In 2005, longtime Langley residents Pons and Aida Paez returned to their native land in the Philippines after a 30-year absence.
They were shocked at the poverty they saw.
"Big, big change," Pons said.
"More poverty," Aida said. "Especially in the countryside," Pons offered.
Before they left the Philippines in 1975, Pons was a crime reporter and Aida a nurse. When they came to Canada, Aida continued as a nurse and Pons went into forensic pathology.
The couple has lived in Langley since 1987.
This past December, they made a second trip to the Philippines for a two-month stint in two remote rural areas.
Leaving their adult sons Michael, 34, and Brian, 27, as well as their daughter-in-law and grandchildren behind, the Paez's landed on Philippine soil on Christmas Day.
They joined a group of 200 medical and non-medical personnel from BLD (Bukas Loob sa Diyos), a non-profit Catholic religious group based in New Jersey, to do medical missions.
"I decided to do this because I think it's about time for me to give back for the blessings that we have, after 30 years working here," said Aida, who along with her husband, retired in 2010. "For me, it was a challenge, knowing that the people that we're going to visit are really poor people."
The group treated more than 8,000 patients in the course of its medical mission in Paluan, Occidental Mindoro.
"There were 200 of us doctors and nurses," Aida explained. "The surgical team and the dental team stayed in the city where there is a hospital. The dentist had to do 50 cases every day for dental extraction. We did it for a week."
More than 200 surgeries and about 250 dental procedures
were performed during that time.
Pons and Aida, Leo and Christy Bedar
from Surrey, and Barangay chairman Afin and Mila Ayangco of San Andres' Bukid, Manila, also distributed four large boxes of medical supplies to a health centre in Agoo, La Union, about a four-hour drive north of Manila.
The same group also motored to Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro to distribute 28 boxes of medical equipment and supplies to Pinamalayan Community Hospital late last year.
This community hospital was adopted by the Paez's.
The medical equipment and supplies were donated by Richmond Hospital.
In the countryside, Aida handed out medications such as vitamins and antibiotics, and gave advice on family planning.
Aida described the experience as "uplifting."
"We started at 5: 30 in the morning with our prayers and breakfast, and started work at eight o'clock," Aida said.
"We didn't finish until nine o'clock in the evening."
The Paezes are going back to the Philippines next year to continue their work.
"There are a lot of calamities happening right now in the Philippines," Pons said. "Floods, earthquakes, landslides- I was planning to offer my expertise in identification but it's going to be too late because I have already committed myself to this mission."
@ Copyright 2013