Do What Matters

It’s hard, from within the storm of every day life, to see things with real perspective, to know what’s important and what’s simply pressing on our consciousness right now, demanding attention.

We have people emailing us for information and requesting action, we have phone calls and visitors and a long to-do list and a million chores and errands to run and all of the slings and arrows of our daily reality … and yet, what is important?

Ask yourself this: if you suddenly found out you only had 6 months to live (for whatever reason), would the thing in front of you matter to you?

Would those 20 emails waiting for a response matter? Would the paperwork waiting to be processed matter? Would the work you’re doing matter? Would the meetings you’re supposed to have matter? Would a big car and nice house and high-paying job and cool computer and mobile device and nice shoes and clothes matter?

I’m not saying they wouldn’t matter … but it’s important to ask yourself if they would.

What would matter to you?

For many of us, it’s the loved ones in our lives. If we don’t have loved ones … maybe it’s time we started figuring out why, and addressing that. Maybe we haven’t made time for others, for getting out and meeting others and helping others and being compassionate and passionate about others. Maybe we have shut ourselves in somehow. Or maybe we do have loved ones in our lives, but we don’t seem to have the time we want to spend with them.

When was the last time you told your loved ones you loved them? Spent good quality time with them, being in the moment?

For many of us, doing work that matters … would matter. That might mean helping others, or making a vital contribution to society, or creating something brilliant and inspiring, or expressing ourselves somehow. It’s not the money that matters, but the impact of the work.

Are you doing work that matters?

For many of us, experiencing life would matter — really being in the moment, finding passion in our lives, seeing the world and traveling, or just seeing the world that’s around us right now, being with great people, doing amazing things, eating amazing food, playing.

These are just a few ideas … but what would matter to you?

I highly recommend that you spend at least a little time now, and regularly, thinking about this question … figuring out what really matters … and living a life that shows this.

How do you live a life that puts a great emphasis on what matters? Start by figuring out what matters, and what doesn’t. Then eliminate as much as you can of the stuff that doesn’t matter, or at least minimize it to the extent possible.

Make room for what does matter.

Make the time for what does matter … today. Put it on your schedule, and don’t miss that appointment. Make those tough decisions — because choosing to live a life that is filled with the important stuff means making choices, and they’re not always easy choices. But it matters.

Spend time with your significant other, show them how important they are. Take the time to cuddle with your child, to read with her, to play with her, to have good conversations with her, to take walks with her. Take time to be in nature, to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. Take time to savor the little pleasures in life.

Because while you might not have only 6 months to live, I’m here to break the news to you: you really do only have a short time to live. Whether that’s 6 months, 6 years or 60 … it’s but the blink of an eye.

The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.

The Power of Being Present

written by Leo Babauta

‘Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.’ ~Thich Nhat Hahn

How can you bring calm and peace to the middle of a stress-ful, chaotic day?

The answer is simple, though not always so easy to put into practice: learn to be present.

No matter how out-of-control your day is, no matter how stressful your job or life becomes, the act of being present can become an oasis. It can change your life, and it’s incredibly simple.

When I asked people what things prevent them from having a peaceful day, some of the responses:

Social media and other digital distractions.
Email. Decisions.
My 5 rowdy children.
Dishes, Laundry, Kids.
Needless interruptions.
Lack of control.

The amazing thing: all of these problems can be solved by one technique. Being Present.

How Being Present Solves Problems

When you look at all of the problems above, you can see if you look closely that the problems are entirely in the mind. Sure, there are external forces at work: an uncontrollable job, the stress of kids and chores and interruptions and digital distractions. But it’s how our mind handles those external forces that is the problem.

If you are completely present, the external forces are no longer a problem, because there is only you and that external force, in this moment, and not a million other things you need to worry about.

If your kid interrupts you, you can stress out because you have other things to worry about and now your kid is adding to your worries or interrupting your calm. Or you can be present, and there is then only you and the child. You can appreciate that child for who she is, and be grateful you have this moment with her.

