“Mas gusto pa nako na mamatay kesa mabuhi na wala ko’y Makita. Mura kag gahigda na gahulat ug dugay sa imong kamatayon.” (“I’d rather die than living blind and laying in bed waiting for a long waited death.”) Ariel Pantonial once said this in one of our interviews before his operation. He worked as a driver since 1996 from barangay mobile car to a taxi cab, a job wherein clear vision is very vital. Late 2014, Ariel noticed blurring of his vision that even his purchased eye glasses can’t help him.
Because of financial constraint, he continued to drive despite his condition until one incident happened. Last September 2015 while driving a taxi, he bumped into a gutter. That moment was a wakeup call – the time he realized he can no longer drive and his eyes need medical attention. When he found out about his cataract, he got so depressed because of the realization that he had to stop driving. October came and his 3rd-year-college daughter had to stop schooling because he could no longer support her. He couldn’t go back to driving unless his vision improves and, at the same time, he needed to prepare 30,000 pesos for his operation. He felt so helpless.
January this year, Ariel Pantonial was able to have his two eyes operated for free! Thanks to a friend whom he came to know about the foundation. With a previous VA of: OD- CF 3ft and OS – CF 2ft his new VA is 20/25 for OD and 20/40 for OS. Now he is back in driving – back in what he does best!
Bernardita Siodina, 61 years old. She spent 5 years in a wheelchair to protect her from bumping on furniture inside the house and other accidents since her visual acuity became HM due to cataract.
After the operation on both eyes, Bernardita can now walk on her own and become independent in her daily life, most especially starting to serve her family through cooking which she loves to do even before the cataract took her vision away.
When Mr. Dioscoro Bayno went here to inquire about the foundation regarding cataract surgery, he couldn’t walk on his own due to his VA OU of CF- 2ft. He was having a hard time walking without his wife to guide him. His wife said, “Most of the time we fight, especially when we have to go out to buy something or for his check up. Every time in our trips, he blames it on me because I’m not guiding him well. He is very short-tempered”.
During our initial interview and evaluation with the patient, Mr. Dioscoro was just quiet. His wife, Nanay Clara, always did the talking every time we would ask something to him. Then on October 2015, after we informed them about the approval of their Philhealth, Nanay Clara told me that they are not interested anymore to be scheduled for cataract surgery. Her husband didn’t like to continue even after we told him that the foundation would shoulder their medical laboratories just to save his eyes. He stayed firm with his decision. However, we still told them that the foundation’s assistance would always be open whenever they change their mind. On February 2016, Nanay Clara came back and asked us if the offer is still open.
Last February 26, 2016, after his right eye was operated, we were shocked Mr. Dioscoro was being talkative. He answered our entire query and was glad that he finally got to see faces clearly. One of us even heard him ask his wife “Was she the one who entertained us the first time we got here? “ Nanay Clara nodded her head. “Are you Ma’am Marie?’ Dioscoro asked our volunteer personally. Marie smiled and answered yes. “I finally got to see your face clearly,” the old man said with a smile.
Now that his two eyes are both operated, he can already make jokes around and smiles a lot. “We never fight about silly stuff anymore because he can walk on his own. I can say that my husband is back. We are so happy that he changed his mind and decided to pursue the operation with the help of the foundation,” Nanay Clara said.
Mr. Edilberto Cansico, 55 years old, worked as a watcher in their barangay for more than 2 years already. Despite his disability, he loved his work and was happy doing his job. When his eyes started to get cloudy and blurry, this made his job difficult for him to do, especially reading and recording on the logbook for kagawads’ attendance.
When he heard about the foundation, without any delay, he went to inquire on his own. This meant from his place, he had to travel 3 hours to Davao City just to avail the free operation.
After his two eyes were operated, in less than two weeks, he already brought another cataract patient to the foundation to avail the operation as well. The new patient was then operated last Dec. 8, 2015. Mr. Cansico said, “I know how it feels to have cataract while you don’t have money for your surgery.” He’s already done with his last scheduled check-up and is enjoying his clear vision from his visual acuity of HM to 20/40.
