By Mary Angela Barlongay
Images by Noel B. Pabalate
It started 50 years ago: A man with a vision of giving patients the best in healthcare while elevating a student’s means of learning has turned his dream into reality. A 25-bed general hospital along McArthur Highway in the then-underdeveloped town of Valenzuela turned into one of the most sought-after medical centers in the country.
In 1967, Jose Olivares, along with his son-in-law, Dr. Vicente M. Santos, founded Fatima University Medical Center (FUMC) and Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU), with a dream of giving the people of Valenzuela the best in terms of medical needs and education. Their dreams grew as FUMC became the only ISO-certified hospital with modern facilities in the Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela (CAMANAVA) area while OLFU opened four more locations in Quezon City, Antipolo, San Fernando, and Nueva Ecija.
Now, the dreams of Fatima’s founding fathers are being continued by Dr Vicente Santos’ children, Vicente Jr, Enrico, Caroline, Yvonne, Mylene, and Robert. “My parents have always been nationalistic and in whatever way they can, they help through education. They told us to help poor Filipinos gain education so that these Filipinos can also help their families,” said Robert, the youngest Santos.
“We have a system that enables people to apply for scholarship programs for varying levels,” he added. “This is something we have imbibed from our founders because they believed that education is a Filipino’s way to uplift their lives. We have contributed or donated millions of pesos worth of scholarship to very deserving students. Annually we have almost 2,000 scholars across our five campuses. This means a lot to us—and it means a lot to them as well—because it gives us the opportunity to help our students.”
To remember his family’s legacy, Robert created a special edition coffee table book entitled, 50 Years: A Glorious Journey to Greater Heights. The book narrates the valuable history and humble beginnings of OLFA, FUMC, and its founders, how their devotion to Our Lady of Fatima changed the lives of its founders, the organization, and also community, and how, little by little and through the years the university and hospital have garnered so many recognitions through their various accreditations.
Even for the family, there were revelations. “You’ll be surprised that these revelations came not from the high-ranking employees but from the drivers of the family. They were really taken care of by my parents. You’d have to remember that when Fatima started, the house where everyone lived was behind a hospital. So people were doubling as employees of the family, employees of the school, and the hospital. From employees like the maids, cooks, and drivers, I discovered a lot of things about my parents and grandparents from them,” said Robert, who is the OLFU director of Alumni Affairs and Board of Trustees member.
The book is a gift to Fatima especially to its alumni who are keen on looking back on how the university started. “When they started studying at Fatima, Fatima didn’t have a name. Fatima was a school along McArthur Highway that was beside a cockpit arena, beside hardware stores. It’s come a long way. So if you’re an alumnus, you should buy a copy and see how it all started,” said Robby.
Aside from the coffee table book, OLFU will be having its first international conference—SPARKS, or Synergizing Partnerships in Advancing Research Knowledge and Services, happening on Sept. 15 to 16 at the Novo Hotel in Quezon City with the theme “Fusing Strengths in Building Academic Diplomacy in Higher Education in Asia.” The university is looking forward to uniting people to academic community in the Philippines as well as in Asia as they explore the different facets of academic diplomacy.
The book is available on all Our Lady of Fatima campuses for P2,000; SPARKS’ registration is accessible at www.sparksconference.com.