If your job demands that you focus on an urgent task, you can stress out because you have a million other things to do and not enough time to do them. Or you can be present, and focus completely on that task, and now there is only that one task and you. When you’re done, you can move on to the next task.

Social media and other digital distractions don’t interrupt us if we close them and learn to pour ourselves completely into the present task. And if we need to do email, Twitter, or read blogs, we can set aside everything else and just be present with that one digital task.

Being present becomes, then, a way to handle any problem, any distraction, any stressor. It allows everything else to fade away, leaving only you and whatever you’re dealing with right now.

How to Practice Being Present

The method for being present is fairly simple, but it’s the practice that matters most.

Most people don’t learn to be present because they don’t practice, not because it’s so hard to do.

When you practice something regularly, you become good at it. It becomes more a mode of being rather than a task on your to-do or someday list.

Practice, practice, and being present will become natural.

Here’s how to do it: whatever you’re doing, right now, learn to focus completely on doing that one thing. Pay attention: to every aspect of what you’re doing, to your body, to the sensations, to your thoughts.

  • You will notice your thoughts, if you’re paying attention, jump to other things. That’s OK — you are not trying to force all other thoughts from your mind. But by becoming aware of that jumping around in your thoughts, you have found the tool for gently bringing yourself back to your present task. Just notice the jumping thoughts, and lovingly come back.
  • Do this once, then do it again. Don’t worry about how many times you must do it. Just do it now.
  • It can become tiring at first, if you’re not used to it. Don’t worry about that. Let yourself rest if you grow tired. Come back and practice again in a little while. It’s not meant to be exhausting — instead you should notice how your worries melt away and you enjoy your present task much more.
  • Be joyful in whatever you’re doing, grateful that you’re able to do that task, and fully appreciate every little movement and tactile sensation of the task. You’ll learn that anything can be an amazing experience, anything can be a miracle.
  • Practice throughout your day, every day. Little “mindfulness bells” are useful to remind you to come back to the present. Thich Nhat Hanh once recommended that stoplights be your mindfulness bell as you drive. You can find mindfulness bells everywhere: your child’s voice, your co-workers appearing before you, a regular event on your computer, the noise of traffic.
  • Meditation is a fantastic way to practice, only because it removes much of the complexity of the world and allows you to just learn to be aware of your mind, and to bring yourself back to the present moment. It’s not complicated: meditation can be done anywhere, anytime. A meditation teacher is useful if you can find one.

Practice, repeatedly, in small easy beautiful steps. Each step is a wonder in itself, and each practice helps you to find that calm in the middle of the traffic of your life.

‘Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.’ ~Thich Nhat Hanh

The Secrets of Making Your Work More Enjoyable

‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.’ – George Bernard Shaw

For too many people, work is drudgery.

They dread going to work each day, procrastinate on doing tasks they’d really rather not do, and generally aren’t excited about doing tasks and projects assigned to them by someone else.

The problem is that they’ve found work to be boring, hard, repetitive, stressful. What they need to discover (or rediscover in some cases) is the concept of work as play.

It’s something that has changed my life, and the lives of many others like me.

Work doesn’t have to be boring — it can be exciting, something you look forward to, an outlet for your creativity and imagination. It can be play.

One of the problems is that for many of us, school was designed to prepare us for the working world, and as such it was designed to teach us to work in ways that are boring. It’s like eating your vegetables (which I actually love as an adult) — you do it because it’s good for you. We did our homework and seatwork and drills because they were good for us.

Well, the fun of learning and doing was drilled right out of us. And as adults, we were told we had to work hard to get ahead, that work wasn’t fun but that’s just how life is.

That’s a Lot of BS.

Life is what you make of it. It can be drudgery, or it can be play. Or something else entirely.

