In the 1960’s, Mindanao was called the land of promise, with about a million people in a country of 27 million. The healthcare landscape already highlighted Davao City on center stage – the thriving undisputed capital. The scene featured three major general hospitals: the government- run Davao General Hospital at J.P. Laurel St. corner Villa Abrille St. , the United Church of Christ-run Brokenshire Memorial Hospital (BMH) in Magallanes St. , and the San Pedro Hospital (SPH) in Guerrero St. run by the Dominican sisters, and a small Davao Maternity Hospital run the by Nurses Association. Davao City became an attractive destination for people with pioneering spirits because of its vast aordable land, abundant fruits and seafoods galore, lush hunting grounds , cozy weather, and excellent business opportunities. People of all walks of life migrated to Davao, including doctors who completed specialty training in Manila and those returning from their Exchange Visitors Program in the United States. A few of them were Davaoenos but most were migrants from other provinces in the country. The existing hospitals, then, were already served by salaried practitioners, mostly in general practice. There were a few specialists practicing their training exclusively. By force of circumstance, some specialists have to practice general medicine instead of engaging purely in their specialties. The prevailing perspective was that no specialist can survive by practicing only their specialty. It was not unusual for specialists to lose their patients to the hospital sta once they were admitted to the hospitals. This was a practice that did not sit well with the specialists in private practice. There were a few drugstores scattered around the downtown area. It was strategic for drugstores to have doctors hold clinic within or in the vicinity. This was a way of ensuring continuous patronage of the drugstores. Some general practitioners in private practice and a few medical specialists were ensconced in and around drugstores, such as Botica Asuncion, Botica Bolton, Botica Alfa, and Botica Villa. There was, however, a gnawing frustration among the specialists because they could not practice their training to the fullest without the proper equipment and facilities in the hospitals. This provided the fertile ground to nurture a dream of a hospital delivering specialist care with the best facilities and equipment .
The saga begun in May, 1961, when a young man, always in search of something better, stepped out of neurosurgical training in the United States and took a boat to Davao City hoping to practice exclusively in neurosurgery. The wife of his classmate, Dr. Leonardo Sicam, was related to the mayor of Davao City. Through this connection, he met Mayor Carmelo Porras and his wife, Mrs. Lorenza Moralizon-Porras over lunch. Thus commenced his journey in the land of promise. Alone but with unbridled optimism and his neurosurgical instruments , he settled in a Chinese hotel in San Pedro Street.
Dr. Honorio Hilario, on the other hand, whose wife, Liling, was a pharmacist, was the proprietor of Botica Villa. His wooden 2-story building at 254 Claveria St., housed a retail drug store, a store that sold agricultural products, a fruit growers marketing oce and a medical-dental clinic where he practiced general medicine together with his brother, Dr. Eufracio Hilario, who practiced dentistry and who also helped manage the Botica Villa and his radio shop. Dr.Edmund Chiong partnered with Dr. E. Hilario in the dental clinic.
Having to supervise multiple small branches of his drugstore, Dr. H. Hilario’s clinic was not fully utilized, so he invited Dr. Luisito Guanlao to share his clinic at Botica Villa. Meanwhile, Dr. H. Hilario became the family physician and/or company physician of the Angalas, Floirendos and Santoses. He also became campaign cashier of Congressman Lorenzo Sarmiento, a fellow Bulakeno and godfather of Dr. Herminio Villano. These connections would eventually come in handy in providing much needed resources in the building of Davao Doctors Hospital and later, in providing clientele. Inspired by the model of group specialty practice he observed in New York during his training, Dr. Guanlao invited other specialists to join him. First among them was Dr. Benjamin Lacsamana (EENT), followed by Dr. Carmen Guanlao, (Ob-Gyne). They shared the available clinic space but it soon became cramped prompting Dr. Hilario to build an annex above the garage to house more doctors oces.
