32 children out of every 1000 live births do not reach the age of 5. These are the children that we can save and the time to act is now.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On July 5, 2009, I woke up to the beautiful Cebu City lights. It was 4:15 am. That was my wake-up call to get me to the Milo 21k starting line around 5 am. But I jump ahead of my story.
This is my usually whirlwind 24 hour trip out of Manila. There were two fun things about this trip. One is my daughter Nadine was traveling with me. And two, there was a run the following morning
I had three meetings one after another soon as I arrived in Cebu. I decided my first stop would be a fueling station.. as in deadly delicious calories to satisfy my craving.. aka Leona’s Bake shop.
My friend Jane-jane, owner of Leona’s was kind enough to offer to send over an assortment of goodies to keep me energized for the day but I told her no way! I needed to absorb the good vibes that come out of a bake shop – all that goodness, sweetness and fresh scent of baked bread certainly must stimulate the production of endorphins and the feeling of happiness right?
So my daughter Nadine and I went there and like kids, well she is one, I’m not, pointed, whispered and stared at the cakes beckoning at us. To distract me from eating everything on site, I asked for a tour of the facilities which I knew would be an educational experience for both Nadine and me,. We happen to be baking enthusiasts.
After that 20 minute stop-over, we went straight to the hotel. I settled in my daughter with her books and went to my meeting in the lobby. I met with the women of Inner Wheel Club. Our objective was to discuss a joint project between my Pinay in Action and their group for a school tour on violence against women. There were also students who attended our meeting.
I explained to them that I felt it was important to focus on the youth so they could spot violence early on, avoid it and protect themselves. After some discussion, we agreed that we would try to make this happen soon.
My next meeting was with the representative of 4L in the region. 4L is the organization of women legislators. They are composed of councilors, board members, vice-mayors, vice-governors and congresswomen. My objective here was to inform them about my project with the local governments and the barangay health workers (BHW), particularly my BHW Health Wellness Summit.
My last meeting for the day was with members of the Cebu Press. I updated them on my legislative work, including the Food and Drug Administration Act which was awaiting the President’s signature, my thoughts on the automation, women empowerment, reproductive health and other issues of the day.
That ended my official business for the day.
Next morning started, not bright and early, but dark and early. We were up at 4:15, eating breakfast at 4:30 and out of the hotel before 5 am.
This was my 2nd Milo 21k in Cebu. It’s a huge race and the course takes us thru the city. Not what I would call scenic, as runners really do prefer the country side for a run. But I doubt if there is any countryside in the heart of Cebu city.
Being familiar with the course is a plus. I knew there would be no deadly climbs, mostly flats and a few gradual climbs. Thankfully, it was not hot either.
I ran steady. Did not plan on pushing too hard. This was a training run for me and Ani. We are doing a 70.3 ironman soon and we needed a long run. We were around 11th and 12th place at about 8k. We picked up the pace a bit and by the end of the run, I finished 6th in 2 hours flat. Ani of course, could have done much better, but like I said it was a training run and she just ran at my pace.
I need to commend the security that was assigned to me. PO1 Delailah Cayacap Samson was amazing. She is only the 2nd security assigned to me during an out-of-town race that has been able to stick with me.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing in Shangri-la Mactan with our friends. My daughter Nadine politely asked “can we go to the pool now” over and over while we adults lingered over buffet at Tides. We finally did get to the pool side and stayed there almost ‘til sunset.
We were back on the plane 27 hours after we landed, two pounds heavier (courtesy of Leona’s bake shop), but happy (thanks to Leona’s too, productive meetings, a good race and good company).
27 1/2 hours in Cebu. Time well spent.
My mom grew up on a farm in Michigan. She met my dad when they were both studying in the University of Michigan. A few years later, she left the only country she knew and migrated to the Philippines, a country with a different culture, lacking in modern facilities that she was accustomed to, not knowing anyone from here except my dad and his parents.
I often wonder what it was like for her, a young 24 year old woman to leave for the unknown. All she really had was my dad and me.
She was pretty much on her own most of the time. My dad worked long hours as a lawyer. It was just me and my mom most of the day. My life revolved around her.
She had a profound influence on me in my formative years. If I looked at my dad as the omnipotent being (translation: disciplinarian, law enforcer), my mom was omnipresent.
She took me everywhere she went – to her school, to the store, to the market, to her dressmaker and the salon. My childhood is replete with memories of doing art work, reading and writing on the floor while my mom worked on her lesson plans and prepared her class materials. I don’t really remember being away from her.
