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Choiced Cuts: Health and migration



“Sumugal po ako doc,” says Delfin (not his real name) in his early 40’s, father of three, an Overseas Filipino Worker in a US territory for more than 20 years. For three years now, Delfin would not sit down. Even if he wanted to, he just could not. All he could do was either stand or lie on his bed.

It started with episodes of painful and difficult defecation, until one day, he passed out fresh blood, and then again the next day… and again. He consulted a physician who diagnosed and managed him as a case of internal hemorrhoids but no improvement was observed. The pain was still there though there was a decreased frequency in bloody bowel movement. This went on for a while, until he found himself in a surgeon’s clinic. Delfin underwent a battery of tests including proctosigmoidoscopy which revealed a fungating rectal mass only a few centimeters from the anal verge. A biopsy of the same mass revealed a rectal adenocarcinoma. He was promptly advised surgical and oncologic management for his condition, but he refused.

He gambled for time in default for cure.

“Tatlong taon lang doc. Tatlong taon pa, para matupad and mga pangarap ko sa mga anak ko,” fearing that chemotherapy and surgery might “shorten” his life as wrongly perceived by many. That and the ongoing retrenchment in his company during that time made things hard for him and his wife. If he chose to be cured, he would have to leave his work. He was torn between staying here in the Philippines and be treated and going back abroad and keep his job. His was the only thing that keeps the family’s finances afloat. He literally gambled and placed his stakes for time.

At work, he kept the pain to himself. At time, out of sheer exasperation from both the physical demands of his work and being not able to sit and rest, he could only extend his arms and pray, “Panginoon, hindi ko na kaya, kunin mo saglit itong sakit na ito para maitawid ko ang pamilya at mga anak ko…” Then, everything will be fine once more. His story is pain and joy beyond physical.

Then, came a point when all he could pass out were watery stools intermixed with blood. That was the time we met at my clinic.

“Panalo ka na naman sa sugal mo sir?” I asked.

“Opo doctor, nakatapos na ng kolehiyo ang anak ko…” referring to his first born who just graduated from college in a State University in their province.

“Ang hiling ko na lang po talaga doctor, paupuin niyo na po ako…”


This story reflects the obvious realities among migrant workers of any nationality. Migration or mobility itself is perceived a risk to overall health. Many international organizations such as the Migrant Clinicians Network identify several factors that affect access to health care and services.
1. Language barrier and cultural differences,
2. Unfamiliarity to the health care services, and,
3. Limited eligibility to these services (i.e., insurance, medicare, healthcard)
4. Legal and regulatory concerns (some countries do not prioritize migrant workers for their public services)

This underscores other health concerns such as changes in climate condition; occupational and environmental safety issues. When we ask a number of OFW’s on-line if they have access to adequate health care, the answers are varied. Most of the time, their employers shoulder the costs for consultations and hospitalizations but with limited coverage only. Workers with life threatening conditions like Chronic Kidney Diseases, Cancer and other chronic ailments (diabetes, hypertension) are often sent back to their countries of origin.

This is rather not a general rule, so to speak, as other countries offer a more comprehensive and “generous” health package without prejudice to migrant workers. “Pare, kung may malala kang kondisyon, mas maiging mamatay ka dito,” says one paramedic who works in one of these states. It remains quite sad still to think that you have been breaking your bones and spending your most productive life in another country to retire comfortably in our country, and yet, you cannot go home for ample treatment.

We tried searching for a comprehensive study on the health situation for migrant workers, unfortunately, not much data are available or published. On-going or future researches may be able to help create policies that can help them adjust to the health hazards of migration.

Manong Delfin, underwent debulking of a huge rectal mass that prolapsed to his anus. Unfortunately, that was all that can be provided. He still refused chemotherapy after surgery. He was able to witness his firstborn march during her graduation, sitting proud for his child.


The SIGMA KAPPA PI FRATERNITY is celebrating its 50th Anniversary on September 1, 2018. Here is the list of activities for the said date:
8:30 am -12 nn EKIT CUP Championship (UP Technohub Gym)
1:30 pm EKIT Motorcade (UP CMC Parking lot)
2:30 pm EKIT Group Photo shoot (UP Oblation, Quezon Hall)
3:30 pm EKIT Wreath-laying (UP Vinzon’s Hill)
6:00 pm Fellowship and Grand Reunion (UP Bahay ng Alumni)

For Inquiries, please coordinate with recycledbins@yahoo.com # nordis.net

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