Twitter Updates

Facebook Fan Page

Recent Comments

Women Gladiators

Running the Rome Marathon has always been on my bucket list. When I found out that the Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting that I regularly attend on behalf of the Philippine Senate was going to be held the week before Rome Marathon and on my birthday weekend, I knew that Rome was mine to take!

The Arch of Titus and the Coliseum

The Arch of Titus and the Coliseum

The day before I ran Rome Marathon, I did a short run to the Colosseum to take some pictures. While there, I contemplated on the life we have now vs. the lives of women then.

photo 1

I realized I may not look like a gladiator, and I don’t know if I would survive a battle to the death in the Colosseum during the Roman times, but I do know many women who are modern day gladiators. Among them are the women who took to the streets lobbying for their right to reproductive health.

image

In the Roman times, women picketed the houses of lawmakers to pressure them to repeal the Oppian law which they deemed oppressive in a time of prosperity. The said law sought to limit a woman’s possession of gold, wearing of dresses in different colors, or riding of a horse-drawn carriage within the city. Their efforts were successful and the law was successfully repealed (source: http://www.the-romans.co.uk/women.htm)

It doesn’t seem like a cause we would fight for today, but I guess in the context of the times, these women were fighting for equal treatment.

And even as our country has been recognized as among the most gender equal nations in the world, we still have laws that are discriminatory against women. In this regard, as Chair of the  Senate Committee on Women, Family Relations, and Equality, I conducted hearings to review such discriminatory laws with the view of bridging the gender gap in our legislation. The first two subject matters in the following enumeration have gone through the committee and are already on the Senate floor, and we are currently drafting the Committee Report for the third law.

  1. There are many provisions in the Family Code where the decision should be lodged with both husband and wife. And yet, the Family Code gives the husband or father the final say in the following matters:

-       Administration of the spouses’ common property (Family Code, Arts. 96 and 124)

-       Exercise of parental authority over their common children (Family Code, Arts. 211 and 225)

-       Giving parental consent to the marriage of their child (Family Code, Art. 14)

These are discriminatory because the decision of the husband and wife, or father and mother, must be given the same weight in our laws, instead of holding one supreme over the other.

  1. Premature marriages make it a crime for a woman to marry within 301 days after the death of her husband, or before having delivered if she was pregnant at the time of his death. No such prohibition is placed on men. (Revised Penal Code, Art. 351)
  2. On marital infidelity, men and women are treated unequally. A married woman is made criminally liable for one count of adultery for each act of sexual intercourse with a man not her husband. Meanwhile, the law enumerates stringent conditions before a man can be held criminally liable for having sexual intercourse with a woman not his wife. (Revised Penal Code, Arts. 333 and 334)

In addition to these, the Committee will also be reviewing other laws with discriminatory provisions against women, including the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.

Women have come so far in fighting for and attaining equal rights under the law. Despite the progress we have made, it is important to remember that there was a time in our recent past where women did not get equal opportunities for education, to pursue a career, or to vote. It is a continuing struggle to achieve gender equality in every aspect of our lives, and getting our laws up to speed is a good place to start.

And my Rome Marathon? It was actually the slowest marathon I ever ran – thanks to my decision to run my first ultra marathon in Cebu two weeks prior – but it is one of the most memorable. It was like running back in time through many historic sites. Truly unforgettable.

photo 4

photo 5

My Bike Chronicles: A Glimpse of Bohol

photo 2

 

Polvoron sand and the beautiful blue sea. That’s what comes to mind when I close my eyes and think of Bohol. It started with a ferry ride from Cebu to Bohol with my bike in tow. My bike is my best friend and my preferred  mode of transportation whenever possible. It doesn’t happen as much as I’d like, but I do grab every opportunity I can get.   On this trip, I actually had it because I was doing the Defy Tri in Panglao Island. But first,  I had to attend to some official business at Bohol Island State University (BISU). As Chair of the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, I am an ex-officio member of the board of state universities and colleges (SUCs).

