Countdown to Gold

"POPCOM 50th Anniversary"

February 19, 2019


Message form the Shadows
By Rina Jimenez-David


Thanks to a post on Facebook, I glimpsed a depiction of “Easter” that doesn’t exactly hew to the biblical account but carries the same message of hope and salvation.

It is, oddly enough, a video of a performance by the group El Gamma Penumbra, which was proclaimed the winner in the “Asia’s Got Talent” competition. As its name suggests, El Gamma uses shadow play, music and the manipulation of light and movement to tell stories. I first watched a performance of the group during the closing rites of a regional conference on reproductive health and rights some years back. I found myself moved and astounded by how the group distilled the many complex issues that had been discussed in the numerous plenaries and workshops, and in images that were simple yet powerful. This they proved once again when they competed in Singapore for “Asia’s Got Talent,” besting some of the most talented performers in this continent from Mongolia to Malaysia.

But the video I chanced upon cemented my already considerable admiration for this group. It told a tale that reprises the Resurrection story told from the perspective of an ordinary Filipino family, and set against the musical backdrop of “When You Believe,” the theme song of the movie “Prince of Egypt” and sung by Whitney Houston.

Through swiftly moving images that have long fascinated audiences, the shadow play introduced us to a family whose deep faith is demonstrated and then challenged when the young son meets a potentially fatal accident. Surprising how a series of scenes is able to build empathy with a family facing the most difficult test of their lives. I won’t ruin the surprise and tell you how the story ends, but I’ll tell you that my brief brush with the performance underlined the meaning of the past few days, in which we were asked to reflect upon the passion and death of Christ and then join in Christian rejoicing at the miracle of Easter.

My viewing of the video, on Easter Monday at that, is itself a tiny “miracle,” and I hope readers bother to look up the performance for a dose of post-Easter hope and optimism. Happy Easter, everyone!

#DontTakeAwayMyBirthControl is the hashtag that friend and international woman of mystery (and authority on sex and reproductive health) Ana Santos uses in a series of reports on the looming shortage of contraceptives in the country.

“Panic mode sets in as birth control pills begin to disappear,” Ana declares. She shares how, on a recent trip to a drug store she found out that her favored brand of oral contraceptives (also known as “the pill”) was once again out of stock. “I only have one extra box in my cabinet,” she confides, and I can understand how this would be a concern.

“Anyone else having a problem sourcing and buying their birth control pills?” Ana asks.

Though I may no longer have any need for “the pill,” having long passed the deadline for fertility (okay, I’m postmenopausal, so sue me), I can sympathize with women grappling with the issue.

And the issue is not just women who “want to have sex without the responsibility,” as many opponents of reproductive freedom put it. Rather, it is the issue of self-determination, of responsibility even, the freedom to enjoy one’s sex life while preventing unwanted consequences, such as unplanned and mistimed pregnancy.

Ana—and so many others writing on this advocacy—have for years now been warning of this development. Of women of reproductive age finding suddenly that pills and all other types of contraceptives are no longer available, even if they could afford these. Maybe this will be the tipping point to build opinion support in the effort to get the Supreme Court to finally lift the temporary restraining order on the licensing of contraceptives.

Previously, the problem seemed to affect only women in poor communities, who had lost access to contraceptives given for free or sold at subsidized prices. But now, as Ana writes, even women who can certainly pay for their own contraceptives are finding that these aren’t even available on drug store shelves. In effect, all women here have been deprived of their reproductive rights. Now is the time to push back. #

Many Filipino Women Fear a Future With No Access to Birth Control
By Ana Santos


MANILA – Lelet Labarette was 31 when she had her sixth child. She and her family lived in a shanty made of thin wooden boards and scraps, electricity was intermittent, money more so. Her husband made about $3 a day driving a pedicab – they had neither the space nor the money for another child.

Labarette needed a birth control method that would serve her better than the pill that she sometimes forgot to take, the condom that she and her husband did not like or the injectable that she couldn’t quite keep track of.

In 2014, the Likaan Women’s Health Center in Manila introduced Labarette to contraceptive implants, matchstick-like rods that are inserted subdermally into a woman’s upper arm and provide three years of contraceptive protection.

Now 36 and with her youngest child at the age of five, Labarette says she has reacquainted herself with simple luxuries. “I now have time to comb my hair,” she laughs.

Labarette loves her implants so much that when her niece, Eileen Bayawanon, gave birth in 2015, Labarette urged her to get implants, too.

But there was one problem. The Supreme Court had earlier that year issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on contraceptive implants, banning the Department of Health (DOH) and all public hospitals and health centers under it from procuring, distributing or administering the two hormonal implant brands available in the Philippines, Implanon and Implanon XT.

The TRO was in response to a complaint raised by a pro-life group that claimed that implants cause abortions.

An estimated">100,000 women had signed up to get implants by the end of 2015 after they were first made available. With help from a subsidy from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the DOH had procured 500,000 units to cater for the expected demand.

When the Supreme Court issued its TRO, all implant stocks from DOHservice networks were recalled. For anyone who couldn’t afford to pay $150-$300 to get implants through private healthcare, non-governmental organizations and civil society groups were left to fill in the gap.

Although Bayawanon, Labarette’s niece, could not get implants from the government hospital where she gave birth, she was still able to get them for free through Likhaan. But the Supreme Court TRO had a chilling effect. Varied interpretations of the TRO caused fear and anxiety, and even some service providers not covered by the TRO chose to obey it to be on the safe side.

“The TRO makes implants appear to be illegal, as if it is contraband,” says Dr. Junice Melgar, executive director of Likhaan.

Myths about implants causing disease or blindness – myths that activists say the TRO appeared to legitimize – prompted many women to have theirs removed. Others desperate for a convenient, long-term and reliable form of birth control traveled miles to get implants. “We had some women traveling for 2-3 hours by bus to come to our clinic because they could not get implants in their village,” says Likhaan staff member Mary Jane Judilla.

And getting hold of contraceptives was about to get much harder.

When the DOH appealed for the lifting of the TRO, the Supreme Court rejected the motion in August 2016 and instead effectively expanded its coverage when it put the renewal and application of product licenses on hold for other contraceptives.

Under this broader TRO, when product registrations that allow for the sale and distribution of existing contraceptives lapse, they can’t be renewed, and product registrations for both new and existing and contraceptive brands can’t be issued. The effect is the gradual phasing out of contraceptives from government clinics and pharmacy shelves.

According to data provided by the">Commission on Population (POPCOM), there are">48 contraceptive brands in the Philippines. To date, the product registrations for">20 of those brands have already lapsed.

“What we are seeing now [in the market] are existing stock that will eventually run out. By 2018, there will hardly be any more brands left, and by 2020, there will be no more contraceptive brands available, unless the Supreme Court lifts its TRO,” says Juan Antonio Perez, executive director of POPCOMM.

Public Health Emergency

After more than a decade of lobbying by women’s groups and reproductive rights activists, the Philippines passed its Reproductive Health (RH) Law in December 2012, promising the country’s poorest free access to family planning resources and information. But in the years since, the controversial law continues to divide the deeply Catholic country of more than 100 million.

Immediately after it was passed, pro-life groups contested the constitutionality of certain provisions, causing the Supreme Court to temporarily halt the law’s implementation. In 2014, the High Court upheld the constitutionality of the law, but before the law was fully implemented, in 2016, the health department’s $21 million contraceptive budget was cut.

Now, advocates say, the TRO presents the biggest risk yet to the reproductive health law.

“To date, the most serious challenge to the implementation of the RH Law is the Supreme Court TRO, which would result in contraceptive stockout in the country,” says Romeo Dongeto, head of advocacy group Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD). “More than 13 million Filipino women will be affected.”

An executive order signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in January 2017 calling for the full implementation of the RH law offered a brief spark of hope to advocates.

“Of course, we welcomed the president’s support, but it is not enough,” says Dongeto. In the Philippines, the executive and judicial branches of government are equal, meaning the president’s executive order can’t overturn the TRO.

Resistance is also building up at the local level. According to Dongeto, with citizens clamoring for access to family planning, local government officials in some provinces are filing resolutions calling for the lifting of the TRO.

Life Without Choice

On a hot Sunday afternoon, Labarette and Bayawanon sit with three other women, sipping soft drinks underneath a tarpaulin to shield them from the sun. All of the women, who are aged between 19 and 36, have contraceptive implants and are talking about the difference it has made in their lives.

“I’m more confident about initiating sex,” says Irene Espares, 21. When ribbed by the other women, she defends herself: “Why does it have to be him all the time? I want it, too!”

When the looming contraceptive stockout is explained to them, they fall silent. They had heard about the TRO, but didn’t quite understand its full implications.

“As in, no more implants? What about pills? Injectables? IUDS?” the women ask, their eyes widening with every answer of “No more.” Only condoms, natural family planning and procedures like vasectomy and tubal ligation would be left.

The coping scenarios they try to imagine all end with them helplessly getting pregnant over and over again.

“This is all we have,” says 19-year-old Angelina Francisco. “We hope the government doesn’t take it away.” The other women echo her sentiments.

When asked to explain what they mean by “it”, the women have a hard time finding the right word.

In the end, they settle for “happiness.” #


DOH: 92 new HIV cases traced to paid sex
By Sheila Crisostomo


MANILA, Philippines - Ninety-two individuals who acquired HIV in February got infected through paid sex, a report of the Department of Health (DOH) shows.

