The Official Publication of Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health - Philippines

  • Youth for Health

    VYLH-Philippines is a network of pro-active, service-oriented youth leaders and youth organizations linked by the common interest of volunteerism and public service, to improve birth outcomes through advocacy.

  • Promoting Volunteerism

    VYLH-Philippines is a network of pro-active, service-oriented youth leaders and youth organizations linked by the common interest of volunteerism and public service, to improve birth outcomes through advocacy.

  • A Culture of Concern and Commitment

    VYLH-Philippines is a network of pro-active, service-oriented youth leaders and youth organizations linked by the common interest of volunteerism and public service, to improve birth outcomes through advocacy.

  • Moving towards the Communities

    VYLH-Philippines is a network of pro-active, service-oriented youth leaders and youth organizations linked by the common interest of volunteerism and public service, to improve birth outcomes through advocacy.

  • Glocal and Proud to be Filipino

    VYLH-Philippines is a network of pro-active, service-oriented youth leaders and youth organizations linked by the common interest of volunteerism and public service, to improve birth outcomes through advocacy.

Ten for Ten: 10 Things I Learned from VYLH

By Kristofer Ralph Supil (Hiraya)

VYLH recently turned 10 this year. I have been with the network for four years now, but weirdly, it feels like I’ve been with them since 2009. It’s really amazing how I saw myself on Day 1 and seeing myself now with the organization reaching its 10th year in full technicolor. I’m looking forward to many more years, to 20, to 30, and so on… with VYLH. But in this span of time I’ve been with them, I have at least learned 10 things - things I kept and will keep with me thanks to VYLH.

Passion and hard work are not mutually exclusive. I’ve learned over the years working with different volunteers that these two co-exist with each other. Until now, I have always been reminded to use these two consistently, one never without the other. Passion is a matchstick. Without hard work, without effort, sparks will never fly.

Courage is the secret ingredient to do everything consistently. Having courage is a virtue one must practice in order to practice other virtues consistently. Most times, it’s always scary to start advocating for something people might never understand. But I’ve learned never to let yourself be ruled by these fears. Always remind yourself that there is always something good that’ll come out of your endeavors. Have faith in humanity.

Talent is like DNA — not one is exactly alike. Being with different individuals every year can be very overwhelming. Being with them and seeing their set of talents can even make anxiety worse. You start to think about what you’re good at and what you can offer to the table. However, always think that talent is like DNA. You will never be as good as him or her but so will he or she. You will always be unique. You will always be you. And that’s what makes VYLH so amazing. It’s just several talents bursting with so much energy into one pot. What’s so nice about VYLH is that not once have I ever felt insecure. They’ve only pushed me to become a better version of myself.

Friendship is a flexible concept. It has been said that maintaining friendship in the adult years is difficult. I’m turning 30 this year, and I’m slowly exiting the age bracket of “youth,” but I’ve come to understand that friendship is a flexible concept. And that’s okay. I might have been very close with someone the first day we met, and then we experienced a fall-out but it doesn’t mean our friendship ended there. I tell you, the moment you see each other again, you will be reminded of the several years that you had with them and it will feel as if it was just yesterday. You don’t have to be tagged in every photo. You don’t have to necessarily be in the same chatbox. You don’t have to be in the same region. You just need to understand that you have a friend wherever you may be, and whenever you will need it.

Advocacy is a product of the heart. I always thought that advocacies were things honor roll students did. Young people who excel in the academics and extracurricular. I went into the organization as an average student not even familiar with the word “advocacy.” All VYLH needed was my heart and passion. Everything else followed. I grew. My heart grew. It became smarter. And I will always be indebted to VYLH for what it did to me. I will always wear my heart on my sleeve.

The organization mirrors back who you truly are. Authenticity is key. It wasn’t really hard bringing out who I truly was in this organization. I was just a bit surprised meeting who I really was. Never thought I was capable in becoming who I am today. From the pessimistic, cynical person before to a hopeful, unrelenting Taylor that I am. I’ve also seen the network mold and change people. It is truly breathtaking.

You learn to be kind. Most importantly, to yourself. We can be really hard on ourselves. Setting standards. Unaccepting of our flaws and shortcomings. Always giving in to doubt. I’m grateful though that VYLH taught me, not only to be kind to others, but to be kind to myself. I’ve gone through so much with the people that they’ve given me the chance to become who I am today. Just last year, I volunteered to facilitate at the last regional camp before this year’s upcoming congress. I was surprised with the ceremony they prepared for us. I remember telling everyone that VYLH was the only group of people who told me that I was still working perfectly even when I knew I was already broken.

