By Lore Devlamynck

March 2016

It’s my second-and-a-half month in Negros. In Escalante, I learned acupuncture and how to do diagnosis, patient interview, and the Hara palpation, a Japanese technique of palpating the abdomen to help determine what’s wrong with the body. I also learned how to clean the needles and how to needle, with me as the practice doll. We had an exam where everybody has to take a patient and treat them with the help of hara palpation. I also gave a presentation on adrenal exhaustion. I’ve already done and learned a lot, but wait there’s more!

The sun and stars over Don Salvador

We visited a camp-out in Don Salvador where people from there and other areas gather to protect their lands from the landlord. Very inspiring. We introduced ourselves (which again gave me a lot of stress. But I guess the more I speak in front of people, the better it will get) and planted banana trees, which I hope to see when it’s grown up. Then we watched the sunset, and, later that night, the stars in the sky. That moment was so magical I will never forget. We saw so many stars and I even saw a falling star. I can not even describe how amazing it was. I think the people deserve to have this view of amazing stars because they are the stars of the mass movement.

I was told beforehand that it would be cold here in the mountains, and indeed it was that I almost couldn’t sleep. But that does not matter because I felt so thankful to be here with the peasants and to learn about their struggels. Also it felt like such a magical place not just because of the nature here but also of the people. They are so organized and wonderful.

We treated patients the following day. I and Sarah took blood pressures and D did accupuncture to those with high BP – there were a lot of them I think I even found two with 200/100. It’s not very obvious when you look at them, but when asked, they feel headaches and have blurry vision. That’s when you confirm that they feel it, but they don’t know its because of that. D did ear acupuncture, which was effective for most patients, and also the hara treatment.

We also gave them health education. D explained that there is so many with high blood pressure in the community because of a lot of smoking, coffee (and some alcohol maybe) drinking, and eating of a lot of salty food. She asked the people to really think about that, because the higher the blood pressure, the more dangerous and difficult it is to treat. Then Sarah talked about sanitation and hygiene. They did a really good job, I loved how they explained everything. I wish I could already do it the way they did.

My task was to talk about illnesses like diarrhea, fever and cough and how to treat them at home. The people were really interested, but I felt like I’m not really good at talking to so many people.

But D and friends helped me saying I should make it more interactive and understandable by using examples that make sense to them; and using my expertise and giving it back to the people. I realized I was being selfish thinking ‘oh no what will they think about me, I’m so shy, blah blah’. I have to focus on my task and goal – that is to empower them by giving them the information I know.

Canlaon is for “I can do it!”

On the bus to Guihulngan, I kept staring at the beautiful nature we pass by. Then I rode a habal-habal with three other people! I liked it a lot and secretly felt a bit badass :p Amazing. I think I saw places that most tourists will never see in their lifetime. I then had brunch and must admit – Filipino cuisine is really delicious!

Guihulngan, my destination, is a farming community where 1/3 of farmers’ earnings go to the landlords. The barangay captain said they have many projects for the poorest like free cements for building toilets, but admitted that their list of the poorest is not accurate.

My foster family here is among the poorest and lives away from everything. To not be a burden for them, I bought some food for myself and the family.

In the morning, I woke up to the beauty of Canlaon volcano. It was really amazing that I felt so lucky to be with this family and so eager to help empower them. I couldn’t stop thinking how. It’s going to be a big challenge but I’m willing to go for it. I will learn from the ups and downs and find my way eventually.

Joining the Japanese

Yesterday I asked Josefine if I can follow the Japanese students in their exposure. One of the Japanese students had an interest in special children. Here, special children can not even go to school and get bullied. It is really sad to see. Another is interested in agriculture and she said her teacher told her that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) don’t exist in the Philippines because it’s illigal here; but found out through farmer interviews that it does exist without the kowledge of the farmers. They are farming those seeds and think they’re really good, but actually it’s affecting the health so much.

I wanted to join them again the following day but couldn’t. I tried to learn making some herbal medicines with nanay Fe. That was nice, even if I really didn’t understand it, she really tried her best, so it was actually still a nice expierience. I learned some Cebuano in the process. She gave me some of her herbal medicines and I tried it. In the evening when the children came back from school. I helped them in getting water. It’s quite long walk but it was good to expierience this also.

Superwoman? lands in Lacson

We went to the Domingo Lacson High School where fire survivors are still evacuated. The people – 26 families – were no longer in the gym, but in little classrooms. Some families are already back in their community but they only have a roof. They haven’t received support from the local goverment yet, only from NGO’s (like CPRS).

At first I was thinking to bring some bread to share with them. But that was so difficult because I can not buy for everyone. I still had some piayas, so I shared this. But it was not a lot. I find this situation very difficult, because I feel the need to help in a way, but I don’t know how. And I don’t want to create a situation where I, a white person tries to be a superwoman and help. Maybe I should find a way to empower them, but how do I do that? And also they are already taking their situation in their own hands. Difficult situation. It’s already my second visit to them and I am wondering if this is a right thing to do. I am sure that my intentions are right – it’s just to support them and showing some friendship. I hope they see it that way too.

Lore Devlamynck, a nurse taking up MA International Cooperation at Howest University in Belgium, is in Negros for her internship.