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To date, I still cannot fathom how FLEHD came easily into being, growing as an organization to what it is now, and with no perceptible limit to the expansion of its programs. The plan to organize a Foundation for the knowledge empowerment of Filipinos from all walks of life on matters pertaining to the heart was never in the drawing board as I chartered the course of whatever remained of my life. Neither was there ever a thought of composing songs for the purposes of the Foundation.

It was during one of those furloughs (December 24, 1998) I had for a good dose of rest and relaxation, away from the cares of a demanding career, and to savor all what the entertainment world of Broadway could offer to quench my incessant hunger, that the thought of addressing the issue of apparent neglect of that very important aspect in the management of cardiovascular diseases by physicians and institutions flashed like a movie in my mind. Prevention is definitely the better approach to slashing cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. But the practice and success of prevention can be maximized only through education. How much of it, as physicians, do we do? On our shoulders rests this task. Like a leech, the thought became an obsession which could not be shaken off from my mind.

February 6 of 1999 was the day friends started to hear about the formation of what is now known as The Foundation for Lay Education on Heart Diseases. On February 22, 2000, the Foundation was formally launched before world authorities on preventive cardiology who were in town for the 4-day 7th World Congress of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention. .

And in exactly 11 years , the Foundation has chalked a total of 365 Preventive Cardiology educational programs conducted all over the country in the form of public fora, barangay health workers workshops, senior citizen seminars, health care professionals in government service conferences, national annual conventions, regional assemblies, etc.

On The 32 Original FLEHD Songs

With the unbelievably fast and successful implementation of the planned programs of the Foundation, some kind of Divine intervention may have been in the act.

Although we always invoked the aid of the Divine Providcnce through some canned prayers and hymns before the start of any activity for the day, it was on January 23, 2004, during the closing ceremony of the 4th annual convention, that the FLEHD Hymn “Save Them We All Must Go” was launched with the composer and lyricist himself, Mr. Jeremiah “Jimboy” Calisang, a classical pianist and a graduate student in Voice at the University of the Philippines, College of Music, performing live. Just like true soldiers in the service of the Lord Almighty, we’d go to the “battlefield” singing our firm resolve to save lives from the devastating effects of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease and hypertension through an ounce of prevention, effected through public education.

Cloyed by the often-sung “The Prayer” by Bocelli, I thought FLEHD should have its own song for its specific purposes. During the 5th annual convention, on January 29, 2005, the FLEHD Prayer “A Prayer to Serve” was launched. To Him, we always turn for strength, wisdom and guidance, dedicating ourselves to serve His children the best way we know how.

It was at this time, that some thoughts on how best to improve our verbal communication skills, how to sustain the attention of the attendees and how to keep the audience wide awake and intact all through the half-day, whole-day, two-day sessions, started to surface.

In my mind was the pleasant experience I had a few years ago, when I was invited by the dean of a law school in Manila to talk on any topic on the heart. It was a three day Legal Medicine conference put up to explore means by which one can become an effective lecturer and communicator. I was to be the last speaker on the last day. After I finished my talk, the dean stood up. Apologizing for wanting to speak out of turn, he was seizing the opportunity to point out something in my presentation which pretty well captured the essence of what they had been discussing for three days - calling the attention of the conferees on how I utilized practically every part of my body to help make my statements clear and well understood. The dean must have noticed how I used my eyes, my eyebrows, my lips, my face, my neck, my arms, my legs, my feet and my whole body to drive home a point; how I did a cha cha when I talked about dance as a good form of exercise for the heart. The only topic I restrained myself from doing any demonstration on was about sex and the heart.

Knowing fully well how much Filipinos love music, on the 6th annual convention, on January 28, 2006, I had Haw Haw Hee premiered. In multilingual poetry and music, we hope to make the understanding of the risk factors for coronary artery disease and hypertension remembered and understood well by people all over the archipelago, coming from all walks of life, of different persuasions and speaking in different native and foreign lingoes. This was my first attempt at teaching through songs.

The positive and enthusiastic response extended to Haw Haw Hee inspired me to do more lectures in poetry and music .

Meanwhile, Mr. Calisang continued to compose songs as requested. On October 6, 2006, he submitted two songs. His “Let Us Celebrate” (a thanksgiving song) , sung just about towards the end of each program of activity, expresses our appreciation and gratitude to Him for helping us make it through the rain in spite of the many kinks in the preparations and some hitches during the conduct of each activity.

