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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36 comments:

Anonymous said...

good writing there.

Patsy said...

Very nice piece. Touching and eye-opening.

Snow said...

Nice article. I will be reposting this to our collective blog. Cheers!

TeD said...

I have to ask for forgiveness in advance, dear.
I will share this to everyone I know.
Thank you so much for your insights.

Mark DeYoung said...

Hello Clarrise, I was raised in Maryland USA, parts of which are like the "bible belt" This is suppose to be the most advance country in the world, yet many people still feel the need to make public policy based on what they believe the bibles says. Good luck in your quest to create a more secular Phillippines.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing a very substantial information. I hope the CBCP will open up their minds and set their foot on reality. Mahirap kasi sa mga Obispo hindi nila nakikita ang mga sitwasyon na ganito. I hope they'll have an educational tour at FAbella or to any govt hospital so they know that RH bill should be approved.

Baguioisms said...

Great piece! Is there some midwife out in the God forsaken corner of the Philippines who could do some human accounting too?

Anonymous said...

Give poor people JOBS. Then they will learn how to CONTROL

Gigi said...

Dear Anonymous, and how do you suppose one should give jobs? Why don't you create a business so you can give them jobs so they can learn how to "control" as you say, whatever that means.

Yzak said...

Dear Anonymous,

I have heard too many retards already in the past months saying "give them jobs instead of condoms." I pray that you aren't one of them. I hope that you have retained what your Economics teacher has taught you in high school, but with your short comment, I have serious doubts.
Creating jobs is much more complex than you think, it is much more complex than just opening your mouth and saying "Give poor people JOBS. Then they will learn how to CONTROL."
If I may advice, pause for a few seconds and let your brain finish processing your thoughts and then you can start speaking / typing on your keyboard.
Cheers! :)

Catholic no more said...

's time for the Philippines to take a stand in overpopulation. Corruption is, for me, NOT the #1 problem in the country. It's the OVERPOPULATION and the Catholic Church rolled into one. Why can't we talk both of them separately? The Philippines is poor NOT because of many Juan Tamads. We are world-class workers. That's the fact. We are poor because of the Catholic Church---which is NOT even credible to talk about family planning! While there are millions of poor people in this country, the Catholic influence is strong because THE CHURCH can easily scare these poor about their doctrine.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the very inspiring article .. i hope mas marami pa ang makakabasa nito at marami ang makakaintindi ng mensahe ..

Anonymous said...

thanks for the insights... maybe we should all be responsible parents...go RH...

Anonymous said...

i see this scenario almost everyday,too! i hope those who are against the RH bill study the repercussions before they say anything about it... did pacquiao know what he was lending his face to? basta makakampi lang siya, tapos pag hindi na popular, babaligtad din agad...gaano ba kabilis siya lumipat sa kampo ni P-noy pagkatapos matalo ni Villar?

Anonymous said...

nice work! im so proud of you dear!

Anonymous said...

More Contraceptives Will Stop Corruption or Increase it?
So to stop kurakot and make electricity affordable to the poor – we give free condoms? Give free hospitalization – and they are still poor are they not? And you paid for it too – spent by your congressmen on what exactly? To alleviate poverty? Whose poverty? – your congressman’s. By You alleviated your congressman’s poverty and worsened yours.

More free lunch… more taxpayer’s money to be distributed from pork barrel of the “honest” congressmen. Dahil kasama libreng condom, libreng hospitalization – naging “honest” na ang congressman at DOH? – yeah right.

Then we have to pay higher VAT, sales taxes, property tax, withholding tax, clearance fees and licenses – which are further corrupted.

Let’s look at – SEC. 7. Access to Family Planning
All accredited health facilities shall provide a full range of modern family planning methods, except in specialty hospitals which may render such services on an optional basis. For poor patients, such services shall be fully covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and/or government financial assistance on a no balance billing.

After the use of any PhilHealth benefit involving childbirth and all other pregnancy-related services, if the beneficiary wishes to space or prevent her next pregnancy, PhilHealth shall pay for the full cost of family planning.

You know what’s gonna happen to this section – all the Philhealth benefits for the poor will be used up by rich relatives and friends of your mayor, congressman, and LGU officials – except the poor. Who are are you fooling?

Take for example Section 8 – Maternal and Newborn Health Care in Crisis Situations

The LGUs and the DOH shall ensure that a Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for reproductive health, including maternal and neonatal health care kits and services as defined by the DOH, will be given proper attention in crisis situations such as disasters and humanitarian crises. MISP shall become part of all responses by national agencies at the onset of crisis and emergencies.

