VALLEHERMOSO, CARMEN, BOHOL — Had she been in the same situation eight years ago, Jesusa Panes would have probably just given birth at home, even without her husband in sight, and even if her neighbor the hilot (traditional birthing attendant) happened to be drunk. But things have not been the same for expectant mothers in this town since 2002, and so when the child in her belly starting demanding to be let out, Panes began trudging toward the birthing center that was several minutes away by foot from her home.
IN 1996, in celebration of its 30th anniversary, the all-female Soroptimist International Manila was in search of a guest speaker who was known for championing women’s causes, had contributed to the women’ s struggle, and had affected the lives of millions of Filipinas in a positive way. It didn’t take its members long to come up with a unanimous choice. The only problem was, they had chosen a he.
THEY COME with or without wings, ultra-thin or maxi, regular, extra long, or g-string. One can also have them unscented, but some brands tout scents like lavender and baby powder. There are sanitary napkins with green tea, while others boast of additives such as aloe vera and vitamin E. Recently, a Chinese company launched a sanitary pad that it says contains anions, which purportedly decrease bacteria and even gradually eliminate dysmenorrhea.
BENJAMIN DE Leon, who once headed the Commission on Population (Popcom) in the 1970s and is now president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, points to the irony of the country’s population policy going haywire during the term of two female presidents: Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
DATU PAGLAS, MAGUINDANAO — Prayers echo from the minaret of a mosque through a vast banana plantation. Owned by a company called La Frutera, the 1,000-hectare land used to be a “killing field.” At the time, men in the area wound up either as members of secessionist groups or in the middle of a “rido” or clan war.
UBAY, BOHOL — Antonia Quirino sits with a dazed look on top of the stairs of her bamboo house amid a large swath of cornfield. She speaks laconically, as if every word is a labor. Filth surrounds her; debris of past meals remain on the dirty kitchen and table, the clotheslines display tiny clothes too grimy and stained to be considered ready for wear. Nearby, a few of her children sleep the day away.
FRAIL BUT feisty still at 95, the diminutive doctora is proof positive of her own prescription for longevity: “Leave the dining table a little less full, a little hungry, and you will live longer.”
The black bouffant wig nods on her tiny, spare frame as she ticks off a simple diet mostly of fish and vegetables with little rice, plus a fondness for cheese. Yet there is more to this admittedly “lazy eater” who eats, she says, “because it’s there.”
Fe del Mundo, doyenne of Filipino doctors, is a woman of many firsts, whose many accomplishments have changed the lives of millions of people.
I HAD no intention of becoming the embodiment of all ills that the Millennium Development Goals stand to eradicate. But that’s pretty much what I was when I found myself jobless, single, and with a 15-month-old baby suffering her second bout of pneumonia in the span of six months and now diagnosed with primary complex.
BREAST OR bottle?
That may seem a no-brainer to many, but it’s a question that’s still throwing mothers, activists, government officials, medical experts, milk manufacturers, and apparently even U.S. diplomats in the throes of deep distress. To think that two decades ago, health officials had considered the matter already settled with the passage of the groundbreaking Milk Code, which aimed to protect breastfeeding and regulate the promotion of breast-milk substitutes. Yet officials say that instead of seeing more mothers breastfeed, the opposite has been happening. And those who still breastfeed are doing so for shorter periods of time.
UP A FLIGHT of stairs, in a room with red, yellow, purple, and green walls, the talk is all about sex, all of the time. This is, after all, the hotline center of the Teen Foundation for Adolescent Development (FAD), an organization dedicated to adolescent health. In this room, among a few potted plants, counselors are always ready to answer calls from youths and discuss with them the consequences of premarital or unprotected sex.