UNICEF in Maguindanao



I was in Maguindanao last week. I’m still working on my story. Just wanted to share with you my video diary from Day 1, which is on the UNICEF website.

Please read more about severe acute malnutrition here.

And see how you can help.


Please re-post and retweet. The children need all the help they can get. Only P600 a month… you can help save the lives of 3 babies suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Thank you Glam-o-mamas and Amanda Griffin-Jacob for sharing the story.



This time last year, I was in Sarangani Province

A page from Working Mom’s October 2010 issue. They did a cover story on me, featuring my role in UNICEF.


A few days ago, my youngest sister, Pauline, gave birth to her first child. She and her husband Mathieu decided on a midwife-assisted birthing process. This is in Canada, where the best health care is free for everyone. The downside of a public healthcare program like Canada’s though is that you don’t get to choose your doctor and sometimes you feel like they’re rushing you so they can move on to the next patient. My sister wanted a more intimate and natural experience. They almost chose a home birth and a water birth. All this would have been covered by the government as well. In the end, my nephew was born at a hospital. After almost 48 hours of labour, the midwife turned over the case to a medical doctor. Lucien Delio was born a perfect little boy. He and my sister went home a few hours after. Everybody happy.

I was reminded of my trip to Sarangani with UNICEF. It was exactly a year ago. They brought me there to see the work of our UNICEF team on the ground, focusing on maternal and infant health as well as breastfeeding. I met mothers in different barangays and municipalities, visited municipal health centres, got to know the work of midwives and saw lots of beautiful babies. This story has a lot of photos, so please click on “read more” to see the rest of the shots I took. I fell in love with each baby I saw. And I’m happy to report that exclusive breastfeeding was practised by most, if not all, the mothers I saw.

August is Breastfeeding Month. There have been many activities promoting breastfeeding awareness. L.A.T.C.H. did an interesting photo exhibit of urban/celebrity moms breastfeeding in public. There are other campaigns. I think it’s wonderful. I just want to add… the importance of exclusively breastfeeding your baby from birth to six months. This means no water, no supplements, no baby food. Breastmilk is pure, perfect and complete. That’s all a baby needs. Exposing an infant to water, especially in our country, could put the baby at risk of infection or disease. From six months onwards you can start giving solids and ofcourse complementary feeding your child with breastmilk up to as long as you want (two years is recommended).

Let me go back my Sarangani story.


Beautiful Sarangani Bay


Mothers in line for their regular health checks.


A breastfeeding mom and a three-week old beautiful baby.


Breastfeeding moms.


The medical staff of Maitum municipal hospital. There is no provincial hospital in Sarangani. Only municipal hospitals and barangay health centres. I was shocked at first but I learned that the solution isn’t always about building infrastructure. They would have a problem keeping the hospital staffed and well-equipped (in a perfect world this wouldn’t even be a problem). Also the way the geographical form of the province doesn’t help either. The province is cut into two, separated by a bay and another province. What was needed immediately were more Skilled Attendants at Birth or midwives.


Barangay Lagundi’s health station. Here in photo are midwives and skilled attendants. Midwives are trained health professionals who are able to deliver babies as long as there are no medical complications. Midwives can recognize medical complications and are able to refer patients to medical doctors in the municipal hospitals. Midwives are not to be confused with mang-hihilots as they are not recognized/accredited by the Dept of Health.


A barangay with mothers from the T’boli tribe.


Jocelyn Lazilla, a midwife who services several barangays in Maitum. Jocelyn drives her motorcycle through rough roads in order to deliver babies. She was the only midwife in that area of almost four or five barangays. No doctors eitiher! Jocelyn is a modern day hero. It was a privilege to meet her and other midwifes in Sarangani. This particular barangay was a scene of an encounter between the MILF and the military. Jocelyn and her team can bravely pass through areas where fighting occurs. She says that at one time, both sides stopped their gunfire in order for her to pass through so she could do the important task of delivering a baby. I was on this visit with UNICEF Representative Vanessa Tobin. She wrote about meeting Jocelyn here.


Breastfeeding. Natural. Universal.


At Kiamba Lying-In Clinic just a few steps away from the Maitum Municipal Hospital. This was our first stop. I was so enamoured by the children. I remember this was the place where I was first asked by one of the mothers, “Paano ba ako hindi na magkakaanak. Kasi anim na anak ko. Ayoko na.”/ How can I stop having children? I have six children. I don’t want any more. It was a harsh reality. There’s still a lot that needs to be done in terms of maternal health and reproductive health.


Her gaze haunts me up to now. It was difficult to hear her story.  I wanted to breakdown and cry but couldn’t. I also wanted her to stop recounting the story. But we were with journalists who were there to listen and tell her story. This woman had just lost her daughter-in-law who died from childbirth. It was to be her sixth child. The baby didn’t make it as well.


The barangay health centre had huge Manila paper reports of what had happened to that woman’s daughter-in-law. They brought her to the municipal hospital too late. By the time they got there she needed serious medical attention. I remember her saying they tried to bring her to General Santos City but it was too late.


Lovely seaside community.


Too cute. Mom says he is exclusively breastfed.


Lots of cute babies in the next batch of photos after the jump.

Click here to read more

iPhone drama and UNICEF success

Last Saturday at the Sofitel, at the height of all the fun we were having — swimming, eating, watching the sunset, going to cocktail hour, champagne brunch, night swimming — I dropped my iPhone4 in water for less than 5 seconds. I keep reliving that moment in slow mo.

I will spare you the drama. My phone broke. It got revived. Then it broke again. At this point, I just don’t know anymore. I’ve wasted too much time on this. I wish iPhone5 would come out already.


Dropped my phone in water
Buried my phone in rice.


I am so behind with my work. I will try not to think about this phone for the next three days… or one year. I owe you blogposts and stories. It’s coming, all today.

On a very positive note, the UNICEF Auction for Action launch last Wednesday went very very well. The site went live at 4pm on May 25. In two minutes we sold our first item – Kristine Dee’s Cradle pendant. And in 30 minutes we sold two more items. It was phenomenal. The site continues to be on fire. This idea of an online auction was just amazing. I hope you check out the items – you may be able to score a beautiful art piece, designer furniture, jewelry or special tickets to the World Cup Qualifier with the Azkals.


May 25, 2011 8am
A big thank you to my friend Karen Davila and the ANC Headstart team. They gave us the whole show on Wednesday to promote Auction for Action. With us was Ms Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF Country Representative. (By the way, off topic, but that was the debut of my haircut by Alex Carbonel of Studio Fix Greenbelt 5. I’m wearing K&Company’s current colour-block collection. I took off the purple belt though and just wore a neutral leather belt. I struggle with colour blocking.)


I’ll be doing a complete post about the launch. I’m still hungover from the success of the launch — humbled and grateful by the support of the art and design community, my friends in media, art lovers and genuine UNICEF supporters. It was a great day!

In the meantime, please click on this photo… it’ll take you to the UNICEF Ebay site.