November 27, 2011
7:00 AM
I am writing this in the lobby of Sato Dizon, in Odiongan, Romblon. I would have done it earlier - at 4:00 AM when the fighting cocks back of the hotel chorused into a medley of fowl voices that woke me up after a tiring day of travel from Banton island via San Agustin to Odiongan, Tablas island.

The story unfolded when the wooden vessel Kalayaan IX pulled its anchor in Banton's fish port at about 8:30 AM (November 26, 2011 enroute to San Agustin from Lucena City. The best known secret of Kalayaan Lines is this: the vessel and its sister ship Kalayaan VII, loads material as well as human cargo from itsport of origin Magdiwang, Sibuyan island,then to  Romblon, Banton, and itsfinal port of call, Dalahican, Lucena City. On the return trip, the route legs San Agustin, Tablas island to unload some of its cargo. Twice a week the two wooden vessels alternate - with flexible schedules only the astute traveler will understand: no cargo, no timetables of a trip.

The amihan rocked KIX as it its engines kicked its power plugging into the open sea - like a hammock. Balancing my way at the aft of the passenger section, Imet Luming Faigao Fiecas and Melody Familara, two midwives of Banton's Family Health Unit.  I learned from our banter that they had to escort a pregnant mother - who was about due - and husband to Odiongan via San Agustin. Banton's health unit could not possibly provide any medical exigency/ emergency especially to the mother with high blood pressure. I picked up from the two the medical parlance, (?) "high risk pregrancy."

Armed with what little knowledge I have about medical processes, I took the two midwives' word and suggested that perhaps, the Odiongan Provincial Sub-Officehas available transport to Odiongan, so I called - only to find out that it wason its way to Tugdan airport, Alcantra, to pick up DILG officials. The option was to inform the San Agustin District Hospital of the need. Somehow, Luming's cp number of the hospital wouldn't work

It was now an hour approximately of travel time.  Mt.  Payawpaw and its ancient lighthouse loomed in the distance; KIX chugged and rolled with precision in tandem with the choppy sea. We were still considering other options when an unexpected event burst into a cry of "PM" from Luming and Melody!  Pre- mature child birth –that's what it meant - I learned later  A pregnant mother from Sibuyan were also with us! Luming went into work while Melody alternated with the other mother from Banton who has high blood pressure.Prognosis: the premature baby had feet first and over five months old!  The bleeding was alarming

Perhaps the KIX Captain would be able to get some people in San Agustin to inform that an ambulance should standby at the fish port when we drop anchor? The question nagged me to gather enough courage to go into the pilot's area and informed the woman who was busy with bills of lading, if I could talk to the Captain. She told me the Captain was still sleeping but she will inform the purser and/or the captain - once the latter wakes up!
Another hour of wait. Melody, still cool under pressure reminded me if an ambulance to meet her patients was available. I went back to the pilot's area and reminded the purser about our request. I was told he had been contacting some people in San Agustin to relay the request. San Agustin town was now about a kilometer away as KIX maneuvered its docking procedures. No ambulance was insight.

As we waited, the stevedores and probably some crew members carried the bleeding mother into a folding cot down to the pier's cargo embankment. The woman who was after identified as assistant purser had her cp stuck on her ears - very animated and perhaps frantically waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Meanwhile, sensing that there must be an option to this ordeal, a DILG passenger, Mr. Aquino called his boss; his boss called San Agustin's Chief of Police and was assured a police patrol car was on its way. Prior to that I had requested a driver with his motor bike to speed up to the Hospital for the ambulance.  Moments later, the driver returned with the news, that yes, the ambulance would be coming - after the ambulance driver had showered!  (Magakaligos pa - kuno)
Minutes ticked liked years!  A guy lifted the mother in his arms, carried her into a tricycle and sped away - to the hospital.

Chapter Two of the ordeal began with the arrival of the police patrol car whichis in reality, a converted pick-up truck. Mother #2 was carried into the waiting patrol car the same way as Mother #1. The ambulance?  We didn't know if it would come. We chipped in for the gas - about two gallons and off we drove to Odiongan.  The midwives marching orders were to bring the mother to Odiongan to avail of whatever medical treatment/procedure was available on a"high risk pregnancy" situation. From the midwives' professional training, San Agustin District Hospital would not be an option for that kind of medical assistance.
The police patrol car took it easy and smooth on the concrete road as it climbed into Salingsing Road. After a few kilometers, the rattle of its tires rumbled against the zigzagged gravel and sand pavements while at the backseat the mother patient rested her head on her husband's chest; Melody sitting in between the few inches of space between the driver's and passenger seat; Luming cramped -almost - in between the legs of the mother; four of us sat back - on the benches of the converted pick-up police patrol car.

