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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is my blog in reaction to the UAAP Board’s ruling that upholds their two-year residency rule, as published by Rappler.com.
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.
Speak up and sign this petition for the UAAP Board to revoke the unjust and unfair ruling.
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.
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.
Just last week, I won for the second time, a slot to the Xterra World Championships in Maui, the off-road triathlon championships.
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
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.  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 , 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!
When I first ran in 2004, I didn’t have a Facebook account, I didn’t have a Twitter account, nor Instagram or a blog. I campaigned the traditional way – speaking at rallies, attending various caucuses and meetings with various groups.
In 2010, I ran for re-election. By then I had a Facebook and a Twitter account but my Facebook was private and there really weren’t too many Filipinos on Twitter yet.
Links to my online accounts: Twitter, Facebook, instagram, Blog, Website
This year is another election year. I am not a candidate but in the last few years, I have been very active on social media. I tweet daily, I share pictures on instagram and I still blog, although not as much as I would like given that I haven’t had much time the last year, mostly due to the debates on the RH bill. I also have an official website and Facebook account.
My participation on Twitter has given me much more direct contact with my nationwide constituents. I regularly get feedback on pending legislation and national issues. Most of the time, I get the news online too.
Late last year, I met the executives of Google and we came up with the idea of sponsoring a forum where we could discuss the benefits to politicians of reaching more of their constituents online. After much planning, the event “Public Engagement 2.0” was launched.
We invited the members of Congress, both from the Senate and the House of Representatives to come and hear from the experts. Staff of senators and congressmen as well as campaign managers attended the event to learn more about how to maximize digital connectivity in order to reach more constituents. As pointed out by Narciso Reyes, the country manager of Google Philippines, “We want to help our public servants learn how to reach the Filipino people through the Internet by understanding the digital landscape in the Philippines and the online behavior of Filipinos.” He adds that the better way to engage with Pinoys about issues is to meet them online, given that Filipinos are techonologically savvy and there are already 33 million Filipinos online. That’s easily 1/3 of our population.
I did a Google hang-out demo with Pinoys in the US to illustrate how politicians can communicate and engage their constituents from various places. This was first used by President Obama of the United States, later used by Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia and others.
Given that we are a country with over 7000 islands, its physically impossible for a candidate to visit every province, city or municipality. But with the use of social media tools, we can interact better. And as access to the internet increases, reach even more of our constituents.
Meanwhile, I will be busy with my advocacy work that involves health issues like maternal health and reproductive health, as well as campaigning for my brother Senator Alan Peter Cayetano … please like his fb page
and of course a few other candidates I believe in…
I will be going around the country on some days. Wherever I am, you will hear from me on-line.
****Related article: Inquirer
To the Filipino youth:
Please do not throw away your chance at an education.
The Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the United Nations guarantees the right to an education. And yet across the world, million of young people will never leave a life of poverty due to the lack of education. In some countries, young girls are banned from getting an education.
Recently, Malala Yousafzai, a fifteen year old Pakistani girl stood up to the Taliban and demanded that she gets an education. For that valiant stand, this child was shot in the head by the Taliban. The bullet grazed her brain but she survived and was in and out of consciousness for days. Today she is still in a hospital recovering.
I AM MALALA- is the global chorus being chanted all over the world, in support of 15 year old Malala’s fight to get an education.
Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of Great Britain and now United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education in a report by CNN states :
Fifteen million children under 14 who should be at school are working full time around the world. Every year, ten million girls leave education to become child brides and never return to school. Millions more are trafficked. And the UNESCO report will highlight the shameful neglect of 28 million refugee girls and boys, displaced children living in the camp tents and shacks of broken down regimes and conflict zones with no teachers or schoolbooks.
Early this week I was in London to attend a conference on Gender and Politics for Parliamentarians in the Houses of Parliaments. When the plight of Malala was taken up, the members of Parliament responded and agreed to support Malala’s campaign.
Malala’s fight should not be in vain.
Your education is your future. Don’t throw it away.
