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CIAI Medical Mission to PHL, Jan. 10-14

LAS VEGAS – Officers and volunteers of the 7th Medical Mission spearheaded by the Catanduanes International Association, Inc., (CIAI), is set to leave for the Philippines on January 10-14, 2011. The group will converge at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center in Virac, Catanduanes for the five-day medical, dental and surgical assistance and educational information campaign for the benefit of over 5,000 underserved residents of Virac who live below poverty level.

Salve Vargas Spensko-Edelman, CIAI-Nevada chapter president, leads the group of 188 doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and volunteers from USA, Canada, and the Philippines.  According to Spensko-Edelman, the CIAI medical mission, which occurs every three years, is always received with warm and open hearts by the resident beneficiaries. The medical-dental-surgical mission is made possible by the compassion and generosity of Catandunganons from around the world. Various CIAI chapters in Las Vegas, Chicago, Maryland, New York/New Jersey areas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver (Canada), and the Winnipeg/Manitoba Chapters, as well as members and volunteers from Florida, Arizona, and Texas, have organized various fundraising events to help finance the 7th CIAI Medical Mission.

In the Philippines, local government officials headed by Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua, Congressman Cesar Sarmiento, Mayor Jose Alberto, Vice Governor Bong Teves, Bishop Manolo de los Santos of the Catholic Diocese of Virac, EBMC Chief Dr. Greg Macero, business leaders and civic-minded residents including Atty. Ellen Tabuzo, Herminio Enriquez couple, and other private organizations, support the CIAI in its mission by providing logistics, security, and welcome receptions for the volunteers.

The annual medical mission is only one of the ways Catandunganons abroad, who had been blessed with better life and comfort, show their respect, gratitude and compassion (“Dios Mabalos Sa Indo Gabos”) to their forebears, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and ancestors, “who paved the way for all of us to have a better life, and our simple way of giving back these blessings to our fellow “Catandunganons,” says Spensko-Edelman.

“As Christians, we try to live up to Luke 4:18, “The spirit of the Lord is upon us, and we are anointed by God to bring good tidings to the poor.”

The island of Catanduanes is located in the easternmost part of the Bicol peninsula, separated from the mainland Bicol by the Maqueda Channel and the Lagonoy Gulf. It is composed of 11 municipalities namely, Virac, San Andres, Caramoran, Pandan, Bato, Gigmoto, Baras, Panganiban, Bagamanoc, Viga, and San Miguel. There are 315 barangays all over the province and one Congressional district.

It is the first land group of the Philippine archipelago to kiss the Pacific Ocean, making it directly open to the path of tropical cyclones, thus, the Catanduanes Island has been termed, “The Land of the Howling Winds.” The perfect time to visit Catanduanes is from the months of March to August when the weather turns dry. It is coolest and rainiest from October to the early part of January, hottest from March to May.

Catanduanes, which is also known as “An Eco-Adventure Paradise,” is for those who like nature at its best. It is indeed Bicol’s best-kept secret. The whole strip of this pearly island of the Pacific is almost untouched, unblemished, and unexplored. It has a long string of palm-fringed beaches and deep blue waters against a backdrop of luxuriant grassy mountains, and a totally laid-back rural charm and crowned with jewel-like island. It offers a totally laid-back rural attraction, a beautiful natural environment and plenty of easy action at a pace that is always relaxed. The local folks have always chosen a relaxed rural village life. They seem to be disinterested in rush development or any hurriedly rush into the modern world. Catanduanes presents an easy lifestyle among warm and friendly people and a general escape from the hysterical rate of urban life.

is the ideal hideaway. It is a place where you could go back to simplicity and party in the absence of man-made anxieties and self-made entrapments; a total escape, they say.
Major industries in Catanduanes Island include abaca and lasa that flourished in the whole province. Native products made of abaca fiber like bags, lamps, utility boxes, handmade paper, among others, beautify the local souvenir shops and serve as local “pasalubong” and souvenirs. Lately, the original abaca fiber, commonly called “pinukpok,” created and woven by the locals of Baras, Catanduanes, has now found its position in the local and international fashion industry. This native fabric has shown its usefulness in the globally attractive designs and creations of the people in Catanduanes.

In terms of the language or dialect, Bicol is the native tongue but with various tones and distinctions, especially when one goes up to the northern towns like Pandan, Caramoran, and Panganiban. English and Tagalog are commonly spoken and understood.

People are dazzled by the rugged and various landscapes, undiscovered caves, tamed white sand beaches, and colorful marine life of the island province of Catanduanes. One never really expects that such a wonderful gift of nature exists in this part of the country. Despite the poverty among its people, the island province of Catanduanes  is gifted with the richness and wonders of nature.

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