By Tony Antonio
This article was originally published in the Filipino Star News: Michigan Edition
Dr. Ernie Mac’s day-off is Monday, and she is supposed to be resting every Monday. But when we called her on a recent Monday at her home, she is busy as a bee preparing her budget for her charitable activities in 2018. She had no time to rest because she had to finish the budget before the year ends.
Ernie, as she is fondly called by her friends, works six days a week as a fulltime pediatrician at Beaumont Hospital, and often she works overtime. Already a senior (she is celebrating her birthday on Dec. 9), she is still energetic and seemingly indefatigable.
Aside from her work and charity undertakings, she has many other things on her plate: She is actively involved in various community organizations. Ernie, a widow, is the outgoing president of the Filamcco Foundation, the charity arm of the Filipino American Community Council (FILAMCCO), which is the umbrella organization of some 40 Filipino- American associations in Michigan.
Last Dec. 2, she was elected vice president of FILAMCCO, and in that capacity, with her influence in the community and effective leadership, she is expected to be a big help to Wilmar Suan who was elected president.
As Filamcco Foundation president, she and Ryan Rosario (who was then FILAMCCO President) , spearheaded in 2013 a fund drive for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City and nearby Leyte towns. The donations totaled more than $100,000, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, amounts collected by any Filipino- American fund raisers in Michigan. And what’s most impressive is that Ernie made sure that the donated funds directly benefited the victims.
Until now (four years after Yolanda) in her personal capacity, she continues to help the Yolanda victims by donating funds to a Tacloban-based group headed by Sister Eloisa David. The group’s longterm projects include a soya bean farm, a soya bean mill, a pig-breeding farm and a dozen birthing clinics.
She also bankrolls a feeding project in Tacloban which is being undertaken on her behalf by her nephew Edwin Pulga and sister-in-law Lily Pulga in cooperation with the Missionaries of Charities. The beneficiaries of this particular project are hundreds of poor children and senior citizens.
Two years ago, we witnessed Ernie distribute packed food in Jaro (a remote town in Leyte) to some 500 children and mothers. Despite the suffocating heat, she was visibly enjoying what she was doing, smiling at and greeting the recipients of the food packages.
Still another charity project she has been undertaking for many years now benefits a grade school in Bicol where the students are mostly ethnic children. She visits the school every year to distribute uniforms, slippers, school supplies, etc. to the children.
Here in Michigan aside from her involvement with FILAMCCO and Filamcco Foundation, Ernie is also a member of the board of directors and former president of the Philippine American Cultural Center of Michigan (PACCM). More importantly, though, she is a regular PACCM patron donating annually a substantial amount for the operations of the center which is the “Little City Hall” of the Filipino community.
She is likewise a principal supporter of the Paaralang Pilipino, the flagship program of PACCM. She does this because she recognizes the need for present generation Fil-Am children to learn the roots of their parents and grandparents.
And her charity knows no bounds. She is a regular fund donor of the World Medical Relief (WMR), whose mission is to provide medical help to the sick poor in Third-World countries. She even personally helped some people in Africa whose dire situation came to her attention.
Furthermore, she participates every year in medical mission to the Philippines. I witnessed how she attended to children during a PMAM medical mission held in Lallo, Cagayan in 2016. Although she was doing a volunteer, free service, she was attending to the children in the same way she treats paying patients. She even shelled out some amount to a family who had no money for fare for their trip back to their town.
Her charity activities indicate that Ernie’s brand of generosity is not the flash-in- the-pond or once-in-a-blue-moon type. It is a life-time commitment. Her keen sense of philanthropy springs directly from the heart, and this compels her to act instinctively whenever she sees the need to extend a helping hand.
Aside from directly helping unfortunate folks, she inspires hope in poor people, especially children. Speaking before a crowd of poor school children in Tacloban, she said, “I was just like you when I was young. But I studied hard and became a doctor. You can also succeed if you study hard.”
As a young girl, she roamed around the green meadows and farms of Ligao, Albay. She and her sibling were relatively well provided because her father was a top employee of a bus company. There were times, though, that her family could hardly make ends meet especially during World War II.
When she was studying at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila where she obtained her medical degree, she had to walk from Claro M. Recto Ave. to Espana St. She simply did not have enough money for the jeepney fare.
Where does Ernie get all the money she gives to charity? Is she wealthy?
No, she is not wealthy, but she is blessed in that her three grown-up children are living comfortable lives as they are all professionals like their mom. In fact, they even contribute to her charity fund.
The bulk of her charity fund comes from her salary as a top pediatrician at Beaumont. She retired a few years ago, but she had to go back to work so she has money for charity.
Her passion for charity had its beginning when she was deciding what career she was going to pursue. She wanted to become a nun so she could join religious missions abroad.
She had already made up her mind to become a religious sister, but Cupid intervened: She met a dashing, handsome doctor, the late Dr. Frankie Mac.
Two Sundays ago, the gospel was about Jesus Christ’s call to Christians to help the poor. Christ says, “What you have done to the least of my brethren you have done it to me.” We agree with WMR President George Samson when he said that Ernie has a ready dwelling place in heaven because she heeded and continues to heed Christ’s call to help the poor.