Author: Pia

A Mother's Search for her Missing Son

I have come to accept  that I will never see my son again in this lifetime. He died in my arms almost eight years ago. But Edith Burgos does not know the fate of her son. He is missing.

What does a mother do, when her son has gone missing?

If you were Edith, you will rally in front of Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, hear mass followed by a visit to the Senate to push for the passage of “Enforced Disappearance” bill.
Exactly two years ago, Jonas Burgos was abducted in broad daylight inside a mall in Quezon City. One of the evidence of his abduction is the plate number of the vehicle used by the perpetrators. The family of Jonas maintains that the vehicle was traced to the 56th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Division then headed by Maj. General Jovito Palparan. On the principle of command responsibility, Gen. Palparan was expected to take the lead in investigating this case.

But to this day, no one has been held accountable for Jonas’ disappearance. And yet, Gen. Palparan was later promoted and is now a member of Congress in the Lower House representing a party-list group.

Edith pleaded for a writ of amparo. The writ of amparo is an order issued by a court to protect the constitutional rights of a person. It compels the state to act on disappearances, to look for missing persons. It can hold officials liable if the court finds that they did not exert enough effort in finding the person.

In this case, the Court of Appeals partially granted her plea by directing the military and police to provide her with documents. But it denied Edith’s bid to inspect military camps possibly holding her son. It ruled that Edith Burgos failed to show that the military was behind the kidnapping of Jonas. The Court of Appeals did order AFP chief of Staff Lt. Gen Yano to reinvestigate the case with vigor. It also ordered PNP Director Gen Avelino Razon Jr to investigate and file charges. Both Yano and Razon were directed to submit compliance reports within 10 days after the completion of their investigations.

Edith Burgos told me that General Yano and General Razon NEVER SUBMITTED the compliance report required by the Court of Appeals and that the report she got was given to her ten months AFTER the CA order and only because they were about to be cited for contempt. She has elevated this case to the Supreme Court, but there has been no decision yet.

In this case, can we say that the writ upheld the constitutional rights of Jonas? Has the state acted sufficiently on the his disappearance? Were any officals held liable for not exerting enough effort to find him?
The minority floor leader, Aquilino Pimentel delivered a privilege speech on this matter. I stood up to interpellate him.pia
“I am appalled that government officials involved in this incident and similar crimes, can go to sleep at night and then wake up in the morning pretending that this never happened or that it is acceptable that it happens.”

I asked the minority leader, “what exactly do they expect us to think?”
Senator Pimentel replied, “all of the above, but the reason why these kinds of crimes persist, is because the perpetrators are rewarded with higher positions in government. And for those who tell the truth and report a crime like Jun Lozada, they are persecuted.”pia-and-nene
“Ohhh,” I said, “it’s a system of reward and punishment that any child can relate to. So is this the lesson this government is teaching our children? Commit a crime and get a reward? Do a good deed, and get punished?”
In a press statement issued today, Lorena Santos, the Deputy Secretary General of Desaparecidos posed the question, “So, how long do we keep looking for a desaparecido?

To this I add: “How long do you keep loving a child? How long do you keep fighting for justice? I should hope that my children, the grandchildren of Senator Pimentel and Edith Burgos will continue to fight for justice and bring to closure the cases of all desaparecidos.”
On that note, I ended my interpellation with an appeal to our President, our chief executive and the commander in chief of the Armed Forces, to finally do what is right. Reward the just and punish the guilty.

Is that too much to ask?

Edith Burgos and me in the Senate
Edith Burgos and me in the Senate

n.b. Incidentally, the definition of the writ of amparo was a bar question when I took the bar exam. It was unheard of at that time. It has recently been touted as the “magic solution” to missing persons cases. But is it?

Sleepytrigirl is back

I don’t recall suffering from jet lag as much as I am now. Its been more than a week  since I got back from Ethiopia and my body clock is still off. Last Sunday, I ran the Greenfield 10k race on 1 hour sleep.  That night, I slept soundly and after 7 hours of sleep,  was able to train at 7 am. The next day however, I could not get out of bed! I skipped training all together.