“People who engage in transactional sex are those who report that they pay for sex, regularly accept payment for sex or do both,” according to the HIV/AIDS Registry of the Philippines (HARP) prepared by the DOH.


HARP shows that 48 of the 92 cases – 52 percent – are males who acquired HIV after they paid for sex, while 28 percent got infected after accepting payment for sex.

Eighteen cases or 20 percent, comprising 16 males and two females, got HIV after engaging in both types of transactional sex.

DOH said for the first two months of 2017, a total of 171 HIV cases were traced to transactional sex. 

In all, 849 new cases of HIV were recorded last February. This brings to 1,693 the number of cases documented since January and to 41,315 the total cases since January 1984.#

6 persons found positive for HIV in Caraga region

Butuan City – Six persons were found positive for the human immune deficiency virus (HIV) that caused acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the month of February alone in the Caraga region.

This was reported by the Department of Health in Region 13 (DOH 13) which expressed alarm that the news cases all involved male victims aged 18 to 50 years old.

Based on the record of the DOH-Caraga Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, there are now 13 patients who have tested positive for HIV in the region.

From 1995 to February 2016, HIV cases now total 253, with 20 reported AIDS- related deaths in Caraga region, ,DOH 13 records said.

Caraga MapCaraga Map (Photo courtesy of Google Map)

DOH 13 Regional Director Dr. Jose R. Llacuna, Jr. said sexual contact remains as the leading mode of transmission of the disease as it encouraged individuals active in sex to avoid having multiple sexual partners, because it was the best way to prevent HIV infection.

The regional office of the DOH 13 urged all health units and local chief executives of various local government units in the region to help in the massive information dissemination on the effects of HIV-AIDS cases and proper health care of people living with HIV (PLHIV).

From January to February 2016, the Philippine HIV and Aids Registry reported that there are 751 new HIV-positive individuals recorded throughout the country, the DOH 13 added.



-Mike Crismundo

Inspiring dreamers to become leaders


MANILA, Philippines – As they say, great leaders usually set out to make a difference not only in their chosen profession but also for society. They set goals that not only serve their best interest but also benefit other people.

This was the fundamental principle that was imparted to the 40 student achievers who participated in the recently concluded 5th ARC Young Leaders Camp (ARCYLC) with the theme, “Inspiring Dreamers to Become Leaders.”

Influencers and renowned change-makers were invited to share their experiences on how they cultivated their own leadership potential.

For Karen Davila, one of the most respected and award-winning broadcast journalists, leadership starts from the inside. Davila set the tone for the delegates’ journey in discovering and unlocking their leadership capabilities: learning self-mastery first and foremost.

“The first person and the hardest one to lead is yourself so stay focused on your goals. Be the best in your chosen profession,” Davila told the delegates.

This was echoed by Angelo Lobrin, best-selling author of the inspirational book, Laugh with God, Today! He motivated the young leaders to explore what they will be good at and not to give up even in the face of failure and rejection. But most of all, “you have to live life first, before you can inspire as leaders.”

“You can never finish work, but work can finish you,” Lobrin added. “How do you define success? Power, popularity, money — these can all be taken away. One thing will stay: relationships. So enjoy every moment of your life.”

Lobrin had his own difficulties when he was younger, which he shared with the batch. But despite being looked down upon by his peers at school, Lobrin chose to show goodness as a way of getting back. “The greatest revenge is not success, but humility. Showing humility in front of those who maligned you — that’s nobility,” he shared.

Using one’s hardships as an inspiration to do good to others is what set some successful people apart to make a change in society. Efren Peñaflorida, CNN’s Hero of the Year 2009 and Kesz Valdez, International Children’s Peace Prize 2012 awardee, shared their experiences of hardship and triumph together with their mentor Bonn Manalaysay, Club 8586 founder.

Before Peñaflorida pushed his famous kariton (pushcart) to promote education for street children, he almost quit school because of the constant bullying. Valdez, on the other hand, was left to wander the streets at athe tender age of four. Both almost succumbed to their lives of defeat, when Manalaysay took them in and made them discover their inner leader.

“It all starts with the aspiration to lead,” Manalaysay said. This desire should then be followed by thorough research to create a solution and bring about change.

Defining new limits, breaking barriers and leading change was also the motivation behind the works of the other change-makers that were invited to share their perspectives for successful leadership. Lynn Pinugu, executive director of the Mano Amiga Academy, a primary school that caters to an indigent community in Taguig City, shared her own experiences raising funds for the school especially after the onslaught of typhoon Ondoy in 2009.

“If you’re working for a cause, you’ll never run out of challenges. But never stop responding to these challenges. Failure is just another word for growing. And sharing is an essential part in the path of growth. Be grateful and remain humble. When you get fame, power and money, the fight gets harder. It’s easy to have integrity at first but how you end matters so much more,” said Pinugu.

Aisa Mijeno, co-founder and chief executive officer of SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting) technology, emphasized that working towards a project for social good can be done  as long as there is a sound solution and a passion from people to make it a reality.

“You all have access to a world of learning especially through the worldwide web,” she said. “You can actually learn by yourself. Just have the initiative and the leadership to make it happen.”

Apart from the talks that inspired the student-leaders to be the next movers and shakers of the country, the ARCYLC also held hands-on trainings and workshops. At the end of the camp, the student-teams, named after the values espoused by the camp — Integrity, Resourcefulness, Teamwork and Discipline — applied their learning and presented case studies that addressed a specific need in their identified target community.

The ARCYLC is an annual leadership program for the disadvantaged Filipino youth to develop their leadership potential and values. This year’s batch of young leaders was carefully selected from a pool of 200 applicants from the country’s state universities and public colleges, the most number of applicants the camp has seen so far. The 5th ARCYLC was held at Camp Benjamin in Alfonso, Cavite.


- Faye Cruz



News Coverage


The Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) led a Voter’s Education Forum on Reproductive Health (RH) among the youth and women sectors of Quezon City.  The Commission on Population (POPCOM) together with various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) joined forces to tackle the importance of RH. They also called the attention of the candidates to prioritize the issues on reproductive health.


 22 Speakers


PLCPD Executive Director Romeo Dongeto discussed the importance of RH to the upcoming elections. Citing the Pulse Asia Survey conducted last February 15-20, he presented the following data:


  • Eight out of ten (8 out of 10) or 79% of Filipinos say it is important that candidates include family planning in their programs of action.
  • Most Filipinos—nine of 10 or 86%—also want the government to allocate funding for family planning services.

“Candidates should prioritize family planning and ensure the full implementation of the RH Law,” Dir. Dongeto said.

News Coverage


Religion seems to be the greatest challenge in the advancement of policies like the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act or the RA 10354. The then Reproductive Health (RH) Bill came into law after 14 long years, with oral arguments which usually boils down to pro-RH groups (Civil Society Organizations and the Government) versus anti-RH groups (predominantly faith-based groups).


But this challenge on religion can also be the greatest aid to the RPRH Law’s progress.


In the recently held discussion with the Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, Inc. (IPPRP), religious leaders from different sects gathered to share their experiences on the implementation of the Law.

290,000 more households to benefit from 4Ps


MANILA, Philippines – At least 290,000 families will be added to the list of beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps this year, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“Our target for 2016 is 4.6 million households,” Leonardo Reynoso, DSWD 4Ps national program manager, told The STAR on Monday.

Reynoso said the program has 4,400,022 beneficiaries as of December.

“We have a regular attrition in Pantawid. There are families that are delisted from the program when they no longer have children aged 0 to 18 years old,” he said.Reynoso, however, said the additional beneficiaries would start receiving financial assistance after the elections.

The additional beneficiaries were identified through the 2015 Listahanan survey of poor families released by the DSWD last week. The nationwide survey covered 15 million households, of which 5.1 million or 28.7 million individuals were identified as the poorest.

At least 11.2 percent or 573,446 poorest households are in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, which comprise the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.The survey also showed that eight of 10 or 76.6 percent of the poor households are in rural areas.      


-Rainier Allan Ronda          

Obese mothers may struggle with breastfeeding


WOMEN who are obese may stop breastfeeding babies sooner than other mothers, at least in part because they’re uncomfortable nursing their babies when people are nearby, an Australian study suggests.

Researchers surveyed first-time mothers and found most of them intended to breastfeed before their babies were born, regardless of how much the women weighed. Most of the women expressed plans to nurse for about one year, and this didn’t differ much based on whether they were obese.

But obese women were significantly more likely to anticipate discomfort nursing in front of even close female friends. And, the women who felt awkward or anxious being seen while breastfeeding stopped much sooner than women who didn’t mind nursing in front of others.

“They seem to have all the same intentions, and have made the same decisions as smaller women, but confidence and comfort issues are a problem,” said study co-author Dr. Ruth Newby of the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

Pediatricians recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed infants until at least 6 months of age because it can reduce babies’ risk of ear and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, allergies, childhood obesity and diabetes.

Mothers can benefit too, with longer periods of breastfeeding linked to lower risks of depression, bone deterioration and certain cancers.

To see how obesity influences breastfeeding, Newby and her coauthor surveyed 462 women, giving them questionnaires once before the baby arrived and six times during the first year after birth. Each woman completed at least one of the questionnaires.

Among 258 women who provided a pre-pregnancy weight, they ranged from dangerously underweight to extremely obese, with an average size that put them right on the edge between a normal size and overweight.

