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Explore part II: Sex and Religion in Manila

Following the controversial documentary ‘Explore: Manila to Mindanao’, public opinion was split as to whether Philippines was once again negatively portrayed or whether the hard realities came as a bit of a rude awakening! At 11:20, on 19th February BBC2 showed a follow up of the documentary titled ‘Explore: Sex and Religion in Manila’ shedding more light on the impending reproductive health bill currently being decided upon in the Philippines.

With Manila being the fastest growing city in Asia, the main question coming out of the show was what was the cause of poverty? Is it overpopulation caused by a lack of contraception and sexual health education? Or is it caused by poor governance from those in charge?

The answer is anyone’s guess, but must ultimately arrive at the door of those in charge. Philippines has long been classed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, let alone Asia. It is naive for anyone to simply blame the Catholic Church of using religious doctrine or to blame married couples for having too many kids. Families are often not planned, and whether you are rich or poor, you will never have enough to fully satisfy the needs of your family.

The family profiled in the show are indicative of many all across the Philippines. Prior to marriage, seminars are given by pastoral councillors promoting spiritual and matrimonial wellbeing as well as the finer details of the natural method of reproduction. In many places contraception such as the pill and condoms are almost impossible to get your hands on. So simply saying do not have anymore kids is not that simple for a lot of people.

Although corruption, the power of the Church, overpopulation and poverty are all factors, as with the first documentary there was no real attempt to look at the current administration in the Philippines. Why is that? In both documentaries, those political figures interviewed were former First Lady Imelda Marcos, former Mayor of Manila Lito Atienza and former President Joseph Estrada. Quite how much influence they have on current decision-making policy is questionable.

We have to put things into perspective, these weren’t hard-hitting journalists trying to attain answers. These were journalists profiling a diverse, contradictive country in Asia whose profile is steadily rising. Philippines has gone from a poor country with kids rummaging through rubbish dumps and women selling sex to tourists to a country where old ways are clashing with new, where influence is shifting from the church and political hierarchy to the technological, media savvy globalised young generation of today, where bigger issues like political killings, kidnappings, Islamic freedom and reproductive health are being brought to the attention of the world.

We should celebrate the fact these issues have been exposed to a wider audience. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our problems, we need to address them.

Follow the link to BBC iPlayer to watch it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00htgsq/Explore_Sex_and_Religion_in_Manila/

By Adrian Williams