Bugko, December 2021
Dear members, friends and supporters of Mabuhay!
On August 25th we arrived in Clark and after our papers were checked we were taken to a quarantine hotel. This and the transport there had to be arranged before departure, otherwise you are not allowed to fly at all. The quarantine room must not be left for 10 days. The food is placed in front of the door. Everything is made of plastic and is disposed of immediately after use. Every day I broke at least one fork and then the only thing left was the spoon to eat. It takes getting used to being locked in a relatively small room for 10 days and without movement. There is also no cleaning of the room. On the 7th day, employees of the local Covid laboratory come and take another PCR test. The result will come a day later, but the quarantine must not be left before that. When our tests were negative, as expected, we took a deep breath. It is not natural to have a negative result as we have heard that people were tested on four consecutive days and got two positive and two negative results. If the result had come back positive, our quarantine would have been extended for 14 days. We got it well, however, as the staff was friendly and the rooms were clean.
Then we went back to Bugko for a good 27 hours by land, where we were in house quarantine for another four days. This is the protocol here at the moment and that where we were vaccinated no less than 4 times. Two Sinovac in the Philippines and two Pfizer in Germany. At least this gives us good vaccination protection against a severe corona disease.
To get to Samar you have to take the ferry. We were lucky to get the last ferry on September 6th, because then the ferry traffic was stopped due to a storm warning. On September 7th, Typhoon Jolina (Conson) grazed us. Fortunately, there was no damage in our area, but there were floods again in other regions. So it was a really exciting trip back.
The clinic opened on September 13th. Many patients had contacted us beforehand and could hardly wait to come to the clinic in Bugko. The first patients arrived at 5 a.m. Unfortunately, we saw many very sick patients again because they did not dare to go to the doctor for fear of being declared a Covid patient. The clinic is filled with patients again, as it was before the corona pandemic. On average, 75 patients visit the clinic every day. They take very long distances to come to us and they are now allowed to do it again. Our radius is more than100 km and whoever has been here knows what it means to travel this distance. Travelling is allowed again, but it is very difficult. At the moment there is also a plane to Manila once a week.
A large part of the population was vaccinated here in Northern Samar through large vaccination campaigns and entire vaccination days. The number of infections has dropped dramatically and by the time you receive this letter there are fewer than 20 active cases in the entire province. Masks still have to be worn, but face shields are only needed in closed spaces such as malls and on planes. That’s a relief.
And now there's one more piece of news. Since September 13th, Dr. Rio Stephanie Balantoy is with us. She comes to our clinic once a week. In addition to the consultations, she also performs small surgical interventions. She is an absolute stroke of luck and we don't want to miss her anymore. Before she opened her own small practice, she worked in Cebu.
In October we could win Dra. Win Perlyn Alo for us, she has just finished her exams in Tacloban and works in the local provincial hospital before starting her gynecological specialist in Manila. In her free time, she always comes to the clinic and examines the patients. She will do this through February and then move to Manila.
Dra. Lydia Quilatan, our old doctor - she is now 82 years old - comes back once a week. She did not come during the Corona-peak, because she belongs to the endangered group of people due to her age.
So now we have a doctor in the clinic three times a week. Not all day long, but it helps a lot. With all this good news, we went to Tacloban on November 15th to register the clinic in the DOH (Department of Health). It took a lot of paperwork to do this, but we made it in time for the last appointment this year. The registration became necessary because of the new UHCL (Universal Health Care Law), which is supposed to guarantee free access to medical help for the whole population. The law does exist, but implementation is still difficult because there are many hurdles to be overcome, the population is very large at 110 million and there are always political hurdles to be overcome. After evaluating our papers, a team from Tacloban will come to see our clinic.
On November 29th, Dr. Hil Dineros, a plastic surgeon closely associated with our American doctors came to us. Unfortunately, he was also unable to tell us whether there will be another mission next year to treat our patients who need general anesthesia. He immediately started to operate patients with the assistance of Dr. Ri0. He promised to come more often during the next year so that the outpatients would be taken care of.
On November 4th, the group with age between 12-17 years was vaccinated with Pfizer for the first time here in Northern Samar. The biggest vaccination day was November 24th, when 3,517 people were vaccinated with Pfizer in one day. As early as 4:30 in the morning they were waiting outside the mayor's office to be vaccinated. One can only hope that the interest will not wane and that the willingness to vaccinate will remain.
On November 20, we celebrated Sister Veronica's 70th birthday with her family and the volunteers as best it was possible under Corona conditions. It was a sunny day and the children in the village were happy that there was spaghetti and ice cream to celebrate the day.
Corona had us under control this year as well. Fortunately, there were also many wonderful moments, such as our visit to Bonn and the reunion with friends and family, the new doctors who came to us and that you can travel more, even if not as before.
We are still grateful for our volunteers, who stood by our side every day. And that has been the case for almost 15 years. We would like to thank you and all of you who have continued to support us with financial means and donations in kind. Despite our great distance, we know and notice how important this project is to you. All your help arrives and is used where it is needed, Sr. Veronica and I are responsible for that.
Since the numbers in Germany have risen so strongly again in winter, I wish all of you that you stay healthy and that the booster vaccination helps to prevent a strong corona infection, so that we can all see each other again soon.
And already today we wish you all a Merry Christmas! Let's all hope for a good, carefree and maybe better year 2022.
Malipayon nga Pasko (Merry Christmas) from Bugko!
Bugko, April 2021
Dear members, friends and supporters of Mabuhay!
