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ONE WOMAN’S CRUSADE AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING

BY PEPPER MARCELO

U M A N TRAFFICKING is the dark, twisted perversion of the OFW dream. According to humantrafficking.org, up to 100,000 Filipino men, women and children are illegally recruited and transported for purposes of exploitation. In places such as the US, Greece, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and countries in Africa, they are forced to become servants and prostitutes. It is a lucrative business, earning approximately US$32 billion worldwide. The trafficking of women and children is rampant in the Philippines. Based on a recent study, there are approximately 6,300 cases of trafficking in the 12 regions of the country. Taken from rural areas in Bicol, Samar, Leyte and Zamboanga, they are transferred to cities and other tourist spots. Many of them undergo slavelike conditions as domestic help-

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Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in WomenAsia Pacific (CATW-AP), was named one of yahoo.com’s “Modern Philippine Heroes.” ers or become prostitutes in nightclubs and bars. They suffer mistreatment from their employers, club owners as well as customers. Poverty is the motivating factor

What the anti-human trafficking crusader is most proud of in her program of empowering survivors is human rights education given to those who have suffered the abuses of human trafficking and, who, in turn, become advocates and teachers themselves. behind this phenomenon. Preying on desperate and helpless people seeking employment, recruiters in cahoots with trafficking syndicates and oftentimes with the complicity of the victims’ family members, forcibly coerce women and children into this sordid business. In 2003, the Anti-Trafficking Person Act or Republic Act No. 9208 was signed into law, putting in place policies to address human trafficking, sex

tourism, sex slavery and child prostitution. It also recognizes that any person, old or young, may become victims of trafficking whether they consented or not. In addition, it acknowledges that human trafficking can be perpetrated through the abuse of authority a person, such as a family member or guardian, has on the victim.

Anti-trafficking crusader

“Before the anti-trafficking law was passed, it was mainly us doing the job. We go to the remote areas and conduct education on what trafficking is,” says Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP). CATW-AP is an international, non-government organization (NGO) that fights against the

Bantay Bugaw, or “pimp watch,” reports and responds to cases of human trafficking. sexual exploitation of women globally, as well as bring international attention to the trafficking of women and girls through campaigns and policy advocacy. Besides the Philippines, it has regional networks and affiliated groups in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Chile, Canada, Norway, France and Greece. One of the leading advocates and drafters of the anti-trafficking bill, Enriquez has been involved in human rights work for 28 years now, and has focused on international rights for women

CATW-AP hold seminars designed to heal and empower female victims of trafficking, prostitution and abuse, as well as educate the greater public on women’s rights.


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for the past 22 years. She is a valued resource person, speaker and trainer for various international groups and forums on trafficking, prostitution, and women rights, among other issues. “I chose my work because it comes from my heart, and I give my heart to it. That leaves no room for ‘mistakes.’ It is working with the God/Goddess within,” she told Marie Claire magazine.

Healing and empowerment programs

Enriquez’s work in CATW-AP encompasses a number of education camps designed to heal and empower female victims of trafficking, prostitution and abuse, as well as educate the greater public on women’s rights. Their programs include Bantay Bugaw, or “pimp watch,” which is a quick response program aimed at pinpointing and apprehending recruiters preying on girls and women for sexual and labor exploitation. There is also the “Addressing the Demand Side of Trafficking Project,” which educates men on how to properly view, treat and interact with women. “[There are] patriarchal ideas that puts women in lower roles or status in society, which should not be because pantay-pantay naman dapat lahat. In schools, because of the media,

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Based on a recent study, there are approximately 6,300 cases of trafficking in the 12 regions of the country. the church, as well as those that condition them to be superior, aggressive, that they have the right over women’s bodies, etc.,” she told the Manila Bulletin. The successful project has been replicated in Thailand, Indonesia and India. What she’s most proud of in her program of empowering survivors is human rights education given to those who have suffered the abuses of human trafficking and, who, in turn, become advocates and teachers themselves.

