By Mary Grace Li Enriquez, Ф2019, Class 2023
The Phi Lambda Delta Sorority, in partnership with the UP Manila Ugnayan ng Pahinungod, brought back the Sorority’s Gynecological Mission to Calatagan, Batangas, after three years. The Gynecological Mission is an annual project of the sorority where it adopts different communities with little or no access to healthcare. This project aims to help women empower themselves by providing public health lectures (PHL) on basic feminine hygiene, breast examination, and free cervical cancer screening through visual inspection using acetic acid (VIA).
In preparation for the event, sisses from LU3, LU4, and LU5 attended a lecture and skills training workshop guided by Dr. Doris Ribudal Benavides, Φ1991, Class 1996. This provided sisses with the basic skills needed for the gynecological mission, and proved to be a great foundation for the youngest sisses who had not yet been exposed to the experience before.
On March 16, 2019 at around 4:30 AM, a bus loaded with excited sisses left for Calatagan, Batangas from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). After more than three hours of travel, the sisses, headed by Dr. Joanne Karen Sarmiento Aguinaldo, Φ1997, Class 2002 finally arrived at the Enrique Zobel Technical Center (ENZO Tech). Volunteers from ENZO Tech and UP Manila Ugnayan ng Pahinungod had already started setting up the beds and partitions in the examination room. With a few more preparations, everything was in place and ready for use.
But there was a huge challenge – there was only one doctor (Dr. Aguinaldo) and a long line of patients waiting to be examined. Normally, there would be several doctors and sisses from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Unfortunately, there was a conflict in their schedule, and the other doctors were to arrive later in the afternoon.
“It is possible, and I have done this before,” said Dr. Aguinaldo as she gathered the sisses. Despite the pressure of being the sole doctor to see the patients, Dr. Aguinaldo remained calm and delegated the tasks systematically. She was to be assisted mainly by the two clerk sisses present, Ana Beatrice de Vera Constantino, Φ2016, Class 2020 and Gianne Rosales Pagulayan, Φ2016, Class 2020. The current ICCs, PHIreflies (Φ2017), were assigned to do take the patients’ history and vital signs. The younger sisses, DiversiPHI (Φ2018A), UniPHIed (Φ2018B), and WildPHIre (Φ2019) were tasked to do history taking, take vital signs, and facilitate the registration and flow of the event.
Everyone went to their respective posts, and the event officially began. The mothers first registered, then were led to the waiting area where they were given a series of PHLs. PHIreflies, DiversiPHI, and UniPHIed taught the mothers about feminine health and hygiene and breast examination.
An interactive PHL for the children was also prepared by WildPHIre. This centered on the proper way of handwashing and tooth brushing. This PHL was not only informative for the children present at the event, but also entertaining as the sisses acted, sang, and danced with colorful props and costumes.
The Gynecological Mission was a huge learning opportunity not only for the patients but also for the sisses. DiversiPHI and UniPHIed eventually took over the job of history taking as the PHIreflies went on to perform breast examinations and VIA, guided by Dr. Aguinaldo and the clerks. WildPHIre shadowed the process and eventually were able to interview the patients and take vital signs as well.
Fortunately, by 3:00 PM, four residents from the PGH arrived at the venue. Dr. Louie Baldomero Caluban, Dr. Viktoria Ines Matibag, Dr. Kimberly Maniulit, and Dr. Priscilla Alameda took over the examination of patients while Dr. Aguinaldo finally got to take a break. By 5:00 PM, a total of 61 patients were examined.
The event finally came to an end. Challenges and obstacles to the event were conquered through patience and cooperation. After packing up, the sisses, together with the other doctors, headed back to Manila with numerous new learnings in tow.
Coming back to the community after three years, the Gynecological Mission remains true to Phi’s brand of service – sustainability. There were former patients coming in for a follow up from the last Gynecological Mission, as well as new ones. The community was receptive to the lectures, and many attendees said they appreciated all that they learned through these lectures. Despite the long and arduous day, it was rewarding to know the impact the project has created on the people. It may be a few years until the Gynecological Mission comes back to this community, but the empowerment it has taught the people will surely remain for a long time.