Mention Banaue and the first image that will come to mind would be majestic rice terraces. For many decades, the popular tourist attraction has been the municipality’s most prized gem, touted as one of the Eight Wonders of the World.
Unknown to tourists, there is another gem hidden in the sleepy town of Tam-an, Banaue: the doctor to the barrio, Dr. Tony Ligot.
In the latest episode of Humans of the North, NLEX Corp. travels to Ifugao to get to know the 81-year-old physician who serves as the pillar of Good News Clinic and Hospital in Banaue, the town’s only medical facility. As with previous episodes, this fourth installment of the mini documentary showcases the vibrant culture and spirit of the northern Luzon region through stories of everyday individuals like Dr. Ligot.
A chance mission
Dr. Ligot’s journey with Good News Clinic and Hospital began in 1988. He was then a general surgeon in Manila, who traveled to Banaue on a medical mission. Back then, the facility was still helmed by its original founder, an American missionary and general practitioner.
The founder was getting ready to head back to the United States, and there was a need to find a doctor to head the clinic. Dr. Ligot initially planned to stay only for a short while. But in a community where townsfolk have little to no access to medical aid—and thus resort to other alternatives such as faith healing—a functional medical facility could spell the difference between survival and death. Dr. Ligot found his calling to serve, and before he knew it, he had been with the clinic for more than 30 years.
His work at the clinic involves all kinds of medical procedures – from daily ailments to trauma cases like road accidents, as well as emergency maternity deliveries. There are times these cases find the clinic lacking necessary equipment and medicines, especially heavy anesthetics.
Apart from his medical practice, as the hospital administrator, he is also in charge of sourcing medical equipment and supplies, general hospital management, as well as raising funds for hospital expenses and staff salaries. Sometimes, as payment for his services, he would receive fruits and livestock from villagers.
Like many hospitals in small towns, Good News is severely underfunded, sustained primarily through donors. However, other operational expenses, like salaries, remain a challenge. Built after World War 2, the upkeep of such an old hospital is costly. Dr. Ligot frequently relies on the generosity of friends and family for hospital equipment – even for light bulbs.
A lifetime of service
Despite the torrent of natural calamities that have hit Banaue, insufficient funds, and medical staff leaving for opportunities abroad, the doctor remains unwavering in his resolve to keep the facility running, eagerly training staff to take over in preparation for his retirement.
This dedication seems to be a shared commitment among the staff. Dr. Joash Pio Castro Ruiz, the clinic’s medical director, shares that they consider it a ministry. “The main sacrifice of the staff is foregoing greener pastures in order to serve in their hometown. But the sacrifices are relative when you think about how it gives you happiness when you see patients get well.
Dr. Ligot agrees. “You go to rural areas to serve, not to earn money. For me, it’s worth it because it gives me satisfaction to serve the people.”
For him, through these acts of service, he not only heals those in need, but also safeguards Banaue’s true and most important asset: its people.
Don’t miss the story of Dr. Tony Ligot at NLEX Humans of the North Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/NLEXHumansoftheNorth.