The day moms came together to breastfeed

Jenny Ong

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Behind the scenes of Hakab Na! 2013

ACROSS THE SEA. Breastfeeding Pinays in Singapore during Hakab Na! 2013. Photo from Escie Sebastian

MANILA, Philippines – The entire month of August is Breastfeeding Promotion Month, designated by Republic Act No. 10023 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 (August 1 to 7 was designated as World Breastfeeding Week). To celebrate the month, more than 200 mothers came together last August 3 with the aim of building a breastfeeding nation in “Hakab Na! A Breastfeeding Mob.”

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Accompanied by their babies, older children, husbands, families and support systems, the breastfeeding moms gathered in Manila, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod and Singapore. The event was spearheaded by the Facebook group Breastfeeding Pinays.

DAVAO'S MOMMY SENSE. The group organized the Hakab Na! 2013 activity at Don Beppe, The Peak, Gaisano Mall. Photo from Alex Hao

“Hakab Na! A Breastfeeding Mob” sought to promote women’s right to breastfeed and the importance of providing proper support to breastfeeding mothers. It was originally scheduled for May, in time for Mother’s Day, but Breastfeeding Pinays was then a newly formed group and did not have enough time to plan and organize.

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Planning the event was not easy. Every organizer was a mother who came in as a volunteer, recognizing that breastfeeding is an advocacy that is fueled by passion. There was no huge marketing or advertising budget that could support us.

BACOLOD'S MOM & BABY CLUB. The moms at Café Bob’s, Lacson. Photo from Jireh Grace Poquita

Scouting for an appropriate location was our biggest challenge. In Manila, members of Breastfeeding Pinay approached malls but were turned down as it was a non-revenue activity. We had to consider the weather and could not hold the event in an open and public area.

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In desperation, the organizers decided to apply for a permit from the City of Manila to hold the activity at the Rajah Sulayman Park because of its proximity to restaurants, in case of rain. We asked permission from Aristocrat Restaurant Roxas Boulevard to use a number of tables for registration. Despite us not being able to guarantee revenue, Aristocrat gave the event their support.

CRAMPED BUT HAPPY. More than 100 Breastfeeding Pinays in Aristocrat Restaurant. Photo from Keysi Nunez

Hard rain fell on August 3. When it showed no signs of stopping, Aristocrat manager Vicky Soliman allowed us to use their function room for the activity. Serendipitously, Engracia Lim and Chichi Tulao — granddaughters of Engracia Reyes, the founder of Aristocrat — were dining at the restaurant. They were hearing about the event for the first time and were naturally curious.

We were worried that they would ask us to leave. Luckily, they allowed us to stay and even gamely had their photos taken with the breastfeeding mothers.

ARISTOCRATS AND ADVOCATES. Hakab Na! 2013 Manila organizers with Engracia Lim, Chichi Tulao and Priscilla Bautista-Perez, the very first nutritionist of Aristocrat. Photo from Liza Bermudez

What was the purpose of our activity? Although breastfeeding rates have steadily gone up over the years through efforts by different government and non-government organizations and medical communities, there is still so much to be done. 

Breastfeeding Pinays was formed to contribute to this purpose: to build a breastfeeding nation. Forming this online support group of mothers and coming together are our contributions to the cause.   

What made “Hakab Na! A Breastfeeding Mob” extra special was the participation of breastfeeding mothers. It was purely voluntary, participation from the heart. There were no complaints made even if we had to change locations for the Manila activity, and the mothers had to endure being packed and crowded while waiting for the space in Aristocrat to be ready. It was truly a heartwarming experience.  

CAGAYAN DE ORO'S MOMMY BRIGHT SIDE. Moms and babies at Centrio Mall. Photo from Meg Gabe

What was also admirable about the gathering was that there was not one group that took credit for its success. Several breastfeeding advocacy groups — Kaya Women Empowerment and Support Group, LATCH (Lactation, Attachment, Training, Counseling, Help), Arugaan, Newlyweds@Work, Tickled Moms, Davao’s Mommy Sense, Cagayan De Oro’s Mommy Bright Side and the Bacolod Mom and Baby Club — came together to organize it.  

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N@W, next9, Mamaway, Mama Chow, Tickled Moms and Marj Guarin pledged financial assistance for water and snacks given to the policemen and barangay tanods who helped keep the mothers and their families safe.  

Through all the challenges faced, breastfeeding emerged as the victor. –

Jenny Ong is the mom behind the blog Chronicles of a Nursing Mom.

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