In 2013, I visited Calamba, Laguna, the hometown of my late cousin, Peter Aldeza. Calamba is located 100 kilometers south of the capital, Manila. I found out that the only charity hospital in Calamba, JP Rizal Memorial Hospital, did not even have a proper hospital lobby. The hospital serves over 20,000 indigent patients every year and it’s the only medical facility for miles that provides charity care. All indigent patients have to wait out in a makeshift shed with a few corrugated metal sheets attached together as a roof and a few slabs of wood as benches. I wondered what happens when it rains and the patients have to wait out in the open?
In October 2014, I shared this project idea with my late cousin’s wife, Carminda Aldeza. She immediately got to work and recruited other Filipinas to help in putting together a fundraiser to build a proper lobby for the hospital. Carminda recruited 20 other women to help – Ate (older sister) Sally, Ate Chit, Ate Aurora, Ate Aurora, Ate Sionie, Ruth Banatin, Christine Krogmann and countless others, including my mother Shirley Pintado. They put together the best party of the year – a Hawaiian ‘luau’ theme party replete with grass skirts, leis, tiki torches, a roast pig ‘lechon’ and the Aloha spirit. It all happened so fast! In I thought that the party was going to be a small get together honoring my late cousin Peter but it turned out to be the best of the year honoring Pete Aldeza’s memory, his goodwill and his legacy. But most of all, Carminda and the legion of volunteer Filipinas called ‘Adorables’ were the highlight of the party.
In February 2015, I joined Carminda Aldeza and her family in the groundbreaking ceremony of the hospital lobby areas for the JP Rizal Memorial Hospital in Calamba, Laguna, the only charity hospital in the Laguna area.
In August 2017, the NEXTGEN 2017 participants Marc Butiong, Camillo Geaga and I visited the municipal hospital in Calamba, Laguna. I am proud to share the completion of the hospital lobby. The donation resulted in the completion of the covered lobby for the emergency hospital, the covered waiting area, and the outpatient services lobby. Now, the patients do not have to wait in the elements. Besides the request of additional paint for the emergency lobby awning, mission accomplished.
In addition, the Bayanihan Foundation donated a printer and a FAX machine for the hospital administration use. The completion of this project is especially significant and an important milestone for me. This project demonstrated the persistence, patience and commitment of many people behind the scenes that made this project possible.
In this project, I was confronted with intense cultural challenges that I did not expect in my endeavors to raise funds for community projects. These cultural challenges include intense competition among Filipinos and the pervasive ‘crab mentality’ (Nadal: Filipino Psychology, 2009). Crab mentality is the desire to outdo, outshine or surpass another (often of one’s same ethnic group) at the other’s expense. These challenges include fragmentation and distrust and intense competition. I’ve realized that these cultural challenges run deep and might be the main reason Filipinos are not unified to face together larger community challenges including combating poverty in the Philippines, the big gap in income between the rich and the poor and increasing out-migration. Without any solution in mind, I began to accept the crab mentality thinking and just soldier on. This project somehow embodied how Filipinos could overcome deep fragmentation and distrust among each other called ‘crab mentality’. This story renewed my hope on the Filipino community spirit of giving. I slowly evolved from pessimism to optimism.
I would like to thank a lot of people who made this project possible including the ‘Adorables’ (Carminda Aldeza, Dr. Dorothy Anoina, Aurora Gagni and Eva Torres). They changed my perception from pessimism to optimism. They bonded and worked hard to put together a terrific fundraising party, to raise funds to build a hospital lobby in Calamba, Laguna, in memory of the late Peter Aldeza. They are a living testament that Filipinos could overcome the cultural challenge of ‘crab mentality’ and worked together in Bayanihan, for the common good. Special thanks go to Evelyn Castillo, the Bayanihan Foundation’s Liaison that made multiple trips to Calamba to make this project happen. Special thanks also goes to: Dr. Borlongan and the hospital staff of JP Rizal Memorial Hospital; Dr. Doreen Sales; Dr. Amy Belarmino; Christine Aldeza Krogmann; Sionie Sales; Shirley Pintado; the continued support of the Bayanihan Foundation board and the many donors that supported this project.
“As a familiar story goes, one can leave a basket full of crabs and not worry that a single one of them can ever climb out of it and escape the cooking pan. The moment one succeeds in pulling itself up an inch, there will be a dozen claws that will make sure it doesn’t make it to the top.” (Mejorada: The Filipino Express, 1996)
In the end, the indigent patients of Calamba, Philippines benefited with new hospital lobbies where they could wait in comfort and not out in the open. I have indeed renewed my spirit. The Bayanihan spirit of community giving, Kawang Gawa is alive and well.