Message from the shadows

Thanks to a post on Facebook, I glimpsed a depiction of “Easter” that doesn’t exactly hew to the biblical account but carries the same message of hope and salvation.

It is, oddly enough, a video of a performance by the group El Gamma Penumbra, which was proclaimed the winner in the “Asia’s Got Talent” competition. As its name suggests, El Gamma uses shadow play, music and the manipulation of light and movement to tell stories. I first watched a performance of the group during the closing rites of a regional conference on reproductive health and rights some years back. I found myself moved and astounded by how the group distilled the many complex issues that had been discussed in the numerous plenaries and workshops, and in images that were simple yet powerful. This they proved once again when they competed in Singapore for “Asia’s Got Talent,” besting some of the most talented performers in this continent from Mongolia to Malaysia.

But the video I chanced upon cemented my already considerable admiration for this group. It told a tale that reprises the Resurrection story told from the perspective of an ordinary Filipino family, and set against the musical backdrop of “When You Believe,” the theme song of the movie “Prince of Egypt” and sung by Whitney Houston.

Through swiftly moving images that have long fascinated audiences, the shadow play introduced us to a family whose deep faith is demonstrated and then challenged when the young son meets a potentially fatal accident. Surprising how a series of scenes is able to build empathy with a family facing the most difficult test of their lives. I won’t ruin the surprise and tell you how the story ends, but I’ll tell you that my brief brush with the performance underlined the meaning of the past few days, in which we were asked to reflect upon the passion and death of Christ and then join in Christian rejoicing at the miracle of Easter.

My viewing of the video, on Easter Monday at that, is itself a tiny “miracle,” and I hope readers bother to look up the performance for a dose of post-Easter hope and optimism. Happy Easter, everyone!

#DontTakeAwayMyBirthControl is the hashtag that friend and international woman of mystery (and authority on sex and reproductive health) Ana Santos uses in a series of reports on the looming shortage of contraceptives in the country.

“Panic mode sets in as birth control pills begin to disappear,” Ana declares. She shares how, on a recent trip to a drug store she found out that her favored brand of oral contraceptives (also known as “the pill”) was once again out of
stock. “I only have one extra box in my cabinet,” she confides, and I can understand how this would be a concern.

“Anyone else having a problem sourcing and buying their birth control pills?” Ana asks.

Though I may no longer have any need for “the pill,” having long passed the deadline for fertility (okay, I’m postmenopausal, so sue me), I can sympathize with women grappling with the issue.

And the issue is not just women who “want to have sex without the responsibility,” as many opponents of reproductive freedom put it. Rather, it is the issue of self-determination, of responsibility even, the freedom to enjoy one’s sex life while preventing unwanted consequences, such as unplanned and mistimed pregnancy.

Ana—and so many others writing on this advocacy—have for years now been warning of this development. Of women of reproductive age finding suddenly that pills and all other types of contraceptives are no longer available, even if they could afford these. Maybe this will be the tipping point to build opinion support in the effort to get the Supreme Court to finally lift the temporary restraining order on the licensing of contraceptives.

Previously, the problem seemed to affect only women in poor communities, who had lost access to contraceptives given for free or sold at subsidized prices. But now, as Ana writes, even women who can certainly pay for their own contraceptives are finding that these aren’t even available on drug store shelves. In effect, all women here have been deprived of their reproductive rights. Now is the time to push back.


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