A Life-Changing Story of Katrina, a cleft patient in the Philippines

Please take a few minutes to read through the life changing story from Katrina, 25 years old cleft palate patient from the Philippines.

Thank you for all our supporters, your effort is not in vain.

“Through NCFPI partners especially Smile Train and the Association of Philippine Orthodontist & CS Foundation, Katrina Cupino's life was changed due to the various interventions experienced in her cleft treatment at NCF Philippines. The 25-year old Katrina has been working at the Municipality of Rosario, Cavite since 2012. Katrina underwent several surgeries at NCFPI, dental rehabilitation, speech therapy and on-going orthodontic treatment & care. Please read on her wonderful story.

In May 2010, Katrina Cupino's sister-Stephanie wrote Dr. Sam Noordhoff by e-mail inquiring treatment for free at NCF. Immediately, Dr. Sam replied and referred Stephanie to Ms. Mel Maranan of NCF Philippines. With the permission of Stephanie, we print her letter to Ms. Mel dated 19 May 2010:

‘Greetings! Im Stephanie Cupino a sister of a cleft palete patient.. I hope you will be able to help my sister with her reconstructive surgery.. Her name is Katrina Cupino she's 20 years old and she just graduated college from a state university.. I hope you will be able to help her to have her operation..She's currently applying for a job but she's always rejected by some companies regardless of her educational background because their primary requirement for the applicant is to have a pleasing personality...Because of that i can see that she's having a low self esteem because of discrimination of some companies. I feel sorry for my sister and I really hope you will be able to help her because we don't have enough money for her operation.Please help her. Thank you very much and God Bless.’

Here is Katrina's story shared to NCFPI through Ms. Mel Maranan dated June 29, 2011:

‘I am Katrina Cupino, 21 years old from Rosario, Cavite. I was born with cleft lip and palate. When I was 3 months old my cleft lip and palate was repaired in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital but after that my surgical operation did not continue. When I was young, I always wished that someday my life would change because when I started studying, living was not easy as some people would judge me...they would stare at me and would laugh upon seeing my appearance and hearing my nasal voice. Every time they bully me I can’t help myself not to cry. I can still remember those experiences until now.

When I was in high school, my mother and aunt brought me to St. Lukes Hospital to inquire further treatment but we didn’t go back there again because we can’t afford the surgery. And I understand this. But I’m still hoping that one day, God would hear my prayers; I kept telling myself that maybe He has other plans for me. And so I needed to be strong to overcome all the trials that I will encounter in life. I’m so thankful that He gave me a good family...they are always there to guide me.

I am very glad to have finished my college studies. Afterwards, I started looking for a job but it was hard for me because some companies hire those who have “no physical defect”. When I see this on the forms I need to fill out, I was truly disappointed. I know that even though we have a defect, we can also do what other normal people do.

One day, my sister looked up for a foundation for a cleft lip and palate in the internet and it was Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation in Our Lady of Peace Hospital in Paranaque. My sister emailed Dr. Samuel Noordhoff and Ms. Mel Maranan and they replied back in our email.

May 31, 2010, we try to go there and I’m very shocked and very happy when Dr. Bernard Tansipek talked to us and said I will be admitted on June 22, 2010 to close the hole in my palate. I could not believe it... I never expected that... I was also afraid that I will fail again. And when that time came when God answered my prayer I was so happy. I would never ever forget that day... that was the best day of my life.

▲First event attended by Katrina (middle in the photo) in 2010 at NCFPI was the fun run MILES FOR SMILES: Run for Cleft Care.

My second operation were done November 30, 2010, that was called ABG or alveolar bone graft. They got a piece of bone from my iliac bone in the hip and put it in my upper cleft-gum. And now I’m having braces with Dr. Janet Pandan and Dr. Chryse Marquez...and they teach me well how to take care of my teeth. Every month I come back in their clinic at Joshua Center, Taft Ave,, Manila across the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) for adjustment of my braces.

I also started speech therapy with Mr. Paolo Sison soon after my palate was repaired. The sessions polished my voice and taught me how to speak correctly. I always go in Our Lady of Peace Hospital, every Monday for my speech therapy. Now, I stop applying job for a while because I want to finish this opportunity first, and I will go back again job-hunting and am hoping to find a job soon.

▲Katrina (left in photo) and Stephanie Cupino (right in photo) at the NCFPI office in Manila last March 19, 2014.

I am thankful to God that He is using Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation as His instrument to help, not only me but many people who have cleft lip & palate and speech disabilities. Thank you very much, Dr. Sam Noordhoff, Dr.Tansipek, Dr. Xenia Velmonte, Dr. Glenda de Villa, Dr. Pandan, Dr. Chryse, Mr. Paolo, Ms. Mel and all the staff of NCF Philippines. Many thanks to all sponsors and all the people behind this work of complete cleft care. Thank you very much for helping us and making a real change in our lives. Thank you for sharing us your blessings…Thank you very much, God bless you all.’”

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