The late former senator and former DOH Secretary Juan Flavier launched Oplan Sagip Mata – a program to help save and correct the eyesight of poor, vision-impaired Filipinos – touching the lives of tens of thousands of anonymous children. The program also produced a bar topnotcher, twenty years later.
One of the nameless beneficiaries of Oplan Sagip Mata is in the limelight as the Top 3 finisher in the 2014 Bar Exams, later revealed to be Sandra Magalang, Class Salutatorian of the UP College of Law Class of 2014.
She also visited Juan Flavier’s wake when he died October 30, 2014, leaving a heartfelt letter of appreciation that was recognized by Flavier’s youngest son, James. In the letter, she recalled how his program helped her achieve her dreams.
The former senator and secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) received thousands of tributes over social media, with no less than President Aquino and former presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada leading tributes to Flavier’s sterling legacy in public health.
Flavier launched Oplan Sagip Mata soon after 1993’s landmark national immunization campaign, Oplan Alis Disease. Sagip Mata was mounted in response to the massive scourge of blindness in the Philippines. Resources for the Blind says up to 100 Filipino children lose their eyesight every week.
“(There) are an estimated half a million people who are blind (in the country), and many more who are visually impaired to a lesser degree,” Resources for the Blind adds. “By far, the leading cause of blindness among adults in the Philippines is cataract, accounting for around 400,000 cases. The treatment for cataract is simple and effective but is not readily available or affordable for those living in the rural areas.”
Oplan Sagip Mata, which program continues to this day, provides free operations and services to counteract the problem.