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Hundreds of residents of Barangay (community) Danag now have a restored shrine and access to free medical care due to the collaborative efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Marine Battalion Landing Team-5 (MBLT-5), Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines and local residents who partnered for both projects in the region Nov. 28.
Restoration of the stone shrine is a tribute to AFP Brig. Gen. Teodulfo Bautista and his 34 men who were killed Oct. 10, 1977 in the Patikul municipality while attempting to conduct peace talks with Usman Sali. Sali, at the time, was said to be the most powerful leader in the Sulu province.
Patikul residents-along with members of MBLT-5-put up the fencing, procured the supplies and worked non-stop for weeks to have the project completed in time for the dedication ceremony. JSOTF-P members advised on the construction of the shrine, which began last October.
In attendance at the event were Barangay Capt. Hji Bari Ukang, Patikul Mayor Kabir E. Hayudini, MBLT-5 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Ferdinand M. Fraginal, and Brig. Gen. Celestino C. Pereyra, commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade.
At the ceremony, Mayor Hayudini spoke about the significance of the shrine for the people of Sulu.
"This shrine is a reminder to the people here to remember the sacrifice of Brig. Gen. Bautista in the name of peace and to inspire the people to work towards peace in the region," said Hayudini.
After the brief dedication, residents received a variety of medical treatments at nearby Danag Elementary School during a Medical Civic Action Project. Medical personal from JSOTF-P's Forward Surgical Team assisted the Integrated Provincial Health Office, census volunteers, AFP medical staff and other volunteers. Additionally, JSOTF-P donated seven boxes of prescription medications.
Throughout the day, more than 200 patients received check-ups, prescriptions, toiletries, and ten residents received tooth extractions. JSOTF-P's Lt. Col. Arnold Stocker, a nurse anesthetist assigned to the FST, performed the dental care.
"The heath care we received today is good because it helps so many of us. We really can't afford these treatments and it builds good relationships with the community," said Hinjug Idris, a resident of the barangay.
While waiting for services, civil affairs teams from the AFP and JSOTF-P played games with the children, such as sock hops, races and other activities.
"Today's event went exceptionally well. We were merely here to assist the AFP. MBLT-5 did a great job putting this together," said JSOTF-P servicemember Army Capt. Matt Quinn, a member of Civil Affairs Team 732.
Towards the end of the MEDCAP, doctors identified a nine-year-old female patient suffering from tuberculosis, having gone untreated for the last seven months. Due to a screening from the IPHO, she now has an appointment at the Sulu Provincial hospital for further testing and treatment.
"We hope that we can have more of these types of projects. They are instrumental in building trust and hope among the people. They can help minimize poverty and lessen the chances of the people here supporting lawless elements," said Hayudini.