You learn and appreciate the value of memories. Thank God for a big phone storage capacity. I get to look back at photos and videos and unlock all the memories I need to motivate me to make more new ones with the volunteers and the organization. The value I have placed with memories is that these are actually the ones that keep us holding on.

Love is not what you think it is. I’ve fallen in love with so many people. I’ve fallen in love with their cuteness, their ambitions. But that was me before. Always associating love with the feeling of falling in love with the beautiful aspects of a person. But I’ve learned that love can come in so many forms. I have learned to love someone when they show up late for our meetings and dates. I have learned to love someone by not being bitter when they have finally decided to move on and love someone or something else. I have learned to love someone when they never give back what I give to them, and that’s more than okay. The organization has proven me that I am CAPABLE of love. That I am CAPABLE of loving even after being heartbroken.

VYLH can be any kind of home - a mansion, a duplex, a village, a small room, or a hostel. In VYLH, you will never experience being homeless. Time and time again, I have always felt lost. Even with the organization, feeling lost is not something you don’t experience especially when you’re navigating the 20s. But one thing I have never felt was feel homeless. I may have been lost and distant several times but VYLH always continued and consistently called itself my home. It would be a mansion filled with so many characters when I wanted life to look brighter. A duplex when I wanted a quaint and intimate meet-up just to talk about how I felt. A village when I needed help raising a newV (new VYLH volunteer) and teaching them the ropes of how to advocate for our advocacies. A small room if I needed to be left alone without them wanting to force themselves in. A hostel if I wanted to meet new people. VYLH was every kind of home. And it will always continue to be, I guess. I guess, I will never be homeless.#


Kristofer Ralph Supil @TaylorKristof13 is an Intensive Care Unit nurse at Holy Child Hospital, Dumaguete City. A graduate of Silliman University, Ralph became affiliated to VYLH in 2015. He is also a former Health Leadership and Governance Program Nurse of the Department of Health Region VII. 


#folicacidPH 2019 to highlight the role of Folic acid in healthy and planned pregnancies

On July 18, 2019, Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health-Philippines together with 70 partner organizations will unite for #folicacidPH and use its youth force in promoting the importance of folic acid supplementation. Launched in 2016, the event dubbed as the "National Social media Day for Folic acid Awareness" is annually held in line with the observance of Nutrition Month and National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week.

Why promote folic acid? 

Everyone needs folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin, specifically Vitamin B9. Our bodies use it to make new cells. Folic acid is also very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby's brain and spine which are collectively known as neural tube defects.

In the Philippines, awareness on the significance of folic acid supplementation among Filipino women in reproductive age is presumed to be low, as folate deficiency has been determined to exist. According to the 7th National Nutrition Survey by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute-DOST, 1 in every 5 pinays of childbearing age is folate deficient. Hence, there is a need for increasing public awareness on this matter, especially in the absence of a legislation on folic acid fortification, supplementation and public education.

What are Neural Tube Defects?

Neural tube defects (NTDs) comprise one of the most common group of serious birth defects and these may result in immediate infant death, deformity, or disability. Examples of this kind of birth defects include anencephaly or severe underdevelopment of the brain; encephalocele or protrusion of brain tissue from an abnormal opening in the skull; and spina bifida or the incomplete closure of the spinal cord and spinal column.

Studies have shown that the intake of folic acid or vitamin B9 through supplementation and food fortification can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) or problems on the development of the baby’s brain and spine. In case of supplementation, proper dosage and intake schedule can lessen the risk of NTDs by up to 70%.

What to expect in #folicacidPH?

Although there are efforts directed towards increasing awareness, knowledge and consumption of folic acid, the full potential of folic acid to reduce the risk of NTDs has not yet realized in the Philippines.

In order to promote public awareness, #folicacidPH will utilize Facebook and Twitter as its major online platforms. This year, the campaign will also launch a second hashtag #B9before9. The second hashtag emphasizes the need for the proper dosage and intake of folic acid months before conception. It is known that the neural tube forms in the first few weeks of pregnancy and this occurs weeks before a woman recognizes that she is pregnant. Hence, women in the reproductive age, especially those planning a pregnancy, should include folic acid in their supplements.

