The Good News

Orthopedic hero

Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines -  There are children in wheelchairs, tattooed boys who can barely move and paralyzed men seemingly forgotten by their families.

The smell of medicine pervades the air and further inside, visitors would have to wear masks to avoid the stench of urine.

Welcome to the Philippine Orthopedic Center in Banawe, Quezon City, once a hospital for civilian casualties during the liberation Manila in 1945 and now a hospital focusing orthopedic cases.

Many of the patients have been here for years because it is there where they are treated. They cannot go home.

But they do not lose hope, thanks to the help of Fr. Arnold Abelardo, CMF, the hospital’s chaplain.

Himself a patient at the hospital once upon a time, Abelardo is the quintessential orthopedic survivor.

He now “pays it forward” by sharing the gift of hope to the patients of the hospital -- the men, women, children and their families.

“I started as a patient here. I had a slipped disk sofrom the United States, I went straight here,” Fr. Abelardo told The Star one morning in the hospital’s healing garden, just outside the chapel.

In 2007, when he finished his therapy, the hospital did not have a chaplain. He decided that he would celebrate the mass for the people and as a way of thanking the hospital for the therapy he received.

He would make the rounds in the different wards including the children’s ward and he noticed that some of the patients were losing hope.

He then decided, with the blessings of his superiors that hewould serve as the chaplain of the hospital because it didn’t have any.

Fr. Abelardo worked to change the atmosphere in the hospital. He knew the patients by their first names. He would enter a ward and try to lift everyone’s spirits with a song, a conversation, a playful greeting each time he made the rounds.

He also checked on the nurses and the orderlies regularly to see if they, too, needed some encouragement or words of support.

One Holy Week, he organized a Flores de Mayo, the traditional Santacruzan and dubbed as as the Sagala ng Pagasa or Parade of Hope.

He sought the help of friends for bamboo to be used for the parade, used gowns for the muses and other used materials to add to the festivities.

“We need to empower the patients and the staff,” he said. There are about 400 patients a day.

In 2008, some patients and staff thought it would be good for the hospital to have its own chapel.

“I thought, we could do it brick by brick and we did. In five months, we were able to build a chapel,” he says, adding that everyone helped raise funds and donations.

Fr. Abelardo said the chapel is a product of hard work and faith.

“If you give your heart to something and you are open, God will find a way,” he said.

Indeed, Fr. Abelardo finds miracles in the everyday life in the hospital.

Once, there is a child who wanted to meet celebrity couple Marian River and Dingdong Dantes. He didn’t know them but with the help of social media, he was able to find a connection that helped link the nine-year old cancer patient with the two celebrities who came to visit the hospital.

It was a miracle, he says.

Meeting the child also brought meaning to Marian and Dingdong, he says as they are able to appreciate life more.

When there are disasters such as typhoons, Fr. Abelardo also organizes community counseling and medical assistance.

“Whatever we can contribute to nation building, we must do it,” he says.

Fr. Abelardo continues to serve as the guiding light and source of hope to many of the patients in the hospital.

On the day of The Star’s visit, Fr. Alebardo visited the ward, which included 55-year old Rolly Marcelo, a man stabbed to paralysis many years ago. Here, he sang a song with Marcelo, gave him the high five and made him smile.

Indeed, Fr. Abelardo’s gift of hope is spread in songs and high fives, in laughter and cheers, in daily masses and occasional parades. It may seem simple but definitely grand for the heart of the patients here, some of whom may have lost hope.












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