Medical Mission in Cotmon, Albay

Have you ever read the Legend of the Mayon Volcano? It’s a wonderful legend (alamat in tagalog) depicting the theme of true love among Daragang Magayon and Panganoron. Both died of course and as all legends go, the people in the village saw the mound where the Magayon was buried slowly rising until it formed the Mt. Mayon. Legend states that Ulap, the antagonist in the story, angers Magayon in his attempts to recover his gifts to Magayon and she in turn spurts lava in retaliation to Ulap. Look for the recent pictures of the Mayon eruption and you’ll see some pictures showing Magayon and Pangaronon.

Being a first timer in Albay, it was thrilling to see the eruption first hand. For days prior to the eruption, we kept observing this red cloud forming over the top of the volcano similar to the eye of Sauron in Lord of the Rings. At around lunchtime of  Monday that week, news spread that the volcano has erupted. We rushed to the rooftop and saw this huge cloud-shaped eruption, similar to what we see in nuclear eruption pictures. Apparently, that was what PHIVOLCS call a “phreatic eruption”, an eruption due to contact of hot magma from beneath with water spurting not lava, but steam, rocks, and ash. That afternoon, it was declared unsafe for travel along  some of the roads of Camalig and Guinobatan as these were the municipalities which were severely affected by the ashfall. There was zero visibility along the roads after that eruption, but eventually, the order was lifted and travel was resumed. Citizens there were advised to wear masks and protective gear to avoid inhalation of the ashfall. Photos circulating the net that day was scary as it looked as though an ash tsunami was approaching the barangays. Everything was covered in white after, from the roofs, roads, cars, and plants. The eruption that lunchtime was not the last however, as after that eruption, several followed every 4 hours. School was suspended that entire week for the safety of the people. Citizens starting from the 6km danger zone were evacuated prior to the eruption thank God, but then it extended to 7km, 8km, and when I left Albay that week, even those from the 10km danger zone were advised to evacuate. As of today, as I’m writing this post, people from the 8km danger zone and above were allowed to return to their homes. This caused a decrease in the amount of evacuees in the evacuation centers but still, as up until now, Mayon is still erupting, although it has decreased to about once or twice a day as per NDRRMC text messages, thus, those from the 7km danger zone are still living in the evacuation centers.