I’ve discovered the concept of work as play, mostly because I’ve become my own boss, and can pick what I want to work on, and set my own schedule. As a result, I work on things that excite me, that I’m passionate about, and it’s fun. If something is drudgery, I either drop it or find a way to make it play.

As a result, I work harder than ever, but it’s exciting and fun. I pour myself into my work, and can’t wait to do it.

Turning work into play doesn’t mean you don’t work hard, or that you never do boring tasks. If you’ve ever played a sport, you know that you work as hard as anyone when you’re playing or practicing — but that’s no problem, because you’re having a blast doing it.

Learning is the same way — it can be boring and soul-crushingly repetitive, or it can be interesting and joyful and consume all our free time. I know when I become absorbed with learning about something, I can get caught up in it for days and learn vast amounts of information and skills, without once thinking it’s hard or boring. That almost never happened when I was at school, because they made it work, and I wasn’t in control of what I learned.

So there are a few elements that can help turn work into play:

  • Freedom. If you set your own schedule and are able to work on or learn about what you’re interested in and excited about, it can be play. If someone else tells you what to do and when, you won’t be as excited or interested or motivated.
  • Excitement. Again, follow your passions. Don’t be restrained. If something isn’t interesting, move on to something that is. Don’t force things.
  • Playing with others. While I like to play with myself, playing with others can be so much more fun sometimes. And yes, I know that sounds dirty. Read it as you like.
  • Pour yourself into it. You can skip from one thing to another, and that’s fine, but you might never accomplish anything that way. I find that when I get excited and really pour myself into a project, I can accomplish a lot and have a ton of fun doing it.
  • Showing off. One of the reasons boys like sports so much is because they get to show off for girls (and at a younger age, for their mothers). There’s nothing wrong with this — I think we’re hardwired to want to look good in front of our peers (or the opposite sex). When you’re going to make something public, it’s exciting and fun.

There are other elements of play, but these are enough to get you started. Some further thoughts:

  • Coaches. Are you drilling skills into your players? Stop! You’re teaching a game, so teach it by letting them play games. Let them play, but structure the play so it’s not only fun, but instructive.
  • Teachers and parents. Are you drilling knowledge and skills into your students or children? Stop! Learning should be fun, and it really is when the child is allowed to have fun, to play, to explore, to create as he wishes, to learn about whatever he’s interested in at the moment. Don’t make it unfun.
  • Bosses. Are you forcing your employees to do drudgery type work? Do you control everything they do and when they do it? Stop! Give them freedom! Give them control over their work. Allow them to pursue things they’re interested in. Google’s 20% policy is just one example. When people can pursue things they’re excited about, when they can turn work into play, amazing things happen.
  • Employees. Is your work drudgery? Turn it into play! If you are stuck in a job where you absolutely cannot turn work into play, look elsewhere. There’s more out there.

I can’t stress the importance of work as play enough. It has turned my life into something joyful, it’s allowed me to create and accomplish so much more than ever before, and I love every minute of it. I wish you nothing less than this simple happiness.

‘Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.’ – Mark Twain

The Castillo’s Rules For Living a Meaningful Life

written by Sar Castillo as a Reminder for himself, his wife and their 3 young children (and anyone who will be part of the family in the future)

  1. Honor our Maker with prayer and time to reflect. Find the time to reflect on the goodness of the Lord and his role in our lives. Our relationship with him may be unseen, but it is the most important one of all.

  2. Honor the temple of the holy spirit… your body. Don’t smoke, drink or do any kind of drugs. Just don’t. You’ll thank me for it when you’re older. Trust me. Also, keep moving and get at least 8 hours of restful sleep daily.

  3. Do what you say you will do… No Excuses. Without his word, a man is nothing. This applies to things I tell others I will do as well as things I tell myself I’ll do.

  4. Don’t lie, don’t exaggerate, don’t withhold information, don’t mislead. Be forthright and truthful at all times… its more difficult to keep track of the many false stories that make up a lie.