BISU is a progressive university that has over 14,000 students spread over six campuses, with its main campus located in Tagbilaran City. Over the years, BISU has become a livewire in licensure exams, churning out topnotchers in engineering licensure exams and exams for teachers, among others. <http://bisu.edu.ph>

Part of the latest buzz in BISU is its new Fablab, the country’s first fabrication laboratory managed by BISU. It is a technical prototyping platform that allows local manufacturers to make prototypes and products, and is expected to boost local entrepreneurship in the province.

On display was a prototype of an easy-to-assemble-and-transport house that was designed by a Japanese architect. Its concept is a puzzle house made of scrap wood, designed for victims of calamities (e.g. victims of the recent 7.2 earthquake in Bohol).

photo 3

What’s heartbreaking, however, is that one of BISU’s main buildings, a 3-storey structure, was severely damaged by the earthquake last year. At the time of my visit, the rehabilitation funds had not yet been released but thankfully, as of the time of this writing, P112 million has already been released to BISU.

photo 1

My last stop in BISU was a short unplanned talk at the orientation of the incoming freshmen – all DOST scholars majoring in Math! Wow! What a powerhouse class! So excited to see how these kids will do over the next few years.

photo 4

And that ends Part 1 of my Bohol trip. Coming soon is Part 2 of My Bike Chronicles in Bohol.

 

Reference:

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/business/2014/05/02/bohol-gets-country-s-first-mit-style-creative-fablab-340916

Dr Jose Rizal, hero. Coming soon to a Liquor Store near you.

I write this blog on the occasion of Dr. Jose Rizal’s  153rd birthday.  As a child, I  grew up reading comic books and short stories about his life and later on reading his two masterpieces Noli Me Tangare and El Filibusterismo. A few years ago I had a chance to visit Spain and do a Rizal tour, going to the places Rizal and other Filipino freedom fighters frequented. Last year, I joined our ambassador to Spain, Ambassador Carlos Salinas and our kababayans at the Rizal shrine in the Avenida de Filipinas to honor Rizal. Apparently there are monuments to Rizal all over the world including Italy, Belgium, France, Switzerland, China, Japan and in various parts of the United States.http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/262449/pinoyabroad/pinoyachievers/jose-rizal-a-revered-hero-abroad-not-just-phl

photo.PNG

I am in awe of this man who spoke 23 languages, both foreign and local, at a time when there were no apps or tutorials you could download. He was a doctor, who specialized in opthalmology and devoted his practice to the poor, a poet and  novelist who dared to write about the inequities and social realities of his time, and above all a man who was willing to die for his country.

A man like this deserves our utmost respect. And yet, Dr. Jose Rizal and other heroes, namely Gat Andres Bonifacio, and Padres Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora, may  soon become names on an alcoholic beverage if Destileria Limtuaco, Inc. has its way.

Rizal: Photo taken from wikipedia.org; Bonifacio: Photo taken from malacanang.gov.ph; Gomburza: Photo taken from wikipedia.org

Rizal: Photo taken from wikipedia.org; Bonifacio: Photo taken from malacanang.gov.ph; Gomburza: Photo taken from wikipedia.org

Similarly, Destileria Limtuaco also intends to appropriate  historic landmarks in the Philippines as names for their alcoholic beverages.

Laguna: Photograph by Jerwin Lim; Vigan: Photo taken from virtualtourist.com; Banaue: Photo taken from http://www.banaue-tours.com/

Laguna: Photograph by Jerwin Lim; Vigan: Photo taken from virtualtourist.com; Banaue: Photo taken from http://www.banaue-tours.com/

Laguna, Vigan and Banaue – images of famous Philippine locations that showcase the beauty, history, and culture of our country. Laguna is steep in history, the birthplace of Jose Rizal and now a tourist attraction known for the arts. Vigan is a World Heritage Site that can easily transport one back in time with its unique fusion of Asian design and construction and Spanish colonial architecture. Banaue is home to the Rice Terraces, another World Heritage Site.

