Comprised of over 7,100 islands in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is an archipelago filled with natural beauty and rich culture. Along with its biodiversity, white sandy beaches, mountain ranges, and tropical rainforests, the country’s colorful history is filled with a unique blend of cultures. Known for their warm hospitality, contagious smiles and delicious food, Filipinos truly make the Philippines a very special country to visit.
To begin the program, participants complete a 1-week introduction in Manila. They are introduced to the Philippine health system and learn about the country’s historical and sociocultural context through interactive teaching-learning sessions, visits to public and private health facilities and cultural excursions. Participants then travel to a remote island to learn frontline health systems management from preceptors in Rural Health Units and Barangay Health Stations, including municipal health officers, nurses and midwives. Participants learn about Global and Public Health on the remote islands, also known as geographically isolated disadvantaged areas (GIDA), where healthcare facilities strive to deliver quality services while managing limited resources.
Become immersed in Filipino culture while staying in a local guesthouse or with a homestay family, interacting with the community and enjoying sandy beaches during free time. This program offers a life-changing first-hand exposure to the struggles and triumphs of local people working together towards eliminating health inequities and achieving better health outcomes for their communities.
The program begins with a week-long introduction to the Philippine health care system, visits to key exposure sites in Metro Manila and nearby areas. The remainder of the program will be an immersion in a remote island site as determined by the CFHI Philippines team (NOTE: not all remote island sites are available at all times; CFHI determines placement sites). For a 2-week program, participants will be in Manila approximately 3 days.
Metro Manila – Also known as the National Capital Region (NCR) of the Philippines, Metro Manila is composed of 16 cities and one municipality, whose overall population is estimated at 12 million. It is considered one of the most densely populated cities in the world. NCR is the center of culture, economy, education and government of the Philippines, which makes it the country’s hub for finance and commerce.
Alabat Island – Alabat Island is located in the province of Quezon and is one of the program’s original sites. It is located about 250 km (155 miles) southeast of Metro Manila, situated between the Pacific Ocean and Lamon Bay. From Metro Manila, Alabat Island is reachable by 6-8 hours land travel plus one hour boat ride. It is composed of three municipalities or towns: Perez in the north, Alabat in the middle and Quezon in the south. Participants who will be assigned to Alabat Island will be specifically placed in the town of Alabat, working closely with the Rural Health Unit staff.
Lubang Island – Lubang Island is located 183 km (75 miles) southwest from Metro Manila. It is separated from the main island of Mindoro and Luzon by the Verde Island passage. The island is divided into two municipalities: Lubang and Looc. The Municipality of Lubang is one of the eleven municipalities of Occidental Mindoro and it occupies the northeastern part of Lubang Island, including the island of Cabra. From Metro Manila, Lubang is reachable by a 3-hour van ride to Nasugbu Port, Batangas, followed by a 3-hour boat ride to Tilik Port, Lubang. Participants who will be assigned to Lubang will be placed within the Poblacion, working closely with the Rural Health Unit staff.
Marinduque Island – The town of Torrijos is the primary immersion site in the island province of Marinduque. Located 249 kilometers (156 miles) southeast of Manila, it can be reached via a 45-minute flight from Metro Manila, or a passenger ship from the Port of Lucena City in Quezon Province. Dubbed as the “Heart of the Philippines”, Marinduque is composed of 6 municipalities all reachable through a three-hour trip around the island via the Marinduque Circumferential Road. Participants who will be assigned in Marinduque will be specifically placed in the municipality of Torrijos, working closely with its Rural Health Unit staff.
Tablas Island – Tablas Island is about 367 km (228 miles) south of Metro Manila, situated between Tablas Strait and Sibuyan Sea near the geographic center of the Philippines. It is the largest island among the 7 islands that comprise the province of Romblon. From Metro Manila, Tablas Island is reachable by 2-3 hours bus trip to the Port of Batangas, followed by an 8-10 hours travel by passenger ship to the Port of Odiongan. It can also be reached via a one-hour plane ride from Manila. Participants who will be assigned to Tablas Island will be specifically placed in the town of Alcantara, working closely with the Rural Health Unit staff.
Tingloy Island – The radish-shaped 5th class island Municipality of Tingloy is situated about 2 nautical miles off the southwest coast of Batangas mainland, 11.2 nautical miles from Batangas City and about a 3 hour drive from Manila, including a 45 minute boat ride through ferry boats from the ports (Anilao/Talaga) of Mabini, Batangas. It is the only island municipality in the Province of Batangas and a part of the 2nd District. It consists of 15 barangays that include shoreline areas, lowland plains and valleys and rugged hills and sloping mountains. Participants assigned in Tingloy will be specifically placed in the whole municipality and will be working closely with the Rural Health Unit staff.
For the first week and towards the end of the program, participants stay in a 3-star hotel near the bustling city center of Manila. On the remote island sites, participants will find their home away from home in either in a homestay, an apartment, or dorm-type lodging. All housing screened by CFHI Local Coordinators in the Philippines and following CFHI’s health and safety guidelines.
