THE 1st Mindanao Humanitarian Volunteers for Peace Golf Tournament, held at the Philippine Navy Golf Course in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on June 20, 2024, was a fundraising event that saw participation primarily from the close friends and relatives of MHVP members, creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and genuine support.

MHVP, known for its all-in-one humanitarian missions in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs) across the Philippines, including Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Zamboanga, Palawan, Bukidnon, Negros, and Samar, has always operated in collaboration with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This partnership, formalized through a Memorandum of Agreement, has enabled MHVP to reach conflict-affected areas and provide essential services.

The origins of MHVP date back to April 2017 when Marine Colonel Stephen Cabanlet and his wife, Navy psychiatrist Dr. Ella Cabanlet, invited their medical school classmates to conduct humanitarian missions in Sulu. Dr. Ma. Theresa Heyrosa, an ophthalmologist, and her husband, Atty. Erwinrommel Heyrosa, were among the first to respond to the call. Dr. Heyrosa, who later became and is still MHVP’s president, has since made cataract operations a cornerstone of the organization’s missions, restoring sight to many and profoundly impacting lives in these remotest areas of the country.

On that first mission in April 2017, volunteers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao gathered at the Naval Forces Western Mindanao Headquarters in Zamboanga City before embarking on an overnight Navy boat voyage to Sulu. This mission set the precedent for countless successful operations in other conflict-affected areas, contributing significantly to the relative peace now experienced in Sulu.

The emotional impact of MHVP’s work was palpable during the golf tournament, with many participants moved by the short video presentations showcasing the organization’s humanitarian efforts. “I almost cried watching the videos,” shared Dr. Leo Joson, a surgeon from Lipa, who attended with his wife, internist Dr. Debbie Joson, and his brother, Boni Joson. Dr. Joson, who has participated in numerous charity golf events, hailed MHVP’s tournament as “genuinely for a cause.” He committed to bringing his children, both medical students, to future events to experience the profound sense of purpose firsthand.

Colonel Stephen Cabanlet welcomed the players, including a group of his

golfing friends from Uratex and the automotive industry, who had also donated solar lamps for Sulu and are building solar boats for the province. MHVP Board Member Ms. Ruth Owen displayed her hosting prowess, alongside MHVP’s steadfast partner, MJB Cares Foundation of spouses Mary Joy and Lourde Bustamante, who consistently donate substantial amounts of medicines for MHVP missions.

The MHVP golf tournament was more than just a sporting event; it was a celebration of fellowship and shared commitment to a noble cause. I consider the MHVP tournament as the happiest I had ever experienced because of the strong bonds of friendship and the collective dedication of the participants to humanitarian service.