Sex Ed and Other Matters

I was about to attend a Policy Forum on Teen Pregnancy. It’s supposed to be today, but I just found that it has been postponed.

I expect it to be rich on informative, insightful lectures and speeches; and poor on workable solutions.

There is a culture of hypocrisy in this country as far as pregnancy is concerned. As far as sex is concerned, actually.

We are a people who tell our children, “do as I say, not as I do.”

For example, a grandmother of 35 brought her 16 year old pregnant daughter to the clinic yesterday. The grandmother is also pregnant with her 5th child with husband number 2. She tells me, referring to her pregnant daughter, “Ewan ko ba kung bakit nagpabuntis yan ng ang aga aga.” (I don’t know how she got herself pregnant at such a young age..”) What did they say about the pot and the kettle?

Congressman Manny Pacquaio is adamantly opposed to artificial contraception. His wife Jinkee has been using oral contraceptive pills to space her pregnancies. Good for you Jinkee … now please tell your husband to be consistent in his convictions.

Health workers are supposed to advise our clients about family planning. A week ago, a patient was willing and able to undergo tubal ligation (a procedure to tie her fallopian tubes that will permanently prevent her from getting pregnant). So I was ready to perform the procedure when my midwife reminded me that we have no anesthesia supplies.

Uhhh … I’m sorry Ms. Family Planning Client, I will have to refer you to another government facility because we lack supplies. And no, we weren’t given supplies for IUD or DMPA either. I can advise you about Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) and Calendar-Based Methods. Oh I see, LAM didn’t work for you because you had to work in a factory that doesn’t have breastfeeding facilities;  and Calendar Based Method is so difficult to do because, really it feels sooo good to have sex when you’re ovulating … I can agree with the great sex during ovulation part :)

During Women’s Month (which is, incidentally, this month!), the mayor proudly announces that the health facilities in the local government provide complete and comprehensive family planning services.

The truth is: most funding for Family Planning come from foreign aid agencies.

Another truth is: the Department of Health (DOH), like a lot of government agencies, is wishy washy about reproductive health because of the Catholic lobby.  When they ask for funding for family planning supplies from Congress, god-fearing congressmen shoot them down.

Yeah, yeah, Undersecretary Garin is now at the helm of the Family Health Office and she was a proponent of the RH Law. Well good luck to her. I hope she doesn’t use her DOH post as just another stepping stone to higher political office.

In countries that have curbed teen pregnancy and have decreased unplanned pregnancy, education played a big role. And so in the Philippines, sex education is  being espoused as a solution to prevent pregnancy among adolescents. So okay, fine, but where and how will we conduct this so-called sex education if we lack classrooms; we lack teachers; the teachers are uninspired and underpaid; the school books are crap;  and the students are hungry?

And was I the only one who has noticed that the agencies who are very active in the Sex Ed/Teen Pregnancy advocacy are DSWD and DOH? Where does the DepEd come in all this? Are they, or are they not, the ones who are primarily in charge of education? Ah but my dear, Education is quite different from sex education

Do the people advocating sex education even know how  it is supposed to be conducted?

I can hear my 16-year old self: If sex feels soooo good, how can you keep us from it? If being a parent is so stress inducing, why did you go through with it?

The thing is, people become parents even if they don’t know how to answer such questions from a 16-year old.

Cynicism has its place and I don’t know if mine is warranted.

The virgin mary and me. I'm sure even she and Joseph had sex.

The Virgin Mary and me. I’m sure even she and Joseph had sex.

 

 

 

Hospitality

According to Wikipedia, hospitality is defined as “the relationship between guest and host which includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or stranger.”

Sometimes I wonder about this so-called “Filipino hospitality”, this tendency of my people to give the best part of what they have to their guests. The best place in the house to sleep in, the best blanket, the best food, the best type of treatment.

Or maybe, that was the case a long time ago. Like 400 years ago maybe.

I can remember a high school teacher saying something like, “if we Filipinos have not been so hospitable, we wouldn’t have been colonized by white-skinned foreigners. And then we wouldn’t be this fucked up.”  That  second sentence, she didn’t say that exactly … I just implied it from her expression and the kind of teacher she was (a member of the LFS who had probably joined the NPA — I think).