Tacloban: Photo taken from wikipedia.org

Tacloban: Photo taken from wikipedia.org

After the devastation wrought by typhoon Yolanda, Tacloban has become a rallying symbol to the world for hope, disaster recovery, relief cooperation, and Filipino resilience.

It boggles my mind that anyone would try to appropriate these names for commercial use but even worse is that its intended use is  for alcoholic beverages.

Is this allowed?

Most certainly not! R.A. 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code lays down stringent guidelines when registering a mark associated with names, national symbols and geographical areas:

Sec. 123.1.a: A mark cannot be registered if it consists of immoral, deceptive or scandalous matter, or MATTER WHICH MAY DISPARAGE OR FALSELY SUGGEST A CONNECTION WITH PERSONS, LIVING OR DEAD, INSTITUTIONS, beliefs, or NATIONAL SYMBOLS, OR BRING THEM INTO CONTEMPT OR DISREPUTE;

Sec. 123.1.g: A mark cannot be registered if it “is likely to mislead the public, particularly as to the nature, quality, characteristics or GEOGRAPHICAL ORIGIN of the goods or services”; and

Section 123.1.j: Also says a mark cannot be registered if it “consists exclusively of signs or indications that may serve in trade to designate the xxx GEOGRAPHIC ORIGIN xxx of the goods or rendering of the services, or other characteristics of the goods or services.”  [all EMPHASIS ours]

On this same matter, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) issued the following statement:

“The Commission strongly opposes such applications. Historic persons, national heroes and heritage site are given the highest level of recognition and dignity by the states and imbued with public interest. Thus, their misappropriations for commercial enterprise and products, not only distract from the achievements of these persons or the importance of these sites, but sends the message that their names can be desacrilized, privately owned and used to enrich private interest. xxx”

The IPO is duty bound to deny the application for trademark registration based on the above provisions of the law. It shocks me that the IPO even allowed Destileria Limtuaco to publish its application for the use of “Intramuros.”

Let us unite and join the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Intramuros Administration in opposing this irresponsible and callous move by Destileria Limtuaco.

We do not want to see our heroes faces and names on bottles of alcoholic drinks. I call on Destileria Limtuaco, Inc. to act as a responsible corporate entity and withdraw its applications. I call on the Intellectual Property Office to deny the applications outright.

We have heroes so that we are reminded of the freedoms we enjoy today, freedoms that our heroes fought for. Their lives speak to our youth about the value of hard work and sacrifice. It gives us a vision of what we can achieve. Likewise, our historic landmarks take us back in time and allow us to learn from our past through the lives of our ancestors that define who we are today.

Photo credits:

Laguna: Photograph by Jerwin Lim via https://www.flickr.com/photos/jerwin_lim/7271502834/

Vigan: Photo taken from virtualtourist.com

Banaue: Photo taken from http://www.banaue-tours.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/BAAUE-RICE-TERRACES1.jpg

Tacloban: Photo taken from wikipedia.org

Rizal: Photo taken from wikipedia.org

Bonifacio: Photo taken from malacanang.gov.ph

Gomburza: Photo taken from wikipedia.org

Donde estas? En el medio del mar.

Where are you? In the middle of the sea.

At sea off the coast of Cambados in Galicia, Spain

At sea off the coast of Cambados in Galicia, Spain

That was the message I got from my daughter and my response to her.

Our study of the Galicia autonomous region included a small municipality with 14,000 inhabitants named Cambados. Its major source of income and livelihood comes from three major industries that are intertwined – fisheries, wine, and tourism.

Municipal Office of Cambados

Municipal Office of Cambados

We learned about how small government units function as part of the autonomous regions. Depending on the population size, the responsibility of the municipality grows, like providing health care centers, parks, and transportation.

The alcalde (mayor) took us to their fish depot where fish were auctioned daily.

