Although its primary beneficiaries were students, Tzu Chi’s two-day dental mission in Tagbilaran City opened its makeshift clinics to the general public. Fathers, mothers, and children from other schools and municipalities seek relief from their costly dental problems.
Julius Sampayan has three children studying at Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School (DCPNHS). He brought them to Tzu Chi’s two-day dental mission held in the said school, hoping to provide them with much-needed respite from their aching teeth. His irregular income of Php300 as a painter won’t cover their dental needs, much less by a private clinic in the city.
Then, the 48-year-old father learned that he, too, can be a patient.
“I have three children studying here. Two of them underwent extraction on the first day. My third was scared, so I accompanied him here. That’s when I learned that [my wife and I] can also seek dental treatment here. So, I took the opportunity to have my tooth removed,” Sampayan narrates.
Gregoria Lagare felt that the one-and-a-half hour-trip to Tagbilaran City from her hometown of Pilar was worth it. A year ago, she underwent cataract surgery on both eyes through Tzu Chi’s medical mission. Now, she wants her eight-year-old daughter Ginn Anne to benefit from the same love she received.
With her daughter suffering from tooth decay, 51-year-old Lagare can’t risk relying on painkillers or herbal medicine. Her daughter’s kidney can only take so much abuse from medication before quitting outright.
With the dental mission relieving Ginn Anne of her aching tooth, the mother’s decision to be a Tzu Chi volunteer out of gratitude is vindicated.
“I’m happy because I only spent money for the fare to Tagbilaran City. I owe Tzu Chi a great deal because not only did they help me but also my daughter,” says Lagare.
On December 9 and 10, Tzu Chi’s 325th Dental Mission at DCPNHS originally catered to the 756 students in need of extraction, cleaning, and filling. However, Tzu Chi volunteers hope to go beyond beneficiary schools. Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) dentist Raymond Lim explains that the mission plans to reach out to the remote areas of Bohol, especially the outlying islands.
“We have plans to expand the dental missions, not only for the schools but also for the outlying islands of Bohol. But for now, we’re concentrating on public schools that have little to no access to dental treatment,” says Lim.
On August this year, Tzu Chi Foundation, the Department of Education, and the Provincial Government of Bohol signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) regarding the provision of dental care to public schools in the province. Under the MoA, the local government will allocate resources and manpower to help Tzu Chi fulfill its Mission of Medicine in Bohol. This is made apparent by three dental buses and their personnel supplementing the makeshift clinics at the school. Two buses belong to the provincial government, while the third bus is operated by the city government of Tagbilaran.
Although the target beneficiaries are public schools, Tzu Chi’s medical mandate applies to any person suffering. In her Jing Si (Still Thoughts) aphorisms, Dharma Master Cheng Yen says that “the healthy should look after the sick” and “the untroubled should look after the suffering.” Tzu Chi volunteers aim to bring relief to all walks of life, students and more.
Making the most
For such missions to benefit more people, Tzu Chi volunteers seek faster ways of doing things. During the dental mission, some patients don’t realize that their teeth need no treatment other than proper oral hygiene. Best friends Justine Jane Ajoc and Jonavia Maliumas, Grade 9 at DCPNHS, hope to have their yellow teeth cleaned.
“But they told me that it wasn’t necessary because it was clean as it was and was free of cavities,” Ajoc explains.
TIMA dentist Yvonne Gascon went around the waiting area checking the patients’ teeth one by one. She sent some home because their teeth didn’t warrant any treatment. She also referred others to the proper clinic.
“I perform diagnostic checks among the students, which is a requirement for every mission. More patients can be treated this way, as well as inform them the type of treatment they must seek,” Gascon explains.
The diagnostic checks benefit both the dentists and patients. Gascon’s fellow TIMA dentists don’t have to spend hours checking for ailments that don’t exist or hardly warrant a thorough treatment. At the same time, cleared patients can give their slots to others who need the free dental care more.
A total of 44 patients (not included in the total) were deferred, as they have healthy teeth.
“I’m glad that our schoolmates and othe people have benefitted from this dental mission, especially those who can’t afford cleaning and extraction,” says Maliumas.
For Gascon, her participation is a late family member’s dream realized.
“My father is from Maribojoc, Bohol, so I feel privileged to be of service to the constituents of Bohol. He was a dentist but didn’t practice. Although he’s no longer with us, my generation can continue his legacy by serving the people here. I made his dream come true,” she narrates.