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Medical mission transforms lives of 71 cleft palate patients

DUMAGUETE CITY, Negros Oriental (PIA) -- Loida Guarin is the mother of a three-year old boy who suffered from cleft lip and palate conditions in the town of Tuburan, Cebu. 

Upon learning of a free cleft lip and cleft palate surgical mission in a neighboring island province, there were no second thoughts for Loida. She and her son travelled from their hometown to La Libertad, Negros Oriental, a roughly five-hour trip that involved bus rides and sea travel, just so her son can avail of the free surgery. 

“Pasalamat gyud mi dinhi, dako kaayo among pasalamat nga naay ingun ani ba, naay libre. Bisan layo amo jud giari. Libre mi tanan diri, libre kaon, salamat kaayo nila,” said Loida. 

(We really appreciate this kind of free service. Even though it's a long distance from our place, everything was free including our meals. We are so thankful.) 

A baby gets checked by one of the doctors during the free cleft lip and cleft palate surgical mission in La Libertad, Negros Oriental. (PIA Negros Oriental/Photo from Mary June Enriquez, La Libertad MPIO)
Series of surgical missions 

Guarin was one of 71 patients from Cebu, Siquijor, Iloilo City, Negros Occidental, Guihulngan City, Tanjay City, and other parts of the Visayas who availed of the surgical mission in La Libertad that offered free services for children with cleft lip or palate.  

The surgical mission was conducted by the La Libertad municipal government in partnership with Medical Mission Matters Philippines, Smile Train Foundation, and the office of Negros Oriental First District Rep. Josy Limkaichong. 

This is the 12th Cleft Lip and Palate Surgical Mission held at the La Libertad Infirmary from January 24 to 31, 2024.

La Libertad Mayor Emmanuel 'MM' Limkaichong Iway said the series of surgical missions started in 2016 and are done twice a year in his town to alleviate the prevalence of cleft lip and palate cases among Filipinos. 

The mission provides free laboratory services, operation procedures, meals for patients and their aides, and transportation.

"Welcome ra gyud kaayo mo sa La Libertad para ani nga medical mission. Ako, kinsa raman ko para mobalibad kung sila nagkailangan ani, kung ang doktor andam mo-opera, welcome ra gyud kaayo ang tanan," said Iway.

(You are all welcome in La Libertad for this medical mission. Who am I to refuse if they really need this. As long as the doctors are willing to operate, you are all welcome.) 

The team of physicians who performed the surgical operations were led by Dr. Leah Victorio, a reconstructive plastic surgeon from the University of the Philippines General Hospital, and Dr. Maria Hedwig Reyig, an anesthesiologist from the Makati Medical Center. 

La Libertad is a third-class municipality located 105 kilometers north of the capital city, Dumaguete City.

Patients from different parts of the Visayas lining up for the free free cleft lip and cleft palate surgical mission in the municipality of La Libertad. (PIA Negros Oriental/Photo from Mary June Enriquez, La Libertad MPIO)
Compassionate care 

Mary Joy Belle from Maricalung, Sipalay City in Negros Occidental, also thanked the medical team for the opportunity to correct her nine-year-old son’s cleft lip condition for free, as this would have been financially challenging for her if it was done in a private facility.

“Para sakon bilang isa iloy, dako akong pasalamat sa serbisyo ng Medical Mission Matters at ng La Libertad para sa aming mahihirap, tungod kay dako ilang nabulig sa akon, labi na gyud sa akon bata nga subong 9 years old, nga naoperahan subong. Madamo, madamo gid nga salamat. Sa lahat po nang mga doctors, staff, lalong-lalo na po kay Mayor Emmanuel Iway, nagpapasalamat po ako ng malaki, lalong-lalo na ako ay taga Sipalay City,” said Mary Joy.

(As a mother, I am deeply grateful to Medical Mission Matters and to the La Libertad municipality as this has been a big help to me, especially to my nine-year-old boy who has undergone an operation today. Thank you very much to the doctors, staff, and especially to Mayor Emmanuel Iwas as I am not from here but from Sipalay City.)

Aileen Alegado from Guihulngan City, who accompanied her four-year-old nephew, praised the surgical mission staff for their compassionate care. 

“Pasalamat gyud mi nila ni Mayor Iway ug ni Cong. Josy kay naapil pud mi. Nag-expect mi atong December nya gibalikan mi karon nga makaapil mi ani,"said Aileen.

(We are thankful to Mayor Iway and Cong. Limkaichong for including us. We  expected this to happen last December but we’re told now that we are included in the mission.) 

Best LGU partner 

Peps Miagao, program coordinator of the surgical mission, lauded the La Libertad local government unit (LGU) for their strong support and ensuring the surgical mission is a success. 

The best partner nga LGU nga among gi-held ang mission is ang La Libertad because of the support of Mayor MM and Cong. Josy Limkacihong nga gihatag nila sa foundation para ang mission nato ma-successful,” said Miagao. 

(So far, La Libertad is the best LGU partner we’ve had for the mission due to the support of Mayor MM and Cong. Josy Limkacihong to the Foundation so that our mission is successful.) 

The second cleft lip and palate surgical mission in La Libertad will be in June 2024.  (JCT/PIA7 Negros Oriental)

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Jennifer Tilos


Region 7

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