>> Sunday, August 31, 2008
Ramon S. Dacawi
It takes a plane …
If it takes a village to raise a child, it sometimes takes more than a village to heal a child. Sometimes it takes a series of connecting plane rides for free, as that taken by toddlers Carl and Clarence Aguirre in 2003. Or Karen May Bongat, then a teen-ager from Siquijor in 2005.
Born with their heads conjoined in 2002, Carl and Clarence were flown from Silay City to Manila and then to New York. There, they were separated through a series of surgery at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. Karen was flown from Cebu to Manila and then to South Carolina in the United States. There, she underwent reconstructive surgery for burns suffered when she was three.
It took more than a village that gave them a chance to live and grow up as normally as possible, like normal kids. It took the gecko-like tenacity of their parents and relatives, the kindness and expertise of the doctors and the hospitals, the initiatives of grounded civic clubs (Rotary in the case of Karen) and the embrace of foster parents in the U.S. who opened their homes.
It took Philippine Airlines to have their healing process get off the ground. The Philippines’ flag carrier, for years, has been flying indigent patients for free, through its Medical Travel Grant, according to Maria Carmen Sarmiento, executive director of PAL Foundation.
Yet Ms. Sarmiento herself has a wish and appeal relayed during a recent phone call. She would like more Filipino-American families to reconnect back to the villages here by serving as foster parents of ailing children flown in by PAL to their adopted states.
It’s a doable, practical Filipino wish that our Filipino expats would surely find fulfilling, a sure-fire antidote to their own longing for home. After all, we are not what we have, as Mike Jacobs of the Grand Forks Herald of North Carolina noted in one of his winning editorials written in the wake of a disaster that hit his community.
Precisely that’s the reason why a Filipina nurse in the U.S., who goes by the chat room name “Princess Lea”, launched the other year “e-wagwagan”. It’s an e-bay type of fund drive she named after the highly successful ‘wagwagan” or hand-me-down clothes shops here in Baguio.
Princess Lea was not so successful, and ended up shouldering the bulk of the amount raised. It was for a Baguio boy born with a hole in his heart. The kid, Santy John Tuyan, then 10, eventually went under the knife and now goes to school like any normal boy.
That’s why, last week, Princess Lea e-mailed “Wish Ko Lang”, the public service television program of GMA Network. She was asking if the program can consider the wish of a 10-year old Baguio boy to ride an airplane. Mark Anthony Viray has been looking up the sky since he as three, always fascinated and irretrievably magnetized by the sound and flight of airplanes.
“Gusto ko maging piloto,” the boy said recently, when he and his father Ernesto went out knocking on doors, hoping a Samaritan would open.Ernesto, a 50-year old widower and an off-and-on taxi and family driver, also started looking up the sky last August 23. He was looking for answers to questions a parent in his situation has all the right to ask. That day, Mark Anthony was diagnosed for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph nodes.
That’s why Julian Chees, an Igorot martial artist and former world shotokan (traditional) karate champion, took time to meet Mark Anthony before flying back to Germany, his adopted home. Julian, who was here to visit his ailing mother, shouldered Mark Anthony’s first of six sessions of chemotherapy. He left an additional amount which he advised will go to other patients here.