Monday, August 10, 2009
Tale of Two Tables
While President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was delivering her (hopefully!) last State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 27, 2009, I,- together with participants from other parts of the country were at the St. Michael Retreat House in Antipolo City for a Hapag-Asa Partner’s Meeting. Hapag-Asa(literally “Table of Hope”) is an integrated nutrition program initiated by the Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation and established by Cardinal Gaudencio B. Rosales of the Archdiocese of Manila along with 13 other bishops in July 2005 together with Assisi Development Foundation and Feed the Children Philippines. The program aims to feed at least 120,000 poor and hungry children nationwide once a day to improve their overall nutritional status. Its program components are : Supplemental Feeding, Education Classes and Livelihood and Skills. The Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose is a partner of Hapag-Asa in Occidental Mindoro.
While the President was rendering her SONA at the Batasan Complex, complete with figures and percentages boasting the country’s economic growth under her administration, Ms. Florinda Lacanlalay of the Hapag-Asa Secretariat is informing us that malnutrition has been one of the major problems affecting Filipino children. Statistically, according to the 6th National Nutrition Survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, 3 out of 10 Filipino children are suffering from under weight and under height. The Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan or MIMAROPA Region has the highest prevalence of malnutrition in the whole island among 0 to 5 years old with 34.2%, followed by Cagayan Valley with 34.1% and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), 34%.
One of the participants, Msgr. Reggie Hizon, Social Action Director of Diocese of Balanga, said by way of a reflection: “Feeding is a new way of being a Church. It is a homily”. Twenty seven (27) out of every 100 or 29.9% of pre-school aged children, 0 to 5 years old, are underweight. 25.6% of children, 6 to 10 years of age, are underweight. These children are suffering from Protein Energy Malnutrition and/or micronutrient deficiencies such as Vitamin A Deficiency Disorder (VADD), Iron Deficiency Anemia (ADA) and other related disorders brought by the emptiness of our every table. According to World Health Organization (WHO), “Malnutrition prevalence rate of 5% is considered a public health significance”.
After her SONA, President Arroyo and her entourage, including our representative to the Philippine Congress had their US trip and that controversial dinner happened. New York Post news article posted that the group of just more or less 20 people, paid $20,000 in a world-acclaimed restaurant. The amount is equivalent to almost one million in Philippine currency or P955,400. That lavish dinner at Le Cirque, that famous French restaurant in Manhattan, is one heck of a scandal even it was not a taxpayers money, if we are to believe Press Secretary Cerge Remonde. According to Remonde, Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez paid the bill. Even if the expensive dinner was paid by somebody else, it is still scandalous in face of situation of full-blown malnutrition among our children which was discussed to us at Antipolo while President Arroyo was delivering her SONA...
("Hapag ng Pag-Asa" painting by Joey Velasco)