It will be a summer to remember.
When I cast the vision for Camiguin Norte in 2011, I never set however the moment of its fulfillment. For deep in my heart “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV).
The goal has always been to be a channel of blessings for the people of Camiguin Norte. By choosing to do works that matter, it should also be done in a sustainable and transformational way. Bringing in assistance and implementing projects to Camiguin Norte should be anchored on these two principles.
Adopting the island as a base for series of short-, medium-, and long-term projects was easy and intuitive. Its geographical location made it very appealing and challenging.
I sounded off my desire and plans to some of my relatives and friends and thankfully they were receptive and willing to help.
To test the waters, we delivered school supplies to Camiguin Norte in June last year. It was an eye opening experience. Of the over 300 beneficiaries who were enrolled from prep to grade 2, some of them came from the hinterlands who walked over two hours just get a gift pack. A nursing mother had to carry her a month-old baby on one hand and hold her six-year old son on the other, walked for four hours to reach my place in Barangay Balatubat.
So, I hatched the plan to launch several activities to be simultaneously held during the Holy Week. Initially, it would be dental mission, vacation bible school, and natural farming training. I even considered holding a mini baseball camp; but the person who I wanted to spearhead this was unavailable.
Indeed, sometimes one deliberate act can lead to diverse positive results.
The wheels in motion
Although I kept the project under the radar, as early as November several of my former guests pledged to support financially it. The commitments intensified my faith and convictions.
For the dental team, it was easy to organize as I delegated the task to my niece, Bernadette Abad, to engage the services of her friends and fellow alumni of the University of the East College of Dentistry. From the get go, we were already talking about of bringing in ten dentists.
As for the VBS teachers and natural farming training, I already pinpointed the right people. Jhie Garcia, who has been training farmers here and abroad, readily agreed when I broached the idea of conducting a natural farming seminar in the island.
Other friends and relatives committed to chip in to the project. Indeed, the provisions were pouring in. One of the first donors, Doc Carol Sagay was willing to bring her team of doctors and surgeons to the mission. It was just that the duration of the project was unfavorable to their schedule. She however committed to join to another medical mission that I will be organizing. Thankfully though, one of my close high school friends, Doc Fe Sanchez volunteered herself and her husband, Doc Bobot. Such was a huge relief! And they were a big help during the outreach.
Then yet another close friend from high school helped me to get the needed medicines. On D-Day, Roselle Co brought with her ten boxes of medicines that we gave away during the outreach. Two guests from my March 2017 Camiguin Norte Expedition and Whale Watching Trip also helped in. Doc Yayo gave 200 dental kits (tooth paste and toothbrush) while Doc Belinda donated 300 pairs of slippers.
My best friend Carliver delos Santos who has been based in the UK with his family contacted his college buddy Leonardo Jurado II to also take part in this outreach. They were college classmates with the barangay captain of Balatubat, Gina Escalante. Leo donated boxes of medicines.
It proved that a simple invite threw open doors that were formerly barricaded.
On April 9, I brought to Camiguin Norte the first outreach team which was composed of two medical doctors, six dentists, a midwife, six VBS teachers, a natural farming trainor, and four support staff. It was a big contingent by any means. And with it came a huge responsibility on my part as the project leader.
The medical and dental mission and vacation bible school started on April 10. Upon the request of the barangay captain, the natural farming began the next day. With the kind assistance of the Balatubat Elementary School administration, we held the activities in five of their rooms. Several of the barangay tanods and health workers as well as the Coast Guard assigned in the island assisted the team.
Scripting the outreach that I envisioned to see
Although hordes of people trooped to Balatubat, I was looking for more beneficiaries. The goal of the project was to reach out to as many as we can possibly and physically can. We have already gone the extra miles to be there anyway.
And so during the second day of the outreach, I asked the barangay captain of Naguilian if I can bring the team and hold outreach there following day. It just dawned on me it would be a lot easier for us to go there than those people from far flung sitios to go to Balatubat. I only asked her to arrange the transportation, the venue, the support group, and if possible the food for the team. Immediately, she mobilized her officials and staff to get it going.
