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An eminent woman’s message

January 16, 2010 22:51:00
Rina Jimenez-David
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Loida Nicolas-Lewis, who has since the death of her husband, African-American financier Reginald Lewis, emerged as an international business leader in her own right, was inducted last Friday as the sixth “Eminent Person” to join the Forum for Family Planning and Development. The Forum is a non-government organization devoted to advocating for more enlightened policies and programs on population and reproductive health.

Nicolas-Lewis joins individuals like former President Fidel Ramos, former Prime Minister Cesar Virata and Lopez Group Chair Oscar Lopez who have all lent their name, their reputations and their influence to gaining adherents to the cause of population management and reproductive health.

In her acceptance speech, Nicolas-Lewis demonstrated that her commitment to her advocacy stems from her own personal experience and background, not least of which was her being a wife, mother and now, a widow.

“I am here because I believe in the beauty and primacy of love between a man and a woman, the poetry and the mystical symbolism of the physical union between husband and wife,” she said.

Therefore, she added, “I believe that no one should be in the matrimonial bedroom, not even the Holy Father the Pope, when the man and the woman express their love for each other in that most intimate expression of love—their physical union.” This is why, she said, “the ultimate decision of how many children the couple should have remains between the husband and wife, because they alone know how best to maintain the harmony and the love they have for one another and their children.”

* * *

THE BUSINESS and civic leader, who invested in her home province of Sorsogon by putting up Lewis College to give young people better chances at carving out a future for themselves, championed couples’ right to full information “on how best to plan their family.”

Distinguishing between “natural” and “artificial” methods, she said, merely divides “what is really a unified act—the act of love that during a woman’s child-bearing years could produce a child in her womb, and once past those years, still could produce pleasure for the couple…”

She also asserted the right of women to make informed choices about their bodies and reproductive lives, reasoning that “since it is the woman who bears the fetus in her womb, I believe that she more than the man has the absolute right to know how best to control her reproductive powers, and decide how many children she should bear, during that act of procreation, by using those methods that are helpful and healthful to her well-being.”

Nicolas-Lewis also had a mouthful to say on natural family planning, the only family planning method that is approved by the Catholic hierarchy.

Speaking from her own life experience, the Fil-Am business figure declared: “I believe that the natural method is unnatural.”

* * *

“HOW loving is it that the woman would tell her husband in that most intimate moment that ‘Sorry, darling, we have to wait for a week before we can make love’?”

“How can the natural method be mandated by men who have never made love to a woman, or who have never lived with a woman as their wife, nor have never raised children on a 24 hours, 7 days a week basis?”

The government, Nicolas-Lewis asserted, “cannot be cowed by the Catholic hierarchy.”

She also expressed admiration for presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino “for coming out early on in support of the Reproductive Health Bill that is now before the Philippine Congress, even if it means antagonizing the powerful Catholic hierarchy.” “That is courage and responsible leadership,” she said of Aquino’s stance.

Nicolas-Lewis noted that when Jesus was asked what is the “greatest commandment,” he replied: “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Your nearest neighbor is your spouse and your children,” she reminded her audience.

This is not to put words in Loida’s mouth, but it is a message directed, I would guess, at the men, who indeed must assume a greater role in keeping their wives and children healthy. As a friend told me recently, when doctors at government hospitals ask the women why they keep getting pregnant even as they put their lives at risk, and why they don’t just use contraception, the women reply: “Ayaw ng asawa ko, eh.” Is that loving your spouse as yourself?

* * *

IN 1998, Ronald San Felipe became a beneficiary of a one-hectare plot of farmland in Teresa, Rizal, through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

Ronald, who has been farming all his life, decided to plant different crops and fruit-bearing trees on his plot. But while happy to be tilling his own land, he still faced difficulty in bringing his produce to the market. This is why DAR, in cooperation with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), set out to build farm-to-market roads to provide farmers like Ronald with the means to earn more for their crops, while ensuring that consumers have a wider choice of food products at lower cost. The improved accessibility to the markets has meant increased incomes for the farmers like Ronald, and has opened more opportunities for them.

According to DAR, for the first half of 2009, a total of 163 road projects have been completed, which is 22.61 percent of the total target for the year. The DAR and DPWH are committed to fully meet the targets set before the end of President Macapagal-Arroyo’s term this year.

The DAR and DPWH are both members of the Anti-Hunger Task Force which implements the Accelerated Hunger-Mitigation Program (AHMP).

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