Selfie with Sen. Koko Pimentel at the fish depot

Selfie with Sen. Koko Pimentel at the fish depot

We then took a boat to see their version of “fish pens” which were floating rafts with ropes that went 12 meters down into the sea. The shellfish – mussels and scallops – cling to it and grow to full size before being harvested.

image (7)

Their boats have big windows below deck so you can see the ropes and the shellfish.

image (5)

Of course to pair with their seafood is their local white wine, which they boast is in demand all over the world.

A typical meal is their sardines or mussels served with cheese on cracker or bread.

image (6)

We capped off the visit with a tour of the 400-year old family-owned winery.

One of the rooms in the winery, with a hand-painted wall done in the 1800s.

One of the rooms in the winery, with a hand-painted wall done in the 1800s.

That was one inspiring little municipality.

Earth Day

I am so proud to wear the Philippine map on my face for Earth Day.

#EarthFaces is a project of Niccolo Cosme and the Climate Change Commission

#EarthFaces is a project of Niccolo Cosme and the Climate Change Commission

It was way back in 1970 when Earth Day began. A full forty-four years ago, 20 million Americans rallied for the protection of the environment. Today, more than 150 countries and over a billion people celebrate Earth Day the world over.

For Earth Day, I decided to create a simple photo blog highlighting my Senate work and projects to save our environment.

We all have different environment projects we like to support. That’s all good. But we need to ensure that our children are raised with the consciousness that they are caretakers of the environment, and that they are equipped with the information to make earth-friendly decisions in their homes and their own communities. That is embodied in the law I sponsored, RA 9152 or the Environmental Education Act.

I love running and I love trail runs in the mountains. In my first term, I started hearing the Sustainable Transportation Bill. Sadly, almost 10 years later, it is not yet a law.

The gruelling 37km Mt. Ugo Sky Run is one of my fave races of all time.

(Feb 09, 2013) The gruelling 37km Mt. Ugo Sky Run is one of my fave races of all time.

A project close to my heart is the MRF – Material Recovery Facility in Taguig in coordination with Barangay the Fort and the City Government. It showcases how waste, when properly segregated, can be drastically reduced, and eliminate tons of garbage in landfills.

(April 17, 2013) A project close to my heart is the MRF - Material Recovery Facility in Taguig in coordination with Barangay the Fort and the City Government. It showcases how waste, when properly segregated, can be drastically reduced, and eliminate tons of garbage in landfills.

April 17, 2013

Biking! My favorite human-powered mode of transpo. I still hope for the passage of my Senate Bill on sustainable transportation, which calls for a policy developing efficient and healthful mass transit, and more walk ways and bike paths.

LRT Bike On Bike Off (Nov. 08, 2009); E-jeep with Greenpeace (Bacolod, Jan. 23, 2008); E-trike with Former Mayor Hagedorn (Palawan, Feb. 16, 2008) Biking! My favorite human-powered mode of transpo. I still hope for the passage of my Senate Bill on sustainable transportation, which calls for a policy developing efficient and healthful mass transit, and more walk ways and bike paths.

LRT Bike On Bike Off (Nov. 08, 2009); E-trike with Former Mayor Hagedorn (Palawan, Feb. 16, 2008); E-jeep with Greenpeace (Bacolod, Jan. 23, 2008); 

In 2008, I visited a plastic recycling plant where plastic products from PET bottles to plastic “sando” bags are recycled.

(Sept. 29, 2008) Visit to a plastic recycling plant in 2008 where plastic products from PET bottles to plastic "sando" bags are recycled.

Sept. 29, 2008

 

Nature has given us everything we need to thrive and survive. We can all do little things that will protect the environment, so that our children, and their children after them, can inherit a better place.

 

References:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140421-earth-day-2014-facts-environment-epa/

http://www.earthdayphilippines.org/the-network

Victory in the Supreme Court: Reproductive Health Law is Constitutional

By a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court declared the Reproductive Health Law as constitutional.

image (6)

This is the final victory of a long-fought battle – one that lasted almost two decades and several Congresses – to provide Filipinos with a most basic right: the right to reproductive health.