Mr. Ernesto Largo was suffering from cloudy and blurry vision 6 months before the operation. A good samaritan shared to him about the foundation, and Ernesto came to inquire about it. As a driver who was delivering live stock from one place to another in a long distance travel, Ernesto knew he was already having a hard time doing his job. He couldn’t even see street signs very clearly. That’s why during his travels, he could only drive during day while his boss would drive the car at night. Before he got fired from his work, he filed series of leaves to comply with the requirements needed for the operation.
February 19, 2016. Ernesto’s left eye was operated. From VA of CF 5ft, he is now enjoying the vision of 20/30. He is very happy with the improvement though he needed to rest from his work for a month. He said, “It’s all worth it! Now, I can keep my job. I can upgrade my performance to its maximum since I have better vision. I can also assure my safety in doing my job because of the goodness of the foundation.”
Honorato Lungay is a father to 5 children. The only way he had to provide for his family was through driving a motorcycle from 6 AM – 5 PM. Three years ago, he started to experience cloudy or blurry vision in his one eye. However, he did not feel the need to seek medical attention until he also felt the same symptoms in his other eye. He said, “I was alarmed with the idea that I won’t be able to see because I didn’t do anything with my eyes. What will happen to my family then? Considering my income, how can I avail a surgery?”
Honorato was referred by a friend who also availed the free cataract operation. It paved the way for Honorato to continue providing for his family. “At my age, I can’t do so much for my family anymore. Providing them through driving is the only source I have. Even with my small income, I am happy that I am able to save my vision because it means that I can provide food on our table. I am happy that my friend referred me to the foundation,” he said.
Iluminada Valle is a loyal nanny. When both of her eyes had cataract, she could no longer perform her work well. She was afraid to lose her job since her daughter was already in college. Her employer got to know about the foundation during one of the screenings that took place in the school where she was teaching. Iluminada was then accompanied to the foundation to avail the cataract operation. At first, she was very hesitant because she was anxious about the outcome of the operation. Fortunately, she was convinced eventually by people around her.
After the operation on both eyes, Iluminada is glad that her employer convinced her about the foundation because she was able to regain her vision and job. Today, she is no longer working as a nanny. Instead, she is provided a place to stay by her employer and works as a housekeeper in an ancestral house.
Victoria Pugosa, Elizabeth Pedrosa & Josephine Lagaret
Victoria Pugosa and Elizabeth Pedrosa are already friends even before the surgery. They have built their friendship during their senior citizen meetings in their place. When both of them decided to come to Davao for cataract surgery, they were trying to get courage from each other. They were even roommates and had the same date of surgery.
Their friendship becomes more wonderful when they got to meet Josephine Lagaret, who was also their roommate and had the same date of surgery as well. They get along and love each other’s company.
These three Marias are inseparable. They are always together from senior citizen meetings to eye screening, checkups and even their surgery. A friendship that is bonded through thick and thin because of cataract – like what they say every time they joke around.
Aizah Sultan is a 3-year-old cleft lip patient who loves to sing and dreams to be a singer someday. Her mother, Juvelyn, said that she herself was the one who was very much excited with the surgery because according to her, Aizah needs to be beautiful to become a famous singer. Touched by a hopeful daughter, Juvelyn did her best to support Aizah’s surgery even if it meant leaving her 2-month-old baby to her mother-in-law. That surgery might really pave the way to make Aizah’s dreams come true.
Aizah’s parents believed that this surgery would help their daughter keep her confidence intact, become more competitive and have a positive perspective in life.
Ace Kionisala, a 3-year-old from Tagum City, was operated last Dec. 1, 2015 (Plato Plasty). His parents already knew about his condition even before he was born. This gave them advantage of looking for a foundation that could help them in their child’s operation. Before Ace reached 1 year old, his parents already had him operated on his cleft lip and were working for his next operation 6 months later. However, it was not easy and it took them more than a year before Ace was successfully operated for his cleft palate.
