It was a rainy morning on February 7, 2018 when suddenly, I was roused from my reverie by all the stirring at the main gate. I stood up from where I was seating to peek at the excitement. I saw a crowd of blond people by the gate stooping and trying to pick up heavy big boxes full to the rim. The Duty on Post was talking to them, arms flailing trying to explain something. I could see the bewilderment on his face. I recognize most of the locals and two of the foreign doctors from the Medical Mission.
The Unit Nurse and I went rushing to the visitors carrying an umbrella to protect them from the drizzle. The visitors however politely dismissed the umbrella, gesturing that they are fine. I ushered them to the Warden's Office who was at that time on official travel. I introduce myself and shook their hands. Ouch… what a firm grip. They introduce themselves: Dr. Mike Calla, Dr. Zach Young and Dr. Terry Dingbaum. I was also introduced to the rest of the team and to the Nurses.
They were accompanied by Nuns from the Oikos Ptochos Theou Mission, a non-profit religious organization in the locality. One of the Filipino nuns, a petite lady was so apologetic telling us that the Mission at the hospital ended early so they decided to conduct Dental Mission in Borongan City Jail ahead of the schedule.
"Maganda nga 'yan para lahat na sila ma check ang ngipin, malinisan na rin at mapastahan kong kailangan. Lahat na rin po ng personnel kung gusto".
Whoah… nobody would have known that the petite lady is a Dentist, Dr. Lydia Veja. She was unassumingly dressed in a dark brown suit and wearing a flat ordinary sandal. She is a nun and had taken an oath to live in poverty and shy away from material possessions. Oikos Ptochos Theo Mission takes care of the homeless and sick elderlies. A lot of abandoned and abused women and children are under their care. I have a high regard for them. They truly have a big heart. I knew some of the nuns. they came from well to do families but leave the comforts of their own homes and choose to live with the sick, the homeless and the needy.
Anyways, this Dental Mission is a blessing. I had been planning to visit a dentist for Dental Filling and Oral Prophylaxis for quite some time, I just couldn't find time in my busy schedule and hey… admit it, It is quite expensive and not in my priority list. Lucky me, now I could have this for free!
"Yes, po Sister! Matutuwa po ang ating mga residente. Napakalaking tulong po ito sa amin".
Since it was raining heavily, we decided to convert the Jail Warden's Office into a Mini Clinic. To make it as comfortable as possible for the volunteer doctors.
The Duty on post immediately called a friend to borrow some tents. Few minutes later, tents from the Mayor's Office arrive and the Mayor's men immediately set it up for us. Our Boy Scouting training paid off the motto" Boys and Girls Scouts Laging Handa" had once again been proven.
All dental tools came in. Oh, so complete! They brought foldable beds with set up lights mounted on top of the beds, a stove and even a pressure cooker to sterilize the tools. Lots of heavy boxes came in. The foreign dentist and their families was also picking up boxes and setting them up themselves.
Everything was set, ready for the patients. It was adeptly arranged in such a way that the security will not be jeopardize. Six residents first will be attended and will be followed by one after the other.
First step has to go to the Registration Table for blood pressure monitoring and weighing. Next table is for the anesthetic creams and medicines. After this, all is set … the Dentists are already waiting for their patient.
Memories from my younger years came pouring in as I was watching with amazement, thinking how lucky our residents are. I still could still vividly remember during my youth that because we have no money to pay for a dentist , my father will tie the wobbly tooth with a string while reassuringly telling me that it won't be painful. "It will just be like a bite of a small insect. You won't even notice it".
I will be bawling like crazy, knowing of the inevitable pain. My father will enchant me with folklores, the legendary story of "Ang Matsing at Ang Pagong", or "Juan Tamad". The stories will keep me captivated and he will instantly pull the string and will show me the dangling thread with my rotten tooth in it. Done, no pain! And for my reward, off course my favorite, a cold Royal Tru-Orange! We could only drink Royal Tru-Orange when we are sick and or pretending to be sick. It was a luxury during those times. For the cavities… simple, either a small piece of tobacco or ginger placed inside the cavity. I personally prefer the ginger though. Tobacco is bitter and taste awful.
Same is true during High School, my siblings and I seldom see a dentist due to financial reasons. We are lucky however that our father trained us to brush our teeth often. Rock salt will be used in the absence of a toothpaste. We also have a bushy sugarcane in our backyard which serves a dual purpose, a sugary snack and a toothbrush!
Those were the old days. At this age of technology and with government services, no one suffers anymore from sleepless nights due to terrible pain cause by rotting teeth. Lucky are our resident PsDL. They are well taken cared for. We solicit, we tap for resources and coordinate with other agencies so we could give them the necessary tools for their growth and betterment.
Well, as for me… I was not able to avail of the free dental services. I was called to report to the Regional Office to submit some needed documents for career advancement on the 2nd day of the Dental Mission! I guess I just have to take the "Peso Challenge". Save a peso or two for my oral prophylaxis and dental filling. I am not whining… On the contrary, I'm so thankful for THE MAN ABOVE who had given me so much blessings and granted everything that I had been praying for.
I am happy, everyone is happy… and who wouldn't be? Sixteen (16) resident inmates had Tooth Extraction, twenty (20) had Oral Prophylaxis and four (4) had Dental Filling. Similarly, seven (7) of the personnel availed Oral Prophylaxis, two (2) availed Tooth Extraction and four (4) Dental Filling.
Pearly white teeth in Borongan City Jail… Seriously? All I can say is that, one… two…three… SMILE!