The First Reproductive Health Forum in Laguna: The challenges we faced

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By Grace Nicolas

In our effort to encourage discussion in all walks of society, Mulat Pinoy has been requesting messages, articles and commentary on popdev matters from various personalities.

Our contributors are a varied sort: some from NGOs, others from a more corporate background; some are well-known across the board while others lead quieter lives. Regardless of who they are and where they come from, they have something to say about our population, and we should all listen.

The following message is from Engr. Maria Grace Nicolas of Calauan, Laguna:

It was like a whirlwind romance. Planning took only two weeks. We distributed invitations to 30 municipalities and 17 barangays in Calauan, Laguna. We solicited for food, sent out text and email invitations, and managed to find a perfect location.

And on December 11, 2010, it happened: The First Reproductive Health Forum in Laguna.

Hidden Hills farm was the perfect place, 20 minutes away from the town proper. It was 4.5 hectares of peace and quiet, surrounded by coconut, lansones and rambutan trees.

Engr. Grace Nicolas with former Sen. Joey Lina

For our panel, we invited former Senator Jose D. Lina, also a former Governor of Laguna; Mr. Frank Augustus Manuel of Filipino Freethinkers; and Ms. Jm Aguilar, a graduating student from Lasalle and an RH advocate too.

We also invited Dr. Ruben Tanqueco, Vice Chancellor for Campus and Planning and Development at University of the Philippines in Los Baños, a Christian and a supporter of the RH Bill. Calauan Mayor Baby Berris recommended Dr. Refreia.

Recommended by Reverend Father Jerry Oblepinea, of the Catholic Church of Wawa, were Fiscal George Dee and Professor Art Salazar, both from the District of Laguna Council for Family Planning and Couples for Christ. We invited all of them to be part of the panel, and all confirmed their attendance, except for Dr. Refreia.

We invited guests from different churches: Iglesia ni Cristo, Catholics, Baptists. We also invited former Senator Manny Villar, Former Rep. Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan, Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriella and many legislators and organizations who support the bill.

Prof. Salazar backed out when he saw a shirt I had sent to a colleague. Dr. Rico Cabangon, was from me was a fellow Director from Forest Products and Research Development Institute (FPRDI-DOST). I gave the shirt to Dr. Cabangon as a token of my appreciation, since he was my adviser when I took my internship course at FPRDI. The shirt bore a handwritten slogan from Carlos Celdran, made especially for Laguna: “Laguna supports the Reproductive Health Bill – Carlos Celdran.”

Prof. Salazar told me in an SMS, “How could you be impartial in this so-called interfaith dialogue?” I am sure he was referring to the shirt, and the obvious fact that I support the passage of the RH Bill.

The “Do It Right Advocacy” focuses on the awareness programs about Environment, Poverty, Current Issues, Women’s Empowerment and Reproductive Health. This group is the organizer of Laguna’s first RH forum. The main purpose of the event was to encourage everyone to support the bill, to let them know that it was about the CHOICE. Everyone has a choice; you just have to choose what is applicable to you.

The program started at 2pm. The attendees came from Los Baños, Paete, Calauan, San Pablo City and Manila. Our guests included Calauan Vice Mayor Allan Dong Sanchez, Calauan Councilors Rommel Belano, Felix Soriano and Calauan barangay captain Kenneth Kraft. The master of ceremonies was Architect Ria Ibanes Martinez of Manalang Tayag Ilano + Partners Architects. On our panel were former Senator Jose D. Lina, Mr. Frank Augustus Manuel of Filipino Freethinkers and Dr. Ruben Tanqueco of UPLB.

Mr. Manuel pointed out that:

  • The population is one reason why the Philippine economy is deteriorating. There is a lack of investors and work that supports the overgrowing population.
  • The bill is for the poor, who can’t easily access the family planning materials and information from their barangays. If the bill is passed, there will be a fund to help the poor with family planning.

Former Governor Lina has worked in the government for 25 years. He strongly opposes the passage of RH Bill. He enumerated some disadvantages of the bill:

  • The pills and contraceptives such as condoms, IUD and Ligation are not good for health.
  • He compared China to Philippines: China is overpopulated, but they are still in a better shape because of investors who are coming to build manufacturing companies.
  • In Laguna, there is much work and no shortage of rice because of rice fields. It’s the individual who is the cause of his own poverty.
  • The main cause of poverty is the corrupt officials.
  • That there is no need for RH bill because the funds will not be used for the sole purpose of family planning. It could lead to corruption.

As he spoke, some members of the audience raised their hands to show their support for the RH bill.

Some asked why the former senator was part of the panel. The awareness program was intended to educate all 30 municipalities of Laguna about the bill, and so they could make an informed choice.

The last speaker was Dr. Tanqueco. He said that as a person from academe, he is not that familiar about all the bills. But he explained why he is supporting the bill:

  • He advocates family planning, natural or modern.
  • Based on statistics, educated couples can limit their choices to only two or three kids, but those living below the poverty line have no choice.
  • The Philippines is a democratic country whereas China is not. China has one leader, and they can enforce a low labor cost, which encourages many investors to come in, giving the manufacturer bigger profit.

Do It Right Advocacy would like to thank everyone who made this possible:
Marissa Torres Langseth- NY, USA
KFC- Los Banos
Boston Café – Los Banos
Letty’s Buco Pie – Los Banos
CNEX Modufurni – Calauan, Laguna
Congresswoman Ivy Arago – Third District of Laguna
Mayor Arlene Arcillias-Nazareno – Sta. Rosa City
Iskargu Restaurant – Calauan, Laguna
KC’S Catering – Calauan, Laguna
Emmy’s Catering – Calauan, Laguna
Tenorio Bakery – Bay, Laguna
4j Hardware – Calauan, Laguna
Larry Surbano – Calauan, Laguna
Mavic Calibara – Los Banos, Laguna
88 Express – Calauan, Laguna
Hacienda Macalauan – Calauan, Laguna
San Isidro Parish Church – Calauan, Laguna
Bondat Restaurant – Calauan, Laguna
Jonessa Enterprises – Calauan, Laguna

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