The preparation was never easy according to Urjanice, Ace’s mom: “Every time we decided to have him operated in Davao City after a week of preparation, he would always get sick. A cold, cough or fever would come. This caused us to postpone the operation again and again.”
Ace’s parents always wanted their son to decide for himself. They admitted that the operation was not something Ace would choose on his own. However, they would do it even without consent to make sure that their child will live a normal life just like other children.
Dante Pecondo, Jr.
This brave little boy is Dante Pecondo Jr. who traveled every week for a month and a half with his parents in a motorcycle (about 4-5 hours travel) to correct his club foot.
It was done with weekly leg casting for 6 weeks at most.
Six-month-old Dante is now happy wearing his very own Dennis-Brown Splint. It was advised to make Dante wear it for 3 months (23 hours daily). He still has to use it for 3 years after the initial wear but only when he’s asleep.
“Mabuhay Deseret Foundation will not only change our life but also help us make our dreams for our child become possible,” mother Gina Pecondo said.
This is Kira Roberts, born with severe Cleft Lip and Palate. She stayed 2 weeks in a hospital due to prematurity and was feeding through OJT because of his condition. Series of surgeries was made to correct his condition. Last January 2016, with the help of Mabuhay Deseret Foundation, he’s done with his last surgery.
His guardian said that Kira was the one reminding him since December to have his operation. He started thinking that the child might be experiencing bullying from his classmate. Kira likes to draw a lot and dreams to have his own exhibit someday.
Charles Noel T. Barmido
(Picture taken last December 1, 2015 in his school. Charles was 14 years old in 6th grade.)
Charles Barnido recalled his very painful accident when he was 8 years old which was 6 years ago. He got hit by an armoured vehicle that resulted to losing his right leg just below the knee. He became very shy and often times sad not being able to walk without a crutch and run like normal teenagers do. He attended less and less of school to avoid bullying. He said that he dreamt of getting a prosthesis to be able to walk again without a crutch.
One day, a mother of a schoolmate saw Charles in school and asked him if he already had any luck with getting a leg. She offered to help him contact Mabuhay Deseret Foundation. Charles went home excited and told his family. The lady called Mabuhay and asked if we could help Charles get a leg as a Christmas, if not, a graduation present.
His father was so glad about the news. He made arrangements to take Charles to Mabuhay Deseret Foundation. After 3 weeks, Charles finally got his artificial leg. He was speechless that this became easy to get through Mabuhay Deseret Foundation. He tried on his prosthesis and was looking forward to go home and practice using it without a crutch. His father said that it would be indeed a happy graduation in March.
Damiana Niepes is a 75-year-old from Comval Province. She was a stroke patient and got more depressed when her eyes started to get cloudy and blurry. Her only hobby is sewing but because of her condition, she couldn’t even enjoy that anymore. Every morning and before going to sleep at night, the mother of her son-in-law who stayed with her to assist her also read to her the scripture (BOOK OF MORMON). Being a new member of the church, she wanted to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon but her vision was limiting her to do so. She even said, “It is hard that I cannot walk properly, much more that I can’t see clearly. I feel so hopeless that’s why I cry at night.“
Damiana was glad when the screening was announced at the sacrament meeting one Sunday morning and went for an eye checkup. She was able to avail the free cataract surgery. Now that she can see clearly, she can already read the Book of Mormon on her own.
Edwin Angeles was a van driver. He had a motorcycle accident with his 2 kids three years ago when he was 50. Coincidentally, a van hit them. His kids had minor injuries but he lost his left leg. He said he went through months of emotional and psychological pain. He was getting nightmares and waking up every 2 AM, which is the hour of the accident. Three years later, when he heard about Mabuhay and the nature of the foundation, he gained hope and felt that God is really watching over him. He said that he’s very thankful for Mabuhay for his artificial leg but more thankful for the emotional and psychological strength this new leg can give to him.
Jason I. Millena
(The following write-up is Jason Millena’s own account of his story.)