The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia(AMDA) together with various partners and the BUCM-Sanggawad Organization manned the Medical Mission last Feb. 10, 2018 in Cotmon Elementary School in Camalig. Lo and behold and it was heaven sent that Cotmon was actually one of the adopted barangays of the second year community groups of BUCM. The evacuees in that school however, was from Cabangan, a barangay within the 7km danger zone. Most of the people there have been staying in the school for 1 month or more. The entire school was converted to an evacuation center. Portalets were installed near the entrance, faculty rooms were converted to make-shift clinics, and families were gathered in their assigned classrooms. Now the flow of the program was that our organization was to be the advanced party assigned to gather the needed data from the patients prior to the arrival of the doctors and their party. We left Daraga at around 9:30 am and arrived at Cotmon around 10:00 am. There was no time to rest as the AMDA people were expected to arrive by 1:30pm. Pairs were assigned as teams and given specific rooms to handle and gather data from. My partner was Irene and we were assigned Room 2. The people in the room was so friendly. While the coordinator was still explaining what was going to happen, they were already setting up a mini station by placing a folding table near the door, arranging chairs, and calling their family members. I explained to them our purpose, the program, and how we were going to proceed. Immediately, the citizens understood and allowed the people whom we considered as the priority to be interviewed first. The process went smoothly as the people were so cooperative. I asked why most of the people there were women and one replied that most of their husbands are out in the field working and that the housewives are the ones staying in the center with the children. In that particular room, there were only a few children. While we were interviewing, I saw how united the families inside the room were. Some mothers were cooking lunch outside the room as they had this gas burner and stove placed outside the room and all contributed to cook the food for the entire room. By the time we were finished interviewing however, this line of teenagers arrived, apparently they had their Saturday classes and are now returning home. It took longer than we expected as we had finished at around 11:45am yet we still had 1 more room to interview. We went to the covered court to report that we were finished and ask for the next room assignment but we were given 15 minutes of lunch break first. After lunch, we were assigned Room 14. Room 14 was located far from the main building. In the building where Room 14 was located, there were several little children outside the rooms playing. In fact, upon arriving at Room 14, I only saw 4 adults and the rest of the people in the room were children! So once again, I explained to them the process, etc. etc. There were only a few patients in that room but I was taken aback by one particular family. There was this little girl of 13 years old who had no accompanying adult who quietly took her seat in my chair and asked to be interviewed as well. I asked her where her parents were if they would also like to be interviewed but she said both her parents were working and that she was the only one left to take care of her siblings in that center. So I interviewed her, and after, she called her siblings and her cousins to be interviewed as well. She was a great “Ate” to both her siblings and cousins, setting a good example of not being afraid of us. By around 1:30pm, the doctors arrived and we went on to our next task of assisting them per room. We were assigned Room 1 & 2. Our main job was to dispense the prescribed medications, advise the patients, and health educate. It went by smoothly and by 3:30pm, the medical mission was finished. We then gathered in the stage near the covered court as the barangay officials manned the giving away of the relief goods brought by the AMDA people and their partners. Everyone was all smiles after, from the families, volunteers, doctors, and us, the medical students. The community expressed their gratitude by cooking baduya for us as our merienda. It was an awesome feeling when you see how grateful our kababayans were, from  the mothers to the elders, and even the children. They were all thanking us, and, though we did not deserve it yet, insist on calling us doktor/doktora. It was a great experience and a truly humbling one. How awesome were the volunteer doctors and health practitioners who traveled all the way from Manila and various cities just to provide unpaid service to their kababayans in Bicol. They are such an inspiration to us medical students. My hat’s off to you Sirs & Madames. Thank you for choosing my province as the place to share your blessings. I went to sleep that night with an aching body but a happy heart, thinking that at least even for just one day, we were able to provide support to our kababayans and tell them through our actions that they are not alone in this fight, that there are people who are watching them, caring and praying for them, and willing to extend a helping hand. All of which just underscores why I love this field.


Yesterday was a happy day for me. The night before was my official welcome to the book of Pathology, parting ways at 2 in the morning. I spent the entire night making a presentation for the next day on a concept that was very broad and interesting – Inflammation. I was already sleeping at 2 in the morning and it was only the third day since this schoolyear started! 😨 At least I got 5 hours of sleep on Day 2, I thought.

Yesterday morning was a morning of all praises, the preceptor congratulated me on my report, my groupmates were driven, and I can say that my 3 hours of sleep was worth it.

One question popped though, how on earth was I able to smile despite sleeping for only 3 hours, reading tons of pages from an unfamiliar boook, and delivering my report that morning?

A small voice answered – passion.

 When you love what you’re doing, you’re driven to do more. 😀

Promdi(s) go to Manila

Summer is here and for third year students, that means Manila Affiliation. Here is where we stay in a hotel for one month, rotating to a different affiliated hospital per week. For my batch, there were only four hospitals – Philippine Orthopedic Center, National Center for Mental Health, San Juan de Dios Hospital and Hospicio de San Jose where we had our duties. The week before leaving was a hectic one. Exams were moved earlier for our batch since we were leaving 1 month before holy week. For the research subject alone, we were bombarded by tasks for our defense. Two weeks earlier it was declared that we were going to have our defense in Manila but 3 days prior to leaving, the CIs suddenly declared that we were going to defend it the day before leaving. Thus, for two days, we scrambled to polish the research, double checking it, then triple checking before finally printing it to produce copies for our panelists. It was a good thing that we were fully finished with the paper itself. Thus, hours before leaving Naga, we successfully defended our paper and were marked free to join the affiliation.

We left early Friday morning and arrived in our hotel a bit past 9 pm. We were first called for a meeting where the staff explained the rules and regulations of the hotel as well as the CIs told us our schedule for the day. Even though we were only going to have an orientation from the different affiliated hospitals, I couldn’t sleep. Maybe it was being in a new environment, or being with roommates in one room. It was a good thing that in our room all five of us were group mates, thus no one will be left behind during duties. So what I did was I ironed my uniforms, all of them, though they were ironed prior to being kept in the luggage. OC, I know, but with that, I slept around 1am and woke up at 4am since we were scheduled to leave at 6:30 and there was one bathroom to be shared by all five of us. Since I only take 10 minutes to bathe, they ordered me to be the first one in the bathroom every morning.

