By Victor Layug, contributor
[This article is the second in a two-part feature. See the first article here.]
‘Dare To Ask: A Symposium on Social Networking, Responsible Parenthood and the Youth’ was held on September 17 at the Grand Theater of the Administrative Building of the University of Makati. After a rousing discussion by Ana Santos of SexAndSensibilities.com regarding responsible social media use, the forum moved to the next topic: teenage pregnancy. The speaker for teenage pregnancy was Dr. Emma Alesna Llanto, the president of the Society of Adolescent Medicine of the Philippines (SAMPI) and pioneer of the Teen Mom Program of the Philippine General Hospital.
Dr. Llanto began by citing how parenthood brings with it changes that affect all aspects of life for the parent, whether or not the parent may be prepared for such changes. “The parent is the most powerful influence in a child’s life,” Dr. Llanto said, quoting Tom Perry. But perhaps the thing about parenthood that most people fear is the cost of having a child, and very rightly so: the average cost of giving birth is P20,000-P25,000. In addition, the first year of vaccines for a newborn amounts to P30,000. Over and above giving birth and vaccines, there are many, many other things that need to be spent for, such as clothes, communication, furniture, medicine, education, groceries and healthcare. Being a parent is indeed a 24/7 responsibility. No holidays, no sick or vacation leaves, no 13th month pay, no pay checks.
Dr. Llanto went on to state that the average human brain doesn’t fully develop until the person is in their early to mid-20s. The last part of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex, which is actually the part of the brain responsible for passing judgement and weighing the possible consequences of one’s actions. This might partially explain the poor decision-making skills that so many associate with teenagers, particularly those that frequently live their life with the recently popular YOLO (you only live once) meme in mind.
Echoing the words of the previous speaker, Ana Santos, Dr. Llanto said that the best form of contraception is to have hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams become very difficult to achieve if one were to become a parent at an early age. By hanging on to our long-term goals, we will be better protected from making decisions that might prevent us from achieving them.
One of the things that Dr. Llanto pointed out about the youth is that most are not knowledgeable regarding dangerous things like HIV, and also about basic matters pertaining to sexual health. The reason for this lack of proper awareness might be because most youth get their information from TV shows and mass media, which are not the most accurate sources of information.
Dr. Llanto went on to state that 57% of first sexual encounters are either unplanned or unwanted: the reason for this is mainly because of pressure. For girls, they are pressured by their boyfriend into engaging in sexual activity, and for the boys, they are pressured by their peers. An additional complication to this is the fact that inebriation does not help one make good decisions, and young people who drink are even more susceptible to bad decisions. Dr. Llanto believes that responsible and medically sound sexual education, combined with accurate information, will help today’s youth make the right decisions, be informed, and have respectful relationships.
Towards the end of the Dare to Ask program a question was posed: what were the positive and negative effects of the RH bill? Cecille Villa of FAD answered this concern, stating that the positive effects included giving opportunities to people to learn more about sexuality. The bill doesn’t promote promiscuity, she said; in fact, it would directly oppose that. The bill would also educate the youth regarding the consequences of teen pregnancy, and give help to couples who are unable to plan for their family. The RH bill is ultimately not anti-family, she said, but rather a strong initiative that promotes responsible parenthood. Ms. Villa concluded with the assertion that she couldn’t think of any adverse effects stemming from the RH bill.
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