7-man medical team form Oplan Sagip Samar for ‘Yolanda’ survivors

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A SEVEN member medical mission proceeded to Samar to volunteer their expertise in attending to the physical needs of Super Typhoon Yolanda’s survivors. But after staying in the different affected towns from November 21 to 26, they realized urgent help is not just for the physical conditions of the survivors but in helping them regain normalcy in their livelihood.

For dentist Jette Po-Major, who along with five medical doctors and a fresh grad nurse, personally saw the helplessness of the survivors and vowed to return soon to the people of Samar.

They said their group would raise funds for Oplan Sagip Samar, which vowed to donate one fishing boat per barangay.

Po-Major said they visited the towns of Basey, Lawaan. Balangiga and Giporlos, all badly ravaged by Yolanda and the subsequent storm surges and their team was wildly received by the survivors who were complaining of hypertension, diabetes, decaying wounds, athlete’s foot, cough cold and fever. But most of their health concerns had been with them even before Yolanda struck, which meant that Samar was miserably abandoned.


They did not know each other. They were just assembled and sent to areas that urgently needed medical assistance. Relief and medical missions were of course concentrated in Tacloban City, she told The Manila Times.

The all-female team was composed of Doctors Daphine Villanueva, Fatima Gansatao, Tina Cruz, Cecilia Evangelista and the team leader was Fran Bernardino plus herself.

The lone nurse, a 2013 graduate of UP Manila, said it was her first volunteer experience and it was actually a dream-come-true endeavor since she vowed to work as community help nurse.

Bernardino observed that the children were “surprisingly well behaved. They were not playing or running around a sure sign that the kids are still in trauma and probably suffering from dehydration as well.”

Po-Mayor said Oplan Sagip Samar is sending a team every week and her group will return sometime January 2014.

She said that the survivors complain of irregular sleep. “Many of them wake up by 4 a.m. fearing for another surge. Children are now afraid of the rains. Many patients even asked for sleeping pills.”

Po-Major graduated from her dentistry course at the University of the East. Her group left Manila on November 21, or 17 days after the traumatic storm leveled Samar and other parts of the Visayas and Luzon. She was the lone dentist in the group.

She regrets that as they packed their things in the van to head back for Manila, a 20-year-old girl arrived late for a tooth extraction. “We refused as it was difficult to get the things out again from the van,” she said.

For this, she feels there is so much unfinished business in Samar and they really have to return and serve some more.

They proceeded to Catbalogan City, which was not heavily affected by the monster typhoon, through their van. Then they scheduled a day each to the towns of Basey, Lawaan, Balangiga, and Giporlos all fishing and coconut farming communities. They left Catbalog on November 26.

“It was a different experience. I saw the extent of the damage. I know it’s a poor region.

They appreciate the relief being given to them. But, they want to regain their livelihood.

They want new boats. Their boats were eaten by the storm surge,” Atanacio told The Times.

She said people left their flattened homes. In Giporlos only 200 families are left. Some 1,800 families abandoned the town.

“After the exodus, it will be interesting to know if they have returned and how they re-started their lives,” she said.

“Of course, they still need our help. Our job is to give them more strength to go on and continue their lives,” Po-Major said.

Jimmy Pilapil

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