Quezon City, Philippines — The story below was submitted by former Smile Train patient Angieleca Hayahay. When she was young, she had her cleft repaired by Philippine Band of Mercy (PBM). Becoming a Smile Train partner in 2002, PBM has gone on to provide over 10,500 cleft surgeries to children across the Philippines. While Angieleca’s first surgeries for her cleft lip and cleft palate were done before 2002, all of her follow–up care was provided by PBM’s Smile Train Program.
When I was three months old, our neighbor saw me cuddled by my mother while being put to sleep and she told my mother to take me to Philippine Band of Mercy, a foundation helping poor children with cleft deformities. I was then brought right away to PBM and went for assessment, medical evaluation and laboratory for the first intended surgery on my cleft lip. At nine months, I successfully passed the laboratory exams and had my cleft lip surgery and then, at age two, surgery to repair my cleft palate. I continued to have care for my cleft under the Smile Train Treatment Grant given to PBM. Our family is very grateful that there are organizations that help poor people like me get free medical treatment.
I’m the eldest daughter of Sergio and Clarita Hayahay. We live in a simple house together with my two siblings. My father is an ordinary government employee in the Department of Public Works & Highways. My mother is a simple housewife who takes care of the house and us children. I’m the only one in the family with a cleft lip & palate anomaly, although my mother’s eldest sister has the same cleft deformity like mine. With God’s divine mercy and hard work of my parents, I finished my nursing course and became a registered nurse on 2009.
At present, I’m working with Philippine Band of Mercy as a staff nurse. I’m so thankful to be part of the organization that helped me and gave me the opportunity of employment. I really love to help and to give inspiration to parents and patients suffering from cleft. I want to be an effective encourager and share the experiences I went through life due to my cleft — I want to enlighten the minds of parents and especially the patients to keep pursuing their life to be normal.
In most cases people discriminate and judge anybody with facial deformities. I know the hardships and painful feelings of being discriminated by others just because of a different physical appearance. I experienced it several times. When I was studying, I applied for work in a call center company to help my parents in financing my studies. The examiner came to me while I was taking the exam and told me that the company had a protocol not to hire personnel with cleft deformity like me, even though I had surgery to fix it. I felt so depressed when I heard it – all I wanted was to have a part–time job to help my parents sustain my school expenses. Most of the time, I experienced being bullied in the community I grew up. I studied hard to excel and to show that I’m not different. I’m like everyone else. I’m a normal person that just happened to be born with cleft.
Now, I enjoy life and I’m more confident.
We wish Angieleca all the best and send our gratitude as she continues to help Smile Train patients throughout the Philippines.