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Friday, May 2, 2008

No Scalpel Vasectomy

[This article was published in the 18 May 2008 issue of the Baguio Midland Courier]

The National Statistics Office reported last April 16 that as of August 1, 2007 the Philippine population registered 88.57 million, and is poised to reach 90.44 million this year.

With the current rice crisis, our burgeoning population continues to demand that families take reproductive health issues seriously. However, in a country where these issues are still largely overshadowed by machismo and the unrealistic prohibitions of religious authorities, we are ensured that we're going to be stuck in this population problem for the long haul.

I am aware, of course, that the solution to a complex problem as population boom can't simply be reduced to getting rid of machismo or certain religious dogmas. But certainly it greatly helps when more couples will employ applicable family methods available, regardless of how some religious folks or a patriarchal community would react.

I advocate sparing wives from being submitted to a messy and literally gut-wrenching tubal ligation, so let me talk about No-Scalpel Vasectomy (NSV), a procedure that is simple, quick, nearly painless, and free (at least in the Philippines, as of the past five years).

In my interview with Ms. Marjorie Verroya, official nurse to the Baguio City Hall under the office of Dr. John Tinoyan, I gathered that from 2003 to date there have only been 73 males who submitted themselves to NSV despite the fact that it is free of charge (including medicines).

Among these males are four foreigners (2 Americans, 1 Aussie, 1 Swiss) and a Filipino-Spanish mestizo. The Americans must have been happily surprised that NSV here is free, knowing that back in the US a similar operation would have cost them as high as 600 USD. The rest are either from Ifugao, Baguio, or other areas adjacent to the city. Although patients include engineers, doctors, and teachers, the majority belong to what may be considered as blue-collar jobs.

A peek into their records reveal that over half of them are Roman Catholics (an encouraging number, given the hardline stance of the Pope against "artificial methods" of birth control), with a sprinkling of Methodists, Pentecostals (particularly, "Solid Rock"), Jehovah's Witnesses, Iglesia ni Cristo, Church of Christ, and Lutheran.

While researches reveal that vasectomy in general has a .1% failure rate (if you want a 100% effective way, choose either castration or total abstinence), all of the 73 NSV cases above reported no unwanted impregnation.

There is certainly no problem with me and my wife, and we are content with our two beautiful kids (girl and boy)...

I think one major reason why, even when reproductive health workers in the country have been hollering themselves hoarse inviting men to undergo NSV, many men in the country still refuse to be enticed is misconception -- misconception about their manhood and the nature of the family planning method itself.

I have had male friends who would say either in earnest or in jest after learning that I had vasectomy, "Ay, nagpakapon ka?" (Got yourself castrated, eh?). Or, "Di hindi ka na nakakapagbuhat ng mabigat?" (So I suppose you can't lift heavy things anymore?). Or "Why???!!!" with a what's-gotten-into-you look.

I've also had some women tell me, "Bakit hindi si misis?" (Why not your wife? Read: Tubal Ligation). Or "Masyadong maaga" (It's too early).

I could cite one hundred and one other reactions, but the above would suffice. In response, I will just have to say that -- pardon my immodesty -- I still got balls (both literally and figuratively), I can still carry my big yFontok butt and a 25-kilo LPG tank over a considerable distance, I still feel macho as ever, and I continue to enjoy my God-given privilege of intimacy with my wife.

And with all the hardships my wife and I have gone through trying to make both ends meet, two kids are enough.

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