Sunday, June 5, 2011

Update 7

Farewell to Palawan
Hello everyone!
We are now in the lowlands preparing to make our way back to America. It is quite a new experience to be writing this in an air-conditioned room! The past eight months have been incredible! We thoroughly enjoyed our time as missionaries in the mountains of Palawan. We would like to conclude our blog with a couple more stories from Kemantian.
Middle of April found us in Emrang. We made the trek to Shama and Allie’s new hut to help finish a couple items that I was unable to complete in March. It was great to be back there. During our three-day stay we made a new bench for the clinic, shelving for the kitchen, cut the bamboo siding to make windows, and finished pouring concrete in the outhouse. Becca and I slept in a tent on bamboo leaves. It was quite lumpy! However, we had a great time with the girls and working on the hut.
The end of April was a special time. All the missionaries spent about three days doing team-building activities. It was a lot of fun to work as a group and accomplish something completely unrelated to the usual daily tasks. Some of the activities included getting everyone across the river without getting wet, building a hut in one afternoon, the trust fall, and blind-folded tag. Fortunately no one was hurt in any of the activities and we all gained a better understanding of team communication and effectiveness. The mission project plans on continuing to use this method of team development in the future.
In early May, Becca and I spent the night with a native family. We wanted to experience what it is like to be a native and sleep on bamboo (datag) with only a thin sheet. To start the night, we had a delicious meal of pancit and rice with our friends, Agus and Mindan. Shortly after eating we went to bed on the cold datag and Becca and I tried to huddle for warmth. One would think the jungle is hot all the time, but in the mountains it gets to the low seventies/high sixties at night. About an hour after trying to sleep I began to shiver and shake somewhat uncontrollably. Becca felt my head and said I was fevering. So, about midnight Becca and I trekked through the jungle to the clinic to get some tylenol and malaria meds. We then headed back to our friends house to sleep. It was truly a native experience, sleeping on cold bamboo and getting malaria!
Becca learned how to make linidgid a couple weeks ago. Basically, linidgid is the local bread. It is made out of a root called kumbahang. After peeling the root, one spends a lot of time grating it over a makeshift grater (an unfolded tin-can with nail holes) until a large pile of shredded root forms. Then the pile of shredded kumbahang must be stuffed into a rice sack or shirt and “milked” or squeezed until all the water is removed. At this point it is called linidgid. Just stick it in a frying pan and ten minutes later you have native bread (like a flatbread).  
It is exciting to see how well many of the low-weight babies are progressing in size as they continue to come to the clinic for weight checks and milk formula. We wrote about one of the babies, Indil, in our third update. Her aunt has adopted her and has taken on the responsibility of bringing her to the clinic for milk formula. She is doing so well! Another baby named Iprilina is doing fantastic also. Her mother has over ten kids and is unable to produce milk anymore. Therefore, milk formula for Iprilina has been life-saving.
During our stay in Kemantian we adopted a cat named Milo. Becca really likes this kitty. You could say they are kindred spirits. They both like to relax. It was very common to find them napping together on our bed. Every morning about six, Milo would come to our door and meow until Becca would elbow me and say, “Jon, can you please get Bubba (our nickname for Milo)?” So, I would bring Bubba to bed so Becca could sleep with him until seven. This cat was spoiled! Whatever we were eating, this kitty enjoyed also. It’s no wonder he got fat on a Fri-Chick diet! Bubba has one of those faces that’s hard to deny. We will miss him a lot. We considered bringing him to America, but it would have been really expensive to go through the whole quarantine process.
