Sunday, January 18, 2015


Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church visits the Philippines on January 14 to 18, 2015.

The Roman Catholic Church members are excited to welcome the Pope. But not all non-RC are as welcoming. Some did not welcome the Pope's economic impact as private businesses closed including banks, schools and airports. Other non-Christians did not welcome the festivities and dismissed it as religious fanaticism. Some other non-RC did not welcome the Pope who reminded them of the colonization and abuses of Roman Catholics in the past.   Some non-RC Christians still did not welcome the Pope's arrival simply because they hold beliefs different from them.

That night, everybody in the family is in the living room watching the news about the arrival of the Pope. My 5 year-old son noted how everybody is watching the TV intensely.

"What's happening?," he asked.

His sister replied, "the Philippines have a visitor. He is the Pope."

"We should get ready then and welcome him also," my son replied.

"We are not Roman Catholics. Do you know what is a Pope?" her sister answered back.

"I don't know what is a Pope. But if he is a visitor, we should welcome him," my son replied.

Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

January 2015

It's  New Year.

After the holidays and feast, many people are definitely looking at the weighing scales.  The next agenda in line is to hit that ideal body weight and gain that perfect body shape before summer hits in two months time. TWO MONTHS. Gaining weight and unhealthy food intake increases the risk for lifestyle diseases. In fact, worldwide, Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are the top causes of death all because of unhealthy living.

So, how can Christians have healthy living? I have been asked this question time and again. So, from a medical perspective founded on Christian understanding, let share some thoughts. This advise is a brief summary from the e-book I'm writing. Here we go. Living a Christian and Healthy Lifestyle includes:

1. Eating healthy. Choose to eat for nutrition.

2. Exercise and meditate. Move your body and cleanse your mind.

3. Hit the ideal weight. Know your numbers.

4. Stop smoking. You have the right to breath clean air.

5. Stress relief. Cast your burdens and sorrows to God.

6. Make friends. Share God's love.

7. Pray. Pray without ceasing.

Our body is God's temple. Let us take care of it. This New Year, let us resolve to live a Christian and Healthy Lifestyle.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Hospitality on Christmas

We went to a non-Christian country during the holiday season. There was a holiday spirit but not necessarily a Christmas celebration. People were coming from different places to have a vacation. We looked for a place where we feel welcome as visitors. But no one bothered. Everybody was too busy with their own stuff. Everybody was settled in their own comfortable places. We stayed in a backpackers inn as there were no more available hotels during this time.

It was quite an experience going to our inn. We had to walk for almost a kilometer from the nearest train station before we could reach the place. We walked carrying four big luggage plus our backpacks while tagging along 3 kids and walking on sore foot and broken ankle. When we reached the inn, the inn was full. We had to wait until late in the afternoon because the room still needs cleaning and the previous room occupant has not yet checked out. So we had to wait in the crowded lobby - standing. It was really a tiring but learning experience for me.

Our Christmas vacation made me reflect on the story of Mary and Joseph as they were traveling to Bethlehem and were looking for an inn that night. All the inn was full. Maybe they were as tired as we were, NO, much more tired as they had to walk and ride the donkey while we rode the bus and train. They had to walk for several kilometers while we only did one. We were fortunate to find an inn, although we needed to wait before we could settle in, but Mary and Joseph had no room for an inn. And so they settled for the manger. Our Christmas story this year was quite an experience that will change my perspective of the merry making holidays. Hospitality takes on a whole new meaning. The Christmas story of Mary and Joseph and the unborn baby changed the world. Do we have a room for them in our hearts?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent and Christmas

It's not yet Christmas. It is December. But it is still Advent.

December 25 is Christmas. Merry Christmas.

Below is an Advent Sermon I delivered during the Simbang Gabi on December 20 in Kamuning UMC leading to the Christmas Season.

Advent: Waiting for the coming

Luke 1:26-38

Who among you already had their Christmas party? How many of you opened their gifts already? How many of you have their gifts still wrapped? We are teaching our kids to also wait until Christmas. We already gave Christmas gifts to our kids as early as November, but they are not yet opened until now.  This will be the message for us this early morning.

