Ayala’s Sustainability Summit

 

 

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Ayala Sustainability Summit 2017

 

Around his time last year, October 2016, I attended the United Nations’ official kickoff for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the Philippines. As UNICEF’s Special Advocate for Children since 2010, I was invited to speak about the volunteer work I do through UNICEF Philippines. A couple of years before in 2015, I hosted the culminating event or graduation of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Of the eight MDGs, Goals 4 and 5 (Reduce Child Mortality, and Improve Maternal Health) were the focus of my work as UNICEF Special Advocate. One of the ways to easiest and the best interventions to lower the number of infant deaths, was to promote exclusive breastfeeding for infants from the moment of birth up to six months, and complementary feeding up to two years old. I went around the country, to the most disadvantaged areas, to speak to health workers, mothers, community leaders, government agencies, and as a bonus I got to cuddle some cute infants. This advocacy brought me as far as Maguindanao during a time of conflict, Sarangani, Davao Oriental after Typhoon Pablo, Tacloban after Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan, Rizal, Quezon, Laguna, and as near as the slums of Taguig. As the years went by, I also contributed by organizing some fundraising campaigns, the highest profile among the four events was the auction of chairs designed by Kenneth Cobonpue for APEC. We raised a total of 8.8 million pesos in two hours. In addition to advocating better maternal health programs, and encouraging breastfeeding, I am also now doing some work on child protection, mainly violence against children.

All these development jargon may sound like stuff I lifted from a technical brochure. But having been on the ground, having met many mothers, and knowing the plight of their families especially during environmental emergencies, the best way to communicate the importance of these lofty goals is to simply tell their stories.

 

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At the UN Day celebration in 2016, where I gave a brief talk. As one of UNICEF’s national ambassadors, I continue to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

 

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At the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Children and the culmination of the Millennium Development Goals in  2015. The UN SDGs were launched a year after the MDG culmination.

 

The new SDGs are 17 goals that aim to transform our world by 2030. You can read more about the global goals here. They are simplified with well-designed flat icons. I wish all local schools included the SDGs in their curriculum. The world’s critical needs are to end extreme poverty, fight inequality & injustice, and fix climate change. The Philippines is right smack in the middle of this global crisis. If the situation does not improve, it may be catastrophic for our land and our people.

 

This is the video that shows international celebrities and UN goodwill ambassadors’ support for the SDGs or Global Goals.

 

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Once in a while, my worlds collide and create wonderful things. I’ve had the privilege to work with the Ayala Group a few times in the past – as host/emcee of their corporate events, and as a creative partner when they sponsored a season of my Urban Zone TV show. In July 2017, I hosted the launch of Children’s Rights and Business Principles with UNICEF, in partnership with the Makati Business Club. The CRBP is a set of principles to guide private sector companies on the full range of actions they can take in the workplace, marketplace and community to respect and support children’s rights. The CRBP was supported by the Ayala Group. In photo, I am having a conversation with my seatmate, JP Orbeta of Ayala Corp.

 

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It was supported by the country’s prominent CEOs and partners like Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chairman of the Ayala Group of Companies. Photo source.

 

The UN recognizes that in order to achieve these global goals, all sectors of society and all types of people must support and participate in it. One of the major groups, of course, is business and industry. The Ayala Group, not only has committed to respect and support children’s rights via the CRBP, but has also been committed to a strong sustainability philosophy since 2012. Ayala is integrating sustainable development goals into its core strategies and corporate culture. You can read more about Ayala’s commitment to sustainability here.

 

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Ayala Corp. chair and chief executive officer Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala has been named one of the 10 “United Nations SDG Pioneers” for 2017. He was given recognition at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2017 last Sept. 21 in New York.

 

Last October 6, 2016, Ayala hosted its 7th annual Sustainability Summit. I was invited to attend together with advocates of sustainability in government, non-profit organizations and social enterprise, as well as Ayala executives and managers. They shared experiences and insights on finding solutions to local and global social development challenges. The Summit coincided with the UN Global Compact’s recognition of Ayala Corporation President and CEO, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, as the UN SDG Pioneer for Sustainable Business Strategy and Operations.

 

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The Ayala Group presented their commitment to at least 10 principles of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

 

Since, sustainability has been integrated into various Ayala businesses, it has included long-term sustainability targets in its many business interests. Some of these targets and goals are highlighted in this brochure:
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Prof. Zeger Van Der Wal, Associate Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

 

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Prof Van Der Wal presented 8 global mega trends. According to Prof Van Der Wal, aside from the good effects and positive contribution to society, a sustainability culture brings about good business as well. Your company will get new, well-paying customers. There is a consciousness among consumers these days; many are willing to pay extra as long as they know the products are eco-friendly and were created using sustainable business practices. You will also create a culture of high-performing employees in the future. And you encourage a better reputation.

