Gratitude

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By Ramon Dacawi

Benchwarmer

Saturday, January 18, 2014


THREE weeks after she appealed for help in battling cancer, Remedios Walleng, a 34-year old mother of two toddlers, appealed again. This time, it was to be able to thank, through the Baguio media, all those who had responded to her call for support towards her medical deliverance.

While her appeal for help found print, her expression of gratitude did not, prompting her to appeal anew. She said it was equally important for her to be able to thank her benefactors, all of whom she never met until they called and asked to meet her so they could extend assistance.

Remedios is fighting Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes for which she was diagnosed the other Christmas. She had had three chemotherapy sessions under a six-cycle treatment plan but eventually suffered a relapse for failure to follow the schedule due to fund lack.

She was to have her third treatment session last Monday under a longer, 12-session protocol at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center. The fresh chemo round is being made possible by Samaritans who pooled P22,000 in response to her plea last Christmas.

As much as she needed support, she needed to express her family’s gratitude to them. Her gratitude is on behalf of Jereka, her five-month old daughter she had taken time to breast-feed while she was knocking on offices in search of Samaritans last December. It’s for Jeremy, her two-year old son. It’s for Jeremias Piaoan, her 42 –year old husband who, as taxi driver, is the family’s sole breadwinner.

She needed to thank Nicanor and Jocelyn Taule-Sison Sr. and Elmer and Carmen Taule-Coma-ad. The two couples contributed a total of P12,000 they coursed through Engr. Taule of the La Trinidad Water District.

To that, the secretary of Engr. Taule added P2,000, Remedios said.
A certain “Sir Manuel” aboard a Mitsubishi Montero vehicle also met the patient in front of the UCCP Church in Baguio and handed P10,000.

Remedios, a native of Alilem, Ilocos Sur, worked as a domestic help in
Malaysia until her three-year contract expired in 1998. Her family now rents in a boarding house at FA-301, Km. 4, Balili, La Trinidad, Benguet.
Others who would like to prop up this young mother’s chamces against the big C may ring her cellphone number (09487802466).

Remedios is not alone in her persistence to be able to say thank you. Years back, the great Cbarles Kuralt, the reporter of CBS who recorded the extraordinary deeds of ordinary people, featured a Russian dentist and war veteran who sought him out when he was in Moscow for an assignment, “Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of Nikita Zakaravich Aseyev,” Kuralt later wrote in “A Life on the Road”, a chronicle of the feature stories he did on ordinary people with extraordinary deeds, sensitivity and sense of community.

Dr. Aseyev could not forget a debt of gratitude. He wanted to thank the American prisoners of war who smuggled food to him and his Russian prisoners in a German camp during the Second World War.

“You have to help me,” Aseyev told Kuralt after the be-medaled veteran barged into the reporters’ hotel being secured by the KGB, the Soviet Union secret police. “You are my hope. Everybody lives in hope, you know, and I am no different. For more than forty years, I have waited for this chance, and now it has come.”

He gave Kuralt a list of the American prisoners who had helped the Russian detainees. Dr. Aseyev recalled the names aloud and Kuralt taped his voice.

“Listen to these names back there in America,” Kuralt later said in his television report. “If your name is on this list, an old soldier is saying thank you,” he added and played the tape.

Among those who were watching the news that evening were William Jarema, a retired New York City police detective, and Dr. Sidney Brockman, retired from the San Antonio, Texas, Health Department.

Both remembered their life in prison with Dr. Aseyev. Both wept. “These are tears of joy,” Jarema later said. “We were like brothers. I thought he was dead.” Dr. Brockman recalled: “We were all very close to Dr. Aseyev. We all had tremendous respect for the man, because we knew the Russian prisoners were having things mighty rough.”

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Personally, the eyes still well each time I remember Elena Solis’ selfless gesture five Christmases past. She was a laundrywoman who had been knocking on doors to tell people Manellaine, her then 21-year old daughter, needed help.

Manellaine, she said, was afflicted with lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys caused by a disease of the immune system. The girl needed to undergo chemotherapy every quarter of the year, and the costs per cycle were beyond her family’s means.

Once they read of the girl’s medical plight, Samaritans responded spontaneously One generous soul traced Elena and contributed while she was doing laundry inside a church compound along Bokawkan Rd. Others followed suit, allowing Manellaine to complete her treatment protocol.
Sometime that yuletide, Elena dropped by our cubicle to share the good news. Manellaine’s doctors said she had been cured, free of the illness. Her mother came to ask that her gratitude be published.

There’s another thing,, she added in Filipino. “Gusto ko sanang ibigay n’yo ito sa sinomang maysakit at nangangailangan ng tulong (I wish you can give this to whoever is sick and is in need of help),” she said.
She handed me two P500 bills.

I was stunned. The amount could have gone a long way to settling her family’s monthly house rental at Pucay St., at the back of the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary at Guisad.

I suppressed the urge to hand back the two P500 bills, then asked her where the amount came from.

She explained her husband, Manuel, who worked as a security guard, had received his Christmas bonus of P6,000. The couple had decided that part of it be given to somebody in need, out of gratitude for the kindness of strangers who helped Manellaine pull through her medical ordeal.

So be it, I answered. Later, I handed the amount to a patient grateful to know there are people out there whose own suffering never blinds them to the pain of others.

Up close and personal, I have my own list of benefactors. Both local and expatriates, they had helped me pull through a plumbing of the heart termed angioplasty in January, 2012. They include my doctors who, that month insisted I have a heart and that it was not working well. These professionals are still checking on me pro bono. (e-mail: mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 18, 2014.

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