Modern Day Manger

Posted April 15, 2015 from Philippines
Joys of Motherhood
Image from
(Image from the internet) Mother's sharing beds in government hospital (1/2)

Everybody knew where Jesus was born – in a manger, a stable. The circumstances around his birth was that of oppression and greed and many babies were killed just to get to him but in the end his birth became our salvation. Brought joy to his parents and the promise of God to mankindwas fulfilled until he has to die for our sins and be born again.

That was over 2,000 years ago. No doctors, no mid wives, no health care programs, no insurance and no government hospitals.

Recently, I learned of a young mother giving birth to a healthy baby boy. They named the boy Joseph, the savior of the land. Being born from a young mother, Joseph’s birth was not easy because his mother doesn't know what to do so was his father because both were young and living far from their hometown.

Joseph’s parents are from the island of Visayas, they came to the city to look for work and work they found. They are paid enough and were given modest room to live in and start a family in the company’s compound but they don’t have medical insurance to accommodate private hospital services.

His mom has no other adult companion where she lives except their neighbors who have different opinions and traditions on how it is to be pregnant, when to see a doctor and even what to do when it’s time for Joseph to see the world. She chose to leave their province because life was also difficult, being the 3rd child out of 12, she dropped out of school and tried her luck in the city until she met her husband, equally from another province and young.

I met Joseph’s mom and dad a week before he was born through a relative and I inquired about the condition of her pregnancy and plans on where to give birth. The pregnancy was to term, the laboratory results were all good but the baby is already overdue by 2 weeks, so I know anytime the baby would be ready to be delivered. The last hospital that checked her advised they go and be admitted to a specialized government hospital because the local hospital is not ready for complicated delivery such as hers according to the doctor (or maybe nurse) – the baby looks big, mother’s a primie and petite, they might need to operate in case.

They decided to go to the metro city the same day I met themand get themselves admitted at the Fabella hospital known to many as the baby factory —100 babies born every day according to Daily Mail in 2013.Unfortunately they were refused because they do not take cesarean cases — it was the “annual clean-up” according to the nurse, preventing babies fromnosocomialinfections and advised them to go back a week after. They went to 3 other hospitals and all refused, they decided to go home. That was Wednesday.

Thursday, they went to visit another hospital and was again refused because they came too late – only 30 patients are admitted every day and it was the Holy Week, no doctors can attend to them. They went back home.

Friday and Saturday nothing happens in the country and to Joseph’s mom – we observe the annual Lent tradition and most are on vacation including medical professionals.

Luckily Joseph was not ready to go out and rise with the Lord on Easter Sunday. He waited, only to be born very far from where her mother live on a Monday, almost a week after I met them.

They attempted to go to Fabella again and still the same advice – they are not done cleaning(but believe me it was just their polite way of refusing her because she’s from the south of the metro and maybe there’s not enough room for 101 babies).

After much toiling in the streets of the metro city, they found the hospital that would accept them – because she was already in labor and refusing them would be fatal for Joseph and his mom, they have to admit her, it’s a government hospital they should not refuse – Quirino Memorial Medical Hospital.

Joseph waited hours to be born – her mom was in labor for over 10 hours. The way they described it was the mothers were like milking cows waiting for their turn to be seen by the doctor. If they are not ready they are asked to wait.

Finally the time has come – Joseph was born. He was delivered via natural childbirth even if his mom was in a lot of pain. The doctor was very motivational – “if you have $500 you can deliver via C-section if not push”said the doctor … push she did!

After delivery his mom wasmoved out of the room and was left to his relative to be cleaned. Joseph was not bathe but prints were taken from him for documentation. They were sent to the maternity ward only to find 2 other mothers (and their child) in the same bed and the room was cramped. Relatives were not allowed inside the room, only called via PA system if they are needed by the patient, if the nurses didn't forget or there was even a nurse to advice.

Food were provided but only those with strong stomach can eat – sorry but according to them it was like prison food (not that I've been in prison but the stories you hear can be gut churning). No medicines were provided, the families have to fend for themselves and if you have enough money you can have good food, diapers and other baby necessities.

They only stayed for 3 days because from 3 mothers in their bed, additional 1 joinedon their last night. They didn't wait the next day to go home after Joseph’s father was able to find enough money to pay off their hospital bills which amounted only to less than $40.00.

That is the sad plight of many mothers’ I know that gave birth in government hospitals. Services are subsidized by the government but the quality vary – there’s no guarantee that you will have the best public service inside one.