 

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Ayala Corporation’s Chief Finance Officer, Chief Risk Officer, and Chief Sustainability Officer Jose Teodoro Limcaoco gave the welcome remarks.

 

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Richard Welford, president of CSR Asia, talked about creating a culture of sustainability by giving examples of global companies that have embedded sustainability in their corporate culture. He encouraged companies to create communities within where employees themselves believe in sustainability and become champions.

 

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Ernest Cu, CEO of Globe Telecom, talked about how their culture has transformed to become a trusted and sustainable company. He said, with a sustainability culture imbibed throughout the organization, employees feel empowered and find meaning in their work, customers feel special and valued, and shareholders feel confident and rewarded.

 

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Ayala’s John Philip Orbeta, Richard Welford, Ernest Cu and Tony Lambino.

 

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Zubaida Bai, Founder of ayzh, is an advocate of maternal health in India. She is also a champion of the UN SDG.

 

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The story tellers. Tobit Cruz, from Taytay Rizal local government, Len Cabili, Founder of Filip+Inna, Irenea & Erelie Hitgano, Founders of Hillsview Mangostea in Davao Oriental. The discussion was moderated by Mark Mulingbayan, Sustainability Head, MWC.

 

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Irenea Hitgano of Hillsview Mangostea told her amazing story of how Typhoon Pablo left their mangosteen plantation devastated in 2012. While mourning the loss of their harvest, they realized that the fallen trees, with its leaves and barks, had very good medicinal properties. This was how Mangostea (mangosteen tea) was born. As the saying goes, when life throws you lemons, you make lemonade.

 

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Len Cabili, founder of Filip+Inna, told her story about finding meaningful work after she had been diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. She found this in her roots in Mindanao. Filip+Inna works with different communities of weavers all over the Philippines. Her products are now sold in prestigious shops in the US and in Europe.

 

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Tobit Cruz was a former Ayala employee. He wanted to make a difference in his community in Taytay, Rizal. With baby steps, he got involved with the river clean up and rehabilitation, until he found his way to be an elected local leader. Tobit is now councillor in Taytay Rizal.

 

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I love what Mr Zobel said, that institutions should want to contribute to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a personal responsibility not because they’re mandated.

 

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With Mr Zobel and Globe’s Ernest Cu.

 

The occasion also coincided with the launch of the new Ayala website, with an updated section on sustainability. You may check out www.ayala.com.ph

 

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The participants of the 2017 Ayala Sustainability Summit.

 

 

Quezon Province’s First 1000 Days program

 

 

FIRST 1000

 

In celebration of Breastfeeding Month last August, I visited Quezon Province, the first local government unit in the Philippines to develop and implement their own First 1,000 Days program for mothers and their babies. It was a special trip, not only because of this beautiful program for maternal and infant health, but because Quezon is also my dad’s home province. It felt like home to me.

 

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I will never get tired of views like this – endless rice paddies.

 

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Quezon to me is coconut country. These were the scenes I grew up with when we used to go on vacation there.

 

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At the municipality of San Antonio, we met new mothers who were breastfeeding their babies. They were participants of the province’s First 1000 Days program from the moment they knew they were pregnant. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

The First 100 Days program of UNICEF works with the notion that the right health and nutrition in the first 1,000 days builds the foundation for a child’s ability to grow, learn, and earn in the future. The first thousand days starts from conception, 9 months of a healthy pregnancy, the first six months of infancy with exclusive breastfeeding, and 6 months to 2 years old of healthy food complementing breast milk.

