Among the patients who benefitted from Tzu Chi Foundation’s eye mission in Ormoc are mothers who suffered from cataracts and pterygium for years. The free surgeries brought light back into their lives and in their families.
Filipinos have a popular saying that goes like this: “the mother is the light of the home,” owing to the fact that the mother’s presence illuminates a family. But what happens when the family’s light source suddenly flickers and eventually dims?
In 2009, Rowena Gullena experienced a slight blurriness of vision. Thinking it was nothing serious, she ignored it and went about her chores. Eight years later, after giving birth to her ninth son, she completely lost her eyesight. Her son is now two years old but Rowena has no idea what he looks like.
Along with agony of missing the chance to see her son grow up, Rowena is also consumed with guilt for not being able to perform her duties as a mother. Since losing her eyesight, she had not been able to take care of her children. She also finds it hard to do the household chores.
“I have broken a lot of glasses because I cannot see at all,” Rowena sadly says.
It was also hard for her family to see her suffer.
Rowena wants to have her eyesight restored. She hopes to teach her children with their school lessons and to see their faces. However, they could not afford the cost of a cataract surgery.
Pedro, Rowena’s husband, is a construction worker. Rowena, with the help of her children, earns PHP175 daily from sweeping their village streets.
Tzu Chi’s free eye mission in Ormoc on August 2 and 3 is therefore a blessing to the family.
“We cannot afford to bring her to another city for an operation because it is very expensive,” says Pedro.
After the surgery, Rowena could not hold back her tears. Finally, she can see clearly again!
“I will be able to take care of my children and guide them in growing up so they will know what’s right from wrong,” says Rowena. “Thank you, Tzu Chi for helping me and my family thank you so much.”
Another parent who received free operation during the two-day eye mission is Praxides Heorpo.
A single parent, Praxides works double. Apart from laboring at a nearby sugarcane farm, she is also a village street sweeper.
“My children are very important to me. I work so hard so that they could go to school, finish their studies, and not experience the hardships that I have experienced in the past,” Praxides says.
However, due to constant exposure to the sun, her eye condition deteriorated. Pterygium, or a triangular tissue growth, has almost covered most of Praxides’ left eye.
Seeing Praxides came out of the operating room after her surgery on August 3, her niece Emelyn Formentera broke down crying.
“I am so happy for her. My aunt plays the role of both mother and father to her family. I am thankful [that she had undergone free surgery] because I cannot imagine how her family would live had she became completely blind,” says Emelyn.
Meanwhile, Praxides is thankful to Tzu Chi for helping her in her most difficult situations. She remembers how the Buddhist charity group had extended assistance to her family in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Almost five years later, the same group brought back the light in her family’s life.
“I thank the Lord and Tzu Chi and the volunteers because they have helped a lot, not only me but also my people here who are poor and seeking medical help,” Praxedes says, smiling.
The eye mission in Ormoc only ran for two days, but its impact in the lives of the patients it has helped will last a lifetime.