  5. Always protect your family. We are strong if we stick together as one team, like we always have. Don’t let any harm come upon anyone in the family or be a source of harm to anyone in the family as well. Defend each other.

  6. Be a source of positive energy. Decide to be positive. Choose to be happy and live a life of abundance. While a negative thought or two may come to you once in a while, quickly pick yourself up and refocus on the good things to be grateful for.

  7. Be on time, always. Get there at least five minutes early every single time and wait. It’s a very very minor inconvenience in return for being much more reliable.

  8. Eat healthy, Strive for Balance. I do cheat days every week or two, either when traveling or when it’s the polite thing to do around other people. Fad diets are just that… Fads. While you could ultimately reach your goal, maintaining it is another story altogether with Fad diets.

  9. Do the right thing, even if it comes at personal cost. I have a very strong set of morals, which aren’t necessarily totally congruent with everyone else’s, but I defend them and keep them strong by living by them as closely as I can.

  10. Computers and Gadgets are off at midnight (Save for Weekends). The only real exception to this would be if by not doing so I would break rule #1 to other people. If I told myself I was going to do something but wouldn’t be able to by shutting off the computer, I consider that to be good punishment for not getting it done earlier.

  11. Listen to people, Connect with them. I used to be bad at this and I hate it when people don’t pay attention in conversation. So when I have a conversation with someone, I make sure I’m really listening and not just waiting for my turn to speak. Pretty basic stuff, but I’d say 50% of people don’t do it.

  12. Walk out of movies, stop reading books, leave parties. If I’m participating in some sort of entertainment or leisurely activity and I realize that it’s not going to be worth the additional time spent,leave. The real decision at hand is: how do I want to spend the next hour of my life.

  13. When buying things (gadgets included), buy the best you can reasonably afford or something temporary and disposable. If it doesn’t make financial sense to buy the best, I invest the smallest amount of money possible in a temporary fix. In other words, I would buy a disposable camera or a Php50,000 Olympus, but never a Php5,000 Digicam.

  14. Do things that excite you, follow your passion. Let your passion guide you and your desire drive you to do what you were born to do. If you don’t look forward to waking up in the morning to do what you need to do, how will you pursue this with all your heart? You need to love what you do in order to do great things and contribute to society in ways no matter how small.

  15. Always be learning something. I always have at least one learning project going on at all times. Right now it’s Android Kernel Development. Soon I’ll be as good as I want to be (develop for 2 other Android devices), and I will move on to either Chinese, French or improving my Guitar skills.

  16. Never have debt. I have suffered (and working hard to get out of it) for being neck-deep in debt. If you do need to borrow anything from anyone, don’t borrow from relatives. Trust me on this.

  17. Never, Ever Give Up. Always find the will to get back up and pursue your goals relentlessly. Everything seems impossible until you’ve done it… and prove its actually possible, given a little more time and extra effort.

  18. Invest in Experiences. If you have the most basic needs covered (House, Car, Food, Phones, Computing Devices for every Family Member) invest in vacations and outings… and capture these memories on Film. No need to buy 3 houses or 2 phones for each person or 5 cars for that matter.

  19. Use the power of 1%. Improve a little at a time. Develop habits that build up and add up into making you remarkable. Start now, don’t delay.

  20. Don’t discuss a problem IF: a. you don’t have a possible solution in your mind OR b. you have no control of whatsoever. If you can’t change it yourself, its beyond your control so its better to pursue those areas and challenges where you can truly make a difference.

–Adapted from and Inspired by Tynan’s Rules

The RHBill: Paving the Path with Good Intentions

by Sar Castillo
(written on August 7, 2012 after realizing that many people blindly say “Yes OR No to the RHBill” without even giving it a good read. Both literal and between the lines. This simply bares the thought process I went through, including the research I personally did to understand what it really meant. Hope this helps you understand and make an informed decision, whether it’s a Yes OR No.)

