The importance of being earnest (and dressing the part)

WAITING for their turn at the PCSO's Quezon City office

HOPEFUL beneficiaries wait for their turn at PCSO’s Quezon City office

AS far as I can remember, I’ve always been mindful of dress codes. In my mind, the times when I either overdressed or underdressed were few and far between.

Of course, it has a lot to do with my job as a lifestyle journalist and a supposed purveyor of trends.  Natch!  But you don’t have to be into trends as an excuse to dress up properly. Common sense dictates that you honor your host and be mindful of the occasion by dressing the part.

In my case, it’s also a bonus because I’ve always enjoyed dressing up and looking trendy ever since I was little. Being considered trendy, of course, is highly debatable. But if you can’t be fashionable, the least you can do is to arrive neatly and properly dressed.

AT least, PCSO, like all government offices these days involved in direct public service, doesn't have a lunch break.

AT least, PCSO, like all government offices these days involved in direct public service, doesn’t have a lunch break.

What was I thinking?

Having said that, I have to admit that I’ve had my share of what-was-he-thinking moments. In fact, I probably have more than I care to admit.

The latest happened in broad daylight at, of all places, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) in Quezon City. No, there was no formal luncheon or afternoon high tea with the PCSO chairman.

It happened while I was queuing up with the rest of humanity as we waited for our respective turns to be interviewed by PCSO’s pool of social workers.

We weren’t literally lining up under the sun, though. We were all comfortably seated in a huge open space waiting for our assigned numbers to flash on the screen. Once it did, that was our cue to proceed to our assigned social worker for a face-to-face interview.

BUT the sheer volume of people seeking assistance is simply too much for even the most efficient office to handle.

BUT the sheer volume of people seeking assistance is simply too much for even the most efficient office to handle.

As an aside, I mentioned to you briefly in an earlier post that my mother has breast cancer. I only learned recently that breast cancer comes in different forms. It just so happened that the type my mother has (HER-2 positive) is one of the most aggressive and most expensive types of breast cancers to cure.

Miracle drug

Since her body is producing a certain protein called HER, which causes cells to reproduce wildly, she would be in need of 18 cycles of a supposed miracle drug called Herceptin on top of the usual four cycles of chemotherapy.

Forget estrogen therapy because both her estrogen and progesterone receptors are negative. In short, “popular” and more “affordable” after-chemo drugs for breast cancer patients like Tamoxifen would have no effect on her because she doesn’t produce the said hormones.

ONCE your assigned number flashes on screen, that's your cue to talk to an assigned social worker.

ONCE your assigned number flashes on screen, that’s your cue to talk to an assigned social worker.

The problem with so-called miracles, especially those made by humans, is its price. A single vial of Herceptin hovers at P41,000. If a cycle consists of at least three vials of Herceptin, and my mother is up for 18 cycles over a period of two years, our finances would surely be wiped out even before we’re halfway through with the program. Even the fairly rich, except perhaps some of our esteemed senators and government officials, would have reason to pause and think.

We clearly needed another miracle—one that springs forth not from the human mind, but from the human heart. In other words, we need financial assistance and discounts from PCSO as well as Roche, makers of Herceptin, through its Roche Access Patient program.

Big words

To cut a long story short, that’s how I found myself lining up at PCSO one rainy August morning armed with good intentions and all sorts of supporting documents such as my mom’s histopath and her oncologist’s treatment protocol and medical abstract.

WITH the gap in each number ranging from four to seven minutes, I still have a long way to go.

WITH the gap in each number ranging from four to seven minutes, I still have a long way to go.

Despite the imaginary begging bowl I was supposed to be carrying, I seemed to have also mindlessly carried my middle-class sensibilities with me that day to PCSO. For one, I was probably one of the few people who drove to the venue.

But I wasn’t the only one, mind you. During the days I was there, PCSO’s parking space was always full. This underscores the fact that despite having their own vehicles, there are countless people out there like us who are still in need of financial assistance from PCSO due to a dreaded disease in the family.