Today, this gives us the green light to continue and institutionalize programs that will provide Filipinos, especially women, access to information and services to have a safe pregnancy, plan their families, and be responsible persons.

Based on the press conference of the Public Information Officer of the Supreme Court, we understand that portions of the law were declared unconstitutional, particularly parts of Sections 7, 17, and 23.

Primarily, these provisions relate to the obligation of private health facilities and health care service providers, including those owned by religious groups, to refer a person seeking reproductive health services when it conflicts with their ethical or religious beliefs.

Although I disagree with this part of the Supreme Court’s conclusion, this does not affect access by those who need it most – the poor. Public hospitals and health centers will provide a full range of reproductive health services. This was upheld by the Supreme Court.

I still believe in the constitutionality of each provision as I have studied these thoroughly and defended it on the Senate floor throughout the 15th Congress (2010-2013).

image_1

Then in 2013, numerous petitions questioning the constitutionality of the RH Law were filed. I joined the fight to defend its constitutionality and argued our case before the Supreme Court.

image (4)

The full decision has yet to be released. When I see it, I will be able to make a more comprehensive review.

But for today, I can say that despite all the difficulties, I love my job because of the opportunity it has given me to fight side-by-side with amazing women and men who have embarked and succeeded on what was said to be an impossible task – a comprehensive reproductive health law.

image_2

With women who have been fighting for RH rights for many years

image_3

My legal team who burned the midnight candle with me

Legislative Agenda for 2014

On the first Saturday of the year, my amazing Senate legal team indulged me and let me buy them a cup of coffee each in exchange for working on a weekend. I wanted to take stock of where we were so we could start our year strong. It happened to be the birthday of my daughter Max and my youngest brother Lino, and thus I was also under time constraints to release my staff as soon as possible so we could all go about our weekend activities.

PIC Lawyers

 

We did our annual review of our legislative agenda – some of the Senate bills and resolutions we had previously filed, heard in committee hearings, and defended on the floor, like the tobacco graphic warning bill. Others were new bills which needed to be drafted, fine-tuned, and filed.

So this is what we are looking at this year:

- I filed a Resolution calling for a review of the implementation of the sin tax law, specifically the allocation of funds for health projects and the support of farmers. I’ve spoken to Senator Sonny Angara and he will hear the resolution I filed soon. For a backgrounder on my call to review the Sin Tax Law, please check out this news story from Rappler.com.

- I filed a Resolution calling for the review of all laws that may be discriminatory to women, as mandated by the Magna Carta of Women. This is scheduled to be heard soon.

photo

As posted on my Instagram and Facebook:
Modification: With a little help, I can keep house, raise kids, climb mountains and save the world

Art by David Hayward from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor/2013/04/women-leaders-we-apparently-need-to-avoid/

Art by David Hayward from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor/2013/04/women-leaders-we-apparently-need-to-avoid/

- Graphic Health Warning Bill: This bill requires all tobacco product packaging to have graphics or images depicting the dangers of smoking. We already held the hearing last week, January 22, 2014. I was pleasantly shocked to hear  the four tobacco companies express support for the measure, very unlike the first hearing I held some six years ago.

graphic warning

This news story from the Philippine Daily Inquirer provides the highlights of the hearing we conducted on the Graphic Health Warning Bill.