We are on the third week of Advent. Advent is a season of waiting – hopeful waiting. I hate to break the bad news, but in the Christian calendar, it is not yet Christmas. It is still advent, the season of waiting – a time of anticipation and expectation… expecting for the coming of Jesus and anticipating for that day to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas day, and hopeful waiting for the second coming of our Lord.

Our story this morning is about that anticipation period. The time before Mary gave birth. This is the time when Mary became pregnant and had to wait for that first Christmas.  This was about a little teenager girl. Imagine a girl – in a patriarchal society, she is considered a second class citizen. This is a child – in a society, she is innocent and without experience. She was given a task by God and the task is big – to bear a king.

Let us focus as our story tells us that Mary will be pregnant. She will be expecting. She will be waiting for nine months until the boy whom Israel has been waiting to be their messiah will be born. I remember princess Kate and prince William when she got pregnant with her baby two years ago. It was all over the news, people were excited, not only English people. People were waiting and anticipating, they even camped outside the palace and the hospital during the due month. She will be the mother of a future king. People asked, “is it going to be a boy? lalaki kaya? Healthy ba yung baby paglabas? Guapo ba?” How did the Princess feel? Ano kaya yung iniisip niya? Ano kaya yung pressure sa kanya to be expecting a baby king? But that’s for a princess. How about the commoner? Yung ordinary pregnant women?

What is it like to be expecting a baby and waiting for it to be born? I had a patient who became my friend (Gina) who wanted to get pregnant. They were expecting to get pregnant for years. They waited for the baby to be born. They got pregnant after more than 7 years of waiting. While they were waiting, they were also preparing. While waiting for the baby to be born, there needs to be preparation. As doctors, we help the family, the father, especially the mother to prepare for the coming of the newborn baby.  

Pregnancy is a time of preparation. “Nine months of preparation yan.” You need pre-natal care. We make sure the mother is healthy. Regular check up is needed to make sure no infection that will jeopardize the pregnancy. We need to provide nutritious food and vitamins to the mother. Also given is vaccine to the mother to make sure no  infection happens. Then we need to monitor the baby inside that it is healthy. We do an ultrasound. We check the movement of the baby and the position of the baby. We also tell the family to prepare a baby bag ready to be brought during the due date. We ask the mothers to prepare a duster during that day. We ask the father to prepare diapers, ready some medicines that will be necessary during the birth.

Pero hindi ko pa rin maintindihan hanggang ngayon, kapag may nanganganak at dinala sa ospital yung tatay wala pa ring tsinelas. Kapag hiningi mo yung lampin, yung mga gamit, dextrose, gamut wala daw. Wala din daw dalang pera pambili ng gamut sa botika. Emergency daw kasi kaya nakalimutan. Nine months siyang nagbuntis, they were expecting for this day for nine months pero wala pa rin preparation. Emergency pa rin. Hindi napaghandaan.

The Advent season is a time for us to prepare ourselves as we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus. Most of us are unprepared for that coming of Jesus. As Christians we are like Mary, we are made pregnant by the Holy Spirit. That is the good news. The Holy Spirit has filled us. Within us, we bear the image of Christ. But many of us are not ready to give birth to the image of Christ.

We fear and doubt that great things will be accomplished. We cannot do it because we are too small, we are too weak. We are just simple people. The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 winner is the youngest winner. She is a little girl. She is only a teenager, 17 years old. She is Malala Yousafzai. She is a Pakistani. She is advocating for women to be educated. She wrote a blog for this advocacy because the Taliban ban the education of girls in their country. When she became famous because of this advocacy, the Taliban tried to silence her and shoot her in the head. She survived it.

Educating little children and forming them in Christian values is a preparation for these children to become willing instruments of Gods plan. We need to prepare them early and properly to become willing instruments of God. The world will experience the saving grace of Jesus in feeding the hungry, healing the sick, pulling down the wicked, finding the lost, through the body of Christ today.

