So far, so good

What for should I ask more

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Good night and thank you, Sen. Ted Kennedy

The world over knows him as the brother of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Others would peg him as the young politician with a variety of supposed indiscretions. But for me, Sen. Edward Kennedy will always be the one who quite literally crashed the 1978 International Conference on Primary Health Care in Alma-Ata, in the then-Soviet Socialist Republic of Kazakhstan, attending the conference not as a member of the US delegation but in his personal capacity as a staunch advocate of the universal right to health care.

What follows are excerpts from the Physicians for Human Rights' blog entry recognizing the superhuman efforts of Ted Kennedy in propelling forward the cause of health for all.

The Philippines maybe thousands of miles away but his leadership and inspiration resonate even here in our archipelago, especially among us who are likewise working hard to make health a right enjoyed by all. His contributions to humanity include the following:

* In 1966, Senator Kennedy created a national health center system.

* In 1972, he became Chairman of the Senate Health Subcommittee, enhancing his ability to champion the cause of quality health care for all Americans.

* Another priority for Senator Kennedy was the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program. This program, popularly known as WIC, offers food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services for low-income women, infants, and children.

* He became a champion of the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata, which called on the international community, and all health and development workers, to protect and promote the health of all people of the world.

* Senator Kennedy authored the Refugee Act of 1980, which established a comprehensive U.S. policy to provide humanitarian assistance, admission and resettlement to refugees around the world.

* In 1990, Senator Kennedy introduced, along with Senator Hatch, the groundbreaking Ryan White CARE Act, which provided emergency relief to the thirteen cities hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic, and also provided substantial assistance to all states to develop effective and cost-efficient AIDS care programs, aimed particularly at early diagnosis and home care.

* In 1994, as Chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Senator Kennedy worked closely with President Clinton to expand opportunity for working families. His leadership brought about the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

* In 1997, as Chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Senator Kennedy worked closely with President Clinton to expand opportunity for working families. His leadership brought about the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

* In 2006, Senator Kennedy sponsored and helped pass the Family Opportunity Act, which provided states the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to children with special needs, allowing low- and middle-income families with disabled children the ability to purchase coverage under the Medicaid program.

* In 2007, he sponsored the Health Care Safety Net Act of 2007.

* So deep was Senator Kennedy’s commitment to the highest attainable standard of
health, that on July 9, 2008, while recovering from brain surgery, he made a surprise trip to Capitol Hill. There he cast a critical vote to secure healthcare coverage for senior citizens.

What attracted me to be more pro-Obama than pro-McCain is the pronouncement of Mr. Obama in their second presidential debate in no uncertain terms that health should be a right for every American. And I'm pretty sure he got a huge amount of inspiration from Ted Kennedy who has been walking the talk, declaring in the 2008 Democratic National Convention the following:

And this is the cause of my life - new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American - north, south, east, west, young, old - will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

Good night and thank you, Mr. Kennedy. Rest assured that the work you have done and the items still in your to-do list will be see some hue of completion, hopefully sooner rather than later.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Philippine Red Party, September 5th, 7pm, SM Mall of Asia - San Miguel by the Bay

4,021 = Number of HIV-positive Filipinos since 1984

817 = Number of Filipino AIDS patients

25-39 years = Age range where 58% of HIV-AIDS patients belong to

72 = Percentage of male patients among the 4,021 with HIV-AIDS

90 = Percentage of HIV-AIDS acquired via sexual intercourse

32 = Percentage of all Filipino HIV-AIDS patients who are overseas workers

(from the July 2009 Philippines HIV-AIDS Registry of the Department of Health)

From "low and slow," the HIV-AIDS problem in the Philippines is now characterized as "hidden and growing." The cost of diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up is still too exorbitant for ordinary Filipinos. The time to band together to stop the looming threat of HIV-AIDS is now.

Support The Philippine Red Party Project, a benefit concert for the HIV-AIDS patients being taken care of by the Infectious Diseases Section of the UP-Philippine General Hospital, to be held at the San Miguel by the Bay of the SM Mall of Asia on Saturday, September 5, 2009, 7pm.

