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A brighter day for little Juanito and Juanita
After flying from one continent to another that consisted of three different plane flights and feeling high — literally that is, for seventeen hours — my feet were finally planted on Lupang Hinirang, Oct. 13. Giddy with jet-lag, this columnist and my husband Rudy were roused by a knock on the taxi driving us from the airport.
Two mothers, each with her baby on her arms, insistently knocked for alms as the taxi was on standstill in traffic. We didn’t open the car window to avoid a swarm of open palms from the kids on the roadside. Besides, doing so will invite traffic mishaps and exacerbate mindless altruism. So, close the eyes even if one’s own heart cried for those mothers. Think of better ways to assuage society’s ills. Family planning that will ensure the three basic human needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
Bear with me, dear readers, as I exhume my award-winning 2007 column as my persistent campaign for the approval of the Reproductive Health Bill that has been agonizing in Congress for several years now. Originally titled A brighter day for little Jane, the column was awarded Runner-up for Best Opinion Writing by the Philippine Legislators Commission on Population Development. Read on:
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One of those moments when all you do is take in the passing show of humanity after limbs begin to tire out and shoulders start to hang down. Especially after we’ve checked out Ashland’s malls before the evening show of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, one of the plays scheduled for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
A motley crowd of passers-by provided an interesting diversion. A “Hi!” to acknowledge another human being’s existence, a nod to one looking like a fellow tourist, a smile thrown here and there to show humanity’s brotherhood (and sisterhood)—a sight relaxing enough until we heard a young mother telling off a bawling child: “We are not going to buy anything.”
She looked twenty, take or add a year or two, verily on the third stage in the Seven Ages of Man that Shakespeare expounds in As You Like It. That age when the love-struck seeks fulfillment as must have been the case in this girl. She was pushing a stroller—in it a baby, her second child I suppose—while the other child kept on tugging to her skirt. She wheeled the stroller inside Small Change that carried an additional name below it: Children’s Store. It was right in front where the hubby and I were resting. Customers came in, usually with lots of kid stuff on their way out. Would the young mother buy something for the kid? I wondered, thinking of her off-hand admonition: “We are not going to buy anything.” Rudy and I stood up to leave, annoyed by the frustration and deprivation of children.
Not yet twenty or even twenty-three and already burdened with two kids. Sigh! How many of her kind exist in the Philippines? in other underdeveloped countries? or right here in highly-developed U.S. of A.? How unfortunate to hear of a child-mother rocking a baby in India or in the remote and not-so-remote areas of Bayan Ko. Just passed puberty and already a mother. Indeed unfortunate, deplorable, appalling. Let me be redundant in forcing the issue against teen marriage and irresponsible parenthood.
The 60 Minutes newscast last night bemoaned the fact that 78 million Americans do not have health insurance. I can just picture how much more pitiful is the situation in my home country. The teeming masses depend on puericulture centers existing on scant supply of medicines and inadequate facilities. One more compelling reason for POPCOM to rein in the exploding population.
Among its many objectives geared to keeping our population growth down, POPCOM must espouse late marriage and late child-bearing age. DELAY MARRIAGE UNTIL AGE 30. The catchphrase, if observed, will considerably reduce the child-bearing period. At least for the many who uphold the sanctity of marriage.
DON’T BE A BABY FACTORY would serve just right for those having them cheaper by the dozen. My friend, Dr. Doris Bagarinao, says, we need to provide lots of opportunities for women (work, study, travel, career). “We need to stop feeding young women fancy beauty fare, romance, and Prince Charming fantasy, and feed them instead lots of information about reproduction, careers, women`s rights… Women should learn to insist on control over their bodies, their lives, and their futures.” I say Amen to all that.
Come to think of it, the TV is deluged with Clinique, Victoria’s Secret, Estee Lauder cosmetics and a cornucopia of other beauty aids for both men and women, but I still have to see a favorite brand of contraceptive being promoted. Or condom, the kind most convenient, most durable, most pleasurable, whatever. Or other commercials pushing for artificial birth control. Because, more than ever, with the exploding population, birth control is the need of the hour.
I’m still wondering whether the little girl who went inside the children’s store with her mother got something to make her day brighter. “We are not going to buy anything.” A statement of utter denial that still rings in my ears. How it must have broken the heart of little Jane (the name I gave because the craving, teary-eyed little one is every-child deprived of the good stuff in a child’s life.)
Little Jane deserves a brighter day just as every little Juana, Maria, or Ana deserves a brighter day—born into a world prepared to feed, clothe, and shelter them, and sustain them with the joys of childhood.