At four months old, my niece Alunay was already diagnosed with Patent Ducus Arteriosus (PDA). According to the doctor, her heart has a hole that did not close when she was born.

I was in college then when the sad news about my brother Pablo's daughter broke out. We needed to check the Internet since it was our first time to hear about such sickness.

Young Alunay posed difficulty in breathing. The murmuring in her heart was very evident.

However, we still thank God that she looked healthy despite the disturbing sound from her heart.

A heart surgery was needed to close the hole, and it would take a huge sum of money for the surgery to happen. Obviously, my family cannot afford it.

But God is always good. He sent Dr. Philip Del Carmen, a Manila-based physician who has been coming back and forth to Sagada for his self-initiated medical mission.

After getting support from his own network, Dr. Del Carmen contacted my family about the surgery. He just finished working on the operation of another kid in Sagada suffering from the same illness.

The Sagada Credit Cooperative, on the other hand, held a walk-for-a-cause event that had Alunay as their beneficiary.

With support from the community, Alunay was transported to Manila for the surgery everyone has been waiting for.

I waited for Alunay and her parents at the Victory Liner Pasay Station. When they arrived, we shared the space I am renting out in Paranaque.

It was not Alunay's first time in Manila. When she was one, she was brought here to seek medical attention. It did not materialize.

Now under the care of Dr. Del Carmen, we all prayed everything to go smoothly. And it did happen.

The next day, we met Dr. Del Carmen at the Philippine Heart Center. He was a big man conversing with us in Kankanaey.

He smiled at us and told us about his earlier adventures in Sagada. He mentioned about the Spanish Trail and showed us a view of the rice fields years ago.

In fact, Dr. Del Carmen exhibited the photographs he took in Sagada for decades earlier this week in Baguio City.

Dr. Del Carmen shared Manang Juna about the process while we waited in the corner. Manang Juna was interviewed and in the next day, Alunay was already admitted for the surgery.


It was difficult to think that my young niece is undergoing a surgery. My family have been uneasy, asking for updates.

Dr. Del Carmen explained to us that a  cork-like device would be inserted in to Alunay’s vein that would channel the device to her heart. The device would be used to close the hole.

By Sunday morning at the height of Typhoon Lando, I reached PHC and was greeted by Manang Juna telling me that Alunay’s heart murmur already ceased.

I listened closely to my niece's chest and found no trace of the disturbing sound. Indeed, it was over.

I teased my niece to get discharged immediately so we could go back to the Sky Garden of Lancris Residences so we could play there again with the swing and slide.

Days after, Alunay was finally discharged.

We celebrated her seventh birthday at my place. She blew the candle of her small cake we got from the mall as promised to her.


It took us seven years to find the light in the eyes of Dr. Del Carmen. It took the effort of tens and tens of people to get the hole in Alunay's heart closed.

My family is forever grateful to have received such a wonderful blessing. We will try our best to repay each kindness. We offer our prayers that you will be blessed more so you could help more families in need. 


Read more about Dr. Philip Del Carmen: Mission from the Heart