TACLOBAN CITY – Lea, not her real name was only 16 when she got pregnant last year and undeniably, changed her life.
For almost seven months, she kept her condition a secret to her grandmother – who had been hearing rumors that she was pregnant.
As a cover-up, she wore loose shirts to hide her belly. It was only when she reached seven month of pregnancy when her grandmother finally accepted that she is bearing a child.
“I can’t do anything about. It’s already there. I felt that I was a failure in raising her but I don’t have control over her and cannot guard her all the time,” she said.
“When it was already confirmed that she was pregnant, I talked with her and the parents of her boyfriend because I wanted to make it clear that I don’t want them to stay in one roof together despite having a child because they are still minors and they have still have better future ahead by continuing their studies,” she added.
As a first-time mother, Lea said that one of the hardest parts is taking care of her son and providing for his needs especially when he get sick.
“Right now, I’m the only one who is taking care of my son. It’s very hard especially when he gets sick as I don’t have my own money. I don’t have a job. I thank my grandmother for helping us because my child’s father does not care about us,” she said.
Lea is one of the recorded teenage mothers in the city last year which, according to Jemima Dalorpe, adolescent health and development coordinator of the City Population Office, had slightly increased.
Of the 138 barangays in Tacloban, four villages had posted the highest cases of teenage pregnancy cases: Barangays 105, 97, 106, and 104 – all are located in the northern part of the city where families whose houses were totally destroyed due to Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ in 2013 were relocated by the city government.
Lack of supervision of parents was one of the reasons that the population office sees as a reason why some adolescents had engaged to pre-marital sex.
“Though we still have no clear study on that, we are looking at it as one of the key reasons why there are cases of teenage pregnancy, especially in these areas,” Dalorpe said.
With travel restrictions now lifted, they project an increase of teenage pregnancy in Tacloban.
Based on the record of the City Population Office(CPO), adolescent pregnancy or teenage pregnancy in the city was already declining from the high number of cases recorded in 2016 (729 cases); 560 in 2017; and 324 in 2018.
The number increased in 2019 at 457 cases, then decline again in 2020 at 350; 303 in 2021; and a slight increase in 2022 at 306.
Dalorpe added that three 13-years old became mothers last year.
To address the problem, the Dalorpe said their office is advocating the ‘ABCDE’ strategy which stands for abstinence (not having sex before marriage), B for be responsible, C for convert to recreational activities, D for do not use drugs and other alcoholic beverages, and E for early detection.
Teenage pregnancy is identified as one of the most pressing issues among Filipino youth today with the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) study said that those who begin giving birth before the age of 18 are less likely to complete their secondary education.
The non-completion of secondary education impacts employment opportunities in the future and total life earning of families. UNFPA study shows that due to early pregnancy, the country losses around P33 billion every year because teenage mother losses their employment opportunities.
Although for some their future is already ruined after giving birth at early age, Lea is still determined to achieve her goal.
“My goal is to be a good mother to my son, be financially ready. To provide him whatever he needs, send him to school, and to make sure that he will grow a good person and will not do the mistake that I and his father made,” Lea said.
“I will tell him the consequences of engaging to pre-marital sex, especially that he is a boy; its effects if they get a child at an early age, and having a child while still studying,” Lea added.
(ROEL T. AMAZONA)