Indigenous folk learn that health is true wealth
Unmindful of the swirling dusts and the scorching tropical sun, a medical and dental team formed by a mining company provided much-needed health care services to a remote indigenous mountain village in Southern Philippines whose residents – many of whom are anti-mining advocates – had, until recently, protested the company’s presence in the area.
TVIRD physician Ramil Ignacio examines a Subanon. IPs in Siocon used to travel for hours to get medical attention. Recently, and for the first time, the medical professionals came to them.
The team, put together by TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc. (TVIRD), launched its first in a series of medical and dental missions in Paduan Ridge, some 13 kilometers from the Company’s Gold-Silver Project in Canatuan. The TVIRD Canatuan Project lies within the 6,253-hectare ancestral domain owned by the Subanon indigenous people of Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte
Throngs of Subanon families trooped to the community tribal hall to avail themselves of the free consultation, medicines, vitamins, food supplements, tooth extraction and circumcision. The mission, organized by TVIRD’s Community Relations and Development Office (CReDO), also administered oriental cures recognized by the World Health Organization. These include acupuncture, reflexology, moxibustion (an oriental medicine therapy utilizing moxa, or mugwort herb) and ventusa (a Chinese-inspired healing method aimed at removing bad blood in the body). Alex Clarabal, a CReDO Community Officer, led other trained staff members in administering these cures.
No more…teeth! Miguel Neri II, a dentist from Zamboanga Sibugay Province, extracting a tooth from an elderly Subana. Some 400 IPs benefited from TVIRD’s medical mission.
Company physician Ramil Ignacio, speaking before the more than 100 IPs who crowded hall, advised the Subanon community that good health is the real key to development: “Ang tinuod nga bahandi dili mao ang salapi o bulawan nga atong makuha sa palibot, apan ang maayong panglawas. Angayan nato kini nga alimahan tungod kay pag-antus ang ikadulot niini ug kalisod kun kita magsakit na (The ultimate wealth is not the money or gold that we get from around us, but excellent health. We should take care of our health because it would bring about suffering and hardship when we eventually get sick),” he said.
Subanon women and children wait for their turn to get free health care.
Ignacio is a mainstay at the TVIRD-supported Canatuan community clinic, which provides health care to both Company employees and village residents on a 24/7 basis. A nurse, midwife, nursing aides, and volunteers are also on-call any time of the day in this far-flung corner of strife-torn Mindanao, a post-conflict zone and one of the three major Philippine island groups. Before TVIRD began its operations in Canatuan in mid-2004, residents had to travel at least four hours through inhospitable and dangerous terrain to get medical attention.
The TVIRD medical team was complemented by Miguel Neri II, a dentist from the Provincial Government of adjacent Zamboanga Sibugay Province, during the 4-day medical mission. Apart from Paduan Rid ge, the team also went to Sitio Solonsangan, Tanuman Village and Skyline New Village, also within the Siocon ancestral domain.
Said a member of the Paduan indigenous Council of Elders: “Malipayon kami ug mabulahan nga nahodangat dinhi ang TVI aron sa paglusad, sa medical mission ,alang sa mga apektadong komunidad. Mao pa kiniy pinakauna nga adunay programang-medikal nga nahiabot dinhi sa among lugar. Among gikalipay ang pag-abot ninyo dinhi alang sa pagtunol sa nang-unang serbisyo-medikal (We are very happy and fortunate that TVI came here to our place to launch their medical mission for impact communities. This is the first time that a medical outreach program ever reached our place. We welcome your coming here to deliver basic medical services).”
For some time, residents of Paduan had been resisting the Company’s attempts to bring social and medical services to the area. A bailiwick of anti-mining advocates, Paduan proved difficult for CReDO personnel to enter. Subsequently, village elders, seeing CReDO’s persistence and their social development projects in neighboring communities, felt TVIRD’s sincerity and allowed the mission into Paduan.
Some 400 Subanons benefited from the Company’s medical and dental missions in four of its impact communities. (Rene Patangan)
CReDO Manager Theresa Limpin (second from left) and staff pose with beneficiaries of the first-ever medical mission in this remote village in a post-conflict zone in Mindanao.