Since she was a little girl, Resly Ellaga has not gone out of their house in Matanao, Davao del Sur, Philippines as she has been hiding from the prying eyes of people. She has gone into her self-reclusion because Resly, now 18 years old, fears she would be ridiculed or laughed at by people due to her grotesquely monstrous face.
Since birth, Resly has suffered from encephalocele, “a neural-tube defect characterized by sac-like protrusions of the brain and the membranes that cover it through openings in the skull.”[box type=”default” size=”medium”] 18-year-old Resly was born with a facial defect [/box]According to Wikepedia, the defect is caused by “failure of the neural-tube to close completely during fetal development.” Encephalocele has caused a big, ugly protrusion in the middle of Resly’s skull or between her forehead and nose.
Due to her self-isolation, Resly, the youngest of the 10 children of a poor couple (her father is copra maker), has never attended school. And because her family could not afford to pay the cost of surgery to remove the protrusion, she had been ashamed of her ugly appearance, making her life agonizingly miserable.
But relief came to Resly last year when civic-minded people in Davao del Sur learned of her facial defect and took pity on her.
Surgeons operated on her twice at the Southern Mindanao Medical Center in Digos, Davao del Sur, successfully removing the protrusion. With her much improved facial look, Resly was hopeful about the prospect of living a normal life, a life without fear of being ridiculed.
But, alas, her hope was short-lived. As a consequence of the surgical operations, she developed infections that posed serious threat to her health.
Late last year, brothers Van and Oca Ong, who are both registered nurses in Michigan and natives of Davao City, came to learn of Resly’s plight. The brothers quickly made arrangement for her trip to Michigan where she is going to be operated on in a bid to cure the infection.
Oca, who heads the OCA Foundation, shouldered the expenses for the travel of Resly and her older sister Roselyn, 22, to the US as well as the fees for the processing of their passports and visas.
The sisters arrived in Michigan in the evening of last Jan. 22. Oca and his daughter fetched them at the Metro Detroit airport.
Oca’s daughter was carrying thick, winter clothes for the sisters who had only one small luggage in which they stuffed their modest belongings – some underwear and two or three dresses fit for summer wear.
As they were hungry, Oca took the sisters to a MacDonald restaurant for a quick dinner. The sisters were elated to eat hamburgers, exclaiming that it was the first time they had experienced eating at MacDonald.
Afterwards, Oca brought them to the house of Van in Novi where they are now staying. They will be guests of Van and his wife Nora for the duration of Resly’s treatment which is expected to last for six months.
Van, who is immediate past president of FILAMCCO (Filipino-American Community Council), said that doctors of Providence and Beaumont Hospitals will jointly conduct the surgery on Resly. As of the first week of this month (February), the surgery had yet to be scheduled. Oca and his wife Debbie will foot the bill for the surgery and medicines.
Van said that the family of Resly and Roselyn live in Barangay Kapoc, Matanao, a marginalized village with no electricity and supply of potable water. To help their parents put some food on the table, the sisters and their eight other siblings gather leftover corn at the farms in the village.
Roselyn said she is only one of the Ellaga children who has a finished a short college course (computer hardware). She has yet to land a job, though.
Van appealed to kind hearts in Michigan to donate clothes, kitchen utensils, foodstuffs, etc. which the sisters will bring home to Davao.
“This will somehow show our compassion to our less fortunate ‘kababayan’ in Davao like the Ellagas,” Van said.