Roughly one quarter of these women were overweight before pregnancy, and about 17 percent were obese.

Researchers had data on breastfeeding for 371 women, including 195 women who also provided information about their weight.

Among 347 women who had babies born at full-term, 98 percent nursed their infants at least once, researchers report in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Normal-weight women nursed significantly longer than overweight mothers, and obese women continued for much less time than even their overweight peers, the study found.

Though there wasn’t a meaningful difference in the women’s confidence about achieving their breastfeeding goals among the 274 participants who answered this question, obese women expressed much more discomfort about nursing in different social situations than other mothers.

The study doesn’t prove obesity causes difficulties with breastfeeding, the authors caution.

Other limitations include the high proportion of women who didn’t participate in each of the questionnaires as well as the reliance on mothers to accurately recall and report their weight and expectations and experiences with breastfeeding.

Even so, the findings suggest that more research is needed to understand the drivers of social discomfort with breastfeeding among obese women, the authors conclude.

Interventions during pregnancy might help address any body image issues or psychological barriers to breastfeeding and help increase the odds that obese women achieve their breastfeeding goals, the authors note.

Obese women may also need help overcoming physical obstacles that get in the way of successful breastfeeding, Newby said by email.

“Newborn babies have very tiny mouths, and larger women in particular may have quite large breasts,” Newby said.

“If the baby’s mouth milks the breast in an effective way, it empties the breast of milk and sets up hormonal signals which make more milk,” Newby said. “It’s supply and demand.”

“Babies of larger mums don’t always get a good grip or latch and may not be as good at emptying the breast and stimulating that milk supply for themselves,” Newby added. – Reuters


-Lisa Rapaport

Rise in HIV-AIDS cases alarms Zamboanga officials

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Zamboanga Sibugay—The continuous increase of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome cases in this highly urbanized city has alarmed local health officials.

Dulce Amor Miravite, chief of the City Health Office’s Reproductive Health and Wellness Center, said the office registered 177 HIV cases with 25 deaths in the past few years.

One-hundred sixty-one of those cases were males.

One-hundred thirty-one of the cases were from the city while the others are transients.

Miravite said latest CHO records showed that 2015 had the highest incidence as it registered 51 HIV cases with five deaths even as the health office had strengthened its advocacy against HIV and AIDS, focusing its activities on the sitios, barangays and public and private offices.

She claimed the advocacy is also being undertaken in secondary and tertiary schools.

Miravite said that most of the current HIV-AIDS patients acquired the disease through, among others, men having sex with men, client of sex workers, female sex workers, male sex workers, and injecting drug users.

She also claiming that men having sex with men is the most high-risk behavior that could lead to acquiring HIV.

Miravite advised persons with high-risk behavior to come to the RHWC to voluntarily undergo HIV testing “so that they will know their status and what to do next.”


-A. Perez Rimando

HIV tests now required before marriage in Turkmenistan


ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Turkmenistan has passed a law making HIV tests mandatory prior to marriage, state media reported on Wednesday, in a sign the reclusive Central Asian state fears the spread of a disease it has always downplayed.

The law is the closest the highly secretive state of 5 million has come to acknowledging a public health threat from the disease which is prevalent throughout the former Soviet Union.

The law, which aims to “create conditions for healthy families and prevent the birth of HIV-infected children” was published in the state newspaper on Wednesday and is effective immediately.

An official from the country’s national AIDS Center, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the new law was “very necessary” given the “high risk” of the spread of the virus.

The official cited use of intravenous drugs, mostly sourced from neighboring Afghanistan, and prostitution as the main means of transmission.

Other than “persons entering marriage”, the legislation also enforces HIV tests for blood donors, “persons suspected of narcotics use”, prisoners, citizens of foreign countries applying for work visas and stateless persons.

According to the law signed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the government will guarantee anonymity and free treatment for sufferers of the disease.

Turkmenistan, which remains largely closed to the outside world, has always downplayed the prevalence of HIV, a disease that attacks the human immune system and is transmitted from person to person via bodily fluids.

In 2002, the health ministry, which does not publish data on infectious diseases, claimed the country had only two cases of HIV and that both patients had been infected outside Turkmenistan.


-Agence France-Presse

Are you financially ready to have children?

Raising kids, building homes – all these come with a price


MANILA, Philippines – Planning on having kids soon? What steps are you taking to prepare for their arrival?

As soon as a baby is on its way, parents create lists for all sorts of things: names, room decorations, ninongs and ninangs – not to mention their dreams and aspirations for their future kid (Will she/he be a doctor? A pilot? Or the future president?).

However, there’s one very important aspect to planning that tends to get buried ahead of list of clothes and burp cloths. And that’s an expense roadmap for having a child.

These days, it can be expensive to have kids. Aside from the immediate cost of childbirth, there are tuition fees, living expenses, and medical emergencies to think about. Moreover, you usually have to multiply everything in a span of 18-20 years, or until the child graduates from college.

Increase your chances of being financially prepared by saving and investing as early as you can. The costs can be overwhelming but it doesn’t need to be. There are many investment options to help you prepare for the needs of your child in different life stages.

To help you visualize, here’s a list of some major child-related expenses:


Soliman: 300,000 high school grads 'fruits' of 4Ps

By Jodesz Gavilan

The welfare secretary maintains that the program is effective despite criticisms

GRADUATES. Around 10,000 fresh high school graduates who are members of family-beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in NCR gather at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Photo by Jodesz Gavilan

GRADUATES. Around 10,000 fresh high school graduates who are members of family-beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in NCR gather at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Photo by Jodesz Gavilan

MANILA, Philippines – The fruits of the controversial Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) are evident in the recent high school graduates who are members of family-beneficiaries, Welfare Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said on Thursday, April 23.

"Ito po ang pinunla ng pera ng bayan, itong mga estudyante," she emphasized. "Dito po napunta ang inyong mga buwis."

(These are the fruits of the money of the country, these students. Your taxes went to them."

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), more than 300,000 beneficiaries of 4Ps graduated from secondary school this 2015. Out of this number, 8,000 belong to the top 10 of their respective class.

In the National Capital Region (NCR) alone, more than 16,000 graduates are beneficiaries, while 200 were able to graduate with flying colors. These students were honored in an event at the Smart Araneta Coliseum organized by the DSWD.

What now?

Families qualified to enroll in 4Ps, also called Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), can receive up to P1,400 ($32) a month for the health and education needs of their children aged up to 18 years.

When the children beneficiaries reach 18 years old or college, Soliman explained that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will provide means to help the underprivileged students through their different programs and scholarships.

"Ang gusto ko lang i-emphasize talaga ay iyong convergence," she said. "Isang gobyerno ang namamahala kaya tulungan talaga ang bawa't ahensya ng gobyerno."

(I want to emphasize the convergence aspect. One government manages everything so agencies really help each other.)

Soliman said the department is looking into the possibility of extending the coverage up to the college-level students and to actually enacting this into law. It is up to legislators, however, if this will push through.

FRUITS. Welfare secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman with some of the fresh HS graduates from family-beneficiaries of 4Ps from across the Philippines.

FRUITS. Welfare secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman with some of the fresh HS graduates from family-beneficiaries of 4Ps from across the Philippines.


The program has been criticized since its implementation in 2008. (READ: Pantawid program working well?)

Issues range from the lack of "concrete evidence" of its effects to its having a big budget allocation through the years.

During the budget hearing of DSWD in the House of Representatives, lawmakers questioned the effectiveness of the program, given its rising budget. (READ: Lawmakers question DSWD's conditional cash transfer program)

In addition, the "stable" poverty incidences in the country led to some people wondering if the program is really effective.

Soliman maintained however that the 4Ps program is not just for the near future, but also for long-term goals.

"Ito ang pinakamahalagang pagpupuhunan," she explained. "Ito ang ginagawa sa ating pera, sa buwis, nakakatulong sa 11 million na bata."

(This is the most important type of investment. This is what we do with our money, with taxes, we help almost 11 million children nationwide.)

The DSWD also gave assurances that based on their reports, up to 98% of families are spending their cash grants for important needs such as education, food, and health. Those who do not follow the guidelines set are delisted from the program.

"Sila (mga graduates) ay patunay na madami ang patuloy na maayos na ginagamit ang kanilang cash grants," Soliman pointed out. "Nakita natin kung ano ang priority ng mga pamilya nila at iyon ay ang edukasyon."

(The graduates are proof that many continue to use their cash grants properly. We are able to see what the priorities of their families are and that's education.) -

Press Release

2015 National Festival of Talents

 A total of 2,077 high school students from both public and private secondary schools nationwide will compete in the 2015 National Festival of Talents (NFOT), including the National Population Quiz (Pop Quiz). The event, slated on April 7-10, 2015 in Makati will feature the students’ skills on essay writing, poster making, jingle writing and singing, journalism, broadcasting, and foreign language.


The Population Quiz as an advocacy tool of the Commission on Population (POPCOM), aims to heighten awareness among the Filipino youth on their sexuality and reproductive health issues, which were highlighted in the recently conducted Young Adult Fertility Survey (YAFS 4) and released by UPPI in 2014.

10,000 Pantawid Pamilya high school grads demonstrate anew success amid poverty

From the Department of Social Welfare and Development

In an effort to prove further that determination and perseverance coupled with a little help from the government are the key to success, more than 10,000 beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program who have graduated from high school in the National Capital Region will participate in the second post-graduation event at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Cubao, Quezon City, tomorrow, April 23.