But jet lagged or not, I’m suppose to be back in training. It’s triathlon season for me. And I do miss doing triathlons. The last six months I did three marathons – Amsterdam in October, New York in November and just  this March, Tokyo. The week we got back to Manila, my training partner and I  swam and biked and he said “Partner, we’re triathletes again!”

I laughed and said, “yes we are.” Truth is, we never  stopped being  triathletes. Though my last three  major races were all marathons, we actually did our fair share of triathlons in 2008.

Last July,  Joey and I planned a trip to NY  and looked for a race to join in the area. His sister lived in New Jersey. So did my cousins. Best of all, m my brother Lino was living in New York. We ended up doing  the Rhode Island inaugural 70.3.

Joey, me and his bike in times square
Joey, me and his bike in times square

 

 

 

Rhode Island 70.3 ironman
Rhode Island 70.3 ironman

 

 

The next week, I did NY tri with Lino.  A few weeks later, Joey represented HSBC Philippines in the HSBC triathlon in London. Then he did the 03 triathlon in Subic. I did the Olympic distance.

 

NY Tri with Lino
NY Tri with Lino

 

 

Finally, in September, I did the Singapore 70.3 and he did a full ironman distance at my  event “12 hours in Memory of Gabriel.”

 

Singapore 70.3 ironman
Singapore 70.3 ironman

 

 

 

Joey finishing his ironman in the rain
Joey finishing his ironman in the rain

 

Ani de Leon, who completes our trio had her share of triathlons that year too. She did Ironman Langkawi in February where she qualified for a slot in Kona, the world championships. To prepare for Kona  she also did the Singapore 70.3 and the 03 in Subic. Then she was off to Kona to fulfill her dream.

Ani doing her dream race Ironman Kona
Ani doing her dream race Ironman Kona

 

Although I love doing tris, it definitely takes a lot of time  to train for one.  I have to plan my training schedule very carefully.. I need to plot and work  in 3-4 sessions of running, biking and swimming, plus at least 1 yoga and 1 boxing session (boxing is our easy day/cross-training work-out).

 My training partner and I need to juggle work, parenting and other commitments throughout the week.  And in my case, I need to be protective of the amount of back-to-back runs my legs can handle to avoid injuries.. And yes, I need my sleep.

So every week, we start out with a training plan. But every night, my training partner texts me and asks, “What’s ETT?” That’s estimated time of training. You see, even though we already have a plan for each day, he knows that it could change depending on:

       How my body feels/what’s on my mind

       how much sleep I will get

       changes in my schedule

 Although I always try to stick to the training plan, I sometimes alter the distance or intensity of the session, depending on the three factors above.  If I suddenly have an early day, then we will just do a quick run or box for 45 minutes.

What makes our ETT even more difficult to predict these days is the summer heat. I always fantasize about starting at day break..IF I could only get to bed early. But that rarely happens when you have a long day with lots on your mind, kids to take care of and work that you take home. 

So what’s a sleepytrigirl to do? Same thing, I’ve done the past few years. Kiss my kids goodnight and set my alarm; hit the snooze button a few times before I finally roll out of bed in the morning; text or reply to my partner that I’m awake or check that he is and down my oatmeal and vitamins before he walks in the door.

Rain or shine, sleepy or wide awake,  its time to train and be grateful for the gift of fitness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parliamentarians Meeting (Part 2 of my Ethiopia trip)

I never thought I would find myself in Ethiopia. But then again I never imagined I would be a senator. So, here I am a senator representing the Philippines and presiding over the meetings of women parliamentarians of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). I was elected President last year in South Africa and as such, travel quite a bit ensuring that there is a gender perspective in the discussion of all issues, whether it be climate change or the global financial crisis.

informing Asia Pacific, our geopolitical group of the low turn-out of women parliamentarians from our group
informing Asia Pacific, our geopolitical group of the low turn-out of women parliamentarians from our group

The IPU’s philosophy is that true democracy can only be achieved when men and women work as partners in the governance of their countries. Thus, the IPU provides a fora for the discussion and exchange of ideas on a wide range of topics among women parliamentarians. It also initiates meetings and discussion panels that promote the participation of women in the political process.

