Angeles City, Philippines | February 12-21, 2010

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Ryunosuke Satoro

MMFC’s inaugural mission to Angeles City, Philippines was an enormous success in every way imaginable! We are incredibly grateful to our generous financial sponsors who made this mission possible: The International Foundation; Authentic Dental Lab; Pam Lundgreen; Nancy Taft and Tanya Zamora. MMFC would also like to extend its gratitude to its local hosts and sponsors: Dee Hwa Liong Medical Center (Angeles City); the Holy Family Academy, Batch ’83 and Dr. Fortuna Alapag Vardeman.

During our mission, MMFC screened 96 patients and performed a total of 48 surgical procedures, 36 of which were cleft lip and/or palate. The stories of the children and families we met and cared for continue to inspire us. Here are some of their stories.

Names:         Anthony De la Cruz, 3 years old and Bernardo De la Cruz, 8 years old

Address:       Sta. Isabel, Cabiao, Nueva Ecija

Anthony and Bernardo were born with cleft lip and palate to parents Lualhati and Augusto De la Cruz. They are both farmers and have 7 children.  Their eldest, Angeline, 17 yrs old, had her cleft lip surgery when she was 7 yrs old, but still suffers with a cleft palate that needs repair.  Their mother Lualhati told us that when her eldest Angeline was born she thought it was a case of “paglilihi”… the Filipino myth that the wishes or cravings of a pregnant women would affect the physical appearance of a child at birth. But after Angeline came Bernardo, then Anthony. She said it must be in their “lahi” or genes since she has nephews and nieces with cleft lip or cleft palate and many of them died at age 7.

A neighbor who was operated on at Dee Hwa Liong Medical Center heard about the free cleft lip and palate surgery being offered by Medical Missions for Children.  This neighbor knew that the De la Cruz’s could not afford bus fare from Nueva Ecija to Pampang, so she drove them herself.

On February 16, 2010 Anthony and Bernardo underwent cleft lip surgery. Lualhati hopes for her eldest daughter to have the cleft palate surgery on the next medical mission in 2011.

Name:               Jason David

Age:                   42 years old

Address:           ACLI Resettlement,  Pampanga

Job:                    Laborer

Jason was born in Visayas. He was orphaned at age 2 and was taken to Pampanga by a distant relative named Aling Puring.  Jason is now 42 years old and takes care of Aling Puring who is now 65. Jason works as a laborer at ACLI resettlement area in the Filippino village of Mexico. He is known to the people of ACLI as kind, honest and very trustworthy. Mrs. Juanita Razon, a Barangay Kagawad in the area heard about the free surgery being offered by Medical Missions for Children and immediately thought about this long trusted laborer Jason. There was hesitation on the part of Aling Puring to let Jason go. He thought if Jason underwent the surgery he would need time off to recuperate and therefore, be unavailable to take care of Aling Puring’s daily needs. Mrs. Razon promised Aling Puring her full support if and when Jason was accepted as a patient.

On February 15, Jason did undergo the cleft lip surgery.  He hopes to have the palate surgery next year.  At 42 and single he is now more than excited to face his new life and as Mrs. Razon said, she hopes Jason can now find a girlfriend.

Name:              Chan Leo Simbulan

Age:                   2 years old

Address:          ACLI Resettlement, Mexico, Pampanga

Chan Leo is the youngest of 2 children. Upon seeing at birth that Chan Leo had a cleft lip and palate, his father abandoned the family. The young mother of two is now left alone to tend to the needs of 2 young children. The children are now being supported by their maternal grandfather.  Mrs. Juanita Razon, a barangay kagawad of ACLI , Mexico took them to the Dee Hwa Liong Medical Center where Medical Missions for Children was offering free medical and surgical care. On February 16, 2010 Chan Leo underwent the cleft lip surgery.

Name:              Romel Pajares

Age:                  2 years old

Address:         Lapinig, Northern Samar

Romel hails from Samar, an island in the southern part of the Philippines. His father is Romy Pajares, age 30, who works intermittently in a plantation carrying sacks of copra from the field to the warehouse. Romy also has a cleft lip and so does his other son, Randy, age 4.

Romy found out about this medical mission from his aunt, Lina, who works in Angeles City as a domestic helper.  Lina heard about it from a friend who also heard about it from someone who worked at the local Department of Social Welfare and Development Office (DSWD).

Romy and his wife borrowed some money, about P5,000 (US $109) for fare and food so they could take their son to Angeles City. While Romy needs the operation, too, he would rather see his children have the surgery so that they will have the chance for a better life. Also, having an operation might mean he could have to stop working, something his family can’t afford for him to do right now.

Romel underwent a successful cleft lip surgery on February 18, 2010. Romel’s father plans on bringing his other son Randy in for surgery next year in 2011.

PS- MMFC would like to thank all of our patients and their families for trusting us and for sharing their stories with us. The grace and dignity we saw in each of your faces, and the love we felt from each of your hearts, was the most precious gift we brought back from the Philippines.

PPS- To Fortune, Candy and Judy and all the women of Holy Family Academy Batch ’83 –  you gals rock! Salamat! See you next year.