Children who get the right health and nutrition in their first 1000 days are:

  • 10 times more likely to overcome life-threatening diseases
  • more likely to complete 4.6 more grades of school
  • go on to earn up to 50% more in wages as adults
  • more likely to have healthier families as adults

 

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Along with UNICEF Deputy Representative Julia Rees, I learned about how the local government of Quezon has fully taken on the First 1,000 Days program to help babies get a better start in life. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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New mothers breastfeeding their babies in Quezon Province. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/C Gagalac

 

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Mothers read the “Mama Book”, a guide and logbook for mothers benefiting from Quezon Province’s First 1,000 Days program. Quezon is the first local government unit in the Philippines to develop and implement their own First 1,000 Days program for mothers and their babies. They also developed a program to encourage home gardens, to promote good nutrition. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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We visited this expectant couple in their home. They were participants of the First 1000 Days program. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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In order to qualify to be in the province’s Q1K program, they had to have a vegetable garden at home. With the help of the Quezon Province Department of Agriculture, they were able to successfully grow fruits and vegetables in their own yard. This encourages the family to eat real whole foods rather than processed food. I was very impressed by this. It is a lifestyle that I personally want to have at home. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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UNICEF Philippines’ Julia Rees marveling over the patola harvest. ©UNICEF Philippines/ 2016/CGagalac

 

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The Q1K Mama Book has guidelines on how to have a healthy pregnancy, including recipes for nutritious whole foods that they can grow in their garden. It also emphasises the importance of exclusively breastfeeding the baby once she is born up to 6 months. From the sixth month onwards, mothers are encouraged to continue breastfeeding the baby and feeding them nutritious food, as opposed to processed cereals and packaged food.

 

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We also met a tricycle driver who actively supported Q1K by driving expectant mothers to the municipal health centre to get their regular health check ups. He has driven about six mothers to the health centre just in time for delivery. As an incentive, the provincial and local governments reward tricycle drivers with free rice whenever they drive a pregnant mom to the clinics. Here we see how different players in the community come together to support pregnant moms.  ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagala

 

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One of my favourite parts of every field visit is seeing and holding cute babies. Here, UNICEF Philippines’ Michelle Borromeo carries an adorable breastfed baby while another baby tries to get my attention. I was able to give her my undivided attention a few seconds after this snap.  ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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Grateful to the Province of Quezon and UNICEF Philippines for bringing me to Quezon to see a very inspiring and impressive program. I hope the rest of the country can come up with similar programs like Q1K. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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A week after our field visit to Quezon, the Governor David Suarez and his wife Rep Anna Suarez hosted a meeting with the UNICEF Nutrition team in Manila.

 

If you want to learn more about the First 1000 Days and how you can help in your own community, please click here.

 

 

Why we need to support breastfeeding

 

 

Last week I took a break from my life — work deadlines, mommy duties, activities in my daughters’ school — and went to Naga with UNICEF. Once in a while I leave everything behind, focus my attention on UNICEF programs. I get to tell stories from the field and try to make a difference for many Filipino children and mothers. We kicked off Breastfeeding Month with a trip to Naga City where UNICEF showed me the different private and public initiatives to promote breastfeeding support in the workplace. I also got to participate in a forum discussion at the House of Representatives. There would have been a Senate appearance as well, however it overlapped with my Naga trip.

Here is a short video from our trip, showing how important it is to support breastfeeding moms, especially in the workplace.

 

 

With UNICEF, I participate in activities that promote maternal health, breastfeeding and nutrition (See my previous UNICEF activities here.) I give my time and lend my voice to UNICEF because I feel like we are in this awful cycle of poor nutrition and poverty and it will get worse if we don’t do anything. We will be a nation of adults raised on instant noodles, supposedly-“fortified” powdered stuff, fake flavouring, with newborns fed formula milk. I’m not talking about a chi-chi organic lifestyle change – though I love organic weekend markets. I’m talking about going to the poorest and farthest provinces, and seeing families feed their kids these artificial things. I’ve seen children getting sick with diarrhoea because of contaminated water and dirty bottles because a poor mother would rather buy formula milk than feed her baby directly from her breast. In poor areas, diarrhoea can lead to death. My old driver used to borrow extra money so they could buy formula milk for their newborn, while I made heaven and earth move just so I could find a place to express my milk and bring it home to my baby. It just didn’t make sense.

I found an old post in 2008 where I quickly mentioned that I had a breast infection (mastitis). This was before I had met UNICEF and before they asked me to be their advocate. It shows how little I knew. I thought it was ok for hospitals to give glucose water in a cup. It’s not. And mommies, if you think you have mastitis, please see a doctor as soon as possible. Ask for an ultrasound if you think you have an infection.

Here are my tips for happy breastfeeding (from my 2008 post):

1. Get a pediatrician who advocates and believes in feeding from the breast. She will support you.
2. Ask for a lactation consultant at the hospital. You will need “instructions” in the beginning.
3. Tell the nursery NOT to give your baby formula milk or a bottle. If needed, they can CUP FEED your baby with glucose water. The baby will not starve (this applies to non-preemies). Edit: There is no need to give your baby glucose water. It is recommended that babies room in with their mothers in order to make breastfeeding easier from the moment of birth.
4. Read up on how to store milk or join breastfeeding clubs or forums online
5. Get a breast massage. It helps wonders. Your milk will flow like Niagara Falls.
6. Don’t get pressured into buying fancy electric breast pumps. You won’t know if you really need it until you are already breastfeeding. Wait a few weeks.

