th_bicol-hawaiiOn their February 19, 2011 edition, the Hawaii Filipino Chronicles cover story: “Medical volunteers touch thousands of lives during Bicol mission”.

Last January 20 to 24, 2011 the Philippine Nurses  Association of Hawaii (PNAH) joined forces with the Philippine Medical Association of  Hawaii (PMAH) promoting a humanitarian medical mission in the Bicol Provinces. This is the 2nd medical mission that PNAH assisted PMAH  on its medical mission of care to our beloved countrymen who are incapable to get necessary medical attention due to lack of resources.  PMAH named its mission to the Philippines the “Ohana Medical Mission”. Ohana is Hawaiian term for “family”. The overall mission chair was Charlie Sunido, MD, while co-chairs were Marc Joven, MD and Erlinda Cachola, MD. JP (pepe) Orias handled the logistics. Other volunteers  were Paul Glen MD, Russell Kelly, MD Cynthis Kelly, MD, Dr.Tess Bernales PhD, Bernie Bernales, Romy Cachola, and others.  PNAH were comprised of Marianela Jacob MSN, APRN, FNP, RN, Jose Jacob MSN, RN, Juliet Picazo, BSN, RN, David Reyes BSN, RN,  Angela Losa (nursing student) and Vanessa Jacob. Joining the Hawaii delegations were Manila based physicians and nurses and local volunteers from the neighboring towns of the Bicol Provinces they visited.

The Filipino chronicle editor puts it, “This mission had all the trappings of previous medical missions—but with a slight twist. Organizers  partnered with local churches and government officials in an arrangement that proved harmonious and beneficial for the mission. Churches spread the word via sermons and parishioners helped to register the patients, while governments contributed the manpower from its health offices and medical schools”. The medical volunteers brought a total of 16 boxes full of medicines and supplies which were donated generously by supporters from Hawaii and the mainland. Each box weighed 70 plus pounds and had a retail value of $180,000.00  and was airfreighted free by Philippine Airlines.

Day 1—Holy Cross Parish, Nabua. (Joe Jacob and Juliet Picazo’s hometown)

bicol-hawaii2Weeks before the mission, the parish announced the medical  mission at the pulpit during mass and registered the first 1,000 patients for the half day mission. Due to the morning’s unexpected  traffic delay from Manila, the patients were required to wait longer. It was 3 PM when the medical volunteers started to deliver the care to  the waiting patients. Most of the patients had been physically assessed by the local volunteer nurses but required some additional  requirements needed by the volunteer medical doctors from the United Stated of America. Waiting patients have been noisy and unruly and controlling the crowd was necessary and fell to Mr. Cachola, Bernie Bernales and Joe Jacob RN while he also focuses as the triage nurse. Marianela Jacob acted as a Nurse Practitioner through out the mission and nurse Picazo did all the surgical assisting. “In the end, we relented and treated everyone who was in line,” says Hawaii internist Dr. Sunido. “How can one refuse a limp and emaciated child or a  sickly man who suffered from asthma, coughing, cold and fever for weeks”? One elderly lady who had not seen a doctor in years repeatedly thanked volunteers for the selfless service. One woman stood in line for four hours said she did not mind waiting because she  knew she would get medicines from the U.S. that are better than the local ones. The surgery was set-up in a separate building adjacent to the parish hall, which provided a bit of privacy. Due to lack of resources and hospital setting, simple excision of cysts and circumcision was the only surgical procedure done.

Day 2 – Naga City.

The mission started at 9:30 a.m. and lasted until 7:30 p.m. surgery was done at a makeshift operating room on the stage of the Naga youth center which was the venue of the second day mission. Sponsored by Monsignor Romulo Vergara and Fr. John Poblete in partnership  with Mayor John Bongat and the Naga City counsel, 2,000 patients were seen by the medical volunteers. The cases were similar to  Nabua, but double in numbers. There was a lot of cough and cold cases, fever in adults and children, hypertension and diabetes in adults and malnutrition, says Waipahu internist Dr. Russel Kelly. “The patients were kind and appreciative of the medical help they received, says  Marianela Jacob when asked by one of the volunteered reporter. This was the second medicalmission by the Jacob’s with their daughter who joined the Bicol medical mission. City of Naga medical officer Dr. Mel Paz, was grateful for the assistance of his colleagues from Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. “ This mission is an opportunity for the poor to get medical treatment, he says. “Patients love getting medicines from the U.S.”

After another long day, the mayor of Naga hosted a dinner for volunteers at the ambassador Hotel. Speeches followed and the group’s host Fr. Poblete awarded certificates to all of the volunteers.Before heading to their home base,the Isarog bus lines (of which paid by the volunteers) took the group to the Basilica where Fr. Louise Occiano awaited them. The group visited the shrine of Our Lady of Pena  Francia and the group filed into a tiny room where they prayed and touched her garment, as is the tradition to receive her graces. It was a  joyful and spiritual encounter for devotees of the group.

Day 3 – Taysan and Sto. Domingo, Legazpi, City.

The team awoke early and left Macagang hotel and resort bound for Legazpi City. It was a scenic ride past the beautiful country side, Mayon volcano and Cagsawa ruins. At the suggestion of host Fr. Raphael Siapno, volunteers stopped at the top of a hill near the town of  Taysan which gave them a view of the city of Legaspi, the Mayon volcano and the Pacific Ocean. When arriving at Taysan elementary   School, a large crowd of patients’ adults and pediatrics alike awaited the mission volunteers who were greeted with warm applause. “We felt the anticipation and relief in their minds and hearts that their ills would now be cured,” says one mission volunteer. Local volunteers  included members the Taysan barangay health workers, barangay tanod and nurses from Bicol University.

In all, 21 doctors treated about 2,900 registered patients. Around 4:30PM the team proceeded toSto. Domingo, a seaside town of Albay. This was one of the towns that were ravaged by the recent typhoon that visited the Albay Province. When the team arrived at the clinic  site, there was a crowd of less than 100 patients. However, as the mission progressed into early evening, the line of patients seemed  endless almost a thousands. “They keep coming and literally overwhelmed the doctors and non-medical people who were in charge of  crowd control, “says one mission volunteer. “It was hard to refuse treatment for a patient in dire need of help. “We were exhausted to the bones but also exhilarated by helping so many people get better,” says volunteer nurse Jacob. “You are able to help in your own little way,  she added. “It’s rewarding emotionally and spiritually, she added”. Dr. Joven says that the patients were extremely grateful forthe free medications, which they could not afford to buy. Because of low wages, families allot most of their earnings for food, so health is  secondary. “We served our fellow Bicolanos and felt their appreciation and gratitude, “says Ms. Picazo RN who is originally from Nabua and now resides in Honolulu. The surgical team had completed a total of 118 cases. The Bicol Mission treated a total of 7,064 patients, 42 percent of whom are children.

Overall, the mission was an overwhelming success. It was organized by the Bicol Club of Hawaii and Titans USA Foundations – a USA based fraternity of medical graduates from the University of Santo Tomas (UST).