Such was proven to be a wise move that we nearly equaled the number of beneficiaries in Balatubat.
The inside stories
The outreach was no easy task but I was operating on faith, favors, wisdom and grace of the Almighty Lord. Admittedly, this was the first ever medical and dental mission that I organized. And having it done simultaneously with two other activities, surely the challenge and pressure were a bit bigger.
Days leading to our trip, I was unsure if we could cross Babuyan Channel as scheduled. Weather can change abruptly for the better or the worse. On April 9, we safely crossed the Channel on the calmest of all voyages that I have ever gone to Camiguin Norte. While the outreach was ongoing, there were a lot of things running in my mind. One of which was our return trip back to mainland Luzon and to Manila. That Good Friday, the weather had gone bad. The specter of being stranded for a day or two was building a pressure on me. So were the members of the team.
By the morning Black Saturday, the weather had turned out for the better and Coast Guard allowed us to travel. But the boat captain that initially agreed to ferry us back to Aparri informed me that he won’t be sailing. I immediately looked for another boat and two hours and a few calls later, we found another vessel. It left Balatubat at around 11:30AM; never left Camiguin Norte that late! But nevertheless it was yet another smooth ride and we were at Aparri Delta by 4PM. Dirty, famished and all, we were thankful that we were finally back in the mainland!
While still on the boat and midway to Aparri, Roselle and I were making frantic calls to Victory Liner, beseeching them if they can accommodate the 15 of us in any Manila-bound bus. It was just a wise move that as soon as we arrived Aparri, I looked for a van that would bring us to Tuguegarao City.
At first, we were supposed to leave Tuguegarao at 4AM the next day. We were okay with that. Then came the news that our trip will be at 7AM. So, I hurriedly was looking for accommodation via Agoda and AirBNB. But then, Roselle called me up that we can leave Tuguegarao via Victory Liner at 8PM! Whew! So I told the van driver that we should be at the terminal before 8PM. Upon arriving at the terminal, we quickly boarded the bus. Finally! My heart and mind were settled! Never that I had a trip to Camiguin Norte that it went as scheduled. This was the first time!
They work best when they care the most
As the project leader, it was such a great blessing to be joined by eager, passionate, and dedicated team from diverse cultures and background. One of the other goals was to open avenues for them to take part in nation-building in the form of community services. It was achieved and hopefully it will awaken in them the love for country and sense of community and commonality. Surely, the summer of 2017 will leave an imprint in their lives.
Considering the financial, logistical and manpower requirements and the geographical and weather dependence of the outreach, indeed it was all by the Lord’s grace and favors that it ended up as a huge success.
Definitely, the outreach project was well worth all the hassles, stresses, anxieties, time, resources, and efforts. To use the little influence I possess and harness it to serve communities and readily becoming a vessel of blessing is part of my DNA and my value system.
Meet The Team:
- Medical – Drs. Fe and Ronaldo Sanchez, Beth Cabanlong
- Dental – Drs. Bernadette Abad, Lorecel Bautista, Ingrid Chico, Jessica Dela Cruz, Portia Galano, Jacqueline Li
- Vacation Bible School – Roma Padua, Roselle Co, Corina Competente, Danielle Zamudio, Dave Pugat, Paul Pugat
- Natural Farming – Jhie Garcia
- Support Group – Mike and Inez Rodriguez, Doris Nuval, Neil Neyra
- Prayer Warriors – Jeremiah Abalos, Beda Apostol, Cathy Contrevida, Him Uy DeBarron, Arnold and Lira Dimayuga, Evangeline Fesalbon, Japs and June Sy, TMFI
- Donors – Dr. Belinda Aducal, George Alvarado and family, Edwin Cano and family, Jenelyn Carbonell, Carliver Delos Santos and family, Jennifer Delos Santos, Juvy Del Rosario and family, Marivic Esquibel, Dr. Maria Leah Imperio, Aaron Interior and family, Leonardo Jurado II, Brennan Mercado, Evelyn Paculaba, Joeven Peja, Mat Piamonte and family, Eva Plasencia, Carmina Reyes, Alona Sagay, Dr. Carol Sagay, Marjorie Sagay, Joel Tagabuhin