Doc Shares Blessings with Leyte Youth

TACLOBAN CITY – Hard work, perseverance and a passion for education have brought Dr. Rustico “Rusty” Balderian to what he is now – a successful businessman and a patron of many poor Leyteños.

A son of a “sari-sari” (retail) store owner, Balderian went to Manila in 1971 and became a working student as he pursued a college education.

After becoming a doctor, he went to the United States, where he ran successful businesses.

Returning to the country five years ago, he opened a school in his hometown of Tabontabon in Leyte so he could share his blessings with the youth there and in neighboring towns who desire to continue their studies but could not because of poverty.

Located on a 9,900-square meter lot about a kilometer from the town proper, the Colegio de Sta. Lourdes of Leyte Foundation Inc. started operation in 2003 by offering a four-year nursing course, a two-and-a-half-year medical transcription course and a two-year computer course. A couple of years later, the school offered an entrepreneurship course.

High marks

What is unique about this school is that all the students are scholars. Aside from that, the school is also connected to the Internet despite Tabontabon being an interior town with no telephone connection. The school uses a satellite dish that links it to the wide world of web.

So far, of the 57 graduates of Colegio de Sta. Lourdes who took the nursing licensure exam last year, 52 passed. “We were No. 1 in the region and No. 9 nationwide (in terms of passing percentage),” Balderian said.

He said the school also opened the entrepreneurial course so that young people could be taught how to run a business.

Those who applied for scholarship in entrepreneurship have to present their proposed undertaking and defend this before a committee. “If they pass I finance the project, with them as industrial partners,” he said.

The entrepreneurial project – such as piggery, printing, bakeshop, meat shop or National Food Authority (NFA) rice dealership – has to be undertaken individually by the student.

The condition, however, is that upon graduation the student should not seek employment but has to set up his own business in the town.

In the case of nursing students, the condition was for them to send their parents $1,000 a month for three consecutive years once they found work abroad.

The scholars have to maintain an average grade of 2 with no grade below 2.5 in a semester.

At present, Balderian is the neophyte mayor of Tabontabon, located about 20 km from Tacloban City. He is now busy with his pet project of mushroom growing that he said could augment the income of the residents.

With the slogan “8 by 12/08,” the mayor has been rallying his constituents, especially the women, to undertake the municipal government’s livelihood project.

As a young high school graduate in 1971, Balderian left Tabontabon to study in Manila. Because his parents could not support his studies, the then 15-year-old Leyteño had to work as a factory worker, cigarette and “balut” (unhatched duck egg) vendor, and private driver so he could attain his dream of having a good education.

He completed his Doctor of Optometry from the Manila Central University (MCU) in 1975. Then in 1981 he finished his Doctor of Medicine also from the same university. A year later, he finished his post-graduate internship from the Pauline J. Garcia Memorial Medical Center in Cabanatuan City.

In 1977, he decided to engage in business. He became a contract grower of Vitarich, starting with 100 chicks. Five years later, his poultry already had a population of about 26,000 heads of chicken.

In early 1983, Balderian decided to try his luck in the US.

Hard work pays

Arriving in Los Angeles with only a few dollars in his pocket, he immediately looked for a job and was hired as a truck driver. He was promoted as store cashier, and then he became the store manager earning $6 an hour.

In 1984, he left his job and decided to put up his own business. With his $1,000 savings he started providing gardening and landscaping services in their area.

Working alone for some time, his business so flourished that he was able to buy five vans and hire workers. With his vans and workers, he expanded his business by accepting services of dumping old furniture and other stuff.

Though busy with his business, Balderian still found time to work as physician assistant in a medical clinic in Los Angeles.

In 1985, he opened his medical laboratory in the same place. With his wife, a medical technologist, Balderian also opened a pharmacy in 1993 and a mobile X-ray company three years later. The couple also opened in 2000 the Ryan Imaging Center in Los Angeles.

In 1990, Balderian returned to the country. He set up a medical diagnostic center in Tacloban City. In 1995, he opened the Ryan Anthony Hospital in Cainta, Rizal.

With his desire to serve his town more, Balderian ran and won the mayoral race in his hometown in 2007.
- Philippine Daily Inquirer