No Blinders Required

First off, I don’t expect to change your opinion on the matter of the RHBill. This is by no means perfect nor is it designed to be. I may not be the smartest person in most rooms and I surely don’t claim to be. I simply observe the patterns and deduce what the next likely step moving forward is. I am simply baring the thought process I went through in trying to learn more about the issues and deciding what our family’s stand is. I like to know where I stand on historic issues that have to do with our country moving forward. Consider it my way of drawing the proverbial “line on the sand”. No blinders, just open eyes and minds are needed if you decide to indulge me for the next 15 minutes. Ready?

Letter & Spirit

In trying to understand the RHBill, in letter AND spirit, I’ve decided to keep my mind open and digest everything I can about it; analyze it to best of my capacity and pray about where my Family and I stand. To blindly say “YES or NO to RHBill” without trying to understand it would be unfair to those who took the time to articulate their thoughts and try to make the world a better place through this bill. The underlying purpose of the bill is decidedly well intentioned.

While reading the entire RHBill (which can be downloaded here), there was one phrase which kept jumping off the page and began popping up in my minds eyes as well as in several Sections of the Bill: “medically safe, legal”. (It starts showing up from Section 2)[emphasis added] At first, it was just “a phrase” that could easily be interpreted as the “medically right thing to do”. Then it dawned on me, after reading through it several times, I began to see the bigger picture… just like seeing the entire forest instead of a bunch of trees. It’s a clear precursor to something much bigger, the next step of the puzzle.

Why? Because it’s phrased and worded to be specific enough to include what is currently “legal” yet vague enough to include new ones if what is currently “legal” changes its definition.

Paved with Good Intentions

Now, I personally believe that no one intends to be the “bad guy” for evils’ sake. In my experience, evil is less attractive if seen in its true, unadulterated state. Most evil in this world is sugar coated to be made palatable to those who might consider it and usually comes as a guise to justify good intent. Surely a hungry 8 year old who steals 2 pieces of pandesal (one for him/her and one for a younger sibling) cannot be faulted for their actions since they had good intentions… they were hungry and had no money… so they stole some pandesal. Right? Or should they be held accountable? Its not like they stole public funds in the guise of conducting legitimate Basketball Summer Leagues in their barangay. The “liga” (as we call it in the vernacular) was for a worthy cause after all, the development of the minds and bodies of the basketball loving folks and development of the camaraderie of the community, they will most likely justify. Corruption is usually justified with good intentions.

End doesn’t justify the Means

Just like drug dealers. Wait (you’re probably asking), what do drug dealers have to do with this? Bear with me for a while here… you see drug dealers have families to take care of too; children to feed, put through school, spouses who need the occasional gift or two and what not. They do this (“this” meaning dealing drugs, most probably Shabu) for their family.(If they repeat it enough times it could become an acceptable excuse) They may not care that they are in the business of dealing a substance so potent that rehabbing from it is quite useless at this point as Rehab success rates for the drug is low… so low that 93% of Shabu or Methamphetamine addicts who do get admitted to a traditional rehabilitation center ultimately backslide and begin re-using Shabu with the vengeance of an athlete carbo loading before a big race. In many developed countries, they are resorting to containment rather than prevention due to the ease of which new users are being turned into addicts and keeping the vicious cycle of drug use alive and well. (Shabu is more commonly known as Crystal Meth in the USA) Possession of any amount of Shabu gets you life imprisonment in the Philippines… if caught. Now, should we legalize the drug and allow the “drugtrepreneurs” to continue their merry ways? They are doing it for a worthy cause, their family, after all right. Or it isn’t as simple as that? Right, it isn’t. It usually never is as simple as we think. The “end does not justify the means” suddenly comes to mind.

Millennium Development Goals (MDG)

Now, this brings me to what I personally believe to be the “letter and spirit” of the RHBill as presently constructed. The “letter” is clear and substantive. For example, maternal healthcare is important, especially for those who cannot afford it themselves. This is life were talking about after all. This is a good intention. In fact Department of Health (DOH) Sec. Enrique Ona specifically said, in this article here, that:

“We can only say that the entire health system is improving if the maternal mortality rate is also improving”

Improving Maternal Health is also one of the longer-term MDG (Millennium Development Goals) commitments the administration needs to meet by 2015.