My name is Jason I. Millena from the province of Daet, Basud and I am currently staying here at Mabuhay Deseret Foundation. One day, Mabuhay Deseret called and told me that I need to go to Manila for the reason that I am one of the recipients of artificial leg. I was so happy to know that.
And now I’m here. At first I was bored, but eventually I met new people who became my friends. They are kind and happy to be with. Every Tuesday and Thursday, there are brother and sister missionaries who come here to teach us lessons and provide happiness. The past days have been really good for me here at Mabuhay. The people here are kind and fun to be with. They also get along with each other; that is why they can accomplish a lot of things and the chores get done.
Now, I have my artificial leg and soon, I’ll be going home. I will miss all of the people here at Mabuhay and this is an experience I will never forget.
(Jason also wrote a personal thank you letter for the foundation.)
Dear dearest friend,
I’m Jason I. Millena from Daet, Camarines Norte, province of Bicol, 23 years old, born on December 18, 1992, college student in Camarines State College, taking up Bachelor of Secondary Education, Major in Social Studies.
I made this letter to say thank you and to express how I feel. I’m so happy and lucky because you chose me for this artificial leg. This foundation gave me new life, a brighter future and of course, much more self confidence. From now on, I can find a better job for me with my self confidence. But before that job, my first priority is to finish my studies for a better and stable life in the future. This is also for my family.
Mabuhay Deseret Foundation is very helpful, especially to people with disabilities. Thank you to all who have a kind heart for donating and supporting this foundation.
I want to say thank you again to all members and founders of this foundation and I hope you’re always in good condition. Stay healthy and take care.
Jesus Sarza Molina
(The following write-up is Jesus Molina’s own account of his story.)
I’m Jesus Sarza Molina, 21 years old. I was born in Albay Provincial Hospital. I lived in Arimbay, Legazpi City, province of Albay. As of now, we live in Brgy. 56, Taysan Resettlement, DSWD Site, Purok 8 because of Typhoon Reming last Nov. 30, 2006.
My parents are Rolando Almayda Molina and Francia Sarza Molina. I have 11 brothers and 2 sisters. All in all, there are 14 children in the family. I’m the 10th child among of them. Since birth, all people have been teasing me. Because of that, I stopped going to school. I just reached 3rd grade. But in the class, I was always one of the top ten students. I also did not continue school because I was ashamed of myself and the poverty of my family. People always kept looking at me; some pitied me. When I stopped school, I was cleaning the house, cooking, washing clothes and fetching water. I love playing basketball, biking, and climbing trees like coconut, mango, etc.
When my mother was 5 months pregnant of me, the Mayon Volcano erupted. That was Feb 2, 1993. She was so afraid and nervous in that moment. She suddenly had spotting for one month and six days. Her friend, a barangay health worker (BHW), told her to go to the hospital. The doctor adviced my mother to undergo ultrasound. Sadly, the finding was I was not in the right position inside my mother’s tummy. So, the doctor told my parents to prepare for caesarean delivery. However, my mother still undergone normal delivery. My mother was immediately asleep after giving birth to me. When she woke up, she heard from one of the nurses that I have no right leg. So my mother accepted me even though my condition is not okay. She started to think that the bleeding or spotting was already a sign. However, a doctor from Mary Johntone Hospital here in Tondo Manila told my mother after a series of laboratory tests that my birth was done wrong because my leg was pulled. My mother cried because she had no money and power to fight for it. At my age of six months, two operations were done on my left leg to make the blood flow normally. After the operation, we went back to Bicol.
Last October 19, 2014, there was a medical screening in the Mormon church. We met a doctor and he told us to visit Mabuhay Deseret Foundation, 14th Avenue. Almost 1 month and 8 days, we stayed in the foundation after giving an x-ray copy of my leg. On December 5, 2014, Friday morning, my brother and I went to East Avenue Medical Center. In the O.R., I was injected on my back bone. After waking up from the operation, my leg was in so much pain. Recovering for months, I returned to Mabuhay Deseret Foundation last August 11, 2015 for the measuring of my artificial leg. By August 16, 2015, 1 PM, the artificial leg was brought. My mother and I are very thankful to our Heavenly Father for this thing I received and also for the kind hearts of Mabuhay Deseret Foundation, especially the founder and the staff. God bless you all day and night. More power, Mabuhay Deseret Foundation!
