Benito Valdes

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Benito Salvador Valdes
21 March 1860 – 8 September 1935
Place of birth: Floridablanca, Pampanga
Place of death:
Father: Basilio Valdes
Mother: Francisca Salvador
First Wife: Filomena Pica
Second Wife: Rita Legarda

Benito Salvador Valdes (21 March 1860 – 8 September 1935) was a former director of the San Juan de Dios Hospital. As hospital director, he created the position of resident physician and established the hospital’s training school for nurses.

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Early life and education

Valdes was born in his father’s Hacienda del Carmen in Floridablanca, Pampanga. He was the youngest child of Basilio Valdes, a captain in the Spanish Navy, and Francisca Salvador, a mestiza from Manila. He had five older siblings: Jose, Vicente, Ramon, Exequiel and Francisca,

As a young boy, Valdes was taught by a private tutor in their town. Then, he studied at the University of Santo Tomas as a scholar and finished his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1878. When his family saw he had a knack for medicine, they sent him to Spain in April 1878 to study medicine at the University of Barcelona. Among his classmates there were Enrique Rogers, Ramon Planas and Fernando Cos. In 1882, he was admitted as a member of the Academia y Laboratorio de Cencias Medicas of Barcelona. After he graduated in August 1884, Valdes continued his medical studies at the Universidad Central de Madrid where he obtained his M.D. degree in 1885. Jose Rizal became his classmate in the said institution.

Career

Valdes returned to the Philippines after graduation and arrived in Manila in December 1885. A mere month after his return, he was made attending physician in Quezon. Six months after his first assignment, he was appointed as municipal doctor in Santa Ana.

In 1889, Valdes took a leave from work and sailed back to Spain. In Barcelona, he married his college sweetheart, Filomena Pica, a Cuban. On the way back to Manila, the newly wedded couple’s boat collided with another vessel in the Gulf of Eden and sank, leaving them with practically nothing.

Upon his return, Valdes was assigned in Quiapo, Manila and held the post until 1897. He was still an attending physician in Quiapo when he worked as visiting physician at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in 1896.

During the time of the Revolution, Valdes was imprisoned in Fort Santiago for charges of complicity. He was freed after his wife, who had just delivered, secured his release. He again returned to Spain after his wife had died of relapse on 30 October 1896.

Valdes was already in Manila when the American forces came and he converted his house into a medical station for wounded soldiers. He later entered the academe, being appointed to the faculty of the University of Santo Tomas on 31 July 1899 to teach history of medical science. He was one of the proponents of the College of Medical Pharmacy when it was founded that same year.

In 1900, Valdes was made director of the San Juan de Dios Hospital, a position he held until 1919. He initiated the introduction of the position of resident physician, the founding of the nurses’ training school in 1913 and another innovation in the hospital called sala de preferentes (preferred room). He continued to teach while being hospital director of San Juan de Dios. In the 1921 report given during the First National Conference on Infant Mortality and Public Welfare, he was quoted to have related the incidence of beri-beri with the first importation of rice from Vietnam.

Valdes was remembered as a highly professional doctor. He cared for his patients regardless of the fees they paid. He was a member of the Colegio Medico Farmaceutico, Medical Association of the Philippine Islands, Manila Medical Society and the National Council of Hygiene. He was an active member of other societies outside the medical field including the Manila Jockey Club, over which he presided for thirty-odd years, and the Central Azucarera de Ilocos. He also tried his luck in politics but lost to Cayetano Lukban in the First Philippine Assembly.

Family and personal life

Valdes’ first wife, Filomena Pica, bore five children, namely Alejo, Basilio, Francisco, Ramon and Jose. Valdes remarried in 1904 to Rita Legarda, the daughter of Benito Legarda. By Legarda, he had six children, namely: Manuel, Fernando, Rosario, Teresa, Rita and Carmen. His son, Basilio Valdes, was a doctor and the country’s 3rd secretary of national defense.

References

Citation

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