The hike to the Matigsalug-Manobo community

We didn't see it coming. Dr. Allan Melicor invited Abby and me to join a medical mission trip to the Matigsalug-Manobo community at Sitio Basak, Sinuda, Kitaotao Municipality, about three hours away from Malaybalay City. Despite our utter lack of hiking gear—I didn't even have a backpack—we were excited.

We were ready to go by 5 am, but we had to wait for the medical-dental team from Cagayan de Oro City. We left Bethel at around 6 am.

The trip was uneventful, except for the restroom signage at the Maramag Central Terminal that required everyone to pay Php 3 for urination and Php 5 for defecation. "Eh paano kung sabay?," Dr. Allan asked, "Php 8 na ba agad 'yun?"

We arrived safely in Kitaotao, but we had to take a 5-km hike to reach Sitio Basak. This worried some of our more mature companions. I say that lovingly.

When I saw this boy riding a huge horse, I knew I was about to enter unfamiliar territory.

boy riding horse

Dr. Hope Larot, who had been here on a similar medical mission, warned us about the bodies of water we were to cross—about seven of them. Our first question to her, of course, was, "Is there schistosomiasis in the area?" Thankfully these streams are clean.

soaked in water

So there we were, ladies and gentlemen, our feet soaked in the flowing waters of Bukidnon.

soaked in water

Thankfully I didn't find the trail exhausting, a far cry from my Banaue-Batad experience (Parts 1 and 2) where I  paused every five steps to catch my breath. I'm relieved to say that I'm no longer as physically unfit as I was before.

hike

After 40 minutes we reached our base: Basak Elementary School.

basak elementary school

We met Reynaldo Lomarda, fondly called by residents as Datu Makadingding. He's the founder of GreenMinds, Inc, an NGO "devoted to the preservation and protection of our fragile environment through the practice and dissemination of ecological agriculture and fostering of the spirit of volunteerism."



Datu is a visionary. After graduating from UP Los Banos, he and his friends formed GreenMinds, Inc to promote organic farming, especially among indigenous peoples. He called organic farming "the right idea at the wrong time" when they were still starting. Things didn't pan out as he had hoped. He learned many lessons along the way, especially as regards Community Organizing. His friends pursued other ventures, but he wanted to stay and continue what was started.

Since then GreenMinds has been actively empowering communities by teaching the people how to do sustainable organic farming. Part of the NGO's mission is to help the communities not just in agriculture, but in other ways as well. It has partnered with the Department of Education-Alternative Learning Systems (ALS) Program to support the "Matigsalug-Manobo learners thru the provision of appropriate livelihood skills training, particularly in the aspects of ecological farming and utilization of indigenous materials as raw materials for handicrafts."

It was GreenMinds that provided the means by which physicians and dentists could come over the community.

green minds, inc

During the orientation, these children were observing us from a distance. They didn't mind the heat because the breeze was cold, fresh, and soothing.

children watching

Tents were being prepared, and people from other Sitios, some as far as 20 km away, were starting to come in.

medical dental mission

In rural areas, no activity is ever complete without a proper opening program. Manobo children rendered a beautiful, native song.

manobo children singing

An elderly woman danced onstage while plucking the strings of a local instrument.

manobo song and dance


I was even surprised to see my name on the tarpaulin.

medical dental tarpaulin


We started seeing patients after lunch. This was where I sat. Thankfully Dr. Ed Valencia was nearby, so it was easy to ask for help, especially on which drug regimens to give. 

examining room


The people wore bands like this on their thighs. The bands are made of sturdy ferns and are meant to prevent leg edema after prolonged standing—the same principle employed by compression stockings. There is wisdom in local practices.

fern

In PGH we're taught that a good history is an indispensable tool in making the correct diagnosis. What happens if a language barrier exists?

Thankfully Ma'am Divina, the school supervisor, sat as our interpreter the entire time because majority of the patients we saw only had rudimentary knowledge of Cebuano (a language I learned to speak fluently while I was a freshman in UP Diliman, thanks to my Bisaya dormmates).


manobo woman consulting

In my booth, I saw different faces and heard varying complaints. The most memorable was this 67-year old woman. Her chief complaint? Insomnia—because she couldn't sleep at 10 pm. At 10 pm! I was amused at this cultural difference. For people in living in the cities, life at night only begins at around that time. I gave her tips on sleeping: no afternoon naps, no noise or other distractions at home, among others.

manobo woman: insomniac

Meanwhile Abby was having fun torturing babies into looking at the camera.


abby with pedia patient

I went home praising God for the opportunity of serving Him in that capacity, and I pray that the patients we saw would be healed.

after consults

Outside children were still playing.

kid in longsleeves

Ma'am Divina, our translator, posed with some of her students from Basak Elementary School.

ma'am divina


We slept inside the tents that evening. There was no electricity. It got very cold in the early morning. When we came out, there was fog all over. The sight was glorious. Praise be to God for another day!

early morning with dr allan melicor

The Valencias brought with them their two kids. Hello, Drs. Ed and Gigi! And hello, Iza and Sam!

villanueva family

Dr. Allan led us in our morning devotion. Psalm 5! What a refreshing treat for the soul. We see him sitting beside his wife, Tita Blessie, a gracious, godly woman who made sure everyone was doing well.

blessie and allan melicor

Their son, Paul, is 19. He studies in UP Diliman and plays in the football team.

paul with dad


After that: breakfast! Here we were with Dona Serna, the pharmacist, who liked the cake so much she had a take-out. The danggit (dried fish) was the highlight of this meal. Don't be shocked to see me sporting a bulging tummy. 


with dona, the pharmacist

We still saw patients that morning. After lunch we headed back to the highway where our vans were waiting for us.

Ma'am Rose and Datu are a happy couple and are expecting a baby soon. They gave us nuts freshly picked from the organic farms as gifts. We bonded over with the staff and volunteers of GreenMinds on our way home.

founders of green minds, inc

Realizing that going to Bukidnon was a rare opportunity for us, they toured us at the Overview, the highest peak along the Davao-Bukidnon highway. We were in awe of the vast, green landscape. What a great Creator we have!

highest point, quezon, bukidnon

As soon as I retired on my bed at the Bethel Guest House, I felt that I had been away for days.

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