Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko: 39 years & still running

KAPUSO DAY - Butch S. Raquel - The Philippine Star

When asked how it feels that Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko (KKMK), the Philippines’ longest-running public service program, is celebrating its 39th year, Dr. Orly Mercado says in jest, “We feel old!”

Mercado has been the program’s host since it first aired on GMA Network in December 1975 and is currently the president of Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko Foundation, Inc., which, with the network’s support, was subsequently established as a means of extending the program’s mission of helping indigent Filipinos, especially children with cancer.

“Our attitude about this thing is it’s like running a marathon. You don’t pause. You just go on,” he says of the program’s longevity and unwavering commitment to public service. “Because the problems that we are trying to solve are never-ending.”

The program’s early premise was simple — tap donors to help fund the medical needs of indigent patients featured on the show. Over the course of its 39-year run, the program has been an effective means of raising funds for the many televised medical appeals.

It is also a free on-air clinic that provides much-needed information with its Sagot ni Dok segment where patients are diagnosed by specialists who explain the symptoms, treatment and prevention of a variety of illnesses.

Mercado stresses the importance of information in the battle for a healthy lifestyle. He says that society today lacks the “culture of maintenance,” which entails simple lifestyle changes or preventive measures to lessen the risk of illnesses. “This is the struggle we face and that’s the reason why we still have to remain here,” he says. “It’s like an old warrior, you still have to do it and do it. In the end, it may not be a big thing for others, but you can step back and say, ‘Okay, at least in that little corner of my assignment, we did it and we did it continuously until we made a difference.’”

While Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko’s program format has more or less remained the same, the foundation itself has grown in reach and in scope.

The foundation extended its helping hand to Filipinos across the nation in the wake of natural disasters that devastated the country. A medical mission was conducted in Bohol in June last year after the province was hit by an earthquake. Meanwhile, KKMK — spearheaded by program co-host and KKMK, Inc. Foundation board director Connie Angeles — also helped in the restoration of the Tacloban City Hospital which was turned over to the local government August of last year.

A total of 118 medical missions were also conducted nationwide in 2014, servicing 105,936 patients. The medical missions included free check-ups and laboratory procedures such as X-ray exams, blood analysis and minor surgery. All these were implemented with the help of the private sector, other non-government organizations and local government units.

Also in the same year, 13 children diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) were pronounced “graduates” of the Project Batang Kapwa or Batang K, which helped raise the necessary funds for their chemotherapy. Currently, they have 22 more children who remain active patients of Batang K.

The project, conceived in 1989, has been instrumental in the fight against ALL, a disease which, with early and proper treatment, has a high survival rate. Through Batang K, children with ALL receive assistance with laboratory requirements and medicines. Moreover, the foundation also helps the children and their families through support group activities which boost the children’s morale and help them through the processes of medication.

Always open to patients in need, the foundation has also consistently provided assistance to those who walk in to their office. A total of 592 patients were referred to different hospitals and medical institutions in 2014, while 880 patients were given medical assistance through medicines and financial assistance for laboratory procedures and surgical needs.

With all that they have accomplished, Mercado realizes that there is still a lot of work to be done. And it is this passion for public service that has fueled the man and the foundation to reach out to our brothers and sisters in need, undoubtedly espousing the idea, “Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko.”

As Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko is fast-approaching the milestone 40 years in service, and as much as Mercado endeavors to keep the foundation running, he also envisions an end to the problems they strive to address.

“That’s why I said it’s a marathon. This is something that has to go on and on. But I would like to see the day that we will close this program because there are no more desperate people looking for (help),” he says longingly. “And I will say, ‘Okay! Let’s have a big bang and let’s close the program!’ and it’s done. Hopefully. Hopefully, I’m still alive when that happens.”














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