Besides repairing cleft lips and palates, the purpose of missions such as Rotaplast's is to foster goodwill, peace and understanding around the globe. The Rotarians of District 3860 provided the Rotaplast team several opportunities to experience the culture of the Philippines and the Province of Cebu in particular. Several of the team members met with the Cebu Provincial Governor, Gwendolyn Garcia who expressed her support for Rotaplast and explained the history and outlook of Cebu. Governor Garcia is the first female governor of Cebu province.
Food can define a culture and it’s one of the easiest things to share. Rotarians here make sure that the team gets to sample many kinds of local foods. One of the most popular items is the locally grown mango which we have during our breaks in surgery. We’ve been doing our part to try some of everything. When Brian told us to be flexible in his emails prior to our trip I never thought it would refer to a flexible waistband.
Later in the week, Governor Gwen Garcia invited the Rotaplast Team and their Rotary Club of Cebu Port Central hosts to a dinner at the Governor’s Mansion. Getting off the bus we climbed a beautiful staircase to the dining area flanked on both sides by the University of Cebu Dancers. Each group represented a part of life in Cebu, its history and festivals. The most important festival happens in January in Cebu City to honor the Santo Niño, or the child Jesus, who used to be the patron saint of the whole province of Cebu (since in the Catholic faith Jesus is not a saint, but God).
The knowledge of local history is important here. Everybody seems to know the oral traditions and throughout the area there are reminders of those important moments in the history of the island and the community. Cebu is very old and is home to the University of San Carlos (1595) which actually predates Harvard University.
Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines when looking for the Spice Island on behalf of the King of Spain. Of course being “discovered” came as a bit of a surprise to those who already lived here, the native Cebuano’s. For centuries Cebu was a center of trade. The tales are told of how Magellan brought Christianity to Cebu and as the stories begin to tell how he met his end, it occurred to me that they resemble the story of an American, that of Colonel Custer.
Our team toured the historical sites, the churches, the cross of Magellan, the museums, and the site where Magellan met his fate at the hands of Lapu Lapu in the year 1521. The people of Cebu revere both Magellan and Lapu Lapu, the one for bringing Christianity, and the other for resisting foreign invasion.
Modern Cebu continues to grow. One of its most important industries is information technology. Cebu is home to a multitude of call centers and IT manufacturers. These jobs are raising the standard of living for thousands who call Cebu home. On the down side, many informal settlers flock to Cebu looking for jobs which contributes to the poverty. It is estimated that there is an influx of 200 informal settlers each week without jobs to support them. This tends to stress the social support system as witnessed by people begging in the streets. As the team looked around, it appears that many of our patients come from this group.
Our Rotarian hosts pointed out the many actions the government of Cebu has in place to alleviate this situation and is aided by the many programs supported by Rotary District 3860.Our Rotaplast mission is just one cog in the plan to help out those most in need in Cebu.