For years, I taught family planning in the slums.
And for years my friends and I scraped by, pooling our resources together so we could give our humble contribution to a problem that had gotten out of control.
I would bring boxes and boxes of oral contraceptive pills and condoms and
I would sit each of my patients down and listen to their stories and I would try my best to educate not just their minds but their hearts as well.
But I saw that for every one woman we gave some reprieve to, there were millions more who were drowning—and that we had nothing to give to.
The Church that they had fully trusted and given their lives to taught them that their bodies were not their own but a sacrificial offering to the gods because this is all they were: baby-making machines Their bodies, nothing more than machines cranking one baby out after another. Babies that were not the blessings they were meant to be but accursed burdens, another nail in the coffin in the lives of women already hermetically shut in their coffins.
So really I saw the truth of what I did there: nothing much.
And I tell you this story because my story of rage and desperation is not unique.
A lot of Filipinos and Filipinas have worked and advocated for this. They’ve kept their heads down in the face of tremendous challenges and they just keep slugging away.
So this was what I saw I needed to do. Do the little I can. Slug away. Slug away.
In the face of callous government officials who had the wherewithal to make millions of lives better but chose to look the other way, slug away.
In the face of corrupt government who had grown impossibly fattened off the backs of the starving masses, slug away.
In the face of a church that dooms millions of generations of Filipinos by keeping them enslaved in ignorance and fear, slug away.
And it’s made me rage at the incompetence and indifference of government because it is at this level that I see a turnaround happening—where Change finally happens—when government, with all its resources, does what it is supposed to do: put up those goddamned health centers and educate women and men about their reproductive choices and then provide for free and to whoever wants it, contraception.
The RH bill languished on the floor of both houses for 14 years before it became a law. The inutile shats we call ‘congressmen’ and ‘senators’ couldn’t muster the political will to put the Catholic hierarchy in their place –too fearful, too self-absorbed to shake off the political expediency that had become their second skins, to remember who it was they were supposed to serve.
And this church has had the temerity to call themselves pro-life.
And they do so in the face of the exploding poverty that has millions of Filipinos and their families trapped in the vicious cycle of hunger, ignorance, violence with nothing to stitch bodies and souls together.
“Pro-life” in the face of the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the SEA region.
“Pro-life” in the face of one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. (Women are expendable to the pro-life Catholic church, didn’t you know?)
“Pro-life” in a country where HIV AIDS rates has become exponential in growth and has in fact, blown itself up in our faces.
And even when the RH bill finally became a law, when the Catholic church was done with it (with the collusion of politicians of course), all it had become was some empty paper victory that was lukewarm in its implementation. A law that was toothless and did not have the ability to reach those it was intended to reach—the poor in the hinterlands.
And quite suddenly, Rodrigo Duterte became President and one of his first pronouncements is he wants full implementation of this law that so many of us fought for, cried for, bled for.
JUST. LIKE. THAT.
And he says it in a way that you know he means it.
How do I know this? He says this with a catch in his throat—like he’s so pained at the inanity of it all. A pain so many of us share.
I stand bewildered, not quite believing what I hear. (“Do presidents really do this? The right thing?”). And I blink back tears.
To have fought so long and so hard for this.
And to finally have the president of the land say he will throw the full weight of his Office to see that this law is fully implemented. A law that has the potential to make millions of lives better–hence the potential to change our country’s destiny.
The President has shone a light on this poor benighted land of ours that is still so trapped in the Dark Ages for its fealty and blind obedience to organized religion.
And this man, our President, says “Enough of that. Let us move this country forward.”
That’s the kind of President we have now. Certainly not perfect. Certainly not someone I agree with all the time—and with serious issues too.
But someone the likes of which we have not seen in a long time—which explains why we’re in such dire straits. And someone whose courage and focus and heart, I am afraid, we will not see ever again in a long time.
He has done in less than one month what no other president has done all those years they sat in office.
Has Change come?
Oh you’d better believe it, baby.
You must be so blind not to see it smiling its beautiful, brave smile in your face.