Articles on Malala:
Across the world, women continue their struggle to be heard. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)’s Annual Report on Women in Politics 2012 states that the world average percentage for women in national parliaments is 19.7%, with the Nordic countries having the highest average at 42% and the lowest being in the Arab States.
As the largest and oldest organization of members of parliament, one of the IPU’s objectives is to support the increase of women in politics. Towards this end, the conference on Gender and Politics was organized by the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK. I was invited to be a speaker at the said conference which was held in the Houses of Parliament in London.
Our panel included three other women parliamentarians. We were all asked to speak of our experiences as a legislator- how we got elected; what were the obstacles; the challenges we face in parliament; the milestones we have achieved; and the advice we would give other women.
I started with the catalytic event in my life that carved out my path in politics – the death of my father. I pointed out that around the world, many women enter politics because of affinity or consanguinity. And even though the Philippines has seen two female Presidents and is very accepting of women in politics, women remain a minority in politics.
I shared my view that it is still difficult for women to enter politics because of our existing social structures. Women are the primary home makers and politics is seen as a man’s world. For a woman to cross-over, she needs the support of her family and partner. That’s why you will see that many women who do enter politics are wives, daughters, or sisters of politicians.
Also important is the support of cause-oriented groups, NGOs and business groups. These are usually groups who share your vision and views and can support you by giving you a venue to speak or even actively support your campaign. Later on, once a woman is elected, this same group will be valuable allies in legislation advocating your common interest.
I ended my speech with advice for women in politics. I highlighted the fact that women must educate themselves on women’s issues. It is true that as women, we are innately aware of certain issues that affect us. But we need to understand these issues in depth. We still come from different backgrounds. Some women may have a strong awareness on the issue of violence, others on women’s health or poverty. Many come from a privileged background and although educated, may lack awareness on the problems faced by women living in poverty. Thus, the need to be grounded and to understand the needs of women with different economic and social backgrounds.
The other panelists gave very moving speeches. I have heard testimonials of women parliamentarians. They always touch my heart. The parliamentarian from Afghanistan spoke of how her brother and husband disowned her, how she had to fight on her own to run for parliament and how she was doing this to give women a voice.
Many women delegates interjected to make a comment or ask a question. They also shared their struggles on the road to parliament and as a parliamentarian– how they were ridiculed for running; how they were considered crazy for taking on a “man’s job”; how they were expected to fail; and how they overcame.
I was approached by a number of delegates after the session telling me that my story inspired them. But the truth is, it’s their stories that inspire me.
Last year, I sponsored Senate Bill No.2865, otherwise known as the Reproductive Health Bill. It went through the process – we had hearings, then we made our committee report , which embodies SB 2865. Since then, there have been many questions raised by the public and rightly so, given that intelligent debate and discourse are essential in crafting the best version of any bill.
Senator Bongbong Marcos and I (inset) presiding on one of our committee hearings on the RH bill
In fact, it took almost a year before the RH Bill hurdled the interpellation period (debates where I answered questions posed by my colleagues) at the Senate, where every provision was explained, rehashed, and clarified until it was blue in the face. I am not exaggerating. Finally, the bill has moved on to the period of amendments during which the Senate can incorporate changes to further improve the measure.
My co-sponsor Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and I defending the RH bill on the Senate floor
However, it is unfortunate that intelligent discussion is overlooked, sometimes even abandoned altogether by those who mean to distort the meaning and purpose of the bill. Many people are misled by these ill-informed notions. They pass judgment on the RH bill based on misinformation. Don’t take it from the grapevine and learn the facts before taking a stand. Here’s the real deal about the Senate RH Bill.
FACT 1: #RHBill gives a person freedom to choose what family planning method to use, or NOT to use any method at all.
Once and for all, if you do not want to use any family planning method, if you choose to use an artificial mode of family planning or natural family planning, that choice is yours and yours alone. This is made very clear in the following section of SB 2865.
FACT 2: #RHBill does not legalize abortion. In fact, it explicitly adheres to the penal law on abortion.