Mary Grace David
17 year old. Mary Grace David stopped going to school after 1st year in high school. She was very uncomfortable going to school because everyone looked at her as she was hopping on one leg. She feared that other students may bully her, so she stopped going. Her mother, Violeta (rightmost in the group picture below), said that Mary Grace was so excited on their way to the foundation. She was looking forward in getting her leg, so she could go back to school and pursue a nursing course to help her family.
Mary Grace gave the foundation a sweet letter to thank everybody who supported her.
Rolando S. Solomon
Rolando Solomon was a tricycle driver with 6 kids. He felt getting an artificial leg would help him go around more, visit others and reach out to them. He is the chairman for people with disability in his province.
Rolando wrote a heartfelt thank you letter for the foundation.
6 years old. Charmaine Ringor’s dad is a rice farmer and they are very poor. They live close to both sides of their family. She enjoys playing make-believe games and making friends.
Charmaine’s family heard about MDF from a member of the barangay where they live in. The barangay member told them about the San Fabian screening. They took the bus and traveled for 7 hours to attend the screening.
The first question of the family about the surgery was whether Charmaine could finally go to school. Everybody told them that the child couldn’t handle it yet. Turns out, Charmaine also has a hearing problem aside from the cataract.
Charmaine’s mother noticed long ago that her 3-month-old daughter couldn’t see out of her left eye. Charmaine’s left eye also had white stuff on the pupil and moved strangely like a lazy eye. At 7 months, the mother finally realized that Charmaine couldn’t hear well either. However, she never took Charmaine to a doctor because she didn’t have money and always felt there would be another affordable way to fix it.
If Charmaine’s disabilities would be all fixed, the family would be very happy. The family was hoping that communication would become better. Right now, they mostly communicate through panting or gesturing. With eyesight restored, there would be more hope of sign language or talking. If she would be able to see completely, she could attend school and make a future for herself.
60 years old. Mauro Soriano has 4 kids and all are married. His 3rd child died in 2013. Mauro is a tricycle driver and lives in Bataan. He rents his tricycle everyday for 40 years now.
One day, Mauro gave a girl a ride to a screening in a church. The next day, when he took the same girl to to the same location, he asked her what she was doing. The girl told him about MDF, so he decided to attend the screening as well because of his cataracts. This was back in January 2016. Mauro came to MDF but the screening was postponed. He had to come back. He said the girl was a blessing because he couldn’t afford the operation in the general hospital.
Mauro first noticed the blurry vision 2 years ago. He went to get glasses, but the doctor said he had cataracts and glasses wouldn’t fix it. It made him very sad because he was driving his trike for the sake of his family. If he goes completely blind, what would he be able to do? He was struggling in driving because he couldn’t see people from afar. Hence, he couldn’t get much profit. He really doesn’t want to know what life would be like blind.
As soon as he could clearly see again, Mauro would be thanking MDF for their help. He wanted to read again, especially the newspaper. He thinks it would be good if he could also inform people who need help that there is hope with MDF. He wants to be like the girl who introduced him to the foundation.
“Your life is in your eyes. What you see is where you live.”
Narciso Baluyot has 4 kids aged 12-29. He is a farmer growing bananas and corn. They are very poor.
Narciso found out about MDF from a church member friend who told him about the screening in San Fabian on February 2016. He noticed bad vision for the last 3 years in both eyes. He had surgery on his right eye 3 years ago in the general hospital, but the left was just getting worse. Slowly, he couldn’t see at all out of his left eye.
After surgery, Narciso would be able to better accomplish his work and be happy to have his life back to normal. He would be able to work in the farm longer and provide more for his family. There are things he is excited to be able to do again once his vision returns.
