Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Medical Mission in Mindoro

OLD AND NEW: The Mangyans behold with wonder
our video camera. (Gigi Gallano/June 2004)
 Posted by Hello

(NOTE: We are featuring here in full the Mindoro Medical Mission journal written last year by Christian graphic artist/photographer Gigi Gallano of the Asian Seminary of Christian Ministries in Makati City, Philippines. To view more photos of the medical mission, please visit the Pinoy Pan de Sal blogsite.)

(As posted by Gigi Gallano on her blog on June 15, 2004)

7 p.m. May 28 ASCM

After my most hectic day in the office, Bel, Xavier and I left for the Tritran bus station at the corner of Buendia and Taft Avenue. Bel is the bookkeeper in ASCM while Xavier is a third year engineering student in the University belt. Carrying our backpacks, video equipment, sleeping bags and a carton of supplies, we walked from ASCM on Valero St up to the loading shed in Ayala. I was very hungry but I still had enough strength left. Getting a taxi in Makati on a Friday night is next to impossible but to my surprise, we got one after only a few minutes. The grumpy driver projected an obvious simangot face when we asked him to open the trunk. "Kanto lang po ng Buendia at Taft," I announced in sweet manner, hoping he wouldn’t eject us out if ever he decided that our destination is known for its heavy traffic. He flagged down the meter. “Whew!” I exhaled in relief. While on the taxi, we discussed how much Lidocaine (anaesthetic) surgical masks and gloves, we were going to buy for the dentists. And we didn't forget dinner! We split up in two groups, of course, I, the hungry one, went with the group that would buy dinner. Bel and I got off at KFC and Xavier went on ahead to the Mercury drugstore. KFC’s crowded and noisy ambience drained my remaining body energy. We just waited for Xavier to meet us there, and we had dinner. "Baka mahuli tayo sa last trip!" After consuming the chicken, we walked to the bus station. The bus they were loading was already the last trip.

11 p.m. Batangas Pier

The rest of the team were there already. They were waiting for us since 4 p.m. They had to reserve space in the ferry for the jeep; they had to line it up along with the trailers, cargo trucks and other vehicles. If they arrived late they wouldn't make it to the list of vehicles boarding the ferry. We were scheduled to leave 3 o’clock in the morning. Imagine: they had been waiting there for 11 hours! Doreen gave me an anti-malaria pill, and I immediately swallowed it. I was dead tired -- sleepy as hell -- as I had been awake for almost 22 consecutive hours. I couldn't wait to board the ferry so I could finally get some sleep. Finally, it was time! We raced to the jeep, and Neil drove it straight to the parking space inside the ferry. We scrambled upstairs and there before my eyes were...seats. Yes, seats – and very uncomfortable ones at that! I had to face the horrible fact that I wouldn't be getting any decent sleep today.

5 a.m. May 29 Somewhere in the Batangas Seas

I have been awake for 24 hours and my eyes hurt due to a combination of fumes from the ferry, smoking passengers and pure sleepiness. It was an ugly boat, even uglier when you’re dizzy and haven’t slept for a full day. We sat in the ordinary section - the chairs were impossible to sit on. Bel and I kept on shifting to different sitting positions trying to find the one that will hurt our butts less. I kept on clinging to my video equipment, in case I fell asleep and somebody steals it. "What am I doing here?" Being sleep deprived with an injured butt, hurting back, and burning eyes, one couldn't blame me for asking this.

It was already 5:30 a.m., and the sun was already peeping from the mountains. I took out the video camera and started filming. Time to work.

6 a.m Abra de Ilog, Mindoro

The Ferry docked at Abra de Ilog (so called because during the rainy season, 30 or so rivers appear). Mindoro is a beautiful island famous for its white sand beaches, beautiful mountains, unspoiled rivers and a sunrise to die for. The highway is cemented with intervals of rough rocky road. Dust is everywhere, it even penetrated the interiors of our jeepney. Mindoro dust is very fine, a thin layer accumulated on my sunglass after only a few minutes. I was sitting way at the back of our jeep so the bumps are amplified three times. Imagine sitting at the back of a jeep running in a hour-long bumpy ride. Ouch!

