Community Services & MEDICAL MISSIONS

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

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2016 MEDIA

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2016 NEWS


Rhode Island-based Humanitarian Group Returns from 2016 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 12th annual medical mission in the Philippines from February 25 to 29.  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, Europe, Middle East and Philippine-based volunteers, and local private and public doctors, nurses and dentists. 

The Southern Palawan barangays or towns of Panalingaan, Rizal and Kulandanum, Bataraza are home to a mix of indigenous people including Palaw'ans, Tagbanuas, Tao’t Bato (cave dwellers) and Muslims.  Many of 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 3,000 people, some 1,300 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.  Dental care included multiple teeth extractions for each dental patient seen.  Malaria screenings, optical checkups, circumcisions and haircuts were also provided.

The group president Cecilia Heredia praises its partners in the mission. Johnson Tan of Tan Lin & Ng Oh Tee Foundation of Manila, and Retired Colonel Neil Estrella donated half of the medicine and wheelchairs.  Through the 12th Marine Battalion of the 3rd Philippine Marines Brigade, the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Navy’s Naval Forces West gave its full support to the mission by providing security and transporting medicine and supplies.  The Philippine National Police sent a dental team.  Local government units coordinated the movement of patients and provided the treatment areas.

The billeting areas in the mining town of Rio Tuba were more than five hours away by land transportation from Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan Island.  From there, the treatment sites were about an hour away.  As had happened in past missions, the organizers had to turn down volunteer doctors, dentists and nurses because of limited transportation. 

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.  He committed to coming to next year's mission with his wife, also a physician from Lisbon.  Dr. Bobby Umandap from the Middle East will again join next year's mission.  Dr. Willie Nakpil from Manila recently retired as a military surgeon and will be back too.  US-based volunteers Larry Soriano from Newport, Dee St Denis from Fall River, and Leo and Reggie Jr. Soriano of Seattle were able to join the mission in spite of the winter’s unpredictable flights.  Ulf Lindelow and Rachel Hansen from Sweden also volunteered.  Marc Marfil, a nurse came from the Middle East to join his wife and veteran Ces Sabban-Marfil, also a nurse.  Ces and Villa Halo coordinated the pharmacy.  They were joined by nurses Joylyn Duhilag and Karen Alejaga.

Other yearly volunteers included Mon Covarrubias and Bing Diones from Zamboanga; and Team Palawan of Retired Colonel Romulo and Lyang Gualdrapa and Colonel Dominic and Monsie Conta.  Former The Outstanding Pilipino Soldiers (TOPS) awardees, Retired Lieutenant General Sabban and Philippine Navy Adjutant Colonel Hernanie Songano, donated sacks of rice, slippers and school supplies on behalf of the Metrobank Foundation, Inc.  Additional medicine and supplies came from Lingkod Timog funds and supporters who responded to last-minute appeals, such as surgical supplies and donation from Dr. Maria Petrillo-Bolanos of Portsmouth, and contributions from Bent and Myrna Blondal of Newport, Myra Taghap Deus of Ireland and Fr. John O’Brien of St. Lucy’s Church in Middletown.  Butch Chase of Puerto Princesa's Kinabuch Grill gave food for the patients. 

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 23,000 Badjaos and Samals in Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu; Mandayas, Kalagans and Lumads in Davao; Tagbanuas, Palaw'ans 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.

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