My Home

Location

After an interminable drive, I arrive at Muntinlupa Park, a mostly empty field with two rusty soccer goals and a small amphitheater. I begin setting up my Ez-up tent as the local prisoners from New Bilibid march by. After setting my tent, I head back to my van and carry back twelve large shipping boxes filled to the brim with medical supplies. I tear open the boxes and set the first- aid kits on a large table. Shortly afterwards, my colleagues arrive: three doctors, two dentists, and four nurses. I excitedly sprint over to their van to help them with their “balikbayan” boxes. As I help set up my colleagues’ tents I can’t help but grin with excitement over the day ahead. With the six tents we have set up, it will be possible to help even more people than last year!

At 9:00 a.m. several “jeepneys,” tricycles, and buses, which we sent to the nearby GK villages, begin to arrive. The day has begun! I greet a young boy named Diego and his family. As I take his blood pressure and temperature he flashes me a wide grin. Throughout the entire checkup he never ceases to smile. Normally children dislike doctors, but this one looks at me with joy and respect in his eyes. I quickly go through my checklists, and before long I’ve finished examining his family. I hand Diego’s father a large first- aid kit filled with antibiotics, bandages, gauze, tape, ibuprofen, Benadryl, Cortisone, and a booklet on the proper use for all of the medical supplies. The smiles on their faces are priceless. As I direct them to the dentist’s tent they utter in unison “salamat!” Tagalog for “thank you.”

I continue to see an endless line of families until lunch arrives shortly before noon. We all take a thirty-minute break to enjoy Jollibee with the families. As I eat my lunch, I look around and watch the children playing soccer, the toddlers chasing each other, and the anxious mothers trying to calm their children. These sights are familiar; they remind me

of the first time I came to Muntinlupa Park 30 years earlier to conduct a soccer clinic. Yet it is amazing how much has changed since 2013.

After seeing every family, I am exhausted from a long and rewarding day; I hardly have enough energy to enjoy dinner with my family. Over the next three weeks I travel all across the Philippines to see the GK families, helping them in a myriad of ways ranging from hosting free clinics and teaching basic medical skills such as CPR to building houses. At the end of the three weeks, after visiting almost every corner of the Philippines−Manila, Davao, Cebu, Surigao, Zamboanga, General Santos, and many other cities−it is time for the last leg of my trip.

I board a plane to Puerto Princesa for a week of diving on the Tubbataha reef. As I arrive in Palawan and board the ship I will be staying on for the next six nights, I begin to wonder what makes this trip so special. As I think, I realize it is definitely more than just the free clinics and helping others that makes this special. After all, people need help everywhere, but why is it so special for me to help here? I realize that the Philippines are so special to me because they are my home. I may not speak much Tagalog, but I have called the Philippines home since I was a child visiting my Lolo and Lola, during the summer, in Davao. This is where I am from; even though my life has led me many places, the Philippines still has a special place in my heart. The Philippines will always be my home.

 

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