Bernardo M. Villegas
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First 1000 Days of Life (Part 2)

          Needless to say, the First 1000 Days of Life Program had to be accompanied by an intensive educational effort aimed at both father and mother of the child.  A host of educational materials both in printed and digital forms were produced and distributed to the concerned households. These materials were in the vernacular to maximize understanding and learning.  Worth mentioning is the Baby Book written in the vernacular given to every set of parents.  These teaching materials are well described by the better half of Governor Suarez, Congresswoman Anna Villaraza Suarez (Representative, ALONA Partylist) in a message introducing the  “Baby Book”:   “There are a few events in our life that are as significant and bring as much pure happiness as childbirth, albeit, one of the most challenging experiences together with parenthood.  And I was fortunate to have gone through my pregnancy as well as the first two years of being a parent not only with the help and entire support group of family and friends but also with the knowledge and guidance of experts from the various literature I read.  These books really helped prepare me for motherhood; they gave me more confidence and better understanding of  babies so that I could give my own child the proper care, nutrition, and love she needed at very stage in order for her to grow up to be healthy, intelligent and eventually a productive citizen..”

         “For these reasons, my husband and I thought of creating a series of books (Mama Book, Baby Book and Toddler Years Book) that would complement our program, Quezon’s First 1000 Days (Q1K0 whose larger objective is to create a better generation of Quezonians through various health, nutrition and social interventions from the onset of one’s pregnancy up to a child’s second birthday.)  Crafted by a team of experts from both the public and private sectors, these books are information-packed, comprehensive yet practical, straightforward and easy-to-use week to week guides on one’s pregnancy, the first twelve months of a child’s life and the toddler years.  Within the pages of the books you will find developmental milestones, information on health and nutrition, checklists, exercises and of course, father tips to guide you….”

         Governor and Mrs. David Suarez should be emulated by many other LGU leaders so that we can preserve the greatest treasure of the Philippines:  our young, growing and highly educated population.  Their focus on taking care of every child born to Filipino parents, whatever their social and economic conditions may be, will be an antidote to the anti-life culture so prevalent in many countries of the world that are now facing the serious problem of the demographic winter.  By helping married couples meet the challenges of procreating and education children, they will ensure that the fertility rate of the Philippines will never descend to the low levels that are decimating entire populations and creating the most serious economic and social problems that result for rapid ageing and demographic suicide.  More importantly, programs like the “First 1000 Days of Life Program” of Quezon Province will really transform every baby born in the country into a real human resource, an asset for sustainable and especially inclusive growth. 

         Governor Suarez and his Provincial Board have also been realistic enough to acknowledge the importance of providing parents with know-how in producing some of the nutritional and medicinal products that are needed by the pregnant mother and subsequently the baby until the age of 2.  Very much in synch with the Go-Negosyo campaign being promoted by the Department of Trade and Industry in cooperation with Joey Concepcion and a host of NGOs, Quezon Province launched a “Gulayan sa Bakuran” (Home Garden) campaign which encourages both urban and rural households to grow their own vegetables and fruits that are needed both for the nutritional and health needs of the mother and the child.  With the help of agricultural experts, the appropriate seeds, technology and agronomical practices have been made available to those with backyard gardens so they can grow their own vitamin-rich vegetables such as malunggay, pechay, mustasa, kangkong, kamoteng kahoy,  kamote, kamatis, calabasa, carrots, sitaw, monggo, kalamansi, ampalaya, okra and talong.  This home garden program is part of an over-all strategy to convert Quezon as the food belt of the National Capital Region and the other provinces of CALABARZON.

      It is obvious that Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Rizal are rapidly being industrialized and urbanized.  Quezon is the last bastion of predominantly agricultural lands.  It makes a lot of sense that Quezon will position itself, together with the island of Mindoro, as the supplier of food products for the more than 20 million dwellers of Metro Manila and surrounding areas that have the highest per capita incomes in the whole country.  In addition to plants that are predominantly grown for food, the home garden program is also aimed at the growing of medicinal plants such as yerba buena (mentha spicata); guyabano (anona muricata); tanglad (cymbopogon citratus); luyang dilaw (curcuma domestica); siling labuyo (capsicum frutescens); lagundi (votex neguno L.); saluyot (corchorus olitorius Linn); and sambong (blumea balsamifera (l.) DC.   These are only some of the herbal medicines that can cure the more common ailments or at least alleviate the discomfort from coughs, diarrhea, asthma, rheumatism, bronchitis, high blood pressure, anemia and other frequent diseases.

         Also vital to the economic welfare of the people in the province of Quezon is its own version of Dutertenomics:  the construction of farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems (especially for the coconut farms), post-harvest facilities, modern seaports, a railway system, and toll roads to more efficiently connect the Quezon to the NCR and the nearby provinces. Better infrastructures will benefit especially the coconut industry that needs a thorough-going productivity program that will replace the ageing coconuts with younger and richer varieties as well as implement a crop diversification program that include, not only the high-value vegetables and fruits included in the home garden initiative, but also other commercial crops like sweet sorghum, bamboo, coffee, cacao, papaya, sweet pineapple, dairy cows, corn, etc.  Quezon is a model province where development efforts start with the human resources, the foundation of which are the children and then progress towards the financial and technical resources that capitalize on the rich human resources for integral human development that is the result of  long-term sustainable and inclusive growth.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia