The morning of February 26th arrived in full sunshine, and we headed into the weekend with an orientation to our upcoming community experience set to take place in the rural district of Janiuay. Following a brief orientation and drive to reach the bamboo staff house where we would be housed for the upcoming week we headed out for our first introduction to the Barungi, Maytag-Ubo. Arriving at the community involved trekking across a river and through the following rice patties. We participated in an ocular survey (windshield survey) of the community including a further hike to view the communities main water source. That night 5 of us had the chance to be involved in the deliveries of two separate baby boys. Participating in deliveries within the community involves acting in one of the following roles: Handler ( this role involves delivering the baby, cutting the cord, and delivering the placenta), Baby care (this role includes taking the baby after birth and performing vital sign checks, cleaning, measuring, weighing and administering vital immunizations such as Vitamin K, Erythromycin, and in the Philippines Hepatitis B). The final role, the Assist exists only when there are 3 attendants (or students) available and involves stimulating Oxytocin release through massage, monitoring the mother’s vital signs, and administrating Methrogen (Oxytocin, which helps the uterus contract). These deliveries took place into the earlier morning of Sunday morning, and an exhausted group of students fell thankfully into our floor mats for a few hours of sleep.
On Sunday morning, a few of the students attended mass with the Filipino delegates. We were surprised to see that the large church was filled to capacity with worshippers, many of whom were spilling out the front doors. We later learned that there are actually 4 services held in all, each just as packed as the one we attended. This demonstrates the huge role that religion and spirituality plays in many Filipino’s lives. After mass we returned to the community to conduct epidemiological surveys, interviewing the local families to uncover trends in health related concerns. Due to monsoon type rains we unfortunately had to postpone the scheduled community assembly.
Monday was a busy day, beginning with IMCI (integrated management of childhood illness) at the Rural health Unit. We held the previously cancelled community assembly in the afternoon and had two speakers come to deliver health and leadership information to the community. Miss Santacera, a faculty member of St. Paul’s University spoke to the community on the existing community-college partnership as well as on leadership development. The second speaker was from the Department of Agriculture and discussed the pros and cons of growing mushrooms as an additional livelihood to the current broomstick making. The community was told to consider it’s options and the meeting ended in true Filipino style with a shared meal.
Tuesday morning we joined our Filipino colleagues in reporting (doing presentations) on common diseases found in the community, some of these included TB (tuberculosis), Intestinal parasites, Gastroenteritis, Rabies, and Pneumonia. Following this informative activity 6 of us went on a tour of Janiuy’s original church which was built during the Spaniard’s occupation in 1875. We also toured the cemetery and were shocked to learn that many of the plots are public plots, meaning that the family must re-rent them every 5 years to ensure a place for their loved ones to rest. The afternoon marked our final visit to the community. Once again we were privy to unseasonable downpours, and the participants’ numbers were fewer then expected. In true Filipino style we did not let the pouring rain, or humid heat deter us from having a good time. We finished our community experience by dancing with the kids, viewing a Filipino version of the turtle and the hair story, and sharing of food. A few of our members experienced the difficulty of remaining upright while trudging through the rice fields on the way home. An exchange of traditions took place in the evening when the Filipino students had their 1st taste of Smores, and the Canadian students had their first taste of Balut (a fertilized egg with a duck embryo in it). On our final day at St. Paul’s we attended a divine feast with the Sister’s of St. Pauls and ended the experience with many tears and heart felt good-byes with our Filipino delegates. This exchange of memories and good-byes, summed up an eventful, damp and truly enriching week of experiences we will surely never forget.
We have learned so much these past few months and would like to mention just a few of our observations about Filipino culture and our many learning experiences. We have built long-lasting and unforgettable relationships with so many of our Filipino colleagues and friends. Their hospitable nature, warm, caring personalities have touched us in more ways then we can express. There was never a moment when they would not go out of their way to accommodate our many needs, and always with a glowing smile in place. Their infectious laughter and humorous wit could cheer us up in our moments of illness, or simply home-sickness. This optimistic outlook in life filters into many aspects of their patient relationships and care. We have learned so much from these individuals such as how to appreciate the smaller things in life, how to relax and be more spontaneous operating on Filipino time rather then it has to happen right now. They live with the attitude of "work hard, play hard" always game for an adventure or new experience. We have picked up on how to be more resourceful and innovative in practice, observing these traits in many of the students, faculty and staff we have worked beside. We have noticed a strong family and spiritual dimension to their care, a focus on holistic care. They focus on healing not only body, but mind and spirit as well. We have learned how to live in close quarters, sacrificing our beloved privacy and personal space for constant companionship. We have noticed the benefits of using fewer gloves, turning the lack of resources into a positive, through the use of therapeutic touch. These are just a few of the many many things we have learned and appreciated these past few months.
As this will be our last blog before we head into the world as competent and caring future nurses, we would like to take the time to thank everyone who made this unbelievable experience possible. We would like to send out a huge thank you to all of the UERM and St. Paul’s faculty, staff and students who demonstrated great patience for our blunders and showed unrestrained hospitality throughout our stay. We would also like to thank the University of Saskatchewan College of Nursing and of course our very own facilitator and guide Susan Fowler-Kerry, whom without, none of this would have been possible.
Of course we cannot forget Dean Carmelita C. Divinagracia and Sister Carolina Agravante, both outstanding role models and gracious hosts. Thank you to everyone we have had the chance to interact with over these past two months, we cannot even begin to name all of the many many wonderful people who have touched and changed us. We will take this experience and all those we have met with us, using the many lessons taught to us as we finish this passage and continue on our journeys to become culturally competent and critically thinking nurses.
Farewell until we meet again.
Valerie Butt, Amy Paiva, Carol Scrievner, Melanie Fontaine, Cristina Santoro, Leia Evans, Lisa Francis and Tamara Benjamin