CultureSeriesSF Bay AreaSpeak OutViews

Operation Save Ryan

The arrival of  the New Year marks Ryan Manansala’s anniversary of his year-long battle with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML),  a type of blood cancer, and is in dire need of a bone marrow match.

Ryan is the epitome of a kuya, The word ‘kuya’ means older brother.

But even our beloved kuya is not exempt to cancer.He is the oldest of three siblings and is greatly loved by his family.  Ryan is not only a kuya to his siblings but he is also there for others in need.

Prior to his diagnosis, the 27-year-old UC Santa Cruz graduate and a San Jose resident worked as an intervention specialist for Aspiranet, a nonprofit organization.  He has worked with children diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, autism and attention deficit disorder.  Ryan has always been giving back to the community. He has volunteered in the past as a mentor at the Eastfield Ming Quong (EMQ) with school-aged children.

But unfortunately, cancer does not discriminate.  That is something that Ryan and his family learned the hard way last New Year’s Day.

Because of his ethnicity– Ryan’s search for a donor has been extra challenging.

Ryan’s diagnosis hasn’t slowed his efforts in educating the Fil-Am community about the importance of being a registered bone marrow or stem cell donor.

Filipino patients who are diagnosed with a blood cancer have a very slim chance of finding their life-saving donor in the Be The Match Registry. There is simply not enough registered Fil-Am marrow donors.

Why does it matter?

Matching is based on ethnicity, meaning that a Filipino patient has an increased chance of finding a donor from another Filipino.

There are approximately 10 million total registered bone marrow and stem cell donors in the Be The Match Registry and there are approximately 57,000 Filipinos currently registered. Filipinos make up approximately 1 percent of the registry. Filipino patients like Ryan face a tumultuous task in finding their life-saving transplant.

Ryan Manansala is diagnosed with AML and is in dire need of bone marrow match. (Photo Courtesy of Quan D Nguyen)

Ryan Manansala is diagnosed with AML and is in dire need of bone marrow match. (Photo Courtesy of Quan D Nguyen)

The latest census reveals that there are close to 3 million documented Filipino Americans living in the United States.

I believe these obstacles can be countered through education. I stress to the community how important it is to increase the number of Fil-Ams on the registry and to take the first step by registering as a marrow donor.

AADP reaches out to the community in places of worship, Fil-Am student organizations located at various universities and other Fil-Am community events.

Most of us would do anything for our friends and family, Ryan’s friends took the initiative in starting a campaign for their friend.  The campaign is called “Operation Save Ryan.”
The goal of the campaign is to reach out to the Fil-Am community and encourage them to become marrow donors to help Ryan and other patients like him.  They organized, facilitated, and coordinated various bone marrow and stem cell drives throughout the Bay Area.  Hundreds of new donors registered because of their efforts.

His campaign proved that through a combination of passion, manpower, and determination–change can happen.

“The moment hearing that he doesn’t have a match in the database, it was difficult not to give up,” said Duong Minh Ho, one of Ryan’s best friends.

Registering as a potential donor means that you can save a cancer patient’s life. I have found that Filipinos are pretty resistant to registering as marrow donors, some are quick to assume that it is ‘masakit’ or painful.  I’ve also heard others say “no, I need my bone” coupled with a chuckle.

My experience working in the Filipino community has led me to discover that most Fil-Ams are, in fact, very resistant to the idea of registering to become marrow donors. One of the main reasons of this resistance is due to the fear of the procedure.

One way you can donate your bone marrow is when the physician extracts the bone marrow from your hip bone, not your back or spine.  Donors would be sedated and most experts say that the pain should last only a few days to a few weeks.

The other way you can donate is through your blood. You’re blood is taken from one arm and the adult stem cells are filtered out and blood is given back to you to your other arm, minus the adult stem cells. You are given shots of a hormone to increase the number adult stem cells in your blood.

Filipinos are known for big loving families and anyone can be affected by cancer including our kuyas, ates, lolos, and titas. Cancer does not discriminate.  Together as a community let’s take action and register to be marrow donors to help those in need.
“A small act of one person’s kindness can go a long way,” said Donna Megino-Dizon, our Development Assistant and Social Media Manager at AADP.  Donna received a bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia over 20 years ago and is now living cancer free.

(For more information about becoming a bone marrow donor or learn more about Asian American Donor program,  please visit or like them on Facebook at

Previous post

Fil-Am Shelby Miguel Performs at the 23rd SF Tree Lighting Ceremony

Next post

Power ng Pinoy Goes to Hollywood

No Comment