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Building Communities

Building Communities

Sr. Maria Perpetua Bulawan, DC,
Literacy Worker

What is a good literacy implementer? Does she teach, clothe and feed over a thousand people? Does she bring them to the Lord and guide them through? It is all this and more. At the most fundamental level, she must ensure that the welfare of the people – in all its myriad guises – is fulfilled.

Sr. Maria Perpetua “Mapet” Bulwan DC, 38, of St. Louise de Marillac College of Sorsogon (SLMCS), Sorsogon City has done just that – and still doing it. She has devoted her life to harnessing the talent and energies of the people in Sorsogon for productive use; and creating a society built on Christian ways. Sorsogon is the second poorest region in the country so her devotion to advance the status of the people is no mean feat.

She was rewarded a Special Recognition by the Literacy Coordinating Council (LCC) for her exemplary performance as a literacy worker of the Louise de Marillac Foundation, Inc. Community Extension Services (LMFI-CES), while her “Education for Life Program” got top honors during the 2008 LCC Recognition Day in Teachers Camp, Baguio City this September. In 2005, her program, “Literacy Intensification and Values Education” also got third place in the LCC Awards. Literacy has been her covenant – and she has never failed.

Tell us your secret, Sr. Mapet. The nun is on a roll.

The Education for Life Program

“There is no secret,” says Sr. Mapet while seated on a chair wearing a veil over her habit. “We just realigned the Foundation’s programs and services to the UN Development Goals and responded to the people through the alleviation of poverty and hunger, access to primary education, ministry to migrants and persons with Acquired Immune Deficiency (AIDS) diseases, environmental sustainability and many more,” she rattles in a voice that is heartbreakingly soft and measured.

SLMCS in Sorsogon City has been among the forefront institutions responding to the call of government in the eradication of illiteracy since the 1980’s. in 1989, the then Bureau of Nonformal Education (NFE) now Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS), asked SLMCS to be the service provider for the Literacy Service Contracting Scheme in Sorsogon.

Certainly, Sr. Mapet would not disappoint anyone. She is famously accessible and has taken her crusade for functional literacy classes to 15 learning groups in Sorsogon West, Sorsogon East and Bacon District every year. Along with the sessions are bible sharing activities either in the barangay hall, Day Care Center, chapel, classroom or even in an unfinished house. Word of each small success spread from town to town. And gradually, she won the support of many. Indeed, it is hard to exaggerate the impact of the community service done by Sr. Mapet, but from among her learners, a number have become domestic helpers abroad; others have become officers of the kapilya pastoral council and a few turned into barangay health workers.

The learners are recruited house to house with the assistance of the barangay kagawad and other elders in the community. “I interview them to identify their needs. Ang mga learners mismo ang pinapipili ko ng schedule at lugar ng learning sessions,” she says.

This is one of the most challenging aspects of the Program: to maintain the learners after a calamity. “Naku! Ang hirap lalo na nung tinamaan sila ng super typhoons Milenyo at Reming. Syempre inuuna nila ang pagpapatayo ng bahay nila at sa ikabubuhay nila bago nila harapin ang learning sessions”, she says with a sigh.

Yes, life for Sr. Mapet could have been easier if she had not chosen to take on the burden of joining the Sisters of Marillac. But she did. Hence as a nun, she also mobilizes donation brigades and extends relief assistance to the often typhoon – visited Bicol and other areas. Her dedication spills over to her role of extending assistance in the housing construction of disaster victims; providing stress debriefing and home visits. In fact, Dr. Norma Salcedo, LCC Secretariat Head says of Sr. Mapet: “She’s not a talker. She’s a doer.”

Gliding from one mission to another, and loving every minute of it – Sr. Mapet’s jail apostolate is equally impressive. She does spiritual formation, gift giving and socialization to the inmates of Sorsogon.

She has also devoted her life assisting out-of-school youth and adults to formal secondary and tertiary schools through the Balik Eskwela Program. The Study Help and the Marillac Grantees Student Assistance Program help finance the needs of students.

In this interview, she recounts with all humility that the Education for Life’s Adopt-a-School Program established in 2005 has also helped hundreds of undernourished kids. The program caters annually to 120 malnourished elementary pupils of Bitan-O Elementary School, Sorsogon West district, and this program is bound to go a long way more. This is her great hope.

“We strive to help bring the world a little closer to the ideal,” she says. The Foundation also hired two experts from the Benguet State University to teach the community farming techniques and high value crop production. “Now, the community raises its own carrots, strawberry, sayote, sweet peas and yacoon,” Sr. Mapet smiles as she clasps her hands.

Sr. Mapet’s indefatigability is beyond compare. There is something in her that is devoid of the trappings of bigness and grandeur. There is something about real greatness and selflessness when you see her. She continues, “we also reach out to the spiritual formation of the elderly in barangays Tugod, Cambulaga, Sampaloc, Talisay, Bulabog and San Juan Roro in Sorsogon. This is in preparation especially for their next life.”

