Agency goes extra mile in serving locals of Cagayan’s Calayan and Camiguin Islands
The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) conducted a special mission early in May validating its advocacy of serving the Filipino people a priority no matter the distance.
Headed by Medical Services Department manager Jose Bernardo Gochoco, the medical team composed of 18 members—doctors, nurses, dentists, a pharmacist and support group—made a trip to Aparri, Cagayan on May 6 upon the request of Governor Manuel Mamba. The following day, the team took a bus ride for 16 hours then boarded a boat to the Calayan Island in the Babuyan Channel for six gruelling hours.
Composed of nine barangays, Calayan Island is a crime-free place and home to 16,000 residents.
The medical mission was held from 8 am until 12 noon at the Rural Health Unit in Barangay Poblacion serving 327 patients from nearby barangays.
Health officer Mar Calban expressed gratitude for the noble endeavor collaborated with PCSO as it’s usually only during the summer that the place is accessible to GOs and NGOs that locals receive free medical and dental check up. Meanwhile, student-based groups have started to explore and help the locals in the past two years ranging from medical assistance to livelihood projects.
A little less than 24 hours later, the PCSO medical team prepared for their next assignment and headed to Camiguin Island, an extension of Calayan where three of the 12 barangays were located— Naguilian, Balatubat and Minabel.
The unavailability of a 40-passenger boat for the four-hour trip to reach Camiguin almost hindered the mission on May 9, so the team courageously split into two groups, taking fishermen boats and enduring six- to ten-foot waves.
Considered a miracle, the medical team soaked in sea water from the giant waves, arrived in Camiguin at 11 am then served the locals at 2 pm that day. Unfortunately, the island has no local health facility to serve the malaria-stricken locale.
The medical mission was conducted at the Camiguin Elementary School in Barangay Balatubat with Captain Gina Ballesteros together with two local nurses and the local barangay staff assisting PCSO for an orderly medical mission from 2 p.m. until 6 pm. A total of 227 patients were served and the remaining medicines were donated to the barangay.
Camiguin residents were as equally appreciative of the successful mission PCSO conducted for reasons that, locals were medically examined, treated and given free medicines. To most of these locals, they had to travel four hours via lampitaw (local tug boats) to Cagayan for treatment. Being in the Babuyan Channel, tides are very unpredictable and uncooperative most of the time, even during summer.
Even after the mission, locals continued flocking to the team’s temporary residence for free examination and medical opinion from the PCSO doctors.
When asked collectively on the team’s thoughts about the two-day medical mission on separate islands if it’s worth it, the response was a resounding yes.
Being away from their families for a week and going through all sorts of risks and obstacles, maintain proper composure and perform their respective jobs on a very professional level, made the PCSO employees who went with the group proud being part of the agency.
Dr. Joby Gochoco said,“Nakita mo ba ang ligaya na binigay natin sa mga mahihirap na tao na yan? Kahit gaano pa kalayo at kahirap makarating sa lugar nila, tayo ay maninilbihan nang masaya dahil sila ang dahilan kung bakit ang opisina ay itinatag.”
It has been shown to the nation once again that distance is not a measure of service. It only proves that charity is the number one product of PCSO.
BY JUSTIN SANTOS AND PHOTOS BY ARNOLD RAMOS