The event with the theme, “Pagtatapos Niyo, Tagumpay ng Pilipino,” is being organized by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to recognize the beneficiaries for working hard to fulfill their dreams of finishing high school.

It can be recalled that the first event was held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) on April 9 with 4,000 graduates from the National Capital Region.

“The activity is our way of expressing our appreciation for the Pantawid Pamilya students who never wavered in their determination to improve their lives,” DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said. “I am proud to say that these students are among the first high school graduates of the Pantawid Pamilya.”

Pantawid Pamilya is a human development program that invests in the health and education of poor families, primarily those with children aged 0-18. It provides cash grants to partner-beneficiaries who comply with the conditions of sending their children to school, bringing them to health centers for checkups, and attending the monthly Family Development Sessions (FDS)

In 2013, the DSWD expanded the coverage of the program to include the 15-18 age bracket to ensure that the children-beneficiaries will graduate from high school, and have a higher rate of employability.

The Secretary also shared that the post-graduation event will serve as the venue to give citations to those who graduated with honors.

She added, “These students are proof that given the little assistance, they too can excel.”

Graduating valedictorian from Maligaya High School in Novaliches, David Louie Manansala will give a valedictory address to inspire his fellow graduates.

Furthermore, partner agencies, business sector, and civil society organizations are also expected to participate in the event to present their programs and services which the graduates may avail of.

To give the students an orientation on academic and career opportunities, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Secretary Joel Villanueva, and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Patricia Licuanan will share their respective programs and services.

As the event is a celebration of the students’ accomplishment, selected Pantawid Pamilya graduates will also showcase their talents and will share their inspiring stories.

“The more than 300,000 graduating high school children of the Pantawid Pamilya are a confirmation that development can indeed be achieved.  All we need to do is help them continue dreaming and striving for a better life.  It is important to tell these children to never give up,” Sec. Soliman enthused.

The Secretary said that whether in academic, technical skills, or other talents, the Pantawid Pamilya youth show that, “Kaya din nila ang pagbabago [they too can achieve change and development].”

This entry was posted under Briefing Room, Department of Social Welfare and Development and tagged Department of Social Welfare and Development, education, graduation, human development, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, press releases. Bookmark the permalink.


As part of the celebration of POPCOM’s 45th anniversary, the agency conducted a one-day event which highlighted the continuing and dedicated efforts of the Commission to improve the quality of lives of the people through the Philippine Population Management Program (PPMP). With the theme, “[email protected] and Beyond: Working towards Healthy, Happy and Empowered Families”, the celebration also underscored the continuing initiative of the agency to find and establish its relevance within the ever changing challenges and development of times.

Invisible millennials: Sex, family, dreams

By Fritzie Rodriguez

The term 'millennial', which originated in the US, slips into the Filipino tongue, but disregards the youth living in poverty

MILLENNIAL. Despite the country's economic growth, poverty incidence among PH youth remains static. File photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler

MILLENNIAL. Despite the country's economic growth, poverty incidence among PH youth remains static. File photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Generation Y, otherwise known as "millennials" are born in the 80s up to the early 2000s.

The mainstream image of millennials remains singular: college-educated, white-collar, urban. Their concerns include social media, travel, career-hopping, instant success, and dating.

The term, which originated in the US, has slipped into the Filipino tongue, but has disregarded the youth living in poverty.

Among these invisible millennials is Mel Bayo, one of the 28 million young Filipinos aged 15 to 30.

She was born and raised under the Quirino bridge in Manila in 1995. She earned her first peso in grade school, aiding her blind father beg across the Quirino Highway. They earned P300 on good days.

Poverty incidence for PH youth

Source: Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)

2006 2009 2012
21.1% 21.6% 22.3%

Money, brains

Bayo did well in class, acing Filipino subjects. She is not fond of reading, but loves Ibong Adarna and Noli Me Tangere.

At 14, she had her first syota (lover). “Hatid, sundo ako,” she recalled, “Tambay siya.” Love, however, did not spoil her studies.

She graduated from high school at 15 and began a 12-week Information Technology vocational course at TESDA. She dropped out after 6 weeks. As of 2010, one of 8 Filipinos aged 6-24 is out of school, the Philippine Statistical Authority reported.

HOME. The girl was born and raised under the Quirino bridge. File photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

HOME. The girl was born and raised under the Quirino bridge. File photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

Among urban settings, dropping out is mostly due to "cost of schooling," the Philippine Institute for Development Studies found in 2012. Meanwhile, lack of transportation concerns those living in rural areas.

In fact, most of employed youth did not finish college, a trend in the past 4 years.

Number of employed PH youth (15-30 years old)
based on highest grade completed as of 2013

Source: Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)

No education 112,000
Some/Completed Elementary 2.8M
Some/Completed High School 6.2M
Some/Completed College 3.6M

Majority were "laborers or unskilled workers," followed by "service workers," and "clerks." Meanwhile, over 2.1 million were unemployed, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported.

Bayo's house was demolished the same year she quit school; she helped rebuild it by waiting tables in a karinderya (eatery). The government relocated them to Laguna, but her family preferred the bridge because it's near their source of income. (READ: Hungry, jobless at relocation sites)

Love, sex, asawa

PARENTHOOD. 1 in every 10 Filipino women aged 15 to 19 is already a mother, the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey reveals. File photo by Dennis Sabangan/EPA

PARENTHOOD. 1 in every 10 Filipino women aged 15 to 19 is already a mother, the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey reveals. File photo by Dennis Sabangan/EPA

Bayo wanted to study, but her circumstances did not allow her.

According to her, at 16, she got hooked into chongke (marijuana), alcohol, andcigarettes.

She first had sex at 17, “bangenge kami nun.” (We were high.) It was P10 for 3 hits.

Her stepmother almost caught them. “Isang beses lang kami nag-ano. Natakot na ko mahuli.” (We only had sex once. I got scared of getting caught.)

No pills, no rubber. “'Di ako natakot mabuntis.” (I wasn’t scared of getting pregnant.) To avoid pregnancy, the girl stood after sex, “Para ‘yung ano ng lalaki ‘di pumasok agad sa puerta ko.” (So the man's semen won’t quickly enter my vagina.)

Like Bayo, many Filipinos were either clueless or did not use protection when they first had sex, the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFSS) revealed.

Filipino youth (15-24 years old) who did not use protection during first premarital sex
based on highest educational attainment

Source: 2013 YAFSS

College 66.7%
High school 79.6%
Elementary 88.3%

Her stepmother then forced her to end the 3-year relationship. The break-up happened two days before Christmas, she was devastated, but not for long. Five days into the new year, Bayo rediscovered love while falling in line for bags of rice distributed by an NGO.

Bayo's second lover was her neighbor, a childhood friend one year her junior. Their romance developed fast: She had sex for the second time, lived in with the boy, and called each other asawa (spouse) although unmarried.

BABY. Mel with her baby and her sister during an NGO workshop. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler

BABY. Mel with her baby and her sister during an NGO workshop. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler

Her folks liked her new partner. "Mabait (kind), nakatapos (finished) 1st year high school," she said. Short on cash, they had to live with the boy’s parents.

About 14% of young Filipinos are “living in,” the 2013 YAFSS showed. Metro Manila topped the list with one in 5 young couples living together.

A year later, Bayo got pregnant. She was not ready but her partner wanted a baby because he was jealous of his tropa (friends) with kids.

She dropped all vices except cigarettes, but takes pride in not smoking around her baby.

Whenever money's tight, her parents provided their needs. Without them, Bayo worries how her family will survive.

Her partner only earned P100 a day as a part-time construction worker – roughly enough for 3 mouths – before he lost job.


Bayo would soon turn 20; her baby, 6 months.

Mahirap buhay namin (Our life is hard). No more babies, she said. How? No more sex. For how long? She doesn't know, she said laughing.

She has never used contraceptives, “Delikado kasi sabi ni nanay,” (Mother said it's dangerous) believing that condoms could get stuck inside her and that pills are expensive and harmful.

Since the baby came, the couple’s intimacy ceased, “‘Dun siya natutulog sa kanila. Ako, sa amin.” (He sleeps in their house; I sleep in ours.)

Akbay-akbay na lang,” she quipped, "Kahit malayo mahal mo, okay lang." (We just hug. It's ok even if you're far from the one you love.)

Sometimes Bayo misses her dalaga (single) days: “Dancing Beyoncé” during fiesta, listening to rap, tambay (hanging out), and most of all, studying.

She wants to finish her IT course or become a teacher, whichever is more possible.

Her parents said she could study again when her baby’s older. Until then, she'll juggle babysitting her child and her siblings, selling rugs, and doing household chores – duties she grew up doing.

Lately she has been joining workshops given by non-government organizations, and advising younger friends: Listen to your parents, study hard, or else. She did not say what comes after "or else."

HOLES. The girl draws her home: The square as their house and the rectangle under it as the canal where her baby almost fell through a hole.

HOLES. The girl draws her home: The square as their house and the rectangle under it as the canal where her baby almost fell through a hole.

Bayo often dreams of the future: She wants her baby to become a nurse.

Para magamot lolo niya (To cure her grandfather)," she said.

Her other dreams include her asawa keeping a steady job; her brothers becoming welders and masons; and their house having no holes, so her baby would not fall into the canal.

"Muntik na noon, buti nagising ako," she added. (The baby almost fell before; good I woke up.)

