April 04, 2014

How Port Barton Changed Me

My knees were swelling and pus all over my wound.

I could still recall the tragic accident that happened to me in San Vicente 2 days before I arrived in Port Barton. The memory was vivid as the scar on my knees will forever remind me of my encounter in Port Barton. Indeed circumstances woven by the Greater Being puts things in order so that I would have this realization in life.



The day I arrived in Iloilo for my 12 Days Northern Palawan Adventure, I expected greater things to happen to me. I met a boy in Cuyo that taught me that no matter how big the world is there will always be a child in us willing to explore, ask question yet still be contented in life. The first part of my journey was superb. Later on, I saw shores and islands of El Nido, the historic Taytay, the placid beach of San Vicente, and the still laid back community of Port Barton.

My journey laced by circumstances on the road was a self-reflecting. It answers’ many questions inside me of how we become what we become. I encountered what I want to become in Port Barton. It is not an accident why it came last on my itinerary. The people I met there played a greater part on my story.

I was searching for waterfalls, an unknown waterfall. I was too tired to do an island hopping and my means at that point did not allow me. A boy, a six years old boy accompanied me as he being and obedient kid to his mother whom I asked for direction. We saw the waterfalls after a river trekking for about an hour. I wanted to treat the boy for his genuine kindness, I realized. He brought me to a Sari-Sari Store wherein I met her lola (Grandmother) and a bunch of locals.

Talking with the locals whenever I am on the road energize my curios mind. Seeing the beautiful places is just like looking at the house outside. Talking to the locals is like entering their home. After much talk about their life, livelihood, politics, and economic development and yes some rumors about their neighbors, my guide’s grandmother noticed that the wound on my knees was swelling and has pus. I told her that it’s actually painful.

He brought me to the community clinic that I thought was closed because it was a Sunday. But low and behold, we went to the house of one community health worker so that she can clean my wound. The community health worker looked at my wound and we went on to the closed clinic. She opened it and treated my swelling wound. How was that? That’s not just hospitality that’s real public service.



While Nanay Neneng - the community health workerwas cleaning my swollen wound I came to know the problems of their community clinic that are very common to other clinic even in the metro. Things like lacking of equipment, basic medicines and first aid kit. Sure they have a budget from the government, but their record shows that most of their expenditures were taken from the donations of the tourist.

What struck me the most was that, their water supply will be cut anytime soon because they haven’t paid their obligation. Seriously? A clinic without water supply. Guess how much was their obligation. P200.00. I message the Mayor of San Vicente, where Port Barton belongs about the situation. I hope Mayor Pie Alvares have properly addressed the situation by now.

The sun goes down, cold wind swept away. The rain was pouring in the whole village. We were still inside the clinic trapped by nature. We spent a good 2 hours there but still there was no sign that the rain would stop. 


Nanay Neneng narrated to me some of the things they have to endure because of limited resources. She mentioned that they need an emergency light, blood pressure apparatus, and first aid kit. They need emergency light because electricity in Port Barton is limited. Emergency lights are used whenever there is/are women in labor during midnight. Though they have one, midwives and community health workers are having hard time with one emergency light.

Nany Neneng have also told me that they had to go to a remote island to conduct regular checkups to the kids and distribute pills to the mothers. Maybe she saw my face becomes animated with what she said; she asked me “Gusto mo sumama?” (You wanna join?) Without a second thought and in just .10 seconds I said YES!      

I was happy when I knew that the veteran Nandaleng who trasported me from San Vicente to Port Barton will be our captain for this mission. We went to two Barangay one inland but only accessible by boat. The other one is in Albaguen Island.


First stop was Boayan Island, a community of fisherman that is one hour away from town. We started the regular routing of the houses which has patient in need of medication. I am not with doctors but midwives and community health workers. But these people even though didn’t spend 10 years in med school were treated as if they all have the solution to their pain.