Bantay Bugaw response teams raise awareness for communities to cooperate with local government. “They’re just not on the receiving end, looking for dole-outs,” she says. “They also advocate for local employment, so basic conditions that brought them to trafficking will be changed. So government will not keep pushing for Filipinos to go abroad and look for jobs, but create local full employment.” For her efforts, Enriquez has been bestowed with a number of accolades, including being named one of Marie Claire magazine’s top 10 women in the world in 2007, and one of the Top Outstanding Women in National Service (TOWNS) Award in 2010.

Tier 2 watchlist

There had been international criticism that the Philippines had not

done enough to fight or curtail human trafficking, specifying that the rampant corruption within the government has allowed trafficking to flourish. For two years, the US State Department placed the government on a Tier 2 watchlist, meaning it had not fully complied with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and its minimum standards. If the Philippine standing is downgraded to a Tier 3 category, the country would face sanctions such as the withholding of US aid. “Because a lot of governments need the financial aid, they try comply as much as possible. That’s the primary motivation for government acting on it,” says Enriquez. The US State Department report pointed out that the Aquino administration has yet to obtain a labor trafficking conviction since the 2003 anti-trafficking law’s enactment. Before the June 2011 release of the US State Department latest Human Trafficking Report, there was a speedy conviction rate involving 22 human traffickers,

with President Benigno Aquino III announcing that the Philippines would be removed from the watchlist, although it would still be categorized under Tier 2. Despite the report noting that “significant progress” has been made in the effort to curb human trafficking, it did not say if the Philippines would be removed from the watchlist this year. There’s a still lot that remains to be accomplished, Enriquez emphasizes, not just due to US grading, but a change in local political will and thought. She says that government should also respond to the demand side of trafficking, especially sexual exploitation. “As long as buying and the selling of women’s bodies is not criminalized, sex trafficking will continue,” she adds. Enriquez says that people should be more aware and vigilant when it comes to human trafficking in all its forms. “We should be sensitive and critical of society norms, and continually oppose practices that commodify people, especially the vulnerable.” n

CATW-AP also holds workshops on how to properly view, treat and interact with women.


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OPEN VISA: A noble worker’s novel In the last few years, Filipino talents have been positively recognized around the world. In sports, history was made when our “Azkals” defeated Sri Lanka, 4-0, qualifying to the next level for 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualification-First Round. Last year’s bout of the great Pacman is now a matter of “who’s next?” This year’s Canada day celebrations in Ottawa were no exception. Maria Aragon sang “O Canada” in front of the Royal couple and thousands of royal Canadians. Charice’s wings are still up there gleefully soaring high over Japan. She was chosen to sing “Far as the Sky”, the theme song of their country’s “Bull Doctor” a mystery/crime drama. Hopefully in exchange, our Nippon friends will learn our dialects like: Kamuka Ko (Japanese translation of handsome) and Kamuka Mo (for ugly). Ha ha ha. In Canada’s political landscape, Filipinos are making history as well. We have three MLAs in the resource-rich provinces of western Canada (Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba). In the light of the above advances, we have all the reasons to be proud Filipino-Canadians. Mabuhay! For many years, however, the concerns of our Overseas Filipino Workers and caregivers are still an uphill battle. News related to their employment issues are like mushrooms that crop up everywhere in Canada. The efforts being made on their behalf by the media, NGOs and concerned government departments are positive steps forward. Being said, however, there are still many hills to climb, boring flat prairies to drive and rivers to cross before their plight is given proper attention. Open Visa, the book dedicated to our OFWs and Caregivers is now in circulation. Quite possibly the first novel written by a Fil-Canadian that deals with the life and experiences of our “New Heroes”. The book was written to encourage them to move on; entertain them to keep their sanity intact, offer insights to guide their future and instill the value of community involvement. As the silent heroes of today, their stories of sacrifices are begging for understanding, appreciation and commendation. Their contributions to keep the Philippine economy floating are huge. Pinoys in the world of sports, entertainment and governance are our sources of pride to the world. The roles of our thousands of OFWs and caregivers scattered around the world are the reflections of our humanity, humility and excellent work ethic. Our OFWS and caregivers deserve not only our attention and applause. They need to feel that we care enough to understand their life circumstances, experiences and dreams. It’s about time for them to shine and be recognized. To understand them as they are is to understand that we are no different from them. They were and always will be the noble workers in today’s world. Open Visa is their novel for you to read and keep. The book is available at the following: www.greatcanadianauthors.com, www.amazon.ca and www.chapters.indigo. ca. Please visit Open Visa at www.myopenvisa.com & contact us at myopenvisa@gmail.

