Soroptimists honor Rhea

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - May 21, 2019 - 12:00am

Rhea Bernardez is 37 years of age, single, and the eldest of 14 children. She has helped her parents care for her siblings since she was nine years old, when she was only in Grade 3. Her mother would return to her sewing work only two weeks after giving birth, so Rhea would be tasked to act as the surrogate babysitter. Besides caring for her younger siblings, at a young age Rhea helped to supplement the meager earnings of her parents by sneaking out of the house once in a while to wash the dishes of a neighbor’s carinderia in exchange for food, which she would bring home to her siblings. She took on these responsibilities without complaints, but the different part-time jobs she engaged in while in school have affected her studies. She still has to finish her Psychology course, which she began in 2003.

Meanwhile, through her earnings, a younger sister has finished her college education and found employment. Rhea continues to support a younger sibling in college and another in Grade 11.       

Rhea is proud of her siblings’ achievements, even if she herself still has to finish her college degree. Despite these personal difficulties, Rhea initiated a program in 2014 for street children in the public market. Called Sagip Batampalengke (Save the Street Children in the Market), the program started as a “bathing” program for the unkempt children but has evolved into teaching sessions on health and sanitation, literacy and numeracy, religion and value formation, and feeding programs. Sagip Batampalengke has assisted more than 50 street children with the help of around 20 other volunteer workers.

 Given her exceptional achievements as family breadwinner, coupled with her selfless care and compassion for more unfortunate children, the Soroptimist International of the Philippines Region Inc. or SIPR, has selected Rhea Bernardez as the 2019 Awardee of the Live your Dream Program, for which she will receive $5000 from Soroptimist International of the Americas and P10,000 from SIPR. 

Rhea will be honored during the 27th mid-biennial conference of the SIPR, to be held from May 24 to 25 at the Grand Xing Imperial Hotel in Iloilo City. Presiding over the conference is current SIPR Governor Lydia Co. The keynote speaker at the conference will be Tina Wei-Kang Pan, president-elect of the Soroptimist International of the Americas. Other invited speakers are Grace Relucio Princesa, Philippine ambassador to the Holy See, and G.H. Ambat, DepEd assistant secretary for public affairs service (PAS) and alternative learning system (ALS).

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After three years under President Duterte’s administration, the 2018 Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law Annual Report showcases significant strides in the implementation of the RPRH Law.

The report attributes the success to the administration’s strengthening the socio-economic component of its population program. It gave priority to issuing Executive Order 71 in December 2018. This move has given prominence to the role of population and reproductive health in national and economic development.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health has also issued the National Objectives for Health 2017-2022, which aims to achieve universal health care for adolescents, mothers, and persons living with HIV, among others.

Below are the five key result areas monitored annually which show noteworthy improvements: 

Although there have been hurdles encountered in the immunization program, there has been an increase in Skilled Birth Attendance (SBA) and Facility-Based Delivery (FBD). SBA went from 90 percent to 94 percent and FBD from 93 percent to 95 percent. 

On family planning, the Modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate in family planning for both the public and private sectors showed an increasing trend, from 52.89 percent to 56.67 percent, according to the 2017 and 2018 FHSIS.

Such activities as responsible parenthood-family planning (RPFP) classes, pre-marriage orientation and counselling sessions and Kalalakihang Tapat sa Responsibilidad at Obligasyon sa Pamilya (KATROPA), were able to reach more than 200,000 women of reproductive ages with unmet need for modern family planning (MFP). 

On adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) data from the Philippine Statistics Authority Civil Registration Service revealed that babies born to adolescent mothers declined from 203,085 in 2016 to 196,478 in 2017. However, globally, UNFPA reports that the Philippines ranks among countries with the worst performance in adolescent fertility.

On sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, the news is not good. The report says the increasing proportion of young people aged 15-24 infected with the virus has been alarming; from 13 percent between 1999 to 2008 to 29 percent between 2009 to 2018. Sexual contact remains to be the primary mode of transmission and has been so since 1984.

Stigma and discrimination are still prevalent which makes it harder for individuals, particularly adolescents, to acquire screening service, according to the report.

How far gone are we in the elimination of violence against women and children (VAWC)?

In 2018, the World Economic Forum ranked the Philippines 8th among 149 countries in the Global Gender Gap. The country has narrowed the gender gap to 80 percent.

Trends in reported VAW cases were seen to be decreasing, from 25,805 in 2017 to 18,974 cases in 2018, according to the DOH VAWC Registry System.

With continued efforts and partnerships among stakeholders, particularly NEDA and DOH, the future is bright with regard to the implementation of the RH law. 

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I love Gingoog, the place of my birth where my husband Saeed and I have decided to spend the rest of our still active lives. Love the location of our family house, a block away from the Gingoog sanitarium and hospital, two blocks from the public market, and to our left is the national highway where the commercial establishments are: Wellgen, a hardware store owned by my friends, the Sorianos; the banks (PNB, BDO, Land Bank, etc.), Globe and Moresco, doctors’ clinics, Jollibee and Mercury Drug store, Sr. Pedro Litson Manok owned by the newly elected city vice-mayor Peter Unabia (teammate of the new mayor Erick Cañosa). We are within reach of facilities.

But there remain two seemingly forgotten necessities: one, the development of the Odiongan Hydro-electric Power Plant which will light up Gingoog and nearby areas and attract domestic and foreign investors. Thankfully, Oriental Energy and Power Generation Corp. (ORE) was recently given the green light by the Department of Energy to begin working on the development of the resource with the cooperation of the city government.

And two: the poor state of internet communication. Just last Friday, for 23 hours, the internet connection of PLDT.Philcom. Inc. was dead. The computer house next block, connected to Globe and PLDT, suffered a breakdown too.

I hope the new “era” in the city political landscape will finally have its own electric power source, and a reliable communication facility.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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