Mentorship and Positive Change in Antique and Guimaras
Ideas Positive is innovative, impactful and instrumental in empowering the youth to bring about transformation in communities. I am extremely proud to have been able to go through this journey with my students for the past 2 years.
Two of the provinces in Western Visayas – Guimaras and Antique – have been ranked quite high in terms of prevalence of malnutrition in the Philippines, with some barangays having a higher prevalence rate (30%-50%) than the national average (25%) (Brgy La Paz, Nueva Valencia, Guimaras and Brgy Caridad, Hamtic, Antique). In most of these communities, prevalence of soil-transmitted helminths (STH) are also high (60-80%), especially in areas where indigenous Aeta communities reside, further contributing to malnutrition prevalence.
I have encountered these acute health challenges in the Philippines even when I was a medical student at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine-Philippine General Hospital. We would do community immersion during our semestral and summer breaks, and it was a totally fulfilling experience. It never dawned upon me that I would be doing this work for the rest of my life as a physician and educator.
Fast forward to 25 years after finishing medical school. I am now a public health professor trained in tropical medicine teaching in Miag-ao, Iloilo, where UP Visayas is (UPV) based. Every year, we send our students to do their community health programs in various rural areas of Western Visayas. Then came Ideas Positive (IP), initially sponsored by Unilab, and then last year, by the Unilab Foundation. My students responded to IP Runs 3 and 4’s call for a social marketing proposal that would address a specific health related challenge in a community. Team Kabataan Katipuneros, one out of 3 UPV teams, made it to the live screening in the summer of 2012, despite my physical absence (I had a meeting in the US). They reached the top 12 in the semifinals, then the top final 5, and ultimately, 2nd Place in the final judging. Their project was able to reduce malnutrition prevalence from 55% to 4% in Barangay La Paz, Nueva Valencia, Guimaras through a combination of malunggay supplementation, health education and community organization.
The following year, 4 UPV teams made it to the live screening, and 2 made it to the top 14 finals, garnering 3rd Place (Team Malnutrition Rangers) and again, 2nd Place (Team Kabayan). Team Malnutrition Rangers decreased the malnutrition prevalence rate at Barangay Caridad, Hamtic, Antique by 50% through a mobile health cart that distributed enriched fish paste and multivitamins, while Team Kabayan decreased STH infection in the Aeta community in Barangay San Isidro, Buenavista, Guimaras by 80% by building indigenous toilets in each of the 24 Aeta households.
First and foremost, I am a teacher, a mentor, a guide to my students. Being a trained physician comes second with the purpose of preventing and healing sickness and disease. I combined these 2 perspectives to bring about IP’s main objective of bringing positive change, one community at a time, for a healthier Philippines. Ideas Positive is innovative, impactful and instrumental in empowering the youth to bring about transformation in communities. I am extremely proud to have been able to go through this journey with my students for the past 2 years. They did not only apply what they have learned in the classroom, but they also evolved into individuals that have made a difference, albeit small, in the lives of their less privileged kasimanwas (countrymen). They bring about positive change by living within the communities, empowering them to make them strive for change, and sustaining it with the help of each and every member of their communities, in the true spirit of bayanihan. I always emphasize this lesson to my students, to use former US First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton: It takes a village to bring about positive change in a community.
Working in these very rural and neglected communities for 6 months is taxing, sometimes frustrating, and very challenging. Why do I persist? Why do the students accept these daunting and difficult tasks? I would like to think that this is due to our commitment to the words etched in the UP seal – HONOR and EXCELLENCE. It is the mission of every UP student to bring honor and excellence to whatever task they are assigned. The satisfaction I feel as my students bring these qualities to their respective communities and to Unilab Foundations’s goal of making a difference in the health of our fellow Filipinos is both humbling and heartwarming. My teams and I will keep on working and striving for a healthier Philippines, one barangay, one community, at a time.
Dr. Philip Ian Padilla is the current Faculty Regent of the UP System. He took his oath last January 6, 2015 at Quezon Hall, UP Diliman. He is also the Chair of the Division of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, and former Director of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, UP Visayas in Miag-ao, Iloilo. He has been a staunch supporter of Ideas Positive by encouraging his students to join every year.