Written By Joseph Aguhar Jardin, Volunteer Photographer, Operation Blessing Philippines
Operation Blessing went upstream, all the way to Barangay Agsaman, Jipapad, Eastern Samar to share God’s blessings and kindness together with the courageous OB staff members and medical volunteers. This place can be reached by a boat without a katig (outrigger), locally known as bote.
The boat ride from the town of Oras to Jipapad is three hours long, while Barangay Agsaman will take you less than two hours of unforgettable adventure from Jipapad town port by an even smaller boat. Unforgettable because the sights and ride took our breath away, literally and figuratively. The boat ride requires two things of you: good sense of balance and a good sense of humor. Humor to keep you calm and balance to keep you dry in one piece inside the boat. Just imagine a small boat without an outrigger with eight men and loads of boxes of medicines.
Even the two Filipino medium-sized men couldn’t fit comfortably in the wood plank seat prepared for us facing forward. So, I decided to sit facing the back where I witnessed the man maneuvering the boat show maybe 69 different facial expressions as he tried to balance the boat. At this point, I asked myself, “What am I doing here?” But, I just shook it off and said to myself, “You volunteered for this, right? Here it is!” So I plucked up my courage and prayed to God for traveling mercy.
As we were cruising the river, I couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful the scenery could have been. If not for typhoon Ruby which made the trees bow down and the unceasing rainfall that flooded the inland towns and made the river look like a chocolate drink, this place could be an inspiration for the next Indiana Jones Movie.
After almost two hours of this ride, at last, we arrived. The OB staff quickly unloaded the goods, talked with the officials, prepared the venue and started the medical mission. As I was talking to the people lining up, I noticed how familiar they were with each other as if all of them were related, so I asked, “Are you all related?” and in chorus, they all answered, “yes!” Someone even joked around that if a man wanted to marry a woman, he should look for her in another town because almost all of them are related to each other.
I interviewed the grandfather of the family named Cerilo H. Peczon, a 78 year old man who has long been suffering from multiple conditions like Rheumatism, Eye Cataract, and Heart Condition. I politely asked him if I could ask a few questions and he replied, “Yes, why not.” After introducing and making ourselves comfortable with each other, I asked him two simple questions: how was your life like before the typhoon and how does this medical mission help you and your family?
He answered, “Life has always been a struggle even before this typhoon poured its heavy rains that flooded us and the unending strong winds that uprooted our crops. Typhoon Ruby just aggravated our lives even more. If you live here, you’ll only think of one thing, ‘Work so you could have something to eat.’ A medical expense is a thing we try to avoid. It’s just so expensive. A local farmer would earn a maximum of 100 pesos on a good day – not even enough to feed his family for a day. How much more the cost of check-ups plus medicines, not to mention the cost of transportation which would be around Php 360 per person back and forth to the nearest town of Oras where the nearest hospital is located.
That is why I couldn’t express my gratitude in words to the Operation Blessing staff and medical volunteers who came here today to help us. It’s a big help not just for me but to all my family members who benefited from this generosity. I thank God because there are people like you who are willing to come all the way here to help us all. Thank you, thank you so much!”
After all the free check-ups, vaccines and medicines, they all agreed to pose for a gratitude picture to send a simple thank you.