It will not be just poetry but ‘poetreat’ at 5PM on May 20 at Wharf Galley (Avenue Square) as members of the local literary community and performing arts gather their creative forces to raise funds for cancer patient Jocelyn Bisuña. Dubbed as Mga Berso nin Pagpa-Omay: Healing Verses for Jo, the event will feature Bikol poets, all members of Kabulig-Bikol and Parasurat Bikolnon reading Bisuña’s poems with interpretative dances by theater group Kaboronyogan. Bikol authors will set up a book fair, the proceeds of which will go to Bisuña’s funds. There will also be performances by dance group Fire n Ice.

Bisuña, “Jo” to friends, is a mother, teacher, writer, performance artist and cultural worker. She has taught at La Consolacion College-Iriga and University of Northeastern Philippines. She is a founding member of Kaboronyogan and is a regular panelist in local creative writing workshops. Her works have appeared in various publications and her poems will be published in an anthology of Bikol female poets to come out within the year.

In November 2008, Jo was found to have cancer of the left breast. The particular aggressiveness of her cancer necessitated mastectomy and chemotherapy thereafter, which she bravely endured the next month until April of 2009. All seemed well until the cancer recurred in her chest wall barely a month after the last chemo cycle. This prompted her to have another surgery albeit a local one. September of the same year saw Jo undergoing a series of radiotherapy at the University of Santo Tomas. Despite the continuing treatment, bone and CT scans revealed that the cancer has spread to the bones of her chest and in her lungs. Unable to fund the 160k + per 21-day cycle of chemotherapy, Jo and her family decided to participate in a drug trial in St. Luke’s Medical Center to gain access to chemotherapy drugs and other diagnostic procedures for free. She was subsequently disqualified when after 9 months in the trial her chest tumors stopped responding to the drug. It was at this point where FUDA Cancer Hospital in Guangzhou, China, was considered, as it was recommended by relatives and other patients in St. Lukes. From January to March 2011, Jo spent her days at FUDA Cancer Hospital receiving treatment. The cryosurgery and nano-chemotherapy done on her effected significant improvements much more than what her year of chemo achieved. She was supposed to come back last March for another round of nano-chemo but the expenses have caught up with her and her family. Jo has not been receiving any form of treatment since.

Currently, she is suffering tremendous pains from the bone and skin metastases which leave her with open sores on the chest. The advanced treatments that FUDA hospital offers are her best and last recourse.

The event is in cooperation with Wharf Galley Rock Café, Writers Gig, Sangguniang Panlungsod-Naga, Councilors Nathan Sergio and Cecilia de Asis.

–Jose Jason L. Chancoco and Buboy Aguay