Fellowship on a jeepney in MindoroPosted by Hello

7 a.m. Mamburao

We were scheduled for a stopover in Mamburao; in a church co-pastored by an ASCM alumnus. My eyes hurt from the lack of sleep and my body ached all over. I felt my internal organs were shaken from their original positions because of the bumpy ride. Lighthouse Christian Community is a church pastored by Willie and Raffy, an alumnus of ASCM. Coffee! Coffee! I shouted as we reached Lighthouse Mamburao. As we entered the kitchen, breakfast was served on the table -- fried rice, tuyo (dried fish), fried eggs, and, of course, coffee. There was an added treat – a unique suman. Suman is sticky rice with coconut milk wrapped in banana leaves and boiled in water. But because the Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands, I could only guess that there are thousands of suman versions available around the country. I’m not really a suman girl. In fact, I only like two versions, the suman sa ibos and the tupig (barbecued suman) This Mindoro suman is somewhat different, though. It comes with coconut spinkles, yummy! I decided to keep it along with the other kakanins (rice-based sweet treats) that I managed to grab from the tablel. Still a long journey en route to the Mangyan territory.

11 a.m. Baranggay Pag-asa

We arrived hot, hungry, and stinky after riding for hours along bumpy, dusty roads. Baranggay Pag-asa has no electricity and has limited water supply. We settled in a church and unloaded all our cargo for the mission -- brand new and used clothes, slippers, toys, cartons of soap and detergent, toothbrushes, anti-lice combs, and school supplies for the Mangyan children. We took turns taking baths. I had a ration of one pail of water, instead of the my regular six when I’m in Manila. After the bath, we headed to the backyard where some local women welcomed us and served us some tinola (chicken broth) for lunch.

1:30 p.m. Mangyan village up in the mountain

The Mangyans are the native people of Mindoro. They originally owned the island but when settlers from other islands came in, they were pushed farther and farther toward the mountains. They are illiterate and have no awareness in terms of hours, kilometers, gallons and years. They measure distance in terms of "shouts." This means the distance reached by the sound of a shout is equivalent to "one shout." Mangyans tell time through the shadows made by the sun, so if the sky is cloudy they would have no idea what time it is. They don’t know how old they are, so most of them marry and have children at the age of 15. They don’t have proper hygiene and most of them are even afraid of water. They name their children according to how they looked when they were born; if the hair is curly they call the child "kulot" or if the child is light-skinned they call him "puti." If, on certain instances, a Mangyan newborn is orphaned, the elders of the tribe will kill the baby since there will be no one to take care of it. This is the Mangyan culture and these customs have been preserved and observed for hundreds of years now.

I joined the team to document the whole mission. As I was taking pictures and shooting video, I felt compassion for the Mangyans. They are suffering from poverty and malnutrition, but worst of all, they are suffering from the lack of knowledge that there is Someone who loves them and even let His own Son die for them. Mahal ni Jesus ang mga Mangyan, these words kept ringing in my ears as I was filming them. I kept my tears from falling as it would cloud the lens of my cameras.

We trekked for more than an hour to reach the first village. Our dedicated dentists, Doc Tet and Doc Leng along with their assistants Bel and Nora set up the dental clinic and started pulling Mangyan teeth. Other team members were evangelizing and praying with the other tribes people. Some were just plain socializing with Mangyan mothers and children assuring them that we are friends and we mean no harm. I was amazed on how Doc Tet and Doc Leng handled their patients, for Mangyan teeth are stronger than the average and are red because they are fond of chewing nganga (betel leaves).

5 p.m. Back in Barangay Pag-asa

We sorted out the clothes and packed the hygiene kit. I have been awake for 36 hours, and only had a total of 3 hours of sleep to my credit. It was getting dark and we were having difficulty sorting out the clothes. The women called us for dinner and we all headed to the backyard. They placed a table under the tree where we had our sinigang meal. The animals provided the background music: there were ducks, dogs and chickens, but the loudest "singer" was the white goat tied to the fence. This was a time of fellowship and we got to know each other better.