As I repeatedly explained during the debates, the provision below is meant to ensure that every woman, like every Filipino, deserves optimal health care which includes compassionate care.
In fact, during one of our debates on the Senate floor in September last year, Sen. Vicente Sotto III, who is vehemently opposed to the RH bill, conceded and even agreed with my position that women with post-abortion complications seeking emergency attention in any medical facility should not be treated like criminals. Instead, they must be treated humanely and given compassionate medical care, which is precisely what Section 3 (i) calls for. For more details on that discussion, click on link here: ‘RH Bill won’t legalize abortion’ on my official website.
Sen. Pia Cayetano [explaining Sec.3 (i) and (j) to Sen. Sotto] : ’It shocks me that there are people who believe that women who have gone through an abortion need to be treated like criminals because they have committed an act which is defined as a crime in our country.’
‘…In fact in many hospitals they are treated badly, they are pushed around to the side. In fact, some of them will bleed to death because they will not even be attended to, to punish them for that crime. And I will fight for the right of this woman to have the care that she needs because the emotional, psychological trauma that goes through to have an abortion is something that we, who have not been through an abortion, can never understand and she deserves that from the State.”
Sen. Vicente Sotto III [agreeing with Sen. Pia's remark]: ’Yes, Mr. President, I do agree. As a matter of fact, I will be by the Sponsor’s side in defending that woman.’
Sen. Pia Cayetano : ’Then we have no problem.’
Source: RH plenary debates (September 5, 2011)
FACT 3: #RHBill does not impose an ideal family size and leaves this decision to couples.
The provisions quoted below is self-explanatory and puts to rest any misconception there may be on this matter.
FACT 4: #RHBill respects the religious convictions and cultural beliefs of all.
I am aware that certain religious groups are anti-RH. I respect their position. But I cannot adopt their position because it would be depriving other Filipinos who have other views on reproductive health and on the reproductive health care and services that they need and want. As I said in my sponsorship speech, it is my job as a duly elected public official to represent every Filipino, not just one religion. Having said that, I repeatedly clarify that those who do not want to use contraceptives are not being forced to. Each person is at liberty to decide for his or herself.
FACT 5: #RHBill will not teach a 10-year-old how to use condoms. RH education is age- and development- appropriate.
Time and again, sex education has been taken out of context. As I explained in my sponsorship speech, sex education shall be age-appropriate. It includes a child using the proper name for their body parts. It includes understanding the biological function of their bodies, such that they know that babies grow in mommy’s tummy and do not come out of bamboo trees.
FACT 6: #RHBill promotes BOTH natural & artificial methods.
Again, there is so much disinformation spreading that only artificial family planning shall be promoted under the RH bill. This is false.
FACT 7: Contraceptives are safe and effective family planning tools
Anti-RH advocates repeatedly raise the issue on the safety and effectiveness of contraceptives. That is a valid concern. But like any medicine or medical device, all contraceptives shall be approved by a government authority, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). And like medicines, there will be respect for choices. Couples must decide what is best for them with the advice of their health care provider. Clearly, vasectomy or ligation will not work for a young couple who may want to have more children in the future. On the other hand, some women prefer to use the pill or the IUD. These choices are personal ones. Contraceptives is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.
FACT 8: #RHBill will not indiscriminately distribute condoms to all.
During the Senate RH debates in October last year, Sen. Ralph Recto repeatedly stated that “Parang nagtutulak tayo ng contraceptives!” (It’s like the government will be ‘pushing’ or peddling contraceptives) in connection with the bill’s principle of “universal access” to reproductive health care services (Section 2) and the provision mandating mobile health care services (Section 12).
