These last few days have been a whirlwind. Our last day in Pampanga we packed-uped the hospital, pre-op, and post-op. Melanie, Adrienne, and I handed out the rest of the toys to the patients, families, and also to some of the local volunteers. We got to see all of the children and adults from the past day that got surgery. Their new lips made me smile and overjoyed. We saw the 30 year old man whose surgery we watched without a cleft lip. I met a boy that had cleft palate surgery that was my same age: 16. Meeting people with cleft lips and palates my age really hit home with me. His mother told me that he was graduating school soon (In the Philippines, you graduate from high school at 16). All of the patients and especially the mothers were so grateful for us coming. But in reality, I am thankful for them too. They have changed my perspective on life.
Reflecting back on those last few days in Pampanga, I do not only see the 140 lives changed but also the lives of the volunteers, the families, and the people of Pampanga changed. The impact the of the Operation Smile on San Fernando and Pampanga was greatly stressed at our Final Party. Many of the local volunteers and people from organizations that sponsored Operation Smile coming to Pampanga got up and talked about it. The Filipinos were very hospitable and had open arms from start to finish. I learned a tradition about saying farewells- You do not say “goodbye”, you say “see you soon.” We made a toast about seeing each other soon and returning back to Pampanga. If I had the chance to return, I would not hesitate. The warmness and openness of the Filipinos is hard to imagine until you go and visit.
I learned a lot about about the Philippines from the local volunteers and just by looking and watching. The poverty level is about 70%. I also learned that the other 30% is very wealthy and very ready to help and lend a hand to those in need. Another thing I learned is the the rate of cleft lips for developing countries is the highest in the Philippines. Our last day in Pampanga, we visited a famous church, San Guillermo Parish Church, that showed how the affect of the eruption of Mount Pinotubo in 1991, even thought the volcano is over 2 hours away. Some of the only visible parts of the church were the roofs.
The next day, Saturday, we traveled back to Manila to spend the day there before our flight that night. We went to GreenHill Mall. I realized that none of the malls that we visited in Manila are small. You could get lost so easily. Without the help of Jicz, a nurse and local Filipino from Manila, at the GreenHill Mall we would have gotten seriously lost and paid way too much for our purchases. We grabbed a late lunch at The Hard Rock Cafe and headed back to the hotel in Makati to change and get our luggage to go to the airport.
I am just arriving home to Florida after 20+ hours of travel from Manila. I am sure the 12 hour time change is going to hit me soon, I can only wait.
Salamat po for reading and following my blog : ). I will post pictures soon, so look out for those.
Ingat palagi (take care always),