Posted by: Worldcitizen Willow | June 12, 2010

Philippines & contraception: why there are so many children

PHILIPPINES: Poor women pay for contraception
The UN Development Programme Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for the Philippines is to reduce maternal deaths to 52.2 per 100000 live births by 2015.
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Posted by: Worldcitizen Willow | June 7, 2010

arrival in Mindoro

We got up at 4;30 am yesterday for the long road /ferry trip to Mindoro.  First a taxi to Ayala alabang – the first time with the meter actually on – only cost 117 pesos.  Next, a big air con bus to the Batangas pier to get ourferry to mindoro.  Only 1/2 hour wait to ferry.  The crossing was peaceful.. Seats are reserved here, and no bags are allowed in the aisle – just like an airline.  From that , we got our FX jeepney to Victoria, where the Mendez family home is in Mindoro.

As we approached the house, we were welcomed? with the blast of a karaoke machine and what seemed to me like 100 family members!    It is Melanie’s 37th birthday, and she rented the karaoke machine to add to the celebrations.  We had a big feast of spaghetti, pangsit and chicken with rice.  We also watched the children play games for prizes.  One game had a wooden contraption with candies tied to it, suspended from the rooftop.  Kids had to jump at it and try to hit it , til it fell down and all the candy could be had.  Next game was a pot of flour and candy suspended from the same roof.  Kids were blindfolded, spun around 3 times, and then sent marching with a stick to hit the pot and get the candy.  After many failed attempts, the 5th person finally knocked it down, and then there was a scramble for the fallen candy.  No one got covered in flour!  Darn!  THe final game was 3 plates of flour placed on the ground, each with a piece of moneyhidden within.  3 boys raced to dig out the money with their mouths, and came heads up again with a coin between their teeth and a white face – covered with flour!

Followed by more karaoke singing, and then a sudden brownout!  Suddenly quiet.  It was ok at first, until the brown out dragged on and then the fear became of having to sleep in a hot little room with no fan! and plenty of mosquitoes!

We went for  a short visit to the simple home of Fely, who is the grandmother and current guardian of the children that Jocelyn is adopting.  there are 6 kids in all – all very lovely children.  Some smiling, some too shy, all interested in eating ice cream and candy that we brought.  Jocelyn’s soon to be twins, Samyra and Samara, were shy but engaging, dressed in near identical jean skirts and tee shirts, they were hard to tell apart.  Samantha, the 4 year old that I am considering adopting, if i can get over my fear of motherhood and lifelong commitment, was cuter than I could have imagined.  She knew how to make eye contact and smile just at the right time to make herself truly likeable.  They showed me a kind of fruit that grows in their garden, a bit like a lychee sized grapefruit – at least it tasted like grapefruit.  As well, they had calamansi trees and chickens running around their home.

Back at the Mendez home a few blocks away, we sat outside in the dark talking about life, and the crickets that were jumping on us (much better than mosquitoes and cockroaches, i said) and resigning ourselves to going to bed without electricity when Voila!  the lights came on!  I turned on my fan and settled into a cool and peaceful slumber.

Posted by: Worldcitizen Willow | June 5, 2010

Visit with SOS Children’s Village

I took a taxi yesterday through the tangled streets of Manila to the neighbourhood of Ayala Alabang – the home of SOS Children’s villages Manila.  I had no idea what to expect and  was surprised by the beauty and tranquility that surrounded me there.  It is a low rise brick compound of several “homes” surrounded by a beautiful tropical garden. There are photos on the big side wall of the main building of  happy healthy looking children who are the inhabitants of this place.  I went to the reception area to check in and was taken to the office of Carmela Tarroja, Director of Fundraising.

