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Medical Mayhem: Thoughts on the INC Medical Mission

Today, I found out that Iglesia ni Cristo is going to have a medical mission which will be held simultaneously in the following locations:

  • Plaza del Carmen (beside San Sebastian Church)
  • Plaza Avelino
  • Magallanes Drive Ext. (facing post office)
  • Quinta Market (before “Quiapo ilalim”)
  • Parking space at the back of Far Eastern University, along CM Recto

I would have considered this all to be a fine gesture of goodwill if only it had not caused classes throughout NCR to be suspended. Many questions started coming to mind once I heard of this implication.

Why are they cancelling classes in all of these schools when not everyone from those schools is expected to participate? It’s sad how even supposedly unaffected areas like Marikina have opted to suspend classes merely in an attempt to “avoid confusion“. And if their reason is that they expect heavy traffic due to the 1.6 million people expected to participate, why didn’t they schedule it on a weekend? Some have argued that INC cannot accommodate this because they have worship on both days of the weekend. I will not, however, pretend to respect how they prioritize worship services over disrupting the educational system of an entire region.

Image from Kabayan Ko Kapatid Ko Facebook page

The public education system is one of the many expenses of being a taxpayer. I find it unfair for taxpayers’ time and money to be wasted by those who enjoy tax exemptions on their properties. In fact, if religious institutions did not have these tax exemptions, we might even be able to afford better public medical services that would obviate the need for these kinds of events. (That is, of course, assuming that public funds did not go so easily into the pockets of the corrupt, but that’s a different article altogether.)

I have deep sympathy in paticular for teachers who, with every suspension of classes, have to redo their lesson plans. Having a mother who teaches in a public high school, I have seen firsthand the effort that goes into making sure that students get the most out of their curriculum and how rescheduling sometimes also entails regrettably removing entire lessons from the slate. It’s already bad enough that we have to go through so many typhoon suspensions over the course of a year.

I also wonder how INC came up with that number of 1.6M attendees. Did the MMDA just take INC’s word for it? Did they even make projections of their own? Does the fact that INC practices bloc voting have any influence over who made what decisions? I don’t know, but I can’t help but feel like it probably did, given our country’s penchant for political quid pro quo. It doesn’t seem very far-fetched, this hypothetical “vote-for-me-and-i’ll-get-you-more-followers” conversation. It’s a win-win situation for both political favoritism and religious indoctrination.

Lastly, I want to say something about the concept of medical missions. I will not deny that they do good for people. They alleviate suffering and enable the otherwise debilitated. However, these are singular events that do not adequately prevent the same problems from showing up in the future. Personal health problems are rarely fixed with one visit to the doctor or one dose of medicine, much less the health of entire communities. For that you will need to meet many conditions including proper sanitation, good hygiene practices, and a sufficient percentage of the local population being doctors and health workers. More than doctors who go on medical missions, I admire those who choose to live with impoverished communities in remote areas and make sure that their respective communities are healthy for as long as they live. But the doctors that I admire most are those who take it upon themselves to teach others to be the same, making sure that their communities stay healthy long after they are gone.

To quote Kuan Tsu:

If you are thinking 1 year ahead, plant seeds. If you are thinking 10 years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking 100 years ahead, educate the people.


UPDATE: Another article recently appeared, stating that INC didn’t ask for class suspensions. This does not absolve them, however, of not choosing to do the activity on a weekend and planning for better logistics, e.g. using their extensive network of local churches as multiple venues as opposed to a few centralized ones that would cause great amounts of both vehicular and human traffic. I was also notified by a friend that some time last month, the INC held some kind of evangelical mission in Davao. No classes were suspended as it was held on a weekend, but it still caused heavy traffic throughout most of the day. Knowing that things like this would happen should have been enough to make them reconsider holding this event on a weekday out of sheer consideration for other people who need to use the roads they would clog up.


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DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.