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Medical mission champions poor’s right to health

October 26, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

Fresh gauze wraps the spot on Carlos Deguinion’s left hand where his three cysts used to be. He’s fortunate to have undergone surgery without spending a single centavo, courtesy of Tzu Chi’s three-day medical mission in Tacloban City. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • Medical missions greatly benefit families living below the poverty threshold. Tzu Chi’s three-day mission at Tacloban City attracted nearly 2,000 people from all over the city and Eastern Visayas, eager to receive treatment they couldn’t otherwise afford.


Deep in the seaside slums of Barangay Anibong, the Montaño homestead welcomes a visiting local Tzu Chi volunteer. Air has only one way in and out of the house, through the lone window by the front door. This causes a slew of problems, namely the health of the family’s six children.

The youngest, 4-month-old May, has colds. The second youngest, 3-year-old Juvelyn, not only has colds but also has inflamed eyes. The third youngest, 4-year-old Joana, also suffers from colds and coughing. The three had gone to Tzu Chi’s 236th Medical Mission on October 26 to seek treatment, which they received free of charge.

When the volunteer, Catherine Tiu, visited their home, she saw the fourth youngest, 8-year-old Romnic, bedridden with fever. She and the mother Belinda gave him a sponge bath to help cool his body.

“The Montaño residence has inadequate ventilation. As for their food, as they explained, they only feast on watery porridge. The husband only earns Php1,500 in a week. How can a family live on Php1,500 a week, especially when the wife has no job?” said Tiu in an interview.

For families living below the poverty line, medical missions like Tzu Chi’s three-day mission at Leyte Progressive High School are a godsend. Treatment via hospitals are simply out of their reach, given their meager income. The case of the Montaño siblings is a clear example of the vicious cycle of poverty: not enough income means diseases go untreated over time.

“It’s very important for the family because of their situation. They don’t have enough money to buy medicine or hospitalization. Tzu Chi really helps them a lot; it’s really important to them. They set aside their other priorities just to come here to this free medical service,” said social worker Ruth Nuevo, who discovered the family’s situation and referred them to Tzu Chi.

“I’m grateful to Tzu Chi for their help. I hope that my children’s eyesight can be restored somehow,” Belinda thanked.

The first day of Tzu Chi’s medical mission saw nearly 2,000 patients from all over Tacloban and parts of Eastern Visayas treated. Services include pediatrics, general medicine, ophthalmology, dentistry, minor surgery, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Never again

Carlos Deguinion left home in the predawn hours of the first day. From the town of Taft, Eastern Samar, he resided in his daughter’s house just across the mission venue for the meantime.

Ten years ago, he was out fishing when one of the fish’s bones embedded itself deep in his left hand. The wound itself was too small for him to take seriously. But when the wound began to swell, he immediately sought medical attention. As soon as his daughter heard of the medical mission, he jumped on the opportunity.

“I couldn’t continue fishing anymore because [the cyst] had gotten too painful. So I’m just taking care of animals to this day,” narrated Deguinion, who also added that he also harvests copra for a living.

Despite being delayed due to his high blood pressure, the surgery proceeded as planned. A fresh layer of gauze now protects the wound where the three cysts on his hand used to be. Even better, he didn’t have to spend a single centavo.

“I’m grateful that I wouldn’t have to spend money. Otherwise, I would have to wait to save enough and be able to seek treatment,” he said.

  • The morning of the medical mission’s opening day on October 26 attracted a wave of people. Most are from all over Tacloban, while a few others have made the journey from parts of Eastern Visayas just to benefit from free medical treatment. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The three cysts on Carlos Deguinion’s left hand stem from fish bones that got embedded into his skin ten years ago. Because of this, his days of fishing are long behind him. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • TIMA pediatrician Cheng Ching-feng checks four-month-old May Montaño’s breathing. She and four of her siblings are suffering from colds and coughing, but the family’s unable to afford medicine. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • A TIMA nurse in the ophthalmology department realizes that Juvelyn Montaño’s left eye is riddled with abscesses. With a sterilized tip of a cotton bud, he cleans and disinfects her eye. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Visiting the Montaño home in Barangay Anibong, Tacloban Tzu Chi volunteer Catherine Tiu sees eight-year-old Romnic Montaño bedridden with fever. Inadequate ventilation in the house compounds the children’s health. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • To help Romnic cool off, his mother Belinda (left) and Tzu Chi volunteer Catherine Tiu (right) give him a sponge bath. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer Heidi Uy (left) pays Carlos Deguinion a visit at his daughter’s home across the school, where he’s staying for the meantime. After his wounds are healed, he’ll return to his hometown in Eastern Samar. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】


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