Our first stop was in Hospicio de San Jose, an institution located in its own island (I’ll elaborate on this later). We were given a tour around the buildings and its surroundings. We traveled to San Juan de Dios Hospital next. It was a large, private hospital where we will conduct our clinical duties. We did not have our orientation in POC and NCMH until later during our first day of duty.

Let’s begin.

Welcome to Nursing!

First year nursing life went by so fast. For the first semester, there were only two nursing subjects. The first one introduced was Theoretical Foundations of Nursing, where the  favorite nursing theory was introduced to us(Environmental Theory), as well as our nanay in nursing – Florence Nightingale. Then the application through Fundamentals of Nursing. Here’s the fun part.

The USI nursing faculty has compiled a list of nursing procedures done in hospital and community settings. They have set a standard of steps which must be done in complicance to the procedure. After each theory taught, when applicable, we had a Return Demonstration to show our skills and application of the theory. Guess what the first return demo was? Simple handwashing. For the first return demo, I’m proud to say I got the perfect score. Thus, my momentum built up and my will to graduate with honors spiked up.

First year was the time that we were taught the bedmaking skill. The night before, I was so busy practicing it in my own bed that I slept wonderfully. Who wouldn’t when your pillow is all fluffed up and your bedsheet crease-free? Haha, okay so here’s the funny part. We were all partnered up to demonstrate bedmaking with a patient. So the first thing to do would be to ask the patient to move to one side, or assist him/her to one side and do one side of the bed first, then move the patient back to the done side and repeat the process on the other side. There are 3 layers of cloth placed on the mattress – the top coat, the rubber sheet and the draw sheet. Our partner, the patient was supposed to be independent and conscious but relaxed. Well apparently, my partner was so relaxed and a bit on the heavy side that when I pulled the rubber sheet underneath her, it ripped! It was so loud when it ripped too! Not a single eye was dry after that, even my CI was laughing. Lesson learned after my turn though, a skinny person was required to be the patient after that. Me? I sent the rubber sheet to the sewing room and paid to have it resewn.

Then we were taught how to administer medications through the oral route, intradermal, sub-q  and intramuscular. We were made to perform the return demonstration on a partner. The day before that, we were advised to practice on a tomato. So as a group, we went to a medical store nearby to buy syringes. All the while I was thinking how weird must they think we were that we were buying only one piece of tuberculin, 5cc and 1 cc syringes. I went home looking for a tomato and practiced, but goddarn it, I simply cannot perform ID on a tomato, the skin isn’t as pliable as a human’s. Anyway, the next day, I performed the procedures to my classmate and I found out my weakness – opening vials. I feel like opening them using a gauze or cotton ball would pierce my skin thus rendering the medication unusable because of blood contamination. So it would be a loss to the patient or hospital as well as mine as who else will pay the for a replacement? Anyway, that passed and I passed and it was my turn to be the patient. Everything was going fine, until my partner performed the intramuscular injection. She was about to push it but the CI noticed that she didn’t aspirate, so she was instructed to aspirate. Unfortunately, her aspiration means thoroughly removing the needle then reinserting it. “STOP!” yelled the CI. Haha I was startled as well but the situation was too funny. Therefore, instead of 2, I felt 3 punctures. I consider myself lucky, the next day there was word that someone from the other section repeated ID and IM on her partner, therefore, all her arms were punctured.

On White Caps and Photoshop

When I entered nursing school, I had no idea of the formalities entailed in the course. All I knew was that student nurses wear an all white dress, stockings and shoes, with their hair in a clean bun, all neat and pretty with their black duty bags, going to the hospital for their duties and what not.

Well apparently, I left out one of the most vital ceremonies in nursing- the Capping and Candle Lighting Ceremony.