Going beyond mere lodging, staying in a local housing provides a unique opportunity to learn about the local culture. Accommodations include two meals per day. Accommodations may vary depending on the number and location of students throughout the month. At the welcome orientation, participants will be instructed on culture and work etiquette to have the best experience in both the home and the health settings.
Participants should arrive in Manila, Philippines on the program start date and will be picked up from the airport by a CFHI representative and taken to the on-site lodging. The first official activity of the program is an Orientation Meeting followed by a Welcome Dinner that takes place on the Sunday after arrival.
No visa is required for U.S. citizens for stays 30 days or less. For stays of 30 days or more you must apply for a 59 day visa at the Philippine Embassy or Consulate prior to arrival. More information and specific instructions on visa applications will be provided by CFHI after acceptance into the program.
Uniquely, 60% or more of CFHI student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large and specifically underserved health systems.
Metro Manila – Metro Manila, with its 16 cities, is a crowded, fast-paced environment with much to offer. The city of Manila has a reputation for being a concrete jungle where you can eat, drink and shop 24 hours a day. Explore Intramuros, the old walled city showcasing the preserved architecture during the Spanish era and watch the world famous Manila Bay sunset. The nearby business districts of Makati and Taguig, with tall skyscrapers and fine restaurants, are known for their cosmopolitan and upscale vibe. Pasay City, where the international airport is located, boasts of one of the largest malls in the world, the Mall of Asia, and various gaming and entertainment establishments. Embrace all that the rest of the metropolis has to offer while immersing yourself in the vibrant Filipino culture and mouth-watering gastronomic delights.
Remote Island Sites – Unlike Metro Manila, remote islands offer a much slower paced life. However, these islands are excellent locations to appreciate the Philippines’ natural beauty and biodiversity. Enjoy picnics by the beach and lazy sun-kissed afternoons. Explore the islands through hikes to hidden waterfalls, snorkeling through the crystal clear waters, or visiting the salt water lagoons. Interact with the locals and immerse in the rich culture of the local communities.
A typical day in a CFHI program is a blend of immersive learning, cultural exploration, and personal reflection. During the orientation days in Manila, students wake up at around 7AM to have breakfast at the hotel. Depending on the day, activities include: interactive sessions, discussions, walking tours, and visits to various health facilities. These activities usually end around 3-5PM. On the remote islands, clinical rotations typically take place for about 6-8 hours per day. The clinical site assignments and schedule are shared by the local team upon arrival. Weekends are free of program-planned activities.
The Global Health in the Philippines Program is an immersive experience in primary care, public health and health systems. It aims to give students an overview of the Philippine healthcare system through comparative approaches highlighting urban-rural, national-local and tertiary-primary care differences. Through frontline primary healthcare exposures in underserved remote communities, it also aims to showcase the social, cultural, political and historical determinants of health.
The following are a sample of possible rotations during this program. After acceptance, students can indicate any preferences on their application. The local team does their best to accommodate learners’ preferences, based on local availability and conditions.
The RHU is the main public health care facility that provides health services in these remote areas. Its operations are supervised by a medical doctor called the Municipal Health Officer (MHO), who will be your local preceptor, assisted by nurses and midwives. The clinic offers primary care services such as general consultations for patients, prenatal checkups, live birth deliveries, vaccination, health education sessions, dental services and selected laboratory services. It is also the principal implementing unit for public health programs on maternal and child health, reproductive health, communicable and non-communicable diseases, nutrition and sanitation, among others. Join the MHO and the rest of the RHU staff and learn more about public health program implementation and health service delivery networks at the grassroots level.
The BHS is an extension of the RHU located at the village or “barangay” level. It is usually manned by a nurse and/or a midwife, assisted by local community health volunteers called barangay health workers (BHW). Participants will have the opportunity to shadow BHS staff engaging in primary care consults, prenatal check-ups, vaccinations, health status monitoring and health promotion activities at the barangay level.
The PGH is a tertiary state-owned hospital administered and operated by the University of the Philippines Health Sciences Center. It is generally considered as the largest public tertiary hospital in the country with a 1,500-bed capacity and is the principal end referral hospital for mostly indigent patients from all over the country. Participants will do a half-day walkthrough tour of the various departments and service areas, from the outpatient department to the emergency room and the service wards for a glimpse of the current realities that define the Philippine health care system. This walkthrough is done by all participants during their stay in Manila.
Participants will do walkthroughs of selected urban and suburban health facilities, particularly a tertiary private hospital offering comprehensive specialized medical care services situated in the upscale area of Metro Manila, an urban public primary care center and a suburban primary care center, to provide a frame of reference for analysis of the country’s rural vs. urban, and public vs. private health set-ups. These walkthroughs are done by all participants during their stay in Manila.
The local Medical Director oversees and arranges all clinical and public health-related activities and is also responsible for coordinating healthcare and emergency services for participants as needed. They coordinate a cadre of preceptors who mentor and supervise program participants at both clinical and public/community health sites.
Dr. Buenaventura is a young and passionate doctor who is involved in global health diplomacy and in issues addressing health disparities and inequities. In 2004, Dr. Buenaventura graduated with honors at the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. The following year, he completed his postgraduate internship at the University of the Philippines General Hospital. In 2011, he earned a Master’s in Public Health at Boston University, with a dual concentration in International Health and Heath Policy and Management and bestowed the John Snow, Inc. Award in International Health, after doing prestigious internships at the World Health Organization Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and the Médecins Sans Frontières (or Doctors Without Borders) US Office in New York.