Since 2011, UNICEF has been supporting the Department of Health, local government units, and labor sector partners in the formal and informal economies to implement the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 (RA 10028) and The Milk Code or Executive Order 51. These laws mandate that workplaces should be given an environment where breastfeeding moms are supported and empowered. This means, they should be given a space and be allowed paid breaks in order to breastfeed or express milk. This is good, considering we have one of the shortest maternity leaves in the region — only 2 months. Though a lot of moms may want to continue breastfeeding their babies even when they return to work, some of them just give up. Only 34% of children aged 0-6 monhts are exclusively breastfed in the Philippines.

 

Women need a supportive environment so they would continue to breastfeed. This isn’t just a beautiful mommy-baby bond. If all companies and establishments provided a supportive and comfortable environment for breastfeeding, babies will be healthier, moms will have less guilt about going back to work and they will be more productive. We will raise children who will more likely be able to finish their education and get better jobs. In the Philippines, only 34% of women exclusively breastfeed their babies up to 6 months. And the number drops significantly after the 6th month.

 

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When I was still breastfeeding my babies, there were no mommy-baby lounges in malls. So I would rely on fitting rooms in stores. K&Company is like family to me. I would spend a few minutes breastfeeding the babies in their beautiful fitting room. Sometimes, I would find myself overflowing and would just settle for a bathroom somewhere and pump. Now, most malls have lactation-friendly lounges, as they should.

 

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And since we have no family here in the Philippines (only one, my BIL who is a priest), I have no back-up or support system except for househelp and my husband. I brought my babies to work with me. Lucky for me, my working conditions then were very comfortable. This was me getting ready for a shoot at Sofitel. And that’s my little Stelly belly wrapped in one of my scarves.

 

I breastfed all three of my babies. I didn’t have a structured work environment, i.e. no office, so this meant I was able to express milk (manual pump) anytime and anywhere. I carried a cooler packed with ice gels. During this time, malls didn’t have lactation rooms yet. I had to find ways and places where I could pump. Unfortunately most the pumping happened in bathroom cubicles. I also did not have maternity leaves. When I gave birth to Lily, I shot a TV commercial for a beauty product 7 days after giving birth. And I had to shoot Urban Zone 10 days after giving birth. I remember that day – it was an interview with Cheese Escudero and I couldn’t wait to get home. During Stella’s time, I had about three weeks worth of video packages done in advance so I was able to stay home. But I had to shoot a beauty product for the body (body soap) five weeks after giving birth. That’s when I discovered Pilates. So you see, as moms, whether you go to the office or not… you just try to make it all work.

Here is a video of a lactating working mom. Let me know if you can relate.

 

I have gone to many parts of the Philippines as an advocate of UNICEF and in my previous life as a journalist and balikbayan traveler. I have seen babies with severe acute malnutrition in Maguindanao amidst conflict, families displaced by Typhoon Pablo in Davao Oriental, communities trying to get back on their feet in Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan. Breastfeeding has the single largest potential impact on child mortality of any preventive intervention (i.e. vaccines, medicines). This means, if a newborn baby is given mother’s breastmilk in the first hour of life and only breastmilk until he/she is 6 months old, this baby will have a greater chance at survival and will be less likely to get sick. Now we have more evidence that exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months and complementary feeding up to two years old, can help prevent stunting in children. Stunted children are more prone to death and disease, have lower educational attainment, and reduced productivity as adults. The Philippines is one of the ten countries in the world with the most number of stunted children — 1 in every 3 Filipino children under 5 years of age is stunted. That’s an estimated 3.4 million children. These may all seem like just numbers, but I’ve seen what it’s like in real life.

 

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At the Naga Water District, where it is a breastfreeding-friendly workplace.

 

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Meeting the mothers of Barangay Panicuason, Naga. Photo by UNICEF2015/ACDimatatac

 

I’m sharing photos of the trip from UNICEF’s gallery. All photos by UNICEF2015/ACDimatactac.

 

I saw the smallest little infants at the NICU. It was good to see a public hospital with a strong commitment to breastfeeding. They counsel mothers on how to express milk if their preemie baby is too small and still in the NICU.

