MANILA, September 17, 2011—A college student said that contraceptives being sold in drug stores were “easy access,” enabling her and her peers to walk right up to the counter, ask for injectable contraceptives, and walk out with the purchase.
“I thought injectables were not over-the-counter, meaning you’ll need a prescription to be able to buy them. But what surprised me was that there are drugstores — big drugstores – that don’t really ask for prescriptions, and that’s how I got mine,” Pia, a nursing student, recalled.
“Noong una natatakot ako kasi alam ko kailangan ng(“At first I was scared because I knew I needed a”) prescription, pero I heard from a friend na hindi naman sila humihingi (“that they weren’t asking for one”). So then I tried, and then I bought it. No questions asked. Napaka-easy access. Ang dali — sobra.”
The 20-year-old student ended up taking injectables for several cycles. She was aware of some of the side effects of the different contraceptives, owing to her classes as a nursing student, “but they don’t discuss the major side effects. Part of the curriculum of our school before was health care. The professors would have to discuss some side effects…and normally us nurses, nursing students, when we go to health centers…ina-advocate nila doon [ang contraceptives.] So they told us what they were for, how to use them,” Pia said.
The student lamented that so much resources are being poured into marketing the use of condoms and other birth control drugs and devices, and that a lot of the advertising has been targeting the youth. She dwelt on the unfortunate combination of such marketing and a more “loose” present generation.
“I don’t know if it’s our generation that’s medyo loose na, like the taboos before aren’t taboos anymore. They’re socially accepted now. Then you have the media pushing [sexual activity and these contraceptives] na on TV, sa mga commercials nila. It doesn’t help. They make it sound as if all these are so easy to do — no responsibilities, no consequences. They make it seem like engaging in sexual activity is only play, laro-laro lang,” she said, admitting that she, too, fell into that way of thinking.
One consequence of her being on birth control was putting up with side effects.
“I was super short-tempered , and I gained weight — I didn’t use to be this big. I had headaches….sometimes I felt sluggish, lazy. [Those are among] the side effects of the pill. I ignored them kasi rather than getting pregnantmas gusto ko na ‘yung side effects,” she rued, eventually regretting her choice.
“When you’re young, you don’t really think about the side effects. When you’re young, it’s all masaya ‘to,” related Pia, who was 17 when she got into her first sexual relationship.
Making contraceptives more accessible to everyone
The accessibility of pills, condoms, and injectables — plus misinformation on “safe sex” going around and the media’s trashing of notions like chastity and self-control — made a sexually active lifestyle more attractive to her and her peers since these supplies, in their eyes, provided a way to enjoy the fun without the undesired consequences.
“Now it’s everywhere, so nawala na ‘yung takot mo kasi alam mong may fallback ka na. If you use thishindi ka mabubuntis, so parang nawawala ‘yungresponsibility,” Pia said, explaining how her peers in general tended to regard the situation.
“At that time, it gave a sense of security. It was ‘wow, I can do this na.’ What it did was parang tinatanggal niya ‘yung responsibility nung actions, parang pinapakita sa ‘yo na you can do this, you can do that,basta gamitin mo ‘yung contraceptives.”
Pia, who had gone through the use of condoms and pills before turning to injectables, was familiar with the Reproductive Health (RH) bill’s mandate to make birth control drugs and devices more easily accessible to the people. She gave a wan smile and talked of the unfortunate consequences that such a measure would lead to.
“Isipin mo ikaw ‘yung bata. All you want to do is have a good time. And then you give them easy access to [contraceptives] — it’s a disaster waiting to happen.”
“You have to set restrictions, ’cause without these restrictions sobrang dali lang makakuha (“it would be so easy to obtain contraceptives”),” she continued.
“Tsaka kahit saan naman, when too much freedom is given, it’s not good also.”
The student related having high school friends who were “kung baga, ‘old school’,” those who chose to maintain clean relationships and prioritize academic life.
“They got teased, branded ‘conservative people’. Life wasn’t easy for them, they got ridiculed. Alam mo ‘yon? And when you’re in college, you’re thinking that you have to conform so ‘I’m one of them.’ It’s hard and it’s not fair to them,” Pia rued.
“Hanga ako sa kanila (“I admire them”), sa strength nila to really stand up for what they believe in,” she added.
Setting priorities straight
The nursing student had spent several months at Welcome House, a halfway house in Paco, Manila run by the Good Shepherd Sisters for girls in various crisis situations. She was brought there by her family to sort things out and get herself together after letting college life get off to a bad start by prioritizing the wrong things — a sexual relationship, relentless partying, substance abuse, bad company. (At the time of the interview, she was looking forward to being reunited with her family soon, giving her studies another go, and rectifying her mistakes.)
“I was digging my own grave,” she remarked on hindsight, adding that she didn’t really find what she was looking for in any of the things and relationships that ended up being destructive.
“Partly, when I entered college I had too much freedom, and I didn’t have enough maturity to handle the freedom. But I’m happier now, definitely.”
She also expressed her conviction that despite the permissive environment and the misleading things dished out by mass media, clean relationships are not impossible. She had words for other girls who may be having doubts about this:
“I’d tell them to love and respect themselves ’cause if they dont’ know how to love and respect themselves, how can they expect others to love and respect them? And if and when they have a boyfriend, for them to think that you have to give yourself para di ka iiwan ng guy (“so the guy won’t leave you”), is such a lie.”
“If he really loves you, he will wait. And that I believe now. I was so scared before na baka iwan ako,” she said. “I was so scared of another heartbreak. Now what I think is, okay lang iwan ka ng boyfriend mo kesa naman gamitin ka lang niya.” (CBCP for Life)