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Jessica Sanchez brings gift of hearing to poor in GenSan

By: - Correspondent / @inqmindanao
/ 11:22 PM December 03, 2013

GENERAL SANTOS CITY—Forty-three-year-old Noe Labrador barely remembers how a bird’s chirp sounds like, or how loud the banter between him and his siblings had been.

Labrador, a resident of Kiamba, Sarangani, started to lose his hearing as a boy and has been deaf for years.

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Until Sunday, he used only sign language to communicate with other people.

Labrador’s problem ended on Sunday when “American Idol” Jessica Sanchez handed him a hearing aid at the Lagao gymnasium here.

“I can’t easily sum up how I feel. This is the best Christmas gift I got in years,” a teary-eyed Labrador said as he stumbled over his words to thank the Filipino-Mexican sensation.

Each hearing aid costs P15,000 to P20,000 and, in many instances, hearing-impaired persons like Labrador have no means to acquire one.

The 17-year-old Sanchez arrived here at the behest of Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao had invited Sanchez over when they met in the United States a few months back. The “American Idol” runner-up has been doing humanitarian work under the “Idol Gives Back” concept aside from performing across the United States.

The singing sensation readily agreed.

When they met in Macau last month, where Sanchez sang the Philippine national anthem at the Pacquiao-Rios fight, Pacquiao reminded her of his invitation.

Sanchez joined a 50-man mission composed of nurses and doctors from the United States, which was led by Bill Austin, founder of Starkey Hearing Foundation and owner of Starkey Labs.

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“It’s so nice to be able to help those in need,” she said.

Austin said this was the first time for them to visit the Philippines as they go on a global mission of “bringing understanding among people through hearing care.”

At Sunday’s start of the three-day mission to the Philippines, Austin said at least 1,500 beneficiaries, including walk-in patients from Sarangani, South Cotabato, General Santos City, and nearby areas like Davao City, came to avail themselves of the free hearing aids.

At the end of the mission’s first day here, other people like Raphael Nuña, 63, a resident of Malapatan, Sarangani, walked away with a smile.

“It has been eight years since I last heard a sound. I am very grateful I was able to hear again, thanks to Jessica, the Starkey people and Manny,” Nuña said.

Austin said Starkey was also grateful to its local partners.

Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon also announced the signing of an agreement between the provincial government and the nongovernment organization Mahintana Foundation Inc. aimed at “easing the means of living of the poor and the sick by ensuring that low cost but quality medicines come in on time and are available.”

Solon said the agreement allows Mahinta to open a pharmacy inside government-run hospitals in Sarangani.

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