Virgin Fathers or Dying Mothers: The Filipino Freethinkers Join Fellow RH Supporters in Silent Protest Against CBCP

Last Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, the Filipino Freethinkers and fellow pro-Reproductive Health (RH) groups under the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) held the Memorial March for Mothers from Padre Burgos St. to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) headquarters in Intramuros, Manila. The march and its succeeding mass action at the CBCP gates aimed to call the Catholic Church’s attention to the 11 Filipino women who die each day due to maternal complications. These complications could have been avoided with proper sex education and reproductive health services, but these rights continue to be suppressed thanks to the CBCP’s condemnation of the RH Bill and its efforts to delay the Bill’s passage.

With over 1,000 supporters in attendance, last Sunday was purported to be the largest protest in Philippine history against the CBCP.

The supporters first assembled at the Cory and Ninoy monument across from the Manila Hotel. White shirts and purple scarves served as the day’s official garb. Stickers bearing the slogan “11 Women Die Everyday. Do Bishops Care?” were also passed around.

People from all walks of life were present: women’s groups, youth groups, health advocates, representatives from the academe…

…and these random hipsters. The FF contingent was composed of over 30 members, including several newcomers like visual artist Jooley (extreme right).

Arm (left), who has contributed several engaging articles on reproductive health and women’s rights on the FF website, was also present.

The Freethinkers’ main responsibility was to document the entire march. Dustin, for instance, was in charge of filming the supporters at the head of the line. Various news outfits, including Arabic news network Al-Jazeera, were also present to cover the event.

Representatives of RHAN’s sundry groups gave rousing speeches prior to the march, including Elizabeth Angsioco of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines…

…and FF President Red Tani, who spoke about human rights and reproductive health in relation to the Vatican’s recent admission that priests from at least 23 countries (the Philippines included) have been sexually abusing nuns, with African priests, in particular, choosing nuns in order to avoid contracting the AIDS virus.

The march then commenced, with Mina Tenorio of Artists for RH Bill heading the pack, carrying a funeral bouquet and photograph of Olivia, just one of the countless casualties of the RH Bill delay. Olivia died quite young after giving birth to her tenth child, and her brood continues to be mired in poverty.

Representing FF at the head of the line were Red and Kenneth, who were also very active in the planning and organization of the event itself. Their bromance apparently knew no bounds.

The FF contingent marched right along.

Soon enough, the supporters approached the entrance of Intramuros, Manila’s famed walled city and home of several bastions of Catholicism in the country, including the CBCP headquarters, the Manila Cathedral, and the San Agustin Church.

The group stayed silent throughout, while an accompanying vehicle played Levi Celerio’s hymn to motherhood, “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan.”

The group passed several Intramuros landmarks, including…

…the headquarters of the Knights of Columbus-Philippines, a Catholic fraternal service organization that is quite vocal in its stance against the RH Bill…

…and the San Agustin Church, the oldest surviving church in the Philippines.

When the group arrived at the CBCP headquarters, 11 women clad in black, representing the said 11 women who die each day, positioned themselves directly across the gates.

A few minutes after, a car from inside the headquarters rolled out. The persons inside could not be discerned through its tinted windows. Silently, the protesters allowed the car to pass.

No representative from the CBCP arrived to address the protest, although a security personnel kept watch behind the gates.

Ms. Tenorio then read out the group’s open letter to the CBCP, dictating to the silent compound within the fact that daily deaths occur due to the Church’s meddling, and the group’s desire for the CBCP officials to acknowledge the harrowing truth before them.

The group listened quietly to the message. A copy of this letter was then handed to the security personnel.

Afterwards, the women in black had their candles lit. Each flame represented a mother’s life.

The women then placed their candles at the foot of the gates.

And then, silently and in unison, the protesters lay down on the ground in a massive “die-in,” as if to portray the thousands of Filipino women who die year and in year out, and to show their own unwavering support for the RH Bill.

The “die-in” stretched all the way down several blocks.

No one had any qualms curling up on the asphalt.

Everything was still for several whole minutes.

Finally, a signal was given, and the crowd got back on their feet. They then proceeded back to the entrance of Intramuros as silently as they had arrived.

Left behind at the gates were the bouquet, the photograph, and the 11 candles, their flames bound to flicker out by the end of that day.

It was a peaceful protest from start to finish, and the participants dispersed in good spirits. RHAN and its supporters have quite stirringly expressed the truth to the Church, and it is now up to the men behind the gates to respond and do what is right.

