Rise Faith Espina-Dajao, M.D., Class ’72


The early ’70s was a time of turmoil in the Philippines.  Who does not remember the
institution of martial law and watching Armalite-toting soldiers patrolling the usually peaceful streets
of Cebu?  So, it was not a surprise that as soon as the travel ban was lifted, there was an outflow of
physicians to the US.
Those early years were marked by the nose-to-the-grind scut work that interns and residents
of that time had to do – every other day 24-hour shifts and every other weekend call.  As hard as we
worked at our jobs, we partied just as hard!  We got together at every opportunity to do what
Visayans love to do when they are together – eat, sing, dance, gossip, and make merry.  It was a taste
of home, a way to assuage loneliness and a chance to form new friendships with people who had
come before, a way to reach out to others and to provide and receive comfort and support.  Many of
the CIM graduates were based in the East – a lot of them in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey,
and Pennsylvania. The Class of ’70 headed by Asuncion Vasquez started an informal group with the
following officers: Jose Leyson, Vicente Batiancila, Asuncion Vasquez, and Roberto Carvajal.  No one
now remembers which person held which office but they formed the nidus for the subsequent
organization. The weekend get-togethers were held at the homes of Rene (’65 )and Brenda (Sy) Sitoy
(’65), Max (’68) and Suzette Napuli, and Camilo (’69) and Susan Cabañero.  At one of those parties,
someone finally broached the subject of formalizing the group into an organization and reaching out
to the graduates based in other states.  And the Cebu Institute of Medicine – USA was born.
It was a very loose organization in the beginning.  The first set of officers were the following:
Jose Leyson (’70) as President, Dominador Ong (’72) Vice-President; Justo Lozada, Jr. (‘?) Secretary;
Rosario Borromeo-Gonzaga (’72) Treasurer.  That initial foray into the world of organized medicine
was characterized by an annual reunion usually held in Atlantic City, New Jersey where, in addition to
alumni renewing old friendships and making new ones, the beginnings of a really outstanding
continuing medical education program was born.  Shortly after the organization was formed,
Dominador Ong, (’72), was elected President.  He led the organization for many years and guided it
through crises and glory. The year a new President was elected Doming was appointed Executive
Secretary and held that post until his untimely death in 2021.
We were given special tax status and became a 501(c)(3) organization which allowed the
alumni to tax deduct their expenses associated with membership.  The bylaws were strengthened
through the efforts of Ramiro Cadag, (’68), and finally, we became a foundation which required a
name change to our present name – the American Society of Cebu Institute of Medicine Alumni, Inc. or
ASOCIMAI for short.
While we only made merry in the first years with a little bit of education thrown in, our
community and charitable services were strengthened as members started to make their mark in their
respective communities and became more financially stable. We gave to several charities in
the US and the Philippines, including the American Red Cross, the 911 Disaster Fund, the American
Cancer Society, Mt. Pinatubo Disaster and many others. Several classes, groups of individuals, and the
association itself, set up scholarships for deserving medical students at CIM.  Many of the alumni led
groups of other physicians and medical personnel to the Philippines on medical missions.

In the last three years, the association has matured.  It has focused on its charitable and
educational objectives and has increased its donation to the Cebu Institute of Medicine – with the
hope that the school continues to hold its own among the elite medical schools in the Philippines,
strive for academic excellence, and keep true to its values as it trains “physicians with a heart”.  Led
by members of the Board, Miguel and Leni (del Fierro) Espiritu (both of Class ’72), Lowell and Erlinda
(Velasquez) Taclob (both of Class ’67), the foundation and its alumni members have renovated the
bathrooms at CIM, donated books and computers, and improved the classroom and amphitheater
facilities to make life easier for students and faculty alike.
It is our fervent hope that this young organization, in the hands of dedicated leadership and
committed members, will continue to grow and prosper and be a resource for all US-based alumni and
for our alma mater.