- Firecracker bill:  We need to review our existing laws and practices and  identify once and for all what practices are acceptable and not. I for one,  prefer to limit firework display to LGUs and those they accredit.

firecracker

- Student Athlete’s Rights Bill: This is a product of the recent issue involving the UAAP 2-year residency rule.  Last year, I initiated an online petition to revoke the UAAP’s 2 year residency rule. But since the UAAP turned a deaf ear,   I am filing a  bill aims to recognize the rights of a student to participate in competitive sports and pursue an academic degree free of undue pressure or restriction of their basic rights.

psc mikee

With UP rookie swimmer Mikee Bartolome and her father, Vic Bartolome, holding up their petition to take the UAAP residency rule to court

UP rookie swimmer Mikee Bartolome went to court to fight for her right to study and swim for the school of her choice. The court upheld that right. Here are links to some related articles recounting the struggle to overcome the UAAP’s two-year residency rule:

Revise the new UAAP residency rule,’ online petition of Sen. Pia S. Cayetano on Change.org

Sen. Pia Cayetano decries high school residency rule,’ by Job de Leon, GMA News Online, April 1, 2013

All she wants is to swim for UP,’ by Josiah Israel Albelda, Rappler.com, August 30, 2013

Court grants TRO for UP swimmer, orders UAAP not to impose 2-year rule,’ by Yahoo! PH Sports, September 3, 2013

Bartolome wins gold but boycotts mar UAAP swimming,’ by Rappler.com, September 21, 2013

 

- Rare Diseases Bill: This bill aims to ensure that each patient diagnosed with a rare disease will have access to timely information and adequate medical care, through a sustainable health care system, the proposed Rare Disease Registry, and integrated educational and informational campaigns.

- Sustainable Transportation bill. I re-filed this bill for the 16th Congress. I am hoping that the committee will hear this soon. For a quick background on the Sustainable Transportation Bill, please read this article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

- Philippine National High School for Sports. This will create a system that will centralize the sports program in the high school level to develop student-athletes to maximize their talents and skills and prepare them for international competitions and a possible career as a sports practitioner.

- Scholarship and various grants in aid/financial assistants to students.  We already had an initial hearing, the outcome of which is the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Higher and Technical Education Act. This shall harmonize existing national government programs for scholarships, grants-in-aid, loans for higher and technical education, and such other mechanisms to access educational opportunities.

- HIV/AIDS. This bill aims to address the gaps in Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, in order for the government to respond more efficiently to the rising number of reported cases of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines.

AIDS_EXHIBIT_DOC_ERIC

At an HIV/AIDS awareness photo exhibit in the Senate with fellow advocates, DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag and photographer Niccolo Cosme.

- Amendment to Art. 36 of the Family Code on annulment of marriage based on psychological incapacity. A review of the said provision is necessary because of perceived gaps and ambiguities in determining psychological incapacity.

- Inclusive Education Bill. The main objective of the bill is to provide Children and Youth with Special Needs (CYSN) with access to basic education within the general education stream so that they may equally access programs and services given to typically developing learners.

Meanwhile I continue to sit on the board of the State Universities and Colleges and hope to improve the state of our tertiary education through policy on the board levels of each institution but also through legislation where necessary.

I will also be busy working on  legislation and policy to address the power crisis that continues to hound us.  This will require reviewing the  EPIRA law, which introduced competition in the electric power industry via privatization and the creation of a spot market.

We will also have our hands full reviewing the Bangsamoro law, a product of the signing of the peace agreement between the MILF and government.

On the international front, I will continue to participate in the Inter-Parliamentary Union conferences and other events that will bring about better cooperation among nations, where we can learn from best practices and also share our experiences. I will also be keenly observing developments in the Philippine West Pacific Seas otherwise knowns as South China Seas and events within our region.

Finally, we continue to review the bills we have filed and those referred to the committees I chair and make adjustments as necessary. From experience, there are always unexpected issues that come up that need to be addressed. But as always, my team and I try to meet our self-imposed deadlines, to the extent possible.

With that, I wish everyone a happy, blessed, and productive new year. But since this has been sitting on my drafts folder for almost a month, I think it is more appropriate to wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Breast Milk Bank: A first in the Visayas

On Friday, I launched a breast milk bank at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center – the first of its kind in the Visayas. This is in connection with my advocacy to promote breastfeeding, and is also consistent with the mandate of RA 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Act, which I sponsored.

