AFTER 12 years of working together, cleft charity Smile Train and Marikina St. Vincent General Hospital (MSVGH) launched the Smile Train Comprehensive Cleft Care (CCC) center, which aims to provide safe and quality treatment to children and adults born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate.  

“CCC encompasses diagnosis, feeding and nutrition, surgery, dental care, ENT (ears, nose, and throat) care, speech services, orthodontics, counseling, and support,” said Felix Grimares, Jr., Smile Train Philippines program director, at the June 28 launch.  

MSVGH’s CCC center, like all of Smile Train’s centers, offers cleft surgery, orthodontic and dental treatment, and speech therapy at no cost, with the help of various foundations and charities.  

In the Philippines, over 5,000 babies are born with a cleft palate every year. 

Dr. Edmund R. Mercado, MSVGH resident plastic surgeon, began the cleft program 12 years ago with his first patient coming from Bulacan.  

“They will travel to receive care,” said Dr. Jennifer C. Deoduco-Mercado, program coordinator for Smile Train at MSVGH and wife of Mr. Mercado. 

To date, more than 4,900 cleft surgeries have been performed by MSVGH. For a patient to be eligible for surgery, they must be at least three months old.  

“It starts with a 45 minute to one hour operation, but the changes you see last a lifetime,” both husband and wife said.  

Aside from MSVGH, Smile Train offers CCC through the Philippine Band of Mercy, Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation of the Philippines, Craniofacial Foundation of the Philippines, San Fernandino Hospital in Pampanga, Mabuhay Deseret Foundation in ARC Hospital in Cebu, and Tebow CURE Hospital in Davao.   

To learn more about Smile Train’s local programs, visit — Brontë H. Lacsamana