Bayo said her baby is getting heavy at 8.3 kilograms. She thought about her upcoming birthday, her aging parents, her unsold rugs, her asawa, the laundry, and wonders how long her baby could remain chubby.

Like other millennials who share her plight, Bayo sometimes worries: "Ano mangyayari sa amin (What will happen to us?).

Arranged marriages tied to high teen pregnancies

BAGUIO CITY—Arranged marriages, part of tradition in some upland Cordillera areas, are partly to blame for a high number of teenage pregnancies and population officials are now taking a closer look at the impact of this practice on efforts to promote responsible parenthood and reproductive health.

Rose Fortaleza, Cordillera director of the Population Commission (Popcom), cited a study that showed some cases of teenage pregnancies in parts of Cordillera are actually results of arranged marriages.

Fortaleza, speaking at the sidelines of a program to celebrate the first anniversary of a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act as constitutional, said Popcom’s Cordillera office initiated the study to look deeper into sexual behavior of teenagers in the upland towns.

The study was prompted by the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS) which said the Cordillera has the most sexually active teenagers, as young as 15-years-old.

The upland region, which has the highest concentration of indigenous Filipino communities in Luzon, also has the highest pregnancy rate at 18.4 percent in the latest YAFS, according to Popcom.

The youngest recorded was a 12-year-old mother who gave birth in Baguio City.

But assumptions about the rise in adolescent sexual activity may have been erroneous, based on initial evaluation of data from the region’s provinces, Fortaleza said.

For example, incest cases have taken place in some upland communities, victimizing teenagers, she said.

The more significant data, however, involved adolescent marriages which also increased at the same time health officials recorded the number of teen pregnancies, said Job Manalang, Popcom regional information officer.

Most arranged marriages are apparently being made in remote farming communities, where education is not the first option for poor families, he said.

Cases of teenage pregnancies in the Mt. Province capital of Bontoc increased from 41 in 2011 to 64 in 2013. But in the more rural Paracelis town, the number of cases increased from 90 in 2011 to 136 in 2013, Popcom said.

As of September 2014, Bontoc had 47 teen mothers while Paracelis had 90. But within the same period, Bauko town had 52 teen mothers, which was higher than the 45 recorded there in 2013.

In Alfonso Lista town in Ifugao, health officials recorded 108 teen mothers aged 15 to 19, according to Popcom. The town also recorded three mothers younger than 14 years old.

Adolescent marriages are still arranged by grandparents in remote villages of Mt. Province and Kalinga, and teens oblige as part of their family or customary duty, said Lyn Madalang, executive director of gender rights group, Ebgan Inc.

“Families resort to this practice to protect clan properties, to mend clan differences or to maintain bonds of friendship. Sometimes, teens are coerced into marriage to make up for the fact that their fathers or mothers did not pursue a previous arrangement so they have to fulfill the deal. It’s tough for some of them,” said Madalang, a resident of Bontoc. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

DOH: 'Broken homes' not in profile of HIV patients

By Jee Y. Geronimo

However, Health Secretary Janette Garin agrees that 'to a huge extent' values formation has something to do with the rise in the number of HIV cases in the country

MANILA, Philippines – Are HIV infections in the country really linked to broken families, as asserted by an official from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)?

As far as the health department is concerned, nothing in the patients' profile suggests this.

"In the profile of the patients, it's not a matter of OFW ba yung magulang, hindi e. Nandun yung lifestyle-related. In fact many of the patients, middle class. Hindi ibig sabihin na talagang hirap sa buhay," Health Secretary Janette Garin said on Thursday, April 16.

(In the profile of the patients, it's not a matter of whether the parents are OFWS, no. It's lifestyle-related. In fact many of the patients, middle class. It doesn't mean they are poor.)

In the Philippines, many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) are separated from their families for years because of better opportunities abroad.

The DOH recently reported a total of 646 new cases of HIV infections in February – the highest number since the Philippines' first case in 1984. This number translates to 21 new infections every day.

A CBCP News article on Wednesday, April 15 quoted Fr Dan Vicente Cancino, the executive secretary of CBCP's Episcopal Commission on Health Care (ECHC), as saying that many young people today lack family values formation, which affects ties with their families.

He then linked the "damaged" family ties to the rising number of HIV cases in the Philippines.

"Because of this, they were deprived of a deep parent-child relationship. The familial ties have been damaged. It is no wonder that many of our patients would come from 'broken families,' dysfunctional families," Cancino said.

Lack of information, awareness

But Garin on Thursday said the rise in the cases boils down to lack of information on HIV, and a patient's lack of awareness that he is already infected.

"If indeed there is a relationship, siguro yung iba parang naghahanap ng kasama sa buhay, pero if you do the profiling, hindi naman ganun," the health secretary explained.

(If indeed there is a relationship, maybe some patients are looking for a partner in life, but if you do the profiling, it's not broken families.)

But she agreed with the priest that "to a huge extent" values formation has something to do with it.

Health experts describe the HIV situation in the country as a "concentrated epidemic," with pockets of administrative areas reporting more than 5% of HIV prevalence among specific populations. The epidemic in at least 6 Philippine cities may even become uncontrollable if nothing is done about it.

But official estimates show less than 1% among the general Filipino population are infected.

At this rate, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said the Philippines will not meet the HIV/AIDS targets in the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. –


HIV cells image from Shutterstock
Family split up after a divorce image from Shutterstock

No ‘gray areas’ in RH Law

By Rina Jimenez-David

Quietly, save for a festive observance by reproductive health supporters in Baguio, the country marked the first anniversary of the Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, certainly one of the more contentious and controversial recent pieces of legislation.

Joining the small group of jubilant RH supporters in Baguio was former Rep. Edcel Lagman, who for years led the grueling struggle to pass the bill in the House, a struggle he described as “epic,” and then monitored the one-year “confrontation to surmount the constitutional challenge” at the Supreme Court.

True, as Lagman told his like-minded supporters in a bonfire-lit closing ceremony, the struggle is still not over, as the people still need to be vigilant and ensure the “full and expeditious implementation” of the law.

Also true, said Lagman, is that the declaration of the Supreme Court was not an unmitigated success, as the tribunal found eight provisions of the RH Law “not constitutional,” together with their counterpart provisions in the implementing rules and regulations (RH-IRR).

But overall, stressed Lagman, “the overwhelming majority of the provisions are constitutional” and the “struck-down provisions are peripheral to the core and essence of the RH Law.”

Spared from what Lagman described as the “judicial scalpel” were the essential provisions of the law, including the government’s mandate to give marginalized sectors free access to family planning information, services and supplies; inclusion in the Philippine Drug Formulary of hormonal contraceptives, IUDs, injectables, and other “safe, legal, non-abortifacient and effective family planning devices and supplies” as determined by the Food and Drug Administration; the authority of the Department of Health to procure family planning supplies for distribution to local government units; the mandate of LGUs to assist in the implementation of the RH Law; the mandate for schools, public and private, to provide reproductive health education for adolescents; and the need for public awareness programs and massive nationwide multimedia campaigns on the promotion and protection of reproductive health.

* * *

The “voided” sections of the RH Law touch on the following areas: the protection of the right of conscientious objectors; the requirement of parental and spousal consent before the provision of certain RH services; the removal of any culpability on the part of local officials who refuse to implement or support the RH Law; and the removal of culpability from any public officer who fails or refuses to disseminate information on reproductive health and related matters.

From this lay person’s point of view, what the Supreme Court achieved in its voiding of these provisions was to uphold the right of “private” medical practitioners and public officials to exercise their conscience over the conscience and welfare of ordinary people, and the subsuming of a woman’s and a young person’s rights and conscience (for I’m sure the majority of those whose right to family planning services will be curtailed are women and young people) to her spouse and to her parents.

But even then, said Lagman, RH supporters and seekers of RH services need not fret.

Conscientious objection, for one, “whether genuine or contrived, is an exception to general compliance by healthcare service providers, the vast majority of whom avidly support the RH Law.”

Likewise with public officials who would not support or hinder the implementation of the RH Law, said Lagman, since they “constitute a small minority” while a majority of public officials would uphold their calling to observe and comply with the law.

And in cases when one spouse seeks to undergo a ligation or vasectomy, Lagman argued that spouses usually agree to have one of them undergo these procedures when they both feel they already have too many children or for health reasons, so that “consequently, disagreement between spouses is the exception.”

But what of young people who want to use contraceptives or undergo a family planning procedure but are afraid of letting their parents find out? “Nonelective surgical procedures requiring parental consent are exceptional,” said Lagman. Besides, “there is no sanction or penalty for nonobservance of the Supreme Court’s nullification … because the very penalty imposed by the law has been removed.”

* * *

“Cong” Edcel, as he is known by the RH community, posited that the struck-down provisions “will not create ‘gray areas’ in the implementation of the RH Law if the voided provisions are strictly construed or interpreted and the declaration of unconstitutionality is limited to the precise sections or provisions specifically pointed out by the Supreme Court.”

Lagman said it was precisely “not to delay further the implementation of the RH Law” that he, like the Solicitor General, did not file a motion for reconsideration on the nullity of the provisions.

While he has personal reservations on the wisdom, and indeed legality, of part of the Supreme Court’s decision, the wisest recourse, he said, is “to enact the necessary remedial legislation to temper or reverse the effects of the voiding of some provisions.” Bills must be filed in Congress, he noted, but only at the appropriate time, “which is not yet now.”

