Filipino-American midwife Robin Lim, the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year, said mothers are the real heroes for raising their children.
“The real heroes are the mothers who are in labor right now and their families and their husbands rubbing their back, even those who are outside the hospital hallways crying thinking what is happening in the (birthing) operation inside,” Lim told reporters earlier this week.
Lim was cited as the CNN Hero for 2011 because her Bumi Sehat foundation provided “birthing sanctuaries” for Indonesians who need maternal and general health care.
Lim is currently in the country as she wants to celebrate International Midwife Day on May 5 in the Philippines as homage to her Filipino-Chinese mother.
“I will be sharing May 5, the International Midwife’s day here in the Philippines to be with my sister midwives in my mother’s country, which is really important to me, especially, this year after becoming the CNN hero of the year,” Lim said in a press conference on Monday.
“We will have a general assembly in General Santos City and we are gonna share (our experiences)…with 500 or even up to 700 Filipino midwives,” Lim said.
Lim plans to build birthing sanctuaries in the Philippines, and her chosen pilot area is Baguio, her mother’s hometown and also the place where the CNN hero was born.
“In 2010, we have started to brainstorm about a community-based clinic in Baguio… and in Quezon City near the dump but let us see. We need businessmen to support our cause,” she said.
“The difficult thing [in putting up birthing sanctuaries] is making it sustainable or keeping the ball rolling. We want the centers to be culturally appropriate for the Philippines,” she added.
About being named the CNN hero of the year, Lim said she never expected that.
She said the one who helped her win was CNN Hero of the year 2009 Efren Peñaflorida, also a Filipino, who was cited because of his Kariton school project, aimed at educating the street children.
Lim said Peñaflorida's group made sure that every person in Indonesia and the Philippines that has a computer will vote for her.
Her advocacy: breastfeeding
Aside from building holistic birth centers, Lim has been advocating for breast feeding versus infant milk formulas.
“Lives will be save just by breast feeding. Do you know that infant-formula fed babies are 300 times more likely to die during their first year against the babies who were breast fed?” she asked.
Confessing that she was a teenage mother, Lim revealed that she breastfed all of her four sons and two daughters for a minimum of four-and-a-half years.
“Breast-fed babies are happier and healthier… If we could have all babies closer to their mother through breast feeding, we can build peace -- one baby at a time,” she said.
Lim said she counts the late President Corazon “Cory” Aquino, mother of the incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, as her personal hero for defending breastfeeding.
“Many years ago Corazon Aquino defended the right of Filipino babies to be fed from the breast, even though the Bush Administration said to her that this is a blockage of free trade of infant formula,” Lim said.
“She’s my hero. She is long gone but what she did for the Philippines by defending breast feeding is still saving lives today, so we should all thank her,” Lim added.
Science and tradition
Lim, who merges science and folk herbal traditions, said she owes a lot to her grandmother Lola Vicenta, a hilot.
“[We provide] holistic health care by using indigenous herbs. My Lola was a hilot and the herbs she used were quite effective… She even got my first baby at home,” Lim said.
Lim claimed that her Lola cured her kidney problem using only the corn hair.
Lim, who has an American father, was supposed to be brought by helicopter from Baguio to Manila because of a bad kidney problem.
“My Lola kidnapped me and made me drink tea from corn hair. In a few days, I was well like nothing happened,” Lim recalled.
Aside from herbal medicines, Lim said the best medicine in her bag of tricks was "love."
“Love conquers all… When you are given a hug, energy instantly flows. And it is also medically proven how oxytocin helped our bodies.”
Meanwhile, Lim mentioned that she appreciates her Filipino heritage.
“I think the greatest Filipino attribute that I embody is love and respect for my father and mother. They weren’t easy, a mixed marriage, believe me,” Lim said.
She detailed how her mother remained devoted to her father even after suffering from war-related trauma.
“When my father came from the Vietnam War, it has been so hard in their marriage. He would sometimes choke my mother because he thought she was an enemy. He suffered from Vietnam-stress syndrome. [Though he had the trauma,] ‘till the day he died, she never gave up on him,” Lim said.
On what she loved in the Philippines, she mentioned food.
"I really have to tell you Filipino food rocks… It is really the best cuisine I the world,” Lim told the media.
She said her favorite Filipino dishes are dinuguan and sinigang.