A Refuge of Hope, Compassion: Madre de Amor Continues to Provide Free Hospice, Palliative Care Services Despite Adversities

By Earl Russel F. Masongsong

“Who better to teach you about life than those who are about to lose it?” –Dr. Rhodora “Dorry” Ocampo, co-founder and the current president of Madre de Amor Hospice Foundation, Inc.

Hospice and palliative care are medical services that have recently been developed and integrated into the healthcare system of the Philippines. These services, according to the Philippine Society of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (PSHPM), focus on preventing and alleviating suffering while ensuring the highest possible quality of life for both patients and their families, regardless of the stage of illness. However, despite growing interest and development in hospice and palliative care, the number of medical institutions offering these essential services remains limited. 

A Haven for Strength and Inspiration

Among the very few yet long-standing hospice and palliative care centers in the country is the Madre de Amor Hospice Foundation, Inc. Nestled in a quiet, tucked-away stretch of Amethyst Street in Barangay Batong Malake, Los Baños, Laguna, the center stands as a community-based, non-stock, non-profit organization that provides free hospice and palliative care services in 22 out of 30 towns in Laguna for over 30 years since its establishment in 1994. 

“When we say community-based, we render the care at the patients’ homes. We have a team of doctors, nurses, and volunteers who go to the patients’ homes and render the care there. So this has been and continues to be our primary service,” Dr. Dorry explained.  

This home care service involves the provision of pain control, symptom control, spiritual care, psychosocial care, and many other aspects of practical care that are significant in the family’s healing journey. 

“Inabutan nila ako dying. Hindi talaga ganito ang katawan ko, as in sobrang payat ta’s hinihigaan ko na yung dugo ko. Ta’s pangit pa nga yung pagtanggap ko sa kanila… kasi sabi ko makikialam na naman sa gamutan. Pero iba pala yung programa nila,” recalled Kuya Elmer, a current patient of the foundation.

Daycare Program Painting Session: Kuya Elmer holds the wallet he painted for their daycare program conducted May 29, 2024. After the session, the patients were encouraged to present the inspiration and stories behind their outputs. Photo by Earl Masongsong.

Aside from this, Madre de Amor also offers a daycare program. Here, patients visit the center in Los Baños once or twice a month to participate in various activities, including painting sessions, flower bouquet arrangements, make-up tutorials, and crafting activities, among others. 

“Nagimprove ang self-confidence ko buhat noong ako’y magkasakit. Malaking bagay na makasali ka rito. Nabawasan yung aming mga stress, aming mga nararamdaman kasi nga madami kaming activity, kumbaga nalilibang ang aming isip. Talagang maganda,” said Nanay Kristy, a recent graduate of the foundation.

Hospice Graduation: Nanay Kristy receives a certificate of completion for finishing her over two-year membership at Madre de Amor. The recognition was held after the daycare program. Photo by Earl Masongsong.

READ MORE: Who is Madre de Amor Hospice Foundation, Inc.? 

Stories of Hope and Compassion

Over the years, Madre de Amor has served not only as a community center but also as a beacon of hope and compassion where patients and families find solace and support during their most challenging times.

“Timing yung pagdating ng Madre de Amor sa akin. Para nga siyang blessing ng Lord…padala ng Lord…rescuer. Kasi mas naimulat ako, mas natutuo akong maging malakas at magpatuloy mabuhay,” said Kuya Elmer.

For three decades, Madre de Amor has offered free hospice and palliative care services to over two thousand individuals across various areas of Laguna. While many have since passed away, the immeasurable hope and compassion they imparted to both patients and their families endure through time.

“Napakalaki ng naging impact ng hospice para sa akin. Talagang napakasaya dito. Kahit kami’y may mga sakit, ang laki ng naging kagaanan ng aming kalooban…kung pwede nga lang bumalik okay lang [sa akin],” Nanay Kristy added.

Similarly, Dr. Ocampo shared how her experience at the foundation, both as a physician and an individual, has enriched her ability to deal with all kinds of people and fostered a deeper sense of humanity within her. She recounted how volunteers taught her how to talk and convince others of the values of hospice, while patients taught her how to value things that truly matter in one’s life. 

“I probably wouldn’t be the person, the doctor, or the woman that I am without Madre de Amor,” she explained.

Daycare Program Morning Session: Patients gather inside Madre de Amor before the program begins. Photo by Caitlin Almoro.

MORE RELATED STORIES: https://www.hospice.org.ph/index.php/category/stories/ 

Hurdles and Call-to-Action

Behind these inspiring stories and testimonies of healing, Madre de Amor has been grappling with financial challenges and a shortage of volunteers, especially after the pandemic.

“Financially in need talaga ang Madre de Amor. Problema siya, kasi nakita namin kahit magsolicit kami through solicitation letter, hindi na gano’n talagang bumabalik,” said Virginia “Gina” Cabrera, a Social Worker at the foundation. 

As a donation-driven NGO, Madre de Amor sees this as a major problem. They have even tried selling merchandise before like printed T-shirts, stickers, and hand-painted wallets to increase the hospice’s funds and be able to continue providing free services to their patients and their families. 

Additionally, Gina mentioned the pressing need for more volunteers at Madre de Amor. After the pandemic, the visits and engagement of their volunteers were adversely affected due to several health restrictions imposed, and many of them, even after the pandemic, found it difficult to return to volunteering. While they still have a few volunteers left, most of them are old and are now having difficulties visiting the foundation. 

“Kailangan talaga namin ng volunteer, hindi lang sa patient visits but paano kami matulungan sa mga fundraising activities kasi medyo hindi naman ako gifted do’n. So parang kailangan namin talaga parang may marketing na skills…volunteers to help us yung pag-ooperate pa ng Madre de Amor,” Gina added. 

Volunteer’s Program: Kaira Capuchino, a one-day volunteer at Madre de Amor’s daycare program, assists a patient during their painting session activity. Photo by Caitlin Almoro.

What can you do?

Interested donors and volunteers may visit https://www.hospice.org.ph/ or message https://www.facebook.com/MdAHFILosBanos?mibextid=LQQJ4d