Of all the places we went to, Abra was the one I was most excited about. This is part 1 of 3 reports covering that most eventful day.
It was here that we would be the furthest from a relatively large town and proper resources. We would meet people that were coming from miles inland just to see us, meeting at a school house about a quarter mile off the shore. They quite possibly hadn’t seen a medical professional of any capacity in months, if not years. We had no estimates of how many we would see but were expecting similar numbers to Paluan. What we didn’t plan for was that by the end of it we would have to do a Black 6 Project version of a medevac/long distance transport.
When Joe first told me about Abra de Ilog, he mentioned that the place that we would be visiting was “supposedly best accessed by a long boat ride and a short hike”. Realizing that most locals perceive things differently wherever you are, that could be anything from a quick 10 minute boat ride and a short walk through a park, or a massive adventure with rolling seas and two-headed dragons. Ok maybe not dragons, but something ready to bite you. FYI, I’m from a country that the Amazon river runs through, so when someone tells me we have to go places “only accessible by boat”, I’m thinking Amazon jungle and the resident wildlife.
I was pondering what the Filipino version of a piranha looked like when we took off for our trip to Abra de Ilog, which is a mashup of Spanish and Tagalog for Opening of the River. We got up around 7 as usual and packed our bags in the quickly rising heat and humidity, and set off in our minivan loaded to the gills with our team and equipment. It wasn’t as bad as our trip to Paluan because we took the main highway to Abra. The weather was also much better than when we had landed the week prior and we had to slow to a crawl in several places that were flooded and mudslide like. We were there in a little over an hour and a half. Once in the town we went to the municipal health clinic to meet the local healthcare workers would who be our guides.
From there we set off to the ferry terminal and got into our boat. We were told it was approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours to the village so we settled in and enjoyed the ride. The soothing hum of the outboard motors and the gentle seas were an easy sleeping aid, but the beauty of the island we were sailing aside was too distracting. Our catamaran was in crystal clear blue waters; we could see to the sea floor about 30-40 feet down. As we rode along the coastline, we passed several tiny little villages popping out like outcroppings from the hills. I don’t think pictures can really do it justice, but I’ll try and give you an idea.
It was almost 10 o’clock when we reached the shoreline. I remember how hot the sand was when we were slipping on our shoes to make the trek into the village, and thinking that the ambient temperature must have been around 100 degrees, with 80-90% humidity. It was like a beautiful sauna. We had some of the locals come to show us the way and we set off for Barangay Santa Maria.
Continued next week: Part 2, where we meet the children and a family in desperate need of our help.