medical missioners
Cartoon by Roni Santiago

The spirit of giving back to our homeland, the Philippines, is palpable these days.

It’s January, and it’s time for various groups to conduct their yearly medical missions in our country of birth. These missions are usually held in the last week of this month up to the third week of February.

These groups include the Philippine Medical Association of Michigan (PMAM), which will conduct its annual medical-surgical mission on Jan. 28-Feb. 2 in Lallo, Cagayan.

Another Michigan group, the Philippine American Medical Mission Foundation of Michigan (PAMMFM), will hold its mission in the first week of February in Leyte. Still another group, the Far East Nurses Association and Other Allied Professionals (FANA), will go to Pangasinan this month to serve poor patients in that province.      

At present, the missioners are in the thick of preparations for their missions, finalizing plans and soliciting or purchasing medicines and food supplements they will distribute to the poor.

Some of the groups have already shipped medical equipment and supplies and medicines to the Philippines through “balikbayan box” shippers. It takes at least two months for the shipments to reach Manila.

The missioners are also busy communicating with their partner organizations in the Philippines which are tasked with coordinating with local leaders in preparing the venues as well as the list of patients who will benefit from the missions. Usually, these organizations are civic groups.

These pre-mission activities do not only cost money but are also time-consuming. Because most of the missioners are working full-time, these pre-mission activities are done after office hours or on days-off.

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This means the missioners have to make a lot of sacrifices. Also, they are spending their own hard-earned money for round-trip plane tickets, local plane tickets and hotel bills and meals.

The missioners are making these sacrifices because they feel obliged to give back to their homeland where they were born, where they grew up and where they obtained the education that enabled them to migrate to the U.S. and pursue their American dream.

They are giving back to their homeland because they are kind-hearted and philanthropists in their own way. Their hearts bleed whenever they see the plight of their sick “kababayan” who are unable to see a doctor or buy much needed medicines simply because they have no money.

What is remarkably admirable about the missioners, particularly the doctors and nurses, is that the service they render to indigent people is of the same quality as that they give to their rich, paying patients. This shows they are professionals in the truest sense of the word.

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are called the Philippines’ modern-day heroes. But for the sick, poor Filipinos, the medical missioners are their real heroes.