“Mission Trip” to the Philippines – Lita Miller

CVMC Cancer Center/ Infusion Therapy Shared Governance Projectlita_miller

Philippine Mission Trip- By: Lita Miller, RN

Last October 2010, I decided to visit my family in the Philippines. My dad, 79 years of age, is a missionary in the beautiful mountains of Antique located on the Island of Panay.

Our unit based shared governance council felt strongly about a charity or outreach project and decided to utilize my trip home to the Philippines as a venue to do so. Our goal was to provide support, resources, and educational materials and share it with the local community. In our October 2010 meeting, I was chosen as representative for the oncology unit’s project and was given permission to use the funds raised by the council to purchase necessary items locally. I also contacted Peggy Messick (Disease Screening Coordinator) and Brenda Putnam (Catawba County Breast Cancer Coalition Coordinator) who generously gave educational Breast Cancer Self Exam pamphlets to take with me to the Philippines.

Historical Aspects

The Philippines, the size of the state of Arizona, is called the “Pearl of the Orient Seas”. I was discovered and named by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521and had been under Spanish rule until 1896. In 1899, the United States of America established the first Philippine Republic. After many turbulent years (fighting the USA, surviving WWII against the Japanese Regime, etc.), the Filipinos gained independence on July 4th, 1946 with the help of the US.  In exchange, the US will have a 99 years lease within the Philippine Island to build US military bases and US companies as well as having free access to the Islands natural resources.

  mapGeographical Aspects

The beautiful Island of the Philippines is located in Southeast Asia and consists of 7,000 islands during low tide. The three main Islands are Luzon in the north, Visayas in the north and west, and Mindanao in the South. Per 2010 census, the population of the Philippines is an astounding 99,900,177.

The Trip

It was a very long but inspiring journey. The overall 18-hour flight started in Charlotte (via Orlando, Atlanta, Manila) to Iloilo City which is located in the Western part of the Visayas Island. 

Once there,

I stayed with my brother for a day before continuing to see my father in Catmon, Sibalom, Antique. Antique, located in the mountains of Panay Island, is a province of the Philippines. Sibalom is one of its municipalities and is considered the “Rice Bowl” of its province. 

When I felt the heat, mud, rain, smelled different distinct scents, and tasted different varieties of delicious Filipino foods, many wonderful memories of younger days and childhood returned.  I knew I was home away from my beloved home in Hickory.  Oh, what joy to see my loved ones again!

The Rice Fields – Rice is the nations’ staple food

When you travel along the highways, as far as your eyes could see are soothing yet vibrantrice_field colors. Bright green is the color of young rice fields and bright mustard-yellow fields are those that are ready to be harvested. There is a fresh happy atmosphere in the air when it’s time for the harvest.  When I arrived there, I could feel that atmosphere…it is indeed, harvest time and you could see those wonderful farmers, their carabao (water buffalo), and children young or old, working together in harmony as they collect those bright mustard-yellow colored rice grains into bundles.  After “husking them”, the grains are separated from the stalks, disregarding the stalks and scattering the rice grains on mats to dry them under the heat of the basking sun. Most of them do not have any machines, so they do all labor manually. Once the grains dry, they pound them to separate the husks for the beautiful fresh white rice grains. These grains will be placed in sacks for consumption, sale, or trade.  

The Economy

Rice is the main food of the Filipino people and a staple. We eat rice three times a day. I was mesmerized watching the farmers because I knew as hard as they were working, they would have money to meet some of their needs.  Most of these people are very poor and depend on their crops as main source of income. That time, it looked like the rice farmer had a great harvest!

The view

tricycleEvery time I ride in a tricycle, which is the local mode of transportation, I see banana trees, small nipa huts (are some kind of homes), cows, carabaos, and just bright green plants along the side of the road.  Then, you turn around and at the other end you see never ending deep blue, indigo and dark green colored beaches with coconut trees offering shade for those needing a break from the heat and sun.

My final destination – Catmon

Catmon is where my father resides. Catmon is a small community with 153 residential homes and a population of 700 (2005 Census). It is a poor community where the main source of income for the residents consists of fishing or farming, which is representative of the residents’ ‘way of life’.  Catmon has one elementary school that owns just a few books. Some students walk 10 miles just to attend school here.  The High School is in Sibalom. Majority of the HS students walk 5-10 miles to get there.

Mission in Catmon – now Unity Baptist Church

My dad and my late mother came here 15 yrs ago and started a mission, which now alita_with_family church called Unity Baptist Church.  Their home is always open to anybody who wants to ‘drop in’ and read books or share whatever food they may have. Most of their neighbors are very poor and may only be able to afford one meal a day. My mom and dad value education, so they tutored those who are eager to learn and thought some of the people how to speak English. After my mother’s death in 2008, the members of his church decided to keep my dad as their missionary so, he still makes Catmon his home. 

Our (CVMC’s) contribution

The money we raised as Shared Governance Council was put to great use. Many elderly people cannot afford to go to the doctors and most are suffering from arthritis. We were able to provide the community with Glucosamine, and Vitamins for the older population and bags of Chocolate bars for the children. Additionally, we bought 100 kg of rice and gave it to the members and neighbors.

rice_bag_message_to_CVMCAs a council, we wanted to bring some of our expertise to the members of this community as well. With that in mind, I distributed the Breast Self Exam Pamphlets we received and distributed them to teachers to share with their students.

The joy of giving

Oh, the happy beautiful smiles that came from grateful hearts touched my very soul and brought tears of joy and a lump in my throat. Knowing the scarcity of resources and poverty some families and communities live in, I was amazed at their generosity. As a sign of their appreciation, some would bring offerings of eggs and food (often their weekly ration). Refusing to accept their offering would have hurt their feelings, so I just accepted it with humility and gratefulness. I wish the rest of my council could have been there to experience the unspeakable joy that grips your heart and no money could buy.  They were there in spirits and in our thoughts and prayers.

The Typhoonfishing_boats

The second day in Antique, we decided to go to the beach. Dark angry clouds hovered over us; it was pouring raining and strong winds were raging in town. Lots of houses were affected and some towns were flooded. Call it miraculous or divine intervention, every time I had to go to the market, the rain would stop … Honestly!

The Unity Baptist Church and their neighbors thanked Catawba Valley Medical Center for its kindness and generosity.

As a nurse, I am honored to be part of the CVMC family. We are not only a three-time Magnet recipient affirming nursing excellence, CVMC and its employees, furthermore, showed from all levels of nursing that we truly care! 

References: 1. Catmon, Antique Census 2005; 2. “Philippines” Wickepedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 3. “Timeline Philippine History” Infor Please Family Education Network; 4. “Pinas” Your Gateway to Philippine Information.