Medical Mission of Love to Marinduque
Volunteer work, my heaven on earth
I have helped my less fortunate brethren with my time, effort and resources. I know I have truly lived because I have touched the lives of others.
My wife and I had devoted our time and resources to this humanitarian project since 1998. Our involvement in this humanitarian project has given us satisfaction and its one way of the many ways one can give back the good fortunes one receives while residing in the US. The picture on this page was taken in the town of Buenavista, Marinduque, Philippines last February, 2011.
Our Official Mission T-shirt
Dental and Medical Mission of Love
I have been an active member of Marinduque International, Inc. (MI,Inc) for many years and have served for its seven bi-annual Medical and Dental Missions since 1998 in Marinduque, Philippines. MI, Inc is a non-profit organization based in the US. One of its missions is to provide free medical services to the impoverished residents of Marinduque, a small but beautiful island province in the heart of the Philippines. Our group is made up of migrants from the island now living in the first world, mostly in the US and Canada. Through hard work and skills, we have earned our good graces and fortunes from our adopted homeland and we have more than enough to share with our less fortunate countrymates.
We are giving back to the community of our roots because it makes us feel good helping our compatriots. The more that we give of ourselves, the better we feel about ourselves. Whenever I work with the mission, I touch the lives of many of my poor countrymen living in the rural areas of the island. The organization motto is "Our mission is to help and together we will succeed". My medical mission involvement also projects my favorite quotation: "The time that you have really lived is the time you have touched the lives of others".
Our mission starts with fund raising by members mostly from our own pockets, friends and relatives. We recruit volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and non-medical support staff to serve the missions, and they pay for their voyage to the islands. We procure and ship medicines badly needed by the islanders. Some of our members who own a place in the island, house the volunteers during the mission period. Others volunteers stay at the local hotels at their own expense but their whole week of food and local transportation is paid by Marinduque International. At the end of each mission we celebrate its success and thank the help of each volunteer as well as the local officials. It is also a time of reflection on all what we have shared of ourselves to our impoverished brothers and sisters. This year our post mission celebration was held at the Bellarocca Resort in Buenavista.
The Dental and Medical Mission Servicing the Needs of 6000 Residents
The mission involves serving around 6,000 people from the six towns of the province who wait for hours in line under the sun, a difficult feat in a hot tropical humid setting, within a span of one week. About 40% of these patients from the interior of the province walked for 2 hours or more to reach the town center where the clinics are held. Most of these patients have never been seen by a physician in their lives. However, not everyone will be lucky to be seen by a doctor or provided free medicines. Many will return the next day to our new location to fall in line again and hope to be served for their needs. By the end of the mission a good number of people will never be served. It pains me to know and see the frustration of those who came hoping for help, only to be turned away due to constraints on our time, equipment and medicines.
Last February, it broke my heart when one patient had to be turned away when she was ready for a minor procedure on the operating table because surgical equipment was not available. It baffles me how the provincial government cannot provide a basic surgery instrument in its public hospital. We were on a mission to help and serve, but instead this patient had to deal with frustration, disappointment and anger.
During the mission I was assigned to the Pharmacy section, providing drugs and instructions to the patients. In the town of Buenavista, I had to break protocol and help a mother with her two sick young children. They were coughing and feverish, and were about to be turned away due to the limits in our time and medical volunteers.
I knew it was wrong and I could have been scolded for my actions, but I approached the mother, whispered to her to wait a little longer, and I could do something for her when the line has thinned down. Before closing time I waved for her, handed her vitamins, cough and fever medicines. She thanked me and showed me a smile that I will always remember as long as I live. On that day, I touched the lives of a mother and her two kids, and that was the day that I have really lived.
Serving as Interpreter to Our Non-Tagalog Speaking Doctors
Macrine Welcoming Medical Missioners to Marinduque
I Cried and My Heart Melted Again
This 2011 Medical Mission of Love is not different from the previous missions that Macrine and I had attended since 1998. More than six thousand of the poor and the needy from the distant barangays in the province of Marinduque lined patiently from 4 to 6 hours just to see A PHYSICIAN and obtained free medicines ( cough syrup, multivitamens, pain medications, anti-acids and maybe antibiotics) for their aches and pains true or imagined. At the end of the day in each town, there are always about 200 to 300 more patients that have to be sent home since we do not have enough physician volunteers this year. This is the same case in our HOSPITAL operations. This year we had only 3 surgeons and 1 anesthesiologist. Thus we have to send a lot of patients home along with their disappointment and hopes that maybe in our next mission, they can be accommodated.
A hospital case that touched my heart and that made me mad: A patient was already in the operating table after the preliminary tests had been done the day before was sent home because of one basic instrument not available. I heard from the surgeon who stayed at Chateau Du Mer, that instrument he needed for the operation is a basic instrument, but the hospital does not have one. So where is the priority of our provincial and health officials?