In response, I explained that reproductive health care is not all about contraceptives, but addresses real and unmet needs of women and families. The need for a mobile health vehicle in particular is important to reach far-flung areas where health care is inaccessible. These services may not only save a mother’s life, but will help couples plan the number and spacing of their children. I clarified that minors and the youth also have RH needs, which we should address primarily through age-appropriate RH education and counseling. But we should also not turn a blind eye to the alarming problems of teenage pregnancy (we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Southeast Asia) and numerous cases of young children being sexually abused, sometimes by members of their own family. These are real issues which we should not trivialize by irresponsible statements that the government would freely give away contraceptives to the youth under the RH bill. As I emphasized on the floor, the mobile health care unit is not a ‘contraceptive ice cream truck.’
For more details, see the highlights of floor debates between Sen. Recto and myself , ‘RH debate highlights: October 5, 2011′ on my official website.
FACT 9: An average of 11 mothers die daily. That’s a fact.
During the Senate debates, Sen. Sotto kept questioning official figures on our Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR). He claimed that the figure of ’11 mothers dying per day’ had no basis, and was merely being exaggerated in media reports.
“Eh alam naman natin siyempre kung papaano dalhin kasi ng media iyong ’11 mothers die a day.’ Eh, hindi, eh.. This cannot be accurate.. So, may I ask the Committee to furnish the Senate a copy of how this survey was derived at.. If they can furnish us, I will try to urge 13 Senators to vote for this bill tomorrow on third reading…” - Sen. Vicente Sotto III, Senate RH debates (Aug. 22, 2011)
I explained that the figure is an average generated from data provided by official sources, such as the United Nations (UN), the National Statistics Office (NSO) and the National Statistics and Coordination Board (NCSB). I also provided my colleagues with a copy of how this number was derived, as illustrated on the table below:
- Column D calculated by dividing Column B by 1000 and multiplying result with Column C.
- Column F calculated by dividing Column D by 100,000 and multiplying result with Column E.
So ngayong meron naman po tayong naibigay na paliwanag, pwede na ba natin asahan si Sen Sotto to call on the majority of senators to act on the RH BILL?
But regardless of whether there’s just one woman or 11 women dying daily, the fact remains that mothers are dying from a highly-preventable cause. If there were only 10 women or 3 women dying, is that one life not worth saving? Who are we to deprive them of access to information and supplies that can possibly save their lives?
FACT 10: #RHBill will not force anyone to act against their ethical or religious beliefs.
Anti-RH advocates often state that people are being forced to adopt a certain type of family planning method. Or that health care providers will be forced to recommend certain kinds. Fact 1 above already clarifies that each person is free to make their own choice of family planning method. Sec 18 below further provides that a heath care provider can make a conscientious objection.
The weekend of Tri United, I was under the weather – nursing a cold and flu-like stmptoms including eyes so red and swollen that I had to have it checked for sore eyes (doctor said everything was an allergy – the cold, the sneezing and red eyes), I had doubts about doing the race.
But I wanted to do this race. It was my tune-up race for Ironman 70.3 Cebu. So I drove out to San Juan, Batangas. And in the early morning concluded that my head was clearer and the irritation in my throat was manageable, red and puffy eyes gone.
You don’t see much when you get up on triathlon race day. Its pitch dark. When you first arrive at the transition area where you set-up your bike and gear, it’s usually day break and the sun’s soft rays are still yawning across the sky.
But as I finished up in the transition area, I noticed what a beautiful day it was turning out to be… A pleasant surprise was the brand new and tastefully done club house of Playa Laiya… now I was wishing, I could walk around and explore the place! But no time for that. The only place I had time to explore was the bathroom… and whoa! Was that a treat for triathletes who are used to but never truly embrace the use of a portalet!
Im voting this as the best bathrooms ever of all the races I have joined throughout the world!
With that, I proceeded to the swim area for a quick warm-up swim. Water looked calm and inviting… sand was soft on the feet… I told myself I will swim and see how I feel. If I’m good, I will continue on with the bike…
It was a 2k swim-60k bike-15k run.
Mass start wasn’t too bad. I have been practicing my fast starts where I swim at a fast pace just so I can move out into the open water sooner. After that I settle into a more manageable pace.