My biggest mistake could be seen in one major detail on my person. No, I wasn’t wearing some flashy and trendy designer outfit. In fact, I was wearing a pair of sneakers, old jeans and a nondescript electric blue polo shirt that looked a lot like the uniforms of PCSO’s male employees.

Out of habit and convenience, I was also carrying with me an old Louis Vuitton Beaubourg tote stuffed with all the documents I needed to press my case.

Although the bag is designer stuff, it isn’t scandalously expensive. Perhaps, the Bag Hag and my good friend Chuvaness wouldn’t even give it a second look. Besides, I bought it a long time ago when my life seemed so carefree and gay.

BEFORE, with my old LV bag and lunch consisting of a packet of SkyFlakes, and after, with an environment-friendly paper bag from Bench

BEFORE, with my old LV bag and lunch consisting of a packet of SkyFlakes, and after, with an environment-friendly paper bag from Bench

Big deal

But try telling all that to the social worker whom I was about to face. Good, if she didn’t care or notice. But what if she did, and makes a big deal out of it.

After waiting for almost three hours, it only dawned on me minutes before my turn that my bag’s iconic LV monogram could hurt my chances of getting much-needed financial assistance from PCSO. Some minor makeover was clearly in order.

With only a handful of people ahead of me before my turn, I hurriedly went to my car and ditched my LV tote in favor of—tadah!—a Bench-issued paper bag. Armed with hope and a prayer, I soon went inside the main building to see one of PCSO’s social workers with my new makeshift and environment-friendly sack filled with all sorts of papers.

It probably worked, as I eventually got what I was after a week or so later. Sociologists call it adapting to the milieu. I call it simply dressing the part. 🙂

I HAVE no idea PCSO employees in Quezon City also wear electric blue tops.

I HAVE no idea PCSO employees in Quezon City also wear electric blue tops.








51 thoughts on “The importance of being earnest (and dressing the part)

  1. Can you tell me the requirements needed for the assistance program? I’m 27 years old and was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Like your mom, mine went positive on HER-2 and would need herceptin after my chemo and radiation therapy.

    • Hi Joanne. You can try contacting nurse Juvy Deuda of Roche (or any of her nurse colleagues there). She will give you instructions on how to avail of Roche’s discount on Herceptin. Call her at 0917-535 9502. She might also know the requirements needed so you could get assistance from PCSO. Good luck.

  2. Hi. My mom has the same condition as your mom’s. Is there any way you can update your blog? Like what happened after? Did you get financial assistance from the PCSO? How long did it take? Are there other people who can also assist aside from Ms Juvy? I’m only asking just in case she’s unreachable.

    • Grey, the number in my previous response to another reader is for the so-called Roche Access Program. I think Juvy is no longer there. Whoever is on the other end is usually a nurse. You can inquire from her. Roche usually gives discounts based on the family’s financial capabilities. The poorer the family is, the bigger the discount. Once you apply, they will ask you to submit pertinent papers to an office in Makati. That office, in turn, would interview you or any of your mom’s representatives and send a background investigator to your home to see if you are really in need of assistance.

      As for PCSO, they give assistance based on what your mother’s oncologist would demand. Actually, they have different forms of assistance–from settling hospitalization bills, to paying for operations, to buying medicines like chemo therapy drugs and Herceptin. You would still have to shell out money because PCSO can’t pay for everything.

      In my case, I sought their assistance after my mother already had a mastectomy (we paid for it) and was diagnosed as HER 2 positive. If you are in this stage already, you would need to present the following to the PCSO Executive Office on Shaw Blvd (Sun Plaza Building) near Edsa.

      1. Letter stating briefly your request for assistance and your mom’s case.
      2. Tests that tell what kind of cancer she has and the stage.
      3. Treatment protocol from her oncologist
      4. Medical abstract form her oncologist
      5. Prescription — drugs you’re asking assistance for–also from her oncologist.

      Submit these requirements Mon to Friday during business hours. The person receiving it, Miguel Villarica, will tell you to wait for a text from PCSO for your interview schedule at its QC Office. The lines are long and you would have to be patient.