Roe vs. Wade

So, how do you improve maternal mortality rates? One of the proven and documented safe, effective and legal ways (in the USA and other countries) is in fact abortion. So, lets look at some facts from the National Organization for Women (NOW), in the “Before and After Roe vs. Wade” article on their website. They say that:

“the Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 secured the right to safe and legal abortion in the U.S. Although the legalization of abortion has led to many important improvements in the lives of women and families, this right remains vulnerable.”

They go on to say that:

“Legal abortion is credited with decreasing both maternal and infant mortality. Today, abortion is 11 times safer than childbirth and less than 1% of those who undergo abortion procedures experience major complications”. [emphasis added]

See, its credited with decreasing both maternal and infant mortality; commitments we have made and need to meet in the MDG cited earlier. It’s also 11 times safer than childbirth. Proven. Documented. Safe.

Partners in Crime

Whoa there. But abortion is STILL illegal even after the RHBill is passed right? Yes, that’s what it says in the “letter of the law”, but not for long. Excuse me for stating the obvious, but the I will go on record to say that the next step after passing the RHBill will be to “redefine” what is “medically safe and legal” as well as what “from conception” in the 1987 constitution actually means.

But contraception is not all about abortion, right? Let’s see. In a article contributed by Mr. Tony Ahn, specifically entitled “Nobel Prize winner contradicts CBCP”, Prof. George A. Akerlof, the 2001 Nobel Prize Winner, is quoted as saying this as his stance on the bill:

“I support fully, and without qualification, the bill in the Philippines to promote, without bias, all effective natural and modern methods of family planning that are medically safe and legal.”

It’s jumping off the page I tell you: “medically safe and legal.”

He is quoted to have added this as well:

“Contraceptives and abortion, in my opinion, make family life richer and more rewarding because they reduce the number of unwanted children, which is bad for the family, and also bad for the children as well.”

Let’s also consider what the Guttmacher Institute says in its latest video on Contraception:

“It’s been over four decades since the Supreme Court legalized contraception.”
[emphasis added]

They are clearly referring to the US Supreme Court decision on Roe vs. Wade in 1973, which legalized abortion… or was it contraception?

You see what they did there? That’s right. Contraceptives and Abortion, in their mind (and in their words not mine) and the minds of many of the same opinion, are peas in the same pod. They are partners in crime, pun intended. Or unlikely “heroes” for the Mothers of more than 40 Million babies who have been aborted safely, effectively and legally since 1973 in the USA alone… and counting.

Responsible Parenthood

If one of the goals is to reduce Maternal deaths, which is an important cause to champion, and abortion procedures are “proven safe and effective” and will help get us to the MDG goals, then how far behind is legal abortion to ensure we meet these goals in the future to appease those who want to ensure these goals and commitments are successfully achieved?

But that was the US experience. That won’t happen here, this is our country, the Philippines. Right? Let’s look at this several steps ahead from what we know about our history and the events that continue to shape it. It’s not a surprise to many that the Philippines’ System (aka our Government, its Laws) closely models (and is plausibly based on) that of the United States of America. Many of our laws, save for those we use from the Spanish Legal System like Dacion en Pago, are very closely linked to those of our former and latest colonial rulers. Looking closely at the history of the USA will help us understand and see where this is going. History reveals that before the landmark ruling that was Roe vs Wade in 1973, abortion was illegal in several US States. Until Roe vs Wade opened the floodgates of legal abortion (floodgates is understating it: based on the Abortion Counters’ estimates, since 1973, more than 40 Million Babies have been aborted in the USA. That’s more than the current population of some countries like Australia. An entire country’s worth of babies, and then some. I’ll let that settle for a bit.), which the US Supreme Court deemed as a violation of a woman’s privacy, aborting at any stage of fetal development was a criminal act in some States. Now recent documents bare that millions of dollars in funding have been transferred in favor of RH lobbyists. Mostly from US based groups like Planned Parenthood. HumanEvents also cites that

“‘Population stabilization’ in developing countries is an official purpose of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), though in keeping with the zeitgeist, efforts to achieve that goal are today called family planning programs.”