Her demeanor, her kindness, the way she talked, all of these things set my standard for dealing with people. If she ever got frustrated or lost her temper, she must have hidden it from me, because I really don’t recall any incident.
Looking back, she also set my standards as a working mom. As a preschool teacher, she spent her days either in her school or working on her school projects at home. My mom taught and later owned her own preschool. I was her student in Marymount in Quezon City, then JUSMAG school. Later, she put up her own school Ann Arbor School in Quezon Avenue where I also studied. A few years later, she opened Ann Arbor Montessori in BF Homes. I spent many summers playing there and enjoying the Montessori materials.
For the first four and half years, I was her only child. Then my brother Alan was born, but I never felt a diminution in her attention or affection. Years later, my brothers Ren and Lino were born and that still did not change anything between my mom and I.
These days, it’s my turn to be a working mom. And my mom? She is still a teacher and the consummate grandmother. She does not run a school anymore, but she devotes a good chunk of her time to my children.
When my first child, Maxie was born, she spent most of her day with my mom, while I worked. My mom would even take her to my office, so I could breastfeed her. Today, she spends a good number of hours a week with my younger daughter Nadine helping her with her school work. When I’m out of the country or just stuck at work, she takes them to the doctor, out for pizza, to the book store or wherever they ask or need to be taken.
She is also a passionate writer of children’s books and to date has written hundreds of books, many of which she have given away to public schools.
My mom held my hand each day I lived thru my son Gabriel’s illness. She was strong, when I was weak. She was optimistic, when I saw no hope. When my dad got sick, she held us together.
In my work in the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we often discuss issues involving women in the labor force and the challenges women face balancing their responsibilities as homemakers, caregivers and workers. One of the recommendations is for women to rely on their support system, such as extended families.
How grateful I truly am that I have my mom who has supported me thru the years, as a child and even now.
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.
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.
We feel good when we run. We may be tired, but when we finish our run, we feel accomplished, proud and happy!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Worms were not part of my agenda in going to Dumaguete. But it found its way into my schedule after City Mayor Agustin Perdices and Governor Emilio Macias III, each told me how they are using worms to create organic fertilizer. The process is fairly simple: Mix manure, organic products like leaves and a handful of worms in a big sack. The worms eat and excrete and in a few weeks, voila, you have organic fertilizer. The goal is to get more farmers to make their own organic fertilizer instead of buying commercial fertilizers which are much more expensive and have chemical ingredients.
My staff actually had been there for the last three days conducting seminars on breast feeding and women empowerment.
I arrived on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Aren’t rainy Saturday afternoons just perfect for going to sleep? But this was a working Saturday for me and I was scheduled to meet the governor and get a tour of the provincial hospital.
The governor, it turns out is a PGH trained surgeon, a passionate healthcare advocate who shared a lot of his ideas about devolved health care, its problems and possible solutions. It was great to meet him and the medical staff of the hospital. I hope to use their experiences in reviewing our health care policies.
From health care Negros Oriental style, I got a taste of women power, Siliman University style. I met their student council, headed by SC President Stacy Danika Sia Alcantara. Wow! What an energetic talented group of young women, to say the least. They proudly told me that their school is very gender sensitive and has always had a strong women studies department, that the young men who enter the University are soon enough indoctrinated into a lifestyle that is gender equal in all aspects. More power girls. I promised to write a future entry on women empowerment and the girls promised to contribute?
Later that evening, I met with Green Alert Negros, who expressed their concern about the plans to cut thousand of trees and develop part of Mt Kanlaon as a source of geothermal energy. I actually climed Mt Kanlaon years ago and was quite familiar with the affected area. But more importantly Mt. Kanlaon is a natural park protected by law, rich in biodiversity and is home to many endemic species.
Next day, I woke up to a dark morning, with tree branches swaying from the strong winds.. It looked like rain was inevitable, but in fact, shortly after 5 am, the sky started to lighten up.. Ani and I ran straight from our hotel to the starting line where we joined thousands of runners who like us, got up at dawn for the fun of running in one of the 3 distances of the Milo Maratthon series –3k, 5k and 21k.
I joined the 21k run which took us along Rizal Boulevard, right by the Tanon Strait which was a beautiful site. Then we turned into a side road and went thru very pleasant countryside, where the locals lined the streets to watch us go by.
The exciting part of every run for me is seeing the strong women runners race. We had a chance to chat after the awarding ceremonies. They come from all backgrounds, mothers, students, teens and women in their 40s, all fast runners who outrun most men!
