The Manila Times, 14 March 2010 — “There is no parent who does not have dreams for their children. That’s why we have to plan well. We shouldn’t depend on other people to rise from poverty and make a future for our children; we should only depend on ourselves.”
These words that may be expected from a politician rallying others to support his cause—except it’s author is no politician. This was Robin Padilla, speaking as the Trust Family Planning ambassador to a crowd gathered at the Sonny Belmonte Plaza along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.
Even before getting up on stage, Padilla literally stopped traffic when he and supporters walked several meters along Commonwealth Avenue carrying placards calling for family planning and proper birth spacing.
A follow up to his Trust Condoms “Tunay na Lalaki [Real Man]” campaign, Padilla spoke to the crowd gathered about the importance of family planning and launched his new commercial which is tag-lined “Mag-usap. Mag-desisyon. Umaksyon. [Talk. Decide. Act.]”
This couldn’t have been a more apt time to talk about these issues in light of today’s current issues—namely, the rapidly growing population which is now at 92 million and the unprecedented rise in HIV cases.
The Department of Health (DOH) recently declared an HIV epidemic in the country. In response to this, newly appointed Department of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and her department officials gave out free condoms to people buying flowers on Valentine’s Day—a bold move to raise awareness and education about HIV and AIDS and a first for the government who has otherwise remained silent on the issue of modern contraception.
On the recent controversy about the Health department handing out condoms to the public, Robin was careful to say that he and DKT, Philippines were not siding with any group who were both carrying out their own mandates. “We are not siding with either one of them. They both have a point and are both simply carrying out their duties.”
The Bad Boy does good
Robin Padilla, whose showbiz career has spanned more than two decades, is still a newsmaker.
But unlike his hoodlum-gangster past which involved fist fights with other actors that earned him the moniker “Bad Boy” and possession of an arsenal of guns that landed him behind bars for four years, he is making headlines for his personal advocacies such as peace in Mindanao and family planning.
Padilla has even established and funded the Liwanag ng Kapayapaan Foundation—a preparatory school in a 1,100-square-meter lot in Fairview, Quezon City—that gives free education to Moro children in Quezon City.
Since opening in 2007, the school has afforded hundreds of scholars free education, books, uniforms and school bus rides. Its madrasah curriculum, approved by the Department of Education, offers Arab language lessons Islamic value formation as well as regular subjects such as science, mathematics, Filipino and English.
“I see the parents of the students in my school, they have so many children. It is so hard for them. I tell them to limit the number of children that they have and to properly space their births so that they don’t have such a hard time taking care of them,” he says.
Now, Padilla is working on getting sponsors and corporate partners who can provide livelihood skills training for the parents of the students.
All this after the man christened Robinhood Fernando Cariño Padilla 43 years ago converted to Islam behind bars and was reborn as Abdul Aziz.
It seems it was destined that it would take a macho action star and a real life anti-hero like Padilla/Aziz to bravely espouse responsible parenthood and rational reproductive health when the Catholic Church still meddles in public policy and the private affairs of all consenting adults regardless of religion. In a land where, despite the hollowed place the Church has enjoyed for the last 500 years, dysfunctional families, corruption in government and runaway population growth among the poor are the norm, it may take a rebel like Padilla to set things right.
No conversation with Padilla, a well-known charmer, would be complete without mentioning the subject of women.
On the observation that at many family planning outreach programs, it is mostly women who are present and the men are nowhere to be found, he says, “Our call is for a real man to take responsibility. A real man doesn’t bring problems or infections. He is only supposed to bring happiness and joy to his woman.”
On a more serious note, he continues, “According to the NSO [National Statistics Office] surveys, there is a very small percentage of women who are given a right to speak up in their own homes. This to me is very sad. A woman should be given a right to speak up about what she wants and what her plans are for herself. And the men should give their wives this right. It’s not macho for a man to insist that he always be followed just because he is the padre de familia [head of the family].”
Asked if he takes his own advice about family planning and birth control, the newly singled Padilla (he and long-time partner Liezel have split up, ostensibly making Padilla one of the hottest bachelors in showbiz) says, “The condoms and product samples that DKT gave me are in a cabinet as of the moment. Right now, I am more focused on studying the many books and researches that they gave me to read on family planning and population.”
“We only need to think of our future. When we do that, then a lot of things will follow after: proper planning and protecting ourselves and others. The power to do that rests entirely in our hands, we just have to seize it,” he says like a true modern day Robinhood.