Month: April 2011

Senate's Launch of our Film Showing on the State of Maternal and Child Health

8 March 2011

Senate of the Philippines

Film Showing on the State of Maternal and Child Health

Last March, in  celebration  of Women’s month, my office and the Senate, in cooperation with Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity of UP Manila College of Medicine, hosted a  film showing on women’s lives.


The films which include a documentary and short films are part of the recently concluded 2nd Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival for Health (QEFF2). This film festival is a nationwide film-making competition by the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity. This combines the visual power of cinema with the passion of the health advocates.

The first film “Sa direksyon ni Makoy: Da Final Cut”, Jury’s Pick for Best Short Film, tells the story of the six final days of a young boy who lives a lonely life because he has HIV. He knows he is going to die just like his mom who also had HIV.

Z Shorts - Sa Direksiyon ni Makoy (The Final Cut)

The second film “Badong Buntis” is a very short and funny but so real- a man experiences being pregnant and all the difficulties of being a woman.

The third film is “Ang Ina” which is Jury’s Pick for Best Documentary. Ang Ina is a documentary about the economic hardships of raising a family. It gives us the sad statistics about maternal and infant deaths.

Z Documentary - Ang Ina
The fourth film is the QEFF Grand Prize Winner “Limang Libo” about how the paths of a midwife and a scavenger with a pregnant wife are intertwined because of poverty.

Z Shorts - Limang Libo

The last film shown is “Tinalikdan” which follows the plight of two women forced by poverty to make difficult life decisions out of hope and despair.

Z Shorts - Tinalikdan

After the film showing, Dr. Anthony H. Cordero, Director of the Center for Gender and Women Studies- University of the Philippines- Manila, facilitated an open forum.


The film showing was warmly received by a diverse audience including non-governmental organizations, government agencies, students, senate employees and senator’s staff. Senator TG Guingona joined us as well. Also in attendance were members of the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity of UP Manila College of Medicine led by Dr. Danilo DV. Alpapara Jr. Also gracing the event and giving a short introduction on their works were Mr. Donnie Sacueza of  Ang Ina, Ms.Aiza Jane Idanan of Limang Libo and Mr. Edgar Baltazar of Tinalikdan.


For related blog on our series of film showings.

Bike for Hope Palawan

27 to 29 January 2011

Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Bike for Hope Palawan

Every year we do a bike ride in a different province. This year it was Palawan. Governor Baham Mitra is an old friend and I wanted to visit his province and bring our programs and advocacies there.


We had our three day event planned months in advance. The bike ride is just the culminating event. We have seminars on various topics like Anti- Violence Against Women and Children, and Breastfeeding.

But just a few days before we left, we heard the terrible news that Dr. Gerry Ortega, also an old friend, had been brutally murdered. His wife Patty was my teammate in the University of the Philippines (UP) Volleyball Varsity Team. I have known Patty and Gerry for many years.

My first stop was at the church where Gerry’s remains were. Patty arrived shortly after I got there and I sat with her for sometime. Our coach from the UP team, Su Rojas, was also there. Fr. Robert Reyes, also a good friend, arrived and joined us.

After a while, I took my leave. I was back later that evening to speak at the mass for Gerry. Meanwhile, I had to go to the Provincial Capitol for the scheduled briefing about the state of Palawan’s health care and education. I am familiar with the country’s state of health care, but it is always an eye opener to get closer to the grass roots and see the situation on the ground.

The governor’s staff gave a very thorough presentation. The Province of Palawan is composed of many islands. In the case of Palawan, the population is geographically spread out. Compared to other provinces, it is more difficult to reach the far-flung areas. Many areas require hours of travel on rough roads. But still more can be accessed by pump boat. Dr. Gap Legaspi, my friend who is a neurosurgeon and the President of the Association of Filipino Neurosurgeons, joined us the next day. He tells us a story that illustrates the sad state of Philippine health care.  Recently,  a team of doctors operated on conjoined twins from Palawan. The mother was transported by tricycle and for hours was traveling on rough road with her baby’s elbow jutting out of her. It is a miracle that  the mother and babies survived.


As part of our objective to reduce our maternal mortality rate that is very high compared to other countries in our region, the Department of Health (DOH) has come up with a policy to treat every pregnancy as a high risk pregnancy, necessitating pre-natal care by a trained or professional health worker. If such policy could be followed all over the country, that would mean mothers at risk,  like the mother mentioned above would already be in a hospital or nearby health center or rural health unit before her due date so she could be monitored and she and her baby, in this case, babies, assured of a safe delivery.

Anyway, my work on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is another long story. See related blogs.

Of course, the presentation by the provincial government would not be complete without showing us their irresistible video about the natural beauty of Palawan. Although our time there was not enough to do the usual tourist activities, after watching that video, we decided to wake up at 4:30am the next morning so we could hit the road and do the land trip to get to the underground river and get back to Puerto Princesa in time for our other activities.

The Underground River, the  Mangroves and the Ecosystem

We made it out of bed and in the cars in time to get to the shore of Sabang to take a boat out to the underground river. Unfortunately, we got there at a bad time. The water was so choppy and the boatmen did not advice that we take the boats out. So, the only thing I have is the picture of the underground river, which I got from our photographer Rap Rios.

02raps pic of undergrnd river

The alternative was a bangka ride thru the mangroves. That turned out to be a wonderful experience. Our guide was an older woman known as “Lady Mangrove”. She blended with the mangroves so well, I cannot imagine taking a trip there and not having her with us. She so eloquently told us about the need to preserve the mangroves, how the ecosystem worked in harmony with everything around it. She pointed out various wildlife including snakes hanging from the trees right above us and multi-colored crablets scrambling around in the sand.



Back in Palawan, our seminars were ongoing. We got back in time for another eco-tour through the backroads and across the river. Part of our ride, took us to the Crocodile farm where I managed to find a live baby crocodile in my arms.



The next day was our Bike for Hope ride. We rode from Puerto Princesa to Aborlan. The roads were winding, with a mix of flats and rolling hills. When we got to the area where the mountains met the ocean, it was too hard to just bike through. I got off from my bike and went down to the beach area.

bfh palawan


Our ride ended at the residence of Dr. Gerry Ortega’s mother. Gerry’s remains were brought there the night before and I wanted to pay my last respects before leaving Palawan. Patty was there and so was Fr. Robert. He asked me to say a few words about Gerry and offer a prayer for him.


Our last stop before the airport was at the Ramon Mitra Sports Complex where our Pinay in Action/The Younghusbands Football Academy’s Train the Trainers Program was ongoing. This was the first of our year long plan to bring running and football all over the country to train the trainers.



As usual three days is not enough. We plan to be back. But in the meantime there is work to be done. I am committed to building a floating clinic and floating library/classroom to reach the far-flung areas in Palawan. I hope we can see this plan become a reality soon.