Six years ago, I spoke at the launch of the Lactation Unit and Human Milk Bank at the Philippine General Hospital. A year later, I led the launch of the country’s first community milk bank in Makati City, where the collected milk was transferred to Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial. Thereafter, we’ve sponsored several community  breastmilk-letting activities, not only to help the Fabella Hospital and PGH milk banks, but also to promote breastfeeding among Filipino mothers.

This event served as an opportunity to meet and share ideas with health workers and pregnant moms. I reiterated the need to promote breastfeeding and to start immediately after birth. Not only is breast milk best for babies, it is also the most affordable way to feed an infant.

Listening

The breast milk bank will provide precious breast milk for babies who do not have access to their mother’s milk. The VSMMC will run the facility where nursing mothers can donate their milk and have it stored in the bank for other babies in need.

 

When the hospital administrator and medical staff lamented the lack of space in the maternity ward, I proposed putting up a separate birthing center to decongest the main hospital. I was happy to hear that there were already such plans. The idea is to provide a separate place for mothers who are expecting normal deliveries without complications. This birthing center will be manned by trained midwives and supervised by the doctors. The tertiary hospital and the specialists can then focus on the deliveries with complications, which is really their mandate and where their expertise can best be put to use.

 

After the discussion, we visited the maternity ward. At present, it’s a 4:1 ratio of mothers with their babies to a bed. Can you imagine that? I’ve been here and to many other maternity wards before. The scenarios are almost always identical – overcrowded. I think the pictures below say it all.

crowded

Despite this situation, many mothers seemed relatively happy. Most of them were doing well and starting to breastfeed. I shared some personal advice about breastfeeding, just some tips and tricks that worked for me.

tips

 

Talking to moms

What broke my heart was seeing so many teen moms. I looked into the eyes of these children having children of their own. Every single one I spoke to had not finished grade school. I don’t know what kind of future they will have. I tried to talk to as many of them as I could, encouraging them to go back to school so they can provide a better future for their child. I talked to them about planning their family and not getting pregnant again any time soon in order to take better care of their baby and also prepare for their future. They just nodded in response, with blank looks on their faces.

teen moms

I have to admit I left with a heavy heart. RA 10354 or the Reproductive Health Law is meant to address issues such as teen pregnancies. And yet, many still do not understand, or else they refuse to see, that without information, so many of our youth will continue to get pregnant before they become adults, some even before they finish grade school.

[Learn more about teen pregnancies in the Philippines: (1) (2) (3)]

 

Another problem that still persists is our high maternal mortality rate – that is, mothers dying due to childbirth-related complications. Again, the Reproductive Health Law seeks to address this by providing support for family planning and the needs of pregnant women.

[Learn more about the Philippines' maternal mortality rate: (1) (2) (3)]

 

Despite the setbacks in the implementation of the law, I am hopeful that with each small step that we take, such as the establishment of the breast milk bank and eventually the new birthing center, we will slowly address these problems. It is just disappointing that our progress is delayed, and as we await the Supreme Court hearing, mothers and newborns will continue to die, and teenagers will continue to get pregnant with little hope for a brighter future.

UAAP residency rule: A huge setback

 

This is my blog in reaction to the UAAP Board’s ruling that upholds their two-year residency rule, as published by Rappler.com.

Rappler UAAP ruling

_____

This photo was taken during the Senate hearing, as I spoke to Mr. Jerry Pingoy and Mr. Vic. Bartolome, parents of UAAP student-athletes who are affected by the new UAAP rule.

UAAP hearing3

Speak up and sign this petition for the UAAP Board to revoke the unjust and unfair ruling.

 

Open Letter to the UAAP Board from a Former UAAP Athlete, a Mom of Athletes, and a Sports Advocate

I was 15 when I entered the University of the Philippines as a college freshman. Everything was strange and new to me.  I hardly knew anyone. But one thing I did know is that I wanted to play volleyball. I was a passionate albeit unskilled high school volleyball player who dreamt of playing serious volleyball. I thought I was good, but when I saw the UP team play, I knew I was out of my league. I tried out for team. The first day alone almost made me quit.  I was simply in awe of the skill, endurance, and dedication of the team. I thought I would never reach their playing level. I felt like I was watching goddesses play.

