Medical & Dental Mission

The Aguman has every reason to be excited and to celebrate! Its medical/dental mission which it launched last February was a huge success!  It was able to give aid to a total of 4,461 patients in the six towns it served. It was able to help around 300 families in its food relief operation which was an extra service done there and in another town

We officially started the mission with a welcome party on February 17th at a pergola owned by the Robleses in Masantol, the hometown of many of our members. Local  volunteers supporting our mission as well as friends who knew we were coming were invited to partake with us and sort of socialize just to know one another. *Twenty-two Aguman delegates* from Portland were at hand, and so were the families that hosted and shared their homes with us for the couple of weeks we were there. We had a short program during which Mina Guinto-Tahayeri, our president, explained to everybody what our team was intending to do in the next several days. Suffice it to say, those that were there were able to understand exactly what our mission was and how it would be carried out. 

The following day was spent in sorting out the medicines and dividing it for all the six towns in the agenda. Mina and Akbar also had to check with barangay officials, coordinate with them and make sure that everything had been prepared according to plans. Each town was supposed to be able to serve no fewer than 500 people.     

Our main headquarters was in Macabebe town proper, at the large vacation house of Eddie and Vangie Bonifacio, two of our own members. It was also there where all our equipment and medical supplies were stored soon after having been purchased at well-known pharmaceutical companies in Manila. It was also there where some of us spent the nights while others who could no longer be accommodated there were assigned at two other houses nearby: the house of a Dr. Glenn Mallari and the newly-built house of another Aguman member, Cris Guinto, Mina’s oldest brother.

All in all, the A.C. served six towns  — four in Pampanga (Macabebe, Lubao, Floridablanca, Masantol), one in La Union (Aringay) and one in Cebu (Boljoon). And in its intention to enhance its humanitarian work, it also gave away pairs of sandals, boxes of matches, sacks of salt to the Aetas living in the outskirts of Porac, in barrio Sapang Uwak, which was in the foothills of the Zambales mountain ranges.  Likewise, it delivered rice, canned goods, etc. in plastic bags to people in abject poverty and living in squatter areas. To three towns, it also donated 60 books for distribution to their schools that are now in full swing teaching the vernacular in the primary grades.

Each of the towns that were served had a different  type of venue for the mission. For instance, in Masantol, it was done in a newly-built covered court which was a good thing, because it was raining heavily on that day we were there. In Macabebe, it was in the social hall of an exclusive private school, the Colegio de San Lorenzo. In Lubao, it was at the spacious Pineda Sports Arena, just a stone’s throw away from the municipal building. In Floridablanca, it was held in the outdoor, at a playground in front of a rural school about three kilometers from the poblacion. In Aringay, it was in a community hall owned by the the parish church there. In Boljoon, it was in a large hall used for public gatherings.

The system we followed was practically the same all throughout for each and every town. We went to each as early as six o’clock in the morning to continue with the set-up work already started the day before by the local volunteers, and wind up at around three or four o’clock in the afternoon. The tables and chairs were arranged in such a way as to provide a smooth flow as the patients had to comply with a step-by-step procedure. Two lines cordoned by yellow ribbons were formed  – one for those with general medical needs, and the other, just for those with dental needs. Usually, there were local physicians and dentists volunteering their services in addition to the ones we had either hired or brought with us from the U.S.  Medical supplies were conveniently arranged on a long table behind which were the people assigned to handle prescription service. Everything had to be as much as possible convenient to everyone involved. For instance, it was easy to distinguish the volunteers from the patients in that they were provided with free t-shirts and caps (with the Aguman insignia in them) which they were so proud to wear.

Patients were usually served with something to eat or drink while seated and waiting in line for their turns to be attended to. In some places such as in Masantol, they were served with snacks composed of bananas, muffins, boiled eggs and fruit juice. In each location, the people were given reading glasses, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, as well as oral instruction on how to brush the teeth the proper way. There were corners set up for those wanting their blood pressure checked. In most locations there were also local massage therapists on hand and volunteering their services to the patients. It was a picture of community cooperation at work.

The data below shows the breakdown in the number of patients served in each of the towns the Aguman served. The first figure is for medical and then followed by the one for dental, and total per town:  

Macabebe, Pampanga 620+240 860
Lubao, Pampanga 445+201 646
Floridablanca, Pampanga 362+106 468
Masantol, Pampanga 477+142 619
Aringay, La Union 414+71 485
Bolijoon 1,110+273 1,383
Grand Total   4,461

Prior to the launching of the medical mission project, the Aguman was able to get a permit from the health department of the Philippine government. It had to conform with the requirements as provided by newly-enacted regulations being strictly enforced on all foreign groups doing medical missions to the country. 

All mission delegates paid for their own fare to and from the Philippines, and took care of their personal traveling expenses while there.  They also paid for their own food and lodging. A separate financial report shall be made in due time and which shall include the itemized expenses incurred by the group in the pursuance of its mission.

Modesty aside, I feel proud and competent enough to say that the Aguman, small though it may be, has once again carved a niche in the field of humanitarian work. The teamwork demonstrated by its members along with the indefatigable effort they made to successfully carry out their mission is something to be awed and cheered!  It has been actually receiving compliments upon compliments from the people of the towns they served, and from some friends right here in our local community. Even to those that just joined us for the first time in such an endeavor, the experience they had was, in every way,  supercalifragilisticexpialidoc ious!  For to them the experience was very rewarding. It gave them a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment in having been able to touch the lives of those in need and make a difference.

And for this, we’d like to thank all those who, in one way or another, helped us carry out with flying colors this ninth medical mission. Valderee! Valderah!

Mr. Ernie Turla

Founder, Aguman Capampangan NW USA)