Temporary facilities such as evacuation centers and refugee camps shall be equipped to respond to the special needs in the following situations: normal and complicated deliveries, pregnancy complications, miscarriage and post-abortion complications, spread of HIV/AIDS and STIs, and sexual and gender-based violence.

The public procurement and distribution of the health care kits alone is already a red flag – a supplier with a vested interest in supplying the kits to the DOH and the LGUs is already drooling. When is it gonna end? Will more “free” condoms and “free” hospitalization end corrpution much less mitigate it? Highly doubtful.

Instead of Process A – which involves

1. hand out money to government (taxes)
2. government uses money to buy supplies and services (pre-qualification, canvass, bidding, awarding ,delivery)
3. government claims the supplies and services are “free”

A better alternative, Process B is to:

provide tax exemptions or tax deductions to private hospitals who have these kits.
hospitals who spent money on these kits will deduct their expenses from taxes paid to government

Anonymous said...

Another joke is SEC. 12. Integration of Responsible Parenthood and Family Planning Component in Anti-Poverty Programs

A multi-dimensional approach shall be adopted in the implementation of policies and programs to fight poverty. Towards this end, the DOH shall endeavor to integrate a responsible parenthood and family planning component into all antipoverty and other sustainable human development programs of government, with corresponding fund support. The DOH shall provide such programs technical support, including capacity-building and monitoring.

All the talk boils down to this – give DOH more money so it can reduce poverty? Really? And where’s the money coming from? To reduce poverty, the government will take away our money – and give it to someone else, and leave us poorer.

Anonymous said...

14 SECULAR Guiding Principles on Why RH Bill Should Be Rejected
Section 3 of the RH Bill contained its “Guiding Principles“, these are my rebuttals to each of the principles

1. Freedom of choice is already in the bill of rights.

2. No such thing as reproductive health rights in the constitution’s bill of rights. Rights of individuals – of all ages and genders and freedom of association are already respected in the bill of rights. Although I concede that while Article II Section 15 states that “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them” it does not necessarily follow that the state should engage in massive public spending when there are better superior market-driven options. It also brings the equal protection clause of Section 1 of the Bill of Rights into the picture – why limit the protection to Reproductive Health only when there are other higher causes of morbidity and mortality. ?

3. “Responsible parenting is already provided for in our educational system. Improve the curriculum and increased access to education is a better solution.

4. Safe delivery of children is a function of enforcing standards of safety – not more hospitals and free hospitalization”

5. The poor and marginalized must be empowered and provided with jobs so they can afford reproductive health care services and supplies

6. The state will create a condition favorable to jobs so that people will have less time for procreation, have better education, and can afford contraceptives.

7. This is a big waste of money. All these programs are sources of corruption. Bidding of conduct of seminars, meetings, supplies for conduct of these studies, programs, from start to finish is already front loaded with “SOP”. The fact of the matter is with orwithout state intervention – changes in women’s atittude have led to a reduction in fertility worldwide.

8. The provision of information materials is big business – This is another waste of money. Ad production, printed material production – from pre-bid to awarding to payment – this is already front loaded with SOP. The supplies will be cornered by the congressman – and will be used for patronage politics – without reducing poverty – and fertility rates declining nonetheless.

9. Philippine NGOs are a burden on taxpayers. In contrast Western NGOs are funded by private donors. Private donations is not a known Filipino trait.

10. Treatment of abortion casualties are already being provided for in various hospitals.

11. Gender equality and women empowerment are best felt when women have careers and jobs – and exercise their choices. An RH Bill does not provide for careers and jobs that can empower women.

12. The grossly inadequate allocation of resources is a function of economic policy not reproductive health.

13. Development boils down to this – create producers – not beggars.

14. Economic liberalization addresses the needs of people more comprehensively – to include reproductive health.

Camille said...

You write really well. I just think arguments for the RH Bill should not simply be argumentum ad misericordiam -- based on emotions.

Anonymous said...

No catholic in his/her right mind would condemn you to a fiery depths of hell..you support the RH Bill for the right reason..but what does contraceptives have to do with empowering and educating women? We are all for education of men and women and empowering both men and women. We are all for the welfare of the human kind...

takbeau said...

Wow. This is a very moving article. Thank you for sharing your view and reasons for supporting the RH bill. Scenarios like these need to be painted in our minds, if not to persuade others to adhere to our stand, but, at least, to show the reality behind every pregnancy/birth.

Anonymous said...

As a result of over population, the country can no longer meet the supply. Budget is stretch. Two mothers sharing the same bed in the hospital. This led us to support the RH bill.

PhoebeCaulfield said...

This made me tear up. Kudos!

Clarriscent said...

