Philippine police officer says U.S. navy hospital ship changed his life

In 1987, the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) pulled into Puerto Princesa, Philippines, on her maiden voyage as part of a humanitarian mission.

Now, 30 years later, the ship is back as part of Pacific Partnership 2022 (PP22).

Lt. Douglas Sabando, deputy station commander of Police Station 1 in Puerto Princesa, was only 10 when Mercy first came to the Philippines.

“I had a wound in my right leg during that time,” said Sabando. “It started from a mosquito bite and only got worse.

“We went to local doctors here, but the wound never healed. My mom brought me to the Mercy and asked for help. Fortunately, the doctors were able to attend to me.”

The Pacific Partnership doctors at the time looked at Sabando’s wound and immediately gave him the medical attention that he needed.

“If I didn’t receive the care then my right leg would have had to be amputated,” said Sabando. “It really changed my life.

“If I didn’t have my leg fixed, I wouldn’t be standing here right now. I wouldn’t have been able to join the police force because there are requirements to be physically healthy.”

While in Puerto Princesa, the medical team embarked on Mercy conducted over 100 surgeries on board, much like the crew did 30 years ago.

“I will be forever grateful to the U.S. Government, the personnel of USNS Mercy, and especially the doctors that took care of me at the time,” said Sabando.

“The good thing is right now I am successful. I have a family and three children. I will be forever grateful, and this is the time that I can say thank you very much.”

Mercy conducted eight health fairs while in Puerto Princesa and reached more than 9,500 people. The health fairs provided community members access to services in optometry, dental, life-saving techniques, and general health care education.

While Mercy was back in Puerto Princesa for PP22, Sabando attended local health fairs provided by Mercy’s medical crew.

“It is going to be a big help for all of the Puerto Princesa residents,” said Sabando. “I see all of the people in line here today, and I know it will be a big help.”

Mercy is currently underway for Pacific Partnership 2022. Now in its 17th year, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific.

Text credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandie Nuzzi USNS MERCY (T-AH 19) Public Affairs

Photo credit: Courtesy photo Australian Army Corporal Brandon Grey. PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – Police Lieutenant Douglas Sabando speaks to Ensign Juliette Martin, from Chisago Lakes, Minnesota, during the Barangay Health Fair at Bacungan High School during Pacific Partnership 2022. 

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