Barangay bingo, a beauty pageant and microphobia

My next stop was at a 2 day project launch and planning workshop for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) program in Quezon City, the largest and most populous in Metro Manila and home to Save’s Luzon- Visayas Program Office (LVPO).

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This was to launch the 4th year of this program to Barangay captains, health officers, midwives and Community Health Workers in Caloocan City. The program’s reach and accomplishments to date have been incredible:

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The purpose of this support was to further strengthen local governments’ capacities to sustain gains on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly those focused on MDG 4 (reduce child mortality) and MDG 5 (improve maternal health).

The project aimed to reduce the incidence of preventable maternal and neonatal deaths in Caloocan City by improving the delivery of basic services on MNCHN. These services included family planning through community mobilization, improvement of health service delivery systems and sustained local government support.

Caloocan City, located in the northern part of Metro Manila is the third most populous city in the country, with 1.5 million residents (2010 National Census). Five percent of these families live below the poverty threshold (National Statistics Coordination Board, January-June 2012). Urbanization and rapid population growth due to in-migration are among the major challenges in the project site.

Support for Save the Children’s Work to Strengthen Philippines Maternal and Child Health (MDGs 4 and 5).  Final Report 1 July 2014 – 30 June 2015

The objectives of the workshop are to appreciate the context and relevance of the project at the city and Barangay levels; understand and share ownership of the project goal, objectives, strategies and activities; identify members of the Project Management Team; and outline an action plan for September 2015 to June 2016 at the city and Barangay levels.


160Before it kicked off, time for a quick energiser and a round of Barangay Bingo. Barangays are identified by numbers…187,149,160,171,187,176,14,160,168….









After the opening welcome remarks from Save the Children, Mr Santiago Sia, General Manager of Caloocan City Hall expressed the importance of this program and how engagement and dialogue between the partners here is fundamental for its success. He acknowledged communication challenges are sometimes difficult, particularly as directions are coming from the City Health Dept, not the Barangays or National government.

The first task was establish house rules and expectations before objectives, context and overview were presented.


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The project aims to contribute to achieving the Philippines MDG targets on maternal and child health, as it is very likely that the Philippines will not reach its MDG 4 and 5 targets by the end of 2015. The unprecedented gains in Under-5 and Infant Mortality Rates could stall unless the Neonatal Mortality Rate is addressed.


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The objectives are to:

  • Increase access and availability of quality MNCHN services;
  • Increase demand and utilization of quality MNCHN services; and,
  • Improve and sustain an enabling environment for the delivery of MNCHN services


In the afternoon, one of the presenters gave a lively and engaging session on HIV and I sensed an opportunity to ask a question that was posed by one of my midwife colleagues (Mrs T) at the Clinical Unit Cambridge, following the milk letting to music blog (link) a while back. I mentioned it to Kit, the project coordinator, who summoned for the mic. You can’t avoid microphones in the Philippines I’ve discovered, but I have a slight phobia of them. I’m not sure why this is but it’s certainly not my voice coming out of it, rather a 10 year old’s. Microphobia is the fear of small things, but I prefer to apply this definition to my fear of microphones instead.

The dreaded mic was in my hand before I had too much time to worry about it. A voice I didn’t recognise asked whether donated milk was screened for HIV before donation, antenatally, or not at all?

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The answer: HIV testing seen at the milk letting event was a new initiative, but milk is tested for HIV by the hospital and discarded if positive.











The project overview presented goals, objectives, strategies, activities and key stakeholder mapping

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before it was time to wrap up the day, a photo opportunity with Vice Mayor Macario Asistio III

One of several hundred…

After dinner, the Barangay entertainment got underway, the idea being to form bonds, break down barriers, not take yourself too seriously, particularly when there are serious issues to address. It is important to make a fool of yourself and we were ‘invited’ to do so in the form of a Beauty Pageant. I think we succeeded.

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Day 2 breakout sessions enabled the Barangays to decide and plan their activities from their budget.

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The action plans were presented by each Barangay…

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and the workshop concluded but not before with another round or two of photos J

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It’s been a great education for me over the last two days and a wonderful opportunity to engage with these superstars in Caloocan city. I look forward to connecting with them again in the coming weeks as I progress with the birth plan project….more on that in the next blog (with not so many photos!)

Speak soon! Alli J



  1. Thanks Alli – a really interesting mix of meeting styles apparent from the great pictures. Some I recognise (post-its/ powerpoints) and some not (the beauty contest!!). Was there anything that worked well that you hadn’t seen used before (apart from the beauty contest 🙂 )?

    1. Thanks for your comment Andy. I think what really worked well, although not new, were the energisers and team building throughout the 2 days. They were great fun and really helped engagement and collaboration. Some are really short and snappy, others a bit longer – and there were a lot of them!

  2. Hi Ali – sounds like a great few days . I never real realised that the microphone struck such fear into your heart !!! Must be from a flashback karaoke session ……. Xxx glad you are well you look great

  3. So will you deserve the yellow mic of the CUC? still on my desk, waiting for you 😉
    Thanks for the news, great to see, and I try to imagine how you’ll get all of us going in the CUC! Continue the good work! Cheers!

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