Community Services & MEDICAL MISSIONS

Serving the Poor (501c3 U.S. non-profit)

71 Miantonomi Ave., Middletown, RI 02842 U.S.A.
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2014 NEWS


US-Based Humanitarian Group Returns from 2014 Medical Mission in the Philippines

The Rhode Island-based humanitarian group “Lingkod Timog” that translates to “Serving the poor in the Southern Philippines” recently returned from its 10th annual medical mission in the Philippines from February 21 to 25.  The group provided medical, surgical and dental care to Mandaya tribal patients in Andap, New Bataan in Compostela Valley Province.  They then travelled to Madaum, in Tagum City, Davao del Norte to treat mostly tribal Kalagans.  Rhode Islanders Cecilia (Cely) and Armando (Doy) Heredia led the medical mission. 

The first mission site, Andap is meaningful to Armando Heredia.  He was President of the Filipino-American Association of Newport County two years ago when it donated funds to help the victims of Typhoon Pablo whose residents were buried in a mudslide.  He saw the scene of the tragedy and the will of the people to rebuild.

The group president Cecilia Heredia praises its partners in the mission.  The Tuazon Development Foundation brought medical personnel and conducted a blood drive.  Johnson Ng Tan of the Tan Lin & Ng Oh Tee Foundation of Manila donated a major part of the medicine.  Hijo Plantation ensured transportation and administrative support.  The Philippine Navy’s Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao transported medicine and supplies and its Naval Station Hospital and Dental Dispensary in Panacan augmented the volunteers with medical and dental teams.  The Philippine National Police in Compostela Valley, and the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division ensured security.

As had happened in the 2013 mission, the organizers had to turn down volunteer doctors, dentists and nurses because of limited transportation.  On average, they only had five doctors, one of them doubling as surgeon, and three dentists.  Based on the ailments, some 1,500 patients were giving medical, surgical or dental care.  Cecilia is the music teacher at St Philomena School in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and a Companion in Mission of the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ).  St Philomena School also raises funds through Broadway musicals for the Development Center projects of the Sisters FCJ in Manila for indigent women, and for the victims of calamities such as that brought about by the recent super typhoon Haiyan.

Nurse and Executive Director Irene Covarrubias Sabban coordinated the volunteer doctors, dentists and nurses as well as security and support personnel.  The mission team included US, Europe and Philippine-based volunteers, local private and public doctors and Philippine military doctors, nurses and dentists. 

To Dr Andrew Wilner of Newport, Rhode Island, the group’s medical director, the mission is “always a wonderful opportunity to help Filipinos in need of medical care, and to enjoy meeting them and learning a little bit about their lives”.  A seven-time volunteer, neurologist, and medical author, Dr. Wilner combines the medical mission with his writing, diving and passion for underwater photography.  He is also in demand as a lecturer in Manila’s many medical schools.

Dr. Tiago Villanueva Marques, whose mother is from the Philippines, is a repeat volunteer to the medical mission.  He is a family physician from Lisbon, Portugal, and a writer working in the British Medical Journal.  Referring to the challenges when serving some female patients in a mostly Muslim community, he “had to request consent from the husband before examining them, while others were fully covered so you could not just examine them.”

Dee St. Denis of Fall River, President of the Filipino-American Community of South Coast, Massachusetts, and her sister, Rachel Hansen from Stockholm, Sweden, were completely immersed in the back-breaking pharmacy work.  Rachel, who publishes “Roots & Wings”, the Filipino magazine in Europe, documented the mission for future publication.  Both see the mission as a “rewarding yet humbling experience”. 

Nurse Ces Sabban-Marfil coordinated the pharmacy manned by yearly volunteers Villa Halo, Bing Diones, Elena Lim, and Mon Covarrubias.  Additional medicine and supplies came from Lingkod Timog funds and private donors, who responded to last-minute appeals, such as surgical supplies from Dr. Maria Petrillo-Bolanos of Portsmouth and funds from Fr. John O’Brien of St. Lucy’s Church in Middletown, Bent and Myrna Blondal of Newport, and Zaldy and Myra Taghap Deus of Portsmouth and Ireland.

This joint Lingkod Timog and the Philippine military medical mission started when retired General Juancho Sabban was with his family and studying in Newport’s US Naval War College in 2003.  The Heredia’s were their local sponsor.  Cecilia Heredia formed the group and Irene Covarrubias-Sabban coordinates the activities.  All missions involve private and government agencies, military and police, and municipal and tribal health care providers.  The tribal people see not just the foreign and Manila-based volunteers, but their own community leaders and neighbors helping them.  Lingkod Timog’s previous missions helped the Tao’t Bato cave dwellers and the Tagbanuas in Palawan; Badjaos in Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu; Lumads in Davao; and Aetas in Luzon.

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Last modified: 02/12/20