In December I celebrated Christmas without my family for the first time. It was pretty sad because Christmas is celebrated very differently here, especially less festively. The church was beautifully decorated, but in the houses it was almost as always. The turn of the year turned out to be the same. Since, as in Germany, fireworks and gatherings were forbidden, we stayed at home too. In addition, there was the news that due to the virus mutation in England, all flights from the affected countries to the Philippines were suspended. So also flights from Germany. So I'm really stuck here. In Germany, the first vaccinations started on December 27th, but, as I heard, very slowly. At that time vaccinations did not strat in teh philippines, there was only the talk about a vaccine from China that is only supposed to have a 50% effect.
It is real gain as the latest technology is included. We had hoped that the first dentists would be able to work on it in February, but the world situation did not allow it until now. There are no visas for the Philippines and foreigners are still not allowed to enter. We hope that sometime this year it will be possible again and that dentists will come to us. The need and demand for dental treatments is huge and we are now well prepared. In between, even I had to take the forceps and pull teeth to help the patient. It's good that I've been able to watch so often over the years and so minor issues can be tackled. In Catarman, prices are still very high, so patients avoid the dentists there because they don't have the money for the treatment.
At the same time, the doctors from the USA also canceled, so that the outpatient operations will also be suspended the first time after 14 years. They were able to send their materials, but all operations have been postponed until spring 2022. Let's hope they can come then.
On February 21st, Typhoon Auring (international name Dujan) grazed us, the first typhoon of the year. Thankfully, there was no major damage to the buildings. Large areas were flooded and a large part of the rice plantations washed away, with catastrophic consequences for the farmers, but no evacuations took place. Even in the village, , the roofs of the very simple huts held up for the most part. As always, we helped where it was needed.
As every year, we had a “soup kitchen” in the clinic. This is a recurring action and not only pleases the patients but also the children and the people who just come by. Because many people no longer have a job, there is often not enough food for everyone in the families, especially since the harvest was damaged by the typhoon, as already mentioned.
We have almost 100 children in our nutrition program. They are divided into 7 groups. The children are still our most important concern. The parents are very grateful to us that we can keep the program going, since unemployment has also created bottlenecks here. Many are only day laborers and do not know whether they will have work the next day. Through this program, the children get a warm meal once a day and are visited regularly, so they are treated in the clinic when they are ill. We have had this program for years but it has never been more necessary than it is now during the pandemic.
Our boxes arrived in mid-February. The Meyer family had again packed your donations and had sent them on the long journey. The boxes arrived in best condition, the boxes are glued so well. Packing is a lot of work in order to make the best possible use of the space. The journey of the boxes to us in Bugko always takes almost 3 months. At the moment caused by the pandemic even longer. We always find customers for the empty boxes, as they are often used as sleeping pads or for storing clothes. The common people here don't have mattresses or wardrobes. At the moment there are again boxes on the way to the clinic.
Thanks to everyone who again donated medication, medical aids such as walking sticks, glasses, etc., as well as clothing, shoes and toys. Everything helps and is distributed where it is needed most at the moment.
On February 28, the announced vaccine from China arrived in Manila. The 600,000 vaccine doses will first be distributed to doctors and nurses and the military in Manila. Four days later, 525,600 Astra Zeneca vaccine doses also arrived in Manila. A drop in the bucket, as at least 70 million people in the Philippines need to be vaccinated to achieve a certain level of immunity. So it will take some time until this immunity is achieved, as the vaccination program starts very slowly here too. In addition, the government is not yet ready to allow large companies, for example, to take care of the vaccine themselves. Another problem here is politics and so those who work on the front lines are not always vaccinated first. We in Mabuhay have also registered our volunteers, but by the time you receive this letter, none of us has been vaccinated but we are currently seeing almost 100 patients a day from all over the province. Unfortunately, there is almost no testing, so hardly any residents who where tested positive are known here. So every day is fraught with great risk and we are happy and grateful that everyone has stayed healthy so far.
At the beginning of March we got another piece of good news. From the relief organization of German Dentists through Dr. Klaus Winter got the confirmation for a bigger generator. Our old generator has too little capacity to supply the entire clinic in full operation. We are very grateful that Dr. Winter supports us in this matter, because our province is being hit increasingly by a large number of power outages that can last from hours to several days. The relief organization of German Dentists has been by our side for years and supports us whenever we need help. Unfortunately only the delivery was delayed because on March 29th, Manila and neighboring regions went into another complete lockdown. Due to the new variants, which of course also crossed the Philippine border, the number of infections rose dramatically. In April with up to 15,310 new infections in one day, 167,279 infected nationwide and 382 corona deaths in one day. Even after more than a year with Corona, these were the highest numbers measured and that after a one-year lockdown in the Philippines. Nobody expected this as the regulations were very strict all year round. We use the waiting time to build the new generator house so that the new generator can move in soon.
For our laboratory we needed a new diagnostic device for the thyroid examinations, since hardly any reagents were available for our old device. This is also triggered by the pandemic, as the reagents come from outside the country. We see patients with thyroid diseases almost every day and therefore it was an urgent purchase to be able to provide the patients with targeted medication.
We have not yet been able to solve one problem and that is the repair of our X-ray machine. A technician is not available and so far everyone we have consulted has said that it is very difficult and it would be better to replace it. We urgently need it because many of our patients come with respiratory diseases and a quick diagnosis is necessary. Tuberculosis is still one of the biggest problems in the Philippines and it is always very costly to send patients to the city for x-rays because it is very expensive there and valuable time is lost.
We have had exciting and not always easy months as you can see from the length of the report. Many problems had to be addressed and so I thank you for your various help and your memory of us here. We also think of you and we follow the development of the corona situation in Germany in the news.
With the wish that all of you stay healthy, I greet you with cordial solidarity
Salamat (thanks) from Bugko!