UNICEF Champion for Children

 

 

I’m spending the day in Malacanang Palace today with UNICEF for the awarding of Child Friendly Municipalities. I look forward to this. The last time I was in Malacanang was as a reporter. For about a year I was covering then-President Fidel Ramos. That was my first assignment when I started my career in ABSCBN. I also went back years after when Luli Arroyo gave me a tour of the palace just before their family moved in. This was for F. I saw the kitchen and the private quarters. And they invited me to eat brunch on the controversial round table of former-President Estrada.

I’ve been spending some time meeting with UNICEF about our activities and plans for next year. We are already planning the next Auction for Action and other new activities. I found out too that Anne Curtis came in to sign up as a UNICEF Champion for Children and gave a generous donation. She had mentioned that she saw the video of my trip to Maguindanao and was so touched by it. Here is the video…

 

 

I wish I could have done more during that visit to Maguindanao. But unfortunately what was supposed to be a 3-day trip was cut short. Hours after I arrived, our security told us to leave due to some “activity” on the ground. We were there at the height of the peace talks between President Aquino and the MILF. Then we got news that the MILF had rejected the agreement. It was also just days after a few car bombs had gone off killing a government official. So I was only there for one night. Such is the reality of living and working in an area under conflict. Every day I think of the babies and children in the ARMM.

When I got back to Manila, I did a few rounds of media guestings to tell the story of little children with severe acute malnutrition. We went to TV5 and ANC. Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Dexter Matilla wrote about it. And so did Female Network but I can’t find the link anymore. I had no idea that this blog would reach Anne Curtis. Thank you Anne for making a big difference in many children’s lives.

Here’s a clip of our interview with ANC’s Lexi Schulze. I was with Dr Paul Zambrano of UNICEF. You can read more about how you too can help with this project here.

 

 

Just P600/month can save 3 children from severe acute malnutrition. Donate here.

 

 

Beauty, Brains and Breastfeeding

 

 

Yesterday we had a press conference for the launch of a new breastfeeding campaign that UNICEF is supporting. As Special Advocate for Children of UNICEF, I participated in the Beauty, Brains & Breastfeeding billboard project. The message is, “smart, glamorous and hardworking women breastfeed.” We are doing this because only 34% of mothers in the Philippines practice exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of their babies. Based on UNICEF statistics, nearly half of all mothers in the country depend on artificial milk in varying degrees.

There will be five billboards – three along MIA Road in Pasay City which will be launched on October 14 when the weather lets up; one in Philcoa, Quezon City; and one on the DILG Building in EDSA. A few more billboards will be up soon with sites currently in negotiation. The photos were shot by Raymund Isaac. Our clothes were provided by my good friends – K&Company, Divine Lee’s Luca and Gingersnaps.

 

 

 


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Beauty, Brains and Breastfeeding would like to correct several misconceptions which discourage mothers with infants and young children to breastfeed — main hurdles to having all Filipino newborns properly breastfed:

• exclusive breastfeeding in the formative first six months of an infant is NOT a hindrance to a mother’s professional or personal goals;

• exclusive breastfeeding is a commitment to give one’s child with life-nourishing food and a good start in life; to think of breastfeeding as only for the poor should be dismissed immediately;

• continued breastfeeding DOES NOT cause a woman’s breasts to deform, sag or make her look haggard and unattractive; and

• the act of breastfeeding in public places is not an act shame and therefore should be encouraged.

No matter the prevailing conditions and norms in any society, nothing best embodies the miraculous ties between mother and child than the act of breastfeeding.

 

I committed myself to breastfeeding each kid for at least the same amount of time, if not longer. I did not want to deal with any issues like so and so was breastfed longer. Besides I really enjoyed the whole process. I’ve said it many times, breastfeeding is love. It was the time I felt most beautiful and powerful as a woman. My body was giving life and nourishment to my children, and I knew they were getting nothing but the best.

