Philippine Dermatological Society

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18th Derm Surg Mission: Thoughts from a first-timer
By Joshua A. Arcaira, MD, second year Resident, Makati Medical Center


What better way can we begin the year than giving back to our fellow Filipinos in a warm-spirited medical mission?

The Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS), in cooperation with the Good News Clinic and Hospital (GNCH) and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), held it’s 18th Annual Derm Surg Mission in Banaue, Ifugao from January 4-6, 2019.

Aerial view of the iconic Banaue Rice Terraces.


As a novice to a dermatologic surgery mission and to Banaue, my excitement went through the roof when I learned about my participation in this year’s mission. Our journey began with a grueling 12-hour drive from the traffic stricken streets of Manila to the windy roads of Banaue. We arrived in the foggy town of Tam-an just in time for dinner, where Dr. Antonio Ligot, Medical Director of GNCH and his lovely wife Mrs. Sylvia Ligot, welcomed us into their charming home. We caught up with other volunteers from PDS and colleagues from Hungary over a sumptuous meal. With our tummies full and bodies tired from the trip, we headed to our hotel to rest in preparation for the mission following day.

Starting the day early was always a bit of a struggle living in the city, but in the mountainous “area” of Banaue, rising before the break of dawn was a breeze when you wake up with such a serene view – lush greenery, the natural beauty of the rice terraces, flowing water of from the nearby river, and the sunrise peeking through the mountain tops. After a filling breakfast, we were ready to face the task at hand: to help as many people as possible.

Sunrises in Banaue are a far cry from that in the city.


The mission began with an orientation and introduction by Dr. Ida Tiongco, board-certified dermatologist from the New York-Presbyterian/ Weill Cornell Medical Center and one of the founders of the mission. The volunteers were divided into two groups, the first one attending to outpatient consults and the second for day surgeries. I was included in the latter and proceeded to the operating room complex on the second floor of the hospital. Before the procedures began, we were oriented again to the flow of surgeries and the equipment. I was first to volunteer and supervised by Dr. Johannes Dayrit, began with an excision of a pigmented dermatofibroma on the right leg of brave young man. It was here where I learned about a pulley stitch and the Olsen-Hegar needle holder, along many other Derm Surg pearls.

Lunch followed suit and my fellow volunteers and I continued with outpatient consults in the afternoon. We were seeing patient after patient and before we knew it, the day was almost over. After a busy day dedicated to serving about 400 of our fellowmen, we retired for a bit at the hotel and headed back to GNCH for our fellowship night. There, good food and camaraderie ensued with trivial questions from Dr. Ida and exchange gifts among the participants.

All smiles from everyone who made this year’s Derm Surg mission possible.


Time indeed flies when you’re having fun. Our last day at the mission dawned, and we spent most of the morning seeing a good number of patients. We squeezed in some time for the whole group to visit the nearby viewpoint to chance a glance at the well-known Banaue Rice Terraces. It was a bittersweet ending to fun-filled three days of giving back to our fellowmen. I am grateful and blessed to have been part of such a wonderful mission and would definitely want to take part in the future.

All smiles on day 2 of the Derm Surg mission.


Representatives from Makati Medical Center, I, together with Dr. Peachy Paz-Lao and Dr. Corazon Mella.
Me placing final stitches after an excision


Bittersweet end to a wonderful mission – all the participants together with the breathtaking Banaue Rice Terraces