Tickets are at P200 each. Leave a comment or email me for ticket reservations.

More details on The Philippine Red Party Project can be found in

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Stories of Her-oism (1)

They had a choice. They could have chosen not to, but they did. I hope I will, too.


Edith Burgos

Of course I came to the pre-SONA (State of the Nation Address) forum organized in the University because of Jun Lozada (the whistle-blower of the multi-million-dollar bribery scandal with regard to the installation of a national broadband network for the Philippines). As expected, he was a political firebrand admixed with some level of docility when it was his turn to occupy the podium; his stinging remarks did not disappoint.

But who “stole the show” was a 60-something widow, whom I still can’t get out of my mind a month after my brief encounter with her. She recounted her life’s story with equal amounts of wistfulness and unassuming candor, impressing upon her much, much, much younger and sheltered audience the urgency of patriotism and selflessness.

Her name is Edith Burgos, wife of Joe Burgos, and mother of Jonas Burgos. Joe and Edith gained fame- or notoriety depending on whose side you are on- especially during the Philippines’ Martial Law years. Joe published materials through their “mosquito press”- their pesky system through which reading materials were written and distributed to kindred spirits so as to never let “the buzz” for freedom and democracy be quieted. She prided herself as being Joe’s bodyguard, as they surreptitiously spread their underground writings.

However, as is wont to happen, Marcos’s agents swatted their system. They became victims of the infamous ASSO- arrest, search, and seizure order. Their printing facilities were taken, vandalized, and padlocked. Joe and his staff were jailed but they were never truly silenced. They churned out editions of their alternative reading materials a month after their release from prison, culminating in the founding of a new broadsheet Malaya (FREE).

Through it all, Edith was Joe’s partner and ardent supporter. Certainly, I think she equally deserved to receive the honor Joe garnered via his recognition of being one of the century’s 50 World Press Freedom Heroes awarded by the International Press Institute in 2000. She continued to steadily work beside him as he segued into advocacy for farmers via radio, until his demise in 2003.

Edith has drifted quietly off the press’s radar, retiring after years of working in tandem with Joe. That is, until the abduction of their son, Jonas, in 2007, forcibly taken from inside a shopping mall in Metro Manila.

Edith continues to work for the release of her son, from captors that are alleged to be part of the Philippine military. Jonas’s work as farmer and membership in a farmers’ organization probably made him “a person of interest” to government forces, especially since his organization has been labeled as “an enemy of the state.”

When Edith talked about Joe and Jonas, she was not in tears. But she didn’t come off a calloused. What struck me was her matter of fact manner through which she encouraged the rest of us to remain hopeful for the country and to put that hope into action. She challenged us to go to the streets (Tell your parents that even Edith Burgos, a sixty-something year old woman will march on the day of the SONA…) but she also gave us the option to “fight violence with gentleness,” as if reading the mind of those who were less courageous than her. And that includes me.

I remember her best through the words regarding her missing son- if there should be a sacrificial lamb and it has to be Jonas, so be it. It was neither an act of surrender or defeat but an act of defiance- to accept the fate life has dealt her family with, to continue to make the cause of other forced disappearances more pronounced in media by way of talking about her own son’s plight. She is using her grief and longing for her missing son to attract attention to the situation of the desaparecidos and their families and the bigger problem of injustice in the Philippines.

If she can use the worst times in her life to do her share in making the Philippines a better place to live, I should be using the best of my personal resources to match her continued love for the country. If a widow with an abducted child remains committed to improve the lives of her fellow Filipinos, how much more us able-bodied young ones?

Find out more about Edith's search for her son Jonas here.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Time flies when life happens

Lectures. Field works. Speeches. Weddings. Deaths. Tears. Funerals.
Dinners. Send-offs. Welcomes-Home. Rains. Guests. Families. Friends.
Applause. Pictures. Stories. Updates. Soon.

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