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Jun 10th
Home Sections Health and Medicine The Philippines: A Land of "Mona Lisas"
The Philippines: A Land of "Mona Lisas" PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Health and Medicine
Wednesday, 06 June 2007 11:30

First Article in a Series of "Reinventing the Philippine Healthcare Industry"

Princess Emraida Kiram is a member of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu. She is a daughter of the now-departed Sultan. She works now with the University of Wisconsin. On Dec. 14, 2003, Princess Emraida and I met several Filipino-American leaders in Niles, Illinois. One topic discussed during the meeting was the healthcare system in the Philippines. Princess Emraida said that if we did not know it yet, the number-one cause of death in Mindanao, especially among the Filipino Muslims, is the "Mona Lisa" Syndrome (MLS).

All of us asked what in heaven's name is the MLS? With a twinkle in her eyes, Princess Emraida said, "Whenever the poor people of Mindanao get sick, 'they just lie there and they die there.'" We got the message. Yes, she referred to the lyrics of the song, "Mona Lisa," that balladeer Nat King Cole popularized.

Indeed what Princess Emraida described as the country's number-one cause of death is quite shocking considering that the Philippines is the world's paramount supplier of nurses and other medical professionals.

Suggested Steps in Eliminating the MLSHow do we eliminate the MLS? This writer will discuss the ways in the succeeding parts of this series. These articles are actually taken from my 2003 position paper called, "Reinventing the Philippine Medical Profession and Hospital Industry Can Lead to Improving Dramatically the Filipino Quality of Life."

I say that Step One is to restore, fund and operate a chain of public-health clinics in the Philippine towns and large barangays (barrios). The project may be done as joint ventures by and among the Philippine government agencies, Filipino non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Overseas-Filipino entities.

And, if there are Overseas Filipinos or rich Filipinos who would be able to sponsor in exchange for naming rights, convert most of them also as NANAY Centers, patterned after Dr. Joy Bruce's National Alliance to Nurture the Aged and the Youth (NANAY) operations in the United States. (To read more about the NANAY, please go to:

These centers may do crash programs on basic-cleanliness training for out-of-school teens and adults, aside of course from doing adult educational classes and special courses on home economics, civics and even Alternative Medicine.

Funding the HCNC

Funding the "Health Clinics/NANAY Centers (HCNC)" is very much doable if only the Overseas-Filipino communities will team up with NGOs in the Philippines like the Ayala Foundation. In Southern California alone, there are more than 500 Filipino-American associations. These civic clubs range from alumni associations to provincial or town organizations. What is needed is to synchronize the fundraising efforts by having a common "Director of Grants" and eventually a shared Executive Office or Secretariat. The American branch of the Ayala Foundation in Northern California and the NANAY head office in Miami, Florida, may be able to help coordinate these fundraising efforts that shall follow strictly the ATIC Principles. Remember the slogan that I coined? ATIC, as in accountability, transparency, integrity and credibility.

The United States has more-than 500,000 Filipino nurses, 22,000 Filipino physicians and tens of thousands more of Filipino dentists, medical technicians, pharmacists, dietitians and other healthcare practitioners and professionals. If many of these Filipino-American medical and healthcare professionals were to coordinate their medical missions to the Philippines, then the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) may be greatly assisted in providing visiting staff to these HCNCs. Perhaps the modern-day Filipino healthcare professionals should emulate Dr. Jose P. Rizal, who was one of the pioneering Filipino medical expatriates. Dr. Rizal established the forerunner of an HMO (health-maintenance organization) that dispensed socialized medicine during his exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga. Perhaps they should run first an online Filipino version of or This writer has registered the domain name,, which is presently just a section of this website. We will gladly give to an organization of Overseas-Filipino medical professionals the said domain name any time they would like to do a health website.

There is nothing impossible financially and structurally if the Overseas Filipinos, the more-than 12,000 Filipino NGOs and the Philippine government-agencies will just cooperate with each other in doing this HCNC Project on a nation-wide scale. In fact the Philippine government may be able to devote more of its resources to providing better healthcare facilities and services if the Filipino bureaucrats will just follow the suggestions of the NGOs and Overseas-Filipino associations.


Perhaps a task force may be organized from the different entities that may be interested in doing this HCNC Project. It will take time, dedication and resources to do it but it can be done. And hopefully, in a matter of years, people in the Philippines who get sick will be smiling like Mona Lisa, instead of merely singing Nat King Cole's song. 


(To be continued . . .)

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 10:14

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