By Mark Pere Madrona
The interview with a crying Jaclyn Jose on ABS-CBN last June 29 sent shockwaves throughout this showbiz-crazed nation. Jose confirmed to the whole world that her 21-year-old daughter, young actress Andi Eigenmann, is indeed four months pregnant. Jose made the revelation amidst swirling tabloid blind items about the pregnancy.
Almost immediately, everyone (especially “netizens”) was speculating about who impregnated Eigenmann. Is it her ex boyfriend Albie Casino? Is it her current flame Jake Ejercito? Others, meanwhile, are talking about what effect this event would have in Eigenmann’s budding career.
According to reports, her mother network has lined up a number of future projects for her. Even while Eigenmann and her mother has remained tight-lipped on the pregnancy, her father, actor Mark Gil, has said nasty words about the father of her daughter’s baby. We all know that the media thrives on covering controversial personalities and intrigues, mainly because the public delights in watching that. Since the reportage has been centered on these individuals, we hear nothing about the deeper (and more relevant) story underneath the entire brouhaha.
To say that premarital pregnancies are becoming common nowadays may be an understatement. Almost all of us probably have a relative, a one-time schoolmate, or a neighbor who became pregnant before marriage. In some instances, the ones involved here are still on their teenage years. Having lost contact with most of my elementary batch mates for years, I was so surprised to see that some of my female classmates are already mothers. I learned about it through their Facebook accounts, where they uploaded pictures of their babies. At first, I naively thought those kids were either their younger siblings or pamangkins!
I’ve also had more than two unwed close relatives who became pregnant. For example, my cousin Theresa (not her real name) was only 15 when she got pregnant almost four years ago. We were playmates during our childhood days, though I am two years older than her. The father of her child works as a car shop painter near their house in Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City. Other than his daily pay, he does not get any other benefits from his employer. I even doubt if that shop is formally registered to do business.
According to a 2004 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), “the number of young adults engaging in premarital sex (PMS) has steadily increased over the years.” They cited the findings of the Young Adult Fertility Survey III (published in 2002) which stated that 40% of Filipinos between ages 20-24 have experienced PMS at least once. It was concluded that “the percentage of sexually active young adults increases with age,” and that males and urban adolescents in general are more likely to engage in PMS.
Despite the high incidence of sexual activity among young people, the same WHO literature review noted that a mere 20% of women aged 15 to 49 did not know when they are fertile during their monthly cycle (as revealed by the 2000 Family Planning Survey). And though 94.4% of unmarried girls aged 15-19 are aware of at least one contraceptive method, only 0.1% of them had actually used it (as per the 1998 National Demographic Survey).
These figures will surely be disconcerting for many, but one has to keep in mind that the numbers stated here are already obsolete. Getting more recent (and hence more realistic) statistics about these matters are very tough. Doing such an extensive study will surely be costly. Who will shoulder the expenses?
It will also be hard to put it into place since some sectors will surely vehemently oppose the initiative from the start. Lastly, how can you be sure that you are getting honest answers when you ask someone about his/her sexual behavior? It may be hard to quantify the increasing prevalence of premarital pregnancies in our society right now, but as stated earlier, it is not hard to put a human face into it.
One can only speculate as to the reason behind the rise in premarital pregnancies in the country. More often than not, such cases are unplanned by either of the parents. And while having a child is not bad per se, the problem comes when a couple is totally unprepared for the baby’s needs. So, the question now is, how do you reduce unintended premarital pregnancies? More on that in my next post.
* The figures cited above were obtained from Sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and youths in the Philippines: A review of literature and projects, 1995-2003, published by the World Health Organization – West Pacific region. This 153-page material can be downloaded for free at http://www.wpro.who.int/NR/rdonlyres/C39735C6-2817-4BC0-B527-3F22FBA7F2B9/0/ASRHphilippines.pdf.