com.

Renting vs Buying A Home Renting vs home ownership – this is a decision many people face, and the decision is not easy to make as it may sound. As a home owner, you can reasonably expect the equity in your home to increase over time as your mortgage is paid down. That, combined with regular appreciation on your property values, can be a rapid and rewarding way to increase your net worth. In contrast, the person renting over the same amount of time is left with no property investment but may have enjoyed the lower living expense and the ability to invest in other opportunities. When comparing home ownership to renting, you have to add up all of the figures, including the cost of your home, the size of your down payment, utilities, immediate repairs, interest rates and insurance, and compare with how much you are currently spending on renting a property. Of course you also have to place a value on the enjoyment and satisfaction that you will derive from owning your own home. It’s usually better to buy than to rent, but not in every case, and usually not right away. It usually takes at least a few years for buying to become a better deal than renting. That’s because there are some big up-front costs when buying, and your monthly payments from buying are generally higher. However, those payments are building equity in your home -- you’re “keeping” some of what you’re paying. Also, while you’re making your payments, your home generally appreciates in value. After some number of years the equity you’ve paid into your home plus the appreciation will usually overcome the extra money you had to pay to get into the home. For more details regarding this article, please email me at crispaac@homenwork.com or call me at 403-472-2262. Please consult the professionals regarding any concerns on buying your first home.


SEPTEMBER 1-15, 2011

HEALING PRIEST MOVES TO MINDORO From Canada, Fr. Suarez is transplanted in the boondocks of Occidental Mindoro, where he was given a new congregation. The Batangas-born priest, who attracts 100,000 to 150,000 people monthly to his healing Masses, draws substantial donations in cash and in kind from elite families, big corporations, socio-civic groups and foreign donors.

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“I never thought that the process of my excardination and incardination would take place only within six days,” he said, noting the speed to be unprecedented. Excardination refers to a priest’s separation and release from a religious group, while incardination refers to his acceptance into another.

Big crowds, donations

Fr. Suarez has formed a new community named the Missionaries of Mary Mother of the Poor (MMP) in Occidental Mindoro after resigning from the Ottawabased Companions of the Cross, which ordained him in 2002. BY RUBY VILLAVICENCIO-PAUROM

HENOMENAL healing priest Fernando Suarez was amazed. It usually took six years for a new congregation to be set up, but in his case the vital elements of the process took only six days. “I am in awe!” exclaimed Father Suarez, 44, his voice bringing out his childlike qualities— and his being Filipino. Suarez has formed a new community named the Missionaries of Mary Mother of the Poor (MMP) under the Diocese of Occidental Mindoro after resigning from the Ottawa-based Companions of the Cross, which ordained him in 2002.

Questions have been heard from various quarters on the status of the Batangas-born priest, who now attracts 100,000 to 150,000 people monthly to his healing Masses, apart from drawing substantial donations in cash and in kind from elite families, big corporations and socio-civic groups, not to mention big foreign donors for the projects of the Foundation of Mary Mother of the Poor. Was he expelled by his Canada group? Had things gone into his head and he could no longer be controlled by his superiors? From Canada, he based himself in Batangas while his group was in Cavite, so why was there word that he would move to Mindoro? Breaking his silence on these issues, Suarez said: “Overwhelmed by the grace of peace after a pilgrimage to the tomb of Mother Teresa in Calcutta last February, I resigned from the Companions


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of the Cross on March 25, 2011. Then, on March 31, 2011, I was accepted by the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, under Bishop Antonio Palang.” On July 16, 2011, Palang decreed the establishment of the MMP as a “Public Association of Christ’s faithful.” The decree stated: “Aimed at living the demands of evangelical counsels, healing, renewal and ministry to the poor with the intent of becoming a society of apostolic life, the MMP is hereby formally accepted for the service of our pastoral jurisprudence.”

