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!