Sunday, January 25, 2009

Last days in Ilo Ilo

            Greetings, its day 18 here on our tour de Philippines! We’ve now been in Ilo Ilo since last Saturday (1 week). The weather here feels much hotter than Manila (Ilo Ilo is about 500 Km south of Manila) in terms of our Canadian standards with the average day this week being well into the 30’s. Yes most Canadians are able to withstand 30 + temperatures but the humidity seems to be the number one challenge to our acclimatizing here. It is humid! Our cheeks are a constant glisten and our skin is stick stick sticky. We’re thankful for air conditioners, and my group members were very grateful to return to their cool sleeping quarters here at the dorm after spending some time in the rural community setting where the only air was the breeze from outside(I however didn’t get the chance to sleep in the guest house due to illness!).

            Yesterday, we attended a luncheon with all the faculty members of St. Pauls University.  The meal was put on by the culinary collage here and was excellent.

The afternoon events of Friday were the highlight of the day. It was arranged at the beginning of this week for us to take part in a circumcision experience here. Con Con, one of the faculty who has been leading our activities for this week, arranged for her dad who is a government employed physician to oversee our experience.  There were 10 boys ranging from about age 5 to age 10 who were chosen by a social worker as the participating patients. Unlike North America where circumcision is no longer a recommended practice, in the Philippines the majority of males are circumcised. The procedure’s outcomes are considered more beneficial in a developing nation where sanitization and cleanliness is much more difficult to achieve. The procedure is also promoted in large part because of cultural practices and is viewed by many as a step into manhood.  So along with the therapeutic advantages and cultural incentives to be circumcised, the patients were also offered the procedure for no cost, with free transportation to and from the procedure.

Before heading into the experience several of us wondered if the patients would be anxious and apprehensive prior to having the procedure done. We also wondered weather there would be cries of pain and discomfort following. In reflecting back upon the experience now, it was clear that the patients appeared just slightly agitated if not excited before the procedure and stoic and comfortable afterwards. While the procedure was being done, responses from the patients weren’t much different that the before or after; the patients appeared calm, relaxed, and seemed to experience minimal discomfort or pain, which was surprising with only the use of 2% lidocain (no epinephrine) to freeze the area. Some of the boys were even distracted by our presence and had no difficulty engaging with us as the procedure was going on.

As for our experience, we all had the opportunity to take part in assisting with or leading one or more of the procedures. It had been a while since sterile gloves had been put on, and most of us were eager to partake in this minor medical procedure. After observing the skill of suturing all of us had the opportunity to practice the skill ourselves. Two of the members of our group were even as bold to cut the minor incision. Just as many of the rest of our experiences have been, this was something I’m sure the majority of us will never have the opportunity to participate in again. Although participating in this procedure seemed contradictory to our practices home in Canada we all enjoyed having the opportunity to assist in this surgical procedure and will take from this experience a different kind of appreciation for the skill and expertise carried out by the surgical teams back home in Canada.

After having some down time at the beach on Saturday we returned to our residence at St. Pauls University and in no time we were all informed that Carmelita, who is the dean at the last University we are to visit in Manila, has requested we learn one of the native Filipino dance routines, so that we can perform the number next Saturday at a cultural show at the University! After getting over the initial astounded phase of this unusual request we all banned together as a group and learned in just one hour the steps to a nearly two minute routine! On top of mastering steps to this native routine we also mastered the maneuvers of the bamboo hand clappers that we hold in both hands and clap in coordination to the steps of the dance! Our lovely teachers were extremely patient and encouraging and forgiving of our lack of Filipino elegance. We’re all very optimistic that we will look the part of the graceful Canadian elephants and I’m thankful everyone in the group has a good sense of humor to accompany our sweet dance moves! Stay posted, as I’m sure there will be a video posted and pictures to come!

As we head into our last week here in the Philippines we’re ready for anything and can’t wait to see what else this trip could possibly have in store!

From Jenny and the rest of the Philippines nursing Crew!


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  3. Interesting how the lines between culture, beliefs, tradition and medicine cross.

    Is it still not the right of parents in Canada to request circumcision of their male infants?

    Never thought of male circumcision as mutilation before and I believe the parents who chose this procedure for their infant sons do not see it as mutilation either.

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