IN PHOTOS: Pia Wurtzbach, Maureen Wroblewitz lead ICanServe fashion show
MANILA, Philippines – The Manila fashion scene graciously shared the runway with some of the bravest, fiercest women ever to walk this earth – breast cancer survivors.
These women – grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, and advocates took on the catwalk last Sunday, October 8.
"We want to project life. People think cancer is death, depressing. Not at all. We project hope," said ICanServe founder Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala.
On its 3rd year, Fashion Can Serve once again featured 6 of the country's top designers who generously shared their talent to bring forth a message of hope and courage.
JC Buendia, Ito Curata, Cary Santiago, Vania Romoff, Mia Arcenas, and Rosenthal Tee showcased their 2017 holiday collections.
But more than the glammed-up models and the fabulous creations, there was no doubt that the muses – the breast cancer survivors and celebrity supporters – were the stars of the show.
Carrying this year's theme of #WhyWeFight, the muses owned the runway with big smiles and unreserved energy, enthusiastically showing off that indeed "life is lovely the second time around," as Alikpala put it. Accompanying them were their adorable children and grandchildren.
"Our theme emphasizes the reasons why persons diagnosed with breast cancer choose to fight. They do this for their spouses, children, and grandchildren," said ICanServe Foundation president Tang Singson.
The journey, however, is fraught with doubts, fears, and often, misguided notions of what it means to be a breast cancer patient.
Founded in 1999 by Alikpala and 3 of her friends, all breast cancer survivors, ICanServe Foundation was primarily focused on empowering women with the right information. It started because they saw a need "to provide a circle of support for women who were newly diagnosed, women in cancer treatments, and women in remission navigating through their new normal lives," said Singson.
Fast forward to 2017, and the foundation has grown by leaps and bounds. Their advocacy has evolved to include a more specific way of helping women with breast cancer.
They are proud of "Ating Dibdibin," a program that focuses on promoting early breast cancer detection. More recently, ICanServe has begun to partner with local government units like Taguig City to institutionalize this health program, making it accessible to as many women as possible.
The most important feature of "Ating Dibdibin" is what they call the "patient navigator." Based on the experiences of the foundation, it is not enough to have a health program in place, even if it's free of charge. There are a myriad of reasons why a patient will not be able to access treatment in a timely manner.
"There are many myths. There are many values. You need to break many barriers," Alikpala said. "Some families think that if you have cancer, it's contagious. So they send away the mom from the homes. Husbands abandon their families." Hence, there is a need for a patient navigator who provides you with the necessary help as you negotiate your way through the disease.
The American Medical Association defines a patient navigator as someone who provides personal guidance to patients as they move through the health care system.
"I'm sure navigation happens in other ways. They're not just called patient navigator. It can be your best friend who's reading your results, interpreting it for you, reminding you, helping you find transportation or a chaperone for your treatment," Alikpala explained. "So, it's similar. This navigator really has more technical information at work to get help and has a little more medical background."
To achieve its goals, ICanServe holds fundraising activities like Fashion Can Serve. "We need money to realize all our dreams and make our asks happen," said Alikpala.
Amid the glorious strides of survivors, the sobering fact remains – the Philippines is number one in terms of breast cancer-related deaths in Southeast Asia, and ranks 9th worldwide. The work continues. – Rappler.com