Thursday, October 20, 2011

Readers write

Rarely do I use readers’ letters in this space. Readers send feedback via the Inquirer online, email, snail mail, text or to my blogsite. I get surprised when a piece that I thought would not get much reader reaction—whether negative or positive—would elicit reflective feedback, sometimes laden with personal insights.

Last month I wrote about Welcome House and the Heart of Mary Villa, both run by the Good Shepherd Sisters, and their services for “the last, the least and the lost” (“For PCSO to know,” Sept. 29). Both were in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s list of “endangered” service-oriented institutions.

Joan Orendain, a known PR practitioner, wrote me a letter: “How Welcome House welcomed my two little boys and me in 1974! Yes, we were in crisis.

“Lucky, 4, became Sr. Catalina Santos’ shadow, following her around all day, helping her water the plants (the floor got it more than the plant). But Sister Catá (the daughter of the Armed Forces Judge Advocate General) never complained…

“TJ, 6, helped the cook in the kitchen. My bosses, commissioned by the World Bank to do feasibility studies on Philippine highways to be reconstructed, brought my typewriter to Welcome House. There, I put the reports together, and in my spare time, was comforted by Sr. Emma Alday, a guidance counselor and the gentlest of souls.

“All the other women at the crisis center were pregnant and unwed, except one who was married to an activist who had gone into hiding and left the pregnant lady and her two-year-old son homeless. We were one another’s support group, bolstered by the Good Shepherd Sisters who fed and kept us whole.

“My sons were in such a loving atmosphere that they never complained about missing friends or not seeing the outside world during our over a month’s stay at Welcome House. They must have thought we were on an extended holiday in that nurturing atmosphere.
“It’s such a wrench to think that the PCSO has withdrawn funding for such an important institution as Welcome House. We have to pray PCSO will have a change of heart.”
From Charlie Falquerabao: “I have read your column “One woman, 15 pregnancies, 12 children”. You know what? My family has the same story as the family of Yoling. My mother had 13 pregnancies and 10 children. I was raised in the very remote province of Mindoro Oriental where life is so simple. My father is a farmer and my mother is a plain housewife. There is no electricity, no vehicles, no cell phones, no gadgets, no apples, no burgers, etc…

“The weird thing was that while I was in the middle of your story I found myself crying. I didn’t know the reason why but my tears kept on pouring. Just want to share, “pinaiyak mo ako eh (because you made me cry).”

From an assistant school principal: “Your article… was like a narration of our yaya’s life story. When I read your article, it moved me. My yaya is almost Yoling’s age and she has 11 living children. She started giving birth at age 14. Her youngest child is five years old. She has been with me since my oldest child, now 11, was born. My kids really love her and call her Nanay.

“In the 11 years that she has been yaya, she has disappeared on us maybe four times; the longest was when she gave birth to her youngest child.

“She was also beaten up by her husband. There was a time when her husband would stalk her in front of our house. From then on she was forbidden to stay at our house. She would come to work at 6 a.m. and go home at 8 p.m. I pay her a salary equivalent to two maids because that is how much we love her and how hard she works for us.

“A month ago, one of her adolescent sons was confined in the Mental Hospital because he was blacking out in class—the effect of drug abuse and bad company. Nanay didn’t show up for three weeks.

“I asked her once if she wanted to have ligation and I will gladly pay for it but she said that her husband wouldn’t hear of it. She still menstruates, and the doctor told her that she shouldn’t get pregnant anymore because her life would be at risk. She is forty-ish but she looks late 50-ish.”

This letter from Dr. Ma. Cristina Licaycay-Gonzales was not addressed to me, but to an alumni e-group. “I belong to UST Med Batch 1987 and I am a medical officer in a provincial hospital’s OB-Gyne department. Yoling’s story is not unusual here in our province. The problem is women like her usually belong to the lower income bracket. I’m happy to say though that our province, through its RHUs/LGUs, is doing everything to look into such problems.

“But sometimes the women won’t even bother to go to the local health centers for check up even if it’s free. The midwives have to track them one by one through house visits which are taxing. Our minority group, the Mangyans, live in the mountains!

“Then come delivery time. NSDs for grandmultiparity are not covered by Philhealth even if some municipalities have their own version of the health insurance. There are times when the patient has only P10 in her wallet! Sometimes, not even a penny. It’s your duty as a government doctor to provide EVERYTHING for her delivery—from the IV fluids to the disposable diaper! I am always praying that these patients are not for Cesarean section or would not have uterine atony! That would surely mean headaches in producing meds or blood for transfusion.

“I’ve been doing this for the past 22 years since I passed the board exams. My work may not be financially rewarding but the sense of fulfillment is priceless! In January 2012 my class will be celebrating its silver homecoming. I may not be as well-off as most of my batchmates but I can hold my head up high and say that I’ve experienced much in helping the least of my brethren. Go USTE! ”

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