In one house that we visited one old guy was deeply in pain. No body could help him even the most experience medical professional in our group. He can't be sent to the city for proper medication because the family cannot afford all the expenses. Though many can help him to be transported, they do not know what to do once in the mainland already because they don't have money. What the medical workers in our group could do is to advice the family to show love and care to their old man. In pain touch him, caress him, by that he would feel that he is not alone and his family love him. 

Sad reality in the Philippines. If only wealth can be distributed properly. If only the government could give proper health service up to the islands far from civilization. If only there is no corruption and everything is efficient. If only the people plan for their future. If only life is fair but it isn't.    


We proceed to an area where mothers with their child were gathered. The children were in need of vaccines to prevent them from vulnerability. Some were middle aged men and women asking free medicines for their high blood pressure. I enjoyed handling medicines to the adults as well as assisting the midwives with the kids crying while being pinned by medicine.


Awkward moment was when one of the midwives handed me box of pills to be distributed to the mothers.  While I was distributing it to some middle aged and young mothers, I noticed that they were like giggling as if really excited. Little did I know that I am distributing pregnancy pills. I was so shy and end up laughing. Maybe they were excited to see their husband for the night. Go RH Bill. 



After we had some freshly grilled fish for lunch we headed back to the mainland for another location only accessible by boat. I forgot the name and I guess it’s better not to be named because the place was so lovely. Some things are best kept secret.

We did the same thing like we did in Boayan Island. Women and men asking for free medicines while children is up for vaccines. 

This time I learned that mother should be responsible for making sure that their child has all the necessary periodic vaccines. Missing one could affect the school admission of the child.




Scouting the area I saw mangroves with bamboo pathways. I asked if I could go in and favorably they let me. I learned that they are culturing carbs in the area and the mangroves serve as the nursery.

The breeze of the sea and the air from the mountain filtered by the thick bush of the forest makes it a place for a real vacation. I walked down the bamboo path to the open sea. I had to balance life in order to make it to the finish. When I approached the ends I notice that there is still more bamboos to conquer. I walked a bit until I realize that I was walking and balancing for quite some time. I only hear my breath, the whistle of the wind and the wave crashing on the shore. I couldn't see where I came from but I had to go back.     
                       


I was able to see the path going back from where I came from. I rushed to the area where the community health workers were conducting some consultation and vaccination. 

The scene was outstanding.  It wasn't an ordinary thing I always see whenever I travel. I am doing this since after graduation, thats 4 years ago. I can say that I've seen many things in the Philippines and in some parts of Southeast Asia but this one was the best. When your heart is full of happiness because you did something good, everything will brighten up, the heaven will pour lights and everything will seem to be beautiful. It was life changing. It was fulfilling. Looking at the sunset, I again realized that, that was the last part of my journey in Northern Palawan. It wasn't an accident but purposeful. Not everyone will be given a chance to experience what I have through. I am thankful.  

The Midwives and the community health workers

Like I was rushing back to the health workers, I realize that I can do something. Not that big but at least I can do something and share. Its not just gonna be for Port Barton. Its not just gonna be health in general. I would want to incorporate a cause in my journey. Traveling with a Cause. It took one blogger for me to realize that I am doing it already. I guess doing something socially relevant is in my blood ever since high school I am just so happy that Port Barton opened the possibility for me.

Port Barton will always be special. It changed me inside. It has a cut in me emotionally and mentally and by that I will never forget my encounter in Port Barton. I wanna do something tangible for them. I will do it soon.

The laugh and the smile of the kids told me to live like a child. Be curios. Be honest. Be a lover of everything new. Love life without any complication. Just play with the world but be rational. As I am writing this, I got that excitement of a child. I am full of joy with the possibility of what I can do. What we can do. 

;)     

Northern Palawan Series 
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This is the travel blog of Jherson Jaya - banker by profession, adventurer by passion. Everything written here were based on his experiences. The lust of seeing new places thrilled him to explore both the explored and unexplored world. Old and new architecture fanatic; lover of food, both exotic and indulgence; and founds peace in long bus and train rides - that's how he describe his way of traveling.    

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