Written by: John Kenneth Hernandez


As COVID-19 cases in the Philippines decline with the approaching end of the year after peaking in the first month of the last quarter with more than 27,000+ new cases to just less than a thousand cases in the last week of November, we are hopeful for a brighter and merrier Christmas Season. In Bicol, alert level 2 is being imposed on all provinces, except Catanduanes (level 4).



DOH Asec. Santiago and BRTTH Chief Dr. Raborar lead the formal opening of the Covid-19 Testing Laboratory through a ribbon-cutting ceremony while Laboratory Department Head Dr. Karlo Emir M. Tayzon, with DOH & BRTTH staff look on.


With lower alert levels being imposed, more people are returning to the provinces for the holidays and more establishments are reopening.  However, with the newly mutated omicron variant, a surge of cases might be a possibility in the New Year.

In order to maintain the current curve of cases, rapid vaccination and contact tracing of Covid patients must continue. In Bicol, particularly in Albay, there is only one Covid-19 testing laboratory under operation – the Bicol-South Luzon Sub National Reference Laboratory in Daraga, Albay; however, that is about to change as last November 19, 2021 a milestone was set with the blessing and inauguration of the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital Covid-19 Testing Laboratory.

Another great accomplishment for the hospital under the leadership of Dr. Eric Raymond N. Raborar with the support of the Department of Health (DOH) as administrator and regulator of all health services, the establishment of the laboratory is beneficial to the populace of the province of Albay and the Bicol Region as a whole, and will play a vital role in the early detection, traceability, control and treatment of covid-19 cases in the region.

The blessing and inauguration of the Covid-19 Testing Laboratory began with a celebration of a Holy Eucharist presided by the hospital chaplain, Rev. Fr. Romeo Cirujales, Jr.,  immediately followed by ribbon cutting and blessing of the facility.  The event was participated by hospital top management and key personnel and the public health services team of the DOH headed by Assistant Secretary Dr. Nestor F. Santiago, Jr.   It is worth mentioning that Asec. Santiago, a former Regional Director of DOH-CHD Bicol and former OIC Medical Center Chief of BRTTH played a major role in the realization of this Testing Laboratory.

After the ceremony, a conference was held at PSSB bldg., hosted by Sir Kenn Brian Perez.  In his inspirational message Asec. Santiago stressed the scarcity of capable Covid-19 testing facilities in the region, stating that the establishment of this facility will expand testing capacity and will provide quality and accessible RT-PCR testing to Bicolanos.  He pointed out that as of November 7, 2021, the positivity rate in the region was only approximately 20%, and that the trend of Covid-19 cases is decreasing not just in the region, but throughout the rest of the country.  Nevertheless according to him, we should not be complacent with the relaxation of the quarantine status; it is still important to detect, trace, isolate and treat, so that this handful of cases can be prevented from clustering thus preventing another full-blown community transmission.  Head of the BRTTH Department of Laboratories and Pathology Dr. Karlo Emir Tayzon closed the event, thanking Dr. Talitha Sarino, who will head the Covid-19 Testing Laboratory, for successfully spearheading the project.  He also thanked all the staff who helped make this event possible.             

The BRTTH Covid-19 Testing Laboratory was built to make up for the scarcity of capable Covid-19 testing facilities in Albay and the whole region. Equipped with modern laboratory equipment and well-trained personnel, it aims to aid in the control of Covid-19 transmission by providing accurate and accessible RT-PCR testing.  BRTTH is diligently working to meet necessary requirements to obtain a license for the testing laboratory to operate so that it can be fully operational and ready to serve should there be another Covid surge.