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Fighting Poverty, Surviving ALL January 18, 2017

Trying to make both ends meet is very hard especially if you have no stable job or source of income at all. Just imagine how you will survive a day with no food for the family, no money to pay for the bills and other basic needs. Things can get worse if a family member gets sick and needs immediate medical attention.

This is the sad reality that no person would ever want to experience.

This is true with Cristina Lumibao, 26, a housewife. Cristina spent much of her time taking care of her two kids and doing the household chores.

Life has not been easy for Cristina’s family. Her husband only works three times a week as a butcher’s helper. How could a father with intermittent work possibly provide for his family’s needs?

In June 2016, the family encountered a major setback: Cristina’s youngest son, John Kristian was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).

Childhood ALL is the most common type of cancer in children. It is a cancer in the blood and bone marrow which usually gets worse quickly if not treated. (

The three-year old boy suffered bruises in different parts of his body that made Cristina and her husband decide to bring him to the nearby hospital.

“Wala po siyang iniindang masakit sa katawan niya. Hanggang sa napansin ko na lang na ang dami niyang mga pasa sa iba’t-ibang parte ng katawan, kaya dinala namin agad sa ospital,” Cristina recounted.

There, they discovered that his platelet count was down. The test results confirmed that Kristian has ALL and needs to be transferred to another hospital for proper treatment.

Kristian was then brought to Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center (ITRMC) in San Fernando, La Union, a Level 3 hospital with 300-bed capacity.

As a mother, Cristina’s only thought that time is for her child to be well. The cost of hospitalization did not even cross Cristina’s mind.

“Inisip lang po namin na yung anak namin ang importante. Hindi ko naman akalain na aabot kami na ganito pala katagal na gamutan. Hindi kami handa sa gastusin, ni pambili ng pampers (diaper) wala kami,” she said.

Good thing, Cristina is covered by health insurance benefits through the Indigent program of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). She was enrolled through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction or the “Listahanan” of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Indigent program members like Cristina are entitled to the No Balance Billing which means that they need not pay any single centavo for their hospitalization in a government facility like ITRMC.

Kristian went through a series of chemotherapy sessions that needed frequent hospital stay. Although the procedure and hospitalization expenses were covered by PhilHealth under its case rates payment, the family still needed to fill the amount for their other expenses like medicines and transportation.

The town of Malasiqui in Pangasinan where Cristina and her family live is two hours away from ITRMC. To be able to get to the hospital, Cristina needs to spend for her transportation, which the family cannot sustain. The only solution she thought of was to seek help from others.

“Nung wala po kami talagang pera, lumapit kami sa barangay naming, humingi kami sa mga kagawad. Binigyan po kami, bawa’t isang kagawad tig-P300 pampamasahe lang namin,” recalled Cristina in between sobs.

“Humihiram din kami ng pera sa mga magulang ko para sa mga gamot na kailangan ng anak ko,” she added.

But the family’s struggle did not stop there. Before his phase two treatment ended, Kristian got an infection that again needed prolonged hospital stay. Although saddened by the unexpected circumstances, Cristina is still hopeful that they will surpass these trials especially when the doctor assured them that Kristian will be fine. Kristian will be on his third phase of treatment and needs to be treated until the 5th phase.

Cristina could not imagine how they will survive without the help of government institutions like PhilHealth and other public servants who willingly extended a hand to people who are in need, just like her.

“Nagpapasalamat nga po ako kasi ang laking tulong na ibinibigay sa amin nito, na walang binabayaran. Kung wala naman pong PhilHealth at social welfare wala po kaming makukuhanan ng pambayad sa ospital,” Cristina uttered.

As the country’s only social health insurer, PhilHealth continuously improves its benefits and programs and strengthens its services to better serve all Filipinos. With the proper implementation of the NBB, no more poor Filipino will be left untreated. Poverty will no longer be a reason for not going to the hospital and demand for quality health care services.

Cristina is certain that Kristian will soon recover and live a normal life and that her family will surpass poverty for as long as they are together. (END) (Michelle S. Nisperos)

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