A Facebook Live Webinar on July 18 (7:00 PM Manila Time) will also be hosted by VYLH-Philippines together with the Philippine Pediatric Society - Section of Genetics, Newborn Screening Reference Center, Institute of Human Genetics - National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila and March of Dimes. In the online forum, UP Manila Chancellor and VYLH-Philippines National Program Adviser Dr. Carmencita Padilla will discuss the importance of folic acid for better health and improving birth outcomes. This will be followed by an open forum with Dr. Mary Ann Abacan and moderator Arvin Orajay, RND.

Suggested tweets, status messages and infographics will also be provided by the youth network. Aside from the social media component, partner organizations are encouraged to bring the campaign “on the ground” as part of their activities in their schools and communities. #
For questions or clarifications to the campaign, kindly send an email to or a direct message to the folicacidPH Facebook Page (


TeamMATES partners with VYLH on Folic acid Supplementation talk

A series of educational discussions were conducted at Barangay San Enrique, San Lorenzo, Guimaras at the barangay session hall last April 25.

In line with their Project TAMA,  TeamMATE members Melvie Repospolo and Joser Barcelona discussed topics on Nutrition in Ages and Nutrition in Disaster Feeding.  With a special talk on Folic acid supplementation and Nutrition for Pregnant Mothers by TeamMATE member and Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health (VYLH) advocate Ulah Lynn Arancillo (Hayaw, 2018). 

“I was amazed that one needs to eat 200 apples in order to complete the daily 400 µg folic acid requirement”- said Jimmy Lobaton, Brgy. Kagawad. The attendees were enlightened on the importance of folic acid supplementation for pregnant women as it can reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects.  

The talk was attended by our core group, Nutristars, which composed of barangay officials and BHWs. The barangay health center, specifically the BHWs were then given brochures on folic acid supplementation for them to hand it out to mothers during their prenatal check-up. 

With this we are thanking our health partner, Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health - Philippines (VYLH), for providing us lecture materials and brochures on Folic acid Supplementation and Preconception Health. 

Brgy. San Enrique, San Lorenzo
Province of Guimaras


IHG, VYLH and PPS hold first local webinar on Birth Defects

MANILA – The Institute of Human Genetics (IHG), National Institutes of Health – UP Manila, Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health (VYLH) – Philippines, and the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) – Section of Genetics held a webinar on birth defects last March 4, 2019. Clinical geneticist and Metabolic specialist Dr. Mary Ann R. Abacan of the UP College of Medicine – Philippine General Hospital presented a talk entitled “Birth Defects: Why it Matters”. The webinar on birth defects is the first webinar organized by VYLH-Philippines together with its partners. The activity was held in observance of the 5th World Birth Defects Day.

In her talk, Dr. Abacan gave an introduction on birth defects particularly its definition, etiology and types. She also focused on the stages of fetal development. Dr. Abacan stressed that by the time a woman finds out that she is pregnant, most of the vital organs of the fetus has already been formed. Moving towards the prevention of birth defects, examples of teratogens or disruptors of fetal development were also discussed. Dr. Abacan also discussed modifiable risk factors which are important in the prevention of preventable birth defects. 

The full video of the webinar is available online in the VYLH-Philippines Facebook Page.

World Birth Defects Day or #WorldBDday in social media, is held every March 3. The campaign aims to promote birth defects awareness and expand birth defects research, prevention, surveillance and care worldwide. In 2019, the global campaign used another hashtag, #ManyBirthDefects1Voice, to highlight the diversity of birth defects, their global occurrence and the need for global awareness and action. It is known that every year, about 8 million babies worldwide are born with a serious birth defect, and about 3 million of them will die before their fifth birthday.

On the other hand, a one-hour international webinar is scheduled to be organized by the World Health Organization and the March of Dimes on March 22 (15:00 CET/22:00 or 10:00 PM Philippine Time). Dr. Allisyn Moran of WHO, and Dr. Salimah Walani of MOD will serve as the meeting moderators. 

Dr. Abacan is the Cluster Adviser of VYLH-Philippines NCR-South Luzon Cluster.#RPascual


#YouthForHealth: Why talk about RARE?

Photo: Care For Rare Dumaguete
We’ve seen it in posters in maternity clinics and hospitals. Our government has been actively campaigning to detect some of it through expanded newborn screening, but some mothers never understood the purpose of such a process. 

Rare diseases can be a silent, deadly killer because only few understood how it attacks. There are over 6,000 rare diseases that affect over 300 million people worldwide. Each condition has an impact on everyday life, including the need for a daily care routine. Managing these care-related tasks alongside their usual daily activities such as work, school and leisure time can be challenging.

