Manggyan 2002

The PAGTATAP sponsored Medical Mission in Pandan, Antique

April 1-4, 2002

A narration by a MANGGYAN (Manggagamot ng Bayan) volunteer

It was a smooth ride from Manila to Kalibo. All 38 of us arrived fresh and smiling at the Kalibo airport. Some officials from the town of Pandan, Antique were there to meet us. Amazingly we were able to fit ourselves on 2 ambulances, 1 van and 1 car. Our luggage, our surgical equipments and supplies including the medicines that we brought were put inside a dump truck which almost filled it up to the rim. Thank God, some good souls helped us at the PAL check in counter in Manila, we were not charged a single centavo for our excess weight. Our first consultation came immediately after we went out of the airport. While waiting for our luggage, a relative of the patient who had a stroke and was confined at a nearby hospital, requested us if we could pass by the provincial hospital and examine the patient. It was the first job of Dr. Irene Igual our neurologist. A chicken cooked inside a bamboo was our first token of gratitude.

We arrived in Pandan, Antique at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Took us about an hour and a half to negotiate the 56 kilometers distance. After a few minutes of getting acquainted with the local officials and our host we finally had our lunch altogether. Then the fun began. Some of the volunteers were directed to open all our 15 balikbayan boxes and classify all the medicines and other surgical supplies that we brought. Others were sent to the hospital to prepare the operating room for our first surgery that afternoon. It was already 5 o’clock when we started our surgery and by 9:00 P.M., 8 patients were already enjoying their brand new lens after their cataracts were successfully removed. We all went home to our fantastic sanctuary by the sea tired, hungrym exhausted but fulfilled.

The next day was uneventful. By 8 in the morning patients started coming. We examined and treated about 500 medical and pediatric patients, operated on lipomas and sebaceous cysts. The dentists extracted 98 teeth. It seemed to be just an ordinary in a medical mission.

The third day was The Day. As early as 7:00 A.M. hundreds of patients who probably heard about our mission a little bit late, besieged us in the hospital. Immitating Pres. George Bush, we named the dilapidated hospital were we stayed as Ground Zero and like the FDNY (Fire Department New York) we too doubled all our strength and efforts just to meet the challenge of treating the poor and the sick who walked all the way from the mountains and other neighboring towns just to see a specialist for the first time. For the first time they had their Pap Smear. For the first time they had their EKG. For the first time they knew that their serum cholesterol was normal. For the first time they had their warts, papillomas and keratosis cauterized. For the first time they experience what an FNAB (Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy) was all about. For the first time they right away knew if their neck tumors were malignant or benign. The job at Ground Zero was nonstop. The surgeons were not able to eat merienda because of the number of surgeries that kept on coming. It was already 7:00 P.M. and the hospital was still filled up with people. Then disaster came. Dr Elaine Baens Araneta and Dr. Bob Alojipan were still excising a sebaceous cyst when the room became pitch black. In a few seconds however 3 doctors brought out their penlights and flashlights. Except for the perspiration brought by the very hot room, the surgery was executed without difficulty.

The fourth day was spent mainly on changing the dressings of the patients whom we operated. Instructions were carefully emphasized when to come back to the hospital, who to look for and when to remove the stiches. The dentists were still able to extract some 30 bad teeth. Consultation was continued for those came particularly in our OB-Gyne but purely for consultation only for we run out of medicines to give on that last day. By 1 o’clock we called it a day and we ate our last lunch before we left the amazing town of Pandan, Antique, a Class V town in one of the most depressed provinces in the country.

The people gave us a total of 20 chickens, several young coconuts, a dozen watermelons, a basketful of mangoes, 6 newly caught big fishes and one night nonstop entertainment. We truly enjoyed our stay in Pandan, Antique and this was made possible by the host of the house were we stayed who gave us a comfortable rest at the end of tiring day and whose hospitality really made our mission a very memorable one.

Together with our praise to the Lord for giving us the opportunity to serve and to share our blessings with the people of Pandan, we would like to thank Pagtatap (USA, Manila, Hongkong, and Pandan) for making this wonderful mission possible. Indeed in the streets of life what matters most is not how fast you walk or how high you jump but how often you stop to help others along the way.