LINGKOD TIMOG

Community Services & MEDICAL MISSIONS

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

71 Miantonomi Ave., Middletown, RI 02842 U.S.A.
 +1.401.848.0622    www.lingkodtimog.com   lingkodtimog@gmail.com
 
   
 
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2015 MEDIA

2015 PHOTOS (click to view)

    2015 MEDICAL MISSION PHOTOS

    2015 AMBASSADOR CUISIA OCT 26 VISIT FLYER

2015 NEWS

MARCH 2015 NEWSLETTER

Rhode Island-based Humanitarian Group Returns from 2015 Philippines Medical Mission

The Rhode Island-based humanitarian group “Lingkod Timog” that translates to “Serving the poor in the Southern Philippines” recently returned from its 11th annual medical mission in the Philippines from February 20 to 25.  The group provided medical, surgical and dental care to tribal communities in southern Palawan Island. 

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, Canada, Europe and Philippine-based volunteers, local private and public doctors and Philippine military doctors, nurses and dentists. 

The Southern Palawan barangays or villages of Ocayan, Rio Tuba in Batarasa and Culasian in Rizal, are home to a mix of indigenous people including Tagbanuas, Tao’t Bato (cave dwellers) and Muslims.  Those seeking treatment walked for miles to reach the announced mission sites, or to the pickup points where trucks were waiting to transport them.  After screening, more than 1,400 patients were attended to by the volunteers.  Most of the reported medical ailments were upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract problems, skin ailments, and elevated blood pressure, blood sugar and eye problems.  Care included multiple teeth extractions for each dental patient seen.

The group president Cecilia Heredia praises its partners in the mission.  Johnson Ng Tan joined the mission with his son and their Tan Lin & Ng Oh Tee Foundation of Manila donated half of the medicine.  The Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines gave its full support for the mission and its doctors, dentists and nurses helped provide medical care.  The Philippine Navy’s Naval Forces West and the 3rd Philippine Marines Brigade ensured security and transported medicine and supplies.  Local government units coordinated the movement of patients and provided the treatment areas.

The treatment sites were more than five hours away by land transportation from Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan Island.  As had happened in past missions, the organizers had to turn down volunteer doctors, dentists and nurses because of limited transportation.  Other volunteers from Newport and Fall River were not able to join the mission because of the past winter’s blizzards. 

Dr Andrew Wilner of Newport, Rhode Island, is the group’s medical director.  An eight-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 is London-based as an Assistant Editor of the British Medical Journal. 

Marc, a nurse came from the Middle East to join his wife and veteran Ces Sabban-Marfil, also a nurse.  Villa Halo coordinated the pharmacy and other yearly volunteers included Mon Covarrubias, Bing Diones and Irene Pallir.  Second-year volunteers Cleo and nurse Vivian Erfe came from Virginia with nurses Helen Gaitana of Canada and Rose Perico of Virginia who have joined medical missions organized by other groups in the past.  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, Bent and Myrna Blondal of Newport, and Myra Taghap Deus of Portsmouth and Ireland.  Through Fr. John O’Brien, St. Lucy’s Church in Middletown provided the venue for fundraising.

This joint Lingkod Timog and the Philippine military medical mission started when retired Lieutenant General Juancho Sabban was with his family and studying in Newport’s U.S. Naval War College in 2003, and Retired Philippine Navy Captain Armando Heredia and wife, Cecilia were their local sponsors.  Cecilia Heredia formed the group and Irene Covarrubias-Sabban coordinates the activities.  General Sabban, who had been Commandant of the Philippine Marines and Commander, Western Command, and Captain Heredia are active advisers.  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 missions have helped more than 20,000 Badjaos and Samals in Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu; Lumads in Davao; Tagbanuas and Tao’t Bato in Palawan, and Aetas in Luzon.

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.

For more information, to join or to donate, visit www.medmission.info or www.lingkodtimog.com or find us on our public page on Facebook.

 

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A Neurologist on a Medical Mission

March 09, 2015

By Andrew Wilner, MD

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For the past 8 years, I have participated in annual medical missions to rural areas of the Philippines with Lingkod Timog, a nonprofit group composed primarily of Filipino Americans. Lingkod Timog’s mission is to conduct “charitable, educational, cultural, medical, and life enrichment activities to needy areas in the Philippines.” Our group treated approximately 800 patients a day, which is typical for our makeshift clinics. I personally saw about 100 patients a day, along with my translator/assistant. In this part of the world, health expectations and standards of safety are clearly different from what most of us are used to.

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A 72-year-old man related that he had been taking antibiotics for 6 months because of a “spot on his lung.” The most likely diagnosis was tuberculosis. His lungs still sounded terrible and he was referred back to the government clinic for consideration of another course of antibiotics.

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Necessity can be the mother of invention. This man employed a bicycle pump to aerosolize ampules of salbutamol for his asthma.

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According to the parents, this 8-month-old infant was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at birth and told to wait a few months before having surgery. To date, nothing had been done. It was unclear whether this was because of lack of funds or whether the due date for the next doctor visit was still pending. Development had been grossly normal. The child’s hypertelorism and facial deformity suggested a midline developmental defect as opposed to pure uncomplicated hydrocephalus, but without neuroimaging it was just a guess. The parents were encouraged to follow up at a regional hospital.