In 1962, after persistent courting, Dr. L. Guanlao persuaded Dr. Herminio Villano ,a surgeon , to leave his salaried position as Resident Surgeon at San Pedro Hospital , with a monthly salary of P600 ,to join their edgling group. Next to join the group in 1962, were Drs. Benigno Magpantay and Juan Belisario , both urologists. In 1964, Dr. Romeo Mahinay (OB-Gyne), held oce at Botica Villa. A few months later, he left for the United States and he was replaced by Dr. Pacita San Vicente (OB-Gyne). In the same year, Dr. Augusto Abela, fresh from EENT training in UP-PGH became part of the group. Later, Dr. Dante Escalante joined as Internist. Dr. Jose Gantioqui, who trained in Radiology in the US, together with his young mentee, Dr. Leonides Sicat, installed his X-ray machine in the garage.In no time at all, there was motley band of enthusiastic doctors of Botica Villa together with likeminded specialists in other drugstores who were convinced that a multi- specialty group practice was a viable option.
In 1963, Dr. German Castillo of Medical Center Manila oered to start a laboratory at Botica Villa. The group found the need to have access to their own laboratory diagnostic facility , so the cramped garage of Botica Villa made room for the Clinica Hilario Laboratory , next to the Xray. In partnership with Dr. German Castillo , the investors included Drs. Honorio dela Cruz, Ma.Luisa Dazon, Luisito Guanlao, Honorio Hilario, Benigno Magpantay, Romeo Mahinay, Rodolfo Morelos, Manuel de Leon, Gerino Pangan, Jose Gantioqui, Herminio Villano and Amador Villanueva. It was managed by Dr.Benigno Magpantay with Mrs. Pilar Bullecer as a young medical technologist, who often consulted with Mrs. Teresita Magpantay, wife of Benigno, who was based in Brokenshire Laboratory. Dr. Manuel de Leon of San Pedro Hospital rotated as pathologist, followed by Dr.Leticia Ansaldo. When she entered the convent, Dr. Manolo Ongchangco took over.
Eventually, the need for more space and a better set-up became quite glaring. The space they shared became too small for comfort and the fact that patients have to pass through the drugstore to get to their clinics didn’t seem professional. At rst, building a new and bigger building to house the current set-up became an option. But that option was overruled quickly by the resolve to concretize the dream of establishing a new hospital . It was born both out of idealism and the need to survive. They envisioned delivering quality healthcare through a more ecient one-stop specialist facility that included in-patient care.
Dr. Gantiogui oered his land as the site for the hospital. Dr. H. Hilario convinced his friend, Mr. Roman Joaquin, a surveyor of Floirendo’s TADECO, to exchange his lot ,which was adjacent to Dr. Gantioqui’s, for shares of stock. After many a meeting, held at the oce of Dr. Guanlao or Dr. Gantioqui or the library of the home of the Guanlaos, over Chivas Regal and Fundador, Dr. Luisito Guanlao persuaded the pre-incorporation core group, the most active of which included himself, Drs. Gantioqui, Hilario, Belisario, Valeriana Castillo, and Villano , to invite other specialists for the purpose of building a hospital. Dr. Guanlao visited most of the specialists in the city , persuading them of the viability of the hospital project and convincing them to invest. Won over to the idea, despite initial skepticism , were Internists, Drs. Crisostomo Serrano, Sr., Patrocinio Serrano and Rodrigo Casiño of Botica Asuncion; OB-Gyne Drs. Gerino and Rizalina Mitra of Botica Bolton, Alfonso Lopez of Botica Alfa, as well as Dr. Dominador Cabrera; and Pediatricians, Drs. Rosa Cabrera and Pelagio Iriarte .
With the roster complete , their spirits united , and with land available, the time was ripe to work on the incorporation. It was also at this time that Manila Doctors, Manila Medical and Makati Medical groups were in the process of incorporating . With the help of his friends and classmates, particularly Dr. Elias Imperial and Dr. Paolo Campos , founders of Medical Center Manila, Dr. L. Guanlao drafted the incorporation papers. On July 1, 1966, with an initial capitalization of Php 400,000 , Clinica Hilario was incorporated with the following 15 incorporators:
The investors were the original incorporators of the Clinica Hilario Laboratory plus other medical and non-medical people who contributed land and building materials. In 1967 the corporation acquired, in exchange for shares of stock, Dr. Jose Gantioqui’s 1,196 sq.m. lot and Mr. Roman Joaquin’s 174 sq.m. and 615 sq m. adjacent lots at E. Quirino Avenue. These properties plus the smaller 508 sq.m. lot with a house, which was bought from M. Chavez the same year for P 85,000 ,constituted the proposed site for the new hospital. Other subscribers, contributed by providing lumber (South Bay Lumber), plywood (Sarmiento Corporation), water supply (Mariano Nasser), legal services ( Atty. Willy Escudero) and architectural services ( Apolinar Bundalian). Some physician investors , took loans from the Insular Bank with their properties as collateral.
