Hundreds of constituents from nearby municipalities flock to the town of San Mateo, Rizal on November 30 for Tzu Chi’s yearly medical mission.
The 229th Medical Mission provided free medical services to 2,184 patients over seven departments: pediatrics, general medicine, ophthalmology, dentistry, minor surgery, ENT (ears, nose, and throat), and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Preparations began on November 29, where the venue—San Mateo National High School—dismissed its classes after lunchtime to accommodate the mission. On the big day, around 450 TIMA doctors, Tzu Chi volunteers, Tzu Chi Youth members and scholars, and local personnel helped make the mission another resounding success.
This year’s medical mission earned the distinction of being “grand,” owing to the plethora of services it offered. San Mateo mayor Cristina Diaz, who has worked with Tzu Chi for the longest time, even added that the medical mission is one of a kind.
“It’s rare for such an event to come at a town, not only in San Mateo. It’s rare for an organization to come to a town offering such a wide array of medical services,” Diaz says.
Tzu Chi Philippines deputy-CEO Alfredo Li, overseeing the event, highlights the importance of the mission being a cooperative undertaking. Whereas Tzu Chi supplies the manpower and equipment, the local government of San Mateo provides the venue and utilities.
“This isn’t only the success of Tzu Chi but also the success of the municipality, as well as the mayor and the sincerity in her,” Li says.
The queue began to build up as early as 4:30 a.m. As most patients hail from impoverished lives, it’s no surprise that they see the medical mission as a viable means of getting urgent medical attention. Services as simple as removing decayed teeth, for instance, are out of reach of the family of ten-year-old Lily Rhea. A vicious cycle ensues: being unable to afford treatment leaves the disease free to grow worse.
“I’m happy that I can finally have my tooth removed,” she smiles as she waits for her turn. The family hails from the neighboring town of Rodriguez (Montalban).
For 64-year-old Pablo Marin, the medical mission is a godsend. His body is under siege from multiple diseases and disabilities. Among these are stroke, clogged arteries, erectile dysfunction, and a fractured left hip bone that bound him to a wheelchair. At the General Medicine department, he asked TIMA doctor Gina Ang about undergoing physical therapy. But with a fractured hip, any therapy can only do so much. He sought TCM where a few needles at the right places gave him much-needed relief.
“[The medical mission] is a big help for retired folks like me who are unable to afford consultations, let alone a doctor’s professional fee. We may not even be able to afford this [acupuncture] treatment,” says Marin, a retired mechanical engineer.
Accompanying his mother, 14-year-old Jhordan Flores took the opportunity to seek treatment for his aching right shoulder. His fond of playing basketball often brings his share of body pain, mainly caused by dribbling and shooting. He’s heard about the effectiveness of TCM in alleviating even simple muscle strains.
He wasn’t aware that the treatment involved needles.
Despite the sudden grip of fear, he underwent “invigorating acupuncture” under the care of TIMA acupuncturist Helen Manahan. Unlike typical acupuncture that leaves the needles embedded for an hour or two, invigorating acupuncture pokes vital points on the fly. Targeting Jhordan’s ears, arms, and feet, the procedure was done in just a few minutes.
“[After the procedure], my body felt a lot lighter. Everything painful around my legs was also gone,” remarks Jhordan, a resident of Barangay Malanday in neighboring Marikina City.
For Manahan, however, muscle aches can be alleviated—even prevented—with a healthy lifestyle. The growth of the sedentary lifestyle, brought about by technology, has left many with sprains and strains that regular exercise can help ease. In fact, in addition to basketball, Jhordan admits to staying up late and eating less, which take their toll on his body.
“If we want to achieve good health, we have to program our body in eating well and sleeping well. We don’t have to eat less. We just have to eat right,” Manahan says.
The medical mission is also an opportunity for TIMA volunteer doctors to educate the public about maintaining their clean bills of health. As technology grows more accessible to a growing audience, so does the importance of proper fitness. In the end, only the self can determine how he or she should carry him or herself in a rapidly-changing world.
The queue of patients swells outside the Jose F. Diaz Stadium, the registration center for the medical mission at the adjacent San Mateo National High School. Some have been waiting since the predawn hours.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The people of San Mateo refer to Tzu Chi’s medical mission as “grand,” owing to the plethora of services it offers. This year’s mission offers free services in pediatrics, general medicine, ophthalmology, dentistry, minor surgery, ENT, and TCM.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
As some patients have been waiting since 4:30 a.m., they might have skipped breakfast just to get to the mission. Tzu Chi volunteers are eager enough to offer hot vegetable sopas to the patients while they wait for their turn.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Jhordan Flores (right), 14 years old, was almost caught unprepared for acupuncture. He winces in pain as TIMA acupuncturist Helen Manahan (left) pricks several vital points around his feet. The pain, fortunately, is worth it as he felt immediate relief after the procedure. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao (left) leads a beeline of Tzu Chi volunteers in performing “One Family.”【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Ten-year-old Lily Rhea gets her tooth decay removed by a TIMA dentist. Note that many patients in the mission lead impoverished lives. A simple tooth extraction like this may as well be beyond their finances.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Tzu Chi Philippines deputy-CEO Alfredo Li (center) and San Mateo mayor Cristina Diaz (left) admire the hot compression vest used by local volunteer masseuses. The vest contains thousands of microwavable beads that help transfer warmth to the body with prolonged exposure.【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】