I saw the smallest little infants at the NICU. It was good to see a public hospital with a strong commitment to breastfeeding. They counsel mothers on how to express milk if their preemie baby is too small and still in the NICU.

With the doctors of the NICU at the Bicol Medical Center.

With the doctors of the NICU at the Bicol Medical Center.

Bicol Medical Center.

Bicol Medical Center.

At the Bicol Medical Center.

At the Bicol Medical Center.

The doctors of Bicol Medical Center showing me their storage for pasteurized breastmilk at the Human Milk Bank.

The doctors of Bicol Medical Center showing me their storage for pasteurized breastmilk at the Human Milk Bank.

Bicol Medical Center's commitment to breastfeeding. They also have an impressive human milk bank.

Bicol Medical Center’s commitment to breastfeeding. They also have an impressive human milk bank.

The Bicol Medical Center's maternity ward.

The Bicol Medical Center’s maternity ward.

A preemie, newly discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit of Bicol Medical Center. All the babies in NICU are given mothers' breastmilk only.

A preemie, newly discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit of Bicol Medical Center. All the babies in NICU are given mothers’ breastmilk only.

At Barangay Concepcion in Naga, with volunteer peer counsellors. They go on house to house visits to help encourage and coach new moms to breastfeed.

At Barangay Concepcion in Naga, with volunteer peer counsellors. They go on house to house visits to help encourage and coach new moms to breastfeed.

A home visit at Barangay Concepcion, Naga City. Mothers are also encouraged to feed their babies/toddlers real, whole foods like pechay, upo, papaya, malunggay, carrots, potatoes, banana, and other fruits and vegetables easily found in local markets or grown in backyards.

A home visit at Barangay Concepcion, Naga City. Mothers are also encouraged to feed their babies/toddlers real, whole foods like pechay, upo, papaya, malunggay, carrots, potatoes, banana, and other fruits and vegetables easily found in local markets or grown in backyards.

A volunteer peer counsellor visits a new mother in Barangay Concepcion. Mothers need a lot of support when breastfeeding - from family members and the community.

A volunteer peer counsellor visits a new mother in Barangay Concepcion. Mothers need a lot of support when breastfeeding – from family members and the community.

Barangay Panicuason Health Center's breastfeeding station.

Barangay Panicuason Health Center’s breastfeeding station.

Talking with the women of Barangay Panicuason.

Talking with the women of Barangay Panicuason.

At SM Naga Breastfeeding Station. SM has been supporting breastfeeding by providing breastfeeding rooms where mom can comfortably nurse their babies or pump/express milk. The Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 or Republic Act 10028 mandates working mothers be given the space to breastfeed or express their milk, and should be allowed paid breaks (an extra 40 minutes a day) during which breastfeeding or expression of milk may be done.

At SM Naga Breastfeeding Station. SM has been supporting breastfeeding by providing breastfeeding rooms where mom can comfortably nurse their babies or pump/express milk. The Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 or Republic Act 10028 mandates working mothers be given the space to breastfeed or express their milk, and should be allowed paid breaks (an extra 40 minutes a day) during which breastfeeding or expression of milk may be done.

Naga People's Mall (public market) is a breastfeeding-friendly place.

Naga People’s Mall (public market) is a breastfeeding-friendly place.

The logbook at the lactation room at Naga People's Mall (Public Market).

The logbook at the lactation room at Naga People’s Mall (Public Market).

At the Naga public market, officially known as the Naga People's Mall. I gave  brief talk to the community's breastfeeding and pregnant moms. I shared with them that I had chosen to exclusively breastfeed my babies the first 6 months and continue with complementary feeding after. I wanted them to know that this isn't just something we advocate for the poor and marginalised, that even women in large urban areas around the world choose to breastfeed because of the health and nutritious benefits.

At the Naga public market, officially known as the Naga People’s Mall. I gave brief talk to the community’s breastfeeding and pregnant moms. I shared with them that I had chosen to exclusively breastfeed my babies the first 6 months and continue with complementary feeding after. I wanted them to know that this isn’t just something we advocate for the poor and marginalised, that even women in large urban areas around the world choose to breastfeed because of the health and nutritious benefits.

At the Naga public market, officially known as the Naga People's Mall. Here volunteer peer counsellors share tips on how to breastfeed easily and the types of food babies 6 months and older should be eating. Instead of store-bought powdered cereals, babies 6 months and older should eat real and whole foods like pureed fruits and vegetables. They were also encouraged to plant backyard vegetable gardens.