We join the anticipation of the pregnant Mary. She anticipate the birth of a child who will deliver Israel. Mary was told that his son will be the king who will reign over the house of Jacob forever. We anticipate that day when the hungry will be filled, the rich are sent empty, the sick healed, the humbled lifted. As Christians, we are made pregnant by the Holy Spirit with the image of Christ. We wait with hope, we wait with joy, we wait in solidarity with all who suffer. We wait knowing that it will come. As we wait, we know that God is with us as all of us are pregnant and filled by the Holy Spirit. The challenge for us, are we ready and willing to give birth to Jesus Christ in our life?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why not medical mission and other Frequently Asked Questions

Every time I talk about having a better health ministry other than medical missions, people ask a lot of questions. Here are some quick answers to questions about why we should move forward and level-up from doing medical missions. Remember, we are referring to medical missions which are one time, big time events for purposes other than improving health. Again, medical missions are beneficial to a certain extent but there is a better way to do health ministry especially in resource poor developing countries – community-based primary health care. For suggestions on other health ministry visit this post.

First, would we rather allow people get sick or go to albularyo instead of giving medical treatment?

The question assumes that the albularyo is a quack and only western medicine is valid. This question also assumes that only medical professionals can help people get well. Traditional and Alternative Medicine is recognized by the WHO and the Alma Ata Declaration as an effective tool to improve health. The Philippines declared November as Traditional and Alternative Medicine month, just so you know. Now albularyos cannot address all kinds of illnesses but to dismiss them all as non-sense is wrong. And, NO, people need to be empowered to take care of their health. We know that health professionals are partners with their patients in improving their health. The short answer, NO, there is a better way than the messianic approach of giving the people good health vs. empowering the community to take care of their health. 

Second, this is our medical mission should we not do it our own way?

The NGOs, private groups and societies must partner with the government in giving health care. Medical services is a responsibility of the government, we do not compete with them. Rather, we work with them and complement their job. The quick answer, private groups must coordinate medical mission with the local government health unit.

Third, our medical mission targets prevalent disease in the community. Does it not help?

Yes, it helps. But it usually is just a temporary solution to a deep problem. One serious question needs to be asked about what makes that disease prevalent in the community? The common TB among Filipinos may be due to the poor sanitation and congested living condition of the area. Giving medicines is a temporary solution because after they are treated, they will still go back to the same living situation that caused the disease. Educating the community, empowering them to take responsibility of their health and helping them improve their living condition will better address the problem.

Fourth, cannot medical missions by religious groups plant the seed of God’s love for them to be transformed in God’s own time?

All of God’s reason for action is born out of God’s love. For God so love the world he sent His only son to heal the sick, feed the hungry and give them life. Medical missions as expression of one’s love to the other by making sure he gets healthy are praiseworthy. Health is the purpose of the health ministry. But if the mission is to persuade them to convert and become members of your church is another story. There is a big theological difference between the two, (something that I might have to write on a separate post.) Simply put, there is a difference between healing a non-Christian because you want him to believe what you believe, and healing a non-Christian because you want him to be healed – as an expression of God’s love.

Fifth, why not medical missions?

Medical missions have some benefits especially if done the correct way. But the point is there is a better way to do health ministry other than the medical mission. A way that is more cost efficient and sustainable. There is a method that improves not only an individual’s health but also that of the whole community. It is called the community-based primary health care. And it is time we have this kind of ministry. If there is a better way, why settle for less?

You might also want to read: Why doctors do not join medical missions?

Friday, October 3, 2014

What is a YPHEr? 3 Things You Need to Know about them

YPHEr is short for Youth Peer Health Educator. A YPHEr has been called other names like y-peers, ARK youth, young educators and other similar names. The YPHEr is part of a global movement that believes in harnessing the power of the youth to be social agents of change. Church groups and faith-based institutions can train YPHErs as part of their health ministry program. But what can a YPHEr do?