After a perfectly timed pause, I suddenly interrupt her, “have you had boyfriends?” She answers, “Yes, but Iam happier with the Lord.” I laughed after that and Sr. Mapet sneaks into a girly giggle. I realized that beneath that gentle mien of a nun is a warm person with a sense of humor, even-in-your-face wacky.



Filed under: Encouragement, People who inspired Us,

10 lifesaving numbers you should know

Here are 10 numbers every person should know. Read on and learn about them. Be sure to keep them below danger levels.

1.Your blood pressure: 120 over 80, or lower. The first number in the blood pressure refers to the pressure in the arteries when the heart is pumping. The second number correlates to the pressure when the heart is relaxed. The optimal blood pressure based on scientific studies is 115/76. To make this easier to remember, doctors round it off to 120/80. A blood pressure in excess of 140/90 (either one of the numbers) is considered high and must be treated with lifestyle changes and/or medications. How important is this number? Well, if a person with a blood pressure of 160/90 reduces his BP to 120/80 through medicines, he will live approximately nine years longer.

2.Your heart rate: Within 60-90 a minute. The normal heart rate at rest ranges from 60 to 90 beats a minute. You may check your heart rate by taking your pulse at the wrist area or the neck area. The most accurate heart rate is determined by listening to the heart with a stethoscope. An athletic person may have a heart rate as low as 50, which is normal for him. However, if a person’s resting heart rate is persistently above 90 beats a minute, he needs a checkup to rule out thyroid disease, anemia, heavy smoking, and other disorders. When we exercise, our heart rate increases, but should return to normal within two to four minutes of resting.

3.Your waist line: Less than 35.5 inches for males and less than 31 inches for females. Now these numbers are a bit difficult to accept. But research shows that if your waistline (measured at the belly button and not the pants area) is less than 35.5 inches in males, and less than 31 inches in females, then you are in the ideal range. However, if your waistline is more than 40 inches in males, and more than 37 inches in females, then you are at the highest risk for a heart attack and stroke. People in between those numbers are at moderate risk and should try to reach their ideal body weight.

4.Your ideal body weight: Within 10 percent of the ideal. Your ideal body weight is shown in the accompanying table. Try not to exceed 10 percent of your ideal weight. Anything more than 20 percent of the ideal weight is labeled as obese. The higher the weight, the greater the risk for diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.

5.Your LDL cholesterol level: Lower than 130 mg/dl. LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind of cholesterol. It breaks apart easily and gets stuck in the walls of your arteries, causing impaired blood flow. If a middle-age man reduces his LDL cholesterol from a high 180 mg/dl down to 100 mg/dl, this will make him three years younger. To reduce your LDL cholesterol, reduce your intake of beef and pork, and increase intake of healthy fats like olive oil, fish, walnuts, and omega-3 fats. Monitor your cholesterol level at least once a year.

6.Your oxygen saturation level: 95 percent or higher. A pulse oximeter is a portable device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. The better your lung and heart function, the higher your oxygen saturation rate. Young adults usually have higher oxygen saturation levels of 98 percent or more. However, for chronic smokers and city dwellers, this level goes down. Breathe clean air, avoid cigarette smoke, and use air-conditioning. All these will help keep your lungs strong and healthy. Practice slow and deep breathing for five to 10 minutes in the morning and at night. It’s relaxing and good for the lungs.

7.Your fasting blood sugar: 100 mg/dl or lower. A blood sugar higher than 100 mg/dl means that you are not normal. If you don’t watch out, this will lead to diabetes and its frightening complications. The excess sugar in your body damages your arteries, causing cracks and holes to appear at the walls. If you have a first-degree relative with diabetes, try to keep it lower than 90 mg/dl. Avoid simple sugars like donuts, candies, and cake icings. Go for more veggies.

8.Your body fat: Less than 25 percent (for males), and less than 30 percent (for females). Manny Pacquiao has a body fat of 10 percent. Wow! But for us ordinary mortals, the ideal numbers are less than 25 percent for males and less than 30 percent for females. Women have more body fat because of their breasts and wider hips area. To reduce your body fat, exercise more to build more muscle mass. Also, reduce your fat and food intake to keep your weight down. These body fat measurements are available in gyms.

9.Your sleep hours: At least 7-8 hours. Sleeping and resting are a great way to boost your energy. The best sleep is at night, especially from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. because this is the time the liver exerts its regenerating powers. If you work the night-shift at call centers, then try darkening your room during the day to simulate nighttime sleep.

10.Your bank account. It’s partly true that wealth can buy you health. You need money to buy nutritious food, and to pay for medicines and hospital bills. However, there’s a limit to what money can buy. Exercise, a healthy diet, and a healthy lifestyle are still your choices. Get a yearly checkup. And make sure you have some money stashed away for urgent medical needs.

Finally, have a list of emergency contact numbers at hand, like your favorite doctor, the hospital, the fire department, etc. Keep these lifesaving numbers handy for your health and peace of mind.


By Willie T. Ong, MD

The Philippine Star

Original Story:

Filed under: Health Tips, Healthy Living,

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