The Meeting of Women Parliamentarians took place on Sunday, April 5, 2009, the highlights of which were:

The financial crisis and its effect on women:

What was noteworthy was the consensus that women and children are the ones primarily hit by the financial crisis. Food supply is affected, budgets for and access to health care and social services are at risk. Women, being the homemakers are the first to feel and suffer these effects. The women parliamentarians voiced their concern that any discussion and eventual solution to this crisis should include a gender perspective.

poverty

Climate Change, sustainable development models and renewable energies:

The women broke up into two groups to debate this topic from a gender perspective. The first group focused on climate change and the second group on renewable energies. This was a very interesting topic and I found myself rushing from one conference room to another to participate and get as much from both discussions as I could. I will blog about this separately.

Debate on Women in politics. This session began with a report tracking the number of women in parliaments around the world and highlighting progress and setbacks. The floor was then opened for interventions. I shared my ideas on the progress and setbacks in the Philippines which I believe is similar in many countries.

Other topics of interest were:

Countdown 2015: Millennium Development Goals.

One of our panel discussions was on the Countdown 2015. This is a program involving UNICEF, WHO and various partners that monitors the progress of different countries in achieving the millennium development goals. Like the Philippines, Ethiopia is on target to meet goal no. 4 which is the reduction of the child mortality rate. Both the Philippines and Ethiopia are not on target for goal no. 5, which is maternal mortality rate. I have been working on this in the senate and will report on this again soon.

After this session, I joined some of the parliamentarians in visiting a health center as part of the immersion program of the World Health Organization.health-center

Adolescent Girls: The girls left behind?

The panelist presented the sad reality that adolescent girls are vulnerable to gender-based discrimination and gender inequalities. They are exposed to violence in the very places where they are suppose to be protected their homes, communities and schools. They are also at risk to HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases. Adolescent girls, as first time mothers also are high risks for maternal mortality. I participated in this discussion and brought up the plight of our adolescent girls who are victims of abuse in their own homes, particularly where the mothers are away at work or OFWs.

Gender Partnership Group.

The Gender Partnership Group of which I am a member, monitors the number of women in parliaments around the world. They likewise track the attendance of women parliamentarians at the IPU and meet with the representatives of countries that don’t have women parliamentarians with the objective of understanding what the obstacles are and providing assistance to promote women’s involvement in their parliaments.

Meeting with representatives of the US Congress:

I had the pleasure of meeting representatives of the US Congress. Believe it or not, the US has not been a member of the IPU for about a decade. My task was to present to them the work of the women parliamentarians at the IPU. One of the US representatives Nancy Wilson talked about the welfare code she drafted when she was a Senator under Bill Clinton’s administration. She will be sending me more information on this.us-reps

Meeting Lucy, the first homo sapienlucy2

The Ethiopians take pride in being one of the cradles of human life. Thus, their theme: Ethiopia: Where it all began. I made sure that I visited their national museum, which turned out to be the only downtime activity I had. The exhibit of fossils found in excavation sites in Ethiopia and the explanations were very interesting.national-museum2

The full report of my work in the IPU will be on my official website soon.

 

My Life in a Suitcase (Part 1 of my Ethiopia trip)

I hate living out of a suitcase. But I have to. My job requires that I travel quite a bit. Anywhere from a short 24 hour trip somewhere in the Philippines or longer trips anywhere in the world. As of this writing I am in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, where I am currently president of the women parliamentarians.

chair

I always always pack with the intention of traveling light, but it just never happens. There are just too many things I need to bring to keep me within my comfort zone when I am away from home. What I bring depends on where I’m going, what I’m doing there, how long I’ll be gone.

Business Attire

A lot of my trips are work related so need to bring a few business suits, accessories and shoes that go with it. Trying to mix and match is key so I don’t have to bring too much stuff.

w

 

Casual Attire

My attire of choice will always be casual and comfortable. That means, anytime I can get out of a business suit, I will. I always bring a pair of jeans and some casual tops.

Work-out gear.

I will never travel without my running shoes and gear. This changes slightly depending on the weather and whether I will be doing indoor training or outdoor. If it’s a city I am familiar with and I know its safe to run, then I will definitely be running outdoor, even in the cold.

If I have a race coming up and need to do run intervals, then I’ll bring my garmin gps so I can monitor my pace and distance while running outdoor.

