A few years ago, a young Muslim woman was staying in Manila scouting for work abroad as a nurse. She had surmounted all the hurdles to get her degree and pass her board exam on the first take. Her father had recently died, her mother had suffered a stroke, and their business had plunged into bankruptcy. Her success was already a godsend, but she still had to find a job.
To her dismay, the series of unfortunate events had yet to end. As she was scouting for work, she discovered that she was pregnant.
She knew she had to leave for abroad. There was no choice. Merely thinking about her siblings, her parents, and her sister who sacrificed everything for them drove her to tears.
If you think about it, she had so many good reasons to do what others have done before. She was Muslim. She was unmarried. She had to work. If the poverty did not kill her, the shame of it all would.
But she didn’t. That is how I came to be.
I was a child born of unusual circumstances in a strange country called Kuwait, born to a mother who sacrificed honor and limb to have me. I was passed hand to hand from my mom’s coworkers to Egyptian and Arab doctors to flight attendants to airport staff. I was the balikbayan who was only four months old. I was also the child with two sets of parents, the first being an uncle and an aunt who were then more equipped to take care of me.
Now, I live a privileged life with my true parents. In all of my 18 years I have always been happy because I received the care and love that I needed. I may have been unwanted in the beginning but, in the end, I am grateful because my parents and family have learned to be grateful for me.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky.
In light of the passage of the reproductive health bill into law, I see that a lot of people have a lot of things to say: personal testimonies, verses from the Bible, statistics, historical, economic and social data, or moral objections.
I only have a few things to say, and these things I know from my own life.
I think it would have made a big difference if I grew up unwanted. If things turned so sour that no one volunteered to care for me. If life was submerged into its trough and even my own parents would disdain me. We see the unwanted in front of us every day. They’re out on the streets. They live in the slums. They’re languishing in prison cells.
The passage of the RH bill into law does not ensure that, from now on, all children will be wanted, but I believe that it will help. For young couples, for teenagers, for ill-equipped families, for mothers who are not ready for a second mouth to feed, for all of us, if implemented well, the RH Law will not only provide the tools necessary to decrease unwanted births but also, and more importantly, educate all of us.
Maybe this is all paradoxical, you say. If my mother had lived that time in her life 10 years from now when the RH Law would have taken root, I probably would not exist. But that is not entirely correct. I could still exist, maybe later than previously ordained, maybe in different circumstances, maybe with better privileges. The truth is: It is not our place to decide; it is my parents’.
That’s the power of choice. That’s something that the RH Law can give us.
And since I do exist here and now—despite the hurdles, despite the pains—it is my responsibility, as it is of others, to help realize these choices for my friends and for those beyond my social circles. They may or may not adhere to it, but at least they know more about the consequences and more about the solutions.
It is also my responsibility to remain grateful to my parents not just because they gave me life. They gave me a wanted, loved and cherished life.
It has made all the difference.
Arizza Ann S. Nocum, 18, is an industrial engineering sophomore at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.