Dear 100,000,000th Filipino babies

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By Mags Z. Maglana

The Point Being

Saturday, August 2, 2014


FIRST off, welcome to the Philippines! There were 100 of you born after 12:06 AM of July 27, 2014 who were symbolically designated the country’s “100,000,000th baby".

You were all welcomed with cakes, gifted with clothing and blankets, and enrolled with Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth with the promise that your health would be monitored as you grow up. I earnestly hope that the Philippine government and society would afford you more than those tokens of welcome.

You see, you will be joining a society that, while receiving recognition from international financial bodies for progress in, say credit-worthiness upgrades, is still dealing with the reality that a significant portion of its population still lives beneath the poverty line. Granting that we accept the official statement that only 28 percent of the population, this simply means that 28 million Filipinos are struggling to make ends meet. Like you, the Filipino poor will require deliberate support from government.

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Aside from disagreements as to how best to effectively address poverty (which underpins the critique against government programs like the K to 12 and the Conditional Cash Transfer more popularly known as the 4Ps), it is highly likely that you will grow up to controversies on government accountability and transparency. While graft and corruption has long since been a troubling issue in the country you were born into, it has taken on prominence in the last 30 years. Massive irregularities featured in the protest and ouster against two Philippine Presidents. In the immediate past just before you were born, the Supreme Court ruled against the Constitutionality of two government programs, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and specific acts against the Disbursements Acceleration Program (DAP).

I had hoped that we who came ahead of you would have cleaned up government enough so that you would grow up not having to rail against burukratakapitalismo, described by activist Carol Pagaduan-Araullo as that societal malaise where the “ruling elite use the government machinery and resources to further enrich themselves and entrench their families in power at the expense of the people.” These members of the ruling elite “make a lucrative business out of their government positions, protect and advance their economic interests and privileged positions in society using state power, and are therefore at the forefront of preserving the rotten political system and the socially unjust status quo.” But it looks like your generation will have to do battle with it as well. We will do what we can within our lifetime so that burukratakapitalismo and other societal ills will not be as virulent as they are today by the time it is your turn to lead and shape Philippine society.

Forgive our bureaucrats and the a few Church leaders who framed your birth as good news from the vantage point of additional labor for the economy. There is cause for worry because aside from the huge rate of dependency, the current fertility rate is still three births per woman instead of the more ideal level of two births. At this rate, the population would keep on climbing steadily. It bears noting that in 1986, when the mother of the current President was head of State, the population was only 55 million. We nearly doubled in less than 30 years, and according to Mindanews, we are the world’s 12th most populous nation.
Many of the upcoming pregnancies are going to happen under difficult circumstances.

Why, two of you 100 Pinoy 100,000,000th Jennalyn Sentino’s parents admitted that it was an unplanned pregnancy, and the 100,000,000th baby boy born in Zamboanga had a minor for a mother. Reproductive health advocates continue rue the terrible toos in pregnancy among Filipinas that endanger them and their children: too early, too frequent, and too many.

We have done what we could in terms of providing a stronger legal infrastructure for reproductive health in the country. You should be warned though that there are many elements out there that would as soon as roll us back to a time where institutions like governments and churches had more say over women’s bodies than women. I trust that you and your generation will not let that happen.

You will likely hear that around the time you were born, the country struggled with successfully implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that was meant to address the “unacceptable status quo” concerning the Bangsamoro areas in Southern Philippines. And because there has been no significant progress in that other peace process with the CPP-NDF-NPA, you will certainly encounter news about it in your growing years.

Nevertheless, in our lifetime we will continue to advocate for effective political solutions to the armed conflicts in the country. Please put a period to them in your time. Armed violence should not be among the legacy that one generation of Filipinos would pass on to another.

For as long as our generation is around, we have to work harder at further strengthening our country’s resilience to disaster and climate change, because we are at the edge of the vast Pacific and straddle the Rim of Fire. Simply put, our culture should be one that is attuned to being prepared for, and resilient against anticipated calamities.

I really did not want to spoil the welcome with the litany of challenges. So I will close with this most important of all messages: do not forget, it IS more fun in the Philippines; and we Filipinos of various persuasions, simply rock. ;)

Email feedback to magszmaglana@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 02, 2014.

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