As the propeller plane approached Naga City, I was half relieved and half disappointed: relieved to finally be landing after a tremendously bumpy ride (a storm was brewing), and disappointed because obviously it was very gloomy. So much for trying to get some sun, I thought to myself.
Still, I was thankful to be here. Naga City has been on the news as it was devastated last Christmas by tropical cyclone Nina (internationally called Nock-ten). Images of destroyed houses, trees and concrete blocks flung to the grounds, displaced locals flooded the news. When my friend, artist Pepe Gaka, said he was invited by Missionaries of the Poor for a commissioned project and a Medical and Dental mission was in the works, I said I would be more than happy to tag along. This was a good a time as any to come visit, see the damage myself, and help if needed. Given different circumstances, I would never have finally decided to visit Naga.
The Medical and Dental Mission is a yearly event spearheaded by the Missionaries of the Poor in Bgy. Cararayan, Naga City in partnership with Maronites on Mission of Australia (MOM), a Christian voluntary organization that helps marginalized sectors of society.
This year, they have 18 volunteers from different industries and professions. They flew all the way to Naga from Australia, sourced all the medical sponsors for the event, and did all the leg work. Most arrived on January 9th to help full-time while I arrived on January 11. The mission was an 11-day event which involved numerous charity works including medical and dental support, house building, and food relief. The medical and dental mission was slated for January 14 in San Rafael, Bgy. Cararayan and was the major event I helped out in.