The Vigan medical mission is our 2nd time to join the Philippine Nurses Association – Maryland Chapter (PNAMC) in their biennial medical mission project. Two years ago, on our first medical mission with them, we went to Cauayan, Negros Occidental. This year, we went to 2 municipalities in Vigan, Ilocos Sur – G. del Pilar and Sigay. PNAMC, with doctors from the Association of Philippine Physicians of Maryland (APPM), partnered with Caritas Nueva Segovia, under Fr. Danilo Martinez, to give free medical services to the people of G. del Pilar and Sigay.
We are friends with a lot of the members of the PNAMC. Every two years, they hold medical missions in different parts of the Philippines. For the past two missions, doctors from APPM have joined their project of providing medical and surgical assistance to people living in remote places in the Philippines. My husband and I also affiliate ourselves with the APPM because we have friends in the group and support some of their projects.
We started our evening trip to Vigan by meeting up with the members of PNAMC at the Cubao Partas Bus Station where a chartered bus was waiting for us. The trip from Cubao, QC to Vigan is an 11-hour ride. Suprisingly, it was a comfortable bus ride! If i was to compare it with my 3 1/2 hour Megabus rides from Baltimore to New York, this wins the prize for comfort! The seats were sized right, the air conditioning was cool enough and the legroom was apt. (But then again, I’m not quite 5 feet, so there.) Our bus will take us to our final destination – the Vigan Pastoral Center, which was going to be the ‘homebase’ for the entire trip.
The Day Before Day 1
We arrived around 3:30 in the morning the next day at the historical and beautiful Palacio de Arzobispado de Nueva Segovia. We already had our assigned rooms posted in the rectory to sleep in so we just headed straight to our quarters. I was assigned a bed with the other ladies on the 3rd floor of the rectory. My husband was with the men on the 2nd floor. Everybody had a chance to get more shut-eyes before our early breakfast a few hours later.
Built during the Spanish era, the Palacio de Arzobispado de Nueva Segovia is the only surviving 18th century archbishop residence in the Philippines. The people of Vigan simply calls it Palasyo (palace).
Caritas Nueva Segovia Foundation Inc. prepared a hearty breakfast for us that morning. During breakfast, Rev. Fr. Danny Martinez, the on-the-go director of Caritas Nueva Segovia, welcomed us to Vigan and blessed us, praying for a safe and successful medical mission. We are up for a good start!
The chapel inside the museum of the Palasyo
After breakfast, we did a tour of the Palasyo grounds and museum. (Read it here.) We also stopped by the capitol for an audience with the representative of the governor of Vigan who welcomed us to the province. Then we were off for lunch at the famous Pinakbet Farm in Caoayan, Ilocos Sur.
The Pinakbet Farm
At the Pinakbet Farm we were serenaded with a show by their singing (and dancing) cooks and waiters. Their voices and story-telling entertained us while we had a delicious feast of pinakbet, grilled tilapia and liempo and so much more. The Honorable Germelina Singson Goulart, the mayor of Caoayan, was the sponsor of our lunch at Pinakbet Farm. We were told that the restaurant was a project of then Mayor Juan Paolo Singson Ancheta to help the local farmers and fishermen. Most, if not all, the food served at Pinakbet Farm were from these farmers and fishermen. The vegetables were all harvested right from the garden around the restaurant.
All-Around the Area
After that very filling lunch, our bus toured us inside Baluarte Zoo owned by the former Ilocos governor, Luis Chavit Singson. My husband went inside the Safari Gallery together with the others, but I opted to just stay in the bus – I was not a big fan of hunting and caging wild animals, actually.
Busily eyeing the sights got us all hungry and we still wanted our dessert. Our coordinator, Janet Brigoli, directed the bus to take us to Hidden Garden Lilong and Lilang Restaurant for a taste of their famous halo-halo. I don’t know if it was because of the heat or what, but the halo-halo served to us tasted so heavenly. I finished mine in no time at all!
A Glimpse of Calle Crisologo
The whole night was ours so we decided to go to the famous Calle Crisologo since this was the only night we would be able to see the place. Our smaller group (my husband, myself and our adoptive big sister and big brother, the couple Drs. Ric and Myrna Flores) was heading back to Manila 2 days earlier than the rest of the group. (I have an entry for Calle Crisologo coming soon!) We ended the night by watching the nightly light show at the plaza in front of the Palasyo.
Thank you, Vigan, for a wonderful welcome!
On The Way To G. Del Pilar
Early the next day, while it was still dark, we boarded our bus and headed out to our first medical mission site at Our Lady of the Pillar Parish in G. del Pilar. Midway to the site, the road was getting rugged, narrow and uphill. We had to transfer to smaller jeeps, pickup trucks and vans. The rides were provided by Fr. Danny and his team and Caritas. Boy, they were experts in driving along the steep curves and rugged uphill road. They were amazing!
(Somewhere along the way, our driver pointed to us the site of the Battle of Tirad Pass. I now understand why they named the municipality ‘G. del Pilar‘. It had a great significance for the Ilocanos in the municipality other than just a mere name. It was because the municipality encompasses the site of the battle where General Gregorio del Pilar died while he and 60 Filipino soldiers fought more than 300 American soldiers under General Peyton March in 1899. That’s a bit of history for you all 😉 )
Prior to heading out to the mission site, we stopped by Barangay Alfonso to give away school supplies and goody bags to some grade school children. It was very heartwarming to see these kids all lined up while we gave each of them a school envelope full of school supplies and a bag or two of chocolates.
An hour or so after, we continued our trip and reached Our Lady of the Pillar Parish at around 8:00am. Fr. Bong Bugtong, the parish priest, together with his staff, welcomed us with a very hearty breakfast.
Our First Medical Mission Site
After breakfast, we attended a eucharistic mass celebrated by Fr. Bong to officially start the medical mission. With the mass ended, like clockwork, PNAMC began to set up the mission around the grounds of the church. People were beginning to pile up so we had to set up fast. A group of the PNAMC nurses and volunteers manned the registration station – some were handling pediatrics, while others assisted the adults. The invited Philippine-based doctors had their own desks at the shaded court where they took charge of the patients after registrations.
There was a portion in the grounds where the dentists set up their make-shift clinics. We also had an optometrist who was checking on the patient’s eyesight and giving away reading glasses to those who needed one. There was also a pharmacy where we were giving out free medicines and vitamins. Over at the town hall, a few meters away from the church, the surgery team started their own unit. There they took care of the lumps and bumps and other minor surgeries of the patients.
We also had nurses and nutritionists who gave patients one-on-one talks on proper nutrition, specially if they have histories of hypertension or diabetes.
Good First Day, Guys!
It was very evident that PNAMC had done medical missions so many times before. They were very efficient and handled the crowds really well. This, being our 2nd time with them, I observed that they always regrouped and found ways to improve their system at the end of each day.
By the late afternoon, we had attended to the last patient for the day. Everyone had a sigh of relief for a tiring but very fulfilling Day 1. But that was not the end of it. Again, like the reliable clock, we started to pack all our equipment for the next day’s mission. We loaded the boxes back to the trucks and vans and began to head out to Sigay. There, we were to spend the night and hold the next medical mission at Paaralang Sigay Sentral (Sigay Central School).
More to come…
The once named “godmother of the Philippine Blogosphere”, Gigi Manaloto-Refugia, known by her pen name “Ate Sienna” has been blogging since 2002 in her old pansitan.net community where she housed famous bloggers. She now writes about being 50-something and shares her tips on fashion, makeup, skincare, travel, food and thrift-store diving.
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