In our school, the ceremony is a departmental affair. This was the day that second year students formally receive their nameplates, white caps and their Nightingale lamp. Yup, even boys get a white cap, the only difference was while we get ours “capped” by our dean, they offer theirs to a statue of Mama Mary set up on the stage.

Let’s go back to a few weeks prior to the event. A classmate named Nicole, scouted for people who can learn photoshop and were willing to volunteer as part of the invitation committee. So off we went, learning the ins and outs of Photoshop through YouTube and internet tutorials. As I mentioned before, this was the year that the clinical instructors left the planning of the ceremony to the students, from the invitations to the venue. I consider it a blessing that I was an officer in the Nursing Students’ Association at that time and our president was very adamant on helping us go through with the ceremony. With Kuya Jayson’s leadership, we had a photoshoot with Kuya Gau and the fourth year students became our instant backbone.They, together with the third year students also consisted more than half of the audience during the ceremony, as per the mandate of the dean, so the auditorium would not look empty. It was nice that my NSA ’12-’13 family voiced out their concerns regarding the CI’s decisions and immediately responded to the crisis at hand. Going back to the invitations, here’s the very first project that was forwarded to me by Nicole, the CI’s wanted Nightingale to be at the front cover of the invitation, as well as St. Vincent, as well as of course, the title, the theme, the venue, the time and it must represent the colors of nursing – green and yellow. Easy task no? Not.

FB_IMG_1463462526552Apparently, he had a meeting with our batch moderator and the CIs wanted those elements in the front cover and they wanted to see the cover as soon as possible. That night, he sent me his little project and asked for improvements. And that was when I first opened and started my photoshop project. Can you see her yeeeeett?

Hahaha, try squinting your eyes a bit, or increasing the brightness of your gadget. You’ll see that there’s a person there, a person named Nightingale. Yup, that’s her, or a sketch of her. Florence Nightingale, the mama of Nursing, the lady with the lamp. Get it? That’s why there’s such a thing as the candle lighting ceremony. Anyway, so that file was sent to me to include improve and add the required elements, and thus, I created the front cover as well as the back:FB_IMG_1463488057926

The CIs chose Nicole’s design for the front cover however, as the font in mine was, apparently, unreadable. But I got dibbs on the back cover, so all efforts weren’t wasted.IMAG5637_1

Now, the invitation was done. 14 pages in total, including the front and back cover, done in one month by two photoshop noobs. I’ll say holding that invitation was a very proud moment.

Next up, the day itself. The program, as you can see above, started in the afternoon. We walked to our seats to the tune of At the Beginning, a song that was “wasoy” during my high school years. Soon, to the tune of Sanctus by Libera, we were marching to the stage accompanied by a parent to obtain the pin, cap and lamp. During the mass, the priest blessed the caps, nameplates and the lamps, then the ceremony started immediately after. First task: The Pinning Ceremony. Our nameplates were a literal pin and most of the parents were nearing the 50’s-60’s years thus, there were some delays in the pinning. This was why the succeeding batch had magnetic nameplates oh di ba, less hassle. Then from that station, we moved on to the next ceremony: The Capping Ceremony. Basically, we kiss the white cap, then the dean simply pins the cap on top of our bun, congratulates us and the parents. The boys however, kiss the cap and offer it to the statue of Mama Mary before proceeding to the next station. Don’t worry, each cap has a name sticker inside so they wouldn’t get the cap with another boy’s spit, hehe. On to the third station, The Lamp Station. Here was where we received the mini lamp, and posed next to a big lamp for a souvenir photo. Then we went back to our seats, standing, as practiced, until the last person in the row arrived and we sat down altogether.

On and FB_IMG_1463462112073on the ceremony went until the fourth year students were passing white roses to the sophomores. Apparently, the NSA prepared a gift for the parents, to thank them for their effort and support that we were able to arrive in that stage in our nursing career.

We thought that was the last surprise, bu apparently, our babies(freshmen) also had a surprise for us! They gifted us with red, blue and black ballpens – much needed items for duty – for good luck. It was nice.

The ceremony ended not long after, with our NIghtingale pledge.

Time to go and celebrate! We were finally, officially, “Student Nurses”!

Duty starts Monday.