Divina and Rene had experienced despair before when their second child Jun Reno was born with a cleft lip and palate but never imagined it could happen again especially when their third child, Divine’s mouth was perfect. When Rina, their fourth child, was also born with a broken mouth they were absolutely devastated. Through their tears they tried to comfort each other and to accept that they now had two children who would live with broken mouths and be stared at, teased, and bullied. Their despair was made worse with the knowledge that they could never afford to pay for surgery on Rene’s meager salary as a construction worker.
Finally when Jun Reno was eight an Operation Smile Team came to Cavite and he received his life changing surgery to repair his lip. When Rina was one year old another Operation Smile Team came to Cavite and full of hope Divina brought her daughter to the mission hospital. Rina was cleared for surgery but on the morning of her surgery she was sick and her surgery cancelled. The family returned home to once again wait for another Operation Smile mission.
When Rina turned 5 years old, she started kindergarten but after only a week the teasing and bullying was so bad that she absolutely refused to go to school. At home her friends are accustomed to the gaping hole in her mouth and do not tease her. The girls love to dance, sing, and play hopscotch.
Finally, in November 2012, at the Operation Smile 30th Anniversary Mission in Cavite the family’s long wait finally came to an end when they saw Rina’s name on the surgical schedule.
As soon as Rina was admitted, everyone fell in love with her. Prior to her surgery she had a happy day playing with the team’s international students and making new friends. In the later afternoon Rina, after giving her mother a big kiss walked confidently into the Operating Room ready for her life to be changed forever.