As if it was answering a higher calling, the Filipino-Canadian Medical Association, under the leadership of Dr. Chelly Silva, has organized and recently completed a week-long medical, dental and relief mission in the Philippines, the second such mission in two years.

Five FCMA doctors (Drs. Filomena Bautista, Flordicante Cabilan, Lita Malig, Judith Nacua, Chelly Silva), one Canadian doctor (Dr. Sanja Avdic), and one dentist (Dr. Shirley Salazar) took time off from their busy schedules to deliver free medical and dental services to the local populations of 14 municipalities in Leyte and Palawan in February 2015.

Assisted by a nurse (Emily Bambao), two pharmacists (Lita Villanueva, Anan Abounnasar), an accountant (Dylinda P. Santiago), and 21 non- medical volunteers (Phyllis Agostino, Zlatan Avdic, Sarah Bayani, Alfredo Bayani, Donin Bayani, Ophelia Bholat, Poy Cana, Ligaya Cana, Eliezer Concepcion, Lilia Concepcion, Ed Hoegi, Pilar Hoegi, Marilen Iliscupides, Mila Magno, Oswald Magno, John Ogden, Joyce Ogden, Rose P. Koenig, Rachel Pantaleon, Ariel Santos, Maria Santos) from Toronto, Mississauga and other parts of Ontario, the mission provided free medical, minor surgery and dental services, and dispensed free prescription medicines, vitamins, toothbrushes, toothpastes and reading glasses to hundreds of indigent patients that came from various barangay communities in Tacloban City, El Nido, Puerto Princesa and neighbouring towns.

Scenes of droves of people lining up and waiting patiently in front of the temporary pharmacies set up by the mission highlighted the dire need for prescription medicines, which many residents are unable to afford.

Fortunately, the mission brought with it 22 balikbayan boxes containing donated medications (including medicines from Health Partner International Canada), inhalers and essential medical test kits and supplies. A Toronto pharmacy, Agnes Pharmacy, donated over $10,000 worth of medications plus a $3,000 cash donation. Surplus medications and supplies were later given to the local municipal health centers, the Daughters of St. Paul, the Divine Word Hospital, Tacloban City Hospital, Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, and Philippine General Hospital.

In Tacloban City, the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center and the Tacloban City Hospital served as the venues for the delivery of medical consultation services (pediatrics, family and internal medicine and minor surgery) while the Divine Word Hospital run by the Benedictine Sisters served as the venue for the delivery of dental services.

Inspired by the FCMA initiative, several local doctors, dentists, nurses and other volunteers in the three locales also participated in delivering much needed medical and dental services to the local population, many of whom are still reeling from the devastation caused by super typhoon Haiyan.

In Tacloban, 21 medical doctors and surgeons and 10 dentists participated in the mission. They were assisted by 32 registered nurses, and 25 non- medical personnel. TESDA fielded 63 volunteers who provided free manicure, pedicure, hair cutting and chair massage to waiting patients. In Puerto Princesa and El Nido, 2 local doctors participated, assisted by 26 registered nurses and 20 non-medical personnel.

Dr. Silva, FCMA President, directed and supervised the mission, while Mr. Clem Cabillan coordinated provision by the local police and other volunteers of crowd control and various logistical services.

From last year’s gala fundraiser, FCMA purchased and distributed 68 locally made fiberglass motorized fishing boats to fishermen families who lost their boats and livelihood due to typhoon Haiyan. “There are many ways we can help our needy kababayans, and medical missions are just one of them” says Dr. Silva, a graduate of UP School of Medicine.

The association is presently planning a feeding program and medical assistance mission for mentally and physically disabled children in the Philippines.

Reporting by Mila Magno