Tessie and Philip Acuna, Filipino Blood Donors of Milan

A purpose driven life by a selfless couple who devote their time in saving other people through blood nation

Text by Mye Mulingtapang

Photo by Juan Padilla


Despite the remarkable advances in medicine in the treatment and chronicization of cancer, the word "cancer" is still unspeakable for many. Not everyone is immune from contradictions. Philip is a man with a strong desire to live, a man who believes he has already given his all in life and has endured the most pain imaginable. In 2011, his life turned from a dream to a nightmare when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.


Philip Acuña felt naked, helpless in the face of frailty and mortality, which eventually manifested as power, not words but truth inscribed in the flesh. The disease marked a violent watershed between what was a diagnosis and what comes after. When death knocked on his door he lost the feeling of immortality. His body betrayed him. Surprised and incredulous, he looked for shreds of meaning. After moments of escape and denial and others of fear he chose to accompany and observe his condition. He believes that his Illness cannot take the helm of his life.


“I have accepted the painful truth that there is no cure for this illness and only medicines and numerous rounds of intensive chemotherapy could lengthen my life. This life continues to be in our hands, and an illness must not become our identity, but only be an aspect, a part of it,” said Philip.


Philip was on the verge of death, but when he required an immediate blood transfusion, blood donors saved his life. Not everyone witnesses a miracle. It is not true that there is only one life. For those affected by a tumor, lives become at least two: the one before the cancer and the one after it. After waking up from a coma, Philip promised to devote his second life to helping others and return the favor by assisting those in need.


Together with his wife Tessie, they formed a group of blood donors who will share the same act of solidarity and altruism. They actively encourage Filipinos as well as other nationalities to donate blood through the Filipino Blood Donors of Milan, a non-profit organization they founded. The group can be clearly defined as a community of "people helping people" through blood donation. Since the couple has already recruited thousands of blood donors. Hospitals and institutions praised the big contribution of Filipino blood donors, especially the Acuña couple’s selfless advocacy and seemingly endless energy to supporting blood donation.


Philip formed a group of blood donors, led by his wife Tessie, who will share the same act of solidarity and altruism. They actively encourage Filipinos and people of other nationalities to donate blood through their non-profit organization, Filipino Blood Donors of Milan. Through blood donation, the group can clearly be defined as a community of "people helping people." Since the couple has already enlisted the help of thousands of blood donors. Hospitals and institutions praised Filipino blood donors, particularly the Acuña couple's selfless advocacy and seemingly limitless energy in support of blood donation.


“Every day is a blessing for Philip and I. We continue to fight against his cancer with overflowing hope. Hope brings life,” said Tessie.


Tessie and Philip, an enthusiastic couple with golden hearts, firsthand experienced what it is like to receive the great gift of blood donors. What began as a vow has now evolved into an advocacy and a mission to save lives through blood donation, which they share with fellow Filipinos in Italy.


The number of blood donors has decreased significantly since the coronavirus outbreak began, and blood banks are facing an unprecedented shortage. Philip and Tessie made it a point to help in any way they could, even if it meant putting their own lives in danger.


Tessie volunteers every day to help new donors with everything from filling out forms to explaining the procedure to the actual blood extraction. Tessie makes the rounds to ensure that all donors are properly attended to. She also collaborates closely with nurses and doctors to organize blood donation drives.


Catapulted into a new life path, an unprecedented scenario that opened up in front of Tessie and Philip with a reversal of their perspective from diagnosis, to darkness and rebirth. A great love has remained, which is even stronger after what happened to Tessie and Philip. What keeps them going are the beautiful moments of their family and Philip's smile, who despite having lost a lot always remains strong and fights with Tessie against his illness. The cancer may have managed to complicate their life, but it will never be able to extinguish the very strong bond they have as a couple. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death they do part.