|Posted by beghc on March 6, 2011 at 1:27 AM|
For a seemingly short period that i was with the BENGUET GENERAL HOSPITAL, I'd come to know and joined this small group of proactive, selfless employees and individuals ready to extend and reach out a Voluntary Medical & Dental Mission in the remotest sitios and barangays of the Benguet Province. Headed by the persuasively energetic Lady Dr. PAZ CAMDAS, this highly-spirited group organizes and conducts annual medical outreach activities in the most distant and secluded areas of the province. Unnoticed by other groups and politicians, these helpful individuals have been conducting charitable works for years without any political motive and support. With only the enthusiasm to reach out and sustain the limited health services in the province due to apparent distance and unfeasible road access to these remote areas, they have come up with this excellent idea of extending out their free services whilst at the same time promoting and enlivening to the student-participants and other volunteers the awareness of cultural interaction, and the wonders of the Benguet ecology.
Admittedly, my initial purpose in joining the group was selfish - to somehow slake my thirst for travel and adventure and to beat the dull routinary office work. But after experiencing the satisfaction and innate joy of tolerance and generosity in this voluntary work, the warm welcome and smiles traced on the faces of the people you're helping was in some way emotionally and spiritually elating.
Traveling to these remote places is not an easy task. Oftentimes we have to trudge dense jungle swarmed with blood-sucking leeches, climb and descend vertical rock faces of precarious mountains. The real excitement and thrill you’ll experience in these freestyle rock climbing and jungle endurance, Benguet style, are both a combination of those Hollywood movies you’ve seen like Stallone’s Cliffhanger and Harrison Ford’s Adventures of Indiana Jones... Okay, this may be an exaggeration but it’s definitely close to it.The toiling hours to trek and reach these remote areas will take an average hiker about 10-hours of leg-straining and calf-cramping journey. An exhausting and challenging daily routine the local residents have to endure whenever they leave and return to their domicile. But along the way you will come to experience and feel the buzz of being with mother nature. The fresh grass-and-pine-scent breeze under your nose, the cool shade under the old pine trees, the exquisite sight of wild flowers, that cold and satisfying tang of fresh stream water, etcetera etcetera… and not to mention, that prickly stroke of sun on your nape. And while you're traversing on top of the mountain ridges you can witness the exquisite grandeur of the Benguet grand Cordillera mountains. We oftentimes cross paths with some of the local residents on their way either to market their farm products or buy something they need for another week's or month's ration. Asking them for an estimated distance or time it will take to reach your destination is quite deceiving as they will always reply.."asideg, dita laeng bangir ti bantay...mano lang nga minutos"(it's near, just on the other side of the mountain...just for a few minutes). Renewed after a very long travel, you're hoping and expecting to emerge into or see a small village after passing a few bends only to find out that you still have to navigate down and up several elevated and towering mountains.
FOOD and The COMMUNITY
Reaching our destination and enjoy a refreshing drink are what we are looking forward to at every end of our long journey. and as we arrive at each community we are always welcomed by the residents. You can always notice those familiar modest smiles traced on their faces. All communities we've been through are constantly hospitable, always willing to join them in their dining and offer a space in their home to sleep at night. Most of the time we are offered the well known local wine (made out of rice and yeasts) called 'Tapey' and "Basi" (made from sugar cane) an offer you can't refuse and where most of the guys look forward to. Not to forget the steaming sweet potatos or cassava cooked right from the open fire and those fresh delectable bananas (Peter's favorite) perfectly ripened on its own tree. In all the medical missions that i joined, they willingly pool their resources and do all the back-straining hauling of all the supplies we needed, and as dictated by our friendly culture, sacrifice a pig or a dog for us to feasts with the local elders and the whole community. In the early morning you can enjoy the fresh smell and taste of brewed coffee or mountain tea in every household. You can always expect a cup of coffee every after meal.
I am not really certain as to what drove Dr. Paz Camdas to exert such a selfless effort to reach out and alleviate the adversity of medical or health access to these secluded areas. But one thing for sure, I am more than thankful that there are still people like her. Just as the smile can easily brighten one's day, so is the act of giving and sharing. The number of volunteers can reach more than 50 individuals per mission. Sometimes the number is limited to a reasonable number of participants due to transport limitations. Hospital employees composed of Doctors, Nurses and Nursing Attendants, Dentists, Medical Technologists, Physical Therapists, Social Workers, Engineering and Administrative staff, University Teachers and Students from Nursing or other courses; various individuals with diverse work professions working together in one common goal. The outreach program is concentrated in the safe and friendly (with no political pressure or implication) delivery of free medical checkup and treatment, dental services, medicines, circumcision, physical therapy, school supplies and used clothings. Patients with acute illness or symptoms and who require further diagnosis are advised to join us on our return trip to the hospital and undergo further medical and laboratory examinations. They don't have to worry about hospital expenses as they will be categorized as indigent patients and their bills will be charged from a special fund. Other illnesses which require special attention are further referred to specialists.
Pulling all these resources together is a huge task that Dr. Camdas has to oversee. Packing and sorting out all the supplies alone is a huge responsibility (to which i regret that i was not able to effectively provide my time and help) that Cornelio Comom (whom I often saw) and other volunteers, sometimes Crispin Natividad for this matter, have to willingly perform in between their work shifts. Mosts supplies, if not all, arrived through donations from employees, friends, associates, students, other helpful individuals, business establishments and non-profit organizations, etcetera, etcetera. Sourced and initiated by Dr. Camdas every supply or item is temporarily stored at the BeGH and later sorted and packed accordingly. She will soon coordinate it to be transported and hauled to our planned destination a day before the team's arrival. For sure the group is now getting ready for another outreach activity or perhaps they are already there along the way sweating and enduring the long hours of trek, blissful of their God-given opportunity to reach-out and serve. This activity indeed will help one build a positive character worthy of commendation and appreciation. The experience, adventure and excitement will always live through me and I am looking forward to join the same group some time in the future.
***additional inputs are welcome***
Posted by Jipre B. Estong