 

The level of playing was nothing like I had experienced in high school. To be accepted in the team and eventually play in the UAAP is something I will forever be proud. I trained hard. In my second year, I was invited to try-out for the national team . That same year, my UP team won the UAAP Volleyball championship. I started training both with the Philippine team and my UP team in my third year. And  at the age of 17, I competed in my first international competition as a member of the Philippine team.

 

Me and my UP teammates

Fourth from left, Me and my UP teammates

Fast forward to today , I am still an athlete – no longer a volleyball player, but a triathlete. I swim, I bike, I run. I am a competitive age-grouper. I join international competitions and still proudly represent my country.

 

Tri United

Tri United

Just last week, I won  for the second time, a slot to the Xterra World Championships in Maui, the off-road triathlon championships.

Image

Xterra  2013

photo-finish copy

I am also a proud mother of two female athletes who both play football, one in high school and one in college. The sport and the college they go to is their choice. I simply provide the encouragement, support, and motherly advice they need from time to time.

 

Max and her UP Teammates

Max and her UP Teammates

Nads and her Makati Football Club teammates at Gothia

Nads and her Makati Football Club teammates at the Gothia cup in Sweden

 

It is with much heartache that I came across the recent decision of the UAAP board about the residency requirements. Below is my open letter to the board.

 

Dear UAAP Board,

 

Many athletes, former athletes, and parents of athletes are in an uproar over the recent decision of the UAAP board to require graduating high school students to sit out 2 years if they come from a UAAP high school and go to a different UAAP college.

 

Forgive my ignorance, but what is the 2-year residency requirement for other than to curtail the freedom of the young athlete to choose the college where he wants to study and play?

 

In the USA, transferring college athletes have a 1-year residency rest before they can play for their new school – only 1 year, and it doesn’t apply to high school students who choose to go to a different college. The 1-year residency rule requires an athlete to sit out one year of competition because transferring student-athletes suffer academically over time. The year-in-residence is meant to help the athlete acclimatize to the new school and adjust academics-wise. [1] So what’s your 2-year rule for?

 

A student-athlete’s choice of university is influenced not only by athletics, but also by academics, campus life, and personal situation [2], and the 2-year residency encumbers their freedom of choice.

 

In my humble opinion as an athlete, a parent of both a college and a high school athlete, and a lawyer, the 2-year residency that is currently applied to transferring college students, as well as any residency rule for high school students, deny athletes of their rights to develop their full potential. It goes against the Constitutional mandate to promote sports especially among our youth, and is an unreasonable limit on an athlete’s freedom of choice as well as academic freedom to choose which college to enter into.

 

Section 19, Article 14, of the 1987 Constitution states that:

 

“(1) The State shall promote physical education and encourage sports programs, league competitions, and amateur sports, including training for international competitions, to foster self-discipline, teamwork, and excellence for the development of a healthy and alert citizenry.”

 

Will the new rule help achieve this?

 

To excel in sports, one needs to be in constant training of both the body and the mind. Do you know what it’s like for an athlete to sit out two seasons? Athletes thrive on competition. That’s what gets us going. That’s what all the hard training is about. Its what makes it all worth while. To make an athlete sit out two seasons? That just kills the dream. Para sa isang atleta, para mo na ring sinabi na wag ka na lang maglaro. Is this what you want to achieve? Seriously?

I am against any kind of residency rule for graduating high school students. For transferring college students, the 1 year residency rule will suffice. Anything more than that is injustice to an athlete.

I will end this letter by citing a provision in our Bill of Rights against cruel and unjust punishment. For an athlete, this 2 year residency rule is cruel and unjust punishment!

 

 

1http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/NCAA/Resources/Latest+News/2012/May/Get+the+facts+about+transfers

2 ibid.