I’ve gone on and on about the beauty and health benefits of breastfeeding but it was only during my work with UNICEF that I got to know the issues on a deeper and more important level – that exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months is a significant “mechanism” to lower infant mortality rates globally. I have seen this firsthand. During my last UNICEF mission to the ARMM in Maguindanao, I saw babies that had severe acute malnutrition. They were being treated through UNICEF’s community based management for acute malnutrition. One of the factors why the babies got severe acute malnutrition, in addition to contracting multiple diseases, was dehydration due to diarrhea caused by formula milk plus dirty water… formula they acquired from donations at a relief centre. There are very strict guidelines discouraging donations of formula milk during emergencies. And this is why I vowed to not endorse formula milk. I’ve been used and misled once before. Now I know better.

It is also timely to mention that I cried over (spilled) spoiled milk before. During emergencies like Milenyo and Ondoy when we had to leave our house due to extended black outs, my stored milk thawed and went bad. But I realized that there’s no need for stored milk, noneed for anything except me and my direct feeding. We are still expecting 10 more storms. There will be floods and brown outs. I hope all moms of newborns choose to breastfeed.

Going back to the message of the billboards… Iza is a busy working mom. She’s a social entrepreneur and she’s very committed to her work as a breastfeeding advocate. She is also working with labour groups and corporations to help give support to breastfeeding in the workplace. Patricia Hizon, a sportscaster and TV host, breastfed her sons with the involvement and support of her husband Vince Hizon. We all want to share the same message – that breastfeeding can be done no matter how busy you are. You can look good while doing it. And you will give your kids the best start in life.

The billboards are supposed to be up today in MIA Road. I’ll take a peek this weekend. The billboards will be up after the current storm signals stabilize.

I’d love to hear your thoughts….

 

Thank you, Kol

 

 

I’m crushed.

I posted this story just three days ago. Today I got the news that Kol Rustia died early this morning.

Kol was born with Trisomy 13, a fatal genetic syndrome and was diagnosed to live three months. Against all odds, Kol turned 14 last May. His dad, Jeff, was planning this awesome benefit to raise funds for The Kol Hope Foundation for Children, to support children with disabilities through Easter Seals Canada and the Hospital for Sick Kids. The Kol Hope Foundation supports children born with chromosome disorders and Trisomy-related disabilities.

Kol lived every single day of his life on life support. He breathed through oxygen. He was fed through a g-tube. He couldn’t walk or talk. But his smile and his will to live has become a source of hope and love for other children like him and their families. Kol was and is very much loved by everyone around him – most especially his dad, Jeff.

The Kol Hope Foundation hopes to give kids with Trisomy-related disabilities a chance to go to summer camps and provide them with basic needs such as wheelchairs and respite care. The Kol Hope Fund at Hospital for Sick Kids supports the genetics department and the valuable work they do in investigating the mysteries of genetic disorders and ultimately finding effective treatments and cures.

Jeff, our thoughts and prayers are with you in this difficult time. Kol was born an angel. And we borrowed him all these years. You showed him so much love. So much. Now he is in heaven, with no pain or suffering. And just like his beautiful life full of meaning, Kol was called by God called on Thanksgiving weekend. A precious gift.

Friends, please visit The Kol Hope Foundation.
 

Thank you Mega Magazine

 

 

September came and went and I didn’t get the chance to thank Mega Magazine for including me in their list of 100 Filipinos in fashion, beauty & culture who have inspired, influenced and innovated.

 

 

 

Thank you Jacqui Halili Co-Salonga. And thank you Mega Magazine.

And if I could take this time to push some causes further, please, everyone click this link to see how you can help stop severe acute malnutrition among children through Unicef.

 

 

Severe Acute Malnutrition in Maguindanao

 

 

 

Thank you Dexter Matilla of Philippine Daily Inquirer. Dexter was actually interviewing me about a different topic the week I was in Maguindanao. I was a very distracted and couldn’t answer his questions on time. So I had to tell him the reason – that I was on a mission with UNICEF in Maguindanao (ARMM). I was keeping it under wraps for security reasons.

Dexter ended up writing this great article today before the initial interview got published. Please read it here.

Anyone can help kids with severe acute malnutrition. Click here to see how.