The Birth of Professional Associations in Optometry
by Dr. Claro M. Cinco
The Philippine Association of Optometrics which was organized in 1917 was inactive after a few years. In 1932, the Philippine Optometric Association came into existence and the pioneers of his association were Drs. Vicente Bernardo, Cipriano Lara, Manuel Sabater and Justo Gonzales. The officers elected were: Vicente Bernardo, president: Joaquin Del Alcazar, vice-president: Jose Casaje, secretary: Luis Casaje, treasurer: Antonio Sabater and Pedro Jose, directors. This association lived only for four years.
In 1936, a new organization was formed known as the Optometric Association of the Philippines (OAP). Dr. Justo Gonzales was elected president. He was suceeded in 1937 by Dr. Gregorio G. Estrada, with Dr. Pablo Feliciano, secretary. After the second world war, the OAP was reorganized. At the first convention held in Manila in 1946, Dr. Antonio Sabater was elected president. In 1948, the OAP became a non-stock corporation with the following as incorporators: Drs. Antonio Sabater, Gregorio G. Estrada, Emanuel Mangunay, Filipinas Clemente, Roy A. Thorson, Joaquin del Alcazar, Manuel Sabater, Cipriano Lara, and Agapito Casaje. Dr. Estrada was elected president.
Two other associations existed in the 1960’s. These were the Philippine Optometrists-Dispensers Association (PODA), headed by its president, Dr. Estanislao “Vigan” delos Reyes, and the Philippine Registered Optometrists Association (PROA), headed by its president, Dr. Julian N. Mercado. PODA was first organized as POSA (Philippine Optical Suppliers Association) and was compost mostly of optical suppliers. At that time, because of import control restrictions imposed by President Carlos P. Garcia, distributors and suppliers of optical goods were having some difficulties in securing dollar and import allocations and POSA was organized as a trade organization to meet this common problem. A few years later, after some developments, POSA changed its name to PODA to stand for Philippine Optical Dispensers Association. Not long afterwards, it further changed its name to Philippine Optometrists- Dispensers Association.
In 1979, in line with the wishes of the Professional Regulation Commission to have only one professional association for optometrists in the Philippines as a requisite for PRC accreditation, the OAP, PODA, and PROA merged into one national association known as Samahan ng Optometrist sa Pilipinas (Philippine Association of Optometrists). Some 37 component chapter societies of the OAP spread throughout the archipelago were assimilated to the newly integrated Samahan ng Optometrist sa Pilipinas (SOP) making the OAP the major player in the merger. The PODA and PROA were single units and had no chapter societies to contribute at that time.
The SOP assumed the sponsorship of the national optometric congress which was previously initiated and held annually by the OAP since 1947. In 1997 the 50th National Optomtric Congress ( also known as the 19th SOP Convention) was celebrated in Baguio, City.
Optometry in the Philippines is not without problems the more the major of which were those related to the standard of practice and patient care, the upgrading of the education and training of optometrists, violations of the ethics code, the constant attempts in the part of big commercial interests to encroach upon the professional prerogatives of optometry, rampant commercialization in the profession, and the resolving of the gray areas of relationship between opthalmology and optometry. These are problems encountered by the profession worldwide which must be addressed by the coordinated and concerted efforts of the local, national and international societies.
Since its integration, the SOP (which was renamed IPAO for Integrated Philippine Association of Optometrists) focused its projects on continuing education programs, public information campaigns, outreached clinic projects at depressed areas, attending to violations of the ethics code and establishing liaison with international associations. The Council of Deans of Philippine Colleges of Optometry devoted its efforts to the upgrading and enrichment of the optometric curriculum, standardization of the quality of instruction, faculty and plant development.
In 1999, due to basic fundamental differences in the interpretation of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8050 (Optometry Law), quite a number of elders and past presidents agreed to withdraw from the Integrated Philippine Association of Optometrists (IPAO) and resurrected the erstwhile Optometric Association of the Philippines (OAP). In no time, many local and chapter societies affiliated with OAP.
Other Professional Associations
An active non-political and purely scientific society of optometrists in the Philippines is the Philippine College of Optometrists (PCO) headed by Dr. Melissa B. Anglo. This society has been the major provider of resource speakers and lecturers at scientific sessions since most of its fellows are faculty members and researchers from optometry schools. A few years earlier, a similar organization named the Philippine Academy of Optometry was founded by Dr. Teresita Yambut.