Barangay Mambog, Samar Island, Philippines 2018: An Overview

by Erin Hogan, RN


I just returned from my third medical mission in the last year and am just beaming with happiness and gratitude from it! Like my last mission to Suchiate, Mexico that I  volunteered with in May, my mission to Samar Island in the Philippines was hosted by my union, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), in collaboration with the Alliance of Health Workers and Health Empowerment in Action for Leyte and Samar (HEALS) and the Filipino American Health Workers Association (FAHWA).. This is my second medical mission with NYSNA, and I’m really looking forward to joining them on future missions.

With of the missions that I have completed so far, each one has it’s own unique qualities. Whether it’s the set-up, the people, the culture, the volunteers, one of the many exciting things about embarking on new missions is that.. no two missions are alike! With that being said, this is actually NYSNA’s second medical mission to the Philippines (you can read about last year’s mission by leader Nella Pineda-Marcon here). In addition to medical care, this year’s two day clinic also included free dental care, as well as eye glasses distribution, which patients had to pre-register for. Our clinic was held on September 8th and 9th, 2018 in Barangay (the Filipino word for village) Mambog, a 4th class municipality of Pinabacdao, located on Samar Island in the Eastern Visayas region of the beautiful Philippines.

I had a goal in mind to reach over 1000 patients and, after seeing 472 patients on the first day, I knew that meeting my goal could be tight. However, we ended up completing and exceeding my goal, having treated a total of 1172 patients  from 20 different barangays around the area! The illnesses and complaints we treated were many, including skin and scalp infections, hypertension, asthma, arthritis, infected wounds, cold and cough, and diabetes. We saw one case of dengue who was immediately rushed to the nearest hospital 1.5 hours away. I was assigned to triage for this mission, something that I was super stoked about! So, expect another post discussing the triage role on these missions, as well as more talk on the different illnesses that I observed.

Hippie talk aside..or not, if I could describe this mission in one word, I would describe it as LOVE!! The people of Barangay Mambog greeted us with a heartfelt welcome, crowds waving to us from the streets as we pulled in, cheering as we exited the bus. The children were delightful and adorable- curious and full of smiles and laughter, they loved to play, dance, and interact with every one of us. The evening of our first clinic day, the people of the barangay threw us a party, complete with dancing and traditional filipino cuisine. They even performed cultural pieces for us- we returned the favor with a less than mediocre performance of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” — to be fair, we had very little practice time after having  worked all day! I promise we’ll be better next year, hashtag #medicalmissionfiestagoals. Everyone had an amazing time at the party, but were really tired- it had been a long past few days! I initially had made arrangements to immerse myself into the community by staying with one of the local families, but decided to leave with my group while the rest of the community laughed and danced late into the hours. Rather than drive the 1.5 hours back to our hotel in Tacloban, the barangay had made arrangements for us to sleep on the floors of their town hall for the night- we even had air conditioning! And, sort of a shower????

Our Philippines Medical Mission team consisted of volunteers not only from my nursing union, but many local volunteers from the Philippines, including physicians, nursing students, community health workers, dentists, and staff from the HEALS and the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW).

I cannot express how grateful I am to have been a part of this mission and am so excited to be on this journey! I’ll be posting more about my Philippines mission, as well as address issues and specific topics that I observe as a nurse doing these amazing adventures. Special thanks to Chito Quijano and the FAHWA / NYSNA team, as well as Mama Ruth, the Filipino goddess who helped link all of us together- we couldn’t have done it without you!