Despite all of these, rare diseases are also rarely talked about in the media. The issue has been neglected by significant media here and abroad. Organizations that lobby for more support and resources for the cause have been having a hard time for the past few years.

We asked some Cebuano members of Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health - Philippines, a collaboration of youth leaders and organizations in universities and communities throughout the Philippines, on why it is essential to talk about rare diseases.

Kayzel J. Maata, 19
BS Biology student
University of the Philippines Cebu

Building awareness about rare diseases is so important because this can truly help those who are affected. Rare diseases affect just a few individuals and pharmaceutical companies don't give much attention to developing treatments because they know that not so many people would need and buy them. Certainly, this is an unfair thing for patients with rare diseases. Thus, awareness should be raised to address their needs, so that care and treatments would be made available for them.

Lance Beniga, 19
BS Biology student
University of the Philippines Cebu

It is important to talk about rare diseases because these kinds of diseases are only known by few people. By that, pharmaceutical companies do not give that much attention about the cure because of its lesser reach. As members [of VYLH-Philippines], we believe that it is important to advocate for the care and needs of rare disease patients.  It is hoped that through an information drive, the public will be aware of such diseases. And by that, pharmaceutical companies will be obliged to find such cure.

Gale Rizarri Enad, 20
BS Nursing student
University of Cebu

It is important to talk about rare diseases so that people will know that rare diseases exist. They should also have health care treatment and receive budget allocation for research similar to other more known diseases.

Marius Eldrid A. Bohol, 19
BS Nursing student
University of Cebu

We should talk about rare disease because it may significantly affect a person's well-being. The percentage may be very tiny, as it is rare, but we still need to talk about this because our future children might have this. This can affect anyone including the person reading this or their loved ones. Through talking about this concern in the society, we can inform, educate, and communicate the possible ways of providing care and lessening the burden of the disease among patient families in the community. With the simple act of talking about the rare disease, one may change a person's future.

Ma. Angelica Haictin, 19
BS Biology student
University of the Philippines Cebu

We should talk about these because our indifference is just as deadly, if not worse, than the actual rare diseases themselves. It's not a solution, but talking about rare diseases means acknowledging that there is a problem, and we need to do something about it.

Atthea Jane Lepiten, 19
BS Radiologic Technology student
Cebu Doctors University

Rare diseases only happen to one in thousands of children. Ironically speaking, it is rare but it should be tackled and talked by more people. The disease can kill a child on a whim without them even knowing.

Roda Gayle Rañada, 20
BS Chemical Engineering student
Cebu Institute of Technology - University

Rare diseases should be talked about because it is not much known especially to the common folk. People should know that they exist and be aware of the journey of the people that are affected by these. We should support and be there for them because their struggle is also our struggle, as well. I believe that we should not be ignorant of matters like these because we are part of a growing society that nurtures and cares for one another.

Claire Angelie Z. Sadicon, 20
BS Pharmacy student
University of San Carlos

Only a few people know about rare diseases. Often, people misunderstood and mislabeled them as "abnormal." Even with just this reason, it shows how important it is to talk about rare diseases or the people who have these diseases.

Patients with rare diseases also get neglected most of the time, and this is unfair because they deserve the same quality of care as any other patient. It is essential that these should be talked about because these things matter. As Dr. Tolar said, “It is easy to dismiss rare diseases as something that can never happen to you, to your family. But to the family impacted, it doesn’t matter that it’s a rare disease. It’s the disease that changes their life." (University of Minnesota, 2017)

Niño Jan Vergara Miole, 21
BS Nursing student
University of Cebu

As a nursing student, it is my advocacy to bring health-related matters to the forefront of societal endeavors to bring its awareness in the limelight. After all, health is a fundamental right, not a privilege. I believe that we can create a healthier Philippines if everyone has the desire to become active participants of their health.

Talking about rare disorders isn't for show. It transcends superficial discussions and elevates the bar of competency of mothers in improving their care to their children. It transformed them to become empowered individuals to take action, and that is the cornerstone of having a healthy life. Rare disorders are not taboo. Be open to sharing your rare, and show that you care.

Klein Rowen N. Cantiveros, 25
Department of Health Region VII

It is relevant to talk about rare diseases to increase awareness. Aside from that, people need to know that these cases are present and are left untreated due to poor financial support. Also to give hope to families that they are not alone in this battle and that there are people willing to help them.

Neil Christian General, 24
Faculty Member
University of Cebu

It is very important for us to talk about rare diseases because these are the diseases that no one, or only a few, cares about. We need to raise everyone's awareness on these conditions as the treatment and medicines for these conditions are normally very expensive. And, on a business standpoint, pharmaceutical companies cannot earn much from formulating drugs for these diseases as there is no enough demand. As such, there is a need for us to support the families of those affected and in a way, by being their voice.

