Two Cordillera mothers in the battle against the coronavirus

Frank Cimatu
Two Cordillera mothers in the battle against the coronavirus
(UPDATED) Both frontliners with an indomitable spirit, one tests negative for the virus, the other learns she has COVID-19

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Emma Hamada is known to the Baguio City media as the wife of Dr Charles Hamada, the long-time publisher of Baguio Midland Courier, the oldest and one of the biggest newsweeklies in the country.

When Charles died in 2016, Hamada decided not to go back to nursing and was contented being a building administrator and mother.

And then COVID-19 came.

“Even before there was a call for volunteers, I already signified my intention to serve. I couldn’t just sit down and do nothing knowing that I can fully contribute my services,” Hamada said.

Finally, Hamada received that much-awaited call to report for duty. It was time to tell her family that she would be joining the frontlines in the battle against the pandemic that has infected, in the Philippines, more than 10,000 people and claimed the lives of over 700.

“When I told my children, I saw the fear in their eyes and my mother begged me not to go. The last words of my late husband echoed in my mind that I should take good care of our children and then it dawned at me that I am their only parent,” Hamada said.

As a nurse with a background on anesthesia care, Hamada was assigned to the Life Code Team.

“(It’s the team) called to respond to resuscitate patients and that meant a higher probability of being exposed to COVID-19 patients,” she said.

Hamada was stationed at the St. Louis Sacred Heart Hospital but would be called for duty in the other Baguio hospitals every now and then.

(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that Hamada was assigned at the Notre Dame de Chartres Hospital. We regret the error.)

“I didn’t like to wallow in one corner and instead, I picked up my tools, armed myself and headed into the battlefield with faith and love in my heart,” she said

When Rappler talked to Hamada, she was still waiting for her coronavirus test results. But she had no time to worry about it. Her mind was on the two surgery operations she had to attend to. Her results eventually came in and Hamada tested negative. She didn’t see any reason to celebrate.

“I saw death again, I met sickness. I felt the frustrations and fears but these didn’t stop me. I am a regular 8-5 employee in an office but coming back to be a nurse again made me realize that I am passionate about taking care of the sick and dying and also bringing joy to my patients, whatever circumstances they are in,” she said.

DEDICATION. Exhausted but not defeated, nurse Emma Hamada is passionate about taking care of the sick and dying, and also, bringing joy to her patients. Photos by Mauricio Victa/Rappler

Hamada does not consider herself a hero, but she is one in the eyes of her children. 

“For what far greater reward is there for a single mother than inspiring your children to come to the aid of their fellowmen not for money or glory but for pure service with dedication,” Hamada said.

Hamada, however, does have a personal hero she looks up to in this time of the health crisis: Dr Elizabeth Macliing-Solang, one of the well-known obstetricians-gynecologists in Baguio City.

Heart for the masses

The Innabuyog-Alliance of Women’s Organizations in the Cordillera described Solang as one “who has her heart for the masses, especially the indigenous peoples in the Cordillera.”

“She is one of our courageous frontliners who persist to fight against the present pandemic,” the group said.

During the lockdown, Solang, 61, helped in facilitating the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) sets with Narda’s Handwoven Arts and Crafts.

She also decided to scale down her operations to allow herself to focus on emergency procedures.

“In my private practice, all patients went through triage, and I refused to attend to patients from outside Baguio. Guidelines prescribed by the hospitals and organizations were followed. I only attended to emergency procedures and precautions were followed. PPE sets were worn during all hospital procedures.  My private clinic has been closed since the lockdown and consults were made only through text and messenger,” Solang said.

Solang’s family is deeply involved in the battle against this enemy invisible to the naked eye.

Her 3 children and daughter-in-law are doctors at the Baguio General Medical Center (BGHMC), while a son-in-law is a cardiology fellow at the Philippine Heart Center.

“We are all frontline healthcare workers,” Solang said.

Unexpectedly, Solang tested positive for the coronavirus last month. She was asymptomatic and was not among the priority cases when test kits were still few in Baguio City in March and early April.

On her 61st birthday on April 24, Solang had a swab test done at the BGHMC. She received her test results two days later. She’s now among the 11 active COVID-19 cases in Baguio City.

Solang celebrates Mother’s Day confined at the BGHMC but she remains upbeat.

“I am on antivirals, antibiotics and vitamins. My chest X-ray and CT scan results are normal,” she said. –