Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
No, it’s not a name of an all-female band. I don’t know if they sing or dance but I know that seven gutsy women members of the House of Representatives banded together to pursue a common goal: the passage of the reproductive health (RH) bill. They are the “Soul Sisters.”
Representatives Kimi Cojuangco, Josephine Lacson-Noel, Abigail Faye Ferriol, Sharon Garin, Bernadette Herrera-Dy, Emmeline Aglipay, and Rosenda Ann Ocampo make up this dynamic group. I have seen most of them at work and there is no doubt that their getting together is good for the bill.
Asked what role the Soul Sisters will play in the House, Rep. Cojuangco said, “Hopefully, our colleagues who are intimidated by the RCC will join our cause. We want to start a bandwagon of standing up for what we believe is right.”
For her part, Rep. Lacson-Noel asserted, “I believe our “coming out” puts a different face on the legislation of the RH bill. We are “relatable” and knowledgeable about women’s issues. Some of us are mothers ourselves, so we bring that critical component to the table. My goal as a Soul Sister is to put a face on the legislation and represent the women in my district who need this bill.”
Indeed, some of the Soul Sisters are themselves mothers and thus, experienced in what women go through in pregnancy, childbirth and raising kids. They may be in a better position economically but they share most of the emotional and psychological experiences of mothers.
Rep. Cojuangco said that she’s a hands-on mother. “When my kids were still small, one of my greatest fears was… what would happen to them if something bad happens to me? There was even a time when I did not want to fly because what is the plane crashes? What about my kids?”
If someone like Kimi Cojuangco gets worried about the possibility of her kids losing her, we can only imagine what goes on in the minds and hearts of ordinary Filipino women who struggle daily to meet the needs of their children.
Many times, mothers sacrifice themselves for their families, especially for their children. At times, women’s very lives are sacrificed in the name of motherhood. Maternal mortality is one big issue the RH bill wants to address. The fact that 11 mothers die daily, most of them poor, from preventable and curable pregnancy and childbirth complications should make us all raise our voices in protest.
Unfortunately, some male legislators do not see this issue as a real problem. Senator Vicente Sotto III, in particular, is even asking to see the death certificates of these women.
The original Soul Sisters are seven. Let me now give you the real stories of seven women whose lives were sacrificed in the process of giving life to their children. In a different way, they are also soul sisters.
These women once lived in Iloilo City or parts of Iloilo province. The given names are their real names and I have permission from their families to tell their stories.
Rosenie A. Jiz
Rosenie was 30 years old when she passed on. She was an overseas Filipino worker for a short while before she married Bryan Jiz. Bryan was a high school graduate and worked as a casual government employee. Because of poverty, the couple lived with Bryan’s parents in Iloilo City.
Rosenie got pregnant and was able to have pre-natal check ups because the barangay health center was near. On her sixth month, she underwent an ultrasound and they were told that her pregnancy was going well. However, it was also the time when the midwife found out that Rosenie was asthmatic.
On July 4, while having labor pains, she had an asthma attack and was brought to Mission Hospital. Her blood pressure also rose to dangerous levels. She underwent a ceasarian procedure and gave birth to her child. Rosenie, however, did not make it. Her death certificate states that she died of asthma and eclampsia.
Phoebe, a high school undergraduate, was 25 years old when she married Ferdinand Domingo, who only finished grade school and worked as a pedicab driver in Molo, Iloilo City. The couple was dirt poor.
Phoebe’s first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. She did not have pre-natal check ups. She again got pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy.
After another year, she was again pregnant. She only went for a check-up once. Phoebe would rather spend what little money they had on food. She was advised not to get pregnant anymore because it would endanger her life. Even then, because of lack of information and resources, they did not do family planning.
Phoebe had labor pains and fever before her due date and was rushed to the hospital but her third child died.
In January 2008, she was again pregnant. It was a difficult pregnancy and Phoebe got frequently sick. Because they could barely survive, she did not have adequate pre-natal care.
One day Phoebe accidentally fell but she did not tell her husband out of fear of being reprimanded. She complained of headache and was having labor pains. She was rushed to the hospital but did not want to stay there because of money problems. They could not afford blood transfusion which was necessary. Phoebe died without giving birth. Her baby was removed from her in the funeral parlor where they shared a single coffin. Phoebe’s death certificate indicated “missed abortion” as cause of death. She was 30 when she passed on 8 September 2008.
Marie Juliet Bernados
Juliet was a college graduate from Poblacion Calinog, Iloilo. She was 36 years old when she died on 21 July 2011 six days after she gave birth to her third child. Juliet was married to seaman Edmer Pelagio.
On 15 July, Juliet, as scheduled, underwent a caesarian section. She was under the care of a private doctor who said that Juliet was in a good condition. Her healthy baby was delivered but Juliet died of pulmonary embolism.
During the wake, Edmer remembered that Juliet had an earlier heart condition and was taking maintenance medicine. She was advised against getting pregnant again because of her condition but she did after five years. Sadly, because of this, her family lost her.
Ma. Fe Gayatao-Gicanal
Fe was a home-based worker from Guimbal, Iloilo. She was 16 years old when she got “married.” Her “husband” only did odd jobs and helped in farming. Fe was 18 when she had her second pregnancy which caused her demise.
She was on her ninth month and she went to the barangay health center for her last pre-natal check up. Fe was advised by the midwife to consult a doctor who wanted to admit her to the hospital because of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia.
Fe decided against the doctor’s advice because they had no money and was still breastfeeding her firstborn. She chose to give birth at home. Fe did not tell her husband about what the doctor said.
Two days later, Fe started to have labor pains. She told her husband to gather wood. Fe was left alone with her one-year old child and she gave birth to twins without any assistance. Her mother arrived in the afternoon and saw that Fe was profusely bleeding. When the husband arrived, he was told to get the “hilot” who in turn told them to get the midwife.
Because they lived far from the “poblacion” and there was no means of transportation, it took long before the midwife arrived. The midwife asked them to buy medicine and Fe’s husband had to run an entire five kilometers to do this. Despite the medicine, the bleeding continued. They brought Fe to the hospital but she was already declared dead on arrival due to Hemorrhage.
continued next Saturday