Basilan and Sulu, provinces in the southern Philippines, are home to a vast population of Muslim families. Health-care service in these areas is limited and is mainly categorized as Level 1 hospitals, with limited capability to provide treatment in critical medical situations.
Aware of this situation, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Zamboanga Peninsula, in partnership with the Wood Medical Mission Team, organized medical missions in four locations in Basilan (Malamawi Island, Maluso) July 3-4 and Sulu (Upper and Lower Sinumaan, Talipao) July 6-7.
The health-care initiative served more than 2,600 patients, of which 326 received dental care services, 67 underwent minor surgeries, and 414 received free eyeglasses. Also, 122 children were circumcised, and 115 persons received spine and joint manual alignment. More than 500 kids received dental kits.
“It is a blessing to come to this place and extend God’s healing hands to Muslim communities in Basilan and Sulu,” Percy Wood, head of the Wood Medical Mission Team, said. “To see how everyone is relieved and blessed with the health-care service they receive is more than anything that this world can give. It’s a joy that cannot be replaced,” Wood added.
Glen Sajulga, health ministries director of the Zamboanga Peninsula Mission, drafted the program. This medical outreach caught the attention of various health-care practitioners and volunteers who expressed interest in joining the initiative. The collaboration of multiple entities made the preparation relatively easy, organizers said.
“When we organized this mission project, people just started contacting me and expressing their enthusiasm to be a part of it. Everyone just wanted to be a part of God’s work in reaching out to Muslim communities in these areas,” Sajulga said.
Others expressed their support by sending in donations and monetary assistance to help fund the project. Some church members pledged to provide school supplies to children living in Bud Bongao and Sinumaan. Socio-economic Uplift, Literacy, Anthropological, and Developmental Services, or SULADS, a non-governmental, nonprofit charitable educational institution in the Philippines that aims to educate and inspire unreached indigenous people, also extended assistance in the distribution of eyeglasses and dental kits to all four locations.
Regional Adventist-Muslim Relations director Ranny de Vera forged partnerships with the Special Forces units in Basilan and Sulu to ensure the team’s safety and address the group’s logistical and transportation needs. Church members in Basilan, under the leadership of Nemrod Obejero, collaborated with the Isabela City government and gave the group their utmost support. They provided food, berthing spots, and support personnel.
Eugenio Boquio, commander of the 1101st INF Brigade, who recalled past conflicts in the area between the armed forces and separatist groups, said that Adventists “are one of the game-changers here in the province of Sulu.” The Tausugs, for instance, who are one of the larger minority groups in southern Philippines, remember the Adventist community as the first group to reach out and help rebuild their community, leaders reported.
In Basilan, Amin Hataman, Provincial Board member representing the 1st District of Basilan Province, echoed similar sentiments. “It is really nice that this kind of cooperation transcends any kind of boundaries that religions might have,” he said. “I hope there can be more collaboration in the future.”
The medical mission was deemed a success because of the efforts of individuals who dedicated their time and skills to making this initiative a reality, organizers said.
Basilan resident Barbette Tabenas said, “We know that even in a million years we cannot repay you, but God knows. Thank you for your altruism in showing that you care for the people of Basilan.”