By Bro. Dr. Ferdinand Magno, 13 Men and a Baby
As he lay in a local hospital just a few weeks ago, Bro. Dr. Marianito ‘Nitoy’ Olivares Asperilla, Batch Anim, grimly awaits his fate as doctors try their best to salvage his brain and heart from a TIA and multi-vessel disease
Kuya Nitoy lived a full life with a busy medical practice, countless philanthropic endeavors, a thriving business and of course, family. It seems his very hectic existence has taken its toll on his health. Is it worth it?
A search for answers came in the form of another prestigious award. Dr. Mark Asperilla was chosen to be a 2016 recipient of The Ellis Island Medal of Honor. This award is given annually by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) to native born and naturalized U.S. citizens and seeks to pay homage to the immigrant experience and their as well as their families contribution to America.
According to NECO, the Ellis Island Medals of Honor are presented annually to American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. Past honorees include six U.S. Presidents, one foreign President, Nobel Prize winners, leaders of industry, education, the arts, sports, government and of course, everyday Americans. Dr. Asperilla is definitely in good company.
Dr. Asperilla is an Internist and Infectious Disease specialist in Port Charlotte, Florida. He helped established several free clinics, including the Virginia B. Andes Volunteer Community Clinic, a HIV and Hepatitis C clinic and a free pharmacy which thru grants have dispensed millions of dollars worth of medications to the poor and less fortunate in his community.
Nitoy is likewise an expert in disaster preparedness and have used his expertise in mobilizing non-profit organizations in helping out communities ravaged by natural calamities. He is founder of ACCESS Care, a non-profit organization that offers free medical service to uninsured patients in third world countries like his native the Philippines, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Colombia and Haiti.
A graduate of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Dr. Asperilla is an active member and officer of the UST Medical Alumni Association of America. He joined Tau Mu Sigma Phi, the Thomasian Medical Students’ Fraternity during the seventies as part of Batch Anim and is an active member and past President of the Tau Mu USA Foundation.
Dr. Asperilla is likewise the Vice President and board member of Gawad Kalinga USA. In addition to his contributions to the establishment of the Tau Mu GK Village in Towerville Bulacan, Kuya Nitoy sponsors his own village and has personally donated 100 homes to victims of natural disasters back home and an orphanage in earthquake ravaged Haiti.
His work has reaped countless awards and citations and in addition to this latest honor, Dr. Mark Asperilla is a past recipient of the Gawad Pamana ng Lahi Award bestowed on him by President Benigno Aquino Jr. in 2014 at Malacañang Palace. Other awards include the Caring Award, the Oscar E. Edwards Memorial Award for Volunteerism and Community Service from the American College of Physicians (ACP), the Pride in Profession and Leadership awards from the American Medical Association.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush paid him a visit several years back to honor his creation of a bioterrorism response team in light of the 911 attacks. He was likewise active in the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak a few years back. During Tau Mu USA’s annual Fall Reunion, Kuya Nitoy has consistently delivered Continuing Medical Education (CME) lectures in Infectious Diseases including Hepatitis B and C, HIV and Ebola.
Kuya Nitoy has also been instrumental in helping younger Tauans in procuring residency positions here in the United States. He accomplishes this by providing them with much needed clinical experience and including them in several studies, one of which was included in last year’s international hepatitis symposium in Germany. He has opened up his Florida home to Tauans who needed a place to stay.
In light of his recent health issues, Mark has decided to slow things down and give up some of his board seats in several organizations and foundations. His local parish priest, Father Pio, counseled him by quoting scriptures from Psalm 41, “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak, The Lord delivers them in times of trouble…The Lord protects and preserves them…The Lord sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.”
Kuya Mark firmly believed that it was Divine intervention that there were a Neurologist and a Cardiologist present in the emergency room when he drove himself back to the hospital several weeks ago. The timely administration of clot busting medications not only dissolved the clot in his brain but likewise stabilized the plaques in his coronaries. He is very thankful to the U.S. Healthcare system of which he belongs and to all his love ones, brothers and friends who prayed for him.
As he ponders his life going forward, Bro. Dr. Mark Asperilla will travel to New York City this May 7 to formally receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor with 100 other honorees. The event will be held at the island known for being the entry point for millions of immigrants to the U.S. over a century ago. The medals are to be given over dinner in front of their family and love ones. The night will be capped off by a fireworks display as the honorees ride the ferry back to Battery Park.
Kuya Nitoy is going to savor this moment as he looks back at a very fulfilling life and a successful career and at the same token plans the next chapter. There is still so much life to live.