VALLEHERMOSO, CARMEN, BOHOL — Had she been in the same situation eight years ago, Jesusa Panes would have probably just given birth at home, even without her husband in sight, and even if her neighbor the hilot (traditional birthing attendant) happened to be drunk. But things have not been the same for expectant mothers in this town since 2002, and so when the child in her belly starting demanding to be let out, Panes began trudging toward the birthing center that was several minutes away by foot from her home.
MAGSAYSAY, SEVILLA, BOHOL — Our security escort holding the rusty M-16 rifle grunted as the old, rickety ambulance we were riding leaped a few inches from the road. But he quickly regained his composure, and resumed his hawk-like position, his eyes darting, regarding the trees as though they were enemies.
Everything was different yet the same. The smell of early morning cooking — fish stew called tinowa simmering in an earthen pot — was a welcome greeting as we crested the last hill of the village. The same puny shrubs snagged our pants and the same emaciated dogs sniffed our legs. But where were the furtive glances, the scurrying away at the sight of strangers, the palpable presence of fear, or the guns openly wielded by almost everyone?
ALLAN EVANGELISTA of Quezon City signed up with the Doctors to the Barrio program last year despite suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, an incurable disease of the heart muscle that actor Aga Muhlach introduced to Filipinos through his 2004 movie “All My Life.”
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