The first medical sorority in the Philippines and in Asia.
An unbroken line of over a thousand lady doctors from the University of the Philippines Manila.
Birthday: August 25, 1946
Specialization: Anesthesiology (retired)
Favorite color: Aquamarine
Brand of music: Broadway musicals, Gospel songs
Hobbies: Reading, computer use
Hidden (or not-so-hidden) talents: Writing, stage acting, singing with a group or choir.
Dream job: To be a journalist? A novelist, perhaps. There’s a story in my head waiting to be written, waiting for a Pulitzer prize (talk about dreaming).
Proudest moment in your life: Graduation from medical school and winning first prize in the resident’s research contest held in the City of Philadelphia while I was training in Anesthesia at the Temple University Hospital.
She’s that name every sis knows and encounters everyday, her words flowing through invisible wires and reaching us on cold screens, her passion palpable despite the miles between.
Meet Sis Gerry Gomez-Pinder. With sharing her story her enthusiasm is no different from the sis seated beside you—it’s just like sitting with her right here in the Hut.
Sis Gerry (μΣΦ ‘71) grew up in Manila, in a family she described was of steadfast Christian faith. Both her grandfathers served their Church as lay ministers, and her parents were elders and deacons and Sunday School teachers.
Her family also loved Literature and the Arts. As a child, she and her four siblings had been exposed to the theater and cultural presentations—hence the three went on to become graduates of Speech and Drama from UP, the youngest at one time the Technical Lighting Director of the Bayanihan Dance Troupe. Her eldest sister, Sis Gerry shared, was born with cerebral palsy and was incapacitated.
It was with this love for and background in glamour that Sis Gerry thought, way back in high school, she wanted to pursue a career in Foreign Service, where one could travel to different places. And she had leadership: that much she knew, having always been voted as class representative to the Student Council and having been president of the Drama Club.
Her perspective changed when her teacher commended her on her aptitude in the Sciences. Sis Gerry indeed had good grades, save for Physics, and she did love Biology and was fascinated with the study of the human body. And yet she did not choose medicine.
“I thought of pursuing a Nursing career especially after I saw the movie Rachel Cade. I wanted to become a missionary nurse,” Sis Gerry said, adding that during that time, medicine was reserved for the males and females were highly discouraged from pursuing it.
Her father, upon learning of her decision, told her, “Why not choose to be a doctor? If you truly want to treat and care for patients, you could do it. As a doctor, you take charge.” His inspiring words and faith in her abilities changed her mind.
And so she entered Medicine, mindful of the political storm brewing in the country in the mid-60’s. Sis Gerry revealed that she remembered becoming very politically involved, with her sister a member of Kabataan Makabayan, the Student Nationalist Movement.
“In my first year of medical school, I even joined the October rally and marched towards the US embassy, bearing placards. It was a dangerous time, as the police tried to contain us with their batons and with their guns firing randomly in the air, wheezing by our heads.”
The College of Medicine, Sis Gerry said, at that time was taking a hands-off stance, its students more concerned with passing their exams. Extracurricular activities were geared more towards having fun than dealing with social issues. She herself had to lie low so as not to jeopardize her studies and disappoint her parents.
She decided to join Mu for several reasons. Aside from being “courted” by the upperclassmen sisses, who flattered her with compliments, she was also impressed with the history of the Sorority and its members. She also liked interacting with people outside her circle of friends in class. “Besides, at that time, it was the only sorority in the College of Medicine.”
“We were a small batch in my class of 1971. But I remember that the class of 1972 joined that year also. So it was huge batch that was initiated that year. I was chosen to be the leader and so during my internship year was voted the Most Exalted Sister.”
Alumnae sisses, she recalled, were not actively involved with the undergraduates during that time—although she certainly knew and was proud of the big names she shared the Sorority with. But one upperclassman sis she had also always admired for her beauty and brains was Espie Icasas-Cabral (μΣΦ ‘68).
