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Posted by Dexter Matilla - - 0 comments

By Dexter R. Matilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
DateFirst Posted 22:05:00 02/01/2010

IFUGAO, SAYS DR. FELIPE TOLENTINO of Restoring Sight International (RSI), has the highest incidence of blindness in the Philippines. So when he and a team from the Ophthalmological Foundation of the Philippines visited the area, they realized the need for an eye center to be put up in the area.

Last week, the eye center, which is at the Ifugao State University in the town of Alfonso Lista, was inaugurated. Tolentino says this is historic for RSI as it is the first project that demonstrates the organization’s policy to make the local community a stakeholder “for it to succeed.”

The eye center will cater to the needs of over 40,000 underprivileged residents in Ifugao and nearby Cagayan provinces. It will be managed by OFPHIL and its volunteer eye doctors who, just like Tolentino, have the passion and moral obligation to help the blind.

“Thousands of patients with cataract are expected to benefit from this center,” Tolentino says. “The center will focus on cataract surgery, which is the most frequent cause of blindness in the region. It is a disease affecting old people. In younger people, like in this region, solar exposure and malnutrition are known causative factors. Using large brim hats when under the sun and eating green leafy vegetables may reduce cataract blindness in younger groups of people.”

He says RSI will fully subsidize the IFSU-OFPHIL Eye Center for the first few years, and their ultimate goal is to have it approved by PhilHealth so it can become self-sustaining. He adds that he would like to encourage Filipinos to be open to the possibility of becoming an eye organ donor.

For now, a project this important would benefit from a steady flow of financial support to help keep it going. Coming together to help RSI and OFPHIL are a group of well-known artists who have donated their works for an art sale to be held at Manila Polo Club on Feb. 3.

The artists are Philippine Presidential Medal of Merit awardee Betsy Westendorp, Valeria Cavestany, Duddley Diaz, Ramon Diaz, Impy Pilapil and National Artist Bencab. The paintings and sculptures will be curated by Silvana Ancellotti-Diaz.

Westendorp, who recently hosted a meeting between RSI officials such as Dr. Roland Houle, Dr. Lourdes Flaminiano, and Dr. Flora Tolentino and a group of journalists at her residence, says that she herself suffers from age-related macula degeneration. She was referred to Tolentino, a world-class ophthalmologist whose patients include the Spanish royal family.

When Tolentino mentioned to the artist the works of RSI, Westendorp agreed to donate a painting for their cause. For the art sale this Wednesday, Westendorp is donating five.

“I am more than happy to be part of this fundraising project, especially when Ambassador Isabel Caro Wilson, the president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, broached the idea of hosting a cocktail to support Dr. Tolentino’s eye center program,” Westendorp says.

Ambassador Wilson, the first woman president of Manila Polo Club, believes the IFSU-OFPHIL Eye Center is a prime example of corporate social responsibility, and “of giving back the blessings we receive to those who have less.”

Dr. Roland Houle, Duddley Diaz and his sculpture "Blue Angel", and Dr. Felipe Tolentino

Dr. Felipe Tolentino, Dr. Roland Houle, and Betsy Westendorp

Ramon Diaz and his painting, "Ribs"

Bencab's "Sabel"

Impy Pilapil's "Aqua Bella Series"

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