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Our land is ours – forever

Philippines
Children
Land
Van Ryan

© Iris Gonzales

Van Ryan Malud, 11 years old, can’t walk or stand. It has been this way since he was born. His bones break easily and he may have hundreds of fractures in his lifetime. He has osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare genetic disorder characterized by weak bones.

But on 5 February at the Philippine Children’s Medical Centre (PCMC), a public hospital in the Philippines, Van Ryan, sitting on a blue-and-yellow checked wheelchair, with his thin, thin legs crumpled in a criss-cross and covered with chambray jeans too big for his small bones, brought the house down.

He sang Lalaban Kami (‘We will fight it out’), the theme song of the Philippine Society for Orphan Disorders, a group that helps children with rare genetic conditions.

Minsan ang tadhana mapanghamon, tila nauubusan ng pagkakataon pero kahit anong mangyari hindi kami susuko, lalaban kami [Sometimes life is full of challenges but whatever happens, we will not give up. We will fight it out],’ Malud sang to the cheers and applause of his fellow patients, doctors and guests at PCMC, the music of the pop rhythm reverberating in the hearts of everyone in the huge crowd that gathered.

It was a momentous occasion at the PCMC. This small medical institution has just won a long, tedious battle to retain the land on which it stands. The battle was not easy. The ideal location of the hospital, in an accessible business district along Quezon City, in the northeastern part of Metro Manila, had caught the attention of big businesses that wanted to convert the area into a mixed-use development.

However, on 5 February, the battle ended after the Philippine Department of Health and the National Housing Authority (NHA), which owns the 37,211-square metre land where the hospital stands, finally agreed to allocate the land to PCMC for good.

During the signing, the Philippine Health Secretary Janette Garin said the agreement puts to rest all uncertainties that surrounded the ownership of the land and PCMC’s fate.

Malud’s song fit perfectly to the struggle of the whole PCMC community as they fought to keep their only home.

Two lawmakers, Senator Teofisto Guingona III and Senator Bam Aquino, also present during the signing, were instrumental in helping the hospital secure the land title.

The public hospital has been serving 40,000 to 50,000 children patients yearly, most of whom cannot afford to pay for services in private medical institutions.

After 10 years, the PCMC community prevailed. From their wheelchairs and some from the cancer wards, they fought and they fought bravely. As Malud said, lalaban tayo (‘we will fight it out’). And they did. 

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