The poor of Elin

To grow the mission, Suarez has been assigned to Elin (pronounced Eling) on the tip of Mindoro, an island three times the size of Boracay and which remains without roads and electricity. “The place is so poor,” he said. “But that is an answered prayer as I have requested Bishop Palang to locate the mission with the poor.” “Some have criticized me, saying that I do whatever I want, I go wherever I want to go all over the world. Perhaps if they come with me to Elin, they may say things differently,” the priest said. “Things are happening fast. MMP now has 10 seminarians. Three will be ordained priests this August,” he added.

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The MMP now has five core members, including three incoming priests and cofounder Father Jeff Shannon, also formerly of Companions. Bishop Palang was regarded as canonical founder, Suarez stressed.

Mission foretold

Suarez remembered that on the day he was ordained, a priest came to him and foretold that he was going to receive such tremendous gifts from God that his group would not be able to contain him. “In Canada, the Companions, to which I am so attached, tried their best to accommodate me and the demands on my healing ministry. But my calling has become so evident,” he recalled. The young Fernando Suarez was a chemical engineering degree holder from Adamson University who worked for two years with the company CocoChem. He was engaged to be married at 25, but the engagement was called off the same day it was made when his girlfriend of 12 years said, “I think you are meant to be a priest.” He entered the seminary run by the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). Suarez recounted that in 1995 the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph appeared to him in a dream where

People from all walks of life afflicted with serious disease, facing personal crises or desperate for divine intercession, seek Fr. Suarez’s healing powers. he was told he would go to a “cold and windy place” and would tell the world of God’s love. Three days later, a man came to him and presented him documents for travel to Winnipeg, Canada. “There really is no barrier to all that God has planned,” the priest said, making a reference to a key message he delivered in his sermon on Aug. 6, Feast of the Transfiguration.

The 44-year-old priest’s engagement to his sweetheart of 12 years was called off after he and his girlfriend realized he was destined to become a priest.

Healing Masses

Obviously in his element at the new site of the Oratory of Our Lady of Montemaria, an MMP Foundation project situated on a breezy hillside expanse in San Alfonso, Cavite, Suarez repeatedly exhorted those present to emerge from the Mass “fully in awe of the power of God.”

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“Our Lord heals you all now. He wants you to be in awe, in great amazement of His powers, because He wants you to surrender to Him all your aches, pains and troubles,” he said, drumming up his message in between folksy anecdotes of his healing experiences. The crowd broke into laughter when he narrated that just the other day, at the Philippine Army headquarters, “Napatumba ko ang mga heneral! (I knocked the generals down).” Prayed over and brought to a state known as being “slain by the Holy Spirit,” the military officers were literally reduced to fallen generals before the power of the Lord, he said. Suarez’s healing Masses will continue to be held on weekends at Montemaria, with permission from Bishop Palang and Bishop Chito Tagle of Cavite. The priest glowed with anticipation over the spiritual yield of his new community, one which he said would seek a “new springtime of the Church” through the renewal of priests. Seeing the healing ministry as a unifier of the Church, Suarez said: “There is healing when there is unity. Hatred breaks. Healing is forgiving and forgiving unites. Unity is healing.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer) n


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BY TERESA S. ABESAMIS

T HAS been 13 years since the amoral Joseph “Erap” Estrada came to power and 11 years since the moral cynic Gloria Arroyo was sworn into office by People Power. Children born when Erap was sworn into office are entering their teen years. They and their older siblings have grown up under governments in which the Filipino people assumed Philippine rulers were dishonest and corrupt; that one had to leave the country and find one’s bearings elsewhere in order to obtain a semblance of decency and excel in a level playing field, without sacrificing moral principles.