On June 10, 1967, a stockholders meeting was held and Dr. Jose Gantioqui was elected Chairman and President; Dr. Honorio Hilario , Vice-president; Dr. Johnny Belisario, secretary; Dr. Benigno Magpantay, asst. secretary; Dr. Valeriana Castillo, treasurer. They all served passionately without compensation .
On August 9, 1967, the motion to start constructing a 3-story C-shaped building at the proposed site was approved with the rst oor devoted to doctors oces and the second and third oors for in-patients.
Dr. L. Guanlao chaired the Building Committee with Architect Apolinar Bundalian with Engr. Clemente Puno as contractor. They were tasked to pass and approve all materials needed for the construction, make daily inventory and monitor expenses. It was at this time that the use of steel fabrications became popular in Manila and the Davao Doctors building was one of the rst to use it in Mindanao. Aware of the earthquake that demolished Ruby Tower in Manila, they made sure that the hospital would stand on a strong oating foundation good for 5 oors. With good foresight, a provision for a future elevator was provided.
The Instrument and Equipment Committee was chaired by Dr. Juan “Johnny” Belisario. The services of Mr. Eduardo Villegas, who was the equipment consultant of Brokenshire Memorial Hospital, was availed of. Dr. Gerino Pangan meticulously studied the instrument and equipment catalogues to ensure everything purchased was rst-class. He eventually headed the committee on Oct. 14, 1969.
The Ways and Means Committee was composed of Drs. Gantioqui, Castillo, Lopez and Villano. The diligence of the treasurer, Dr. Valeriana Castillo was commendable. She went from oce to oce every month to ensure prompt payment of subscription dues with Tirso, her husband driving her around.
By 1968, the Gantioqui radiologic equipment was acquired by the corporation in exchange for shares.
The sense of commitment to the project was at all- time high. In 1969, even while the incessant sound of hammering was a vexation to the spirit, Drs. Gerry and Riz Pangan and the Guanlaos moved their oces to the yet to be completed building. They wanted all the oces to be occupied soonest in order to provide much needed funds for the construction, furnishings, personnel, equipment and supplies. This would also encourage the doctors to bring patients to the new hospital laboratory headed by Dr. Manolo Ongchangco from whom the rst spectrophotometer was acquired.
In 1969, the SEC increased its capitalization to Php 2 Million and public oerings for shares of stock went on full swing. From the original 15 incorporators, the number of stockholders rose to 75, with 54 medical and 21 nonmedical holders. After feverish preparations , the big day came on August, 1969, Davao Doctors Hospital with an initial 50-bed occupancy opened its doors. From a small Medical and Diagnostic facility at 254 Claveria St., it transformed into the most modern hospital in Davao, the rst non-government and non-sectarian private hospital oering specialist care. It was installed with the newest and top of the line equipment, well-appointed hospital rooms furnished with the best beds with the nest linen and the uest and softest towels purchased from Dao Pampangga where Clark Air Base was. The private rooms and suites were provided with ne China and elegant cutlery. The dream became real. Perhaps the main reason for its success was the faith, commitment , wisdom, tenacity, trust, selessness, and fellowship of the founders. The vision of quality health care remained paramount. With the dream made real, the renaissance of healthcare in Davao City was ushered in.
And the saga continuous. . . .
At the core, we desire to uplift life itself. We pride ourselves in providing care that enables our customers to live life to the fullest through a lifelong partnership with our organization. Because, here, at Davao Doctors Hospital, We Care for Life!