      Once you are interviewed by a social worker and everything is in order, you will be asked to come back again during a certain time and date to get your guarantee letter. Depending on the amount stated on the guarantee letter, that is the instrument that you would be using to get your mom’s medicine from PCSO’s accredited suppliers.

      In my mom’s case, we got her Herceptin from Globo Asiatico also in QC.

      You would have to go through the same process again should you be needing additional chemo drugs and Herceptin, say, in one of two months’ time.

      I hope that helps. Good luck.

    • Hi Grey. I am currently on Roche assistance program. Here’s the number of my RPAP nurse, Grethel, 0917-535 9571. I think you would need to get an RPAP form first from your mom’s oncologist so you would know how to proceed. As for the PCSO financial assistance, for my first cycle my onco indicated that I needed 5 bottles of herceptin and we were only able to purchase 2 from the guarantee letter. I still havent started my first cycle yet as we are also looking for other institutions that could help. Hope you can comment here as well if you found one. Thanks

      • Hi betterboobies! Mine I needed 6 bottles of herceptin for my first cycle. I havent started cos Im still on chemo. Any update on your RPAP? I applied last December 2014 and submitted the FORM 1 to their office and now im still waiting for their call..How long is the processing before you can avail the program? For other institutions, please try the office of the vice president binay and ur congressman,,hope this help you. Thanks!

  3. Good day, I’m dulce, 23 years old and I was diagnosed with breast cancer stage 2a. ask ko lang po kung gamot na po or money yung ibibigay ng pcso? Saka gano katagal? Docetaxel and cyclophosphamide kasi gamot ko. Thank you po.

    • Dulce, they give you a series of guarantee letters and not money. The guarantee letters have corresponding peso amounts that would allow you to purchase medicine from PCSO’s accredited suppliers. They would give you as long as your doctor says you need the meds. But they dont give guarantee letters in one blow. It is important for you to present a prescription, medical abstract and treatment protocol from your onco everytime you make a request from PCSO. Good luck!

  4. Hi Alexyvergara! Re, PCSO, Just want to know how long is the waiting period from the time you applied to interview to getting the guarantee letter. Then on your next med request, same waiting period? Im 38 y/o, diagnosed with breast cancer stage 2a. My her2-neu is positive and it means I’ll be taking herceptin for 18 cycles. Is your mom on RPAP program? I already send my FORM 1 sa roche as per their instruction via email. Mag 1 month na from the time na pinadala ko sa kanila yung form yet still no call. How long ba ang processing before they call you? Thanks in advance.

    • it depends on the availability of their funds and the number of people seeking their assistance, I guess. There were times that I got a guarantee letter a week after I submitted all the requirements. But there were also times when it took them three weeks to respond. Yes, you have to go through the same process all over again to ask for additional financial assistance. Since it takes 18 cycles to Herceptin to address the cancer, you or your immediate family member would have to go to PCSO office in QC several times. It’s been a big help for us, but we also have to shell out money because the assistance is not enough. That’s when RPAP or RAP comes in handy. During times when the assistance is delayed and we need Herceptin already, we buy from Roche through their Roche Access Program. Try calling them again. It doesn’t hurt to be persistence. Good luck.

  5. Hi alexy, your blog is so helpful talaga,at least we have the idea how to apply at pcso reg Herceptin since its too expensive..i got lucky to see this..

  6. Hi alexy, your blog is very helpful, aside from Roche, are there any companies who make herceptin? And with Roche assistance program, how much is the discount for herceptin…thanks


    • Hi! As far as I know, only Roche manufactures Herceptin. Since the company discovered it, it still owns the patent to Herceptin. RAP assistance would depend based on the investigator’s assessment. Once you apply and you are deemed eligible, an independent agency paid by Roche would do a background check on you by sending one of its agents to your house.

      • Hi alexy..thank you talaga sa yo bec of this, ask ko lng hanggang kelan ba yung support ng pcso ng herceptin since it is to be for 18 cycles?

      • Yes, Yoyee, PCSO will see your treatment through as long as you support it with updated doctor’s certificate attesting that patient is doing well or at least stable. PCSO would also demand from you a progress report–how many infusions to go, etc. you just have to be patient. Good luck!

