World War II (1939-1945) brought much suffering to the Filipinos, with the invasion of the Japanese forces in 1941. However, the Battle of Manila (February 3 to March 3, 1945) brought greater horrors as the American military bombed the city to the ground, while escaping Japanese soldiers were massacring any civilians in their way. This would leave Manila and it outskirt towns totally devastated, with over 100 thousand civilians killed by both friendly and hostile fire, and many more injured and maimed.
President Sergio Suico Osmeña (1878-1961) and former Director of Public Welfare and then Manila Mayor Dr. Juan Gómez Nolasco (born 1885) sought to develop a program to help the casualties of war. And in 1945, the Mandaluyong Emergency Hospital was opened inside the National Center for Mental Health (then called Mandaluyong Mental Hospital) compound. The new hospital was first helmed by the army surgeon, Major Francisco Román. In 1947, the “Father of Philippine Orthopedics”, Dr. Jose Valmonte de los Santos Sr. (1898-2000), took charge of the hospital and rename the institution as the National Orthopedic Hospital, in the same year.
As the years passed, the space for facilities required for the National Orthopedic Hospital and National Center for Mental Health could not be contained in the Mandaluyong compound. So the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM) donated ¼ of their St. Theresa’s College of Quezon City’s property to the government, and in 1963 the National Orthopedic Hospital opened its doors at its present location, at the corner of Banawe and Maria Clara streets. In 1982, the hospital was christened as the National Orthopedic Hospital-Rehabilitation Medical Center (NOH-RMC) in 1982, then it was renamed as the Philippine Orthopedic Center in 1989.
An interesting feature of the Philippine Orthopedic Center is the 1972 lobby mural entitled “Pag-asa” (Hope), by Salvador Tolentino Juban (born 1941). The painting feature the Lady of Hope rising above the demon of ignorance, to give aid and healing to the different peoples of the Philippines, as she guides them towards the Philippine Orthopedic Center. Juban’s work is reminisce of his teacher, National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco, he grew up with in the town of Angono. Juban would visit Francisco’s studio as a child, and who in turn would give him his first art lessons. Soon Juban would become Francisco’s assistant, and he would work for the master, until his death in 1969. At the same time, Juban would take his formal art lessons at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), but didn’t complete his studies due to his busy schedule with painting commissions. Later on, Jubanwould work as an assistant for another National Artist, Vicente Manasala, in his 1975 mural “Inang Bayan” (Motherland) for the Philippine Heart Center and the 1979 mural “Paraphrase of Luna’s Blood Compact” at the United Coconut Planters Bank (along with Angelito Balagtas, born 1947). Although highly influenced by his teacher’s painting style and subject matter, Juban would develop his own variant painting method with bolder lines and brush work. At the same time, Juban would work on his own, creating murals such as the 1972 “Pag-asa” (Hope) for the National Orthopedic Hospital and the 1970s “History of the Meralco” for the Lopez family. Juban would mark his career with local and international exhibitions, but was never given any formal honors, with the exception of numerous prizes from art competitions, when he was a student at the UST.
Behind the “Pag-asa” mural is Philippine Orthopedic Center Chapel, which is standard to any hospital. However, what make this chapel different it that there is a Prayer Garden behind it, for family and patients to take a little quite time and contemplate their state. At the rear wall of the chapel is a mural depicting Jesus healing a crippled man (Mathew 9:1-4) at the left, and the right painting shows Jesus speaking to the children (Mathew 10:13-16) while hospital staff stand behind him, with Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) who it the patron saint of the area.
Since its opening in 1963, one of largest amount of patients the Philippine Orthopedic Center receives are victims of firecracker accidents, every December to early January. However, with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (born 1945) enforcing regulations on firecracker sales in 2017, the numbers of injuries have dropped drastically.
From 2013 to 2015, there were concerns over the government’s plans to sell off the Philippine Orthopedic Center, for its privatization. However, protests from the public as well as hospital employees halted the proposal. So the Philippine Orthopedic Center will continue to serve the public, as it has for the last seventy three years.