The Long Night
It never ceases to amaze me how cool travel can be. We left San Francisco at ten pm flying east and flew in darkness all night landing in Manila at 3:30 am, nearly thirteen hours after take-off and still several hours from dawn. It seemed as though the night would never end as we followed night time around the globe. Eventually we reached the Philippines and we trudged off the plane on stiff legs into the Manila Airport. After the required quick group shot, Brian herded us through immigration and to the domestic departure area for the last leg of the flight to Cebu.
We stepped out of the terminal and into a beautiful tropical night complete with a full moon shining down through the palm trees. It's more than just a little stunning. The heat is also a little stunning. Even in the middle of the night it's the kind of heat and humidity that can take 13 hours of travel wrinkles out of your clothes. After thirteen hours of travel in pressurized airline comfort, the sights and smells and heat definitely let you know you're in the tropics.
Our stopover in Manila was the first chance for the team to really be together for a while and get acquainted. Most of the medical team members have years of experience with Rotaplast missions all over the world. As an example, Paula Fillari, lead PACU nurse, has been doing Rotaplast missions since their inception. On the other end of the spectrum, most of the non-medical volunteers have fewer missions and some, including myself, are on their first Rotaplast mission.
The team consists of 27 members; four surgeons, four anesthesiologists, two pediatricians, six nurses, one dentist, one orthodontist and nine non-medical volunteers.
After hitting the coffee shop, stretching our legs and getting a bite to eat we finished the last leg of our flight landing in Cebu. We dreaded arriving, going through baggage claim, picking up luggage and medical supplies, and wading through customs which can sometimes be a nightmare. On some missions, getting things through customs has taken days. Our welcome was astonishing to say the least.
The Rotary Club of Cebu Port Center greeted us with open arms and better yet, many helping hands. The club had worked out the logistics to the last detail. Our baggage including 36 boxes of medical supplies were whisked through customs and onto waiting trucks thanks to the careful planning by the local club. A bus was waiting to take us to the hotel and all around us we were greeted by what seemed to be the entire local Rotary club. We were met by a flurry of handshakes and new faces and names. Thanks to the Rotary Club of Cebu Port Central, our arrival was truly effortless for our team and greatly appreciated! Many of the experienced members said this was the best and easiest arrival they had ever experienced.
Gilbert, the local club president acted as tour guide for the group giving us the background of Cebu as we traveled by bus to our hotel just two blocks from the hospital where we’ll be working.
Lunch was waiting for us upon our arrival to the hotel and we had the opportunity to make introductions and partake in excellent Philippino food. Anton Florendo, Past District Governor, welcomed us and gave a little background on the Cebu mission which has been going on for the past eight years. The experience shows because this local club really made our arrival pleasant and freed us up to get right to work after lunch.
Medical and non-medical volunteers each had important parts to play as we had just one afternoon to visit the hospital and layout the operating room, recovery and staging areas, sterilization, and the pre/post op ward. Additionally, the clinic where intake was to take place was over 30 minutes away and that had to be completely set up in order to start seeing patients the first thing the next morning.
Rotarians check out Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, site of the 2011 Cebu Rotaplast Cleft Palette Clinic