Here are 3 things you need to know about what a YPHEr:

1. A YPHEr is an educator.

He or she educates a fellow youth about health issues and concerns that greatly affects the youth today. The YPHEr has gained knowledge and skills about health issues affecting him/her. These health topics usually includes smoking and drinking alcohol; drug abuse; HIV,  AIDS and sexually transmitted disease; obesity and nutrition; and similar topics. The YPHEr can engage in casual conversation their peers about these common risky health behaviors and advocate for a healthy lifestyle.

2. A YPHEr is not a counselor.

Although a YPHEr has some skills and knowledge on health issues for the youth, they are not professionals that can give expert advice. However, YPHEr can always provide peer support and guidance to their fellow youth. A YPHEr is a friend ready to lend a listening ear to whoever needs it. If necessary, a YPHEr can assist his/her peer where to seek professional help when needed.

3. A YPHEr belongs to a group.

A YPHEr is never alone. He or she is part of a global movement of youth changing the health lifestyle of society. The YPHEr belong to the "good" pressure group as they advocate healthy lifestyle practices. They know there are many other young people that share their behavior and practices and they are part of that good crowd. With support from fellow YPHErs, the youth can better resist the temptations of risky-health behaviors.

A Youth Peer Health Educator program is one health ministry that you and your church can do. Ask around if there are workshops available for your youth group. You may also invite us to facilitate one for you.

There is one upcoming event in the next few weeks in Leyte.

Join us and be part of the YPHEr crowd.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Five Activities for your Health Ministry

Empowering the people to take care of their health is a great strategy for any organization or church health program. It is not like the one-and-done big time medical missions common today. This strategy focuses on prevention which is more cost-effective and has greater impact to the community.

Here are five activities that the church can do to improve the community's health status:

1. Health Forum and Workshops

The church can host a forum on pressing health concerns in the community. This can be an educational forum to teach practical ways on how people can take care of their health. During this rainy season, the church can sponsor a Dengue Information drive in the community with practical tips on how to search and destroy mosquito breeding grounds.

Capacity building workshops and trainings for BHWs, mothers and volunteer health workers can also be sponsored by churches. This helps improve the skills of the people in taking care of their own health. I saw this when I was invited to teach mother, newborn and child health to a successful community-based health care program in Compostela Valley.

2. Vaccination

The church can partner with the local barangay in its vaccination program. An example would be the recent campaign for a Nationwide Measles and Polio Vaccination where local churches and organizations provide the venue and logistical support in the campaign. Another example is flu vaccination. As this is not routinely given for free in the health center, the church can make this one of their annual programs. The church can offer this at a cheaper price. One church in Kamuning, QC even offered flu vaccination for free to around a hundred adult members of the community.

3. Advocacy Programs

Advocacy is an activity with the purpose of persuading leaders to make policies or allocate budget that will benefit the greater good. The church can lead in prayer rallies and advocacy walks that will involve the community in persuading their community leaders to choose what is beneficial for them. In one barangay in South Cotabato, the captain was persuaded to issue a Barangay Ordinance prohibiting minors from buying cigarettes in the store after the church led the community in several dialogues with the barangay leaders.

4. Regular Health Monitoring  

Non-communicable diseases are the new epidemic that affects even middle-class and low-income families. Free BP checks and quarterly sugar (FBS) screening can easily be done before worship service starts on Sunday morning. Mega-churches and big congregations can schedule this as a Saturday church program in the community. Many evangelical churches are doing this to benefit the community.

5. Food always in the home or FAITH.

This is the name of a vegetable garden program by a faith-based organization. It uses the backyard lot of a church as a community vegetable garden where the whole community is encouraged to plant vegetables in the garden and the produce is free for the whole community. The program also teaches backyard home gardening with the church providing the seeds for free.

The health spectrum ranges from preventive to curative care. Researches has been proven that the church can have a great impact in Primary health care and the prevention of diseases. (See my next post on this topic.)

What I listed are just five activities that any church or organization can do to improve the health of the community. I have seen this work in some churches, so it can definitely be done. What other health programs do you think your church/organization can do?