues, and her father's former students including health reform advocate, Dr. Tony Leachon, in their social media posts.
Jara-Salva described her father as a model husband and father who always put his family first before himself. “He has a garden in front of our house, where he takes care of his plants and his dream for us was to be like the branches of the trees, outgrowing their trunk,” Jara-Salva said in her post.
She shared that her father dedicated his entire life to teaching and molding future doctors. “He believed in his students and would think of them as his children and the hope for the future generations,” she said.
An educator through and through, Jara eventually headed the education, training, and research department of the PHC where his exacting brand of excellence became renowned. “Sometimes even feared,” said his former student, Dr Jose Donato Magno.
Magno shared an article he wrote about Jara from 2013 where he talked about “the blueprint of a great teacher.”
Jara’s mere presence during conferences, Magno recounted, can send shivers down an unprepared presenter’s spine or waves of adulation from a promising protégé.
“For him, the field of medicine was not meant for bystanders, but rather for those who actively pursue its truths and boldly face its controversies,” Magno said.
“Through his example, he has unwittingly given me a sneak peek into the blueprint of a teacher in the truest sense of the word—a teacher who strives for wisdom to attain mastery of the craft; a teacher who toils with fortitude to answer the difficult questions that lie ahead in his path; and a teacher who moves with gratitude to inspire his students in the pursuit of their own dreams,” Magno added.
'A people's martyr'
Kapatid, an advocacy group for political detainees, expressed their condolences and thanked Jara for being a doctor to political prisoners.
The progressive labor group, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), also paid tribute to Jara, who they hailed as a “people’s martyr.
In a statement, KMU chair Elmer Labog said Jara was a “patriot and health worker par excellence” who once fought the Marcos dictatorship as an activist.
“No words can express our deepest sorrow in the passing of Dr. Raul Jara. He was a selfless and heroic doctor who died in the line of duty,” said Labog.
Labog blasted the lack of personal protective equipment and other measures to protect those in the front line in the fight against the coronavirus threat. (READ: Left in the dark: Little protection for government's coronavirus frontliners)
“The country is ill because the system serves the powerful and elite. With our unity and resolute struggle, we shall prevail and give Dr. Jara the highest honor as a martyr of the Filipino people,” Labog added.
Outpouring of grief
What makes it harder for people who lost a loved one to the coronavirus disease is that they could not even be together one last time.
There is no wake, there are no flowers, and if they are in quarantine themselves, no one to hold on to as they cry. The collective grief, instead, is felt online.
In a heart-warming post, Jara’s daughter-in-law Ria Casiño-Jara shared how he had personally attended to her as she gave birth to his grandchild, becoming her “doctor, advocate, and dad.”
“Even in my semi-drugged state, I vividly remember that tall frame entering the delivery room and greeting everyone a warm and snappy good morning, scanning and taking everything in the room, reassuring me while checking with his stethoscope, and finally huddling with the doctors in hushed but urgent tones,” shared Casiño-Jara.
“In the hospital, Papa is my person, the one I rely on the most and trust fully when things go south or directionless even, the one who reassures and comforts me and my side of the family and many other loved ones that everything will be okay under his care,” she said. “When he is there, I breathe better.”
Jara’s alma mater, UP Manila, released a statement celebrating his legacy, calling him an “indefatigable teacher, mentor, leader, and healer.”