Indeed, a year has passed since the declaration of the constitutionality of the RH Law. Already, the DOH is gearing up for full national implementation, and the “ground war” to bring reproductive health services, information and education to everyone in all corners of the country is only just starting.

Popcom to study cases of teen pregnancy

By Giovani Joy Fontanilla

WHERE are teenage and child pregnancies more prevalent, in capital towns or rural areas?

The Commission on Population-Cordillera Administrative Region will conduct an extensive research on teenage pregnancy in the region, which was earlier reported to have the highest prevalence among other 17 regions.

Popcom-CAR Regional Director Rosa Fortaleza recently told media while data are available on the number of teen and child pregnancies in the region, they would want to look into areas and factors contributing to the youth's risk behaviors.

"We want to know where there are more cases of teen and child pregnancies in the region. Whether they are in capital cities, towns or rural areas and why there," she said.

For example, Popcom-CAR wants to find out if Baguio City, being the center of education of the North, is a reason why it has recorded teen and child pregnancies.

Fortaleza noted the migration of students, their independence, the lifestyle or even the weather may be reasons for these cases.

However, she stressed their agency has to back up these assumptions with factual data through a thorough research.

Popcom-CAR also wants to look into the factors such as parental connectivity, access to technology, geographic location (isolation to other towns) and culture in the region.

Popcom-CAR information officer Job Manalong said that while pregnancies are common among capital cities and towns, records in the region shows it varies from each province.

For instance, data shows in Mt. Province and in Ifugao, the capital towns have less number of teenage and child pregnancies than other rural towns.

In Mt. Province, as of third quarter in 2014, Paracelis listed 90 teenage pregnancies, which is higher than the number in Bontoc which only recorded 47.

Bauko also noted a higher number of 52 than the capital town.

In Ifugao, data from 2013 shows Alfonso Lista had 111 teenage pregnancies; Lamut had 58; Aguinaldo had 55; Banaue had 36; Kiangan had 33; and Asipulo had 29.

These municipalities recorded higher number of pregnancies than the capital town of Lagawe.

With a thorough study on the possible factors contributing to the number, Popcom-CAR hopes the region can come up with policies, programs and projects to lower cases of teen and child pregnancy incidence in the region.

10 reasons why Pinays make great moms

By Kathy Car

(Sun.Star file photo)

KIDS are not likely to have another mom.

The Italian-American godfather of my daughter looked for a Filipina wife because he was very disturbed over the divorce of his own parents. It was an experience he does not want to happen in his own marriage. Divorce is not legal in our country and most Filipino women are tolerant for the imperfections of their marriages and family lives, so kids will most likely to be spared from the stressful consequences of divorce.

Bayanihan child rearing

Pinays here, and even abroad, almost always form a network of surrogate moms composed of relatives and friends who shower the little ones with so much love, attention and gifts. The little ones grow up with a sense of community and belongingness. Rarely does a Pinoy child feel alone or lonely because there will always be a tito and tita, lolo and lola outside of the family circle.

Home-cooked meals

Most Pinays cook. In fact one of the first kitchen equipment a Pinay will buy is not a microwave but a rice cooker. A Pinay’s kitchen will never be complete without a kaldero, a pot and a frying pan. Grocery and/or wet market shopping is a weekly ritual in Philippine homes and Pinays are often made to tag along with their moms. It is a practice that Pinays bring to their own married life. Hence, Pinoy kids thrive on home cooked meals.

Kids’ education is important

Just go to a Pinay’s home and you will see the framed college graduation pictures and diplomas of the kids hanging in the living room walls. It is usual to see Pinay moms tutoring their kids after work or sending their kids to tutors after school. Most Pinay moms work with their kids on assignments and school projects. And it is common practice in the Philippines for parents to send their kids to college. Most Pinoys will slave over work until retirement age to pay for college tuition. Most Pinoys don’t invest in retirement funds; we invest in our kids’ education and their future.

Pinay moms mother their kids’ friends

Pinay moms will wipe the noses of their kids’ friends, will worry about the love life of their kids’ friends, will help their kids’ friends during a hangover (but with so much noisy reprimanding!) and will even temporarily adopt their kids’ friends if needed.

Kids won’t get kicked out of the house at 18

Or even at 25 or 35 or even if they marry. Kids may choose to leave the family home and when that happens, Pinay moms will make so much drama over it.

Pinay moms might threaten to boot kids out of the home when they commit serious offenses, but repentant kids are often always welcomed back.

There is food for every emotion and celebration

Sleepy in the morning? Have some pan de sal. Feeling sick? Try the arroz caldo. Angry? Devour some ice cream. Birthday? One must never forget the bihon or sotanghon or spaghetti. Tired from work? I will cook you adobo. Having buddies in the house for drinks? We will have some kinilaw. Fasting and repenting your sins? Biko and binignit will be on hand. And this is why Pinoy kids always go home to their mamas to eat.

Pinays meddle in their kids’ lives

Pinay moms often go through kids’ bedrooms hunting for foreign objects like porn magazines, contraceptives or drugs. They interview their kids’ love interest. They intervene in couple’s quarrels, married or not. They watch, praise and correct on how their granchildren are raised. Pinoy kids know that mom is a constant fixture in their lives.

Birthdays and death anniversaries are always celebrated

Dead or alive, Pinay moms will never forget their kids. Pinay moms would cook and clean the house for birthdays. During death anniversaries, Pinay moms would cook and clean the grave. There will always be food and merriment.

If everything else fails, Pinay moms pray for their kids

When all is said and done, Pinay moms will call on God, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, priests, saints or angels to guide their children or keep them safe. Too often, this strong faith allows Pinay moms to weather the worst times with and of their kids. It prevents them from giving up and is often translated to positive thinking that kids also acquire.

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Mindfulness Exercise 5: Walking

 By Rose Anne Belmonte and Eliza Coliangco-Tan

MANILA, Philippines —  Mindfulness is a way of being that both adults and children can practice. It may sound complicated, but it really just means awareness. It is the practice of noticing things in the moment, especially those overlooked, such as one’s breathing, feelings, thoughts or actions.

By now, you already know how important mindfulness is in your child's development and that there are certain practices that you can do to guide your child through achieving it.

Aside from BreathingListeningExpressing and Moving as activities to practice mindfulness, Dr. Honey Carandang also suggested Walking. 

Children can do the walking activity for  5 to 10 minutes a day at different times: before school, before homework, or before bedtime. It can be scheduled and regimented if structure helps your child, or it can be changed—to keep the novelty and fun of it—but maintained on a flexible daily schedule. 

Follow this infographic to practice the proper way of walking to achieve mindfulness:


Here is a music to accompany your walking exercise:

DOH: 20 new HIV cases a day

According to the latest report by the Department of Health (DOH) last February, 20 new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are diagnosed every day. This is almost 50 percent higher from the number of cases reported daily in 2012.

HIV leads to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition in which the body’s immune system is attacked and compromised, making the patient vulnerable to opportunistic diseases that would ultimately lead to death.

In 2014, there were a total of 6,011 new cases of HIV reported nationwide. Of this figure, 543 were reported as AIDS cases. Last year, 188 deaths were recorded.

Last month alone, 646 new cases of HIV were registered by the DOH. This is the highest number of new cases reported in a month since 1984. The new cases brought the total number of reported HIV cases nationwide to 23,709 since 1984.

Out of the 646 new cases, Metro Manila accounted for 41 percent or 262 cases of the recent HIV cases, the highest among all regions.

DOH records showed that from 1984 to February 2015, most of the cases (about 79 percent) were transmitted by males who had unprotected sex with other males. Fifteen percent are transmitted between males and females who had unprotected sex while 5 percent are people who shared needles.

There were 17 reported deaths among people with HIV in February. Of this figure, 15 of them were male. Most (65 percent) are aged 25 to 34 years old.

During the same month, the DOH warned the public of the emergence of a new and more aggressive form of the virus that leads to the faster development of AIDS.

With a new strain of HIV infecting people in other parts of the world, the public should be more informed about the growing prevalence of HIV-AIDS cases in the country, said Health Secretary Janette Garin.

In 2013, the World Health Organization issued new HIV treatment guidelines, recommending that antiretroviral therapy be given to HIV patients earlier. Recent studies have shown that earlier medical care helps patients have longer and healthier lives.Sources: DOH HIV-Aids and ART Registry of the Philippines, Inquirer Archives

Majority of Asean population must gain from digital society–ICT chief Casambre

by Rizal Raoul Reyes

NOT everyone in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region would benefit from a digital society.

But Philippines’s information and communications technology (ICT) chief Louis Casambre wants everyone in Asean to try to at least grow a digital society benefiting majority of the expected Year 2020 population of 600 million.

“It is important for the digital society [that] we are creating should be inclusive to all,” Casambre said in his keynote address during a forum by the Internet Society (Isoc) held recently in Mandaluyong City.

Despite some challenges in building its digital infrastructure, Casambre said the Philippines has achieved major gains in building inclusive growth through the digital economy route. He mentioned the high penetration rate of mobile phones—approximately 98 million—as an indication that a huge number of Filipinos are connected through the mobile technology.

He added the business-process outsourcing (BPO) industry is a major player as it employs 1 million Filipinos directly.

Casambre, executive director of the ICT office, also forecast that revenues of the BPO sector, which is aiming to hit the $25-billion mark, can surpass the overseas Filipino workers remittance, which has hit nearly $27 billion last year.