He has served as a Doctor-to-the Barrio, with 7 years of grassroots experience as a rural health physician and later as a Municipal Health Officer in a poor, sixth class, remote island, serving as the only doctor in a town of approximately 10,000 people. Dr. Buenaventura currently serves as the Chief Health Program Officer for the Department of Health-Philippines, with a focus on alignment of international health cooperation to local health system needs. Altogether, his valuable education and experience with global health and medicine made him a recipient of various grants and scholarships recognizing his leadership skills and academic excellence.
Dr. Medina is a Community Medicine and Primary Health Care practitioner with more than five years of experience in local health systems development as the Municipal Health Officer of the island municipality of Quezon, from 2009 to 2014. Since 2015, he has taught at his alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine, as an Assistant Professor for Community Medicine and is presently pursuing his Master in Health Professions Education from the National Teachers Training Center for the Health Professions in UP Manila. In his first year of teaching, he was awarded the UP Medical Alumni Society Outstanding Teacher Award for Clinical Clerks for AY 2015-2016.
The CFHI Local Coordinators manage the logistics of housing, transportation, and cultural immersion throughout the program. They are a valuable resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms, and tips on planning weekend travel. Dr. Alyssandra Ken Mari San Juan is a great resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms and tips on planning weekend travel.
This CFHI program is ideal for participants who are 19 years of age or older, who have an interest in fields related to primary health care, maternal & reproductive health, communicable & non-communicable diseases, and/or public health. You do not need to be a student to be eligible for this program; mid-career professionals, GAP year learners, and others are also welcome. This program will provide an in-depth overview of primary health care, maternal & reproductive health, communicable & non-communicable diseases, and/or public health in the Philippines through rotations within various health centers and organizations in the Philippines. To confirm your eligibility, please read CFHI’s general eligibility requirements.
“The Remote Island Program has a strong emphasis on immersing you in the local culture as well as providing you with medical observatory experience… One year later, I can already say that many of these valuable experiences keep coming back to me when I ask myself why I want to study medicine, and I think by now I can say that my time in the Philippines will keep impacting me in my studies and future practice. I am very grateful to have had this experience and would definitely recommend it!”
“I chose CFHI because of their partnership with the local people year round, rather than other non-profits who come in temporarily and then leave. CFHI works with local preceptors to integrate participants into the local existing healthcare system, providing what I think is a more authentic and accurate view of the local country’s health care. I want to learn how the locals provide sustainable healthcare, not go there to provide only a temporary solution. The Philippines program is highly structured, while still flexible to meet the various education levels of the participants. The local program Medical Director, Dr. Joel Buenaventura, has a strong vision of what participants will gain from their experience: Understanding the structure of the Philippine Health System (PhilHealth), how health care is delivered in local units, called barangays, and what goals and strategies the barangays use to keep their local population the healthiest based on their specific needs. Dr. Joel and Dr. Medina, the associate director, is great to work with. They make sure that we safe and also know all the local secrets: great food and activity recommendation… CFHI Philippines does a great job of escorting you to all of the different sites so that you are not lost or left figuring things out on your own… I had a great time here connecting with the locals and learning from them how health care resources can be best utilized. We were able to see health care in many different settings: big tertiary care centers in Manila, smaller local hospitals on smaller island as well as immunization and prenatal clinics in geographically isolated areas. I am so grateful that CFHI created this partnership with the locals so I could truly see the Philippine health care system up close and personal. Thank you Child Family Health International for a life and career changing experience!”
“What struck me about these experiences, even on the first day, was the sense of community. It was not just the stroke patient who came to the Rural Health Unit (RHU) but the patient, his family, wife, daughter, and neighbor. This observation was repeated many times over the next few weeks.”
“I’m so lucky to have chosen such a wonderful country to spend two much too short months. The people I met, the lessons I learned, and the culture I became a part of pushed me out of my comfort zone, teaching me how to think more critically and more globally and allowing me to further develop as an individual. I’m lucky because, after choosing to travel to the other side of the world to the Philippines on a whim, I now see it as a home away from home, as a place that I want to hopefully return to for my gap year while applying to medical school. So maybe, hopefully, my experiences in the Philippines are not completely over.”
“The ethics of the CFHI program I am with are sound, and I’m very thankful for that. Their students are not walking into the clinics with the intentions of pushing their limited knowledge of western medicinal practices down local’s throats. I don’t care if I’m doing busy work, washing dishes or shadowing a surgeon in an operating room. You can learn in any situation – it just depends on your attitude! And I’m happy to say I’ve been learning a lot. I would say it’s been healthy for me to experience this feeling of uselessness or helplessness. I’ve always had strong inclinations to programs and projects of service wherever I am, because I want to help. I always want to help. Being in a developing world, and seeing dichotomies of wealth and poverty on levels that I’ve never seen before has changed the way I think about being helpful, and about where help and service is really needed.”
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