Losing Dr. Cheng-A A +A
By Ramon Dacawi
Friday, October 4, 2013
WE’RE reminded during funeral wakes that this journey to the grave called life – set into motion by the miracle of birth – matters not how long but how.
Whatever, we feel relief for exceptions to the proposition about the good dying young. At 81, Dr. Charles Cheng was blessed with both the quality and longevity of life. Even if his journey were shorter, it has been compelling enough because it has been consistently lived for others. That underlying generosity has been doubly blessed by the longevity that gave him more time to serve more.
Rather than opting for retirement and looking back, content at having contributed much more than what lesser mortals like us had done to easing the journey of fellow travelers on this mortal plane, Dr. Cheng served until he could no longer. This good and outstanding doctor passed on last Sept. 28.
Back in the early ‘70s, during the golden age of boxing here, I’d see him consistently serve as ring physician in the classic fights of the wards of the Rey Tam Stable. The stable was named in honor of the Fil-Chinese mestizo Rey Tam, a natural southpaw and the best aggressive counter-puncher I ever saw from covering and watching boxing bouts.
Dr. Cheng’s medical work at the corner of injured fighters led him to researching and developing sports medicine to prevent and treat injuries from combat sports and athletics.
Back in the early ‘80s, Dr. Cheng would now and then gather us in his unfinished - and still unfinished - Fil-Chinese General Hospital at Trancoville, Under his patient guidance, dreamers like him with would map out kiddies’ sports development programs through the Baguio Amateur Sports Improvement Council ()BASIC) that was his brain-child.
He never failed to draw the commitment of the likes of Baguio Colleges. Foundation sports director Pete Mendoza, school principal Ed Canave, scouter Sammy Ramos, physical education teacher Jed Peralta and a host of others.
We were all mesmerized, irretrievably magnetized and inspired by his passion to help kids discover their potential through summer sports camps. Those camps always lacked equipment and facilities, sometimes, food, but never wanting of participants, volunteer trainors and coaches.
In one of those camps at the Quezon Elementary School, Dr. Cheng himself thought it a miracle that the kitchen staff was able to feed the campers at an unbelievable 65 centavos budget per kid per meal.
Among those who graduated from this "Future Champions" summer camp of the BASIC were national Milo Marathon title-holders Eden Banta and Michael Calpito.
After he accepted to head of the regional chapter of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines, Dr. Cheng did the almost unthinkable: introduce boxing for young women. The thrust was in keeping with his research finding that the Cordillera physique is made for combat sports. Soon, this novel program began yielding results, producing several international champions, including Alice Kate Aparri, a winning long-distance runner discovered in the BASIC’s fun runs and eventual Southeast Asian Games gold medalist in the flyweight class.
In-between a hectic healing schedule, he went into medical and science research that won him honor and recognition, among them the Dr. Jose Rizal national award for research from the Philippine Medical Association. Nothing was academic, for he struggled to publish and to share his findings for community benefit. Among the beneficiaries of his studies are the Cordillera’s temperate vegetable farmers he now and then would warn about the serious effects to health of improper of commercial pesticides and chemicals.
He had his frustrations, some of which he felt the need to tell me, as his friend and brother. He rued when representatives of a government agency supposedly in charge of reining in the use of harmful pesticides began questioning his release of his research findings, as if he were the guilty party instead of the pesticide companies which were wanting of proper and clear warnings for the protection of farmers applying their poisonous products.
He resigned from the Baguio Centennial Commission when he felt that his draft programs, including those involving sports, did not warrant approval. At a conference on indigenous knowledge and traditional medicine in Kunming, China, he and I shared all we knew in our presentations, only to realize the inscrutability of the host presentors who praised our contributions yet giving us less than a cursory summary or abstract of what they were supposed to share.
Charles and his wife Kathy always came to cast their votes in the annual elections of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club.
Charles would tell me it was in keeping with my having nominated him for membership in the BCBC. I would counter with a serious ribbing, reminding him that he was the best city councilor Baguio never had.
With his passing, a huge void is felt, but we’re optimistic his colleagues in community service, among them his partner Peter Ng and Danny Chan, will be there to help fill back what has been lost in with this transition from this journey called life.
Ave atque vale, hail and farewell, dear elder brother, mentor, icon and benefactor. (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for comments.)
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 05, 2013.