Sometimes, I also wonder if this so-called “hospitality” is a concept devised by my country’s elites; foisted on me so I that I will not feel enraged when they screw me over and over. (But then I should also remember that I got screwed  because I smilingly I laid on my back and spread my legs. Well, boo hoo on me …)

I haven’t been bothered by a blog for a long time. But this one had. And I can’t really say why. The writer seem to be well-meaning and very honest. Honesty should be prized more than hospitality I think.

This is how she related an experience travelling to the Ilocos:

“A big disappointment here. For some reasons, Filipinos (especially older people) got really angry when they saw us taking photos of them, the food in the street or even ourselves in front of their shops or houses. It’s totally understandable, but once we asked them for permission, they quoted the price of the photo or said “Any money is ok. It’s up to you.” This attitude shocked us on the first day, but it continued for the rest of our stay. We still can’t understand that. Is it because some Filipino are materialistic people or they are just poor people trying to earn some extra money? Don’t know the answer.”

Hmmm …  are we a materialistic people? But then, we (a majority of us, anyway) are a people who have so little as far as material stuff are concerned. Even the lands under our feet are not ours.

We gave them to the white-skinned foreigners and their local cronies a long time ago. Shame on us …

And then she tried our foods and was disappointed as well.  Yup, me too … sometimes I’d rather starve than try the food she ate. But then, I can afford to starve like for a day or even two. The people who patronize the “poor quality food” she mentioned are, well,  poor.  If they starve, they really starve — as in, to death.

I feel sad for this tourist. For her horrible diarrhea and her bad experience in my third world home.

But I feel sadder for myself.

sunset

We are supposedly known for (and are proud of) our sunsets …

burot beach

… and beaches ….

tree

It’s just that I think, there is a dishonesty in being proud of stuff that one did not create in the first place.

Creative Endeavors

There was a 34-year old woman, let’s call her Y, who gave birth to a dead baby with Trisomy 13 yesterday. It is a congenital anomaly affecting 1/10,000 births and has a morbid prognosis since most end as stillbirths or die within the first year of life.

This is Y’s fourth  pregnancy. Her first 2 children are ok, but the pregnancy before this one was  also a Trisomy 13 stillbirth. I think she told me that she and her husband will still keep on trying because they want to have a girl. She is a vendor and  her husband teaches Arabic. I don’t think pre-implantation genetic diagnosis is a practical option for them.

Hmmm …

 

Patauhand

Trisomy 13 or Patau syndrome. The overlapping of fingers over thumb is a common feature. Picture from Wikipedia.

 

***

I was reading Book 3 of “50 Shades of Grey”,  that scene where Anastasia tells Christian that she’s (ehem) pregnant; and he goes ballistic, saying, “Shit! I don’t fucking believe it. How could you be so stupid?”

The thing is, I completely sympathize with Christian Grey. How could she fucking do it indeed? She was on a reliable form of contraception (Depo-Provera) and she forgot to take her shot. May I just add that Anastasia Steele is not one of my favorite heroines.

In fiction, the conception (or birth) of a new human being is considered a hopeful event.  In real life, though, things are more ambiguous.

Kids do get messed up even when their parents did want them. Even in circumstances where the conception was hoped for and planned, a thousand and one things could go wrong — from pregnancy to delivery, to the raising of the child, and the way it grows to be an adult.

I read somewhere that parenting can be one of the most creative things a person (or two persons) can do. Maybe it’s right up there with writing a book or composing a song. However, books and songs don’t end up (even the worst of them) as messed up adults who are full of resentments against their progenitors. Also, books and songs (in general) don’t end up disrupting the lives of their creators.

One grapples with the question whether parenthood should be deemed as a right or  privilege. And one is still stumped. Feminists, NGOs, government agencies, international aid organizations and the church have their opinions. The way they say it, you’d think that those opinions were carved in stone.

Contraceptives were invented so that people who do not want, or who are not ready, to be parents will not be so. However, humans being humans, do not take their contraceptives perfectly. And these devices do fail — a 0.05 failure rate may be nothing unless you become one of the 0.05.  I don’t know if there were studies that show children grow up just as well whether they were a wanted/un-wanted or a planned/unplanned pregnancy.

