Center “Eases the Margins” During 36th Anniversary Celebration

To be a leading social development research center in Southeast Asia for the attainment of humane, inclusive, just, and sustainable communities through the production of transformative knowledge and social policy advocacy.

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This was the new SDRC vision statement presented by Center Director Dr. Maria Caridad Tarroja in her welcome remarks during the 36th Anniversary Program held on October 16, 2015 at the European Documentation Center Conference Room of the Henry Sy, Sr. Hall. Celebrating the theme “Observing Another Year: Steps Toward Easing the Margins,” the event was highlighted by panel discussions stemming from current and completed projects, and by the launching of the Center’s latest publication, a magazine entitled SDRC Talking Points.

In his opening remarks, Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Dr. Raymond Tan rendered heartening thoughts, image 1commenting that the Center “seeks to act as a beacon, finding pathways outside the classroom to transfer knowledge for the social good.” He traced the Center’s history from the martial law era to the “chaotic present,” lauding the traditions from which it has “calibrated its mission and vision to stay in touch with the times,” and the efforts in which it has helped “to provide opportunities for solutions.” He ended with a reminder to all that “research must remain relevant” as the University fulfils its social contract with society.

SDRC’s research fellows and associates then shared recent findings with the audience, composed mostly of graduate students who were especially invited for the occasion, and including representatives from Akap sa Bata ng mga Guro-Kalinga-Philippines., Inc.,  the Commission on Population (POPCOM), Far Eastern University, Manila Central University, the Oscar M. Lopez Center, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) SocioEconomic Research Portal for the Philippines (SERP-P), Unilab Foundation, and the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WHO-WPRO).

To lead the first panel discussion focusing on disaster risks and vulnerable groups, University Fellow Dr. Exaltacion E. Lamberte delivered a presentation entitled “The Aftermath of 11/13 Typhoon Yolanda: Damages, Needs and Responses,” clarifying that Haiyan was an event and not a disaster, and expounding on the definitions of “hazards” and “disasters.” Her presentation was followed by SDRC PhD Apprentice Crisanto Q. Regadio, Jr., speaking on behalf of the research team that conducted the study “Measuring Functioning and Disability after a Disaster: Lessons from the Typhoon Hayan/Yolanda Affected Areas of the Philippines.” Their study aims to provide detailed information on affected populations’ ongoing health and disability problems, as well as to provide a broader base for humanitarian support to people affected. The last presenter, Dr. Dennis Erasga, relayed lessons learned from his study “Whose Health, Whose Vulnerability: A Stakeholder Approach in Assessing Health-Related Vulnerability and Adaptation in the Philippines,” the output of which included a health vulnerability manual for which scoring would be done by an assessment team of local residents with their own notions of disaster.

image 3In the open forum that followed, a question was raised on what specific kind of social support would be most useful in Tacloban, where Yolanda hit hardest. Dr. Lamberte responded by saying that psychosocial intervention is usually done for children; however, she recommended that a collective mental health study be conducted for survivors of extreme situations, noting that the men who lost children were no longer motivated to return to a normal routine. She was also asked how biotechnology can help local residents, and responded by saying that there is a need to study not just climate change with respect to disaster, but also topography: The construction of on-site housing may not be a solution, in that it can stimulate recall of a traumatic experience.

Addressing a question on how disability was defined in his team’s study, Mr. Regadio explained that there were five domains in the questionnaire used. The instrument attempted to measure the extent to which respondents were able to function in the same way that they did before Typhoon Yolanda.

Dr. Antonio Contreras, team member of the “Whose Health, Whose Vulnerability” study, informed the audience that the team has concluded that support systems for vulnerable groups lie not in the state, but in civil society and the family. He also asserted that terms such as “resilience” and “dysfunction” must be understood in local contexts, and not necessarily as defined by Western agencies.

image 4A break in the program was provided by Leonora Tiongco Sunit, a participant in the “Women with Disability taking Action on Reproductive and sexual health” (W-DARE) study who is visually impaired. She performed a surprisingly upbeat dance number, providing a striking contrast to the usual perceptions of debility.

Ms. Mona Pindog, W-DARE project researcher, opened the second panel discussion, explaining that the Women with Disability study sought to improve access to quality SRH programs for WWDs in the Philippines. The project director for “Communication for Development Analysis of Maternal and Neonatal Health in Quezon City and in Selected GIDAs in Mindanao,” Prof. Ma. Angeles Lapeña, commented that the study was a response to the challenges that the country’s unique geography and persistent poverty pose to health care. Her team sought to identify gaps and opportunities to develop/strengthen current communication interventions. Lastly, Dr. Marlon Era provided a progress report on his team’s project, “Developing Competencies of Middle Level Health Workers and Maximizing their Roles in Task-Sharing in the Philippines.”  He revealed that the research team, working in tandem with the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, discovered a high acceptance level of conraceptive implants among respondents, and hoped that their study would contribute to the new midwifery law.

In the open forum that followed, a question was raised about whether efforts were made to be culturally-sensitive in the data collection. Ms. Pindog verified that for the W-DARE survey, there were both female and male enumerators, but that the women’s health questionnaire was conducted by WWDs. Ms. Lapeña likewise confirmed that male local field researchers were recruited to conduct the spouses’ FGDs, as they spoke the local language and relieved the men of their shyness.

Regarding a comment made on how no mention was made of how decisions were arrived at or how policies were influenced by the data in these studies, Dr. Era responded by saying that once the findings were completed in the Middle Level Health Workers study, the team would invite the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), Department of Health and other government entities that can benefit from the study to a discussion meeting. Ms. Pindog likewise shared that the W-DARE team partners with government agencies to influence policy and build capacity, and that they will be having a research dissemination for LGUs within the year.

image 5The anniversary program was capped by the launching of the Center’s new info-magazine, SDRC Talking Points, in which a new medium is ventured into for popularizing research output and making it accessible to a bigger audience. The magazine includes features on the Center’s projects on adapting to climate change in peri-urban Southeast Asia, transforming the lives of workers with exceptionality, developing the competencies of middle level health workers in task-sharing in the Philippines, and baseline data gathering for inclusive early childhood care and development and protection. First copies were presented to VCRI Dr. Tan, College of Liberal Arts Research and Advanced Studies Director Dr. Elenita Garcia (who also rendered the program’s closing remarks), Jesse Robredo Institute of Governance Director Dr. Francisco Magno, Stepping Stone Executive Director Dayal Nandwani, and Population Services Pilipinas, Inc. (PSPI) Portfolio Project Officer Franklin John Francisco.