By Lore Devlamynck

April 2016

The road to medmission.

It took us three hours going to the medical mission venue. It was a very rough road and suddenly the truck we’re riding broke so we had to transfer to another vehicle.

But the rough ride was worth it. I witnessed the graduation of the community health workers. They looked so proud and they should be! Then I was assigned to take vital signs and was able to practice my Ilonggo a bit.

In medical missions, people usually declare lot of health problems probably to get more medicines. I don’t think you can really blame them because they don’t see a doctor often. There were a lot with cough, headache, high blood pressure, tuberculosis, stomach troubles, backpain. There were some wiith rabies, goiter (because they live in the mountains and don’t get to eat fish, the source of ioding), asthma, and COPD.

When I returned to the community, there were people waiting to be treated. There was a little child with a firewound but I could not do anything because the woundset is not complete

Then we had a meeting where I shared my plans and suggestions for the community. I asked to have the kids help water the herbal garden, to give health education, make a village health map, do more acupuncture, and to be taught herbal medicine making and minor surgery. I was happy to learn that they plan to buy herbal tablets and materials for minor surgery, as well as to train new community health workers.

I later asked if the herbal garden had been watered while I was away because it was so dirty. They said there is no more water coming out of the pump. It’s because of El Nino and it’s also why you see a lot of seriously dry, cracked ground here.

For the people, by the people

The community people are united under their organization called PSK. The community has 145 farmers engaged in organic vegetable, rice, corn, and sugarcane production to realize their needs and improve the quality of their life. They started in 2008 and duly registered in 2009 without any money and with only five volunteer community health workers. They sought training from NIHIP in 2008 and got stronger after training the second batch of community health workers in 2012.

They were able to build an office in 2014 which served as the venue for monthly meetings where they discuss and address the community’s health needs. PSK also provides materials and training support to the health workers. It has a health committee with nine people and has a budget for pay the members’ hospital bills in times of emergencies.

How PSK got the land was a long and difficult struggle. In 2002, the people started to organize and, linked up with other organizations, started a petition for land reform and wage increase, and held many rallies and pickets. The landlord sent goons and hired military groups to scare them, many members got death threats but the people studied their rights and fought back, for example, by blocking off the landlord’s trucks from entering the area. They won and got the Department of Agrarian Reform to process the land title in 2007.

The members cultivate the land and their income has enabled them to buy a big truck and handtractor and to have a water installation. Sometimes the landlord still hires goons to harass them and also the military calls them rebels. But because of their strength, they get many support from various non-governmental organizations and the local goverment.

I feel so happy and lucky to integrate with this community. They are an example for many other communities. It’s a proof that ‘fight for your rights’ works. I can not wait to know more about them!

I did it Pinoy way

I’m still learning doing things their way, like bathing and washing clothes in the river, among others. I find it funny, especially bathing with clothes on.

I observed sugarcane transloading, joined the harvesting of herbal plants, and helped make herbal medicines. Once, we went down to the river to get some turmeric, made them into powder and tablets by first mixing it with honey until it reaches the right consistency. Then we shape and let them dry. Very simple!

I’m still struggling how to water the herbal garden without feeling guilty. The well dries up but it’s my task to maintain the garden. Yet, I dont want to leave the people waterless. So I talked to someone about it and was told that I don’t have to feel guilty.

A different kind of happy

Before going back to my community, we had to pass by Escalante because people who would take us to the area would be joining a protest action about the dry season and the situation of the farmers.

I learned that there was also a massacre in Escalante similar to what recently happened in Kidapawan on April 1, 2016. I also saw a lot of people from the communities I’ve previously visited. I really feel good with these people. There were a lot of great speakers and cultural groups, I had no problems with translation today, and I really enjoyed watching the performances. The huge crowd gave me a very warm feeling inside. Here, I learned and realized that while the rich and also Western people complain about slow internet, the farmers endure hardships everyday so when they protest, then you know it’s already really serious, not about something stupid like internet but about the plants dying due to El Nino and the lack of food. It was really an eye opener.

On the ride home, I joined some of the young women and men on top of the bus. It was really amazing because we could enjoy the view of nature and the sunset. When we arrived, I was really thirsty but there was no water to drink and I was thinking how happy I would be if I had just one glass of water. The place where they get drinking water is not near so we waited for maybe 30 minutes. When the water arrived, I was so happy!

When it was time to sleep, I saw that they added a bench beside the bed to make it bigger, which made me doubt if I could really sleep on it. But I could and it wasn’t bad! I think I have learned to be happy with small things. It’s so nice to be back!

My Filipino Family

Being here makes me emotional at times. Like one afternoon, while Nay Virginia and I sat in the kitchen, she said that she really sees me as her daughter.

Then she told me that they had arranged for me to sleep in the house of Grace. Wow, thank you for that! Finall I will experience living with a family in their house instead of sleeping in the clinic.

While having dinner, Grace said that she will really cry when I leave, because she feels like my big sister. Again getting emotional, I will really miss them when my internship is done.

During the farmers’ assembly, I gave them a presentation about my life in Belgium. I think they enjoyed it because they had questions especially about our farmers and rallies. They were also glad to know that my parents used to be farmers. Then they proceeded with the meeting. I noticed that I understand more now than during the first one

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