Would people/parents be so honest to admit when their children are born that, really, they had the same expression as Christian Grey when they found that that kid was conceived? Would they admit that they didn’t want a child when the kid is already there? They (whoever they are) say that when one sees the cute baby gurgling and looking so innocent and cuddy, one can’t help but love it. Is that true, I wonder?

Maybe, as with all acts of creations, a great deal of narcissism comes with wanting to be a parent. Or choosing to be a parent, wanted or not. And a great deal of hopefulness too. Trisomy 13 or not.

 

The Two L’s

“Each year, 20-something girls flock to New York City in search of the two L’s: labels and love.”Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and The City (The Movie, 2008)

The world would be such a disorganized place if there were no such thing as “labels”. For example, my cabinet drawers have labels –  “shirts”, “shorts”, “undergarments”. My kitchen cupboards have labels, which are invisible because I hate putting paper signs in my kitchen, but they are there nonetheless — “sauces and condiments”, “rice/flour/pasta”, “herbs and spices” … and so on and so forth.

Imagining a world with no labels, I see a Universe just after the Big Bang! Or a zygote just after fertilization. Everything is an undifferentiated, messy, “what-might-have-beens” (or a “what-may-just-be’s”, depending on one’s point of view).

For the sake of order, one needs labels.

So I’ve been pondering on this.  And with  other labels that define (or confine — depending on how one goes at it) one’s life.

Labels that are employed not only  for brevity and neatness,  but for convenience. We hear or look at the words and feel like we “know” someone. Words such as: married, single, separated, living-together, parent, childless, employed/underemployed/unemployed.

There is a certain box one can tick — and that will give others a glimpse into a life; into one’s not-so-secret underwear drawer. One would wish that  single words (or phrases) will not be used to summarize the complexity and richness; the colors and the choices and the stories that made up that life. But they are there, they are being used — they are easy, they are neat, they are comfortable.

Labels are confining but we search for them anyway to give definitions to ourselves. They gather us and give us a semblance of coherence. They counter-act the chaos that love inevitably brings into our lives.

Of course, in a way, love can also be a label.

 

Again, on Progenies

 “But my question is, why do people become parents when parenthood seems so awful?”

This was just the question I asked a Health teacher back in highschool when we were given some semblance of Sex Ed (they called it Values Education, of course).

I still have no idea what the answer may be.

The acrosome reaction, a process by which a certain cell insinuates itself to another cell, resulting in a potential human being. I get it why cells bother to do this. I just can't fathom why thinking humans would want to face the months and years that come afterwards.

The acrosome reaction, a process by which a certain cell insinuates itself into another cell, resulting in a potential human being. I get it why cells bother to do this. I just can’t fathom why thinking humans would want to face the months and years that come afterwards.

 

Fact or Not ?

1. The number of viable ova in a woman’s ovary peaks just after puberty, stays high until her 20′s, and then steadily declines after her 30s

2. Teen pregnancy is currently a pet crusade of foreign funding agencies like USAID and UNFPA and WHO (and I am currently trying to beat a deadline writing a report on the subject, hence this blog post is an exercise on procrastination).

3. Women should be able to decide when and with whom they want to get pregnant; but sometimes they are ambivalent about going through pregnancy, childbirth and parenting (which are three different things but are currently packaged together) and they write insightful posts about that ambivalence which sound like this – http://joannagoddard.blogspot.com/2012/03/motherhood-mondays-one-reader-asks-im.html

3. Affluent women in affluent societies get the services of cash-strapped women in over-populated societies to carry gestations for them – http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/india-s–rent-a-womb–industry-draws-criticism-185434998.html

4. When a girl goes on a date (whether online or off), a part of her may imagine  that the guy will become the future father of her children. Hence she will think it imperative to find out his economic prospects — including, but not limited to, his highest educational attainment, his job, his salary and his “plans for the future”. This happens even if the girl has a job, a good salary and great prospects for the future.

5. Sometimes, the male or  the female  decides that timed sexual intercourse and infertility workups have totally fucked up their sex life. And what’s the point of stressing yourselves trying to have a kid when the effort to do so may just ruin your relationship.

6. Sometimes, couples never have a kid because they never have sex. And it’s not because of waning love or desire for each other. Sometimes, when two people have been together for a really long time, the inclination to fuck like rabbits every other day go down. A case of familiarity breeding laziness, perhaps.

