The 'teenage mothers' of Guimaras
GUIMARAS, Philippines - She could feel her heart racing and her knees wobbling as her mother tried to force the truth out of her. Then she broke down. “'Mother, I’m pregnant,” she confessed, her head bowed down.
Mary Grace Magdael, a resident of Barangay Hoskyn in Jordan town in Guimaras province, was only 16 years old when she became pregnant with her first child. Being the eldest, Mary’s pregnancy brought frustration to her parents who also married at a young age.
Her other siblings were no exception. But unlike her, her 2 siblings did not marry. Anna*, her sister, who got pregnant at 15, now lives with her partner. Paolo*, her 17-year-old brother, also started living with his partner.
Early marriages and teenage pregnancies in Barangay Hoskyn is prevalent that the community gained a reputation as "a haven of child brides or child mothers" in Guimaras. People in the village say that when a girl reaches the age of 19 and she is still single, she is considered a spinster. Most of Mary’s friends in their barangay were even much younger when they became pregnant and began living under the same roof with their partners.
Hoskyn barangay secretary Ledicessa Paras said that early marriages have become a norm in the community. Teenagers have been practicing it, she said.
Hoskyn is a coastal village near the Jordan RoRo port along the Iloilo Strait. The place was previously called Sanao.
It has a population of 2,346 with an average annual income of P48,000. Among the community's main sources of income are fishing, laundry washing, and retailing. Around 885 residents, ranging from 15 to 59 years old, are employed while 612 are unemployed. Out of 161 high school graduates, only 52 are able to pursue college education.
Hub for teenage mothers
Mary is just one of the many Filipinas who at a young age – between 15 to 24 years old – are already mothers. These teenage mothers comprise about 43% of Filipina youth all over the country.
Various factors like educational attainment and income explain early motherhood.
According to the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), one in 10 young Filipino women ages 15 to 19 is already a mother or pregnant with her first child.
The NDHS revealed that early motherhood is more common among young women ages 15 to 24 with less education than with higher education - 44% of women with elementary education versus 21% of women who attained college education.
The proportion of young women who have begun child bearing is also higher among those from poor households than those from wealthier households – 37% of young women in lowest wealth quintile versus 13% of women in the highest wealth quintile. Meanwhile, the proportion of young adult women, reporting first sexual act before age 18 is 22% for rural areas and 17% for urban areas, according to the survey.
When Mary got pregnant, she thought marriage was the only means to survive. She felt she did not have other options because she quit school.
Battered by her husband after years of living together, Mary decided to leave him and looked for a job in Aklan, Cebu, and Manila. She failed to find a sustainable work in the cities. But it was being separated from her daughter that was more painful, she said.
Mary has returned to her village and put up a small sari-sari store, hoping that it will change her fate and her daughter's. - Rappler.com
*Not their real names
Twilight Dawn Gahap is a graduating AB English student of West Visayas State University in Iloilo City, Western Visayas. This is one of her projects for the course Introduction to Journalism.