  7. Thanks alexy…baka kasi hanggang 6 sessions din ang support ng pcso sa herceptin ang mahal kasi..this apr 23 mag 4th cycle na ako ng chemo then ma start na din ako ng herceptin, sa case ng mother mo hanggang anong cycle ang support ng pcso sa herceptin?
    Thanks alexy so much!!

  8. Thanks alexy and betterboobies for the info. Badly needed the chemo with herceptin but very costly we cannot afford. Already applied to pcso but interview is on june 30. Ill hope to get chemo soon.

  9. Hi alexyV… I’m from iloilo,i need 2vials herceptin/cycle…. i applied from pcso 3times already and in every application ko 1vial of HErceptin lng ang bigay nila(gamot na ibinibigay)..then on my fourth applic sabi nila hindi na dw pwede??? Oh no..alexy i hope you get to read this or anybody here, please..can anybody comment on this kung ganito ba talaga mag grant ang pcso or baka dito lng sa amin sa iloilo? Thanks in advance.

    • Sorry for the late reply. I don’t know what their rules are in Iloilo. I’m from Manila so the rules on giving assistance must be slightly different. As long as may treatment protocol ka, Herceptin prescription and medical abstract from your oncologist, PCSO should give you assistance. Pero, the assistance does not cover every infusion. May time na maglalabas ka din ng pera because, in my mother’s case, hindi naman buwan-buwan nakakakuha kami ng tulong. It depends on the scheduling, which we don’t have any control over. You can also try asking around if they have a Roche office in Iloilo. Roche, makers of Herceptin, also gives discount through their Roche Access Program. Alamin mo na lang kung ano ang requirement nila and give it to them.

  10. Hi po.. share ko lang sainyo..yung mother ko na diagnose din ng breast cancer and her 2 positive din siya.. sa ngaun nakakita kmi ng isang company na sasagutin lahat ng gastus nmen. Sa ngaun nghahanap pa sila ng mga patient na positive sa her 2..

      • Hi alexy..thanks for the reply..

        Im already enrolled sa RPAP ng roche, pero try pa din namin sa pcso in mla baka may maitulong din cla..i just read also yung msge ni angel29 baka eligible din ako, thankks alexy, you started this blog and it really is helpful to us joining this conversation/forum…

      • HI angel29. na diagnosed ako ng breast cance with ER,PR at Her2 positive. pwede kaya magpatulong din sa company na tumutong sa mother mo thanks.

    • Hello angel… in desperate need talaga of herceptin,im going to start my first infusion today may 20, pwed ba makahingi rin ng tulong to the company you mentioned?please..baka eligible din would be a great help for me..thank you so much.

  11. Hi alexy. Pd po mlaman kung anong scheme ang bngy ng roche sa inyo? Kc sa pgkakaintindi ko po 2 schemes lng cla meron kaso nung tumwag smin sbi 20% lng mkkuha nming discount…nkkpg taka po kc they say mamili ka between 2 schemes then nun tumawag 20% lng…hope you can share yours..salamat

    • Hello! I’m not aware of how Roche works because I do not work there. Ano daw ba yung isang scheme apart from the 20 percent? You didn’t mention in your letter. Kadalasan, they give discounts based on the assessment of their background investigator. A background investigator went to us to check on how “poor” we are. This background check would be the basis for their discount. How they come up with it, I don’t know. All we can get is a discount because after all, Roche is still a business. I wish you the best.

    • Last year they had 3 schemes: (1) her-hope which requires you to purchase meds for the first 12 cycles and the rest are free; (2) rap 20-40% discount on every purchase; (3) her-strength where there will be 9 paid and 9 free cycles. If you were given scheme 2 then that is the recommended scheme by the financial evaluator.

  12. Hello, may I ask the location of Pcso office in QC? Is it at the lung center?Also for Roche, do I seek assistance at their makati office? Appreciate any response. God bless.

    • Yes, it’s PCSO is at the Lung Center. Roche offic is at the Fort in Taguig. Please try to google exact location, but if you are familiar with the old Embassy, the Roche building is very near it.