7. The best years to have sex is when one is a teenager — raging hormones, yummy tight bodies that have not yet given way to flab. However the UNFPA, WHO, and USAID will frown on you if you get pregnant. Worse, grown-ups will frown on you if they knew you were having sex even if you didn’t get pregnant. You want to use a condom but the salespersons at the drugstore (who is a grownup) frowns on you. If you’re a girl, you can buy an OCP and pretend that it’s to regulate your menstruation.

8. If one is no longer a teenager and one is married, others expect one to get pregnant preferably within 1-2 years after the wedding. Otherwise, what have you gotten married for? One is not supposed to have become “a whole woman” unless one has given birth to a baby. A miscarriage is not counted.

9. In a society rife with machismo, which is like >80% of the world, it may take years to persuade a man to undergo semenalysis.

10. In a certain society, it seems that one can do stuff that, by definition, are selfish and greedy and abhorrent, with the justification that one has done it for one’s child/children. Let’s present Janet Lim-Napoles, who carried out the humongous scams she did because she wanted to give her children a better life, as Exhibit A.

11. In the Labor Room, a gravida 3 is 7 cms dilated and one hopes that she will give birth within the next 2 hours.

Dolly, the cloned sheep. What would our society be like if the only way we can reproduce is via the way Dolly did?

Dolly, the cloned sheep. What would our society be like if the only way we can reproduce is via the way Dolly did?

The Heart of Corruption

I love “The Hunger Games”! Both the books and, so far, the movie.

Jennifer Lawrence was  completely relatable and I could just hug Josh Hutcherson and tell his character “Peeta”  to stop being so chivalrous and just go ahead and kiss Katniss. Off course, if he did that, Katniss would most probably stick her arrow in his throat.

I read all three Hunger Games books in my Kindle. Mockingjay and Catching Fire are due for a repeat reading. I want to re-read books I love before I watch their movie. It would be easier for me to nitpick.

Okay, spoilers ahead …

In Book 2 (Catching Fire) and Book 3 (Mockingjay), we saw Peeta captured by the Capitol; which subjected him to some very sophisticated forms of torture that resulted in him having distorted memories about Katniss. Prior to his torture, Peeta was hopelessly, irrevocably, undyingly in-love  with Katniss. In most of “Mockingjay”,  all he wanted to do was kill her.

***

That got me thinking about the recent political scandals in my country, particularly the pork barrel scam which involved (involves ?) billions of pesos.

I can hear Carl Sagan say “billions and billions” in my head — yes Carl, billion and billions.

Of money that could have gone to the food, clothing and shelter of destitute Filipinos …

… money that could have been given over to programs that would benefit a lot of people instead of Jeane Napoles only and her penchant  for expensive foreign brands …

… and, yeah, I will be so selfish here to wish the darned money had gone to my salary so I wouldn’t feel so used by the government, making me just this inch away from accepting an offer to work somewhere in the Middle East. Which, I think, has a more twisted government and social structure, but that is another story.

Corruption has been with humans for most of their history, I would imagine. Ever since humans realized that resources are scarce (whether nominally or relatively) and that one can get ahead by scamming other people. Ever since humans learned to torture and do mind games on others weaker than themselves.

Human-invented systems like “governments” or “taxes” or “PDAF” can be corrupted because humans and their malleable hearts can be corrupted.

More’s the pity. Sometimes I wish I were a computer, but where’s the fun in that?

The thing is, PCs can be corrupted too! There was this time all my files were wiped out because of a goddarned troll (or a virus, I'm not sure which). The difference between computers and humans is ... hmmm, sometimes, I think, not much. Their programmability and algorithms will soon be in sync. In the not so distant future, an 2D2 in a distant planet will wonder at Human that created it and will probably wait for something like a "Second Coming".

The thing is, PCs can be corrupted too! There was this time that all my files were wiped out because of a goddarned trojan (or a virus, I’m not sure which). The difference between computers and humans is … hmmm, sometimes, I think, not much. Their programmability and algorithms will soon be in sync. In the not so distant future, an R2D2 in a distant planet will wonder at Human that created it and will probably wait for something like a “Second Coming”.