Just got back from Bacolod, Philippines a couple weeks ago. Had the extraordinary opportunity to shoot documentary footage with the Aloha Medical Mission, lead by Dr. Brad Wong. 3 operating rooms, 6 tables. Over 200 major/minor surgeries were completed, including dental work and the free distribution of prosthetic arms, over the course of 5 days.
The area I stayed in had an interesting mix of social class… or lack of. There was no middle class that I saw, just incredibly poor or incredibly rich. The nearby shopping mall was a small indication of middle class existence but even that building was surrounded by neighborhood upon neighborhoods of shacks and poor farmers. This is more apparent by the hundreds who lined up for free medical care at the hospital. Tons of heartbreaking cases that we would never dream of here in the states. Many families traveled many hours in hopes to meet a doctor from the mission. Others camped at the hospital to ensure their place in line.
I saw a man who lost his arms in an accident be fitted with prosthetic arms and held a pen in his new plastic claw of a hand. Within minutes, he began writing for the first time in 25 years. Clearly in English, he wrote “Thank you.”
A 14 year old girl is admitted into the hospital with what looks to be a giant growth in her abdomen. Due to less-advanced x-rays, surgeons were unable to determine what it was. The problem was, she was only 70 lbs. Operating on someone so small had fatal risks. Doctors pushed on and found the growth to be a giant tumor that had engulfed both ovaries and her uterus. The girl had cancer. With both her father and older brother in prison, she was the only one working to support the family.
You don’t come back home the same way after witnessing these types of events. Especially for someone like me with no medical background. There are no words that can describe the amount of passion and fulfillment I’ve received and continue to receive as I continue my work with this documentary. I see it that I am doing my part in supporting the mission by spreading the word and retelling these stories.
Even at what seems to be one of the weakest moments in our country’s history, we are still undoubtedly more well off than we can imagine. Some of us complain about our free health care program but do realize that even the act of complaining is a luxury to others.