Ipod shuffle

I almost always bring a swim suit, goggles and caps. A lot of hotels have pools and swimming is always a relaxing work-out for me.

Food.

I always bring my own snacks. I pack nuts, wheat crackers, pretzels and low fat cheese sticks. If I’m living out of a hotel, I also bring instant oatmeal , cerelac and granola which I mix together. This is the easiest most nutritious breakfast on the go. If my hotel comes with free breakfast, well then, that’s another story.cereal

 

My emergency medicine ( a lot!), vitamins and food supplements, coded by the number of pills I need to take per day “ some are once a day, 2x, 3x and 4x.

Electronics
Gadgets and toys.

My lap top. For all the obvious reasons.

My kindle “ this is my latest treasure. It’s amazon’s e-book. I have some 30 books in my kindle right now. Just knowing I have this wide selection of reading material, keeps me calm.

gadgets

My celphones. “ this is when I bring 2 phones. My regular phone and an extra one to use with a local sim card which is always cheaper.

Portable luggage weighing gadget “ amazing gift I got from my mom. I will never have to stress about my luggage being over weight again!

Brain game “ one of my compact games that challenge my mind and entertain me when I’m bored.

My girlie things

Make-up. If it’s a business trip, I need to bring a wider assortment of make-up. I’ve learned to simplify this and can fit everything into one small make-up kit. Otherwise, I survive with my bronzer and lipstick.

make-up

My skin care products including sun block.

I’ve kinda stopped bringing a dress watch. My sports watch is beige/bronze which will work with most of my outfits. If its really off, I just take it off.

One or two custom jewelry to wear with my business suits.

Mini Office.

I just recently bought this collection of stapler, clips, post its etc.

Papers and reports I need to read and review.

So there. After all these years of traveling, I’m still going over this list, thinking of ways I can travel lighter but still be happy.

 

 

Pinay in Action All Women's Run 2009

aerial-start1

Every year I am asked why do a run to celebrate women’s month? My answer is because running is empowering. We gain strength and confidence in the company of other women.

a sea of pink
a sea of pink
Women in the Navy
Women in the Navy

We feel good when we run. We may be tired, but when we finish our run, we feel accomplished, proud and happy!

Spinning Instructor Emy from Gold's Gym
Spinning Instructor Emy from Gold's Gym

2-girls1

A lot of women are scared to run for the first time or to run a longer distance, but when they do, the feeling is indescribable! And it shows in their smile! I know, because I’ve felt this many times. And last Sunday, women came up to me telling me the same thing.

Whether we are moms, wives, daughters, professionals, employees, students or young girls, we should be proud of who we are.

Nadine and Danee finishing their 5k
Nadine and Danee finishing their 5k
Doray Ellis and her girls Gabby and Kira
Doray Ellis and her girls Gabby and Kira

We should never be scared to pursue our dreams (see my related article Phooey to Limitations, Yes to Possibilities). No one should tell us we are not capable of doing something because we are women. On the contrary, because we are women, we shall excel!

As a mom, I want my girls to have good role models. I want them to be inspired. I want them to meet trailblazing women who beat the odds. At the Pinay in Action Run, I saw lots of these women. And I am so happy my daughters saw and met them too.

At the start with my kids, Danee and other women runners
At the start with my kids, Danee and other women runners
My daughters Max and Nadine both do the Pinay in Action5k every year
My daughters Max and Nadine both do the Pinay in Action5k every year

Did you enjoy your run? Were you inspired by other women runners? I’ve posted the links of some of the blogs about the Pinay in Action run. I enjoyed reading their stories. If you have a story to share, we would love to hear about it .

The Pinay in Action 2009 Race Day by: imom

On Sunday, March 29th, my alarm clock went off at 4:45 AM to wake me up and hub and iPatch and VGood and Nate.

