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Surviving with dignity

opinion / Columnists
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At Large

Surviving with dignity

Last weekend a group of women turned over the second batch of “dignity kits” to Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial intended for the women of Marawi. These women fled their beleaguered city where street battles and bombardment are still ongoing, seeking shelter in evacuation centers in nearby towns and Iligan City, and even as far away as Cagayan de Oro.

Leading the turnover was former health secretary Esperanza Cabral who, together with her friend and Ayala Alabang neighbor JoAnn Zapanta-Andrada, raised funds, solicited donations, shopped for the contents of the kits, and assembled them. The 1,000 kits make up the second batch sent to Marawi.

Joining Cabral and Zapanta-Andrada at the Department of Health for the turnover were women representing awardees of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) who have, in recent times, stepped up to the challenge of providing service to the nation in times of need, with the Marawi crisis just one example.

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When the fighting in Marawi first broke out, and reports surfaced about the dire situation of displaced women and children (and men) in evacuation centers and in the nearby villages, towns and cities, Cabral approached the TOWNS women with an appeal for “dignity kits.” These contain supplies that are, strictly speaking, not necessary for survival but are certainly crucial in helping maintain morale and high spirits. In the scheme of things, these may be just as necessary as food and water in terms of long-term survival and sanity. Apart from donating money for the kits, the team also solicited help from manufacturers of toiletry products.

While basic necessities such as potable water, rice and canned goods, medicines and tents, blankets and mats are provided by government agencies and entities like the Red Cross (or Red Crescent) and UN agencies, women’s specific needs are too often forgotten or ignored.

But women and children survivors of disasters say that just as important to them are items that elevate their abject conditions, such as clean clothes and underwear and even toothbrushes. This is the need that the “dignity kits” seek to fill—a need of the soul and of one’s sense of self—apart from the need for food and water.

I thought I’d mention what the “kits” contain. The kits are actually pails with lids, which can be reused by themselves as water containers and basins. Their contents include laundry and bath soap, shampoo, towels, toothpaste and toothbrushes, a comb, sanitizing gel, women’s underwear, slippers, tissue paper. In the kits distributed by other organizations, such as Unicef, can also be found the ubiquitous malong of our Moro sisters, a chamber pot, and rubbing alcohol. Kits for pregnant women include maternity napkins and basic baby outfits.

I can only imagine a “bakwit” sister lifting the lid of a dignity kit and finding a trove of small, often insignificant
items that, in her dire situation, finally allow her to take a bath, don clean apparel, comb her hair, brush her teeth — in other words, move about in confidence and dignity.

* * *

As of yesterday morning, the “Piso para sa Laban ni Leni” drive has been able to raise P2.77 million from “piso-piso” donations raised by families who drop coins into all sorts of containers, modest donations in the form of deposits in local banks, and even dollars and other currencies from donors from all over the world.

Who would have thought a modest effort launched just three weeks ago would yield such a rich harvest?

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The total amount raised will be turned over to the Supreme Court and thence to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to make up part of the second tranche of P7 million required of Vice President Leni Robredo who is fending off a protest filed by
her losing opponent, former senator Bongbong Marcos.

Since the deadline for the submission of the second tranche has been moved to an unknown date, it isn’t too late to add to the drive. Check out the FB page of “Piso para sa Laban ni Leni” to know how you can use your piso to protect your vote.

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TAGS: At Large, Bongbong Marcos, dignity kits, Esperanza Cabral, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, JoAnn Zapanta-Andrada, leni robredo, Marawi refugees, Marawi relief goods, Paulyn Ubial Marawi siege, Rina Jimenez-David
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