A foremost humanitarian Boholana and the tens of thousands who owed her their lives get fitting tribute today in twin rites celebrating the epic 20 years of the Philippine Gift of Life (PGL).
Done first at the Bohol Cultural Center starting this morning, the tribute is dedicated to the record number of beneficiaries of the PGL surgical-medical missions in the Philippines, particularly in Bohol, and those sent to the United States and Canada for free operation.
The humanitarian saga of the Bohol-based PGL has spanned across three countries, saving not just sick Boholanos but other suffering Filipinos who could die of medical attentionâ€™s rising cost alone.
The thanksgiving for the already two decades of the triumph of life comes toclimax in the honoring of the woman â€œwho made the sick and dying poor live,â€ Francisca Baluyot, herself the PGL president and chief executive officer, at the Bohol Tropics here tonight.
A former long-time Red Cross-Bohol administrator, Baluyot has been widely reputed to be a humanitarian icon in Bohol and Boholâ€™s foremost contribution to the Philippine surgical-medical mission.
The US-based Home Reach Foundation, Inc. (HRFI), which top officers are also lead men of the PGL, is behind the tribute and honoring with full support of the province under Gov. Edgar Chatto and Vice Gov. Concepcion Lim.
The PGL mercy works and selfless acts for life have been fully supported by the HRFI and provincial government of Bohol, as well as the Tagbilaran City government under Mayor John Geesnell Yap II and Vice Mayor Jose Antonio Veloso.
Chatto, US-based Drs. Ramie Cadag and Pepe Recitas, Manila-based Drs. Ludgerio Torres and Federico Malubay will lead in paying tribute and honoring.
Cadag is the chairman of the PGL Foundation and co-chairman of the HRFI while Recitas chairs the HRFI and sits as PGL Foundation director.
Torres is the president of the Heart Foundation of the Philippines (HFP) and chief consultant to the PGL whereas Malubay chairs the Philippine Academy of Medical Specialists (PAMS) and serves as a PGL consultant, too.
Cadag said also joining the thanksgiving is Dr. Avenilo Aventura, chairman of the HFP which is the charity arm of the Philippine Heart Center.
As it gathers the organizers, workers, sponsors, supporters, volunteers and beneficiaries of reputedly Boholâ€™s most successful series of surgical-medical missions in 20 years, the event is considered an activity part of the Tigum Bol-anon sa Tibuok Kalibutan (TBTK).
The TBTK, which is held in every three years, adds highlight to the annual month-long Sandugo festivities this July.
Kindness can be infinite as PGL records show that already more than 40,000 Boholanos and fellow Filipinos from other provinces have benefited from 219 surgical, medical and dental missions since 1995 until 2015.
The surgical missions alone involved actually operated heart cases with 550 individual patients; cataract, 17,000; goiter, 5,780; ovarian cyst, 4,500; myoma, 4,400; hernia, 3,750; gall bladder, 3,500; cleft lip/palate, 3,300; tuli, 3,000; and special cases, 1,900 or a total of 24,737 patients.
Eye patients who received free operations in Bohol even came from as far as Lanao del Norte, Ozamis City, Oroqueta City, Camarines Sur, Capiz, Navotas City, ParaÃ±aque City, Biliran and Leyte.
Recipients of medical and dental missions as well as medicines distributed already numbered to 310,000 individuals.
Beneficiaries of other services like calamity or disaster relief assistance and even scholarship also get tribute.
But due to limited time of preparation and ceremony venue, thanksgiving organizers topped by the US-based foundation selected 300 beneficiaries on behalf of the tens of thousands who are paid tribute today.
City Administrator Leonides Borja and Rotary Club of Tagbilaran Assistant Governor Louella Bantol present the PGL beneficiaries after the welcome address by the city mayor.
The Rotarians have likewise been consistently supporting the PGL missions.
Select patients who were successfully operated in the US, Canada and Philippines are giving testimonies during the tribute.
Before the tribute ceremony is a thanksgiving mass, also at the Bohol Cultural Center, to be officiated by former Tagbilaran Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak.
Tumulak, now an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chaplain, and Chatto are PGL advisers while Baluyot herself is the medical mission consultant to the governor.
Also for supporting PGL, Baluyot has been thankful to the Department of Health (DOH), AFP, Heart Foundation of the Philippines, local medical/health groups, hospitals that have hosted the missions, all other benefactors from the government and private sector, and volunteers.
PGL IN BRIEF
As an international humanitarian foundation based in the US, the Gift of Life decided to extend its arm to the Philippines 20 years ago.
To handle its Philippine base, the foundation remembered a woman in Bohol who, in its two Central Visayas missions years earlier, facilitated the use of military choppers to airlift its mission groups and surgical-medical equipment and goods.
The woman was Baluyot, then Red Cross-Bohol head.
Baluyot would accept the challenge to head what is now the Philippine Gift of Life but on one condition—to have its national headquarters in Bohol.
The rest is history told in her story of restless work for the greatest gift of all— life. Â (Ven rebo Arigo)