My first race was going to be a family affair!.. (more)

Running with Friends: by Penny

It was a beautiful day for for the Pinay In Action fun run at the SM Mall of Asia grounds. The race for the 10k and 5k participants started at 6:14am (behind schedule for both, by the way). The sun was out but it wasn’t too hot. and there were LOTS of runners. Although it was an “all-women run” there were actually more than a handful of men who ran with us. Also children and pet dogs. ..(more)

1o kilometers: by Regina

I have never seriously run a fun run before. Previously, I and some other troopers only walked in armor, and finished the shortest route, just to raise awareness for the cause..(more)

Pinay in Action with Workmates: by runpinayrun

Finally get to run a race with my co-workers! We always fail meeting up prior to the race so we end up not seeing each other after everyone crosses the finish line..(more)

At the end of the run, we gathered near the stage and awarded the winners (list of winners are on pinayinaction.com. Participants and spectators also took time to visit the different booths that were set up for various causes close to women such as the breast cancer detection booth set up by my friend Dr Cecille Montales, cervical cancer by GlaxoSmithKline, violence against women by Women’s Media Circle and various health products for women.

After the awarding, I headed home, went to church and gave thanks for this day.

Tokyo Marathon: "I Promise My Goal"

At the Tokyo Marathon Expo, the theme was “I Promise my Goal.” Not a perfect English translation, but we figured it meant set your goal and accomplish it. That sort of pressured me to do just that. Thing is, I didn’t really want the stress and the pain of attempting to break 4 hours again. The last time I tried five months ago, I missed it by 2 seconds! But even though I had less time to train for this one, the night before the race I decided I would to try again. I would run an under-4 hour pace for the first 21k and then see how it went from there.

At the Expo - visualizing my elusive goal
At the Expo - visualizing my elusive goal

With that decision, I had to stay up an hour later, scribbling my splits per km on my white medical tape which I taped to my wrist. Arggh!

my splits taped to my wrist
my splits taped to my wrist

I was actually out late the night before mingling with the other guests of the Tokyo Metropolitan Govt. Officials from other countries were there and I had a wonderful exchange with the women representatives from Singapore, Thailand and Japan, talking about women issues, like discrimination and empowerment. I was the only guest who was running the race. All the others were just there to observe.

Race Day:

The holding area was filled with runners, not a surprise since there were 35,000 participants. I was hoping that they would release the runners in waves so it would not be as crowded when we started running. But as I had feared, it was still very congested at the start and we were forced to run at a much slower pace for the first two kms until the runners spread out more.

As the run progressed, there didn’t turn out to be much to see. There was just building after building and then more buildings. But what was interesting were the people who ran in costumes. I was passed by a slimmer version of Winnie the Pooh, a clown and lots of runners in funny hats. I also spotted a gay fairy and most memorable of all was a girl who passed me in angel wings. I remember thinking, buti pa siya may pakpak.

To my utter horror my garmin malfunctioned and was showing wild numbers for my pace. Grrr! Oh well, the race went on. After about four hours of running, what will forever be etched in my mind is the finish line. The last three kilometers we ran thru the howling winds and the pouring rain. I had to hold on to my cap and shades because it already got blown off early in the race. It was never sunny enough to put on my shades.

Into the last 3kms, I already knew that we would not break 4 hours. We might have if I had been able to maintain a 5:30min/k pace at 35kph. But at km 39, we had about 14 minutes left and I had slowed down a bit. I told Joey he could do it, but being the gentleman that he is, he said we would finish together.

So we pushed thru the wind, climbing one of the very few bridges, where to our delight the theme song of Rocky was blaring (Joey and I are Rocky fans because we box as part of our cross training). The Japanese spectators enthusiastically cheering us on, sadly in a language that was totally foreign to me.

At the 1km mark, the crowd got thicker, the cheering got louder and the rain poured harder. I loved it!

By then I started looking out towards the bleachers, because my kids and Che were suppose to be there. When we turned the last bend, I finally saw the finish line! I felt like I was running in slow motion because I can remember carefully scanning the faces in the crowd trying to find my children.

I was suddenly knocked out of my slow-mo mode when this female runner in blue tried to run pass me just a hundred meters to the finish. I outsprinted her and Joey and I crossed the finish line in 4:04 but still no children in sight.

Then right after I crossed, to my right I saw them, my two girls smiling, clapping standing in the rain in raincoats! I had requested that our host the Tokyo Metropolitan Government arrange to have my kids at the finish line, but I expected them somewhere up in the bleachers. I was blown away. I was so so happy to see them. This was my birthday gift good health and my family.

my girls in raincoats at the finish
Joey Torres, me and my girls in raincoats at the finish

My kids were with Che (who did her first 10k, woohoo!) Usec Cesar Lacuna of MMDA who gave me beautiful pink flowers!!!!…and the people from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in their suits (reminding me of Men in Black) .. all of them standing in the rain in raincoats cheering for us.