Carmela explained that SOS had ended up in such a spectacular and well off neighbourhood because of its Austrian founder George Winternitz, who bought the land and started SOS in the 1960s when this area was surrounded only by barren fields.  Manila development has skyrocketed since then and now SOS is surrounded by the glamourous homes and gardens of celebrities and the like.  Carmela told me of the recent Children’s Rights Caucus that SOS initiated – a coming together of stakeholders from different provinces, funded by UNICEF, and led by Children.   SOS Children’s Villages works with the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and houses 100 children who have either been orphaned, or suffered abuse and neglect, often a result of drug-addicted parents, or the modern cause of family breakdown – parents that go overseas to work and end up with a new life overseas, forgetting children waiting at home in the Philippines.  The (what I think) fantastic part of their philosophy is the family-based care that they provide.  The children are housed 5-8 to a home, each home led by a “mother” who is like a real mother to the children, in every way except biological.  They choose single women or widows who have no family responsibilities for this important work.  Their is also a director for each group of homes that serves as a “father” to the children as well.  The children stay here, living a normal life , interacting with others in the surrounding community, going to school, etc until they are about 20 or 21 and able to forge a new life outside on their own.  Carmela beamed with pride as she talked about the successful “graduates” of SOS who are now doctors, pilots, teachers, secretaries and tradespeople.   “We are equally proud of them all, as long as they are happy in their work”, states Carmela.

Carmela also mentioned an organization called Children International which works with children in extreme poverty.   Children living in dumpsters and in railway stations, for example.  Many street children are involved in prostitution, exploited as slave labour, and are addicted to drugs, particularly “Rugby” – the adhesive used in flip flops.

After my informative conversation with Carmela, I went on to meet Noel Leyson, the retired director of the village, and now project consultant.  He told me that SOS intakes children referred by DSWD from the ages of 3 to 10.  Babies get sent to another organization called CRIBS.  Leyson, a former priest, inspired me with his genuine warmth as he relayed to me his sadness and recognition of the pain of loneliness felt by the children he meets, who have lost their families or have been alienated by their parents.  He explained how new “mothers” and “fathers” of the Village are provided with counselling for an emotional healing process as part of their training before they can work there.  He also noted that the economic crisis had delayed plans to have another SOS village built in the Philippines (there are currently 8 in the country).  However, there are hopes now to have the new Village built by 2016.

The Philippines government is working on reducing the numbers of orphans by instituting compulsory programs to educate all overseas workers on family values and cultural integration BEFORE they leave the country , and also by making it easier to adopt children domestically and internationally.

Posted by: Worldcitizen Willow | June 4, 2010

Good news…

I am still in Manila and have not started the real process of the legal guardianship. Everything will begin in Mindoro. Good news is that, the father of the twins is going to Mindoro to meet with me. This will make everything easier for everyone involved. I found out from doing internet research of the DSWD site that inter country adoption is quite expensive so my initial thought of going through the local adoption option is a lot affordable even if it may take longer for me to complete the process. It is a good thing that I have re-acquired my Filipino citizenship.

Jocelyn M.

Posted by: Worldcitizen Willow | June 3, 2010

Our film is off to a good start!

We’ve had meetings now with 2 film students from Manila – Ace Castillo and Dan.  They are nearing the end of their program in film school here and just need to complete their final thesis.  They are both very excited with working with documentaries and experimenting with light in film.  They are also willing to come with us to Mindoro and sleep on the floor for a week!  Real troopers!

We also met on Sunday in Nasugbu near Batangas with 3 young gentlemen from Manila’s TV CHannel 5 (Joey Viray and Joseph Bolintiam and 1).  We discussed the benefits of having 2 cameras to cover different angles and have better sound for the interviews.  They recommend we get someone who is an “all in one” person who can direct, do videography, sound, and do the writing as well.  THey recommended Steven Flor, however, it turns out he is in New York at the moment and cannot be involved.  Next idea is Franco Alido, who has been involved with production in Channel 5 and has worked on a couple of short films , including one that won at the Toronto film festival!  We will collaborate together on all aspects of the filming and he will be able to mentor Jocelyn and I as well as a student or two.  He will be a popular man!  Joey offered his help and editing equipment as well.  We went over the ideas for the story, and Franco will be able to help with film permissions and waivers for people to sign.  We ended our meeting with a late dinner at Max’s Restaurant in Manila – lots of chicken and rice.

From the Canadian end – my friend Norine Braun ( will help us with original music for the film and Reem Morsi will help with editing.

We’re off to Mindoro this weekend to start shooting!

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