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Making a clean breast of it

(Article Published in the Nov 14,2012 issue of Manila Standard Today)

       Last Thursday (Nov. 8), I received a text message from good friend that there was a ticket with my name on it for a dinner event that was to be held the following day at the Rockwell Tent from 6:00 to 10:00 pm. Although I had long abandoned the ritual of spending Friday nights in senseless eating and drinking on the false pretext of needing a few hours, before heading for home, to unwind after a long week of supposedly hard work, I confirmed my attendance and, as I not done for so long, came on time.

       I was very glad I did. I went to the event, a fund-raising project, entitled Around the World in Small Plates, organized by cable TV's Lifestyle Network, for the benefit of the ICanServe Foundation, Inc. In many ways, it was not like similar events I had previously attended.

       The guests upon registration at the entrance were each given a "passport" which looked no more than a tiny and neat white paper envelop. Inside the envelop were over twenty ID sized "tickets" which looked like those plastic cards you insert in the appropriate slots or scan before the screen of an automatic machines in order to gain access to your parking space. Right from, the organizers evoked the ambiance of flying off to different major cities abroad, hence the use of terms associated with foreign travel.

       When it was time for boarding, which was observed punctually by organizers who did not permit entry into the lounge ahead of schedule, the passenger-guests meekly fell single file in the cordoned lanes, according to the numbers on their tickets. As in real airports, a few tried to get themselves ahead of everyone else in line; but, the ushers were apparently well briefed on how to politely remind them to take the "daang matuwid."

       On each ticket was printed a number which corresponded to a table, called a "Station", inside the Rockwell Tent; by surrendering a ticket to the attendant at the table so designated, one gets, in single bite or gulp portions, the food or drink of the country or geographic area that the table represented. "Represent" is not quite accurate; the chefs, all of whom I understand contributed their services and creations for free, enjoyed a generous measure of culinary freedom equivalent to the writer's poetic license. They thus come up with "off-the-menu-specials" with labels that varied widely both in length and in detail. There was, for instance, the kilometric "Potato Zuchini Pancake with Torched Smoked Salmon in Lemongrass Champagne Cream Sauce", the enigmatic "Hummus Gangnam Style", and, what titillated many an adventurous curious, "Paella Tinola".

       The tickets were, fortunately for me, tradable; nothing prevented the guests from swapping with one another. Thus, after making a survey of the stations and taking into account my cardiologist's diet instructions, I decided not to make a bid for every dish but instead to limit my intake to just a few; the tickets I did not intend to use, I offered my table mates in exchange for some of theirs. I was merrily engaged in ticket trading, and was most pleased with my success in amassing quite a number of my favoured ones, until a client who was seated beside me remarked that, it was obvious to him, I was on a "liquid diet." I assured him of the automatic alarms genetically encrypted in my anatomy that were designed to trip off the minute the alcohol in my blood stream reached perilous levels. I had no intentions of adding to the traffic jam that was going on at EDSA at that time, caused by the accidental pile up of an unusual number of wayward vehicles.

       More outstanding, though, and more abiding than the gustatory delights of the evening was the cause for which the event was held. The beneficiary of the funds raised is ICanServe Foundation, Inc., which was originally known as Information on Breast Cancer and Other Services. Its mission statement, as articulated in its website which is source of most of my data about the organization, namely, the www,icanservefoundation.org, says it all:

       "The ICANSERVE Foundation provides hope and help to women with breast cancer. It promotes early breast cancer detection through high impact information campaign and community based screening programs. Its network of cancer survivors lights the path for women with cancer towards total healing."

       The organization was founded in 1999 Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, Crisann Celdran, Becky Fuentes, and Bet Lazatin, breast cancer survivors all. In line with its information dissemination objective, the foundation in 2000 and 2003 published and distributed for free "ICANSERVE: A Network of People, Places and Services for the Philippine Breast Cancer Community." It was a tool that sought to assist the members of the breast cancer community stay in touch with what they need to cope with the stage of breast cancer that they have, be they be newly diagnosed, or undergoing treatment, or in remission, or otherwise adjusting to their "new normal" life.

       It did not limit its medium of spreading the good news to print. It held in 2005, Silver Linings, the first of its kind national forum for and homecoming for breast cancer survivors. Similar gatherings, I understand, have been held every three years since; by now "at least a thousand women of various backgrounds from different parts of the country" have attended those fora at one time or another.

       The defining advocacy of the foundation is the call for women to face squarely their vulnerability to breast cancer at any age, and hence their focus on guidance on how to conduct self-assessments as well as recognizing the need for professional medical consultations and examinations. Breast cancer is curable and early detection makes facilitates recovery.

       For some reason, "the Philippines has the highest incidence of breast cancer in Southeast Asia and ranks 9th in the world in breast cancer incidence." Men, too, are susceptible to breast cancer and are, for that and other reasons, well advised to click on the demonstration video in ICANSERVE's website.

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