FINDING inding someone who values his or her integrity, honesty, untainted reputation and fear of the is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Dr. Annabelle Pabiona-De Guzman, the petite and soft-spoken director general of the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) embodies an upright leader for she considers her work and profession as a mission that must be fulfilled with integrity.
Just a few months ago, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte confirmed her appointment as the 4th Director General of PITAHC. Armed with skills, wisdom and experiences she gained from her education and profession, Pabiona-De Guzman is committed to lead the PITAHC to transform the traditional and alternative medicine sector of the Philippines.
Pabiona-De Guzman is the eldest among a brood of six. Brilliance and intelligence are just few of the gifts she acquired from her parents who are both excellent in their chosen careers.
“My father was an engineer and my mother was a school principal. My father, on the other hand, was scholar — from elementary up to high school, and he graduated from College with two degrees in a span of only five years — Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, and he topped the board exams — No. 5. ” narrated Pabiona-De Guzman. It’s no surprise at all to know that the lady doctor has a sharp mind and vivid memory because it’s in her genes.
Being a full academic scholar was also a normal thing in their family. Her mother being a disciplinarian and a teacher helped mold them for this process. Her mom was the hand that held the family closer together, prioritizing her children over her career for many years; and when she started working she chose a career that still allowed her to still look after her kids.
Dra. Pabiona- de Guzman graduated Valedictorian in Elementary and High school and was an Entrance Scholar at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City. Growing up in a family where there’s high regard for education and excellence, Pabiona-De Guzman pursued her dreams of becoming a Doctor of Medicine. At a very young age, she already had a clear picture of what her life would be — a doctor and a missionary at the same time. Despite the numerous incentives a doctor can enjoy while in practice, Pabiona-De Guzman kept her eyes on her goals.
“I never thought of any profession, ever since I was a child; I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. I remember a story during a Sunday school about doctors going to different places to share the word of God, and because they have something to offer because they are doctors, people were more accommodating and glad to receive them.”
Studying was never hard for Pabiona-De Guzman because of her photographic memory, “You let me read something, and after I read it in about 30 minutes I have already memorized everything.”
After Medical School, she had her residency and fellowship in Family and Community Medicine at the UP –PGH Medical Center, and like her father , she also topped the Board Exams (Diplomate studies) — No. 1, and delivered the Valedictory Address at the Conferment Exercises at the PICC on February , 1991. Later on, she took up her Masters in Hospital Administration at the UP College of Public Health / Open University Program and got a grade of 1.25 for her Management Study.
With her wit and exceptional academic records, the UP-PGH Medical Center and the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP) sent her to the United Kingdom as a British Council scholar. “I finished my Masters in Medical Education in UK, at the University of Surrey, Guildford, England. After that, I was also sent to Texas for Palliative and Hospice Care Fellowship.”
Purpose Driven Life
After she finished her (residency) training she spent almost a year in Aklan Baptist Hospital as a missionary. “I served the Aetas and other minority groups, and until now, my husband and I still serve the minority groups in General Santos. We go there to do a medical mission.”
While most of her practice was on maternal and child health care, her career and promotions moved fast, which she said were all blessings from the Lord.
From the Iloilo Mission Hospital where she established the first training program in Family and Community Medicine, went on to establish other similar programs at the Western Visayas Medical Center and at the Western Visayas Sanitarium. She continued to excel in her field until another promotion came and she was appointed Medical Center Chief of Western Visayas Sanitarium where she stayed as hospital administrator for more than 6 years and won many accolades for the hospital.
Her principles in life — family and career — are founded on her strong faith in the Lord. Her guidance all these years is in the teachings of the Gospel. Despite her busy schedule and herculean tasks being in a government agency, she lives by her favorite Bible verse that the Lord’s compassion and faithfulness is new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22, 23)
With all the successes, trials and persecutions she encountered before she reached this position, Pabiona-De Guzman’s ideologies were never swayed. For her, everything she does must always be pleasant to the eyes of the Lord. She wants to be a walking testimony of the goodness of her Creator.
“I’ve experienced and witnessed many things—good and bad but my faith in God is what put me through,” she said. Dr. Pabiona-De Guzman had been in an ordeal where she was persecuted because of her honesty and integrity, and it was like walking through a thorny road, but as we always say, the good always prevails.
All these years, she has attributed all the good things that happened to her to her family and the character she had developed from her upbringing and her faith in God.
“I’ve learned how to be resilient and tenacious… I know how to get up immediately when I am down,” she expressed.
Aside from her strong character, she is also thankful for the blessing of intelligence, “God gave me a mind, which I really appreciate. With this, I’m able to establish linkages, which helped me in my profession as hospital administrator.”
Feathers in her cap
With her almost three decades of service to all the institutions and agencies she’d worked for, and with all the feathers on her cap, Pabiona-De Guzman’s greatest achievement, according to her is having a husband who first of all led their family closer to the grace of God – her mother’s choice, actually.
“My greatest achievement in life is marrying a Christian guy who is very loving and has provided a secure home and environment for me and my son. And in the event of being together he has been transformed from glory to glory because right now he is not just an ordinary Christian, he is already a pastor,” she narrated. “Dr. Christopher Rey De Guzman aside from being a doctor , pastors a small church in Iloilo, also managing a school — School for Tomorrow’s System —and also practices Allergology and Immunology. “
Dr. Pabiona-De Guzman is sure that they are doing the right thing with the School for Tomorrow’s System because her only child is a product of this school. “We started the school when my son, Chris John, was in Grade 5 and from there he learned to practice good study habits and how to manage his time,” she stressed while adding, “Our son is the greatest achievement of our school because right now, he is in college as a full academic scholar and hoping to graduate with High Honors.”
Most people will consider the milestones that happened in their career as their greatest achievement, but for Pabiona-De Guzman, it is her family she considers as her greatest achievements in life. Their family motto is – “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the LORD “.
“As the saying goes, no amount of success can compensate for failure in the home, and all other forms of success are only secondary,” she stressed.