DAVAO CITY - Sharing their fellow Filipinos the spirit of giving, Muslim doctors and nurses in the southern province of Mindanao have volunteered to take over work shifts during Christmas holidays, offering their Christian neighbors an opportunity to celebrate Christmas.
They said they don't celebrate Christmas anyway, nurse Mary Divene Hilario from the Information Officer of the Department of Health regional office told MindaNews on Monday, December 17.
So they chose those dates so that doctors and nurses in these areas can take a break and spend Christmas with their families.
Affected by the typhoon that hit the country earlier this month, medical services have been put on high alert, making it difficult for Christian doctors to take vacations to celebrate Christmas with their families.
But the situation changed after Muslim doctors from the Integrated Provincial Health Office in Mindanao and Buluan, the hometown of Mindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, volunteered to take over.
Hilario said several medical teams from local government units outside the region have come to provide health services to the typhoon survivors such as Team Cagayan de Oro, Team Zamboanga, Team Albay and Team Cebu.
Teams from private groups have also been doing their own medical missions, she said.
Christmas is the main festival on the Christian calendar.
Its celebrations reach its peak at 12:00 PM on December 24 of every year.
Mindanao, the birthplace of Islam which reached the Philippines in the 13th century about 200 years before Christianity, is home to more than 5 million Muslims.
Despite the Muslim endeavor, doctors' shortage remains a problem for typhoon-hit areas.
Medicines are not a problem, We have more than enough, Hilario said.
(But) we still need doctors.
Typhoon Bopha/Pablo has hit Philippines from December 4-9, killing 1,020 people.
It was the strongest tropical cyclone to ever hit Mindanao, making landfall as a Category 5 super typhoon with winds of 160 mph (260 km/h).
Hilario clarified there is no outbreak of diseases, but acknowledged there were three suspected cases of measles in New Bataan, Compostela Valley province.
She said vaccination teams from the regional office were deployed to area Thursday and to Compostela Valley town on Friday.
The hardest hit towns in Compostela Valley are Compostela town, Monkayo and New Bataan while the hardest-hit in Davao Oriental are Baganga, Boston and Cateel.
Out of these six towns, only Cateel has a hospital which has been listed damaged in the Regional Health Office's initial monitoring.Muslims make up nearly 8 percent of the total populace in the Philippines, which Islam reached in the 13th century about 200 years before Christianity.