8 p.m. Inside the Church

It was dark and the mosquitoes were buzzing around waiting for a chance to bite. It was a good thing we had anti-malaria pills. One of the men turned on the generator (thank God there is a generator). The dentists decided to set up clinic again for the people of Pag-asa. Doc Tet saw it as an opportunity to help more people. True enough, more people arrived, more than what we expected. There were children, teenagers, old folks, and much older people. There was a lady who came to Doc Leng and she had her nine teeth -- yes, nine -- pulled out in just one sitting. Whew! Tough job!

I volunteered to assist Doc Leng in place of Bel. I’ve been to countless medical and dental missions in the past, but this was the first time to assist a dentist in one.

This is how it is usually done: for chairs they stacked plastic chairs and adjust the height by removing or adding the required amount. There is an assistant who holds the patient’s head in place and holds it still, while the dentist is extracting the teeth. There is another assistant who holds the flashlight and fans the dentist and the nervous patient who usually breaks out in sweat once they see the needle. There’s a long table that hold all the dentist’s tools, the medicine, the basin (where they wash the tools that were used), and a big jug of water. And then, of course, there’s the dentist.


11:00 p.m. Inside the church, I brought my sleeping bag and placed it in a very strategic place - in front of the altar. Why, I didn't know. Maybe I just miss God and it seems I’d be a little close to him in that place. Sleeping there felt that God was looking down straight at me. Forgive me, I’m a little weird sometimes -- hmm...make that most of the time. They shut down the generator, and after a few minutes, I passed out.

I almost jumped out from my sleeping bag after hearing a scream of anguish. They killed the white goat that was tied to the fence. Then I slept again.

6:00 a.m. May 30 Backyard

I woke up to the smell of goat roasting over the fire. But before I got up I noticed red spots on my arms, mosquito bites, gosh! I went to the backyard and found three men slicing the goat into tiny pieces (the goat that was tied to the fence just the night before). Sorry, I’m a little affected about this. That was a cute, white goat with a pink nose and a goti. They were slicing it for the Kinilaw. We had goat kinilaw and squid adobo for breakfast. I had a hard time eating it because I’m not used to eating rice for breakfast. I was also upset about the fourteen mosquito bites on my left arm. Plus the fact that I kept thinking about the cute, white goat that was tied to the fence just the night before.

10:00 a.m. Worship Service

It was a thanksgiving service. The congregation bought food enough for everybody. I was looking out for the suman with coconut sprinkled on it, but didn’t find any. We were assigned to lead the praise and worship, of which we had no practice whatsoever. The instruments were old and sound funny. The guitar had a missing string; the drums had a loose cymbals which you ccouldn't strike because it would be removed from the stand; the cymbal stands were made of construction steel metals.
It was an experience I wanted to delete in my memory. Ironically, Love, who took a picture of us singing on stage, accidentally deleted all the pictures from the memory card of the digital camera, including pictures of the Mangyan village and the dental mission inside the church -- gosh!

1:30 p.m. Under the Big Bridge

"Kahapon ang tindi ng sikat ng araw, ngayon naman ang lakas ng ulan." I blurted out as we headed toward the mission site. It was along the riverbank, under the bridge. Getting there was difficult. You have to climb down a rocky, steep passage. It was raining so the passage was slippery. I put all my equipment in a trash bag to protect it from the rain and headed down. It was not easy; I had only one free hand as I was holding the equipment, and had to hold on to some roots that were sticking out.

After a few moments, I saw the first batch of Mangyans coming down. The men were wearing a bahag and the children are wearing dirty, torn clothes. Women were carrying their babies in a swaddle that was wrapped around their bodies. They smelled bad as they haven’t taken a bath and brushed their teeth for months. Their hair, especially the children, were full of lice.