Often buoyed by the enthusiasm and the exhilarating response of the audience to the lectures and discussions , how we would wish we could stay longer. Regretfully, the end obtrusively would creep in, inevitably putting forced closure to the activities of the day, as the sun starts to sit. Singing this song of farewell (“Time To Say Good Bye,), somehow eases the pain of parting while looking fondly forward to the day when we shall be meeting again at some other time, other places and other forms of learning sessions

In Mr. Calisang’s “My Beloved One” (Oct. 15, 2006) FLEHD does feel the pain mother Philippines suffers from as thousands of lives are felled through the devastating effect of atherosclerosis and its complications: sudden death, heart attack and stroke. FLEHD offers comfort and pledges untiring effort through its cardiovascular preventive program, the preferred way to reduce cardiovascular mortality and morbidity.

Jimboy’s “As FLEHD Marches On” (November 11, 2006) is better appreciated without lyrics. The haunting sound says it all. Programmed to be played during processionals and recessionals, it sometimes find its way in the middle of an activity as FLEHD continues to march on with courage and vigor to attain what the Foundation has been programmed for.

While I was not exactly bored with the usual structured way of conducting lectures, the success of Haw Haw Hee, and egged on by some to write more lyrics, I started to get carried away.

Nothing could be as exciting to the audience as well as to the lecturer than discussing a subject often kept under wraps. It was on the first week of December, while in Hong Kong for my lecture during the 1st Asia Pacific Congress on Preventive Cardiology that “Never At Dawn” was written (December 3, 2006).

The studies on circadian variation show that the occurrences of cardiovascular events, like sudden death, stroke and heart attack, are not distributed uniformly throughout the 24 hour period. As one wakes up early in the morning, the chance of any of cardiovascular events happening increases until close to midday. For one with established hypertension and or coronary artery disease, engaging in a common form of physical activity upon waking up may trigger a fatal event.

The song tells one how this can happen, how best to avoid it and when it may be enjoyed with relish and full gusto.

It is appropriately timed for singing just before the topics “Sex and the Heart: Fact and Fiction” and “Helping the Male Cardiac Patient Make It Through The Night”. The passionate beat of the tango prepares the audience to what would be coming.

As the world grows older, more and more of the population get bigger, fatter and obese, raising the incidence of diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and their complications.

While the above are the most major concerns of this phenomenon, there are other unflattering effects of the gain in weight. The song “Ode to Corpulence”, written on December 6, 2006. underscores some of them. Singing this just before the lecture on “The Longer The Waistline, The Shorter The Life Span”, the learning process is further enhanced. And the strength of the message gets stronger with a “paso doble” beat – losing calories as a bonus.

On December 10, 2006, while in Agoo, La Union to conduct a barangay health workers workshop, “Out There” came into being. Insomnic, I got out of bed to do something worthwhile. “Out There” puts in proper prospectives the beginning of FLEHD , the reasons for being, the activities, the expanding programs, and the call to others to join in the noble crusade laid out by FLEHD.

Prodded for more songs for the prospect of putting up a musical event sometime soon, the temptation simply became irresistible. The Christmas respite afforded me the opportunity to mull over which of my lectures I could turn to some verses. “Hypertension: The Silent Killer”, in a fox trot tempo, emphasizes the absence of symptoms in spite of a remarkably elevated blood pressure, hence the need for regular intake of medications when one has true hypertension. Oblivious to the ‘Give Me” games aboard Cebu Pacific, the passengers must have been tickled to see me repeatedly count my fingers for the number of syllables in each verse of the poem I was writing. On landing on January 5, 2007 in Butuan City, poem number 11 was finished.

With my meeting with the officers and faculty of FLEHD Agusan del Norte Chapter finished at mid-evening, the serenity pervading in the hotel where I stayed induced me to write about “Stress: Download” (January 5, 2007). Soon after I finished it, I was ready for the most relaxing sleep I ever had.

Mr. Calisang must have had very good reasons for encouraging me to write more poems with cardiovascular themes. Alerted to his unavailability to compose songs by the second week of February of 2007 because of his coming graduation for his Master Degree in Voice at the University of the Philippines, poem numbers 13 – 17 made their way to his work table in spite of the demand for my utmost concentration on the preparations for the coming 7th National Annual Convention On Preventive Cardiology on January 25-27, 2007.

