BY CARLA GOMEZ
The Visayan Daily Star
August 29, 2017
A 22-year-old who beat cancer is bringing joy and hope to others because she believes miracles still do happen.
Janica Mariz Bantigue of Bacolod City was stricken with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow, when she was three years old.
But seven years later the doctors declared her cured and her mother, Mary Ann, attributes Janica’s recovery to their strong faith in God, a little boy’s sacrifice and her daughter’s courage.
“We did not have the money for Janica’s treatment, and turned to God for help,” her father, Jessie, also said.
Then one day Dinah Oxinio, an officemate of Mary Ann, at the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., came to work with a piggy bank full of coins that her 7-year-old son, Bimboy, had given to help Janica.
Bimboy’s piggy bank only had about P200 in it, but it triggered a chain reaction that reached all the way to PLDT chairman Antonio Cojuangco who then footed the bill for all of Janica’s medical expenses.
Today Janica is medical technologist working for the Philippine Red Cross, and is committed to helping others.
She especially wants to give back through Suntown Camp that brings children who are either ill with cancer or have parents diagnosed with cancer, and children with life-threatening illnesses together.
Janica joined Suntown Camp as camper on its first year when she was 12, and today, at 22, she has stayed on as a camp leader.
Suntown Camp, which provides a fun environment to help children understand and accept their situation, express their feelings, and see that they are not alone in their struggles, marks its 10 th year and 11th camp on October 25 to 29 at CICM in Talisay City.
It is a place where the children forget their worries and have a lot of fun, which she experienced as a child, Janica said.
“I became resilient, brave and strong in facing the challenges in my life, that is what Suntown has given me,” she said.
“Suntown also taught me to be kind to people I meet, because they too are fighting battles of their own that we do not know about,” Janica added.
What is important is to show others kindness, happiness and love, even if they do not ask for it, she said.
She said that while the children at the camp are suffering from serious illnesses, it is also important for them not to give up.
“We must not give up, we must always be hopeful because miracles do happen with God’s grace, ” Janica said.
“We should also live our lives to the fullest because we never know how long it will be,” she also said.
She is happy that Suntown Camp has reached its 10th year and continues to provide children suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses so much happiness, especially during gala nights when the camp leaders put on a show and prepare lots of treats, Janica said.
Liza Esmeralda-Porras, Suntown Camp program manager, said she joined Suntown three years ago at the most critical time in her life when she was undergoing a personal crisis.
“Suntown was truly a miracle, it was my saving factor,” she said, because while she joined the camp to help the children, it healed her, too.
Seeing the sick children and trying to cheer them up made her think of others and not just of her own problems, Liza said.
“Suntown is really very special, it creates a lot of miracles in your life, it’s a blessing,” she said.
“You want to help but in return you have your own miracles happening inside you,” she said.
Suntown Camp helps the children forget their problems, be happy,feel loved, and have hope, she said.
On the 10th anniversary of Suntown, as it celebrates Camp 11 in October, the theme will be “Sparks of Wonder”, because from the little sparks a wonderful flame will be created, Liza said.
Children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses are urged to join Sundown Camp this October and experience the fun and miracles that could happen in their lives, she added.
The camp is also open to volunteers and donors.
They can help bring a dose of happiness to the kids by volunteering to assist in Suntown camps its activities, sharing a financial blessing or sponsoring a child, Liza said.
Those interested in joining the camp or in providing financial assistance to sponsor a child may contact them through firstname.lastname@example.org , www.suntowncamp.org or by calling 09108192555, she added.*CPG