A loaf of bread for Rosanna's woes

Exactly one year ago, on Dec 21, 2012, the Reproduction Health Bill was signed into law, providing universal access to reproductive health care services and information with priority given to poorer households. Rappler is publishing actual stories of women that show birthing complications and maternal deaths remain a tragic reality in the country. This is the 3rd of 3 stories. The 1st story is titled, 'Mernielyn: A downpayment for her baby's life' and the 2nd is titled, 'In faraway Patikul, mothers die.'

MANILA, Philippines – When  Rosanna “Osang” Sawajaan was in Grade 3, she stopped schooling. Ever since she could remember, she would get to work early in the morning as soon as the freshly picked vegetables were brought to her home.

She would help unload them, wash and sort them; cut and bind the vegetables in retail sizes, and bundle them up again for packing in sacks. Mother and Father would bring these to the market. Then, being the eldest, she was left behind to take care of the younger ones.

She never thought life could be any different from what she had been used to and saw no point in going to school.

She met her husband, a Muslim, who sold fish in Santa Cruz Market where she also sold vegetables. Every day, when the police were not raiding  the overcrowded sidewalk and apprehending 100 other illegal vendors like her, Rosanna kept her stall and netted P300 a day after an investment of P700 on fresh produce from the main Bagsakan source.

Her first two pregnancies were planned, after which she went on the pill for two years. Then she stopped taking the pill altogether. After some time, she got pregnant with the 3rd.

Soon after the 3rd child was born, Rosanna’s husband found another woman.

Rosanna tried to get pregnant for the 4th time in an effort to save their union. During the the 4th pregnancy, her husband finally left Rosanna to live with the other woman. No good-byes, no money for the children, either. 

Rosanna went on selling vegetables. Often, there wasn’t enough for the chilldren’s food and schooling. 

Trysts then bleeding

Months after being abandoned, Rosanna still chanced upon her husband at the market. She would beg him to come back to his family, and to appease her, they stole away for trysts. 

"Five times in 5 consecutive days" was how she described the fevered meetings with her “ex-husband,” and then she became pregnant.

“I told him about it, of course,” Rosanna said, “but then he told me that his other wife was about to give birth and he would not be seeing me anymore.”

She also told her neighbor about her predicament.

“Boil leaves of the 'White Flower' and your menses will come,” her neighbor said.

Rosanna did as told but her menses did not come. She then went to the panday or traditional birth attendant named “Zeny” from the village of San Roque.

The panday said: “So you’re already 3 months on the way. For P200, I could arrange an abortion for you but you take the risk.”

She looked for the money and  was given a bitter herbal drink. The panday started to poke her for about 5 minutes and that was the end of the session.

After 3 days, the panday asked her to pay more. The aghast Rosanna had no choice but to cough up some more cash. This time she was given a heavier massage.

On the way home, Rosanna felt there was some spotting on her underwear. As she was going home from the market, she could feel clumps of blood being released, and she passed out. 

Bread instead of blood

Manang Lordes, a neighbor and community organizer, brought her to the Zamboanga General Hospital.

“When the doctor heard Rosanna’s confession, he got very mad, but immediately put an intravenous drip, into which was injected high dose antibiotics 3 times a day,” said Manang Lourdes.

Medicines were prescribed but Rosanna didn't have any money so the hospital staff just ignored her. Each time a doctor came, Rosanna would say she didn’t have the prescribed medicines and they would just pass her by.

At the nursing station, there was a buzz that Rosanna – who had been confined for almost 3 weeks – was still breathing, but would likely die very soon. 

Manang Lourdes talked with 4 doctors, pleading with each one to please attend to Rosanna. She herself would find the means to pay them back. 

One of them said he would schedule a Dilatation and Curretage (D&C) on Rosanna if the medicines and the blood needed for transfusion would be ready.

Lourdes called Rosanna’s husband for help. He did come by to visit Rosanna, bringing a loaf of bread.

“I requested you to bring blood or bring blood donors, not bread. You better not come back," Lourdes told him. Rosanna’s husband left and never showed up again.

Fortunately, the following afternoon a paying patient who had undergone a D&C had some left-over medicines. A negotiation for more blood donations ensued. The doctor agreed to proceed with Rosanna’s D&C. They released her a day later.


Back at home, Rosanna remained bedridden for the next two months. She just wouldn’t get up for many days and refused to eat. After a few weeks, she would get up to go to the toilet. She would wash and feed herself then step out of the house and wander aimlessly.

“It seemed like a total nervous breakdown, her way of shutting out what seemed so cruel and unbearable," said Manang Lourdes who oversaw the household when Rosanna would stray far from the community.

The neighbors knew and would gently lead Rosanna back home. Fortunately, her children’s schooling wasn’t interrupted.

“I had a sense of what was happening around me at that time but I couldn’t react,” Rosanna says of that long depression.

She has just recently been able to resume her livelihood, selling vegetables in the market once again. But now she is wary of another encounter with the man who could only think of bringing a loaf of bread after all the madness he had caused. – Rappler.com