There are not enough personnel to help each mother post-delivery – relatives are expected to clean up the patient and babies are not given ample care as to hygiene and sanitation. I should know because I assisted in my niece delivery and post-delivery after care.

There are not enough beds to accommodate patients to give them comfortable after care. I heard stories of mothers lying on the floor writhing in pain pre or post-delivery because there’s not enough bed in the rooms so they have to stay in the corridor.

Medicines are supposed to be included in the government subsidies but simple pain reliever are borne by the relatives. I've witnessed a husband almost tearing his hair because he cannot afford 50 cents worth of pain medicine because the nurses won’t give them. And yet you will hear in the news that a lot of medicines are thrown out because they are expired, not dispensed properly to those who really need them – where’s the justice in that?

Personnel treating each patient like animals – you don’t see the TLC you want to experience when you’re becoming a mother be it the first time or nth time. The mothers are lined up like ready for slaughter, that’s dehumanizing and it’s sad because these people cannot complain or they will feel the wrath of the (sometimes) overworked (sometimes) underpaid health professionals.

I wonder if I will see the day when government services are given with a smile by personnel happy to serve the public because its good manners and right conduct.

I wonder if I will see people having more trust in the government services and come out of it telling more positive stories than the grim reality now.

I wonder if one day when Joseph gets married and become a father he will recall how it is to be born in a slaughter house (that is if his mother will tell him) and choose to have a different take on life and start a family with dignity like every one deserve.

He has time to wait and see, maybe in his lifetime stories would be different and like Jesus he will see the change in humanity.

Comments 6

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Alyssa Rust
Apr 15, 2015
Apr 15, 2015

I myself and young and do not have children yet but I cannot even begin to imagine what it was like for Joseph’s mother and father to have to go through the experience that was described in your post. Having to travel around to hospital after hospital only to continued to be turned away because she was too young or the birth was going to be too complicated is just completely outrageous and I can’t even imagine the mounting stress and frustration she felt being over due and not finding a place where she will be able to give birth.

Your comment about how the doctor said it was $500 to deliver a baby via c-section was really interesting. Here in the United States more and more women are planning their births and having c-sections. It just is really eye opening to hear about how childbirth is so vastly different in different countries, in different cities, and in and among different communities. To have to give birth and then share a bed with two to four additional other women seems like a very uncomfortable situation. All of these women must have great strength and courage to be able to go through an experience such as this. Thank you again for sharing this story and I wish nothing but the best for Joseph and his family.


Alyssa Rust 

Apr 16, 2015
Apr 16, 2015

Thanks for the comment Alyssa.

That is the grim reality of the public health services in the Philippines it's not comparable with the quality of paid hospital services, so yes these mothers are brave and strong and their children should realize that and show respect to them and take care of them when they are older.

Apr 16, 2015
Apr 16, 2015

Thank you Coolasas for sharing this story! It was very touching and the photos were very moving.

I agree that it is not what a mother and a father-to-be should face on her way to give a birth as there is no dignity in what they witnessed.

It reminds me of the times in Poland when my mother was born (in her family house as they couldn't afford going to the hospital) but I also think of more 'positive' stories of my sisters and friends who have already gave births and even if there is still much to do about the conditions in Poland, I see how in the course of the years it has been changing, and I share your hope that in the future the changes will happen in every country in the world.

I think it is very good that you brought up this topic, because the change starts when there is a voice risen, and I think that some people forget about the problem, until they have their own children and it is good to remember by hearing such stories.

I also hope that the time Joseph starts his family, it will be with dignity like every one deserves.



Apr 16, 2015
Apr 16, 2015

Thanks Magdalena for your comment.  I witnessed babies born in their homes, it still happen in some parts of the Philippines being an archipelago sometimes reaching the nearest hospital takes forever during emergencies.  I've seen changes too but the growing divide in wealth many still cannot afford quality private health care services so we rely on government services but sometimes they do not meet the needs of the people considering that is their main job -- public services.  I am hopeful yes, but we also need to act and through this medium I hope to get the message out and get people doing something about it.  Cheers. 

Apr 16, 2015
Apr 16, 2015
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It's my Life
Apr 23, 2015
Apr 23, 2015

Being from a developing country where hospitals are less and patients more, I can totally empathize with your feelings and understand what had actually compelled you to write on this situation. The government health centres have become a hub of corruption where all the money invested by the government (if at all any) is eaten up by the officilas. How do you think we can adress this issue to decrease the amount of trauma faced by the mothers of Josephs?