  13. Hi, Alexy. Thank you for your very helpful blog! I just want to ask kasi yung kilala ko who sought help from PCSO dito sa QC, sabi niya three times lang daw sila magbibigay ng herceptin, e in your case you were able to apply until your Mom’s treatment ended. Nagbago kaya rules nila? Kailangan namin talaga ng herceptin na gamot for my mother.

    • Sorry, I’m not from PCSO. I’m not aware of their policies. In my case, I just come back at the appointed time. There were times when we had to shell out money from our own pocket because PCSO assistance didn’t come on time. Since we had a schedule of infusion to follow, we had no choice but spend on discounted Herceptin courtesy of Roche Access Program. Otherwise, we sought help from PCSO.

  14. Share ko lang yung sa amin… Yung wife ko kc HER2 positive din.. kakatapos lang nia ng chemo nias last week.. at nsa 4 session nkami ng herceptin by nxt week.. Bali nkakuha nkami ng 2 GL sa PCSO equivalent to 2 session of herceptin.. Yung doctor nmin me inofer na generic herceptin cost 40k bka try namin yun… anyway yung sa roche pla namin na apruv so kung bibili kami sa roche cost 49200..

  15. Hi! Thank you for staring this blog…
    Im in the same situation: her2 positive, and will be on herceptin 18 cycles. Roche gave us a 20% discount on the meds… and nangangailangan pa din po talaga ng additional assistance… nasabi po kasi na hindi pwede yung GL ng PCSO to purchase sa roche, paano po ginawa ninyo? San po pwede makapurchase ng meds using the GL? And may nagsabi po na after 2mos ang next na apply sa pcso, meron naman nagsabi na in 2 or 3 weeks pwede na? By experience po, kelan po ulit pwede makapagapply after may maapprove na herceptin from pcso. Thank you po

    • MJ, you can use PCSO-issued GL at any of Herceptin-accredited distributors like Globo drugs in Teachers Village, Quezon City. However, you can not use the Roche discount to buy Herceptin when you use the GL. In short, you pay full price, no discount, when using GL. The 20 percent discount you got from Roche only applies when you buy Herceptin also at Globo using cash. That was my experience was. Good luck!

  16. Hi! Big thanks for starting this blog. im also scheduled for herceptin 18 cycles and cost din ang worry ko. I was approved for a 20% discount by roche. And will soon request assistance from pcso… ask ko lang po sa mga na-grant na ng pcso, tuwing kelan po ba pwede magrequest for assistance, may nagsabi po kasi na after 2 months tapos meron po na after 2 or 3 weeks daw nagrerequest na? And kung pagnagrequest po kayo for chemo meds tapos example na grant 2 vials lang kahit sa prescription e 8 vials, pwede pa po ba mag-apply ulit para dun sa remaining or kahit madagdagan lang ng kaunti pa? Thank you po.

    • It would depend on your social worker. They don’t give cash but guarantee letter or GL, which you can use to buy Herceptjn. The frequency of help from PCSO depends totally on them. But they will help until you are done. But the help does not cover everything. You would still have to shell out money. Pero, malaking tulong. Good luck!

      • if your schedule herceptin is every three weeks, you can submit your documents to pcso before your schedule just attach a certification from your oncologist that you need it every 3wks.

  17. Thank you sir. This was my first post in the comment section… nadoble po tuloy. Request ko lang po na padelete na lang po yung MJ… ill go by kitleon. Thank you po. Thanks po ulit pagreply. (Ito din po wag na lang po ipost. Thank you pasensiya na po)

  18. hi sir, im liezl from laguna. o would like to ask if yung Roche assistance program is fo breast cancer patients only? my mom is diagnosed with ovarian cancer and we need P260,000 per session for 6sessions.. how can we request for discount from roche? we already tried sa PCSO pero kulang pa din po.. hoping for your response po. thanks so much.

    • I’m sorry. I’m not aware if Roche manufactures anti-cancer drugs for women afflicted with ovarian cancer. You can try asking them directly. My experience was limited to my mother’s breast cancer. Roche is the only manufacturer of Herceptin. Try calling the Roche assistance line at 0917 535 9571 to find out. Good luck.

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