Water conditions were just right, compared to the conditions the day before during the afternoon sprint Tri. I’ve done races where we described the swim as being in a “washing machine,” or a “roller coaster.” Other less than ideal swims included waves that ended up in your face and mouth everytime you came up to breath or waves that were too high that even when you lifted your head to sight (see where you are going), you are greeted with water in your face.
After three laps, we ran to the transition area. I grabbed my bike, helmet and shades and was off.
The bike course was mostly flat with a few rolling hills, all very manageable. The turn around at the Port was very scenic. Loved it!
Any triathlete will tell you that racing on roads that are closed to traffic is really the ideal race simply because it’s safer! I did have to contend with a few stray dogs though.
Next and final segment is the run. By this time, the sun was bearing down on us and it was quite a relief to see that part of the run route was shaded by the big trees along the road.
I also loved that it was 3 loops of 5k instead of an out and back course. With a shorter loop, I find it’s easier to push myself and simply more fun cause you cross paths with the other participants. Same with the cheerers and supporters who provide a big moral boost when you are tired and hot.
And finally the finish line!
This was a good race for me! I had set out to push myself and just held back a bit given the allergies and sore throat. But I was happy with the effort I put in. I couldn’t ask for better race conditions.
Because the finish line was on the beach, I went straight for the blue water and did a relaxed recovery swim… Ahhh, even now as I write this article, I can feel the ocean water cooling me off, lifting away the heaviness in my legs… I floated on my back, looked up to the sky and thanked God for this day.
I was able to steal a few minutes with Unilab President and CEO Clinton Hess, congratulated him for a great event and for Unilab’s commitment to health and fitness. So many life threatening health conditions can be addressed or minimized through fitness. It’s just great that corporate citizens are supporting events like this.
The inaugural 5150 triathlon in the Philippines took place in Subic last June 24. Its an olympic distance triathlon (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) which is not a new distance but it is new in the sense that it is the first time the Ironman series is staging this distance. For the last three years, the Ironman 70.3 was held in Cam Sur. This year, it will be held in Cebu on August 5.
Even though I’ve been doing triathlons of various distances for quite a few years, race day is still always exciting. The transition area where we all head to at dawn, where it is bustling with activity – tire pumping, water bottles being filled, gears being checked, nerves being soothed.
I always look back at my bike as I walk away, making sure everything is there and in its right place. This shot was actually taken when we did the bike check-in the day before. So, my bike shoes are not on my pedals yet and neither is my helmet out.
The fun started at the swim. It was not a shallow start so we all had to jump into the deep blue, warm-up then tread water or find a rock to tip-toe on before the race started. I found myself in the company of my training partner Joey Torres and Kuya Kim Atienza. To pass the time and to distract us from the stress of waiting for the starting whistle to blow, I asked Kuya Kim for the weather forecast, he proceeded to entertain us with his pronouncements right there on the rocks.
When it was time to go, all 600 participants started swimming. Some flew, some glided, some swam cautiously in the sudden heavy traffic of swimmers.
I felt like I was gliding. Im not fast but I try to stay calm and focus on my strokes. Interestingly enough, for the first time ever after years of doing triathlons together, Joey and I managed to stick together from beginning to end. It was nice seeing a familiar face, what will all the elbows ramming into my head and upper body, legs and feet in my face.
The bike ride was fun. It was a hilly course. I like climbing hills more than going down them. I enjoy the challenge of climbing. I think mountain biking has helped me manage the the steeper climbs and descents better. I have to admit, a totally flat course would be a bit boring for me.
The run was intensely hot. But the run through the golf course was a refreshing change from the usual run on the roads. I get to see more friends on the run, get to shout out words of encouragement. What a thrill to see breast feeding mom Coach Ani de Leon as one of the contenders along with the best of Pinay triathletes. So proud of her!
Finally, the finish line was in sight. The best feeling, crossing the finish line
As it turned out my efforts got me a 2nd place podium finish for my age-group. 1st place went to Fiona, and third went to Ting.
My friend and idol Belinda Granger, who has won multiple ironman races and is the current reigning champ of Ironman 70.3 Philippines took first place in the women’s pro division.