In Buenavista, I helped in the repacking area section of the Pharmacy Department. At about 2PM, there were still about 200 to 300 patients waiting in line. The patients were told to go home, since there already 200 in line ahead of them and our physicians will not be able to see them. However, about 100 did not go home in the hope that multi-vitamens and cough syrup, and Paracetamol will still be given to them at the end of the day.
One middle-aged woman with her 2 kids ( Ages 3 and 5)started begging to the two of us working in the repackaging area very closed to the lines. She said her 2 kids are coughing and had fever and asked us if we can give her Paracetamol and cough syrup. I looked at her and the two kids and my heart melted and I shed a tear or two.
I stood up, talked to the Pharmacist-in-Charge that day and she told me "NO". She told me that If the others in line saw me giving the drugs only to her, if might cause a RIOT. I whispered to the woman to wait until closing time. By 4:30PM there will still around 10 patients waiting. At around 5:00PM there were still a couple of patients hanging around. But, I called the woman aside, give her a bottle of Paracetamol;, cough syrup and multi-vitamens along with the usual instructions. She thanked me an gave me a SMILE that still lingers in my mind today.
“Beauty is not who you are on the outside, it is the wisdom and time you gave away to save another struggling soul, like you.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Conducting and Organizing a Medical Mission to Marinduque
Organizing and preparing for a medical mission is not an easy task. It takes a lot of preparation, organisation and communication besides the obvious fund raising activities. People outside the organization thinks it easy, after they have seen how smooth and successful were the previous medical missions conducted by Marinduque International, Inc (MI) to the province of Marinduque. The following article was taken from my notes during Medical Mission of Love III and published in our MI newsletter in 2004. Macrine, my wife, was President of MI, Inc at that time and I was her personal executive secretary.
Preparation for the Medical Mission of Love III started about 18 month ago during the presidency of Steve Sosa(2002-2003). After the MI Board of Trustees approved the mission, it was decided that each chapter should contribute $5000 to finance the project.
A list of respective assignments and expertise (MD's, nurses, pharmacists, and support personnel) was compiled. At the first MI, Inc. meeting in 2002, a specific member of MI, was assigned to contact each name in the prospective lists of missioners. This work was very slow. However, the Board of Directors have decided that the week of February 7-14, 2004 is the MISSION WEEK instead of May to avoid the hot, and humid climate in the month of May in the Philippines.
From December, 2002 to about October, 2003, the Internet wires were burning between Dr. Hector Sulit (physician-in charge of the mission), Mr. Steve Sosa ( former president and Chairman of the Board) and Mrs Macrine Katague ( current president)discussing the proposed mission activities. There was reluctance from a couple of chapters regarding the financing of the mission. However, by mid-2003, enough funds were received by MI, to continue planning for the mission.
By October, 2003, Macrine keeps reminding everyone to give her the names of individuals planning to join the mission. The names were entered into Macrine's Excel list, including their expertise and specialization. Half of the names appeared to be only support personnel. A desperate plea was directed to Dr. Sulit, Dr. Magsino, Dr. Madla, Dr. Ng and Dr. Jao to recruit surgeons, pediatricians, general practitioners and nurses.
By the end of December 2003, 71 names of prospective missioners were compiled, half of it support personnel with no expertise designation. Of the 71 names only 60 confirmed either by asking lodging accommodations or space in the complimentary bus from Manila to Cawit, Boac, Marinduque by the end of January 2004.
Around November, 2003, Dr. Sulit informed Macrine that the Philippine Regulatory Commission required that all medical personnel should have a current PI License to join the medical mission. The help of local health officials, Dr. Gerry Caballes and Dr. Honesto Marquez was solicited. The technology of e-Mail between the Philippines and Marinduque was utilized.
Luckily, for Dr. Caballes, his e-mail system work fine, but for Dr. Marquez, only silence was the response. In the meantime, communications between the governor's office and the offices of the six town mayors were also initiated. The various officials were informed of the mission tentative schedule, as well as the use of the municipal courts as venue of the proposed clinical operations and the schematic plan prepared by Nonoy Sto. Domingo on the various stages of the mission detailing the placement of tables and chairs.
The communication requested that local police officials be informed of the proposed mission for security, order and crowd control procedures. The governor promised that 24 hours security will be provided at the lodging places of the missioners as well as in the venues during the mission.
The Internet and telephone wires were also burning between Macrine and Dr. Freddie Ng (physician in charge of Hospital operations and drug procurement). The purchase of drugs available in the Philippines that is valuable and useful to the poor people of Marnduque were discussed in detail. The expertise of Dr Ng in purchasing drugs and surgical supplies was utilized. There are several reasons, why drugs to be given to the needy be purchased in Philippines. The minimal shipping costs, discounted price and availability of the drugs to the patients after the mission as well as the assurance that the drugs and supplies are in Marinduque during the mission were discussed.
