by Jilian Orila
Culion is a beautiful municipality which lies between Sulu sea and West Philippine sea with more or less 41 islands and islets. It was then a political jurisdiction of Coron, Palawan until the enactment of the Republic Act No. 7193 of 1992 which created the local government unit of Culion, Palawan. Culion is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Palawan with 14 barangays. Travelling through their personal boats for a minimum of two hours to get to the mainland, and renting or borrowing single motorcycles, or tricycles to avail medical or any government service.
Coming from Manila, I had to ride a the earliest flight out to reach Busuanga/Coron ariport and ride a van for one (1) hour to Coron port going to Culion. Luckily, Coron-Culion travel has two fast craft schedules now, one at 7:00 am and another at 1:00 pm though schedules are always subject to coast guard clearing. Once a gale warning is raised, scheduled trips are cancelled.
Hiding from the raw beauty of the island and its magnificent waters are the small voices of hope seeking to be heard. Culion is a geographically isolated and disadvantaged community of Palawan. Initiatives are being undertaken to develop the island municipality but still much are needed to alleviate the standard of living.
One of the projects in Culion is the provision of mobility assistive devices and hearing aids through the Bottom-Up Budgeting (BuB) Program (a NAM partnership between DSWD and UNDP). The programme aims to provide poverty reduction assistance to the identified municipalities/ cities. It covers projects for protective services (provision of assistive devices, capacity building, provision of ECCD materials, supplemental feeding program etc.), sustainable livelihood programme, and KALAHI CIDSS (infrastructure projects).
I talked to the Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) Officer, Ms. Arlene during my visit. They validated and went to the far-flung areas to check whether the assistive devices that will be provided are beneficial to the pre-identified beneficiary.
Most of the residents don’t have readily available means to seek medical support which most of the time are only available in the DOH hospital with scheduled specialists coming in to Culion to evaluate the residents. In my second visit in Culion, I met Jason, a seven- year old local. He is one of the beneficiaries who will be receiving a pair of hearing aid. Jason was assessed last 29 August 2018 through the partnership with Humanity and Inclusion and Ear Diagnostic, Inc., a mobile hearing assessment was conducted to the identified beneficiaries of Coron and Culion, Palawan. Jason’s family is living in the nearby barangay that’s why his mother grabbed this opportunity to have his son assessed because she can’t afford going to Manila nor Coron.
Jason and his mother entered the room where we were having the hearing assessment, but he was having tantrums. According to Jason’s mother, he was bitten twice by a dog and a cat days before the hearing assessment. When it was time for his assessment, Jason was not cooperating because he thought he will be injected with anti-rabies shots. Good thing the audiometrician and audiologist were very patient to this kind of situation especially in handling kids who were tested. The team calmed him down and I helped them too in explaining to Jason that the test is harmless. I saw in Jason’s eyes that he was really afraid because he thought that we have an injection with us.
But as soon as Jason started to recognize sounds during the assessment, his mood changed and begun to cooperate. After the hearing assessment, another challenge came to us because he doesn’t want us to touch his ear. The audiometrician needs to put a self-curing material to his ear to make a mold of his ear. We worked as a team to calm him until we were able to successfully molded his ear. Seeing first hand that we were successful to the assessment and molding, I felt the sense of fulfillment that finally we were able to provide service to areas like Culion. It was heartwarming to see that the mother happy that finally her son will be given a chance to learn more with a pair of hearing aid.
Reaching the geographically isolated and disadvantaged area like Culion, made me realized that we can still reach these underserved communities and leave no one behind by bringing the basic services closer to the people and sustaining these initiatives by building and strengthening the communities’ capacity.