Or what about Responsible Parenthood. [emphasis added]

Roe No More

Ironically, “Jane Roe” or Ms. Norma McCorvey in real life, is now a staunch Pro-Life advocate whose cause and unlikely conversion story documents what transpired. She started by reminding us who she was and what she used to stand up for by saying:

“I had a reputation to protect, after all. As the plaintiff in the infamous Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, my life was inextricably tied up with abortion. Though I had never had one, abortion was the sun around which my life orbited. I once told a reporter, ‘This issue is the only thing I live for. I live, eat, breathe, think everything about abortion.'”

She recalls her story and succinctly describes her “A-ha moment” here:

“I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. “Norma,” I said to myself, “They’re right.” I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby! It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth–that’s a baby!

I felt “crushed” under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception.’ It wasn’t about ‘missed periods.’ It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion–at any point–was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.”

A-ha indeed.

Brilliant but Predictable

I have to admit though, It’s really a brilliant yet simple strategy. The long, patient-wait-till-the-defenses-are-down-and-odds-stacked-in-your-favor game… lie there patiently and carefully until you blend in… before you pounce on the first real opportunity of assured victory. Just brilliant, albeit historically quite predictable. Again, I have to give it to those that hatched the idea and have stayed committed to it for as long as they have.

Playing God

We know that the 1987 constitution outlaws abortion, with law experts citing the phrase in Article II Section 12 which states:

“…It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

But what exactly is the definition of “from conception” here, given the myriad of possible interpretations depending on who you ask? Is it from fertilization as I and many others may believe? Is it up to 13 weeks from the last menstrual period (LMP)? Or 24 weeks? If the life of the mother is in danger, can an emergency abortion be done to save her life? Is her life any more important than the life she is carrying? Whose life is more important and who decides on this? In short, who plays God in this case? Should anyone even play God here?

Laying the Groundwork

Not surprisingly, I believe the RHBill is currently cleverly designed to lay the “legal” groundwork for abortion. This means that the next step and “battle ground” will be the battle of defining “from conception” in the 1987 Constitution in an effort to address its potential legality. All they’re waiting for is a landmark case to bring to the Philippine Supreme Court that will be the Philippine version of “Roe vs. Wade”. All they would need is a Supreme Court (led by the Chief Justice who at this writing has not been named) that is sympathetic to their cause. That WILL make it legal.

Safe, Effective and Modern

Let’s see what we have so far. They’ve already got “medically safe and effective” covered with procedures widely practiced “safely” in the US such as “manual vacuum aspiration” (MVA) which is described in the Surgery Encyclopedia as

“The contents of the uterus are suctioned out through a thin plastic tube that is inserted through the cervix; suction is applied by a syringe.” [emphasis added]

Doesn’t sound so bad right? Here’s another description for you: Imagine your 2-3 year old prince or princess being violently sucked through (head or feet first) industrial strength suction whose portal is too small for their body (as a syringe will probably be) and hear their body parts being crushed under the immense pressure of the device. They WILL come out of the other side, mangled and all I can assure you that, since the purpose of the vacuum device is to kill them. Not a pretty visual image, I’m sure. This process is usually “performed within the first six to 10 weeks after the last menstrual period (LMP)”.

Manual Vacuum Aspiration is just one of the processes, shockingly. Abortions done in the 2nd Trimester (or about 13+ weeks since the LMP) will use the “Dilation and Evacuation” (D&E) process. Here’s what Dr. Tony Levatino, who conducted abortions in his clinic before, had to say about the process called “D&E”:

“The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see a pure white gelatinous material issue from the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. If you have a really bad day like I often did, a little face may come out and stare back at you.”