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This elderly woman had experienced sudden speech loss with complete mutism without any other apparent neurologic deficit. I asked her to stretch out her arms and elicited some drift on the right, suggesting that she may have had a stroke in Broca’s area in the left frontal lobe. In my neurologic practice in the US, she would have received an ECG, brain MRI, and carotid ultrasound at a minimum. If the lesion was ischemic rather than hemorrhagic, she would receive antiplatelet therapy. In this case, without any technology, I was at a total loss and referred her to the local hospital.

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This man works in the rice fields all day without shoes. Unfortunately, we did not have any skin creams this year and were unable to treat patients with severe skin ailments.

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With the help of military physicians and local health workers, we were able to provide medical, dental, and surgical services, as well as haircuts and circumcisions. Here, we are preparing a blood smear for malaria testing.

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8 people on one motorcycle . . . clearly unsafe transportation—and no helmets.

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Since 2004, Lingkod Timog has performed annual medical missions with the assistance of the Philippine Armed Forces in diverse areas of the Philippines. Here, the Armed Forces help unload medical supplies.

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Lingkod Timog volunteers at Culasian, Rizal, Palawan.

 

 

For the past 8 years, I have participated in annual medical missions to rural areas of the Philippines with Lingkod Timog, a nonprofit group composed primarily of Filipino Americans. Lingkod Timog, translated as “Service to the South,” is composed of volunteers with no paid administrative overhead. This structure allows us to dedicate all fund-raising toward the purchase of medicines to distribute during medical missions. Lingkod Timog’s mission is to conduct “charitable, educational, cultural, medical, and life enrichment activities to needy areas in the Philippines. We strive to alleviate poverty while strengthening relations between the Philippines and the United States.” Volunteers come from the US, Philippines, Portugal, and Sweden.

History of Lingkod Timog

Lingkod Timog was created in 2004 by Irene Sabban and Cecilia Heredia, both wives of Filipino military officers who wanted to help tribal people in the Philippines. Since then, the group has performed annual medical missions with the assistance of the Philippine Armed Forces in diverse areas of the Philippines, including rural areas of Mindanao Island (Basilan, Davao, Zamboanga) and several locations on Palawan Island (Bataraza, Coron, Rizal). In these regions, health expectations and standards of safety are clearly different from what most of us are used to. Our missions are scheduled months in advance in cooperation with local governments and not in response to natural or man-made disasters. I have written about our missions here, here, and here.

Mission 2015

This year, our group of 22 members flew from Manila to Puerto Princessa, the capital of the island province of Palawan. We then drove by convoy to the southernmost region of the island, stopping at a Marine base along the way. We visited this same region in 2012. Last time, the drive took more than 6 hours and was punctuated by a minor traffic accident due to a giant pothole. On this trip, it took only 5 hours, since more of the narrow road had been paved. Over the next 2 days, we performed clinics in 2 locations; Barangay Culasian, Rizal, and Barangay Ocayan, Bataraza. We were joined by military physicians and local health workers, which enabled us to provide medical, dental, and surgical services, as well as malaria screening, haircuts, and circumcisions.

Security

Most of our mission locations are far from “civilization” and unsafe for the casual traveler because of the presence of rebel groups and virtual absence of police protection. The Philippine Armed Forces, including Marines, Navy, and Army, provide Lingkod Timog with logistic support and security. The Philippines has no shortage of rebel groups, such as Abu Sayyaf, the New People’s Army (NPA), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). The presence of these lawless groups hinders development of infrastructure in these rural areas, thereby perpetuating poverty and limiting access to social services. Thanks to our military escort, I have been privileged to visit rural areas that would be off limits to a tourist because of real threats of kidnappings. To date, we have never had a security incident, most likely because of our extensive preparation in cooperation with local authorities and overwhelming military presence during the missions. Our medical efforts are performed in concert with the military’s peaceful outreach programs.

 

Medical Clinic

Our group treated approximately 800 patients a day, which is typical for our makeshift clinics. I personally saw about 100 patients a day, along with my translator/assistant, Irene Pallir. Histories are complicated because many patients do not speak Tagalog, the national Filipino language, but rather a regional dialect, in this case, “Native Palawan.” Needless to say, patients receive an abbreviated history and physical exam. Although I keep my own notes, there is no formal visit documentation. If the patient has an illness for which we have a medication, they receive a prescription and are sent to our “pharmacy,” where they receive free medication and instructions.

Typical prescriptions are antibiotics for urinary tract infections; antihistamines and decongestants for children’s colds; analgesics for aches, pains, and headaches; and a month’s worth of antihypertensives for high blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure is common, with many patients relying on herbal medications of unproven value. (I suspect that many early deaths in this population due to myocardial infarction and disability due to stroke could be averted if high blood pressure were consistently controlled.) Unfortunately, we did not have any skin creams this year and were unable to treat patients with severe skin ailments.

Given the rudimentary nature of our clinic and limited supplies, many patients receive insufficient diagnostic investigations or treatment. I often have to balance my frustration regarding the inadequacy of our services with the rationale that our clinics are better than nothing at all, often the alternative for these tribal people. When we do identify a problem that needs further evaluation, patients are referred to local facilities or the military hospital.

Medical missions with Lingkod Timog provide a glimpse into the health care needs of tribal peoples in the Philippines. Although there is much that we cannot deliver during a brief mission, we do provide clinical evaluations, minor surgical procedures, teeth extraction, malaria screening, and antibiotics and other treatments. It is my impression that “laying on of hands” offers encouragement and hope. Eventually, as local infrastructure improves, our medical missions will no longer be necessary. I hope I live to see the day.

[Note: My assistant, who speaks fluent Tagalog, does much of the communication with patients on our missions. Patients are routinely asked for their permission to use their photographs.]


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