Friday, May 27, 2011

Debating online about the RH Bill made me realize that there is something quite bothersome on how we look at the people around us and the society we live in. It seems to me that people don’t trust one another these days. Personal relationships with friends or lovers aside, our trust simply dwindles when it comes to our country’s people, youth, leaders and everyone else who are a part of a great nation.

Trust in the Filipino Youth

Having encountered this a million of times, most anti-RH debaters tackle on how Sex Education in the classrooms will make the youth be more inclined to have pre-marital sex, as if they will not be able to restrain themselves from humping in a cheap motel just because they have been educated about various sexually transmitted infections including HIV / AIDS.

I think this belief completely undermines the intelligence, values and character ingrained in our youth, our nation’s future.  To believe they would start having crazy public orgies to their parent’s horror because they have been taught the dire consequences of these kind of behaviour is an absolute insult to every Filipino adolescent.

Saying that Sex Education will promote promiscuity is like saying people will be more reckless driving when educated about proper road rules. Personally, I’d rather have the driver of the Jeepney I’m riding schooled from a respectable institute rather than just their peers who happen to know how to drive.

Do we really hold our sons, daughters, nephews, nieces and students in such low regard to believe that they would forget every moral fiber their parents, school and church have instilled in them?

Trust in the Government

Corruption. The big bad word every political debate revolves around at. Let us not pass the RH Bill because it is prone to corruption. All those contraceptive drugs, maternal care paraphernalia and funding for women’s health must already look like piles of cash to crooked government officials. Think of cartoons with Peso signs for eyes. They could smell instant wealth a mile away like hungry sharks near a bloody shipwreck.

I admit, our country is known to have corruption rampant in our political system, and it is an accusation not without basis. However, do we really abhor and distrust the officers we, ourselves, have put into place that much to not give a chance to a much needed government reform that could save thousands of women’s lives and improve the quality of living of our fellow citizens?

Everything is prone to corruption. Every road paved, every school built, every municipal renovated, every fund given to any project is prone to exploitation from those in charge. If I were to follow the “Let’s not support the RH Bill because it is prone to corruption” principle, then why don’t we boycott the government altogether, not pay taxes and live in another country? Our leaders are dishonest, money laundering politicians anyway, why support them in anything that they do?

Every election season, we go out of our homes, endure the lines and the heat and vote for whomever we think is best for the job. We choose the person who we trust to lead our country to a better future. Where is that trust now?  Where did this commanding negativity come from that we cannot hope for the best even if it is in exchange of the lives of women around the country?

 Trust of the Roman Catholic Church in its Followers

Pills kill. Contraceptives are unborn-baby-killing weaponry of mass destruction and using artificial means of contraception is a SIN to our Lord, Jesus Christ. He will frown upon the Filipino people as his mother, the Virgin Mary silently weeps beside him while being comforted by angels armed with Kleenex. The Almighty Father is not happy either. Didn’t He tell us to “Go forth and multiply”? The billions of people in the country are not enough! We must continue to reproduce relentlessly despite health risks of pregnancy to some mothers and unplanned babies born out of wedlock. Abstinence and NOT contraceptives is the answer to all these immoralities!

This is the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics, with the backing of the RH Bill, will fall into the chains of devious Satan and descend into the sinful void of earthly desires. The only way around this is abstinence. Should the Church’s followers believe and apply these philosophies? By all means, YES, if they want to be faithful to their religion and do what it says. A true Catholic will uphold the doctrines of her church even if the choice to do otherwise is staring at her in the face.

For debate purposes, let us imagine a future where the Reproductive Health bill is a law.

A Catholic mother is at the health center asking the barangay health worker about the various methods of family planning. The BHW discusses to her all the options available, including both the Natural Family Planning method and artificial means of contraception.

The question is this: Is the church confident that she will choose the alternative that is considered as morally acceptable and corresponds to her faith’s creed?  Because it seems to me that the CBCP is not assured, the way they’ve been acting, that their devotees will opt for the choice they have set upon as right and sinless. Because if they truly believe in the faith of their herd, all these debates about morality and sanctity of life (based solely on the Catholic dictionary) are not at all necessary because our country is composed of different religious views and principles, not just the almighty Catholic Church.

In situations like these then, who should be answerable? The (1) government that is trying to meet the needs of its people, (2) followers of a church not in tune with its teachings and philosophies or (3) the church itself for not ingraining a concrete sense of Catholicism to its flock?