Very partial to a fox trot beat, staccatos dominate “Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly” (January 16, 2007) While essential to the body for some reasons, cholesterol, in excess, can cause havoc to the cardiovascular system leading to hypertension, stroke, heart attack and sudden death. With the proliferation of fast food outlets all over the country, small wonder, the rise in cardiovascular mortality and mortality has been remarkable in the last few decades.

While cholesterol tops the major risk factor in many western societies, in China and in other Asian countries, the Philippines included, cigarette smoke ranks number one. Frank Sinatra, in one of his songs, lamented smoke getting into his eyes. Of great concern to us physicians is tobacco smoke finding its way into one’s heart causing devastation in the cardiovascular system through the effect of nicotine and carbon monoxide. The rhumba beat in “Smoke Gets in Your Heart” (January 17, 2007) pretty well takes us to places where killer smoke is freely puffed to each other’s faces.

When a physician treats a case of hypertension or coronary artery disease (which are not curable), the best he can do is prevent the serious complications that come normally with them, accomplished through life style modification and intake of medications. Prevention of sudden death, heart attack and stroke call for proper timing of administration of medications. Regretfully, many prescriptions do not specify when in the day the medication should be taken and whether before or after a meal. “At The Crow of the Cock” (January 18, 2007) tells you all. As an aria, the composer is at his best hitting the high notes as a tenor.

Along with chronological age and gender, heredity is classed as a non-modifiable risk factor for atherosclerosis. Its importance is underscored in the claim that the effect of the modifiable risk factors are pretty well influenced by the presence of a strong family history. While, there is nothing yet that one can do with the ageing process as well as with gender, and while one cannot choose his parents, counseling on prospective couples may avert a life of misery for both the parents and the children. So, let us waltz with genetics in “Look Into Your Family Tree” (January 19, 2007).

Studies after studies have conclusively shown the benefits of exercise for conditioning the heart. Aside from that, exercise may lower bad cholesterol, blood sugar and body weight. Its positive influence on collateral circulation, blood clot formation and heart rhythm irregularity are well defined. In “Exercise To Your Heart’s Content” (January 20, 2007), one can boogie woogie his way to assimilating the guidelines before embarking on an exercise program.

With five more days before the start of the 7th Annual Convention, the writing of three more verses had to be put on hold.

In the evening of February 2, 2007, tired and exhausted, but wallowing in the success of the 19th Barangay Health Workers Workshop conducted by the newly launched FLEHD Camanava Chapter, I sat down to write on personality and coronary. To be sung as an aria, I had in mind Jai Sabas Aracama, the country’s foremost mezzo soprano) to give justice to the characterization of the two types of personality as they relate to coronary artery disease. Being a type “A” myself (strong, at that), hopefully “Personality Type and Coronary” (February 3, 2007) will constantly remind me of my own vulnerability.

Just about when I thought I have done all there are on atherosclerosis, I forgot to define just what this disease entity is.”The Root Cause Of It All”(February 6, 2007), details how oxygen gets to the muscle tissues (among others), the process of the hardening of the arteries, the balance between the need by the heart muscle for and supply of oxygen, the precipitating factors tipping the balance triggering heart attack,

The quest to do the 20th poem was interrupted when in early morning of Febuary 7, 2008, I had to fulfill my commitment to speak before the ladies of the famed Catholic Women’s Club at the social hall of the Sanctuario de San Antonio of Forbes park. The very warm reception accorded my person by the ladies energized me to do “This Thing Called Angina” right when I got back home.

Last February 19, 2007, during a four hour 182nd Public Forum at the GSIS Financial Center at the Reclamation Area in Pasay City, thirteen of the songs were played, eleven – just before each topic was discussed. The attendees were wide awake all throughout the whole session from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. with nobody leaving the hall until the whole meeting was over.

On February 24, 2007, during the whole-day 21st Barangay Health Workers Workshop at Sacred Heart College Gymnasium in Lucena, Quezon, each lecture was preceded by a relevant song, and everybody was in awe in regard to the novel approach. The same effect was observed on those who attended the 183rd Public Forum before the members of the Philippine Association of Professional Regulatory Board on February 26, 2007.