Finish line with my kids and the rest
Finish line with my kids and our super supporters

After I hugged them, we lined up to get our goodies and then Joey and I did what we always do after a race. We ran again. Just 1km.. to celebrate life.

Oh and what does “I promise my goal” mean? Well, the Japanese refer to the finish line as the “goal.” So, I promise my goal, means to finish.. I guess we can say that we accomplished that. Meanwhile, I still have my under 4 hour marathon to work on. Maybe next birthday run.

My strawberry cream surprise birthday cake!
My strawberry cream surprise birthday cake awaiting me at the hotel!

n.b. I will write another article about the race course, race conditions and other details runners may want to know.

Women Who Run

Lately, I am often asked are you running? I need to clarify that question before I can answer it. So, I ask, do you mean, what race am I joining soon? Or am I running as a candidate at the next election?

Funnily enough, half the time it turns out I am being asked the first question, the other half of the time, the other question.

You see, there are really two kinds of women who run:

– Women who put on running shoes and run recreationally or competitively,

Women Running at the 2008 Pinay in Action event

or

women who run for public office

Women Parliamentarians Unite Against Violence against Women and Children
Women Parliamentarians Unite Against Violence against Women and Children

I am a woman who runs, on both counts.

Sponsoring a bill at the Senaterunning at the NY triathlon

Although these two kinds of running seem like they are worlds apart, in truth they are not. Both entail grit and determination, a commitment, support from family and friends and most apparent of all, both are male dominated.

Women have historically been side-lined when it comes to participation in the political process and in running as a sport.

In politics, women were not allowed to vote in many countries until decades after men were voting. Even then, women were not allowed to run for public office. Today, most countries allow women to run, but statistics show that women politicians are still in the minority.

A survey conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) shows that across the world, women make up about 18% of members of Parliament. In the Philippines, there are 4 female senators out of 23, and about 25% of the members of the lower house are women. But the number of women are even smaller at the local level.

Why is it important that there are more women in politics?

It is important because women bring a different perspective to governance. Women see things differently because of their experiences and background. True democracy and prosperity requires gender equality at all levels and all sectors of society.

Consider the following: Many women are joining the work-force because of economic hardships or the desire to find professional fulfillment. Many women continue to be full-time homemakers or work from their homes. Many ailments and diseases are specific to women or affect women differently. Women deal with consumer issues, the education of their children, housing issues and more.

All these require policies that are specific to women. Why then, are those making decisions mostly men? Shouldn’t women have an equal say on these matters? Who else can better promote policies that affect women then women themselves? But how can they, when they do not occupy political positions?

Again in a survey conducted by the IPU, women stated family responsibilities as the primary obstacle in pursuing a political career. But if you think about it, if men shared more of the family responsibilities, then women could participate more in politics.

As for women who run with their running shoes on, we take this for granted, but the reality is, women were not allowed to join marathons until the 70s. Kathrine Switzer is the first woman to officially run a marathon which she did in the Boston Marathon in 1967 disguised as a man! She was instrumental in getting the Olympics to finally include a marathon for women in 1984 which was won by American Joan Benoit Samuelson.

In most races, I join, I’m guessing from the looks of it, participation of women is about 10%. Just like politics, women are allowed to participate, in fact they are quite welcome, but there are still a lot of obstacles that prevent them from doing so. These include misconceptions on the effect of running on a woman’s body and health (including her ability to conceive), lack of training and insecurity about her ability to engage in physical activities, balancing family, work and running, and the lack of support from her family, particularly her spouse or partner.

When I run in a race, I proudly run on behalf of women. I run to empower women. I run to raise awareness that there is still a lot of discrimination and injustices against women in our country. I run because I know this will be a better place when women’s voices are heard as equally as men. Mostly, I run because I know a little girl is always watching from the sidelines and I hope to empower her, to inspire her to be a woman of substance and perhaps a woman who runs one day.