There are no fat Mangyans, maybe because their diet is composed mainly of rice, vegetables and, occasionaly, meat. They lined up for the clothes. But before that, the team members gave them baths, cleaned their ears, and trimmed their nails. They taught them how to brush their teeth in the river. Once clean, we fed them and made them sit on the rocks, and there, Neil spoke to them on how much Jesus loves them. We gave them bath soaps, detergents, hygiene kit and some school supplies. I forgot about body aches and mosquito bites as my heart was blessed when I saw them walk away wearing smiles on their faces and new clothes on their bodies. That night, we returned to Mamburao with even bigger smiles on our faces. Men, oh men! It feels good!

6:00 a.m. May 31 Lighthouse Mamburao

I woke up with an immense urge to swim. Mindoro is known for its beaches and I simply refused to leave the island without a swim. I went to the kitchen to get some coffee and I found Xavier, who, just last night, was persuading me to go swimming. Of course, last night I was too tired to think about swimming. After gulping my coffee, I changed into my swimming outfit and we headed out to the sea. The sea was still that morning and it was warm. It was a perfect day to swim. We floated and we splashed and stared at the sun that was just rising. Then, Raffy who came with us, found a friend that owns a boat. To our delight, we immediately boarded it and went for a ride. It was a refreshing time for us after all that hard work. Then, as the grand finale, we dove from the boat into the calm sea.

9:30 a.m.

We hurried and boarded our jeep. Our ferry was scheduled to leave 11 a.m. from Abra de Ilog, and we were still in Mamburao. Maybe it was because we didn’t want to leave yet so we delayed our departure unconsciously. We arrived in Abra de Ilog Pier five minutes before the ferry left the dock. This ferry was better than the other one. It was cleaner and the people looked more relaxed. We lounged around the ferry and looked at the islands and the waves. This was a more relaxing trip than the one before.

2:00 p.m. Jollibee Lipa, Batangas

This was our last stop-over as the mission was accomplished. Doreen thanked everybody for giving their time and their effort. We prayed and we thanked God for protecting us and blessing us in this whole mission trip. Then, as a part of the celebration, we ordered "ice craze" as the whole trip left us craving for ice.


Uwian na. I was blessed with the whole trip. Before I left for this mission, I asked some friends from the office to pray for me that I may see what God wanted everybody to see and that I may capture it with my camera. In order for me to do this, I had to see through God’s eyes. Mahal ni Jesus ang mga Mangyan. Kahit sila’y mabaho, kahit sila’y madumi, kahit sila’y di nagsisipilyo, kahit sila’y maraming kuto.

Sometimes spending too much time in an air-conditioned office, wearing branded clothes and eating Italian food, you tend to forget. Your perspective in life narrows down, and all you think about is "I, me and myself."

This trip has been both tough and fun. But what I like about it most is that it opened my eyes again, and was reminded of the joy you get out of serving the least of our brothers. Mahal ni Jesus ang mga Mangyan.


Blogger Jayred said...

Hi, Ghie! Read this contribution of yours (ang haba a, hehe). Seriously, na-touch ako. Touched ako don sa Mangyan part...(maluha luha ako ngayon). PTL for using you guys to minister to them. Sana kami din one day. I truly miss doing missions work. But I feel, parang nasa Babylon ako ngayon. Although I know God has a purpose for this. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story (and yes, the pics as well) to us. God bless you and the work of your hands!

P.S. I love the photos!

12:20 AM  
Anonymous thess said...

Wow Gigi! this is one mission talaga! I Praise God for a good and caring christians like you...and tama, mahal ng Panginoon tayong lahat, amen!

(btw, yes I do know Almelyn...met her in 2004, we had dinner with some friends, unfortunately that was the only time because I was only on vacation)

8:32 AM  
Blogger Pinoy Pan de Sal said...

Oo nga, ang haba, hehe! Pasensiya na, our donors like it this way. I never though it would be this long when posted as a blog.

Thess, thanks ha, yung flickr mo din nakakabless, at nakakagutom hehe..

10:58 AM  
Blogger Pinoy Pan de Sal said...

jayred, here are some more pictures of the Mangyan Missions trip.

11:15 AM  

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