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Those prewedding seminars

/ 01:02 AM September 10, 2014

The recommendations for the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law presented by the women’s health NGO Likhaan, outlined in part in yesterday’s column, also contains a portion devoted to the role of civil society organizations (CSOs).

In Likhaan’s view, if government is leery of opening the door to discussions of “taboo” subjects like adolescent sexuality and fertility, unsafe abortion and sexual orientation and gender identity, then CSOs should take the lead and “initiate public discussions and debate” on such touchy matters. This could then “foster greater understanding of these issues” and perhaps lead to expanded access to services addressing such concerns.

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CSO leaders and members also “must use their various talents and skills—as artists, educators, researchers, writers, lawyers, health professionals and others—to advocate and achieve a higher level of sexual and reproductive health” for everyone.

Likhaan also urges the nongovernment sector to use its credibility and mobility to “lead in the independent monitoring of the access to sexual and reproductive health, identifying and reporting weaknesses and violations in order to correct errors and improve access” to such services.

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More importantly, “CSOs must help address structural barriers to sexual and reproductive health, like poverty, gender discrimination, poor governance, and religious fundamentalism by integrating these concerns in SRH [programs] and participating in solutions to address them.”

In line with this, says Likhaan, “CSOs must lead in the further elaboration of SRH services consistent with sexual and reproductive rights and to guard against efforts to derail and undermine existing programs.”

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THEY may be beyond the reach of state and civil society, but there is something disturbing about the conduct of the premarriage seminars, or “pre-Cana” requirements that couples who want to get married in Catholic Church rites must undergo.

Recently, the daughter of a good friend posted about her and her fiancé’s recent pre-Cana experience (so-called after the wedding at Cana where Jesus Christ performed his first miracle in public by turning water into wine). More than half of the counseling session, she observed, was devoted to criticism of the RPRH Law, and admonitions against contraception.

This bothered my friend’s daughter a lot because one, she’s a fierce advocate of reproductive health and rights, and two, she’s no pushover, being a lawyer and thus not inclined to accept anyone’s views unquestioningly.

Later, her fiancé posted on Facebook that undergoing such tedious requirements must mean one really loves one’s intended, and should be seen as a test of a true and enduring love. How sweet naman.

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But the premarriage orientations conducted by government offices are no better. Most of them consist of some city hall employees reading aloud from a pamphlet on the different family planning methods available. And unless the couple are a pair of pimply adolescents, I would hazard a guess that the engaged couples already know of these methods, if they hadn’t practiced them yet. A waste of time all around.

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WHICH brings me to my own “pre-Cana” experience, too many years ago, conducted by an elderly prelate with a shock of white hair and clad in an all-black soutana or priestly habit.

In the course of his counseling, the priest inquired: “How many children do you intend to have?” We hemmed and hawed and said, “Maybe two, or three.” But were we shocked when the priest raised his voice: “You’re wrong! The correct answer is: Whatever the Lord will give us.”

My future husband and I looked at each other. Apparently, in the Church’s eyes, we would have no say on the number of children we would beget, even if the Lord needed our cooperation to produce the number of children He intended us to have. I think a reproductive health advocate was born right that minute.

I didn’t know it then, but this is precisely what sexual and reproductive health and rights is all about. It’s all about a couple deciding freely and responsibly “if, when, how often” they are to get pregnant. Parenthood may be God’s will, but it is also a choice made by a couple, who are, after all, God’s “partners” in procreation and in child-rearing. It’s precisely the idea that everything is “up to God” that leads to unbridled and irresponsible parenthood.

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AND NOW to more pleasant and heartwarming matters.

Before the opening of the gala night presentation of “Noli Me Tangere: The Opera” tomorrow evening at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World, two opera stalwarts will be recognized for their lifetime achievements.

The two artists are divas Irma Ponce Enrile Potenciano and Fides Cuyugan Asensio. While the two are known in the industry as outstanding performers, Noli Opera Manila honorary chair Loida Nicolas Lewis says they are also “respected music educators responsible for mentoring generations of voice students at the UST Conservatory of Music and UP College of Music.” Today, adds Lewis, “some of their students are the most sought-after singers of world-class music companies which extends their impact as mentors not only to the performing arts in the country but all over the world.”

Spearheaded by Lewis and supported by Jerry Sibal and Edwin Josue and Mark and Christine Manalang, “Noli Me Tangere: The Opera” will have a limited run on Sept. 11-28. Directed by Freddie Santos, “Noli” stars world-class Filipino performers Maria Rachelle Gerodias and Myramae Meneses as Maria Clara, Sal Malaki and Ivan Niccolo Nery as Crisostomo Ibarra, Antoni Mendezona and Jean Judith Javier as Sisa, and Noel Azcona and Greg de Leon as Elias.

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TAGS: “Noli Me Tangere: The Opera”, civil society organizations, Fides Cuyugan Asensio, Irma Ponce Enrile Potenciano, Loida Nicolas Lewis, Newport Performing Arts Theater, NGO Likhaan, Noli Opera Manila, Pre-wedding seminars, Resorts World, Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, RPRH Law
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