Kumusta: Manila



So I have arrived safely back to India. The past two weeks have been extremely hectic but just as rewarding.

Photo:Manila City

My colleague Rotana Cheng and I started off in Manila City with no contacts and a vague idea of what we wanted to achieve as representative for Hands on Health Australia.
The first day was spent at our laptops while the hustle and bustle that is Manila carried on beyond our hostel gates. We gathered what information we could and reached out to other organisations and universities in order to line up meetings and a possibility of sharing ideas and experiences. We hit quite a few brick walls and with the internet falling in and out it seemed we were losing an uphill battle. But alas, Asiatech University whom we had a connection with prior to our trip managed to get in contact and invited us to make the hour bus trip down to Santa Rosa in Laguna and spend a couple of days touring their facilities with the hopes we might introduce our Myotherapy Program into their institute.
If you think the Indian are hospitable they have nothing on the Filipinos. We were greeted by Dr Shelalin at the bus station and whisked to the Asiatech training resort for breakfast and a meeting with Dr Pinky.

Poto: Dr Shelalin, Rotana and Aly discussing the TESDA guidelines at Asiatech.
Photo: AsiaTech computer lab

We discussed their history and the progress they have made in the past 7 years. They started off with 35 students in 2009 and have now expanded to over 1000+ thanks to a great deal of hard work done by two absolutely gorgeous women.
We toured their University and the more we saw the more we liked, they have an upto date computer department, a science lab, and more importantly, students who wish to learn, and teachers who wish to teach. Needless to say Rotana and I were impressed.
The following day we spent the morning with Dr Shelalin going through the TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) guidelines. We established fairly quickly that, although it would require a great deal of work, it was going to be doable and Asiatech was going to be the best place for this program. Of course, nothing ever happens overnight so Rotana and I still have a great deal of work to do in this respect.

Photo: Asiatech in Santa Rosa Laguna, Hands on Health Australia’s new education partners

Once we had gone over the TESDA requirements Dr Shelalin dropped us off at the bus depot and we made the hour trip back to Manila City.
By this time we had managed to make contact with Reynold St Maria, a previous participant of the STTEP program Hands on Health Australia ran in 1996.
Reynold became certified through RMIT with a Certificate in Chiropractic Assistant Course/ Myotherapy. After working for 10 years as a Chiropractor Assistant he decided to branch out and share his experience and knowledge with the wider community. As a result his clinic MSquare Myotherapy and Rehab Clinic now employs 6 Myotherapist which Reynold has trained and Physical (Physio) Therapist. He and his wife, Cristina, who is also a Myotherapist, have been running the clinic for almost 6 years and show no sign of slowing down. It was an absolute privledge to meet someone who has benefited so greatly by our very own organisations intevention. Rey himself even said that if it wasn’t Hands on Health and the opportunity they provided him he would never have been able to become a Myotherapist and his life would have gone down a very very different path.

Photo: Reynold and his team at MSquare Myotherapy and Rehab Clinic in Manila
Photo: Taking advantage of some treatment at MSquare Myotherapy and Rehab Clinic

Feeling pretty good about ourselves by this stage we decided to call it a day and head back to our hostel via the Light Rail and Train. We had been warned plenty of times that this was a bad idea but Rotana is always up for an adventure and we figured we didn’t have anything of real value (except our lives) then why the bloody hell not. We weren’t disappointed. Our journey home took us for a walk through a lovely little slum like suburb where children played on the street and every house had a Rooster tied up out the front, no doubt showing off their prized Cock for the Cock Fighting Competitions (Yes, that is a huge sport in the Philippines).
Once we got to the train station (I use this term loosely also) Rotana got striking up a conversation with the gentlemen in the ticket office. As a result of this when the train finally arrived he escorted us to the Women’s Carriage of the train and told the Security Guard where we were going and when to let us off. This was a god send. For those of you who have ever travel by train in the Philippines, or any developing country, they can be rather “cosy”. Rotana was pretty chuffed with himself naturally, having never been in an all female carriage before and seeing just how cramped the rest of train was, he couldn’t believe his luck and we couldn’t help but laugh all the way to our stop. Once there we navigated our way back to our hostel via our feet a Jeep(bus) and a Tri(cycle).

Photo: The elusive Santa Maria train station
Photo: Rotana looking very please that we were on the woman’s carriage and not cramped into the general carriages

We arrived back to find an email from Angeles University asking inviting us to a meeting with them in Angeles, about a 2.5 hour bus ride north of Manila. So we made plans to catch the bus early head up to Angeles for the day then come straight back to Manila in order to get up early once again and catch our flight the next day to Cebu. It was going to be tight but we knew we could do it, by then we were certain we could achieve anything.
Alas, it was not to be.

Photo: Cock Fighting is a very popular past time in the Philipines

I woke at around 4am feeling a bit off, after getting up to use the bathroom several times I went back to sleep and woke up in time to get ready and have breakfast. I had finished breakfast by the time Rotana had surfaced which was a little odd but we carried on, I made a comment about diarrhea and nodded in agreement and said he had been feeling a bit off. We called the taxi anyway and Rotana disappeared for a bit. He came back with this look on his face and I knew exactly what was going through his mind. A 3 hour journey, with no bathrooms… do we risk it. We made the executive decision to cancel the meeting and for good reason. We both hit the wall pretty hard after that. I went back to bed for 4 hours while Rotana battled with his breakfast.
We were both feeling pretty disappointed by this stage, we had come so far and achieved so much, to tick Angeles University off the list would have made for a perfect trip. But it wasn’t to be.
So the next day we packed our bags and made the mad dash in peak hour traffic to the airport with the impression Cebu would bring us more luck… but that is another story.

Photo: What could have been

Aly Curd


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