@Camille:

Hi, thank you for reading. I understand your concern, the last statement of the post is a bit misleading. If you want non ad misericordiam arguments, I have those as well. :)

However, to tell you the truth, I wrote this piece not to convince people to support the RH bill but to explain where my passion for RH came from. I wanted to show the world the unbelievable conditions I have seen with my own eyes that made me believe that this bill is indeed needed by our people. It's up to the readers what they think but let it suffice to say that this is what is happening in our country and that we can do something about it. Cheers.


EVERYONE ELSE:

Thank you for all your kind words. I thank each and everyone who have read this piece regardless of what they thought about it. Hopefully, with God's blessing, we can give women, mothers, what they truly deserve.


Arguments posted by anti-RH bill advocates will be rebutted in upcoming posts.

Cheers and God bless our country.

Anonymous said...

Nagising mo ang damdamin kong natutulog na ang hangarin mo ay tunay na busilak at walang pag-aalinlangan. :) umaasa ako sa mabuting desisyon na magagawa ng pamahalaan at sa tamang pamamalakad. :))

thesweetlife said...

Thank You for sharing this. I am going to repost this and put a link right back to this page. Mabuhay ka!:D

peng said...

good job! Did you also take all those amazing pictures?

Clarriscent said...

@peng:

Thank you. The pictures were taken from Google Images. I hoard pics in my hard drive and sometimes I lose track of where I got them. If someone would like to take credit of the artworks, I would gladly give it to where credit is due. Thanks for reading!

Rence said...

Nice! I'm reblogging this article at http://rencelee.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

nice work! i believe the phils is not overpopulated. it's just that land and wealth are not evenly distributed among filipinos that's why there's overcrowding in hospitals. what most filipinos lack is discipline. rh bill means another allocated budget put to waste if filipinos were not able to grasp the idea for the need to control because obviously the problem with lack of discipline will always set in. therefore, rh bill might not solve anything, might be a breeding ground for corrupt individuals and might even cause a morality setback for the youth esp teenage girls who apparently accounts for the one-third increase in birth rate. anyway, these are just possibilities. :)

Anonymous said...

The intiative must come from home.Its hard to do good with all the peers and temptations coming on our way but if we do have strong family values we will be more defiant in facing them. Some were blessed to have wealth and fortune, some don't have enough but we do all have chances though not to perfectly overcome all endeavors but atleast make a count for a change. We have to be more realistic if we want to combat poverty,mortality, crimes,and so the long list of our problems. I support RH bill not because I don't love GOD nor i don't follow what the bible says but its because that truth slaps our faces and we just turn our backs because of impratical reasons.

albergi said...

good story, heartfelt. i feel with you. i've seen what you've seen, even worse. but it's never enough to pity those poor women and take sides on an issue which obviously you know very little about. you could be used against your own kababayans, just like celebrities-for-RH who are fed half-truths they swallow blindly, and then make fools of themselves before those who know the TRUTH about RH. i wonder how old you are, but you can communicate. and more important, you do have compassion for the poor--it's the perfect combination qualifying you for the position of RH-pawn in this depopulation game. i hope you will also use your head to balance your heart. take care that you do not succumb to flattery--people will make a hero out of you don't let petty victories convince you that you already know all there is to know about the RH controversy. listen to both sides, BE OPEN. READ, STUDY, ANALYZE, with the highest good as your goal. guard against those rich predators who regard the poor as statistics but not human beings. they're after people like you, well-meaning but naive and self-confident. you are just the kind they need to inflict on your own people a fate worse than death.

Clarriscent said...

@ Teresa / albergi:

I would like to thank you for reading my piece and taking time to comment about it. As for your points, here's what I have to say.

First of all, I do NOT pity those "poor women" I mentioned in my article because I do not consider myself as above them. I see them as perfectly capable women who could make their own decisions about their own bodies and lives if only given a CHANCE. I believe in the power of information and the decision making capabilities of our countrymen and I am confident that they are capable to decide what is right for their families, as influenced also by their OWN personal spiritual beliefs and value system.

You might think of me as naive, but I have listened to both sides, but unfortunately (to the anti-RH camp), all I've been hearing and reading are half-truths, exaggerated interpretations and twisted facts wrapped in the sanctimonious dome of the speaker's perceived "morality".

We all have our own beliefs and I acknowledge that. I am open to the points of both parties but until I hear proper reasoning without the cloud of self righteous interpretations of morals and selective facts designed to scare away those who are uninformed, my vote is still clear. :)

JB said...

beautifully written, very moving piece. how anyone can not support the rh bill is beyond me. it makes absolutely no sense.

Eljen Palomar said...

Great piece..!very informative"


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Anonymous said...

you have been through such a terrifying yet an eye-opening experience. i commend you for being courageous. thank you for sharing the reality you saw that is likely a hidden scene from our society.

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