At the Naga public market, officially known as the Naga People’s Mall. Here volunteer peer counsellors share tips on how to breastfeed easily and the types of food babies 6 months and older should be eating. Instead of store-bought powdered cereals, babies 6 months and older should eat real and whole foods like pureed fruits and vegetables. They were also encouraged to plant backyard vegetable gardens.

Naga Public Market's breastfeeding room.

Naga Public Market’s breastfeeding room.

The very proud proponent of Naga public market's breastfeeding room.

The very proud proponent of Naga public market’s breastfeeding room.

One of the breastfeeding moms at the Naga People's Mall (public market) breastfeeding room. They also have a small refrigerator for moms who have to express milk while working.

One of the breastfeeding moms at the Naga People’s Mall (public market) breastfeeding room. They also have a small refrigerator for moms who have to express milk while working.

At the Naga Water District. They have set up a breastfeeding room for lactating mom employees and guests. The Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 or Republic Act 10028 mandates working mothers be given the space to breastfeed or express their milk, and should be allowed paid breaks (an extra 40 minutes a day) during which breastfeeding or expression of milk may be done.

At the Naga Water District. They have set up a breastfeeding room for lactating mom employees and guests. The Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 or Republic Act 10028 mandates working mothers be given the space to breastfeed or express their milk, and should be allowed paid breaks (an extra 40 minutes a day) during which breastfeeding or expression of milk may be done.

Our first stop was a meeting with Naga City Mayor John Bongat. The city has been an early supporter of breastfeeding and maternal/infant nutrition.

Our first stop was a meeting with Naga City Mayor John Bongat. The city has been an early supporter of breastfeeding and maternal/infant nutrition.

Naga City Mayor John Bongat at the city hall's breastfeeding centre.

Naga City Mayor John Bongat at the city hall’s breastfeeding centre.

The part of my UNICEF trips that I love the most. Meeting cute babies. This was at the beastfeeding centre at Naga City Hall.

The part of my UNICEF trips that I love the most. Meeting cute babies. This was at the beastfeeding centre at Naga City Hall.

 

Feel free to share your breastfeeding story in the comments below. I love hearing about them.

 

 

Trick or Treat with UNICEF

 

 

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Every year at this time, I look forward to Trick or Treat for UNICEF. This is the only UNICEF activity that my kids can join me at. The other programs I do with UNICEF involve travel to areas that are under adverse conditions such as my last visit to Haiyan-affected areas in Tacloban. But the TOT for UNICEF is the perfect way to involve kids in raising funds and awareness about children’s issues. This campaign shows how everyone, even children themselves, can do their share to help kids in need.

 

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These are the Trick or Treat for UNICEF boxes of Sophia, Lily and Stella. During Halloween events, they are to bring these boxes with them so they can ask “treat givers” for some money to help raise funds for UNICEF Philippines.

 

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The back of the box shows how every little contribution counts and makes a big difference in children’s lives. This gives a more meaningful celebration of Halloween. Any child can join this campaign. Just go to Toy Kingdom and sign up for a box. Then after Halloween, go to the SM Payment counters listed at the back of the box and submit your donations.

 

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Since TOT for UNICEF was launched in the Philippines in 2012, my kids have been looking forward to participating.  This was when Stella was just three years old (back in 2012). She never wanted to see me go, so she came with me on stage.

 

Caption this! Haha. Stella was falling. I knocked down Lily's hat. Soph's hat also fell. This was the moment Lily's name was announced as winner of art contest. Haha!
Also from 2012, the kids and I were taking Photo Booth pictures when the winners of the art contest were announced. This was the moment Lily heard her name! Haha.

 

My two kids won first prize in the art contest in each of their age categories. Awww. #tot4unicef @unicefphils
Both Sophia and Lily won 1st place during the art contest. Each child was asked to draw a super hero and explain its powers.  Photo from 2012.

 

Kicked off @unicefphils Trick or Treat boxes! Now kids can help other kids. Get your #tot4unicef kids from your schools.
The Kid Superheroes theme symbolizes Youth Empowerment. It sends a message to kids that they can be superheroes for other children in need. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF empowers kids to help others in a fun and creative way. Photo from 2012

 

Our favourite time of year at @unicefphils. My kids all run their own fundraising campaign during Halloween. Get your Trick or Treat Collection Boxes at Toy Kingdom and have your kids get involved with this great cause. #unicef @unicef #zamboanga #dogood
The following year, in 2013, my girls participated again. Here’s Stella, still glued to me.

