Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lakewood Couple Help in Philippine Homeland

The Philippines is gorgeous green and humid hot. And, I am finding local people here in Pilar incredibly friendly. This morning we left the Manila home of the Castro family at 3 AM to beat the traffic on the way to the airport. After a 45 minute SSE flight we arrived at Lagaspi, and traveled by car over an hour to reach the hospital established by a Lakewood couple that I have come to visit.

The road was narrow, two-lane, and asphalt paved. It curved up a mountain and past rice fields. The houses of the poor line the road and people walked too near the cars while going about their business. The driver sped by after a blast of his horn. Poverty is everywhere.

Retired Lakewood physician, Expedita Castro, grew up here. As a girl she was hidden by her mother in the rafters of their house when the Japanese came through the village. They feared what might happen if she and her brother were found.

Today, after a very successful career she leads a family effort to "give back" to the community that she left for a life in the United States. Her husband, Jesie, a Filipino born American is by her side all day. Their son, Dr. Rico Castro, has supervised the building of the hospital and its management. Rico is passionate about the need to help. As we arrived, over one hundred people were lined out the door.

Inside, three doctors were at work. There was a naturopath making fungle salve from indigenous leaves. Several nurses came for the day and tended to the more simple aliments and they gave out glasses donated by the local Rotary. There were two mind therapists who promoted stress relief through relaxation.

It was the dentists who had the longest lines. There are 70,000 people in this area. And there is only one dentist. Basically, you go to the dentist when the pain is so bad you need to have a tooth pulled. With no dental hygiene programs and no preventative care, today's three visiting dentists pulled a lot of teeth. I cringed as a 14 year old boy got up from the chair after three of his teeth had been pulled! This would never be the case in the states. But here in this rural part of the Philippines the people are thankful for the relief.
The Castros are like many Americans who are seeing the world's poverty and jumping in to help. They have started a non-profit organization and have started fundraising. I met today with community leaders who came in their support. The local Members of Congress, the mayor, Rotarians, three volunteer doctors, several local board members, the Castros and I all crowded around a table in a small room. They want me to help get the word out. They need your help.

In two months the National Association of Filipino Chambers of Commerce will have its annual meeting in Seattle. I told them that we need to be there to ask for help. The Filipino community in American has blended into our society and doesn't ask for much. They have no lobby. But, there is an effort among immigrant and American born Filipinos to find each other and help in the Philippines.
This evening local school kids performed traditional dances and played music that favored the Spanish influences in their country. I spoke briefly to them, thanking them for their performance and for guarding their country's heritage. They were all in costume and all were so friendly, smiling.

I like the Philippines. The people belong to incredibly large extended families and village to village there are many, many cousins that still know each other three times removed. For Americans there is no language barrier. Everyone knows English. There is beautiful scenery and tomorrow we will go to the sea and mountains to see more.

No comments: