My Team PIA – Pinay in Action – and the UP Women’s Football Team travelled to beautiful Baguio and to Lusod Read More
Polvoron sand and the beautiful blue sea. That’s what comes to mind when I close my eyes and think of Bohol. Read More
Where are you? In the middle of the sea. Read More
Every October, Parliamentarians from all over the world meet in Geneva for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference. I am currently the President of the Women Parliamentarians and our committee of women meets here once a year to take stock of our work and to prepare for the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians the next year (2010 will be in Bangkok).
In the Women’s Committee, we discussed the gender dimension on the topics pending in the IPU’s standing committees:
– On the topic of Cooperation and shared responsibility in the fight against organized crime, in particular human trafficking. it was underscored that human trafficking was often under-acknowledged and that the first step was for parliaments to call on governments to recognize the full extent of the problem and develop strategies to address it. This in fact is a big problem in the Philippines and much needs to be done.
– On the Role of Parliament in developing cooperation in order to accelerate achievement of the MDGs, the women emphasized the need to focus on MDGs 4 and 5, on child and maternal mortality. This has been my campaign in the country for the last two years. We need more midwives to the barrios, more birthing facilities and access to information and support re family planning.
– On Youth Participation in the Democratic Process, it was suggested that different strategies be considered to include young people in parliamentary debates and hearings, parliamentary youth forums and political party work. The need for gender-sensitive training was also emphasized. I met with the representative of UNICEF to brainstorm on this item later in the week. This would be a good project to implement back home.
The Secretary General Anders Johnson briefed us on IPU’s campaign “Parliaments Take Action on Violence Against Women.” IPU is urging parliaments to take part in this campaign and organize activities to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. This has also been my campaign for the past few years (my related blogs on violence).
Our Gender Partnership Group met twice. We looked at the IPU budget and noted that due to budgetary support for gender issues, the IPU has been able to focus on many gender related activities. As for participation in the IPU, the Group noted that there are still 6 countries without women parliamentarians from the Gulf States and the Pacific Islands.
At the second meeting, we met with the Senator from Palau who briefed us about the recent election of two women in the Palau Senate. He explained that Palau is actually a matriarchal society. Women are king makers in the communities but do not themselves run for office. I opined that there may be a need for re-orienting society to support women in leadership positions.
At the General Council Meeting on the last day, the body approved the resolution on the emergency item on Global Food Security. I supported an amendment to this resolution, urging governments to make microfinance funds available, guaranteeing that at least 50% would go to women.
Finally, I presented the report of the women parliamentarians to the body. Although the IPU meeting formally closed on Wednesday, there were still events going on, including the seminar on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which I would chair the next day.
Over the years, I have made friends with parliamentarians from different countries. It is always a pleasure to see them during the IPU meetings. Many of them are seasoned parliamentarians, and I always go home inspired by the people I meet and the lessons I learned.
We found ourselves in Desaru, Malaysia when the 70.3 Ironman Putrajaya was suddenly postponed. We had trained for months and were ready to race. Ani de Leon instantly found another race, just 1 week after the original race we trained for. It was called the Desaru Long Distance Triathlon (2k swim-90k bike-21k run).
Our small Philippine contingent consisted of National tri-champ Ani de Leon, Phil team triathlete and now Coach Peter Gonzalez, my training partner Joey Torres and me. Ani’s boyfriend Patrice also joined us. We flew into Singapore and caught a 30 minute ferry to Malaysia.
None of us had ever been there. The roads were beautiful, perfect for biking. Unfortunately, the hotel we stayed in was not as nice as the roads. It was run down, there were leaking pipes in the bathroom, and there was hardly any food in the restaurant. We had rice and eggs every meal. Breakfast buffet was..all you can eat rice and eggs. Buti na lang girl scout ako. I had gone food shopping in Singapore and bought fruits and yogurt and some bread.
On Friday morning, we got on our bikes in search of food. We biked about 25km til we found heaven – a Petronas station with a store. We loaded our back packs (I loaded Joey’s since I did not have one) with instant noodles, drinks and chocolate bars.
Race morning breakfast was boiled water in the coffee pot and voila..instant noodles and egg. We biked to the Desaru Golden Beach Resort where the race would start. Nadine, my daughter and Che would be our water girls and cheering squad rolled into one.
The swim turned out to be a mini-roller coaster. I felt I was moving up and down, not forward. Thankfully, I made it and transitioned into the bike segment. I loved that bike course! The roads were smooth and wide, rolling hills without too many turns.
Soon enough, I was on to the last segment – the run.It would take me about two hours. Course was hilly with one killer hill where I found most people walking. I didn’t walk it, but I could feel the strain on my calves going up that hill. We passed the Desaru Golden Beach Club a couple of times.This was the best part. Spectators and supporters waited there, cheering and handing out refreshments. Nadine and Che handed us water, energy bars and whatever they had.
Halfway through the run, I was running towards the crowd of people, and I spot Nadine holding out a banana. She shouts,” Mommy, mommy, banana?” As I pass her, I shout back, “Later, later, after the turn around.”
