[box type=”default” size=”large”] OCA Foundation foots bill for his travel and surgery [/box]Based on his bio data, it appears that Ruben Mariot, 25 years old, is just like any other guy of his age. He went to school and finished a course in civil engineering in 2011. He intends to take the board examination soon.

Ruben Mariot
Ruben Mariot
But looking at him, you instantly know he is not like any other young man who had finished a college course. His appearance is what makes him different from a normal 25-year-old. He has a tumor in his face bigger than a baseball, and the ugly swelling covers his left eye.

He is hopeful, though, that soon he would look like any other young man. Without the tumor in his face, he could look like a matinee actor.

We met Ruben last Dec. 15 at the Philippine American Community Center of Michigan (PACCM) during the Paaralang Pilipino Christmas party. He was with Filipino-American community leader Van Ong in whose house Ruben has been staying since he arrived from the Philippines a few days ago.

Ruben is here for a surgical operation to remove the tumor medically called “hemangioma,” said Van, who is a retired registered nurse. It is an inborn physical defect which used to be small but it gradually enlarged. It is said to be caused by the swelling of a blood vessel.

The operation, which will be done at the Providence Hospital in Southfield, is being sponsored by the OCA (Operation Care Abroad) Foundation headed by Van’s brother, Oscar Ong, who is also a registered nurse.

OCA Foundation foot the bill for Ruben’s round-trip plane ticket as well as the expenses and fee for the processing of his application for a US visa. His stay in Van’s house for several months is free of charge. It is the contribution of Van and his wife Nora to the charity work of OCA.

Like Oscar and Van, Ruben is from Davao City (Lanang District). He was referred to the OCA Foundation by Oscar’s former classmate.

Van said surgeons in Davao City did not want to do the surgery on Ruben because such operation is bloody and difficult.

Two volunteer surgeons – Doctors Daniel Pieper and Marc Hnatiuk —   will do the operation after a series of preliminary tests, Van said.

In an interview, Ruben told the Filipino Star News that his facial appearance did not deter him from pursuing a college degree. He took his physical defect as a challenge, he said.

Ruben’s father is a security guard, while his mother is a fish vendor in the public market.

He is thankful to the Ong brothers for their generosity. In Van’s house, he helps in doing household chores as a way of showing his gratitude.

The Ong brothers are noted for the charity work in Davao. At least five children with inborn physical defects underwent operations here in Michigan, thanks to the kindness of the Ong brothers.

Also, the brothers have been conducting yearly medical mission in Davao, benefitting thousands of poor, sick people.

For Oscar and Van, helping people is a lifetime commitment. Like good Samaritans, their hearts always bleed for the poor and the helpless. We pray that they live long lives so they can help more poor people. (Tony Antonio)