We are now on the island of Marinduque, the “Heart of the Philippines.” It is located in the center of the Philippine islands and is shaped sort of like a heart. It is a tropical paradise here. The island is covered with coconut trees, mountains and a sandy coastline. You can only get here on a three-hour ferry ride from Lucena. Marinduque is where RSM launched a four year program to cure malnutrition and starvation on a whole island. Thanks to the efforts of our RSM team led by Sr. MariVic this dream is being realized. Malnutrition and starvation is now down to 4%. This is an incredible chapter in the worldwide fight against hunger because it has never been done before. Marinduque could be a model program for the whole country and perhaps the world.
Still there are those that need to be reached out to. We travel for 60 minutes along the picturesque coastline and eventually arrive at a small hut. It is not part of the village, but standing all by itself in what looks like a pasture. We walk up to the hut and meet the mother Anna Belle, holding her daughter Anna Mae. Mae is thin looking. She has been on the Manna Pack Rice for a year, but her health is not improving. She has been dewormed, but cannot keep food down.
Jerry says she needs to be fed in smaller portions six times a day and recommends that both of them be brought to the hospital. We explore the hut. There are four feral cats living there. One is up on the counter in the kitchen area scrounging for food. Two skinny, mangy dogs skulk around the hut. Holding their heads down they growl at me as I walk into the sleeping area with a bamboo slatted floor. There are holes in the floor and I can see the hogs below. There are two adult hogs and eight piglets living under the hut.
I think about the life of Anna Belle. Her dreams of a happy married life must be in shambles. She is 25 years old and pregnant and has a two-year-old malnourished and sick daughter. No husband there to be attentive to her as she bears her pregnancy. He is far away working as a laborer in Manila. Her hut is apart from the rest of the village, so she is isolated. She sits alone with her daughter most of the day. Her daughter doesn’t feel good and she doesn’t feel good. Mangy sick dogs with sores and feral cats surround her. Stinking dog dung, hog dung and cat dung is all around. The sound of the hogs snorting from underneath the shanty constantly reminds her of her situation. One lonely pot boils on the fire with some meager vegetables that she has found. Smoke rolls around through out the shanty. On the mothers face, you can see the weight of overwhelming stress, sadness and aloneness.