A FRIEND'S friend gave birth to a stillborn child. That by itself is tragic, but more tragic was how it came to be.

She was brought in as she started to labor. She and her husband were asked if they want her ligated after giving birth, considering that she's already in her 40s.

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They have just married, but are in the mid-ages, and thus only wanted one baby. The baby in her womb appeared healthy and she started laboring on the due date. Nothing was amiss, and so they said yes. And yes, the woman wanted to have a natural delivery.

After several hours, however, she decided to have a caesarian section since it seems that nothing was happening. But the doctor wouldn't want her to. And so she labored on, or so the husband thought.

At some time during what should be her hours in the delivery room, the husband changed his mind and said he wouldn't want his wife ligated. He was told that can no longer be done because they already ligated her. Still nothing was said beyond that. Time passed on, and then he was told, the baby died.

He was led to what he described as a men's changing room and was given a box, with his little blue eyed baby girl inside. Nothing said, leaving lots of questions.

First, didn't anybody think of asking -- out of the goodness of her/his heart -- if the couple wants a ligation since the baby was born dead? And why was it that the wife was said to have been ligated when it wasn't even announced yet that she gave birth? Something was definitely wrong. But when you are in a strange city with limited resources, you do not know whom to ask.

This is a true story and this happened at the Davao Medical Center just very recently.

"This is the first time I really felt how it is to be poor," the friend said. We have been hearing horror stories about public hospitals; we just never imagined that it could come this close to us.

The kingdom that is built by the overworked staff seemed to have left them bereft of human compassion as a baby was born dead and her mother is ligated.

"Whatever the legal position may be, it is unquestionable that you have far less control over your own treatment, far less certainty that frivolous experiments will not be tried on you, when it is a case of "accept the discipline or get out". And it is a great thing to die in your own bed, though it is better still to die in your boots. However great the kindness and the efficiency, in every hospital death there will be some cruel, squalid detail, something perhaps too small to be told but leaving terribly painful memories behind, arising out of the haste, the crowding, the impersonality of a place where every day people are dying among strangers." Thus, wrote George Orwell in his essay entitled "How the poor die" written in 1946.

It was 5:30 p.m. when I rose in irritation and impatience. The invitation said 2-4 p.m., but not a single word has been said on what was causing all the delay?

I stood up to complain, only to be told off. "I wasn't the one who invited you," the God Almighty from national capital said and resented when I complained about his rude manners.

No, I was the one who was rude, he insists because I raised my voice at him.

It was an out of town invitation to judge a contest. The invitation said 2-4 p.m. Being the time-freak that I am, I arrived an hour and a half early to be able to relax and free my brain so that I can judge at the best of my ability. But no, the god almighty declares, it's not his fault because he is only in charge of the "national" judges and does not have anything to do with the locals. When he said national, he only meant judges coming from Manila. He forgot that Davao is just as national since it is part of the Philippines, the region's land area able to fit in the whole Metro for that matter. But no, the gods almighty in Manila believe they alone are the 'national'.

In that man I saw yet another little kingdom he has built for himself, bereft of concern for the precious time they have caused to go to waste, and only seeing his inconvenience, his stupendous contribution, and the sloppiness of the locals.

In the office, there were but two editors left. One was on an out of town coverage, another was sick. And I was there, fuming, but tied to a commitment I have given to the professionally-run regional office. How sad.

And again from George Orwell, this time from his novel, "Animal Farm" (1946):

"'My sight is failing,' she said finally. ‘Even when I was young I could not have read what was written there. But it appears to me that that wall looks different. Are the Seven Commandments the same as they used to be, Benjamin?'

"For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran:

"All animals are equal; But some animals are more equal than others."

That was how the pigs took over the animal farm by making the farm their own kingdom, twisting the commandment the animals as one community drew to benefit themselves alone, and relegating everyone else as nothing but workhands to feed them.