However, Casambre said providing Internet connectivity to some public elementary and high schools remains a challenge to the government. Further, he said the Philippines also need to beef up its wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) connectivity for the majority of Filipinos.

“For 2016 we are proposing to expand the coverage of Wi-Fi to all cities to achieve faster transaction and improve ways communicating.”

Casambre added his office has also proposed to the national government the establishment of 14 Internet peering facilities in the country.

The Isoc forum also released a report urging Asean members Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam to implement concrete steps that would harness the full potential of the Internet.

In addition, the Isoc said the steps could transform Asean member-economies into a highly competitive, single market and production base.

“It is no overstatement to say that the successful launch of the Asean economic community will depend upon the ability of the Asean nations to interconnect,” Isoc Regional Bureau Director for Asia Pacific Rajnesh Singh said.

“However, the benefits of a shift from the economies of scale of an Internet economy to the economies of scope of a digital economy will be truly transformative.”

The Isoc report titled on “Unleashing the Internet’s Potential for Asean Economies” takes stock of the Internet infrastructure of the region and outlines the actions necessary to support the Internet connectivity goals of the AEC blueprint. That document reveals a comprehensive agenda for the economic transformation of the region.

‘RH beat’ as relevant as ever

by Rina Jimenez-David

THIS IS a shameless plug, but only because it’s the only way I can thank as many people as I can—here and abroad—for their support and encouragement.

Earlier, Women Deliver selected me, the only journalist from the Philippines and one of four from Asia, as one of 15 journalists from around the world “advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights.” Women Deliver carries out the selection each year as its way of celebrating International Women’s Day, “honoring people, organizations and innovations that are delivering for girls and women.” The 15 of us were selected by an international review board from a “competitive pool” of more than 100 journalists.

But the good news doesn’t end there. Women Deliver then asked the public—mainly through social media and traditional media outlets—to vote “for the journalist who inspired you the most.”

Originally, only the top three of the 15 honorees were to receive a scholarship to the next Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, Denmark early next year, but organizers said the numbers came so close together they decided to expand the list to five. And I’m happy to say that I am one of the five selected journalists!

So here’s a most sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone who, first of all, voted for me and then sent in their congratulations, both when I made it to the list of 15 honorees and then the “Top Five.” My “beauty contest” or “Oscar awards” standard reply was that it was enough of an honor to be named, and I meant that with no reservations. But of course, getting the scholarship and the free trip to Copenhagen is more than just the leche flan on the halo-halo. It’s the cooked saba, red beans, gelatin and ube jam as well!

* * *

THE other four journos coming to Denmark next year are: Comfort Mussa from Cameroon; Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam from Pakistan; Florencia Goldsman from Argentina; and Tareq Salahuddin from Bangladesh.

Of the four, I know Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam best, as she and I were in the same batch of participants in “Women’s Edition” (2010-2012), a project of the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) that gathers women journalists from the developing world for seminars and study tours around the world. Women’s Edition brought Farah and me to Washington, DC, Ethiopia, Senegal and Indonesia, where we met with village women, health professionals, policymakers and religious leaders, talking about reproductive health concerns and women’s rights. A special shout-out to PRB from me—and Farah, too, I’m sure—for opening the gate by nominating us to the Women Deliver search. What I best remember about Farah, though, is that in one of our get-togethers, her souvenirs for the rest of the group were kohl eyeliners, a “trademark of Pakistani women.” We all had a lot of fun trying out the makeup on ourselves and on each other.

In Pakistan, Farah is known for her stories that confront and challenge “cultural and religious norms that threaten girls’ and women’s health and rights.” No matter how controversial, Farah is not afraid to touch on such topics as female genital mutilation, fistula, sexual violence and religious extremism. She has even helped bring perpetrators of sexual assault behind bars. Farah admits: “I tilt towards the female side of the story, not just because I am a woman, but because I understand Pakistani women’s indigenous sensibilities as I am one. Hence, my stories are not just sob stories. I am a positive person. So my stories are stories of triumphant women.”

* * *

CERTAINLY a “triumphant woman” is Comfort Mussa, a radio host, blogger and multi-award winning journalist in Cameroon, who hosts a weekly broadcast where she “leads young people in open and vibrant conversations about sexual and reproductive health.” As a reporter for Global Press Journal, Comfort writes about such sensitive topics as the risk of sexual harassment for mentally disabled women and the ripple effect of antichild labor laws on middle-class women. She also founded SisterSpeak237, a blog where girls and women can openly discuss taboo topics, such as sexual harassment on public transportation.

A “cyberfeminist” is how Florencia Goldsman from Argentina describes herself. As the Women Deliver website puts it: “Florencia is passionate about using digital technology and photography to raise awareness about issues affecting women’s rights across Latin America and the Caribbean, from the rural jungles of Guatemala to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.”

Tareq Salahuddin of Bangladesh is one of two men on Women Deliver’s list of 15 media RH champions. A physician-turned-journalist, Tareq is health editor of The Daily Star, the leading English-language newspaper in his country, and often covers maternal and reproductive health global policies and programs. A real women’s advocate, Tareq says: “If I could only tell one more story, I would convince policymakers to invest in simple, cost-effective interventions that help save women’s lives, like access to oxytocin to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and death. We need to remind our governments, time and time again, that the health and safety of our women is a top priority.”

* * *

WHEN I began writing about reproductive health, the term hadn’t even been in popular use, since it entered the public lexicon only during and after the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, in 1994.

One would think, given the passage of the Reproductive Health Law and the health department gearing up for its full national implementation, there would no longer be a need to advocate for RH, much less to cover it.

But it seems that new issues, new controversies are still cropping up, with many more bound to crop up. The “RH beat” remains as relevant as ever.

HIV in 6 PH cities may reach 'uncontrollable' rates – DOH

By: Jee Y. Geronimo

Among the 6 cities exceeding the national HIV prevalence rate of 3.5% among males who have sex with males (MSM), Caloocan City is the 'most problematic'

TARLAC, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has warned that an HIV "concentrated epidemic" in 6 Philippine cities – half found in Metro Manila – may reach "uncontrollable" levels in a couple of years without the active cooperation of the public.

Dr Jose Gerard Belimac, program manager of DOH's National HIV/STI Prevention Program, made the statement in a presentation in an epidemiology workshop conducted by the DOH on Thursday, April 9.

The DOH identified the 6 cities and their corresponding prevalence rate among males who have sex with males (MSM) as the following:

  • Quezon City - 6.6%
  • Manila - 6.7%
  • Caloocan - 5.3%
  • Cebu - 7.7%
  • Davao - 5.0%
  • Cagayan de Oro - 4.7%

"According to [the World Health Organization], ‘pag lumagpas yan ng 5%, in a matter of two years' time, the HIV in these areas will really be uncontrollable already so lessons learned, huwag po talagang hayaan na umabot ng 5% yung HIV prevalence in any of the cities,” Belimac said in his presenation.

(According to the World Health Organization, if [the prevalence rate] exceeds 5%, in a matter of two years' time, the HIV in these areas will really be uncontrollable already so lessons learned, let us not allow the HIV prevalence in any of the cities to reach 5%.)

This is based on experiences of other countries like Thailand, he said in an interview at the sidelines of the workshop, when asked to clarify his statement. (READ: Know more about HIV with your mobile phone)

Caloocan city 'most problematic'

Belimac said Caloocan is the "most problematic" city with a high HIV prevalence rate because most infections happen among male sex workers.

In Manila, most infections happen among males who have casual sex with other males.

The table below shows other high risk areas in the country:

  • National Capital Region (16 cities and municipalities)
  • San Jose del Monte, Bulacan
  • Antipolo
  • Cainta
  • Bacoor
  • Imus
  • Dasmarińas
  • Sta Rosa, Laguna
  • Davao
  • Angeles
  • Bacolod
  • Cagayan de Oro City
  • Zamboanga City

The DOH reported a total of 646 new cases of HIV infections in February – the highest number since the Philippines' first case in 1984. This number translates to 21 new infections every day.

Most of the cases (586 out of 646) were infected through sexual contact. About 84% of the 586 cases are MSM.

Belimac said the HIV prevalence rate among MSM has dramatically increased since 2007, from 0.30% to 3.50% in 2013.

This means 3.5 out of 100 MSM are infected with the virus.

2007 2009 2011 2013
Males who have sex with males 0.30% 1.05% 2.12% 3.50%

On condom use to prevent HIV infection, Belimac said in Filipino, "We cannot force those who don't want to use condoms."

He said that the condom use prevalence among MSM is at 35% – far from the government target of 80%.

The DOH is currently doing behavioral, bio-medical, and structural interventions to control HIV infections among Filipino MSM.

The health department's National HIV/STI Prevention Program has a 2015 budget of about P500 million ($11.24 million), 60% of which will go to the treatment of patients.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said the Philippines will not meet the HIV/AIDS targets in the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

HIV blood collection image via Shutterstock

*US$1 = P44.48

Boracay’s Ati kids and the power of knowledge

It was a perfect day to swim in any one of Boracay's famous beaches, with their powdery white sand, blue waters and “ever after” party mood.

But Ina Morillo would rather spend her weekends in a quieter part of the island.

By an equally beautiful seaside is a village, on land recently awarded to the Atis by the government as part of their ancestral domain.