(Photos courtesy of Jason Arlan Pilaza Raval, Beatriz Torre, Frank Manuel, and Marguerite de Leon)


  1. Very touching, more power. I just wish people can be more enlightened, rather than just blindly following what religious institutions say.

      • don't think you need to, his website's chock full of corny-goodness already… if you want his "honest and balanced" view on the myth of evolution and the omnipotence of his magical deities as well, its all there.

        too bad… I was hoping from the title of his blog that it was a catholic instructional site on the various sex positions prescribed by the church… after all, who better to teach people about sex than a bunch of old foggies who swore to never even touch it.

        • LOL yeah I like the part where he says "But if you pay your taxes to the Bishops, then you will see how easy it is to reduce maternal deaths to zero." That one was epic!

    • If you want, I can offer my editorial services to the author – his articles look like they're in need of a grammar nazi's loving touch 😀

  2. I was raised from a devoted catholic family i served the church for some time in my life. The time that i got pregnant and got married inisp ko agad kung anu ang mga dapat gawin pag anjan na ang anak ko, di kelangang mag tanga tangahan sa mga consequences pag nabuntis ako ulit and so i had to talk to my husband and make a concrete plan sa maging pamilya namin para di kami mahirapan pag dating ng future.One major thing is the family planning. After kung manganak i know na what to do so nagpalagay ako ng IUD coz yun ang nakikita kung hiyang sa akin. Tell me, ibig sabhin ba nito kinokundena ako ng dyos dahil sa napili kung method? well i dont think so, kasi para sa akin bilang isang babae me karapatan akong alagaan ang health ko to the fullest and live an active sex life at the same time at para makapag hanap buhay para sa mga bills at makapag save para sa kinabukasan ng pamilya namin. If ang sagot ng simbahan sa akin is yes kukundinahin ako ng dyos sa aking pagpapalagay ng IUD then let me ask u this. Sino ba kayo to judge me at e judge at ang mga babae at mamamayan na pabor sa RH BILL? Dyos ba kayo?? sa inyo ba kami haharap pag namatay kami?? Ang pag husga nyo ba ang aking kailangan?? HOW DARE YOU palibhasa di nyo kasi nasubukan magka anak at magka asawa at magkapamilya at kumayod ng kumayod para magtrabaho. Napakadamot nyo at mga hipokrito kayong lahat. Nagkaron pa tayo ng demokrasya kung ipagdadamot samin ang aming kalayaang mamili, para kayong mga kumunista kung magpatupad ng rules. Kung ayaw nyo ipatupad ang RH BILL e di gumawa kayo ng mga eskwelahan na libre na pang hangang kolehiyo para sa mga pamilyang me mga anak na 4 o hangang isang dosena ka tao, tapos pakainin nyo ang mga pamilyang yan na libre at bigyan nyo narin ng libreng livelihood ang mga magulang..magpakitang gilas kayo kung talagang nagmamalasakit kayo sa utos ng dyos.. pero alam ko di nyo kayang gawin yan, sarap kasi ng mga buhay nyo e, naka aircon ang mga kwarto nyo at sarap ng mga kinakain nyo at me sasakyan pa kayo, bindisyon nga lang ng bungalow na bahay 500 pesos ka agad at ibang price pag dos andanas na bahay at eto e sheshare ko lang sa lahat ang isa pang hinanakit ko sa simbahan. Ngayong kasi pati yung pagalay ko ng misa buwan buwan sa mga namatay kung mga kamag anak pinag iinitan nyo pa, ang mass offering for souls e me presyo na din, 50 pesos daw per kaluluwa..SINO GINAGAGO NILA? nakaka shock dahil pati kaluluwa pinagkikitaan pa and i know for sure na kahit anung amount ang donation kahit piso pa yan. E ang dami kong mga patay na na kamag anak at ayaw kung me e d-drop ako sa listahan ko dahil lang sa singil nila but i always tell them na eto lang ang amount na kaya ko at di ko kaya ang amount na hinihingi to make this short dismayado ako sa inyong mga nasa simbahan and it made me realized na all of you ay HINDI TAPAT SA INYONG BOKASYON. as of now im thinking to leave the church dahil sa inyo at panginoon nalang ang humusga sa akin.





  5. Congrats guys! Personally the type of protest you showed best reflect the true spirit of the EDSA revolution. No angst, No Hate, pure reason. M0re p0wer!

  6. powerful stuff there guys, good work

    the real victims in all these – mothers like Olivia – need to have a stronger voice in society. now that stories like her are brought out in the open, the whole world will now watch and wait as to how this all plays out.

    this is the real People Power

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