It was also during her internship year that the students became more socially aware, especially with the residents roping them in into their cause. They went into strike, nevertheless careful not to neglect the patients under their care.
Sis Gerry remembered two members of Mu who stood out in the midst of the turbulence. One was Johnny Escandor (MΣΦ ‘69), one of the leaders of KM who reportedly went underground and was killed on the battlefield. Another was Melen Valencerina-Araos (μΣΦ ‘69), a former Most Exalted Sister, also a member of the movement.
After graduation, Sis Gerry entered the Medicine residency program in PGH but stayed only for a year. But when the United States “beckoned” to her, a friend who had gone into Anesthesiology convinced her to dedicate herself to the same field. The most compelling argument, she said, that tipped the scales in its favor, was that it would mean more time off with her family. Also, in the US, anesthesiologists were hired by a group that would serve a hospital so that they were not beholden on any surgeon for cases. Satisfaction in her line of work was also immediate, concluded with the discharge of her patients from the Recovery Room.
She arrived in the US right before Martial Law was declared, and so was cut off from communication for several depressing months. She longed for Filipino food, a comfort that would have normally eased her loneliness. Sis Gerry shared that it was fortunate that there were some UPCM alumni in the area that helped her adjust, making her feel part of the family. The Americans she had encountered were also friendly, some even going out of their way to ensure she felt at home.
Sis Gerry related that she had always thought she would return to the Philippines to practice after her residency. But fate had other plans for her.
It was after a post-graduate course in Bronchoesophagology that she and the man that would later be her husband, then a Thoracovascular Surgery fellow, became close friends. “We both found out that we had very similar interests and enjoyed the same kinds of food and entertainment. We both loved dancing too. When I found out that he also loved to cook—not just grill steaks but serious gourmet cooking—I knew he was the one for me. (Ha!Ha!) Fortunately, he felt the same for me.”
Funnily enough, Sis Gerry said that when she was younger, her mother would try and teach her how to cook, but she wasn’t the littlest bit interested. Her mother would admonish her, “How would you ever learn to cook for your husband?” To this she would retort, “I’ll find one who knows how to cook!” And true enough, she did.
Her cooking skills would yet again be a source of embarrassment, although now its memory only made her laugh. “When we were newlyweds, my in-laws came to visit us. I decided to cook chicken apritada for dinner. I had overcooked it so much that the chicken came out in shreds. There was no time to cook another dish or run out to buy one, so I served it anyway. My father-in-law commented that it was a good tasty fish dish! Embarrassed, I sheepishly corrected him that it was chicken. My husband could not stop laughing.”
“Lest you all think what a bad cook I am, I have since learned how to cook, and my family enjoys the food I cook. But of course I still can’t beat my gourmet chef husband who enjoys preparing our Thanksgiving feast and all our Holiday dinners.”
It was due to her family that she decided to stay and work in the US, as well as the many economic, financial and medical benefits the country offered. Her eldest daughter was born with spina bifida with lumbar myelomeningocoele, and Sis Gerry said that it was due to the excellent services available that her daughter grew to be quite independent. Her daughter became able to move around and even drive with assistive devices and had already graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in English.
Ten years from now, Sis Gerry shared that she saw herself hopefully doting on her grandchildren and watching them grow.
She also would want Mu to be “the same force it is now and not to lose its relevance in society.” It was six years ago when Brod Manny Dalope first approached her and enlisted her leadership in forming an international association of Mu Sigma Phi alumni. Back then, she had already been active in UPMASA. It was during her term as the second president of the Mu Sigma Phi Foundation that she realized how both the Sorority and Fraternity had changed throughout the years.
“No longer were they just social organizations whose mission and aims were confined to the camaraderie within their exclusive group, but [extended] to the problems of the community and the nation as a whole. It was very refreshing and challenging to me. How can I support the Mu to achieve its goals? I laud all your noble and worthwhile projects. It is actually you who has inspired me to become active again.”
More than the meeting of the minds, this is what’s called the linking of hearts.