A few minutes later, from where I sat, I saw Luming doing something with her hands with Melody assisting. Engr. Jerry Fadrilan who was closest to the backseat, said something that the baby was "coming out" . And alive too!  Motionless, I just watched the midwives did their thing - two professionals who were just doing their jobs.  
We didn't stop. For about five minutes, I didn't hear the cry nor whimper of the newborn but the loud crack of something like coming from a firearm that brought the patrol car into a screeching halt. Flat tire!  We stopped at the fork of Salingsing road near a nipa hut  . The rain started to pour while we were almost desperate to find the jack that was lodged at the bottom of the backseat where baby and mother lay.  The two policemen asked for a volunteer to change the flat tire.  Fortunately  Shieg Fadri obliged and we scampered to the hut for rain cover. The Salingsing promontory saw Calatrava town drenched with rain; the western skyline covered with haze –the car's engine kept on running while mother breast fed her new born son; the midwives sat beside them wary of her blood pressure;  the husband cuddling his wife the way it was when we ascended into the winding muddy road of gravel and sand and mud.

Melody stepped out from the patrol car and reported that the mother has started to bleed and of all things, the syringe (?) or the package of serum (?) that they brought was shattered to pieces in the tumble and rumble of the ride.  I called Mayor Bong Fabella to find out if the Calatrava ambulance wasavailable. Unfortunately after two attempts I was probably calling the Mayor's old cp number. So, I called Ex-Vice Governor Alice Fetalvero who was in Manila for assistance. Came the reply ", hang on there I'll contact Calatrava."About a minute or so, Mayor Bong was on the line ; he said he will send the ambulance with the replacement serum. That calmed down Melody's nerves somewhat.
We waited. The flat tire was replaced with a spare.  Drive on - we would probably meet the ambulance on our way. Winding down Salingsing Road, amotor bike hailed us with a woman passenger. Her name was Yling - Calatarava's midwife. I didn't bother to ask if an ambulance was on its way –the bleeding was foremost in the mind. Yling administered the shot and off we drove again only to stop in a road sari-sari store for a bag of ice.

Chapter III began at the outskirts of Calatrava town - where the robust palay fields and greenery greeted us after the rain. As we sped through San Roque in a hurry, Calatrava's sea side road to San Andres played well its part of aping Salingsing Road's notorious idiosyncrasy. I kidded around with the passenger atthe back - reminding them that like Salingsing, the road has not changed nor concreted since the early the middle 50's. That was over half a century ago! 
We drove on. After the passing the divide between barangays Paniqui and Libertad,another flat tire! The spare tire did not last long.    I haileda passing ambulance but it didn't stop - there must be a more serious patient on its way to Odiongan.
I called VirgiIio Famini of the Odiongan Sub-Office and in 12 minutes the black pick-up truck pulled alongside the police patrol car.  We transferred mother and baby into the back seat.   

At the emergency entrance of the Odiongan Provincial Hospital, I was met by theguy who was with Mother # 2 in the tricicle from San Agustin pier. His story :They were in the ambulance that passed us through in Paniqui. According to him,the premature baby had severed head.

9Am, November 27.
I met the guy - again. This time, I got his name right, Joaquin Rabino and wife,Leticia. The name of Mother #2 is their 21 year old daughter-in law, Alil. But there was a bizarre twist.Mr. Rabino claimed that during the night sea travel frm Dalhican to Banton, a male passenger attempted to unzip Alil's bra while she was sleeping. I interviewed Leticia and Alil - both confirmed Joaquin's story. I asked Alil why she didn't scream but she told me she was scared and didn't want an embarrassing scene.  Besides, her father-in-law might "really got hot and dare the offender into a fisticuff (Daw nahadlok gid ako na ang akon Papa kung masayud, magatrumpada sinda nga duha) Early morning, Alil went down the vessel's CR where she discovered she was bleeding. About 15-20 minutes after Banton, Alil confessed to  Letecia  thenight ordeal and/or attack.  

At the other side of the OBGYne Room, Mrs. Gina Fesalbon Torrechiva, wife of Evangilical Pastor Fred, lay asleep with the Salingsing baby. After a while she woke up. Her blood pressure was stabilized - she said,and  on Tuesday next week they'll take the trip in Romlon back to Banton on the same vessel. KalayaanIX.  
I asked if they have chosen a name now for the baby boy. No, not yet. Baby Salingsing then?  Gina chuckled. I said hello to the baby and muttered: 
Hey, buddy. That was quite a ride. Perhaps an ambulance would have been nice. Or something like a generic  911 emergency number.  It could have saved me time writing this story.