In 1993, the first medical mission to Santa Cruz, Laguna made history as the first endeavor of this enthusiastic group of doctors, nurses and sympathizers whose primary goals were to serve the medical needs of an indigent population and to provide medical equipment and supplies to local hospitals. As a typhoon raged, nevertheless through flood and fury, the team led by the hometown hosts, Drs. Luz and Tony Racela and the original organizers Dr. Balty Lotuaco and mission coordinator Dr. Denys Collins with a team of 36 attended to hundreds of indigent patients who benefited from this maiden voyage.
Inspired by the success of the initial mission, in 1995, at the invitation of hometown host Dr. Benny Tumanut, the medical team ventured to the northern part of the Philippines to the town of Santiago in Isabela province. In 1996, the team visited one of the Visayan islands , in historic Lapu Lapu City, in Mactan, Cebu, the island where Ferdinand Magellan was slain by the local chieftain, Lapu Lapu in 1521. A team of 40 participants worked from dawn to dusk to serve the seaside community led by the hometown host Dr. Wendell Doronio.
Gapan, Nueva Ecija the hometown of the Lotuaco siblings, Drs. Luisa, Baltazara, and Gamaliel, was the site of the 1997, 1998 and 2000 medical missions. The medical and nursing teams converted a basically empty district hospital into fully functional wards , stocked their pharmacy with medicines and equipped the operating rooms with needed supplies. Patients in need of surgery and medicines lined up as far as the streets as word spread around the town.
In 1999, the idyllic sea setting of Puerto Princesa in the province of Palawan brought 42 team members to participate in this mission. In 2001, with the majestic Mayon Volcano in the background, and amidst the sudden change of Philippine government leadership from then President Erap Estrada ousted by the EDSA DOS revolution, to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the team journeyed to Legaspi City in Albay province at the Bicol Regional and Training Hospital. In 2002, the planned mission to La Union was cancelled because of perceived safety issues in the country, instead a small team went to serve a community in Kingston, Jamaica. January 2003 brought the medical mission team to the town of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro led by the hometown host Dr. Ruel Miciano. They rendered care to an indigenous Mangyan tribe from the mountains of Mindoro, one of the most indigent groups they have served.
2004 was San Marcelino, Zambales, 2005 – Sinait, Ilocos Sur, 2006 – Infanta, Quezon, 2007 – Orani, Bataan, 2008- Baloan, La Union, 2009-Bogo, Cebu, 2010 – San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, 2011- Cavite City, Cavite, 2012- Labo, Camarines Norte, 2013 – Bayawan, Dumaguete,, 2014- Angono,Rizal and Bogo, Cebu, 2015 – Ormoc City, Leyte.
For the first fifteen years of the medical missions, the dynamic duo of Balty Lotuaco and Denys Collins provided the constant guiding leadership. The medical missions could not have happened without their dedication; they led teams from our medical society in cooperation and support of the members of the Philippine Nurses Association of Greater Kansas City. In the past five years, I volunteered to coordinate the missions but still with the guidance of the Rotarians Balty and Denys as these missions require team effort.
The fulfillment of these goals would not have been possible without the volunteer doctors, nurses, spouses, sympathizers and supporters who can be counted on to do noble deeds to truly serve a needy group of people from the homeland. Other organizational and financial support came from the golfers who have participated in the annual fund-raising events, the Rotarians from South Platte, the Rotary International group and the local Rotarians of the towns we visited who fed us, drove us, entertained us, fed us again and again. Major donations from the mission participants, hospitals and others came in the form of replacement lenses, specialty equipment, diagnostic tools and medicines from their own clinics and practices were valued in the thousands of dollars.
The past twenty years of love and service to humanity has benefited thousands of patients who have thanked us for their now beautiful children whose clefts were repaired and smile without covering their faces, the gift of eyesight restored to young and old alike and hundreds of other surgeries to remove tumors, cysts, including baby deliveries, they thanked us all. For all the free medicine we distributed for aches and pains, fever, infections and other maladies of body and spirit, they are all very grateful.
And so as we plan for the next several more years, we are thankful for all our blessings that we often take for granted here in America where we live. We will continue to spread this spirit of giving to others who are less fortunate than us. We will go on with the medical missions to truly fill our hearts with love and a sense of accomplishment that has enriched our lives. The service to humanity is a most noble one. We are proud yet humbled.
Lillian G. Pardo, M.D.