How do we regain our authentic dignity in our own homeland? This is the challenge accepted by President Benigno Aquino III. When I was a child, teachers, policemen, mayors, and judges were held in high esteem in our communities. Today, they are often viewed with a jaundiced eye. The ordinary Filipino is a decent sort, with simple needs and wants. But too many of our youth seem to have become confused, indifferent, or worse, cynical about what is right and wrong. What is important and what is not. What basic truths to believe in; and moral standards to adhere to. The leaders of the Catholic Church are obsessed with sexual morality, which they equate with avoidance of condoms and pills. They don’t seem to be much help. We had barely regained our bearings after 20 years of authoritarian rule and unbridled corruption under Marcos. The promise of EDSA and President Cory’s honesty and transparency were held back by impatient military adventurers who, having tasted authority under Marcos, were un-

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DECENCY PNoy wants his legacy to be more than just economic betterment, or better roads and transport, although he sees these as part of his job. He clearly sees good manners and right conduct as a necessary foundation for a strong nation.

willing to go back to the barracks. President Fidel Ramos’s focused work ethic and economic liberalization policies released entrepreneurial energies, but these were stunted by the Asian economic crisis late in his term. We as a nation did not have the wisdom to select a responsible successor. The decadent Erap Estrada, hugely popular with the less educated, broad masses who were enamored by his cinematic

Former President Gloria MacapagalArroyo and husband Mike Arroyo (behind her in checkered shirt) are both facing various charges for corruption and irregularities.

President Benigno Aquino III’s policy of good governance is aptly expressed in the ‘daang matuwid’ slogan.


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charms, was booted out of office by the educated middle class who wanted better. Alas, he was succeeded by Gloria Arroyo, who had obtained much schooling, but who seems to have had no scruples about methods for obtaining and maintaining power and its perks. From the stories we now hear, it was a conjugal shamelessness, since her husband Mike Arroyo has been cited in too many illegitimate money-making deals, and virtual rape of the electoral process. By their fruits shall ye know them; and media stories have revealed undue advantage used to put their offspring and other relatives in positions of power, which they did not need to earn. Leadership like this bred the wang-wang culture cited once again in the President’s SONA (State-of-the-Nation Address). But it is a mistake to think that the President is making too much of a small thing. In highlighting this problem as one of the key hurdles of his presidency, President PNoy reveals the depth of his values and principles, and his wisdom. Economic policies, the Five Year Philippine Development Plan for inclusive growth, the PPP for infrastructure development and employment generation, modernizing the transportation system, enabling the very

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There is hope for the future; because I am beginning to see that Benigno Aquino III has the makings of not just a good president, but a great one. poor to survive and keep their children in school, and their mothers healthy, strengthening and broadening quality access to basic education. All those factors for strengthening our foundation for economic success and a better quality of life for more of our people, all these are being attended to. But why did President PNoy emphasize the wang -wang problem in his SONA, and the need to eradicate it? Why the emphasis on saying “thank you” to ordinary policemen, teachers, sales clerks, etc., for doing a good job, for reminding us of the importance of good manners

Ex-President Joseph Estrada, who was ousted in 2001, tried but failed in 2010 to recapture power.

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and right conduct, which in my grade school days was ingrained in our civics classes? It must be because PNoy wants his legacy to be more than just economic betterment, or better roads and transport, although he sees these as part of his job. He clearly sees good manners and right conduct as a necessary foundation for a strong nation that no future aspiring leader can afford to set aside, because the Filipino people will no longer allow it. We have five years to rebuild our nationhood. This includes a strong enough moral fiber so that we will have the wisdom to choose better leaders. This, he sees as the hard part of his job. There is hope for the future; because I am beginning to see that Benigno Aquino III has the makings of not just a good president, but a great one. PNoy’s vision goes beyond “the things of this world.” PNoy’s vision is that of a people who can hold their heads high in the world of nations not only because we will be successful in worldly terms, but mainly because we are decent. Our success will be earned, not stolen. And it will be built on the foundation of a strong, principled people. This will be his greatest legacy. (Business World) n


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When girls are deprived of their right to education, the cycle of high maternal death rate and poverty continues.

