From Guitars to Scalpels: The Journey of Healing in Palawan

Christel Payseng
6 min readJun 7, 2024


In a surprising twist of fate, a rockstar accustomed to electrifying concert crowds traded his microphone for a scalpel, embarking on a mission that changed lives in more ways than one. Michael Gavrizescu, known for his powerful voice as the vocalist of Burning Red, found a new calling that harmonized with his passion for music — volunteering on a medical mission in Palawan. This unique journey from stage to surgery highlights the profound impact of global volunteerism and the enduring human spirit.

Michael Gavrizescu: B.A. Psychology | UCLA PreMed Student | Musician

Michael Gavrizescu is one of those profoundly transformed by the pandemic. As a professional musician, he suddenly realized a newfound calling in the field of medicine. The pandemic opened his eyes, and with the guidance of author-singer and humanitarian Lourdes Duque Baron, along with Dr. Robinson Baron of the Hope for the World Foundation, he was inspired to join the surgical mission in Rio Tuba, Palawan.

Fresh from his trip to Palawan, Michael Gavrizescu met with several members of the Philippine press and social media for an interview at Seda, BGC Taguig.

Despite being severely sleep-deprived from the hectic surgical mission schedule, he was bursting with joy as he recounted his honor at joining and assisting Dr. Robinson V. Baron, an SRC-accredited master of robotic general surgery, both at his West Covina clinic and during international medical missions.

The experience of the surgical mission invigorated the 27-year-old. His eyes gleamed with excitement as he passionately described how the mission solidified his vision of serving in the medical field. He also spoke about how the warm energy of Palawan and the Philippines has profoundly changed him.

He recounted how Dr. Robinson Baron generously shared his expertise, instilling in him the confidence to participate in the surgeries. Michael also applied his skills in psychology, emphasizing that medicine is not just about physical health but also mental well-being.

This marked Michael’s second visit to the Philippines. His initial trip was for a musical event — a concert with Lourdes Duque Baron. Together, they promoted the song “That’s Life,” which drew a jam-packed audience in Bulacan. The success of the event was credited to one of the country’s most dedicated event organizers, Charlie Lozo.

As we conclude the interview with Michael, he reflects on how this surgical mission has set his heart on the right path. His encounters with the people of Palawan, who possess little material wealth yet exude profound happiness, serve as a poignant reminder to cherish the simple joys of life — a lesson often overlooked in the abundance of the U.S.

© RTFNI Hospital Palawan
© RTFNI Hospital Palawan

This week, 350 lives were changed. I thank God for the privilege of assisting with a variety of surgeries — the majority being thyroidectomies, hernioplasties, hydrocelectomies, cholecystectomies, and cystectomies. I also witnessed the remarkable palatoplasty firsthand (cleft palate repair in babies and children); it was one of the most emotional experiences of my life.

In America, it is unheard of to be a hands-on surgical assistant without first finishing medical school. Thanks to Dr. Robinson Baron, Lourdes Duque Baron, and the amazingly patient staff from the US and Manila, I was able to participate in this adventure of a lifetime and learn so much in the process. A big part of my heart was left behind in the Philippines — the locals we helped and the lifelong friendships that began between the Manila and US medical staff. I hope to return to these missions again and again, year after year.

I journaled it all. There is so much, I could write a book about it. Who knows…-Michael Gavrizescu


Since 1990, a medical mission was jointly led by Dr. Archie Lamadrid and US-based Dr. Robinson Baron. The mission visits Rio Tuba and the NAC mining communities in Surigao, and has over the years given critical attention to close to 20,000 indigent people.

According to Dr. Bimbo T. Almonte, serving as the medical director of the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining (RTN) mission, one of the primary challenges faced was encouraging community members to access the free medical-surgical services available.

Hope for the World Foundation & Manila Adventist Hospital surgical mission continues with 10 more days left. On the first leg 350 patients were given surgical care and attention. The next set of patients need to be reached via private speed boat. These areas are so far- flung and many people there have no access to medicines and surgical care. Dr. Robinson Baron and Lourdes Duque Baron are pushing on with the mission for God’s glory — alongside doctors and medical volunteers

Dr. Almonte elaborated, “Residents from remote barangays often hesitate to seek medical assistance due to a variety of concerns, including financial constraints and logistical obstacles. As responsible members of these mining communities, our objective is to completely alleviate any apprehensions the communities may harbor regarding these medical procedures.”

A profoundly committed team of surgeons, nurses, and medical volunteers graciously dedicated their time to journey to the Philippines. With many patients in Palawan lacking access to healthcare, the presence of 76 volunteers, including numerous first-timers, was paramount.

As the mission unfolded, the collective sentiment was one of gratitude, with all glory rightfully attributed to the sponsors who made this invaluable endeavor possible.

To Jesus Christ be all the glory!


Access to medical care in Rio Tuba, Bataraza Palawan is limited. But the spirit of resilience shines bright. Despite the odds, the team faced challenges head-on, driven by a shared commitment to make a difference.

Every detail matters- as the team prepared to embark on a journey of healing and hope- from primary care to life-saving surgeries- every service offered is a beacon for those in need, amidst the challenges, compassionate care, some of the patients had to travel more than 13 hours just to get access to the service. Many cleft palate surgeries were performed.

RTNFI Hospital, in collaboration with Hope for the World Foundation, RTNMC, CBNC, Medical Mission to Heaven, and Manila Adventist Hospital, completed 235 minor cases and 120 major cases which were mostly cleft lip and cleft palette and thyroid cases.

They did patient mapping in Southern Palawan, but this year they have gone as far as the island municipalities of Dumaran and Araceli, in northern Palawan. They made use of the newly renovated emergency room, outpatient, and operating complex.

Learn more about Hope for the World Foundation:



Christel Payseng

Writer, PR Media, Literature Hobbyists, Digital Marketer