Wednesday, October 22, 2008

There are times when...

... one feels like flashing the Bat signal when society's ills become too tough to handle...

or just hanging out for a while for some reprieve...

or enjoying the temporary comfort of nostalgia and letting mainstream culture's classic caped crusaders save the day, before bouncing back into the real world.

It's your choice

A lot of misinformation has been going around. And earlier today, I saw yet again another instance of one who, most likely thinking he had his facts straight, contributed to the spread of more inaccurate information. It really is a pity that in an age where the high level of progress in technology facilitates communication in terms of reach and speed, we bungle it up by communicating things that are simply erroneous.

Many discussions -- online and otherwise -- exploring House Bill 5043 are ongoing. No matter what side of the fence you're on, or whether or not you're still only scratching the surface of the issues involved, you owe it to yourself to be informed.

"The right to make one's own choices" has been trumpeted a lot lately. Some have even gone so far as to say that opposing HB 5043 is the same as being against freedom and people's right to make their own choices. After careful study of the bill, it becomes clearer why the opposite is true.

Here's an excerpt from an article that will shed more light on the whole issue, providing background information as well:

Access to contraceptives is already unrestricted in the Philippines. The government family planning service, which has been in place since the 1970s, has an infrastructure of workers all the way down to the grassroots. The private sector is equally active; the International Planned Parenthood Federation supports two federations of NGOs providing various types of family planning services: Family Planning Organizations of the Philippines, and PNGOC (Philippine NGO Council), the latter with 97 member groups. Sex education is also an integral part of the high school curriculum.

So what is the purpose of House Bill 5043, which is entitled “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development”? Raul del Mar, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, has described it as pushing an open door. If so, what makes it so objectionable to the church and those legislators and members of the public who are pushing from the other side?

The answer is, coercion. The contraceptive-driven fertility decline program of HB 5043 may be the most coercive ever designed outside China. It obliges the government to provide free contraceptive services and products; it establishes an “ideal” family size, setting the stage for a proposed two-child policy; it imposes a national sex education curriculum at fifth grade level. Couples would be denied a civil marriage license unless they present a “certificate of compliance” from a family planning office certifying that they have been adequately instructed in family planning and “responsible parenthood”.

If before, quota-driven programs have led to gross human rights violations, this time around this bill could easily penalize with fines and jail sentences workers who will be unable to meet their quota. Employers who refuse to provide reproductive health care services to their employees will likewise be subject to penalties. Worse, it curtails freedom of speech, since any person who dares to talk against the program will also be subject to jail sentence and fines.

This program turns the Philippines into a veritable police state with the government using police powers to interfere in the personal affairs of its citizens.

Read The Filipino front in the culture wars at MercatorNet

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The here and now

Been frequenting a particular blog for over a week now. I even took part in a few of the discussions. Then I got to read an exchange of truly mean and scathing words. Then just a while ago I saw that among the comments were one from a truly gifted writer, in whose words is also reflected a deep appreciation for the achievements of past generations.

My faith in the present generation and my optimism about the country's future are restored yet again. And I didn't even know it was lost.

For some reason I was reminded of words from Dr. Martin Luther King --

The time is always right to do what is right.

Babies & battlecries

Cleaning out the study room yielded a stack of old magazines, among which was an old issue of Love Life, a publication of Pro-Life Philippines which I helped produce. The issue I found came out in 2006, and as I pored over the pages, I came across this piece I wrote around the latter part of the previous year --

Babies & battlecries

Time: 10 pm. People involved: around 15 chatters, mostly Americans. Place: The Abortion Debate room.

"I don't know why I have to be a life-support system for some baby!"

Those are the words of an American woman--thirty-something, I believe, though her exact age escapes me now. A few people are engaged in a conversation about the issue of abortion, which is the usual topic in this chatroom. I stay for about half an hour, then leave when I've had enough of lines that betray an ignorance of medical procedures ("...oh c'mon, an abortion is perfectly safe...") and a scornful sentiment towards unborn babies ("would you let another person get the nutrients from your body if you didn't want him in the first place?").

Seeing how other people think about such a delicate matter gives me a jolt. What's even more disenchanting is that it won't be long before such ideas are vehemently expressed by fellows on our shores. And why not? It's always like that -- be they trends in music, fashion, television programming... you name it. Very little filtering takes place as far as things coming from the U S of A are concerned, and the underlying dictum seems to be "if it's from the States, it must be good."

Well, Americans did introduce us to some pretty good things. They brought in the concept of democracy after the locals saw the end of 300 years under Spanish rule. A democratic form of administration was a welcome change, considering the slave-like existence of indios that three centuries of subjugation by the Spanish government had led to.

We also have the Yankees to thank for changes in the realm of education, yet another development in our society. They basically established formal education as we know it today. Then they provided opportunities that enabled Filipinos then to enjoy the benefits of books, blackboards and classroom discussions without having to go abroad.

