At the Flora Apalisok Free Childrenâ€™s Clinic, or mission is clear, to improve the lives of the most undernourished and the medically and surgically needy indigent children of Bohol, Philippines. Our mission has deep spiritual foundations, rooted in our strong and proud Catholic heritage and tradition. In Matthewâ€™s Gospel, Jesus said: â€˜Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.â€™ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: â€˜Love your neighbor as yourself.â€™ We at the FAFCC take this commandment to heart, and it motivates us to help children and families need.
With that said, through careful searching of our moral conscience, as well as through research and experience, we found a traditionally complex issue that we could no longer ignore, and have decided to add to our mission. This multifaceted issue pertains to overpopulation, family planning and the strong tradition with the Catholic Church, in the context of our beloved homeland (The Philippine Islands).
We feel these factors are intertwined, therefore requiring multiple levels of thought and prayer, before presenting a solution that we feel fits our mission, and worthy of our organizationâ€™s, as well as valued donorâ€™s, investments of time, money and effort.
But before we dive into the solution, letâ€™s look at the issue.
In an article published by The Philippine Star titled, AS A MATTER OF FACT, journalist Sara Soliven De Guzman stated, â€œThe root of our problems in this country stems from overpopulation.â€ (www.philstar.com) In 2016, the Philippines hit a population of 104 Million people. To put that into perspective, as far as population density is concerned, in 1990, there were an estimated 202 persons per square kilometer, compared to todayâ€™s number of 347.6 persons per square kilometer (Today the United States has 32.45 persons per square kilometer). With such an aggressive rise in population density, combined with limited available resources, there are a myriad of problems that arise as a result. The most obvious is that it contributes to the seemingly never ending issue of POVERTY in the Philippines.
In a 2014, the United Nations Population Fund released an article stating that investments in Family Planning are effective means by which we can curb the seemingly out of control trend towards overpopulation. They stated, â€œimproved reproductive health also helps individuals, particularly young women, break out of intergenerational cycles of poverty.â€ As well as, â€œWhen women and couples are empowered to plan whether and when to have children, women are better enabled to complete their education; womenâ€™s autonomy within their households is increased; and their earning power is improved.â€ (www.unfpa.org) However, despite such knowledge, the Philippines has traditionally had a difficult time legislatively, promoting and passing laws involving family planning.
There are many factors which contribute to this roadblock, but what seems to be the most consistent argument is that family planning does not adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Being the Philippines is approximately 80% Roman Catholic, this is a tremendous roadblock.
The common assumption is that the Catholic Church is against family planning. The cynicsâ€™ story has always been that good Catholics reproduce aggressively to ensure that church pews stay full, therefore the Church would never support any form of population control. Well, this is simply not the truth. Per the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, â€œThe Catholic Church supports the methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP) because they respect God’s design for married love.â€ They further clarify by saying: Natural Family Planning is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancies. These methods are based on observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Couples using NFP to avoid pregnancy abstain from intercourse and genital contact during the fertile phase of the woman’s cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy.
NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of the child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife. (Standards for Diocesan Natural Family Planning Ministry, p. 23) Ironically enough, during a visit to the Philippines, His Holiness, Pope Francis, said the following: “But God gives you methods to be responsible. Some think that, and excuse the word, in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No, responsible parenthood!”
So, what is it that the Flora Apalisok Free Childrenâ€™s Clinic is proposing as a solution to combat this complex issue? First of all, we do not pretend to have the â€œend allâ€ solution for such a complex and diverse problem. But we realize the supreme value in taking action. In response to the blaring issue of overpopulation in our beloved Philippines, as well as the degradation of the quality of life it creates, and in accordance with the teachings of the leaders of the Church, weâ€™ve added Natural Family Planning Awareness and Education to our mission. Pope Francis said, “The key word … and the one the Church always uses, and I do too, is ‘responsible parenthood.’ How do we do this? With dialogue.” And we will take this dialogue to the needy and indigent families of Bohol, Philippines. This includes Natural Family Planning education, including, but not limited to, the distribution of Cycle Beads, a natural family planning option that can be used as an effective tool with Natural Family Planning.
The Flora Apalisok Free Childrenâ€™s Clinic is committed as ever to taking the necessary steps towards a bright and healthy future for the children and families of Bohol, Philippines. We are passionate about our mission, and use spirituality as our guide. The great Mother Theresa once said, â€œI alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.â€ Her wisdom guides us, and we pray that you too will join us on our mission to make life better for those in need.