With 20 original songs well tucked in its portfolio, the idea of presenting all of them in a formal setting in the form of a concert created some excitement. With U.P. College of Music professor Jai Sabas Aracama, mezzo soprano, along with the internationally noted U.P. Concert Chorus (of which is directress), and tenor, pianist and composer Jeremiach Calisang, the dream became a reality. And so it was on April 27, 2007, at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of RCBC Plaza in Makati City, that the first-ever musical dealing with the heart and cardiovascular system dubbed as “How To Remain Young At Heart: The Concert” was premiered. Favorable and encouraging reviews (verbalized and written) from the sophisticated crowd prodded us to make the concert available to those near and far.

Having heard of the uniqueness of the musical presentation, a request was received for its second performance in the same venue as part of the celebration of the 38th Anniversary of Makati Medical Center on June 4, 2007. A dressed up affair, a cocktail reception was held at the lobby of the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium attended by the “who’s who” of the medical center and their guests. Aside from the mainstays of the musical, Jai Sabas Aracama and Jeremiah Calisang, U.P. College of Music dean Ramon Acoymo guested in the show along with the U.P. Concert Chorus.

The first leg of its provincial tour was on October 6, 2007 at the impressive auditorium of College Assurance Plan in Roxas City. The early evening show was preceded by a whole-day seminar on Preventive Cardiology for the public school teachers of the city. The thunderous applause accorded the performers and the appreciation for the performance itself was enough shove for us to bring the concert to other places like the Sacred Heart College of Lucena City, the University of the Philippines in Diliman before we brought it back to RCBC Plaza when FLEHD hosted the International Symposium on Preventive Cardiology on June 24-26, 2008.

The possibility of turning the concert into a musical revolving around J.J. Acura, a young executive felled by the ravages of heart attack loomed soon. Four more songs “God of our Fathers”, “A Family Loss”, “One Coronary Victim”, and “The Fetus and Atherosclerosis” were written and music composed. Jai Sabas Aracama brought into the production young and very promising tenor Erwin Lumauag while Jeremiah Calisang recruited a Bachelor of Music student from the University of the Philippines baritone Keith Segura. Six professionals from the Philippine Ballet Theater danced to the choreography of artistic director Ronilo Jaynario. Dr. Ophelia Manlapit joined the production as the attending physician of J.J. Acura and Dr. Ken Villanueva as the personal friend.

The “How To Remain Young At Heart: The Musical” had its premiere at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, on October 30, 2008 preceded by cocktails and exhibits. The glowing reviews must have caught the fancy of some that soon a request came for a performance at St. Paul’s University auditorium on the occasion of the closing day (January 22, 2009) of the annual Association of Philippine Medical Colleges hosted then by the U.P. College of Medicine.

It was back to the RCBC Plaza on January 26, 2009 in connection with the Therapharma Annual Awards Night, and January 29, 2009 at the same auditorium as a special treat to the attendees of FLEHD’s 9th National Annual Convention on Preventive Cardiology.

On invitation by the Rotary Club of Metro Sta. Mesa, it had its 5th (post Valentine day) performance in Metro Manila (at the Amoranto Performance Theater of Quezon City on February 16, 2009) , followed by that held at the University of Sto. Tomas (February 23, 2009) , before it started on its provincial tour.

It was once again staged at Sacred Heart College of Lucena City on April 13, 2009. FLEHD’s newly inaugurated chapter in Olongapo City hosted its performance at the Subic Bay Arts Center on June 15, 2009. Traveling by van (12 hours each way) a showing was held at the Cagayan State University in Tuguegarao City much to the delight of the residents of the city and the faculty and students of the host university.

On June 29, the musical production was flown to Roxas City where a performance followed after a whole-day public forum on the Heart, held at the College Assurance Building.

Arranged by then FLEHD Quezon Chapter president Dr. Joseph Abcede, the South Luzon State University in Lukban, Quezon, became the site of the 11th musical (August 10, 2009) where a sizeable population of the university came to witness for the first time a musical dealing with the heart and the cardiovascular system.

With the keen interest shown by the City of Legaspi (Albay) and the FLEHD Albay Chapter led by brothers Drs. Bobby and Molly del Rosario, the cavernous People’s Astrodome accommodated the number of enthusiasts who came to know more about the heart through music and dance (August 31, 2009).

