Bohol’s Choice Cuts
By Loy M. Palapos
August 24, 2003
TEOFILO PLAZOS RECITAS
THE FISHERMAN’S SON
His is not the “rags-to-riches” story, nor that of the typical telenovela “bida” the Boholano masses identify themselves with, although what he did traverse to give meaning to his life is the stuff soap operas have successfully ventilated. He considers himself just an ordinary man, for which reason it took me several months before I got his permission to include him in this series. He claims no Messianic complex, but in all his humility it is discernable by anybody with enough sensibility that this man has a noble intention especially in terms of reaching the heart of his fellowmen. Dr. Teofilo Plazos Recitas, M.D., P.C. is a Boholano every Boholano is grateful and proud of.
His father, Teofilo Recitas, Sr. never attended school. In all his 81 years he had toiled as a fisherman, delving in “bahan” and “bungsod.” After the grueling chores at sea, he never wasted his time; he dabbled as a “tuba” vendor, with he and his wife, Melina Plazos, tending a small sari-sari store. She is a plain housewife whose education is limited to reading and writing the alphabet. Now at 93, she stays with one of her daughters in Calayugan.
Pepe Recitas is the seventh, and third boy, in a family of eight. He was born on December 28, 1941 and is married to Dr. Diana Villagonzalo of Ronda, Cebu. They now reside in Birchdale Lane, Port Washington, New York.
He studied at the Calayugan Elementary School (1956) and Loon Institute (1959), took his Pre-Medicine Course at Southwestern University (1962), and finished the Medical Course at the Cebu Institute of Technology, College of Medicine (1967), before the school became Cebu Institute of Medicine in 1968.
One dominant influence in his life was his father who encouraged all of his brothers and sisters to work hard, be it in sports, livelihood, education, and any endeavor. He told them of only two choices: to pursue their studies, or to become fishermen. At that time the older Recitas packed his “bahan” and sailed on his banca (layag, not motorized), reaching Iloilo, Masbate, and Palawan. For months the ocean was his world, and occasionally some of his contemporaries perished in their watery graves in the stormy seas. He often reminded his children to love God; dedicate the good work to Him; respect the elders and fellow human beings. A short line from his father forever imprinted in his mind reminds him to obtain good education with honor, inspiring them to strive: “Tubsa ninyo kami.”
He was brought up in the rural area where sanitation was in dire state. Death, especially among children, seemed to be an accepted course even among the quack doctors whose care the barriofolks can only afford. Water supply was poor; with the rural folks depending only on rainwater. Immunization was not properly disseminated. They traveled by foot, boat, or bicycle when lucky. To see a doctor meant the patient was already very sick or dying. This boyhood scenario was the most potent reason he became a Doctor.
Armed with a medical degree he fulfilled his vow to his parents, and served his relatives and the people of Sandingan. His wife respected his commitment to his parents, and both built a clinic in Calayugan, while he worked partime in Loon Puericulture Center. Aware of his concern for the welfare of the populace, the inhabitants of his barangay elected him Barrio Captain for three years. He pioneered the construction of water-sealed toilets; encouraged the use of first-aid kits; and spearheaded the campaign to plant vegetables and fruit trees, after having convinced them of the importance of good nutrition.
The lure to develop their profession and go abroad was a decision they made after considering everything. With Theresa Diana and Angeli Christa, who were still toddlers, they packed their bags and left for States in 1970. He underwent training in anesthesiology, while his wife became an adult internal medicine specialist. While there Ted Lee and Teofilo II saw the light of day.
In 1982, he had to come home for his father was sick and was confined at the Natalio Castillo Memorial Hospital. The place was new to him; the doctors and nurses were polite, respectful and cooperative. He brought with him supplies and medicines, otherwise he had to travel to Cebu and back for the medical needs. He noticed that not much has changed. This propelled him to make moves for the health care of his fellow Boholanos.
Home-Reach Foundation was established to work in partnership with some medical groups, NGOs, and school administrators of the province, H-E-L-P program was created, representing Healthcare, Education, Livelihood, and Patrimony. The Balik-Bohol Medical Mission became an offshoot. Since its inception in July 1994 over 80, 000 people were examined, treated, and given free medicines not only in Bohol, but also Cebu, Negros, Panay, Luzon, and even India. There were over 2, 000 patients who were operated of various ailment and deformities, including cleft lips, cataract, hernia, uterine and breast tumor, and fractures. Adopt a Hospital, Playground, School was implemented during Randy Gallardo’s term as President of CONBUSAC (Confederation of Boholanos in the USA and Canada). One project Dr. Recitas spearheads is the Philippine Gift of Life, in collaboration with the Gift of Life in USA. Over 60 children underwent heart surgery and are now given a new lease at life.
HRF have scholars in the University of Bohol and in Moalboal, Cebu. Very soon the Foundation will initiate a livelihood program to help alleviate the economic state of the poor. Patrimony has been augmented through the preservation and development of Filipino culture and the arts. Dr. Recitas is for total involvement sans funfare. “We at Home-Reach Foundation will not strive to be the first, but we will be the first to strive when our services are needed. We went to make a difference to the life of the people and community they live in. We hope we can encourage and give hope for a better tomorrow.”
Dr. Pepe Recitas serves the people without asking for anything in return, not even a recognition of his deeds. But his benevolence has not gone unnoticed. In 1979 the Visayas and Mindanao Association of America bestowed unto him the Outstanding Service Award. In 1985 the same body gave him the Most Outstanding Service Award. During the Sandugo, USA celebration he was awarded Outstanding Boholano (Humanitarian Services). The Bohol circle of Eastern USA handed him the President Award in 1997. That previous year he was given the RP Presidential Citation, “Banaag” Filipino Overseas Award. In 2002 he received two Humanitarian Services Award from the Bohol Provincial Government and the Gift of Life, Rotary Club District 7250. During the last Sandugo on July 2003 Dr. Teofilo Recitas, Jr. received a Plaque of Recognition from Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak, Governor Erico Aumentado, and Mayor Jose Torralba for being instrumental in the heart surgeries in Bohol, the first outside Metro Manila, coordinated with the Philippine Heart Center. In the same month-long celebration he top-billed the TOBAW (The Outstanding Boholanos All Over the World) awardees in the field of Science and Medicine.
The fisherman’s son has gone a long way to fulfill his father’s dreams.