Clearly, good things have come from the West, and the "Land of the free" will continue to churn out new inventions, be they material products of technology or intangible signs of authentic human development. But as in any society where progress is constantly being pursued from all directions, detrimental consequences of this pursuit have emerged in the West as well. Then, in recent decades, someone came up with the saying that when the US sneezes, the whole world catches a cold. To a certain extent, that may be true, but there is such a thing as building up resistance. And based on what's been happening in our society in recent years, some people are welcoming the germs with open arms -- and many of them don't even know it.

Take the case of ideas. A fervent "I don't know why I have to be a life-support system for some baby!" may sound too extreme for our sensibilities for now, but then so did the idea of divorce several years ago. "Oh, divorce will never be approved here," I recall a neighbor casually dismissing the growing concern over the issue. That was in 1999 when I told her about the proposed bill that some congressmen had come up with. The notion of divorce being legalized in our country came as a shock to many, but it seems that time (and subtle brainwashing) has a way of softening the shock value of anything abhorrent. The folly of divorce eventually came to the fore, though, prompting the proposed bill to be shelved.

Then there was the idea of making abortion legal in cases of "defective" babies. By the way, I did not choose that word myself; it was yet another congressman -- the author of a bill proposing the legalization of abortion -- who referred to mentally and physically handicapped babies as "defective." (Makes a baby sound like an appliance, doesn't it? Besides, who among us is without defects?) What rationale provided the basis of the bill? The fact that all children deserve to be loved, and the assertion that "defective" babies are better off dead than raised by a presumably "unloving" mother. Of course, the author didn't state it that way. The ideas were the same, but the language was diplomatic, more pleasing due to gentle words blanketed with a tone of compassion.

Then here comes another proposed measure, a bill trumpeted by some sectors as precisely what women need, the answer to our woes. It supposedly gives women the power of self-determination (now who wouldn't want that?), the freedom to decide what they want to do with their body, and -- even for girls as young as 13 years -- easy access to all reproductive health care services.

The better-informed individuals and groups know why any program or policy that endorses "reproductive health care" (which is receiving much support in the United States) actually spells disaster for women. They also understand why this whole campaign for "reproductive health care" ought to be opposed with everything short of fire and brimstone. No, those calling for a more responsive and responsible health care program for women aren't being paranoid or emotional; they are simply aware of some things such as: first, "reproductive health care services" covers all birth control devices and services including abortion; and second, woemn are kept in the dark by the government about the damaging effects (and sometimes fatal consequences) of using contraceptives. How then is this to be called a health care program for women when it endangers precisely the health of women?

"The right to decide" and "it's my body, it's my choice" may sound liberating, even brilliant. And such phrases have been made battlecries too often on the streets of America -- battlecries demanding not the right to vote, not the freedom to obtain an education, but the license to kill growing babies. Are these the ideas that we allow to enter our society, our homes, our minds?

These days, most of the crucial choices lie in selecting which ideas from the West to accept, which to modify and wihch to reject outright. Enough of that "if it's from the States, it must be good!" mentality. The moment "I don't know why I have to be a life-support system for some baby!" begins to sound a little acceptable to you, you've just caught a cold after a mighty sneeze from the West.

Okay, now who wants to be infected next?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Happy birthday, Baby mag!

Baby turns 12 this month, and as is customary every October, the current issue has lots of party-related offerings. There's the directory of party suppliers which comes in handy to anybody who's planning a celebration--be it a kiddie birthday party, a despedida or a baby shower complete with themed decor, table settings and giveaways. As for the other party-related materials that are on the pages of this issue, you'll just have to go get yourself a copy and check them out! We've put together a meaty issue (when do we not do that, really?) so I guarantee this will be value for your money.

A peek into some of the questions answered in between the pages:

How does an expectant mom decide which things to buy and which she can do away with, for baby?

What are the different uses of a birthing ball during pregnancy and labor?

What kind of diaper should you buy?

Is infant circumcision necessary, safe and recommended? What are the pros and cons of circumcision?

What's the best way to deal with toddlers' embarrassing antics?

What goes on in the minds of preschool-aged kids when their parents are separated?

What are the secrets to making one's kids joyfully obey?

How can OFW dads and moms make long-distance parenting work?

Baby magazine is sold at all SM Department stores (baby section), National Bookstores, Babyland (Robinsons Galleria, Shaw Blvd. near Cherry Foodarama, Virra Mall, Baby & Co. (The Podium and Power Plant Mall, Bufini, Procreation Shangri-la mall, Big & Small Co. Shangri-la Mall.

By the way, the clown wig-donning cutie on the cover is SM Star Baby Luzon winner Madielyn Tan Daughtry, photographed by The Picture Company.

Addendum: How could I have forgotten to mention the games we have in this issue?? It being our anniversary, we threw in a couple of games that are open to anyone! Even kids can participate; in fact, one of the games can even serve as a bonding activity for parents and their young ones. Up for grabs for the winners are cool prizes -- not lavish but useful to parents and their little tykes just the same.
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