The 13th and last staging of the musical genre was at the Central Philippine University in Jaro, Iloilo City after the final call on September 7, 2009 as the musical evolved into a different form.

A longer production and with more music added to tell a complete story (all sang, sans oral narration) of what happened to J.J. Acura from birth to his final journey for peace eternally.

With the minting of new compositions “Clinical History”, “Silent Heart Attack”, “J.J.’s Legacy”, “How Heart Attack Manifests”, “Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis”, “The Development of Atherosclerosis”, “The Modifiable Risk Factors”, “The Private Life of J.J.”, “In Summary”, “Prevention: The Better Solution”, the musical became a good two-hour show.

This Mrs. Imelda O. Cojuangco’s presentation of FLEHD’s production of “How To Remain Young At Heart: The Musical Drama” was first shown as a tribute to FLEHD’s Chairman of the Board Mr. Jose Concepcion on January 28, 2010 in connection with the FLEHD’S 10th Anniversary and 10th National Annual Convention (January 28-30, 2010).

The U.P. Concert Chorus was invited back to the production and FLEHD formed its group of ballet artists, while maintaining mainstays Jai Sabas Aracama, Erwin Lumauag and Jeremiah Calisang. After two performances, Dean Ramon Acoymo bowed out due to his one-year sabbatical leave in Bangkok, Thailand. The participation of Erwin Lumauag became erratic due to his joining the famed Madrigal Singers. We draw our tenors from the UPCC. With Jeremiah Calisang making Zamboanga his place of operation, it became difficult to have him in our performances. Luckily I have minus one recordings of all the songs making it possible to make good our commitments.

And As the Musical Takes To The Road

With the U.P. Concert Chorus on tour of the U.S. and Europe, it was not until July12, 2010 that we had our first restaging of the musical drama. It was held at the audio-visual room of Colegio de la Purisima Concepcion in Roxas City. A good number of adjustments had to be made since the stage was limited in space and the floor-to-ceiling measurement was not conducive for some leaps by the ballet dancers. Through the ingenuity of FLEHD Capiz Chapter president Dr. Rene Huinda, the show ran smoothly without significant hitches. It earned a standing ovation from the academic crowd.

It was a different story in Oroquieta, Misamis Occidental (August 9, 2010). The city gymnasium has all the audience and stage spaces we could wish for. The occasion was graced by practically all the dignitaries of the city and provincial government, who stayed till curtain call. Jimboy Calisang managed to make it to Oroquieta by bus from Zamboanga City. With the inavailability of Erwin Lumauag, Dean Acoymo more than made up for his absence. FLEHD Misamis Occidental chapter president Dr. Faith Go was deluged with requests for a repeat performance when words flew thick and fast in regard to how much were missed by those who failed to watch the show.

The next performance of the musical was before an exclusive audience – faculty and students of a medical school in the walled city of Intramuros (Pamantasan Lungsod Ng Maynila), on invitation by the newly-appointed dean Dr. Isabelita Samaniego, who thought then of something unique and different in celebration of the Philippine Medicine Week. The wild applause and the standing ovation were in appreciation of the many things that the medical students and faculty learned from all the lyrics (“cardiology simplified”) who minced no words in stating that the medical students are the ones who would benefit most from the musical. What an eye-opener! The rest of the year (and the next) will see the performance of the musical in the different medical schools all over the country (more on this later).

The performance in Cebu was the first for the eastern Visayan region. The choice of Dr. Lerma Noval as the first president of the newly organized FLEHD Cebu Chapter (no. 21) could not have been any wiser. With strong and full support extended by the officers and faculty of the chapter there was no way the show (at gymnasium of the Southwestern University), could not have merited glowing praises.

The desire to share the musical with the U.P. Diliman denizens was almost compelling. With the invaluable and unconditional support by the members of the U.P. Pre-Medical Society, the crowd came in droves despite the torrential rain and the flooded streets leading to the U.P. Abelardo Hall.

The last performance for year 2010 was at the Astrodome of Dagupan City, arranged by FLEHD Pangasinan Chapter and Dagupan City counselor Dr. Jesus Canto in connection with the city’s Foundation Day celebration.







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