Beyond the Birds and the Bees
By Michelle E. Ancheta
(Editor’s Note: The following essay was awarded 1st Place in Advocates for Youth & Meg Magazine’s Essay Writing Contest for 2004)
Meeting your prince charming is a dream every girl wishes for. As children, we’ve all hoped for the day we’d be carried off into a far-away land, set against the proverbial sunset on our knight’s noble steed, eagerly awaiting the end of the day when our prince would gallantly set us down on a grassy plane, whereupon we hope to experience our most sacred first kiss… or so we thought.
Living in this world teaches us that not all fairy tales end happily ever after. In reality, teenagers find themselves carried off into cheap motel room, set against the glaring lights of the scandalous billboards in EDSA, anxiously awaiting the night when their supposed prince would be brusquely fling them onto a cigarette-stained mattress whereupon they will experience more than just their first kiss.
In reality, girls don’t always end up living in castles or marrying the prince, more often than not the end up abandoned, alone and pregnant.
The issue of teenage pregnancy is a problem faced by almost every country in the world. Young women everywhere are face with the choice of either raising a child without proper knowledge of the responsibilities that come with it, or worse some even opt for abortion. In our country alone, studies have shown that “overall 45% of births were reported to be unplanned; 27% were mis-timed and 18% were unwanted” (National Demographic Health Survey 1998). While in a survey conducted by Dr. Corazon M. Raymundo and Ms.Gilda Diaz of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI), their findings revealed that “18%, or 2.25 million of Filipinos aged 15 to 24 have engaged in premarital sex. And 74% of these 1.8 million do not use any method to prevent pregnancy.
The Pain of Teenage Pregnancy
The danger posed by the issue of teenage pregnancy is not something that we can chose to ignore, nor should we let teenagers shoulder the blame alone.
Most people assume that victims of teenage pregnancy are either brought up by abusive parents, uneducated or are under the influence of drugs. But this is hardly the case.
My sister was a vibrant, pretty girl. She was schooled in an exclusive university for girls, was well-liked by her professors and was considered very much part of the “in” crowd. But despite all the good things she was blessed with, none of these things prevented her from getting pregnant. As soon as the news of the unwanted pregnancy broke out, my family soon turned out to be the talk of the town, subjected to the mocking stares of some of our relatives, private talks between neighbors, and sudden isolation form our so-called “friends.”
It didn’t help that all my siblings and I were girls. You can just imagine what my sisters and I had to go through. I could still hear the echoes of some boys in our neighborhood “Pare, butas na yan… Walang challenge.” I tried to face each day as though nothing had changed. I would wake up each morning, surprised at how indifferent I’d become to the vicious rumors and disdainful gazes of the people around me. I tried to live each day as normal as possible. I was angry at the world, but most of all, angry at my sister who caused all my pain and embarrassment.
My story about teenage pregnancy could have ended right there. I could have chosen to stay bitter, resentful and angry at what seemed to be a pathetic way of living, but seeing my sister accept her responsibility, of having to face my parents and tell them the truth, of choosing life over death, of having to go all through that made me realize the agony she was in and the amount of courage she had to have to continue on with life – the pain of bearing that burden alone, the fear of being unwanted, the loss of dignity and respect. What I had gone through pales in comparison to what she must have felt.
Teenage pregnancy is an issue that transcends economic barriers. It is a problem faced by all young women in our country, educated or uneducated, poor or not.
An article by Niel Mugas, a correspondent of The Manila Times writes that there are about four million Filipinas aged 15 to 19, and they account for the majority of women of childbearing age, who make up 19.4 million of the total female population of the country. Being part of the said four million, I feel it is my responsibility, both as a woman and a citizen of this country to publicize the growing number of pregnant adolescents, and that hopefully by doing so, make society grasp the severity of the problem, and to take proper measures to remedy, if not to accept the reality of the situation.
Teenage pregnancy is a problem we can no longer hide or be ashamed of as not being part of tradition. It will continue to exist and plague the future of both the youth and of our country now, unless we make a stand and do something about it.
What do we do?
In a culture like ours, saturated in violence and sexuality portrayed by the uncontrolled images from the media, it s no wonder more and more teenagers are getting into trouble. Movies advocating unprotected sex, dating games promoting promiscuous tendencies and television shows brainwashing teenagers into having early sexual relationships seem to have dominated primetime viewing – unsolicited, free for everyone to see – including many teenagers who are incapable of assimilating and understanding the things being fed to them. It’s like what Plato once said “Shall we allow our children to listen to any story anyone make up, and so receive into their minds often the very opposite of those we shall think they ought to have when they are grown up?”
What we should do now is to utilize this power of technology by using it to propagate correct information regarding issues currently faced by the youth today – particularly that of teenage pregnancy.
A recent study made by Kaiser Family Foundation, an institution based in the United States that promotes safe sex, showed that “networks and producers are exercising greater care in addressing the issue of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.” I believe that our country should adopt the same policy. If we cannot get rid of such shows due to the fact that it produces the highest ratings, then we should at least find ways to educate the youth. As Vicky Rideout, the president of the said foundation said “This generation is immersed in the media, so when Hollywood makes safer sex sexier – whether its abstinence or protection – that’s all to be good.”
Teenage pregnancy is a reality that we cannot escape. Sex has and always will e part of man’s culture but with the emergence of new technology that allows infinite access to information, it has also become part of our young generation’s culture. Hence, society has a moral obligation to ensure the safety of their future by equipping them with proper information – information about the consequences, risks and responsibilities that come with sex, that sex is not all about love, popularity or experience. Sex is an issue that should be dealt with seriously and with respect. Teenagers must learn it not through the rap lyrics of Eminem, or from the everyday sex exploits of Samantha, not through Google or the examples set by infamous TV personalities. They must be oriented by real people, people who know what sex is really about, people like you and me. No more birds and the bees, no more fairy tales. It’s time we take sex seriously, before more futures are ruined.
Producers should not focus on high ratings alone; they should seriously consider the programs they show on television. Strict rules regarding movies dealing with sensitive issues such as sex should be implemented. Editors of young women’s publications should include, from time to time, articles concerning issues about sex and teenage pregnancy. I believe that with the participation of the whole community, saving the nation’s future wouldn’t be too far a dream.
No one; educated or not, rich or poor, third-world or elite should ever go through what my sisters and I have.
I stand to make sure nobody else does, the question now is, will you help me?