It was a great day for the inaugural 5150, another day to give thanks for the blessings of fitness and a wonderful day to catch up with like-minded friends who love to tri.
On June 14 and 15, 2012 delegates from all over the world met in Washington DC to renew their commitment to ending preventable child deaths as part of the Millennium Development Goals. I was one of those delegates from the Philippines, along with Dr Eric Tayag , Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health.
Child survival is close to my heart not just because it is my work as the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Heath and the Committee on Women, Youth and Family Relations. As a mom, my third child, Gabriel, died before reaching his 1st birthday. He had a chromosomal disorder knows as Trisomy 13 that caused many health complications, including a cleft lip and palate, a hole in his heart, difficulty in swallowing which required feeding through a tube and more.
But my son’s condition was genetic, it was not preventable unlike the deaths of some 7 million children around the world. According to the World Health Organization, in the Philippines alone 32 children out of every 1000 live births do not reach the age of 5. These are the children that we can save and the time to act is now.
At the DC conference, it was emphasized that for the first time in history we have the tools to end preventable child deaths. By addressing child deaths we not only give children what they deserve – the right to celebrate their 5th birthday, we also achieve economic growth by releasing the burden of disease and the cost of treating illness.
The Global Roadmap to track progress and learn from different experiences is now in place. It proposes clear and achievable targets for governments, civil society, private sector partners and donors. It looks at the impact of the latest interventions and how the global community can accelerate progress.
Below are highlights of the Global Roadmap. I have emphasized those areas relevant to our country and indicated the status:
- We must address the largest, most persistent cause of child mortality, that is: neonatal conditions which account for 40% of child deaths.
- It is worth noting that many of these causes of neonatal deaths are related to maternal health.
- The DOH currently has a policy wherein it treats ever birth as an AT RISK birth, requiring births in health facilities in the presence of a certified child birth attendant who can provide emergency care and properly diagnose a critical condition that would require the presence of a specialist
- Recognizing that there is a disproportionate burden of disease in certain sectors, especially the rural, poor and marginalized populations. Governments must reach out to address this.
- Efforts are currently in place by the DOH to reach out to these marginalized sectors through the CCT.
- In the RH bill we also have a provision recognizing the needs of geographically isolated areas and marginalized sectors.
- Every country must target the causes and solutions that will have the greatest impact on accelerating progress against the rate of child death.
- The need to invest in empowering women, educating girls, improving sanitation and hygiene and overcoming inequalities
- Women need to have access to family planning information and services, health and nutrition information that will equipt them to plan their families and take better care of them.
- Livelihood and educational opportunities should be available to women so they can improve their capacity to earn income
Hilary Clinton, the United States Secretary of State known for her advocacy for children even when she was First Lady delivered the Keynote Address. She says she considers herself lucky that she had her fifth birthday. Knowing that being born in some countries and certain marginalized sectors greatly increases the chances of that child’s early death, she said a child’s survival should not be based on the luck of a draw.
Ben Affleck the founder of the Congo Initiative also gave a talk on the efforts that they have taken along with the Congo government to address child death. In closing, he stated this matter was close to his heart because he has children of this vulnerable age. He said, he cannot imagine driving his wife to the hospital knowing that there was a big chance his child would not live.
There were many more speakers throughout the two days who reported on the progress made in various countries and the setbacks encountered.
One speaker whose name I do not recall but whose words I will always remember said that she was dressed in her funeral attire. Why? Because we must remember that mothers and children are still dying at an alarming rate. We must attend their funerals and then fight for the lives of the others so they don’t die as well.
Armed with that thought, I am back in our beloved country and will continue to fight for these mothers and children. Let us not live in denial. Remember that deaths are preventable and as policy makers, specialists, those in the medical profession, all of us should join hands in ending these unnecessary deaths.
Will soon blog about my battle with a bill pending in the lower house that seeks to undermine breastfeeding, an essential tool in achieving child nutrition and survival.