 

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This year, we are all out in supporting TOT for UNICEF again. The kids did the whole 9 yards – art contest, commitment board, signing up for the boxes.  Stella, now 5, was able to assemble her own box. She’s taking charge of her TOT for UNICEF box as she goes trick or treating this weekend.

 

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All three daughters — all writers and artists — loved this part of the program. You can actually still join the online art contest here.

 

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This year’s Trick-or-Treat focuses on emergency preparedness since the Philippines is one of the most high-risk countries in the world for experiencing natural disasters like typhoons, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

 

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UNICEF Philippines National Ambassador Gary Valenciano performed in front of a crowd during the launch of the annual UNICEF Trick or Treat Event at the SM Southmall foodstreet, October 4, 2014. Photo UNICEF/Jeric Cruz 2014

 

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Verity Rushton, UNICEF Child Protection Officer; Gary Valenciano, UNICEF Philippines National Ambassador; me, UNICEF Special Advocate for Children; Babyruth Chuaunsu, SM Supermalls AVP-Operations; Lei Sia, Toy Kingdom Area Manager pose for a photo on the UNICEF Commitment wall, October 5, 2014 at the Launch of the UNICEF Trick or Treat event at the SM Southmall foodstreet.

 

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And my darling Sophia won again — first place! (I was not involved in the judging. I don’t know who the judges were.)

 

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Sophia with Tito Gary.

 

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Lily and Stella, showing their art work. It was good for them to see the kind of work UNICEF does for kids around the world. UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations to fund its work for children in the Philippines and worldwide. And now kids can join in giving back.

 

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Stella’s superhero is “Super Stella” and she has the power to teach all children how to read.

 

 

For more information on TOT for UNICEF, go to www.unicef.ph or visit their Facebook page here.

 

 

Photo Diary, My UNICEF visit to Tacloban

 

 

I went on a UNICEF site visit to Tacloban a couple of weeks ago. As with every UNICEF trip I’ve taken in the past, I was extremely moved. It has been nine months since this strongest storm to ever hit landfall devastated eastern Visayas. Driving through Tacloban and parts of Palo, Leyte, you can still see many remnants of the physical damage. It’s still quite overwhelming. But in this trip, I also saw a lot of hope.

It was good to see some smiles again. But ask any individual who lived through Haiyan/Yolanda, “How are you doing?/Kamusta ka na?” and tears well up in their eyes. The wounds are deep. Any hint of rain or strong winds brings them back to that fateful day last November 8th. I didn’t want anyone to have to relive their harrowing ordeal. Almost everyone gathered to see me at my visit lost someone they loved during the storm. Instead I wanted to see what life is like presently for those who were affected.

Over 14.1 million people were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Of those, 5.9 million were children. UNICEF continues to provide life-saving and recovery assistance for children affected by Typhoon Haiyan. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Here’s my photo diary of my visit to Tacloban and Palo,Leyte.

 

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Some of the most incredible scenes were of these huge ships that ran aground in Tacloban during Haiyan. In Barangay Anibong alone, there were five ships.

 

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This barangay in Anibong has been declared a “no dwelling zone.” But despite that, people have rebuilt their houses near the water.

 

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Like the sign says, this is still a “danger zone.”

 

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This ship went inland the furthest. It actually hit the high way.

 

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Here’s the other end of that ship that went furthest inland. When my friends saw my photos, one of them asked why these boats haven’t been pulled back into shore yet. She felt frustrated like no one was doing anything. But I have to tell you that these are huge ships. And they are so far inland. Nothing can pull these back to the water.

 

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So instead of being pulled away, some of the ships were being sliced up into pieces by the ship owners.

 

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The irony. A sticker saying “Think Safety” was plastered on this cargo container. It was one of the hundreds of containers from the port that washed ashore. It now serves as foundation for this house that’s not even supposed to be there.

 

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The barangay captain telling me about their dilemma.

 

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Rosario, the Barangay Captain in Anibong.

 

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With the Chief of Field Office Maulid Warfa at the UNICEF office in Tacloban. Some of the UNICEF staff have been on site since the typhoon struck last November 8th 2013. Whenever I visit sites with UNICEF I am not only touched by the stories of the local people but also of the professionals who have devoted their life doing humanitarian work. These are the people who respond to emergencies around the world.