Furthermore, does that make it right for the CBCP to force their beliefs unto everyone including those who are not bound by the Catholic dogma?

Trust in the Decision Making Capabilities of the Poor and Marginalized

Contraceptive mentality, increase in extramarital affairs and an absolute dissolution of Filipino family values. These are some of what sceptics fear when choices about reproductive health and, most importantly, access to said choices becomes within reach to our less fortunate countrymen.

Do we really look at the poor this way? Hand them rubber that will prevent unplanned pregnancies and diseases and all of a sudden, they will make love to the neighbour instead? Give them the chance to have fewer children so that they could take more care of the ones they already have or space their children properly and out of the blue, no one will want to have babies anymore therefore setting up a future where our country is overrun by wrinkled people and devoid of the young?

Yes, most of the poor are unlearned but they do have a mind of their own. They can make their own decisions especially if presented first with necessary information needed to make such choices. They are not sheep waiting for a shepherd. They are human beings, analytical and reasonable and thus capable of making decisions for themselves, for their family and for their own bodies.

Let us not underestimate them. Let us not underrate the intellect, character and ideals of our fellow countrymen. Let us trust in one another's capabilities, and most of all let us trust in ourselves.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New York. Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. The Glee kids have battled various adversities such as slushy facials, homophobe jocks and playing for the Football team in Michael Jackson’s Thriller make-up but the moment everybody has been dreaming of has finally come. Nationals.

Unfortunately, all the hype surrounding the much awaited episode has proved to be too much for the writers of the hit TV show. The season 2 finale was a let-down to what we had hoped they would deliver. The first few musical numbers were childish and cheesy, reminiscent of those 90’s Pinoy movies where people would go out of town and burst into ahyper sing-and-dance routine. For a moment there, I thought I was watching Dolphy and his Home Along the Riles clan.

Second, how realistic was it that the New Directions fly to the city of Broadway dreams without a polished routine in their pockets? And not only that, the songs they were supposed to perform were not even written yet. I know it is a TV series and not real life, but a little more logic and a dash of reason would have been helpful.

Sunshine Corazon was back. Superb performance overall but honestly, somebody should fire her stylist. Seriously. I couldn’t concentrate half the time I was watching her belt out those high notesbecause I was genuinely disturbed on how the foundation on her face was darker than the colour of her body. Also, the dress didn’t fit properly and looked like a cheap rental for a Santa Cruzan parade. Did they make her look bad on purpose? Was it too much to ask to have a few strands of hair framing her face?

Plus, Vocal Adrenaline was clearly losing their touch. Comparing their performance with Jesse St. James killing Bohemian Rhapsody back in Season One Regionals with their current Nationals routine, it’s a mystery how they managed to get to the Top 10 in the first place.

New York obviously changes people. Rachel and Kurt have stepped into the Big Apple for less than 24 hours yet they act like Upper East Side’s Blair and Serena already.

Admittedly, the one redeeming part of the episode was the duo singing Wicked’sbreathtaking finale song “For Good” on top of the musical’s Broadway stage itself. It was such a heartfelt rendition baring the utmost passion and talent of the two most ambitious and talented characters on the show, I thought it was quite moving. I saw an interview asking creator Ryan Murphy of what would happen if the show choir members graduate from high school and I think it set the background for a Glee future after McKinley High.

I think the Achilles’ Heel of the series is its lack of compelling romantic pairs. So many shows have flourished just because of the chemistry between its lead characters. Who could forget Joey and Dawson, or Buffy and Angel or even Maulder and Scully? The whole Rachel and Finn love arc failed to elicit some sort of emotion from me. I couldn’t care less if they ended up together or went on separate paths. The on-stage kiss was not the climactic moment the show hoped it would be.

Bad writing, mediocre original songs and loopy predictable plot. This is basically what the Glee finale brought its salivating fans. I hope that in the future, the creators would concentrate more on story and character development rather than the Celebrity Guest of the Month. With just two seasons under its belt, Glee is still a neophyte show and for it to achieve longevity in the industry, it would take more than the Popular Song Cover of the Week to survive.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blood stains. I saw them everyday for months during a certain period in my life. Blood on the floor, on hospitals gowns and on previously pristine white sheets. The room could almost be a set of a horror movie if not for the dozens of crying babies and nursing mothers..