Throughout that turn-around I dream of that banana. All I have had for the last 4:30 hours is water, some energy drink and gel. 4k later I am back. I can practically taste the banana. I imagine its sweet taste, the potassium and whatever other nutrients a banana has flowing thru my veins and nourishing my body to give me 1 more hour worth of strength and speed.
As I approached Nadine, I shouted, “Banana! Banana!”
My daughter replies, “Sorry mommy, its gone.”
I said, “What?! Why? What happened?”
“The monkey ate your banana, mommy.”
What can I say? In some triathlon races, you look out for cars, in others you look out for potholes on the road. In Desaru, you look out for monkeys…and your banana.
I took 6th place in the age group 35 and up. Ani took 5th place in her age-group and Peter Gonzalez took 2nd. Not bad for our small Philippine contingent. We dedicate our race to President Cory Aquino.
Like many other women, I’m a trimom. I had promised Nadine that after my race, I was all hers. She wanted to go swimming and show me her dive. So we swam in the pool, and then headed to the beach to catch the waves. Then we we went back to our hotel to pack-up and eat.
What was our post-race meal?… but of course more noodles and eggs.
How do you spend a day in Hong Kong with the Running Priest?
Contrary to what many of my friends guessed, there was no running (we’ve done that), no mass, no confession (at least not real confession). But it was still a cardio-packed day filled with spiritual reflection, thought-provoking conversation and inspiration.
I went to Hong Kong upon the invitation of Fr Robert Reyes, otherwise known as the Running Priest. A few weeks ago he was at the Senate and told me about his current work with OFW cancer stricken patients and survivors. He wanted me to meet them and see what we could do to help them.
I arrived on Sunday afternoon and went straight to the meeting held in the Philippine Consulate. What transpired was an emotional yet extremely inspirational 2 hour dialogue. There are clear gaps in policies and laws which I am looking into. I will cover this in a separate blog.
The next day, Fr Robert and I agreed, or should I say, connived to show my staff and friends a different side of Hong Kong. I had been to Lamma Island a few years ago and was excited to go back.. We met at Central station and took a ferry to Lamma. That alone was an adventure because I get seasick very easily. Thankfully, it was a short 25 minute trip and I managed a smile soon as my feet touched land.
We were introduced to island life by the sight of bicycles parked by the pier. This is how people got around in Lamma. No cars, just bicycles and a few miniature vehicles that transport goods. Even their ambulance and fire trucks were miniature versions.
Fr Robert explained to the group that we would walk to the other side of the island. You could hear the sound of resistance to Father’s plan but Father simply said, that’s where we are eating, so if you want to eat, you have to walk… end of story.
After passing thru the commercial area, we found ourselves in the midst of forest cover walking to the beat of bird sounds. Fr Robert pointed out the burial sites which seemed to almost blend with the forest.
Our first stop was the Portiuncula Monastery. We met the contemplative sisters, headed by Sister Mary Ann. They served us cold orange juice and told us about the distance learning program they offer to OFWs. Sister Mary Ann explained that the objective was to keep the modules as simple and relevant as possible to enable to students to study and comprehend the lessons on their own.
Leslie, an OFW walked me thru the course she was taking. I was amazed! The topics were very relevant to the lives of the OFWs. One sample test was to make a marketing plan for the sale of pre-paid cards to other OFWs.
Our next stop was the taho carinderia. Since the Chinese version of taho is served without sago, I took out my bag of trail mix (nuts and dried fruit) and passed it around to be added as toppings.
More walking…. Fr. Robert then announced that we would make a stop to visit Joey Dyogi, an OFW who has end-stage kidney failure. Although, he no longer works, Joey is still able to avail of subsidized treatment from the Hong Kong government because he was working as a professional and was a permanent resident at the time he got sick. Contrast this with our domestic helpers who lose their benefits once they are no longer employed and who cannot attain permanent residency status despite the number of years of work.
The main path then led to the beach. After walking in the heat, the urge to jump in the water was almost irresistible. How I wished I had a swimsuit.. I didn’t and neither did anyone else, so we just took more pictures.
The next segment of our walk was hilly and hot. We entertained ourselves with storytelling, jokes and phone calls from people who Fr Robert wanted me to touch base with.
Finally, we reached the other side of the island. We sat down for lunch at 4:30 in the afternoon just in time to catch the 5:30 ferry back to the mainland.
What did we take home from this trip? Because it was led by the Running Priest, our stops were not the usual tourist stops. The people we met and interacted with along the way had stories that affected us, changed us.I think my staff was inspired to take their fitness to the next level. We also felt a deeper appreciation of nature walking thru the well-preserved island devoid of vehicles and traffic. I picked up lessons, I will use to work on legislation and policies for our OFWs.
I plan to go back and take my kids there. They have been on nature walks, they have climbed Mt. Pulag. But I want them to see Lamma Island where it seems modern living and nature have found a way to co-exist.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meeting Lucy, the first homo sapien
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.
The full report of my work in the IPU will be on my official website soon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.