Barangay NSJV, City of Bacoor, Philippines
The team met our translator at the Mall of Asia and made our way slowly to the City of Bacoor on the outskirts. Big glitzy malls and casinos, nicely paved roads, and huge hotels gave way to untarred roads and packed slums fairly quickly.
The entire journey took about an hour. There was a small market and the mouth of the slum settlement. We walk through it to get to a labyrinth of small, narrow, and dark pathways. A lady, standing hunched over in her small doorway greets us like old friends and invites us into her humble home.
Our contact living in the slum has prepared us a grand feast of a meal. Salad with chicken, pork with onion, rice, and a bottle of coke. As with all our other projects, this gesture runs common. People with nothing go out of their way to make us feel welcome with meals they cannot afford.
During lunch, the host of the house recounts to us how even though she is extremely poor, she found herself adopting a child.
A work colleague of hers at a mall some 15 years ago, found herself pregnant. She could not terminate the pregnancy because abortions are hugely frowned upon in a Catholic society like the Philippines. So she turned to a bootleg ‘pharmacy’ to give her pills that will ‘naturally’ get rid of the fetus. This did not work, and the baby ended up being born deformed.
Our host, who went to the hospital to help her friend out post pregnancy, had offered to house the new mother and child in her small dwelling in the slum, till the mother was able to head back to work.
A couple of days later, the new mother said she had to head back to her village to sort out her housing etc, and asked if our host could help look after the child for a few days.
She kindly agreed.
And that was the last she had ever seen or heard of the mother again.
We hear many gut-wrenching stories like these on our trips, but this has to be one that has seared a lasting imprint on our minds.
Menstrual hygiene is not the only thing that rural communities need, contraception is something very pressing too.