We have learned a lesson regarding the late arrival of drugs from US during the previous mission. A few days prior to Macrine's departure for the Philippines, Dr. Sulit informed her that the need for Philippine license required by the Philippines Regulatory Commission(PRC) will no longer be required. This was due to the fact, that the local Philippine Medical Association(PMA) have no basis to complain about the mission taking their livelihood, since the mission is intended only for the poor and indigents of the province. Moreover, the president of the local PMA is our personal physician in Boac as well as personal friend.
Medical Mission Participation
Have you Participated in any Medical Mission to a 3rd World Country?
Welcoming Missioners from USA, 2001
Final Preparation for the Mission
In January 1, 2004, Macrine left Fair Oaks, CA for the Philippines. A couple of days later, she was in Boac. Her first assignment was to have a courtesy visit to the Governor. The next day the governor arranged a meeting of all provincial government health officials that will be involved with the mission. All provincial health officials from the six towns were able to attend except for Dr. Marquez. The schedule was discussed in details, including transportation, housing and lodging and security.
The governor offered the use of her 8 cottages in Lupac. The governor informed Macrine that the money, MI will pay for the lodging would be used to purchase drugs. If there are leftover drugs after the mission, then MI will donate it to the hospital. Macrine communicated this offer to MI Board of Trustees in the US. Everybody agreed that this was a good offer.
Macrine's next assignment was to contact all the six town mayors, starting in Boac with Mr. Madla. The personal visit was just to confirm the previous letters that were sent to the mayors asking for permits, use of public address system and the venue of the clinical as well as the involvement of the local police for security.
The next town mayors contacted were Mr. Jonathan Garcia of Mogpog, Mr. Percy Morales of Sta. Cruz and Mr. Tom Pizarro of Torrijos. The day of Macrine's visit to these three mayors were not very productive since none of them were in their offices at that time.
Torrijos has no telephone system. Mogpog and Sta. Cruz telephone systems were not reliable nor the 411 system in Marinduque appears to work. Only two people in the town of Torrijos have cell phones. However, the drive to these three towns were not a waste after all. In Mogpog, Sta. Cruz, and Torrijos, Macrine left messages for the respective mayors via their secretaries . While she was in Sta. Cruz, she was able to talk to Dr. T. Rejano and gave the pediatric drugs donated by MI for the town clinic. The drugs were specifically requested by him for use in research from the effects of the mine waste disposal to the children in the area.
The mayor of Mogpog and Sta. Cruz later return back the messages left by Macrine. However, Mayor Tom Pizarro of Torrijos didn't call Macrine back regarding the mission. The only communications we have about Torrijos was with the Director of Hospitals, Dr. Cynthia Del Rosario, Dr. Del Rosario was very cooperative with our mission.
Distributing Drugs to the Six Towns of Marinduque
UnPacking, Allocation and Inventory of Drugs for the Six Towns of Marinduque
January 7 to 14 was the date of unpacking, allocating, identifying and inventory of more than 72 boxes of drugs purchased in the Philippines as well as from US. If you think this is easy, you have to see that one of our bedrooms looks like a pharmacy warehouse and hardly no room to walk. Thanks to the help of Womens Club of Boac (thru Mrs. Nilda Jamilla), Aida Mariposque and daughter Concon and our driver Edwin, the inventory and equal allocation of the drugs for the six towns and the hospital was done in only one week.
There was a complaint about unequal distribution of medicines among the six towns. This complaint was without any basis and just plain ignorance from the complainer. We have more than a couple of witnesses to corroborate the facts.
On January 15, I arrived in Marinduque. I accompanied Macrine for the courtesy visit to Mayor Lau Lim of Gasan. Mayor Lim was happy to see us. She informed us, that Gasan is well prepared for all medical missions conducted in Gasan. She has formed a committee (food and operations) that coordinate all the mission activities in Gasan.
Gasan is the only town doing this. The last week of January, Macrine suffered an abscessed tooth, that required her to fly to Manila. Since this was almost just two weeks, before the Mission Week, Macrine appointed me to take over the advanced work.
I did some follow-up with patients' pre-registration in the hospital, confirmation of lodging and food preparation for lunch in Buevavista. We visited Mr. Wilfredo Pe, Mayor of Buenavista, after our visit with Mayor Vicky Lim of Gasan. We explained to Mr. Pe the stages of the clinical operation as outlined in Nonoy Sto. Domingo's schematic plan indicating the location of chairs and tables.
I did another follow-up regarding the pre-mission publicity thru the office of the governor and local churches. Confirmation of printing of banners, T-shirts, bottled water supplies and local transportation needs was done.
Special thanks to Agnes Lardizabal-Apeles and Miriam Trivino-Borlaza for recruiting relatives and friends to provide the missioners lunches and dinners one week before the mission. With their help, MI, Inc. has saved additional money. The money saved was needed for the purchase of additional medicines and supplies.
In conclusion, organizing a mission requires advance planning, patience and follow-up. It was hard work but fun.