Three weeks ago Becca bought a 12-hour-old chicken for eight pesos. One of the local boys was running around with it and Becca saw it and wanted it. Its mother had been killed by a dog the day before, so the little chicky wasn’t going to live very long. Immediately Becca started feeding it rice and little ants. For the first day Gapas (our name for the chick—meaning cotton ball in Palawano) had a difficult time walking. He would peck at the food but miss most of the time. By the second day he was much more skilled at grabbing food with his beak. For warmth, Becca found a flexible water container and filled it with hot water and placed Gapas on it wrapped in a blanket. It was cute to watch the little chicky peep and then quiet down when put on the “hot water bed.” On the third day, Becca thought that Gapas and Milo (the cat) should be friends. So, during Milo’s usual visit in the morning she introduced the two. In an instant Milo grabbed Gapas in his mouth and jumped off the bed. Fortunately Becca’s screaming scared Milo enough to drop Gapas and give me time to grab the chicky before he got eaten. It was quite an ordeal. I’ll never forget Becca screaming, “He ate my chicken, he ate me chicken!!!!” The whole village heard it, and it was the talk of the day. By the fourth day Gapas was still cute but incredibly annoying. Something had to be done about the constant peeping. We managed to find a mother hen who had just hatched a brood of chicks. So while we covered the hen’s eyes we stuffed Gapas with the other chickies under her belly. Amazingly it worked! A week later we saw Gapas still running around with his new family.
One of our fellow Filipino missionaries, Napthali, had to have surgery last week. He has worked at the mission project in Kemantian for over five years. He has been an extremely valuable asset to the project. He is an agriculturalist, teacher, preacher, and fix-it man. The project would not be where it is without him. Anyways, Nap has had symptoms of a kidney stone that has been untreated for several years. A urologist checked it out recently and said he needed surgery and was not a candidate for lithotripsy because of the size of the stone. So, last week I came to the lowlands with Nap for his surgery. There is no HIPPA here and there are about ten patients to a room, not including the 10-20 family members.  In the Philippines, every patient has to have a family member or friend by their side at all times. If the doctor orders any medicine or supplies, the family member has to go across the street and buy it from one of the many stores. It was crazy! During Naps surgery one of the nurses from the operating room came and told me that the doctor needed a pinrose drain. “Are you kidding!!!??” I thought. Nonetheless, I ran across the street to six different stores before finding the right drain and then ran back to the OR with the requested item. I had heard of instances when doctors didn’t even close-up incisions because there was no one to buy sutures for the patient! Thankfully nothing went wrong through Nap’s entire hospital stay and he is recovering very well. One thing is for sure, no matter how many Americans complain of medical care in the States, I will always be very grateful for it!
Currently, the mission project in Kemantian is in need of some more medical staff. The nurse that was to work the clinic after we left was unable to stay. Therefore Shama and Allie, the two nurses/teachers in Emrang, had to leave their project to fill-in at the clinic until more medical people arrive. We still don’t know who though! If you or anyone you know is interested in working in a remote jungle clinic in the Philippines please email me ( or Leonda George ( Ideally the medical person would have some experience as an RN, be able to go to the Philippines ASAP, and be able to commit for at least six months. If anyone is interested or has questions please let us know!
As we reflect back on what we have learned medically, we are quite grateful. Over this year we have learned how to treat many tropical diseases and primary care-type illnesses. It has served as a fantastic opportunity to confirm my decision to be a doctor. I absolutely love it! For Becca, it has confirmed her decision not to do nurse practitioner. She enjoyed it when I saw the patients and she prepped all the meds and did the assisting. It has been wonderful for both of us to see what we enjoy and what we would rather avoid. She is the best co-worker I have ever had!
We are also thankful for the many things we learned that were unrelated to medicine. We know that God brought us to Kemantian. It was not always easy, but we learned so much. It was like stepping into another world. Time seemed to stand still, yet fly by. It was like going back in time over a century ago. No cars, no electricity, few distractions, and no rush hour. It’s a small world when life revolves around your next meal or getting to bed by 8p. It has given us a more diverse perspective on life, and we hope to carry-on many of the principles learned by simple living.
As we transition now into a new phase in life, we continue to solicit your prayers. We will be heading to Johnson City, TN to start medical school and find a nursing job. We have already experienced reverse-culture shock in a slight way since coming to the lowlands. We realize we will continue to go through a learning curve as we shift back into American society. However, we hope to always have a piece of the Palawano culture with us—hospitality, simplicity and kindness.
We want to thank you for your prayers, financial support, and encouragement during our time on Palawan. It is very empowering to know that friends and family have been so supportive. Again, thank you!
With love,
Jon & Becca