Are you a woman who runs? Or a woman who wants to or dreams of running? Join me at the Pinay in Action 10k, 5k and 1.6k fun run at the MOA on March 29, 2009 at 6 am. Registration is on-going at Maxiworks in High Street or Rockwell until March 25.

We need more women who run and more men who support women who run.

For more details on both kinds of running, visit my official website www.senatorpiacayetano.com and www.pinayinaction.com.

Women: The Unpaid Worker

All over the world, women perform unpaid work as homemakers and care-givers. Imagine this: Ms. A is a mother and takes care of her three kids and her elderly parents. She cannot work outside the home. Compare this to another woman, Ms. B who works outside her home. Ms. B cares for the children of another family. Ms. B is a paid worker for caring for other children. Her work is recognized. She will obtain benefits like medical insurance and retirement. Unlike Ms. A. who is invisible to the productive world, has no protection, no rights and benefits.

What can we do to uplift the plight of people, mostly women like Ms. A? This was the topic of the Inter Parliamentary Union’s conference, which I chaired at the United Nation’s last week. I summarized some of the key points of the speech I delivered at the session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Chairing the IPU-UN Session on Shared Responsibilities, March 4, 2009

We need to reduce the burden of unpaid work and promote equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women. Historically, women have been the homemakers and care-givers. But today, many women need or want to be part of the work force. This, men need to take on more responsibilities at home.

Many countries have ratified relevant labor conventions. But each country needs to review their national policies and legislation that relates to workers with family responsibilities, that recognize women as part of the labor force, that provide maternity protection, breast feeding support, reasonable hours of work, and so on.

In determining the right policies, we need to emphasis the importance of a gender balanced approach to care-giving (as opposed to focusing on the woman alone) and the need to develop measures to support a more active role of men in care-giving.

There needs to be a change in mind-set. Likewise, action needs to be taken to address gender stereotypes. This begins with education and promoting gender equality and addressing gender stereotypes in school curriculums and grassroots programs.

There also needs to be institutional changes, say in parliaments. We discussed the difficulties faced by women in politics. Parliament was historically a male only profession. Many of its traditions still endure, making it difficult for women to enter or survive (more on this in another blog).

We also noted that during time of economic uncertainty, governments may tend to reduce spending on social services. The consequences of this move would be tremendous. This would put more stress on an already over-burdened health and social services/welfare sector. Without reliable health care and social services, women again will bear the bigger burden “ a burden that will go unrecognized and unprotected.

Back in our respective parliaments, we need to look at the tools at our disposal to bring the value of unpaid care work to the fore. We need to question our national accounts systems, make use of time-use surveys and most importantly, use the national budgetary process to take into account the contribution of unpaid care work and provide support to those who perform it.

As an aside, I note that in the Philippines, there are a lot of families where the man is now the primary home-maker and care-giver. For more reason we need to address gender stereo-types. These stay-at-home dads, need the support and in many cases the training needed to be good home-maker and care-givers.

In conclusion, we need to to reassess how we view women’s unpaid work. We need to put in safeguards and protection for these women (and men). We need to recognize and reward women’s various contributions to the economy and promote a more gender balanced approach to the sharing of responsibilities.

n.b. this is part of a series of articles I am writing in connection with our observation of Womens month and the conferences/meetings I attended in New York.

The New Gimmick

Like many Sunday mornings, my friends and training partners, Ani, Joey and George wake up in the dark to get to a morning race. And each time we get there, we are always pleasantly surprised by the number of people who like us choose to spend their Sunday morning at a race.

During a conversation with my friend Gap Legaspi. a neuro surgeon, but in the good-ol-days, the captain of the UP track team, he said to me, wow, everyone seems to be running these days and getting a running coach.

Me: Yes, I have a few good friends who are running coaches.

Him: Really? What do they teach? How do you teach someone to run?

Me: Gap, not everyone is a gifted runner like you. A lot of people have never run. They don’t know how to swing their arms, how to land on their feet, how fast or how slow to go..

Gap: So, everyone is getting a running coach these days?

Me: A lot of people who want to get started do. I personally recommend it when people start asking me details on the right running form. It’s good to know that you’re training properly. And if you already know the basics of running and are comfortable running, a running coach can take you to the next level “ running and racing longer distance, racing faster, training wisely

Gap: so, its true, running coaches are the new DIs.