Jander Clyde F. Fernandez
Clyde Fernandez was born with unilateral cleft lip, the most common congenital anomaly for children still developing inside the womb of a mother.
When Clyde was 2 months old, his mother was informed by LDS fulltime missionaries about the medical screening of MDF last June 2015. At that time, Clyde was very young and not physically ready yet to undergo surgery. The mother was informed to wait for several months until Clyde would be able to meet the requirements given by the doctors. The child should be at least weighing 11 lb. or 5 kg. and should pass series of laboratory tests.
On February 2016, Clyde was ready to be checked once again. All the way from Santiago, Isabela, he and his mom traveled for almost 10 hours via bus. The mother was very determined to fix Clyde’s clef lip. With support coming from family members, she gained a lot of strength to hope for all the good things to come for Clyde.
Clyde successfully undergone surgery and is now on a recovery to fully heal the wound on his lip. His mom is very thankful to all the doctors and other individuals who helped out, especially the Jacksons. The mother said with tears in her eyes, “Nagpapasalamat po ako sa Mabuhay Deseret Foundation dahil naging maayos na po ang cleft lip at nakikita ko na para sa aking anak ang isang mas magandang kinabukasan.” (I am thankful to Mabuhay Deseret Foundation because his cleft lip is fixed already, and now I can see a brighter future for my son.)
2 years old. Mirathea Apigo is the 2nd child of Nerissa and Marlon who are both natives from Isabela province. Her clubfoot was an inborn case but regardless of her condition, she is very active in playing with her sibling Nerlon. She is always creating a joyful atmosphere inside their home.
Mirathea’s parents were not able to send her to a doctor because of their simple way of living, good enough to sustain a family’s daily meal. When the parents heard about MDF medical screening in Cordon, Isabela, they were very thrilled and happy to bring Thea. It was April 28, 2015 when Mirathea was scheduled for further consultation in Manila. With a bit of surprise, the doctors found out that she had hip dislocation that needed surgery as well for her to be able to walk.
Mirathea’s mother said that she has great hope that one of these days, her daughter would enjoy life more by having fixed feet and hips well located to be able to walk. She added a sweet and warm “thank you” to MDF in helping her daughter out from the time they were being screened until the day of her recovery from surgery.
Deborah and Donna Marie Gano
The Gano sisters namely Deborah and Donna Marie were both with eye problems that needed to undergo cornea transplant. Deborah is 23 years old while Donna Marie is 17. They were inborn with an eye problem which made them almost blind.
The family is composed of 9 children. Deborah is the eldest while Donna Marie is the 4th child. Their parents, Donald and Rosemarie, are both working in the farm which is the very source of income in their hometown Tupaya, Lagawe, Ifugao, Philippines.
Deborah and Donna found out about the March 2015 medical screening of Mabuhay Deseret Foundation (MDF) in Lagawe through a family relative who is an LDS church member. There they met Dr. Jackson and other volunteer doctors who screened, invited and recommended them to go to MDF Manila for further consultation. Travel from Lagawe to Manila was not easy for them.
On April 2015, Deborah and Donna accepted the invitation of MDF. The two sisters, together with their mother, traveled for almost 9 hours through jeepney and bus. They had to wake up so early to catch a ride on a jeepney going down the mountain for 2 hours then to a bus going to Manila for 7 hours. They arrived in Manila safely, and there they started the steps for the Gano sisters to finally view their hope in getting clear vision.
For Donna Marie, the first thing she would do once she gets well from the transplant is to enroll in a school to learn writing and reading with her younger brother. It would really help her to be educated with eyes that can see because she is unable to hear, yes, she is deaf as well. And, with eyes able to see would make her very happy to see the beauty around. Also, would be a life-long blessing for her seeing what God has created for and see herself enjoying the light coming from the sun that touches her. She is not blaming anyone about the case that she has, so, it seems that there is no reason for her to feel the hardship of life even she is totally blind.