For weeks it was always the same routine. Everyday, I would march the hallway armed with my medical artillery. Thermometer, stethoscope, a sphygmomanometer and a piece of paper. The whole bond paper will be filled with vital sign statistics after my round was done. Temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. One column for the mother, one column for the baby. Multiplied by a hundred.

I would always brace myself upon entering the ward because I know an hour of repetitive vital signs taking will pass before I get to leave and inhale fresh air again. Imagine this: 12 single sized hospital beds, 4 mothers per bed plus baby. Sometimes we get a 2-3 pairs of mother and child per hospital bed on a good day, but 6 pairs on a toxic shift. And yes, you did the math correctly. That's a dozen people sharing one mattress. They would sleep while sitting down. Sometimes, the brazen ones would sleep on the bare floor.

I have to give credit to the hospital for doing the best they can. A few times per day, someone would wipe the floor with a heavily scented disinfectant, gather soiled hospital gowns and change the blood stained bed sheets. But with mothers and babies pouring in like giving birth is the newest craze of the nation and there is a million pesos to be won if a baby came out of your womb, there was still a lot to be done.

The odor of lochia mixed with the sharp sterile smell of industrial antiseptic would always haunt me on my way home. It stuck to my uniform and even my hair. While riding a jeepney, thoughts of these mothers cramped all together in clumps while their babies cried in discomfort occupied my mind. Furthermore, snippets of their stories would replay in my head like some eerie documentary montage about the status of women in some God-forsaken country. But this was not some African jungle miles from where I live, this was home.

I remember once overhearing a conversation, while giving medication, between my patient and her mother. A newborn baby girl was sleeping at their side. The grandmother was scolding her child because she would not stand up for herself when her husband got angry at her for giving birth, for the 3rd time, to yet another girl. He told her that he still wanted to try to have a boy, despite his meager income. I tried butting in to say that the father always determine the sex of the baby and it was not and will never be the mother's fault for giving birth to a beautiful baby girl but they looked so heated I didn't dare trespass. 

Social Services were always in our part of the hospital. It turned out, there were too many mothers who cannot pay the hospital fees to be able to go home with their child, hence, they get left behind to stay in the ward until they have the adequate finances to settle the bills, therefore occupying precious space that was supposed to be for newly arrived patients. Many of these families have more than 3 children to raise and take care of. And I wonder, if they cannot settle a less than 5,000 php hospital fee, how much harder would it be to feed, clothe and educate their existing children?

Thirteen. The age of the youngest post-partum mother I've ever cared for. Giving birth at thirteen was not record breaking by any means, but it was still bewildering for me to think how much different her life would be  compared to other girls her age. I witnessed an instance one time where her baby was crying and she didn't even know how to pick up her own child from the bed. Her 'bedmates', veteran mothers with 3 or more children and counting were trying to teach her how to carry her baby but all she looked was lost and defeated.

I always enjoyed watching mothers fill-out the birth certificate forms in the lying-in area. The choice of a child's name must have been an important decision for the couple that most commonly include both parties' ideas. It will be the name the baby would be forever identified with. However, I was shocked by the percentage of women who would look at their husband's / unwed father's faces in a clueless haze asking him what he wanted to name the baby and even to the point of what spelling should the name be spelled in. It was the image of absolute reliance and incapability to decide that struck me the wrong way.

See, I grew up in an environment where women held all the cards and did all the decision making that has to be done. I couldn't understand how these women could just depend everything on their spouses without having an opinion of their own. More than once, the mothers would always pass the birth certificate form to the father despite our request that they fill it up themselves. I could sense their hesitation and awkwardness in handling something important and it pained me to witness how crippled their sense of self worth were. Empowered, these women were definitely not.

She was 16, pregnant on her second trimester and was having respiratory problems. During my night shift, I went into her room almost every hour because she was having a hard time breathing despite already being administered Oxygen via nasal cannula and positioned in high Fowler's (almost sitting). I took her Vital Signs more frequently and in the process, got to know her, and the father of the child who was watching her, a little better. She was a sweet girl, well-mannered, soft spoken, with lovely eyes. I thought that she shouldn't be undergoing this kind of life-threatening condition at her age, that maybe, a little more guidance and information could have made a long way, but I do commend her strength in such adversities.

Shift ended. I endorsed the situation and went on my way. It was the last day of my stay in the ward and I felt pretty accomplished. I learned a lot and got to meet interesting people along the way. I wished the best to all the patients I've met during my stay and said a little prayer for those who may be needing a tad more help than others. I slept soundly that night. The next day, I learned that Lovely Eyes and her baby died in the delivery room due to respiratory complications.