Me: haha, yes, I guess, you can say that.

We went on to discuss how thrilled we were that more people where discovering the joy of running, the joy of being healthy, of being outdoors and feeling strong. These days, there is a race almost every weekend. My triathlete friends and I meticulously plan our race calendar for the year. We combine run races and triathlons.

My running and racing has taken me so many places. I have seen different parts of the country and other countries on my feet. Every run is an experience. Just the other week in Batangas, at the Milo 21k run, Ani, Joey and I were running up endless hills. I was wondering when our misery would end. Suddenly, someone shouted, “Malapit na, dalawang barangay na lang!

My friends and I get high on being fit. We are conscious of the food we eat, the air we breathe. We are thankful for good health. For people like us, this is our gimmick every weekend. Instead of saan ang gimmick? We ask each other:

Saan ang karera (where is the race)?
What distance are you doing?
Who’s joining?
Where are we eating after?

On the eve of my birthday, I will not be going out. I will be sleeping in, because the next day I will do a birthday run “ a marathon! And after that I will celebrate the good life.

This is the life I choose. This is the life my friends and I live.

Bike for Hope Davao

Davao City to Tagum CityI love Davao!

Davao City is so progressive. The first city with a Women’s Code. They also have an anti-smoking ordinance and a fire cracker ban. They are looking into establishing bike-lanes. And the most important part of this.. they implement their laws!

Meanwhile, Davao del Norte, is constructing a state-of-the-art sports complex in Tagum City. I saw the plans and was at the ground breaking on a previous visit. So very exciting. Ani del Leon, also conducted a Pinay in Action running clinic there. They are also pouring million of pesos into health care.

I was there for 3 days from January 29-31, 2009. My office and advocacy arm, Pinay in Action organized 25 seminars on health, breast feeding, immunization, women empowerment and running clinics for girls.

That was the tiring part and we couldn’t have pulled it off without my hard working and dedicated staff, the support of the local government units, particularly Davao City, thru the office of Mayor Rody Duterte and Davao del Norte Province, thru Governor Dolfo del Rosario, the NGOs and private sector.

The fun part was the 101 km bike ride from Davao City to Tagum City (where the provincial government of Davao del Norte is). There were also a lot of people who lined the streets to greet us, and as always many expressed shock to see women bikers.

We passed thru the beautiful banana plantation that just stretched on and on. It was a very calming bike ride, away from the heavy traffic, save for the aerial spray of fertilizer which flew right above us! There is actually a Davao City Ordinance banning this, but the case is currently pending in the Court of Appeals.

riding thru the banana plantation

For part of the ride, I rode and chatted with Fr. Amado Picardal

Riding with Fr. Amado Picardal

known as the Biking Priest. He bikes around the country for peace. His blog is full of interesting stories of his bike rides, his advocacies and his vocation as a priest and teacher.

An interesting side trip was the tour of the Nestle Experimental and Demo Farm for Coffee. I was told that it is the only experimental facility for coffee in the whole country! learning about different coffee varietiesFarmers come from all over the country to learn about improving their coffee business. We used to be an exporter of coffee but today, we cannot even meet our local demand 🙁 Sadly, Vietnam’s yield per hectare is much higher than ours, according to the National Coffee Development Board, which only tells us there is so much more to do.

Another stop I made was Barangay Sasa in Davao City where our triathlon national champ George Vilog hails from. As a young boy, he enjoyed riding his bmx bike and swimming in Coaco Beach. At 16, he competed in his first triathlon . In 2002, he became our national champion. Today, he is the silver medalist of the SEA games.

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George is a shining example of a young boy with very little means, who found his way to the top thru sports. George is currently developing local talents in Davao.

And so ended my Davao trip. Had to rush home to my girls after the ride and shift to mommy mode.

n.b. Bike for Hope is a project of  The Companero Rene Cayetano foundation which was put up by my dad the former Senator Renato Cayetano years ago. When he pased away, we continued it in his memory. We are on our 8th leg having covered various provinces in Luzon Visayas and Mindanao. By God’s grace, I hope to bring Bike for Hope to other parts of the country to continue spreading our advocacies on health, women empowerment, protection of the environment and youth development programs.