Manila – a place where everyone living in the province dreams of going. I was always one of those people wishing for the chance to go, but I didn’t really think I would have the opportunity to go any time soon. So when Ami told me that she was a finalist for a contest organized by the United Nations Millennium Campaign and the Probe Foundation and that she was going to take me to Manila to attend the awards ceremony with her, I was so thrilled. I couldn’t wait to go! I was so excited to see the capital city and to ride in an airplane and to see something outside of Palawan. As our departure drew nearer I had some mixed emotions because I was a bit nervous about the flight and the trip, but by the time we got to the airport I was mostly just excited. I told myself, “This is it”! I did feel a little worried when I boarded the airplane but soon I relaxed. The take off and some turbulence was a bit scary (I couldn’t even look out of the window) but the flight was mostly smooth and it passed by quickly.
Once we arrived in Manila, the first thing that I noticed is that there aren’t lots of tricycles roaming the streets like in Palawan. Instead there are lanes and lanes of cars and buses. In Palawan you only see buses at the terminal area because their routes all go outside the city. Thank goodness they aren’t in the main city or else there would be chaos! Although the traffic in Manila is definitely chaotic, in fairness the roads in Manila are much wider than in Palawan. There are a lot of intersections too. And so many billboards showing the different directions of places, and advertising clothes and other products. They also have underpasses and overpasses. And such huge buildings! And trains! Wow! It is really modern. When we got to the hotel, I was so amazed with their facilities and even the employees. They were so accommodating and they really entertained their visitors. Everyone in Manila seemed to move quickly, like they were running out of time. Even the temperature was different! It was hot outside but all the buildings were air conditioned and really cold. Life in Manila is really different than it is here in Palawan.
The evening of the Awards Ceremony arrived, and we were so excited to wear our formal Filipiniana outfits! Before we left for the event we mingled with our co-finalists at our hotel and took lots of photos with them. Everyone looked so nice in their Filipiniana clothes! It was so great to have the chance to meet and speak with the other MDG finalists. Everyone was really nice. I felt so blessed to have the chance to meet so many people who are helping so many others in their respective fields. I was so thankful that the Probe Foundation and UN Millennium Campaign put this program together!
The Awards Ceremony was elegant and fun. The event was my first time to meet and mingle with well-known people in the Philippines, including Congresswoman Imelda Marcos, Congresswoman Aliah Dimaporo, and Probe Foundation President Che-Che Lazaro. The evening was so much fun and truly a once in a lifetime experience.
But the Awards Ceremony isn’t all we did in Manila. We really maximized our time there to make the trip worthwhile. We also had the opportunity to attend the Women Deliver conference focused on improving maternal health, which was organized by Likhaan. This was my first time to attend in a big, international conference and it was fantastic! I learned so much about different aspects of maternal and child health, from the human rights perspective, to the RH bill, to maternal and infant mortality and how to decrease it (we need more midwives!), to midwives and the challenges they face in their work. The panels on midwives especially interested me. In so many parts of the Philippines, midwives are the only health workers available to people and yet they are paid very low wages, and their voices and concerns about their work aren’t always heard. But ensuring that each Barangay in the Philippines has at least one midwife is one of the only realistic ways that the Philippines can attain its MDG goals of decreasing maternal and infant mortality. In fact, the sessions inspired me so much that I think I want to go back to school at some point and study midwifery so I can continue working on maternal health in rural areas, but in a different capacity. More midwives really seem to be an important step the country has to pursue to improve maternal and child health!
After a very busy three days in Manila, it was time to go back to Palawan! I had a great time but I was so happy to go home to see my family. Marcus and Ami dropped me off at the airport. I was kind of nervous at first because the airport was so big and so different from the airport in Palawan and I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do first. “What if the airplane leaves me? What if I can’t find the right direction going to Palawan? What if I can’t go home?” Before I let myself panic, I decided to just keep my eyes open and I observed all the people around me, especially those going to Palawan, so I could figure out where to go after checking my bag in.
As I was in line, watching the people around me, I started chatting with a fellow passenger named Jonathan Gerodias. I found out that he used to work on health issues with a private NGO and then the City Government of Palawan, and now he works with the Provincial Government of Palawan. His focus is also on improving maternal and child health in Palawan. I was so happy to meet him. Not only did he help me find the plane, but while waiting to board, he introduced me to his colleague, Dr. Eduardo Cruz, who happens to be the Head of the Provincial Health Office in Palawan. He was also one of the hundreds of participants who attended the Likhaan Women Deliver conference. Dr. Cruz asked me about my work so I told him about Ugat ng Kalusugan (Roots of Health) and our work – that we focused on maternal and child health by not only giving people extra food but also by giving the moms information regarding reproductive and family health and human rights and empowerment. Dr. Cruz seemed really impressed with what Ugat ng Kalusugan is doing to help increase the health of moms and kids. Dr. Cruz told me a bit about the work they are focusing on and he said Palawan’s new governor, Governor Abraham Mitra, has listed health as his number one priority. Dr. Cruz then asked me if Ugat ng Kalusugan might want to partner with the Provincial Government to help tackle maternal health issues. I was so excited at the invitation to partner with them! It was a good initial meeting with Dr. Cruz, and we will definitely be following up with him in the coming weeks.
Of course I know what we’re doing here in Palawan, but the trip to Manila really made me realize how much so many people all over the country and the world are doing to try to improve maternal and child health. We all want changes right? If we all put in some effort, we CAN fight maternal and infant mortality!