So call me whatever names you want, threaten me with eternity in the fiery depths of hell.

These are the reasons why I support the RH Bill.


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Fresh from the irritating loss from the Pilipinas Got Talent-ish text poll in ABS-CBN's HARAPAN Reproductive Health Bill debate last May 8, pro-choice advocates show that they are not daunted by a survey which costs 2.50 pesos per text vote.

Celebrities, politicians lead Purple Ribbon campaign for RH Bill 

No less than former President Fidel V. Ramos and world-renowned singer Lea Salonga led on Wednesday the launching of the "Day of the Purple Ribbon for Reproductive Health," a gathering of public figures supporting the controversial measure.
Several politicians, celebrities, members of the academe and popular personalities pledged their support for the passage of the bill, choosing a purple ribbon as a symbol for their advocacy.
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In the same event, Ramos even urged President Benigno Aquino III to prioritize the proposed measure.
"Mr. President, with due respect, for you to do the right thing, you should now certify the RH bill as urgent," he said.
Meanwhile, Salonga said she can be "ambassadress of reproductive health."
"I want people [to be] armed with as much information as possible... to decide for themselves what is best for them as couples. That's what I'm hoping for," she said.
Salonga added that the proposed RH measure is vital for the welfare of women. LBG/RSJ, GMA News 

Just yesterday, an online Purple Ribbon campaign for the RH Bill was launched by netizens to show their support for the (hopefully) future law that has been waiting in the congress for more than a decade now. The new Purple Ribbon logo made by TeamManila has been made available as Twibbons for citizens who may want to proudly voice out their support for women empowerment, education and better quality of life for the poor.

And yes, like the Reproductive Health Bill itself, you are presented with a CHOICE. How great is that? Please feel free to use them on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr etc. and spread the word. 

The war is far from over. While Pro-RH debaters are armed with reason, reality and concern for Filipino women, the other side is loaded with century old scriptures, twisted logic and breast cancer. It is not an easy fight but it is a cause that we are willing to uphold despite the name-calling and the threats of eternity drowning in an ocean of flames.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

5. 11 women die daily in the Philippines due to childbirth. And to think these are due to preventable circumstances that could be aided with adequate skilled professionals and proper instrumentation.

4. Some mothers do not have the education / intelligence nor time to grasp the complexities of Natural Family Planning Method. My class in nursing school had to have hours of lecture, practice and review before we mastered the calculations that is necessary to perform (and teach) the Calendar method and other NFP procedures. And what if, say, the mother has extremely irregular cycles? The "safe" days left would be greatly limited to just a few days. Could the couple have the willpower to abstain, say, 20 days a month if that's what it takes?

3. Teens get their sex education nowadays through the internet by watching porn, reading online materials etc. Yes, you anti-RH supporters may rally all you want against reproductive health lessons in the classroom saying it is inappropriate and takes away children's innocence or whatnot. However, these kids will still find a way to learn about sexuality with just a click of the mouse. Unfortunately, the material in the world wide web is NOT age appropriate nor customized by an expert with a degree in education or other related fields. Most will probably just learn from friends' hearsay or watch pornographic videos and some will try it out just out of curiosity without knowing the responsibilities that comes with it.

2. No matter how hard you scoff at it, teens as early as age 13 and even younger are already having premarital sex regardless of the teachings of the church. If there is a way around this that does not involve reproductive health education and contraceptives, I'd like to find out. Because the church has been teaching abstinence since the beginning of time, and look where it got us.

1. There are thousands of mothers (I've encountered some of them personally) who have no money to pay for government hospital fees (2,000 php and below, seriously) and yet have a newborn in her arms plus 5 more children at home to feed, clothe and provide education. You do the math.

Photo taken from: I Oppose the RH Bill Facebook Page
This is only the peak of a whole Mt. Everest of truths and realities concerned with the heavily debated RH Bill that the opposing side has been seemingly ignoring. Instead, they, for some reason, insist on spreading half truths and skewed reasoning to "defend" morality and babies who don't exist in the first place.

I repeat, this is only some of the many inconvenient truths that I believe the bill could help with. It would be greatly appreciated if you could share your own. And if you happen to be against the Reproductive Health Bill, I would like to find out what you think would be the best way to address these problems.

Valid arguments are most welcome. Personal attacks/insults will only make you look like a fool. Thank you and God bless our country.
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