At Large

The ‘Santa Claus’ of RH

/ 11:35 PM December 25, 2012

It’s still the season for giving thanks, for acknowledging people who, in the year about to pass and way before now, have been “giving” us gifts—not just material items, but gifts of time and understanding, gifts of courage and steadfastness, gifts of sympathy and common cause, gifts of sharing and championing our advocacies.

In the field of women’s rights and health promotion, no one stands out more than the “champions” of the reproductive health bill, which is about to be signed into law after its consolidated version, hammered out during a bicameral conference committee, was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate.


In a previous column, I wrote about the folks who should take credit for their persistent work on promoting and defending the RH bill, foremost of them the two champions in both chambers: Sen. Pia Cayetano in the Senate and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, main sponsor of the RH bill in the House, who had been at the forefront of the struggle through many Congresses, and through the ups and downs of his own congressional career.

There will be time to take a more in-depth look at the work on the RH bill expended by Senator Pia, who has gone from being a reluctant soldier to a scrappy fighter in the years she tried to get “reproductive rights,” not to mention “safe and satisfying sex,” accepted by her chamber and by the Filipino public.


In the meantime, here is a piece about “Cong” Edcel, the white-haired, portly, rather unexpected champion of reproductive rights and health who has become, in the eyes of many RH advocates, a “Santa Claus” who gifted everyone with their hearts’ desire: a better life for women, men and their children.

This is an article posted by Red Tani of the Filipino Freethinkers in its blog site titled “Santa Claus: the Legend, the Man, and Edcel Lagman.” Many thanks to Red, and to Mina Tenorio of Likhaan, for sharing this piece!

* * *

If there’s one thing reproductive health (RH) advocates want for Christmas, it’s the passage of the RH bill. Many have been speculating that President Aquino will sign the bill into law as his Christmas present to the Filipino people—all 94,852,030 of them.

When you think about one person giving gifts to so many people, one mythical figure comes to mind: Santa Claus. Many have worked hard throughout the years to give Filipinos an RH law. And among them, none other reminds me of Santa than Rep. Edcel Lagman. His white hair and round figure are complemented by the constantly cool and humorous nature he displayed throughout the process of RH legislation.

* * *

But there’s more to the analogy than appearance and attitude. Because the historical figure Santa Claus was based on had something more in common with Lagman. According to Adam C. English, associate professor of religion and author of “The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of St. Nicholas of Myra,” Santa had a soft spot for poor women.


He tells the following story, which he finds so “strange and surprising… that historians assume it must be based to a large degree on fact”:

It is the tale of three poor daughters.

Nicholas had been aware of a certain citizen of Patara—in Lycia, modern-day Turkey—who had once been an important and wealthy man of the city but who had fallen on hard times and into extreme poverty. The man grew so desperate that he lacked the very essentials of life.

The poor man reasoned that it was impossible to marry off his three beautiful daughters because they lacked dowries for proper marriages to respectable noblemen. He feared they would each in turn be forced into prostitution to support themselves.

Nicholas heard this heartbreaking news and resolved to do something about it. He bagged a sum of gold and in the dead of night, tossed it through the man’s window. The money was used as a dowry for the first daughter.

* * *

Sometime later, Nicholas made a second nighttime visit so that the second daughter might marry. Later tradition reported that, finding the windows closed, he dropped the bag of gold down the chimney, where it landed into one of the girl’s stockings that was hanging to dry.

When Nicholas returned to deliver anonymously the third bag of gold for the last daughter, the curious father was ready. When he heard a bag hit the floor, the father leapt to his feet and raced outside, where he caught the mysterious benefactor.

Nicholas revealed his identity to the father but made him swear never to tell anyone what he’d done. He did not want praise or recognition for his generosity.

Thus the legend of Santa Claus was born. Although millions recognize the legendary figure, few know that it all came from the story of how a rich old man did his part to help three women, each less fortunate than he was, have the opportunity to live better lives.

The people who made this purple Christmas possible are too many to mention, each of them deserving of our thanks and congratulations. But I think it’s OK to start with Rep. Edcel Lagman, the Santa Claus of the 15th Congress, who in his final term did his part to pass the RH bill, giving every Filipino, especially the poor, the opportunity to live healthy, educated, and dignified lives.

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TAGS: At Large, congress, opinion, Rep. Edcel Lagman, RH bill, Rina Jimenez-David, Santa Claus
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