Thursday, September 15, 2011


The trip begins with a 20-minute LRT ride to EDSA, a five-minute jeepney commute to a local  health center, and a 10-minute walk under the scorching, melanoma-inducing heat of the noonday sun.

Meanwhile we're lost in laughter, conversation, and brief outbursts of excitement at the mere sight of a bakery or a turo-turo or a carinderia—all potential hang-out places. Jonas, Krushna, Jegar, Ching, and I . . . we're far too easily pleased. Give us cheap food and an eight-ounce bottle of Coke, and we'll be happy.

Community Medicine is a welcome break from the hospital scene. This time the patients no longer come to us; we go to them. And truth be told, they may not need us at all. This exchange, this reversal of roles, is teaching us many things we may have brushed aside. It's not about us but them.

Ate Nelia, the barangay health worker (BHW) assigned to us, tours us around. A good-natured lady in her early 60's, she cracks jokes, often with a tinge of sarcasm, and laughs at them before we even get what she means. She takes good care of us. She has excellent memory of people, often giving us her personal sketches of the barangay captain, the local doctor, the residents of the community. These stories help us. True, she may have her own biases, but all personal perceptions of other human beings are bound to be prejudiced.

"Saan na po tayo papunta, Ate?" we ask.

"Sa Health Center muna. Magpapakilala kayo kay doktor."

The Health Center is empty, except for the staff and the two doctors. The rooms are airconditioned. The computers are connected to an online medical database. This Center is more the exception than the rule. For many barangays all over the country, doctors are a rare sight, and they only come by a few times a week.

The local doctor, a stern-looking, no-nonsense man, welcomes us. He gives us a lecturette on the projects of the Health Center. We struggle to keep awake—postprandial fullness explains that—but we're jolted when he says, "Health is not a priority here." And so it is with the rest of the country. Our government still has not realized that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. 

We thank the good doctor for his time. 

We head to the Barangay Hall to do a courtesy call on the Kapitan. Sadly he's not available.

We then visit an NGO run by priests. This is the same NGO that has paved the way for a community to be built within the barangay, the community we're going to be immersing in. SHACC, it's called. The St. Hannibal Christian Community. And this is where we will listen to stories, participate in their local activities, even start our own ones, all in the hope of maximizing our two-week stint in this area.


The sun is setting in the horizon. Our legs are tired, and our mouths are parched. We head over to the nearest bakery we find, buy Spanish bread three pesos apiece, and a cold, refreshing bottle of Coca-Cola before we head home.

Hasta mañana.



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