MATERNAL DEATHS PUT HEAVIER TOLL ON DAUGHTERS Women’s groups are worried that if lower maternal mortality is not achieved soon, more and more children, especially the girls, will suffer. In developing countries like the Philippines, it is the daughters who take care of their siblings when the mothers pass away. BY CLAIRE DELFIN

AYAWAN CITY, Negros Oriental – It was drizzling and the narrow path was muddy and slippery. From Nangka 1 village proper, it took an hour’s walk to reach the solitary wooden hut on a hill, overlooking a rice field on one side and a stream on the other. Behind the open door stood nine-year-old Michelle Esconde. Most kids her age are often seen holding a doll, but not Michelle. Her tiny arms were tightly wrapped around the small frame of her one-year-old brother. Their mother Julia died last year, just five minutes after giving birth to the eighth child in the family. Julia was 39 years old. Since then, the responsibility of taking care of the baby has been passed on to Michelle. For a year now, she has missed out on playing with other kids and going to school – rights that duly belong to a child like her.

“I want to go to school but I cannot because I have to take care of my brother,” said Michelle in the Visayan language. She would have been in Grade 3 now. Michelle’s 14-year old sister Daisy also had to stop her schooling in order to take


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care of the other siblings and do household chores – obligations that mothers normally carry out. While he pities the plight of the children, their father Desiderio said there is not much he can do. No one will take care of the smaller kids while he’s away in the farm to toil for their food. “Life is harder now without their mother,” said Desiderio.

Maternal deaths

Julia is only one of the names in the long list of women who died while giving birth in Bayawan, which registered the highest record of maternal deaths in the country, according to the 2006 Department of Health data. But tragic deaths are not happening only in Bayawan. It is true across the nation.

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The Philippines is among the 68 countries that contribute to 97 per cent of maternal and children’s deaths worldwide, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in its State of the World’s Children 2009 report. Eleven Filipino pregnant women die each day, or some 4,500 each year, due to complications in childbirth. These are caused by hemorrhage, sepsis, hypertension and abortive outcomes, which are preventable. An overwhelming majority, 70 percent of the deaths, occur at childbirth or within a day after delivery. According to the report, one out of 140 pregnant women dies in childbirth in the Philippines, too many compared to Ireland’s one in 8,000, to cite just one example. Further highlighting the contrast, the UNICEF reported that a child born in a de-

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veloping country is almost 14 times more likely to die during the first month of life than a child born in a developed one. In the Philippines alone, about half of the deaths of Filipino children under five years old occur within a month after they are born. Despite the high mortality rate, population growth in the Philippines stands above two percent, the highest in Southeast Asia. There are now about 89 million Filipinos, according to the latest census. A child born in a developing country is almost 14 times more likely to die during the first month of life than a child born in a developed one.

Relying on the hilot

The high incidence of maternal deaths in the Philippines was attributed to inadequate information on pregnancy care and

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access to quality health services, especially for women in urban poor and far-flung areas. The UNICEF report also pointed to the common Filipino practice of deliveries outside a health facility as a major factor in the maternal or fetal deaths. Eight out of 10 babies in rural areas are delivered in the absence of medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and midwives. Instead, most of the pregnant mothers are assisted by attendants commonly known as hilot or comadrona, who have no professional training. All of these factors were present in Julia’s case. Without money, she relied on a hilot when she delivered her baby. The nearby health center, where she could have delivered her baby with the presence of a midwife, had been closed for three years

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Planet Philippines (Calgary Edition) September 1-15, 2011 Issue