Safe? You bet. Effective? Sure thing. Legal? For most countries, yes. In the Philippines? Not yet… but they’re coming soon to a clinic near you, if this bill passes and is signed into law. These are “medically safe” reproductive health procedures, we’ll be told.

Unsafe and Clandestine

We’re also told that more than Half a million “illegal, unsafe and clandestine” abortions are being done in the country. (Guttmacher Institute, 2009) Unsafe and Clandestine. These are what cause maternal deaths to go higher every year. Now, consider what the Guttmacher Institute’s 2009 report said on “Abortion Worldwide”:

“There are three known ways to reduce the prevalence of unsafe abortion and its harmful consequences.

? Expanding access to effective modern methods of contraception and improving the quality of contraceptive information and services may be the strategy that is the most achievable in the near term, and that is most responsive to women’s long-term health needs.
? Making abortion legal and ensuring that safe abortion services are accessible to all women in need are urgent health, economic and moral imperatives. Unsafe abortion damages the health of millions of women–the poor, predominantly. The consequences of unsafe abortion are costly to already struggling health systems (and more costly than services to prevent unintended pregnancy or provide safe abortion). And restrictive abortion laws are an unacceptable infringement of women’s human rights and of medical ethics.
? Improving the quality and coverage of postabortion care through the increased use of the safest and most cost effective methods for such care–MVA and medication abortion–at primary-level facilities would allow a higher proportion of cases to be safely treated, and would reduce both maternal mortality and morbidity and the cost of postabortion services.”[emphasis added]

The Missing Piece

Notice the pattern evolving? 2 of the 3 “known ways” to reduce unsafe abortion are in the RHBill… Bullet points 1 and 3. The missing piece, “Making abortion legal and ensuring that safe abortion services are accessible” is the clear next step here. They clearly showed that legalizing abortion made it safer and will lead to a lower number of maternal deaths. Is there still any doubt where we’re really headed here?

Just because some politicians don’t tell you during the campaign that they are using and allocating public funds for their own benefit does not mean that they don’t really do it. For all we know, they could easily be setting up a potential smokescreen for “legal” corruption when they’re back in power. It’s in their best interest not to be completely truthful. The incentive to withhold certain information will benefit them. For obvious reasons, if the current RHBill states that it will eventually legalize abortion (which it makes sure NOT to state), it will be dead in the water. However, what the RHBill WILL NOT tell you is that its really a stepping stone for the biggest piece of the puzzle… one that is proven safe and effective, based on more than 39 years of experience. We need to meet those MDG commitments, right? There is data showing us how to safely and effectively lead us there as well. Now all that’s left is the “legal” part.

Line in the Sand

In its present form, since they specifically did not include the physical and/or medicinal types (which I didn’t even discuss here yet) of abortion in Sec.28 or the Prohibited Acts of the Bill; are decidedly not clear that cruel and inhumane medical procedures (such as MVA and D&E) are specifically “off the table” and are implied to be included (as “medically safe and effective”) should the “legal” definition be taken cared off and changed altogether when it has passed into law; My wife and I, along with our 3 young children, cannot and will not support the RHBill, which looks intent to lay the groundwork for legalized abortion in the Philippines.

Population Stabilization. Family Planning. Reproductive Health. Responsible Parenthood.

Like wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Sar Castillo is the Managing Director of Expectant Mind Consulting Solutions, a Philippine based consulting firm that works as trusted advisors to leaders of organizations. They add value by inspiring actionable ideas in the fields of Leadership and Management Development, Customer Service, Strategic Planning, Building Habits of Success and Anti-Corruption through Integrity Development. This enables the organizations they work with to make a difference where it counts— the personal and professional lives of their people. You can follow him on twitter @sarcastillo

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