TRIBAL RITE READIED FOR KALINGA TWINS

Angeles City, July 17, 2003 By Ding Cervantes (Star)  It was simply divine providence.

This was how volunteers of the Taiwan-based Tzu Chi Foundation (TCF) and tribal villagers in Tabuk, Kalinga described the circumstances leading to the successful separation of one-year-old Siamese twins Rachelle and Leah Awel, who are expected to be flown back to the country at the end of the month or early August after spending three months in Taiwan.

In fact, the Awels’ relatives are preparing to celebrate an ancient thanksgiving ritual for the modern-day miracle of separating the Siamese twins, a tedious medical procedure that can result in death.

Recently, conjoined Iranian twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani died in Singapore while undergoing surgery.

In an interview with The STAR, TCF volunteers Peggie Sy and Michael Siao revealed that the Awel twins were last-minute replacements for another pair from Jolo, who were spotted by foundation workers while conducting medical missions around the country.

The unidentified Jolo twins were supposed to be the first to undergo surgery in April but they reportedly got sick and were unable to go the Philippine Children’s Hospital in Quezon City where they were to meet TCF doctors Leh Siu Chuan and Robert Sy.

Fortunately, the Awel twins were brought to the same hospital by their parents for a check-up. They were told to prepare for immediate departure for Taiwan.

The twins, along with their mother and two doctors, flew to Taiwan for free last April 17 courtesy of Philippine Airlines.

Though the Awel twins were only joined at the abdomen, Sy and Siao said doctors at the Tzu Chi General Hospital in Taiwan nevertheless exercised extreme caution in separating Rachelle and Leah.

Doctors, they added, installed a "tissue expander" in each of the twins’ abdomen and waited for a month and a half for their health to improve before separating them.

The Awel sisters were successfully separated last June 28.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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