 

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We went to Barayong Elementary school in Palo, Leyte. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014

 

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The acting-principal of Barayong Elementary School showing me and Cromwell Bacareza, OIC of UNICEF WASH Team some of the physical improvements in the school, like a new roof. This school was severely affected by Haiyan/Yolanda. It is located on a mountain. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014

 

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It was heartwarming to see kids back in school. To date, UNICEF has provided learning materials and supplies for over 500,000 pre-school and school-aged children (3 to 17 years) across Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda-affected areas.

 

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I loved seeing smiles back in their faces.

 

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That afternoon, the grade 4 and 5 kids were writing letters to their pen pals from Australia.

 

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This is such a great activity.

 

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Erwin Dolina, teacher-in-charge and acting-principal of Barayong Elementary School and his makeshift office.

 

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His laptop is broken so he is using a separate monitor hooked up to the laptop’s keyboard. Mr. Dolina said the school is understaffed. They only have 4 teachers for the entire school. So teachers double-up with classes. He has to do administrative work in addition to teaching and correcting papers. He also has to check the school on weekends because there are no doors or locks to protect their supplies.

 

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There is a deep well at the back of the school. In order to ensure safety, UNICEF installed pumps and pipes to bring in water nearer to the school. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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OIC of UNICEF’s WASH Program (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Cromwell Bacareza shows me that water from the well is stored in a tank which is connected to these pipes. This is a makeshift lavatory where kids can wash their hands. It’s known as tippy tap. UNICEF supports schools affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda by providing water, sanitation & hygiene facilities and supplies to ensure that children stay healthy, which helps them stay in school. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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The tippy tap is made of modest material. For a low cost, we can ensure that children have access to clean water. UNICEF also provided schools with soap. It is very important for children to wash their hands with soap and water. This needs to be instilled in them at a young age so that we can be healthy and germ-free. Because of the tippy tap, hand-washing becomes a social activity. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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UNICEF also installed safe and clean temporary toilets in every classroom. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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In another town called Abucay, I visited the temporary bunkhouses. This community had an amazing “Child-Friendly Space” set up by UNICEF. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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Inside the tent. A child plays…

 

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I kept falling in love with the babies. Cutie pie. Sigh.

 

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This child-friendly space in Abucay Bunkhouse in Tacloban is a place where young children can play, sing and dance under the guidance of city social welfare workers and volunteers.

 

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To date, more than 40,000 children across Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda-affected areas have accessed psychosocial support at child-friendly spaces provided by UNICEF.

 

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We took a walk around the Abucay temporary bunkhouses. One of the fathers was tending to his container garden. I love that there is a consciousness to grow food. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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With the bunkhouse manager Joseph dela Pena. The bunkhouse is one of the temporary housing programs provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). It houses over 180 families with provision to water and sanitation facilities and a UNICEF child-friendly space tent.

 

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I loved seeing these ornaments decorating the alleys. These were made by the community.

 

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Before entering any house, I took my shoes off.

 

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This mother has five children. Except for the baby, they are all back in school. Her eyes welled up with tears when she recalled their experience when Haiyan/Yolanda hit. She said she and her husband hung on to all their kids and climbed the ceiling of a structure. They stayed there all day. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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A pretty young mom shares with me her experience breastfeeding her baby.

 

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I’m always happy to see a breastfeeding mom in any situation. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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I also visited a UNICEF-supported Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) counselling in Barangay 64, Tacloban City. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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This is a weekly program where mothers can get together and have counselling about nutrition, breastfeeding and maternal health issues. There is a child-friendly play space for toddlers.

 

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Another cutie pie.

 

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UNICEF Chief of Tacloban Field office Maulid Warfa and I spent some time playing with children while their mothers attend a UNICEF-supported Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) counselling in the adjacent room in Barangay 64, Tacloban City. IYCF counselling sessions ensure that parents and caregivers breastfeed and give proper nutritious food to their children to keep them healthy. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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City health workers in Sagkahan District Health Centre in Tacloban show me the vaccine refrigerator. UNICEF is providing vaccines, cold chain equipment, and vaccine management training for health personnel across Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda-affected areas. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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UNICEF is supporting the Department of Health (Philippines)’s National Immunization Campaign this September, which aims to protect 13 million children under 5 against polio, measles and rubella.

 

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It was good to see mothers bringing in their babies to get regular medical checks at the Sagkahan District Health Centre in Tacloban City. Cute baby alert again.

 

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I took the opportunity to film a short video to help fundraise for UNICEF. For information on how to donate, click here.

 

For information on UNICEF’s programs in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph and like Unicef Philippines in Facebook. To know about my work with UNICEF as Special Advocate for Children, click here.