Ina, the daughter of a resort owner, is a former technical consultant for NEDA and a teaching fellow at the University of the Philippines School of Economics. She comes here every weekend as a volunteer teacher for the Ati kids.

She teaches math and English to the young members of the community considered the first to have settled on the island.

Ina is warmly welcomed by her students in the empty hut they use as a classroom. Carrying chairs, the children gather near "Ate Ina" as she draws on a movable blackboard with colored chalk. The lesson for the day: fractions.

Ever since they started a business on the island, Morillo and her family have known the Ati community. Ina also volunteered as a tutor for the Catholic parish’s reading and writing class for older Ati students.

"I distinctly remember that enriching feeling of teaching, so when the opportunity arose for me to take a break from my work in Manila and come to the island to help manage our business, I spoke to Nanay Delsa, the Boracay Ati chieftain, about my intention to teach the kids more regularly," said Ina.

"She warmly gave me her approval and, since then, I come every week and visit the Lupaing Ninuno as a volunteer teacher to the kids."

Ina begins her class with an exciting activity where she can gain their attention and natural curiosity before proceeding with a lesson in math or English—usually math. “I can sense the Ati kids find math very intuitive,” she said. 

Ina, who also taught Economics at UP, knew she had to make math relevant to her young students. So she uses examples from their natural surroundings and their way of life, such as coconut trees and Boracay's waters, for math problem solving.

Another example of this, said Ina, is drawing on the kids' experience of learning to share with their siblings for the lesson on fractions. "This gives them an intuitive understanding of comparing fractions as well as adding and subtracting parts."

Ina mentions one student in particular, Angeli, who excels in the subject. "She has corrected me once or twice, and I couldn't be prouder as a teacher," she said.

In the initial stage of her weekly teaching Ina felt she couldn’t get through the kids the way she hoped to. So she developed a teaching strategy particularly for them.

Ina said it was a good challenge, and she never made attendance to class compulsory. "I wanted them to also want to be there. The 'unga' [children] taught me to understand that teaching truly is very dynamic."

Ina said her intent is to not be a figure who comes and goes, but to be someone who genuinely wants to know them and share what she knows, and at the same time is eager to learn new things from them.

Over the months Ina adjusted and modified her technique, and the number of students she had grew to about 25 to 30 students. "Their wide-eyed reaction to their science experiment, and curiosity as to how Bulkan Bura [the name they gave our make-believe volcanic eruption] made me feel that I am now very blessed to be with them, in that cross between being their sister and their teacher," she said.

Atis' struggle

Some years ago, a certificate of ancestral domain title was issued in full recognition of the Atis' rights as the rightful owner of their ancestral domain in Boracay.

But the Ati community continue to fight for their ancestral land, which was taken away from them by corporations and families over the years.

A few years back we did a documentary, "Sigalot sa Paraiso" for GMA News TV’s "Brigada." We met several Atis who said they experienced discrimination on the very island of their ancestors.

One of those who spoke and fought bravely for the rights of the Atis was tribal youth leader Dexter Condez. He was gunned down in 2013; his killing is believed to be related to his very active role in fighting for their ancestral land.

Dexter was one of the very few Atis who have had the privilege to study and finish college, and he has become a symbol of hope for many young people in the community.

Ina said she could sense that the Ati children are very eager to learn and be given the opportunity to broaden their education just like Dexter. "As someone who shares in their advocacy, [I feel] that the Ati children represent the promise that all those years of struggle for their land, as well as the precious life of Dexter, the murdered youth leader of the Ati community, have not been in vain," she said.

"I can feel they value learning because it is part of the fruits that the sacrifice of their parents, grandparents and elders have enabled for them," she added.

Ina feels the biggest misconception about the Ati community is from people who come to the village absorbed with the idea of how unfortunate the Atis are either because of their poverty or their struggle for land.

She said she had come to learn that "their whole struggle—their identity, land and their way of coping in the changing environment—is so deeply woven in their joys, pains, loss and dreams that you will be humbled by their wisdom."

The Ati village in Boracay is slowly becoming a tourist spot because it's just a tricycle ride from whichever station you are staying.

Some visitors have donated books or other materials to the village.

I visited it recently. It has become a really livable and peaceful community where Ati boys play basketball in their own court wihout anyone bothering them.

Nanay Delsa, whom I had the chance to meet during our feature about their ancestral domain plight, said she is very thankful for all the help volunteers like Ina are doing to enrich the minds of their little Atis. She said it will empower their minds as their fight to protect their ancestral land continues.

In spite their government-awarded ancestral domain, several families are still pursuing legal cases against the Atis to get the land from the Atis again.

Nanay Delsa said her hope is that by learning math, English and science, the younger Ati generation may one day be equipped to protect their ancestral land without fear that some people may question their ability to think and discern.

But there is more to Atis, according to Ina. "One can come and enter the Ati village with material things to share, but the depth and profound lessons you can learn from them if you truly spend time with them and share a few laughs and even some tears is invaluable."

The real treasure of Boracay

In the end, Ina said, the Atis may be less apparent than the island's famed white sands.

But before anyone else had any claim whatsoever to any parcel of land on the island paradise, there was a people who already knew Boracay well and respected the island for what it is.

Without a doubt, said Ina, "the Ati community is Boracay's real treasure." — BM, GMA News

More from:

Little heroes

They need not go to war or engage in firefight, these children are heroes in their own rights
April 7, 2015 (updated)


A namesake of the 35th US president, John Kennedy Alano, Jr. showed what true courage is. On June 21, 2006, a fire broke out inside the room where he and his four siblings were sleeping. The 11-year-old bravely carried his siblings to safety, uncaring of the danger. He was given a certificate of recognition by the Bureau of Fire Protection for his bravery and heroism.




Her first instinct should have been to run and look for a sanctuary when Typhoon Juaning struck Albay and flooded the province. But in July 2011, then sixth grader Janela Lelis risked her life to save the Philippine flag inside Malinao Elementary School from being swallowed by the raging waters. The National Youth Commission, that same year, passed a resolution praising the bravery she displayed.




On July 2, 1993, tragedy struck in Bulacan when an overloaded pagoda sank in Bocaue River, killing 266 Catholic devotees. One of those who died was 14-year-old Sajid Bulig, who was able to save four kids before drowning. On Jan. 22, 1997, President Fidel V. Ramos honored such heroic act by issuing the Executive Order No. 393, which created the “Sajid Bulig Presidential Award for Heroism.” The Ten Outstanding Boy Scouts of the Philippines Association (TOBSPA) also posthumously gave him the “2010 Gawad TOBSPA for Community Service” on Oct. 4, 2010.




Just before midnight of May 26, 1996, Rona carried her brothers and sisters to safety when their house in Sagay, Negros Occidental burst into flames. She sustained third degree burns. In 1997, President Ramos bestowed upon her a Presidential Citation. The national government also nominated her to the worldwide search for 100 Heroines.




Enteng was a 10-year-old boy from Payatas, Quezon City. On July 12, 2000, a mountain of garbage toppled over and buried hundreds of people. Enteng was able to save his one-year-old brother and his eight-year-old playmate.




Four-year-old Chrisanta rescued her siblings Marianne, 3 and Emerson, 2 from a fire. Unfortunately, she was not able to save her five-month-old sister Joyjoy. She was awarded with a Plaque of Recognition from the Office of Civil Defense.




On Jan. 30, 1994, 13-year-old Aris of Lanao Del Norte sacrificed his life for his friends when he covered a grenade thrown at them with his body. He was killed instantly.




In September 2012, Kesz Valdez received the International Children’s Peace Prize for his efforts in helping Filipino street children. Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu presented the award. Kesz used to live on the streets of Cavite City, but a social worker took him in when he was five years old after he suffered from severe burning. His organization, Championing Community Children (C3), has touched the lives of over 10,500 children living in 48 different communities. He is now 16 years old.


Full implementation

(The Philippine Star)

There was one controversy in which President Aquino enjoyed strong support from his “bosses” the people: his fight for the enactment of the Reproductive Health Law. After many years of being kicked around in the halls of Congress, where lawmakers feared the wrath of the Catholic Church, Republic Act 10354 was finally signed into law in December 2012.

For sure, surveys contributed to the passage of RA 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act. Survey after survey showed overwhelming public support for the measure, persuading lawmakers that they would not risk losing votes if they backed the measure.

Enactment of RA 10354 did not end the battle; opponents took the issue to the Supreme Court, delaying implementation of the law. A year ago today, the high tribunal upheld the constitutionality of RA 10354. RH advocates are holding mass actions today, calling for speedier and effective implementation of the measure.

Implementation of most laws in this country is rarely speedy and effective. Proper implementation of RA 10354, however, must be given special attention if the government wants to promote better health for women and their children. The arguments that led to the passage of RA 10354 are the same arguments for its full implementation: reproductive health is a basic right, and it is most needed by women in impoverished households.

Women with sufficient education and financial means have always enjoyed access to reproductive health care and are fully aware of their choices in planning the size of their families. Those choices are not available and often not even known to millions of poor women. The RH law seeks to fill this gap.

Even Pope Francis, who cuddled children wherever he went during his visit to the Philippines at the start of the year, memorably said, as he flew out of Manila, that the Church stand against contraception does not mean the faithful should breed “like rabbits.” While he later softened the impact of the statement, the pontiff did not change his support for responsible parenthood. With even the beloved leader of the Catholic Church expressing support, there should be no more obstacles to the full and effective implementation of the Reproductive Health law.

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