On May 8 and 9, 2017, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office conducted a special medical mission which validates that serving the Filipino people no matter the distance is a priority. The medical team sent by the PCSO Medical Services Department composed of 18 members (Doctors, nurses, dentists, a pharmacist and support group) headed by MSD Department Manager Jose Bernardo M. Gochoco, made the trip to Aparri , Cagayan on May 6, 2017 upon the request of Governor Manuel N. Mamba. The medical team made a sixteen (16) hour bus ride and then boarded a six (6) hour grueling boat ride to the island of Calayan of the Babuyan Channel, the following day.
Calayan Island is composed of nine (9) barangays and is a crime free place in which some sixteen thousand (16,000) locals reside. The medical mission was held from 8:00 am till 12 noon at the local RHU in Barangay Poblacion. Dr. Mar Calban together with the local medical team collaborated with PCSO to serve 327 patients from nearby barangays.
Dr. Mar Cablan was pleased with the medical mission PCSO conducted in Calayan, mainly because of the abundance of a medical team for the island. He explained that only during summertime, when the place is accessible to GOs and NGOs that the locals receive free medical and dental check up. Other student based groups have started to explore and help the island locals during the past 2 years ranging from medical assistance to local based livelihood projects.
A little less than 24 hours later, after the medical mission in Calayan Island, the PCSO Medical team prepared for their next assignment and headed out to Camiguin Island, an extension of Calayan where in three (3) of the comprised twelve barangays resided. A four-hour trip via boat was necessary to reach the island of Camiguin. The lack of availability of a 40 passenger boat almost hindered the mission on May 9, it only meant that courageously the team had to split up into two groups. They had to endure 6-10 foot waves and travel via fisherman’s boat on the day of the mission.
Miraculously, the two teams arrived in Camiguin at 11am, soaked by buckets of water-like waves but unscathed nevertheless to serve the locals at around 2pm on that day. Naguilian, Balatubat and Minabel compose the three other barangays of Calayan extension in Camiguin. Sadly, the island does not house a local health facility. No available resident -doctors nor dentist to serve the malaria-stricken island.
The Medical Team assembled at 1pm and headed to Camiguin Elementary School in Barangay Balatubat. Brgy. Captain Gina Ballesteros together with 2 local nurses and the local barangay staff helped PCSO conduct an orderly medical mission which started at 2pm and ended at 6 pm. A total of 227 patients were served and the remaining medicines were donated to Brgy. Balatubat.
The locals of Camiguin were as equally appreciative of the successful mission PCSO conducted for reasons that, locals were medically examined, treated and given free medicines. To most of these locals, they had to travel 4 hours via “lampitaw” (local tug boats) to Cagayan for treatment. Being in the Babuyan Channel, tides are very unpredictable and uncooperative most of the time, even during summer.
Unbelievably, after the mission, locals still flock to our resident stay in house for a free examination and medical opinion from the PCSO doctors. When I asked collectively on their (PCSO Medical Team) thoughts on the two (2) day medical mission on separate islands, worth it, the response was a resounding YES. Being away from their families for a week and going through all sorts of risks and obstacles, maintain a proper composure and perform your job on a very professional level, made me a proud employee of this agency. Dr. Joby Gochoco explained “ Nakita mo ba ang ligaya na binigay natin sa mga mahihirap na tao na yan? Kahit gaano pa kalayo at kahirap makadating sa lugar nila, tayo ay maninilbihan ng masaya dahil sila ang dahilan kung bakit ang opisina ay tinatag.” Because of these type of employees, we show the nation that distance is not a measure of service and only proves that CHARITY IS THE NUMBER ONE PRODUCT OF PCSO. By: Justin B. Santos/ Photos by Arnold T. Ramos