So Monday I asked for the day “off.” My personal mission has superceded the task I have been given when first I arrived. I said on Monday: it’s time for good things to happen and today is the day. If all goes according to plan, this for me will be a day of great deeds, hope and second chances. We all deserve them, so let’s make them happen together.
As an aside, I found Casanova Ron a very cute girl (and smart as that’s how he likes them) named Christina who is at the LNU Dormitory. We’ll make a pit stop for the introductions now that Ron is back in town. Don’t get me started on the fact he was supposed to come back on Monday and didn’t, then proceeded to not call me until Tuesday night. If I didn’t hear from him by this AM, I was fully prepared to go to his hometown in search.
Crystal joined me for another visit to Cirilo Roy Montejo Evacuation Center, the home of Valeria Gabriel and her group. If you have to ask who Valeria is, please read my blog post: Heroes Among Us from a few days ago. If I had it my way, everyone would know who Valeria is and she be dubbed a 62-year-young national treasure. This was my third visit in four days to Cirilo Roy and it was great to once again see everyone. Yes, I’ve “adopted” them and we will return today after another supply run. My pictures on Facebook show just a portion of the devastation to their school, which has almost 1600 students and many brave and extremely passionate teachers such as Jerry who is also a monster workhorse always with an ear-to-ear grin on his face.
Now from what I gathered during my last visit, Valeria said that word has spread during the principals’ meetings and the other schools are wondering why two Americans are helping out Cirilo Roy Montejo. Apparently I’ve been mentioned by name. What began as a personal mission may very well become a crusade, which could mean a number of schools in need will be knocking on the door of David Carson. Um…resources?
That said, the purpose of this blog post is about Monday morning’s adventures…
There are moments where something inside you “clicks.” Call it life purpose, divine inspiration, or a sense of good ol’ plain humanity — whatever you believe it to be doesn’t change the fact that it is very much real. And when it happens, you have a choice. For me, it was never a choice between two options to do it or not do it. It was a choice of how to open myself up in a way that I am then able to realize what my “true” options are.
A few days ago, which here is like a few lifetimes, Ron and I were at the Abucay Elementary School Evac Center and learned they hadn’t been given any drinking water since the typhoon. I immediately called Jet and because she’s an angel, she got her contacts to supply water for the 95 people there. I’m happy to report that when I went there on Monday they had received their water shipment. That’s so awesome! But that’s not the reason I went to Abucay that morning.
Back up to our first visit to Abucay a few days before in which we were gathering data for the UNFPA medical missions to serve those women who are pregnant and had recently given birth. After our data collection task was done and I was beginning to leave, one of the girls in the last classroom yelled after me. Ron and I went back and he informed me that I had been asked to be the godfather of her son, Gabriel. He’s a beautiful, now four-week-old baby with a left club foot bent inwards. I was touched, honored and a bit unsure. Regardless of the nature of the offer, I accepted it as I take that responsibility seriously. Godfathers are to give the child a gift, which I did. That was that and there was still much to do so we moved on to our next Evacuation Center.
On Sunday, our mission was to go to the hospital with Ron Villas, Humanitarian Coordinator of the UNFPA, to transport the medical supplies that will be used this week for the sessions with the pregnant women/those who had recently given birth. On the way, I had a thought. “Ron, can you introduce me to a surgeon at the hospital? A Filipino one please.” Ron agreed and once we arrived at EVRMC (Eastern Versia Regional Medical Center) he did just that.
Enter Dr. Lito Cablao stage left. I told Dr. Cablao of Gabriel, showing him a picture, and inquired as to the cost of the surgery to correct the alignment of his foot, as I had been told by his mother that it is very, very expensive. Dr. Cablao took a moment to explain the process of casting the foot once a week over a 10-12 week period and then the final surgery to allow for the foot alignment to be corrected. He then said that due to the Typhoon Relief efforts the cost was covered. Um…did you just say FREE?!
If anyone ever tells you not to ask a question, tell them as politely as you can to shut the hell up and then proceed to ask it anyway. “So basically they just need pesos to cover the weekly trike rides?” Correct. Yeah, we got that covered. I’m his Godfather after all. I asked Dr. Cablao if I could bring the mother (I never got her name) and Gabriel into the hospital tomorrow for consultation to which he agreed as long as it was before noon.
Fast forward to Monday with me riding on the back of the motorcycle portion of a trike with a mother, someone I presume to be her husband or brother, and my Godson in the cab part. We arrived around 10:30 at EVRMC. Dr. Cablao was on a navy ship transporting a patient, so we had to wait for about an hour. Waiting for a doctor — I guess some things are universal regardless of borders.
Once Dr. Cablao arrived, he and Dr. Gilbert Ola examined Gabriel and proceeded to discuss the correction options. In a nutshell, he’ll be able to undergo the corrective casting either at the age of or within 1 1/2 months. I wasn’t clear on which timing. I asked Dr. Ola to keep me informed of any additional needs that may occur. We exchanged contact information.
With the initial consultation completed, it was time to get the family back home. I think they were still a little unsure of what was happening, which probably hadn’t changed much since I first showed up a couple hours before in their classroom that was serving as their shelter and asked, “Are you busy? Will you take a ride with me to the hospital?”
As I gave them the trike, I pulled out an envelope with my contact info, enough pesos to cover their trike rides and handed over one of my Under Armor Superman shirts (which was admittedly too tight even for me, and a bit damp from having just been washed.) I told the mother it was for Gabriel and that “he will grow into it. He’ll grow up big and strong.”
Remember, the S stands for Hope.
Gabriel’s mother reached out her hand and shook mine saying, “Thank you.” If you read my previous blog post you know my response was just a nod and a smile.
I am not naive enough to think that I did this alone and want to thank those who helped make it possible, whether you know it or not. Especially UNFPA Humanitarian Ron Villas who took time out of his busy day to introduce me to surgeons. I want to thank Dr. Lito Cablao and Dr. Gilbert Ola for choosing to be doctors and for being open to having a conversation with a big oaf from the United States of America.
But I especially want to thank my guide, who shall forever remain nameless — your secret is safe with me — for leaving just the right amount of bread crumbs for me to be able to do this – you know who you are and, on behalf of Gabriel, you have my eternal gratitude and appreciation. We all, collectively, have been able to give a gift that will hopefully change the course of a life. There is truly hope among the madness, light within the darkness, and strength within us all.
There are a series of scenes in the 90s “buddy” movie The Last Boy Scout with Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans. In it, Damon Wayans’ character makes a toast to Alex the Astronaut, Alex the Accountant and other variations of Alex + insert random profession. When asked about this in the movie, he says that his accountant could have been named Alex. Alex was his son who died in a car wreck along with his wife. While Gabriel is very much alive, like the character in the movie I may never see him grow up or know what kind of man he will become, though I imagine him to achieve greatness no matter what path he chooses. So in true Last Boy Scout fashion, please join me wherever you are in raising a glass in salute to my godson, Gabriel the Swift-footed.
God willing, Gabriel will be able to grow up with two feet planted firmly beneath him. He’ll have the opportunity to walk and run and play with all the other children who will hopefully have no memory of the typhoon that ripped apart their homes and their lives. He will be able to grow brave and strong and serve as a boon to the world if he so chooses. Yet that is his choice to make for himself, just as it is yours to decide for your life. Me? I already made mine long ago. Like Gabriel, it just took me a little while to find my footing.
May your feet be swift and full of purpose as you travel to wherever your heart takes you next.
With much hope for the best of today so that we may have a better tomorrow,