In just about 24 hours from the time I got to Dumaguete, I was homebound. I didn’t get much of a chance to explore the beautiful city, but thanks to the local government officials, the locals, my staff and everyone who gave us some of their valuable time, we had a productive and fulfilling trip.
This is a refrain from a song in my ipod shuffle, which I hear a couple of times a week when I’m out biking or running. I often ponder on that song and wonder what I have done to make, not only myself proud, but my parents, and the people around me? I wonder if people ever ask themselves what they have done to be proud of this country.
I had planned on posting this on June 12 in celebration of independence day, but as usual got caught up with a billion things. Delayed as it is, I think we should all ask ourselves that question. As a human being, as a God fearing Filipino, does my existence contribute to the general welfare of the people around me, my country? Do I complain about what’s wrong with this country before asking myself what have I done to make it better?
It’s a serious question but depending on your mood, you can answer it lightly or with as much as serious thought as you wish to put into it.
I’m choosing to answer this from a personal point of view, as in what I am personally proud of, and also collectively, as in my views on what we as a people can be proud of¦
1. As a mother, I am proudly raising my two daughters to be responsible citizens who care about others and the environment we live in. During the summer, I had each of them list their energy-saving tips and ways of saving the environment (subject of a future blog). I try to expose them to all aspects of Filipino life, so they understand that there is still so much poverty around us and that each of us can do something to make a difference. I want them to be cognizant of the fact that life is tough for many. Their baby brother Gabriel did not have an easy life. He could not breath without assistance, could not eat without a tube in his mouth.
So every year, we celebrate Gabriel’s life with a 12-hour fundraising and awareness multi-sport event for the benefit of children with disabilities (www.gabrielsymphony.com). I hope my daughters will grow up to be compassionate Filipinos who care about the well-being of others.
2. We Filipinos take pride in our love of family and respect for our elders. We take care of our parents and grandparents. We are proudly the best caregivers in the world, from doctors to nurses to caregivers; our professionals are sought worldwide. But government must not lose focus on the fact that as we supply the world with our human health care professionals, we must also plan on how to take care of our own. These were some of the issues I have been working on locally and abroad, most recently at the Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Cape Town last April (future blog). We need to focus on improving access to healthcare for our own people.
3. I am proudly promoting the cause of health and fitness. I cannot talk enough about how important it is for each one of us to be responsible for our own health. It does not come for free. One must eat well, exercise and live a healthy life. For more on my health agenda, visit my official website www.senatorpiacayetano.com
4. I am proudly fighting for a greener cleaner Philippines. We are working on the passage of the sustainable forest management bill. We are also trying to increase awareness and compliance with our solid waste management law (RA 9003). More and more Filipinos are aware of the need to segregate waste. And yet according to Ecowaste Coalition, of the 42,000 barangays only 2,000 have a segregation program and an MRF (material recovery facility). Is there one in your barangay?
5. We were all born into this country that is rich in natural resources. I am proudly sponsoring bills to declare many of these areas as protected areas. I have called on Filipinos to vote for Tubattaha and our other natural treasures on www.new7wonders.com. But what have we each done to contribute to the preservation of these Philippine wonders? There are rivers and mountains that need to be restored and rehabilitated all over the country. You can each take up a cause close to your heart. (there are a lot of causes, more on these in future blogs)
6. I am proudly working towards the attainment of our Millennium Development Goals in 2015. We need to decrease our infant, child and maternal mortality rates. Today, there are still many women in the rural areas who die of childbirth, simply because they do not have access to a childbirth attendant (a certified midwife, nurse or doctor). Many newborns are underweight, malnourished and sickly because their mothers did not have pre-natal care. Access to prenatal care is vital.
7. I am proudly promoting breastfeeding. Many mothers still do not know that they are capable of exclusively feeding their baby for the first six months with their breastmilk without the need of supplementing with formula milk or food (visit my breastfeeding blog on www.bestforbabies.wordpress.com)
8. Filipino women are the bedrock of our homes and our society. I proudly support women empowerment thru my Pinay In Action programs. Every year, we celebrate Women’s Month in March with an all-women’s run and expo. My team, headed by national team tri champ Ani de Leon goes around the country giving talks on empowerment to young girls and teaching them how to run.
9. I proudly support the Philippine teams that compete in international competitions. These athletes work hard, despite the limitations in training facilities, financial and sometimes even moral support. They persevere and excel..and bring glory to our country.
I could spend a whole day on this list. But the point of this exercise is to get people to think, just as the song goes, â€œwhat have you done today to make you feel proud?