By Dr. Jimmy B. Aragon, MD, FPCP, FPCEDM
After a long day in the clinic, I always looked forward to my rounds with Dr. Litonjua back in the days of fellowship. I have always enjoyed the bits of wisdom he would share with me, whether with the endocrine cases or with life in general. In many of our rounds and often inside the clinic, he would crack jokes with his patients, who often wondered if the good doctor was being serious or not. They can’t seem to understand that the Father of Philippine Endocrinology can also be funny.
One time (Yes, only one time!), after a hearty lunch, while seated beside him, I was already nodding my head, like listening to a lullaby while he interviewed his patient. The nice lady patient halted her story and looked at me, drawing Dr. Litonjua’s attention to me. He retorted to the patient, “Forgive Dr. Aragon, he was on a date all night and that is why he is falling asleep.” The patient just laughed while I straightened my posture, too embarrassed that I dozed off.
Another story I heard was when after noticing how the office electric fan had gathered dust, he wrote in a post-it note, “Please clean me”, and attached it to the electric fan, instead of telling his secretary to clean off the dirt. Such is the sense of humor of Dr. Litonjua. Even in his recent birthday, when we called him via Zoom, he asked in jest why we were making him older by 2 weeks, “pinatatanda nyo naman ako e, hindi ko pa birthday!”
As all human beings, he has his favorites: for ice cream, Queso; for singer, Josh Groban; for song, Memory. Not many know, however, that he likes watching plays. While seated beside him in a rendition of West Side Story, he fondly remembered having the privilege of holding hands with an Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy winner Rita Moreno. While in the Philippines, the famous actress needed to consult a doctor and found her way to Dr. Litonjua’s clinic. After shaking her hands, he didn’t wash his hands until the following day. So, he can be a movie fan as well!
Perhaps one of the most endearing traits of Dr. Litonjua is his thoughtfulness. After coming from his travels (which he absolutely enjoys, by the way), he would always have pasalubong for his fellows, secretaries and colleagues who covered for him while he was away. I remember one time when he brought home a memorabilia which supposedly blesses the recipients with fertility! Or so he said, as I too, was unsure if the good doctor was joking or not. Those times, he often teased that I should already start my own family.
He is also a stickler for good grammar. With his old reliable typewriter, he would diligently compose each patient’s history and recommendations, before sealing those inside an envelope to be delivered to the embassy. One time when he was confined, I took over that role – typed my recommendations and had him check my notes. Needless to say, this was before the typing assistance of Grammarly came into being. My paper came back with red marks because of wrong grammar. He just said in jest that my high school teacher didn’t teach me well in English class. Well, at least my medical recommendations were correct.
Dr. Litonjua is not only our mentor but also a part of our families — he is a doting wedding godfather to many. He would attend the baptismal parties of our children and, for occasional passing of a loved one, he would be there to give consoling words. He was generally present in my family’s milestones, or would make sure to send a word when he cannot be physically present. Even now, my daughter knows him and one time, while listening to his lecture online, my daughter asked, “Is he the one who is as old as Mickey Mouse?”. She remembered attending one of his birthday celebrations shortly before Mickey’s 90th birthday. “No, Mickey is older”, I would answer her, making sure that she understood that Dr. Litonjua is much younger than Mickey Mouse.
To get to know the man behind the living legend in Philippine endocrinology has been an honor. The memories etched in our minds will forever be treasure. We were blessed that we got a glimpse of the lighter side of Dr. Augusto D. Litonjua.
(Dr. Litonjua with Dr. Aragon)