ON February 12, 2018, a significant milestone in Philippine healthcare was achieved with the inauguration of the first Malasakit Center at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City.
Spearheaded by Senator Christopher “Bong” Go who was then Special Assistant to the President, these centers are one-stop shops which aim to streamline access to healthcare services by consolidating the efforts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Go is the principal author and sponsor of Republic Act No. 11463 or the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, which institutionalized the Malasakit Centers program.
As the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, Go continues to exercise oversight functions to ensure that the services of Malasakit Centers are consistently provided in accordance with the law he authored and sponsored.
Six years after their establishment, the Malasakit Centers have expanded to 159 operational units across the nation, significantly impacting around ten million Filipinos with their extensive reach. These centers are at the heart of six inspiring stories, each depicting profound transformations in the lives of individuals aided by the initiative.
The story of Yazumi, a young patient from Caloocan City who underwent a liver transplant, showcases the vital role of government collaboration and institutions in lightening the load for Filipinos in distress. At the tender age of four months, Yazumi was diagnosed with biliary atresia, presenting her family with overwhelming hurdles.
After her liver transplant procedure in 2017, the Malasakit Center program provided sustained assistance and support for Yazumi’s health and welfare, including her medications.
In Bohol, the Malasakit Center has also significantly impacted the lives of individuals facing medical challenges. Roselyn Vente, a mother from Tagbilaran City, shared her distressing journey as she navigated the healthcare system for her two-year-old daughter, Margaret Vente, who was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect, a serious heart condition.
The support from the Malasakit Centers alleviated the emotional and financial burden of her daughter’s condition.
The story of the Cerillo twins, Divine and Mercy, from Vinzons, Camarines Norte, also received similar assistance. Born conjoined at the chest, the twins faced daunting odds against their survival.
Through the assistance of Go and the collective programs provided by the Malasakit Center, they were brought to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila in 2019 for a complex separation surgery. Despite the challenges, the operation succeeded, adding Divine and Mercy to the roster of success stories facilitated by the program. Go stood as godfather of the twins.
The Malasakit Center initiative also proved to be a crucial lifeline for Mohammad Abdelrashid Juhuri, a 29-year-old teacher from Maimbung, Sulu, enabling him to undergo life-saving heart surgery.
Diagnosed with congenital heart disease in 2017, Mohammad faced not only a daunting medical challenge but also the financial burden of the necessary surgery. His journey to the Malasakit Center at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City marked a turning point, where the financial assistance provided by them offered him assistance.
Moreover, the story of Regiene Cayabyab and her son Brent Raven from Caloocan City, diagnosed with retinoblastoma, illustrates the lifeline that the Malasakit Centers represent for many Filipino families. The assistance they received during such a devastating time highlights the center’s critical role in the healthcare system, providing financial aid and a sense of community and care.
In 2021, Go played a crucial role in assisting Ribby Ringo Jimenez, a resident of Naval in Biliran, who suffered from a rare skin condition, successfully underwent surgery with the support of the Malasakit Center at the PGH. Further financial assistance was provided to support Ribby’s essentials and medicines.
Through a personal message, Go acknowledged Ribby’s bravery and resilience, highlighting her journey as an inspiration to many Filipinos facing medical and emotional challenges. He encouraged her to use this experience to lead a healthy, happy life filled with joyful memories alongside her family.
Go, recognized as the father of the Malasakit Centers and dubbed as Mr. Malasakit for his untiring service for the poor, has expressed deep gratitude to all stakeholders for their commitment to making healthcare accessible to every Filipino.
“These stories of hope, resilience, and recovery reflect the essence of what we envisioned when we launched the Malasakit Centers,” said Go.
“They stand as a testament to the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan, demonstrating that through unity and compassion, we can overcome health challenges and build a stronger, healthier future for our nation,” he added.
As the Malasakit Centers celebrate their sixth anniversary, the gratitude from those they have helped resonates deeply, illustrating the profound impact of this program. Through their dedication to serving the Filipino people, the Malasakit Centers continue to symbolize hope, embodying the true meaning of ‘malasakit’—compassion and care for one another.