The youth have produced significant contributions throughout the years, but they are often neglected because of their age. The youth may be judged inexperienced and naive, but if society will listen to their suggestions, everyone can learn a lot from them.

As cliche as it may sound, but the youth indeed is the hope of the nation. The people of yesterday should listen to the people of today because the future does not only rely on their actions. Future generations will also carry the burden of the mistakes being done today. 

Perhaps, it is time to listen to them again!

Written and compiled by Maurice Jitty Villaester 

Maurice is a Master of Development Communication student via distance learning from the University of the Philippines Open University. A native of Baril, Cebu, he joined VYLH in 2018 as part of Batch Hayaw.

Ed RPascual

10th National Rare Disease Week to focus on “Bridging Health and Social Care”

On February 22-28, the Philippines will be celebrating the 10th National Rare Disease Week. Together with the rest of the world, the country will also observe World Rare Disease Day on February 28 with the theme “Bridging Health and Social Care”. The theme highlights the need to bridge the gaps in coordinating medical, social and support services in order to tackle the challenges that people living with a rare disease and their families around the world face every day.

There are over 6,000 rare diseases that affect over 300 million people worldwide. Each disease has an impact on everyday life, including the need for a daily care routine. For most people living with a rare disease, as well as their family members or carers, the reality of daily life can include any combination of the following: collecting and taking medicines, attending appointments, participating in physical therapy, using specialist equipment and accessing various social and community support services and respite care. Managing these care-related tasks alongside their usual daily activities such as work, school and leisure time can be challenging.

Most rare disease patients have difficulties in completing basic daily tasks. As a result, the majority of care is usually coordinated by people living with a rare disease and their family members who spend a significant amount of time organizing care. Organizing care can involve researching local services, making phone calls, accessing treatments and rehabilitation, handling administrative procedures and adapting the home or work space. It becomes a complex and frustrating process, especially when a lack of coordination across services means having to repeat the same information over and over again. Communication between different services needs to improve so that services are delivered efficiently to meet the patients’ best interests.

This year also marks the third year since the enactment of the Rare Diseases Act of the Philippines (RA 10747) – a key legislation for the care and welfare of the Filipino rare disease patient by institutionalizing a comprehensive, integrative, and sustainable system that will facilitate the collaboration of government and non-government agencies, private sector, professional health organization, and academic institutions. Together with the recent enactment of the Universal Health Care Act (RA 11223), it is hoped that the delivery of services and government support for rare disease patients will improve as this law takes full effect in the coming years.

The annual observance of Rare Disease Day culminates National Rare Disease Week. Now on its 12th year, celebrating Rare Disease Day provides an opportunity to be part of a global call on policy makers, healthcare professionals, and care services to better coordinate all aspects of care for people living with a rare disease. #

To learn more about this year's social media campaign, visit or the National Rare Disease Week - Philippines Facebook page

Philippine Society for Orphan Disorders, Inc.

PhilHealth introduces Expanded Newborn Care Package

In support of the National Comprehensive Newborn Screening System, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Inc., or PhilHealth, recently released PhilHealth Circular No. 2018-0021, expanding its coverage of essential health services for newborns.

In the circular, which will take effect on January 5, 2019, the PhilHealth introduced the enhanced Newborn Care Package, increasing the amount of coverage from PHP 1,750.00 to PHP 2,950.00. The new
cost pays for supplies for essential newborn care, such as Vitamin K, eye ointment, and vaccines for hepatitis B and BCG. Included also are the Expanded Newborn Screening (ENBS) Test, Newborn Hearing Screening Test, and fees for attending professionals. 

The PhilHealth circular provides that the enhanced package shall be dispensed to qualified newborns delivered in all accredited health care institutions that perform deliveries and provide newborn care, which include hospitals, infirmaries/dispensaries, and birthing homes/lying-in clinics.

To ensure entitlement to the said benefit, newborns need to be in the facility for at least 24 hours after birth, except those who warrant immediate referral to a higher level facility. The state health insurer encouraged all active and expecting PhilHealth members to avail themselves of the said package in order to provide newborns with the needed services that will help reduce morbidity and mortality while reducing health care costs associated with treatment of lifelong debilitating conditions.

Published in Newborn Screening
Official Newsletter of the Newborn Screening Reference Center

VYLH Central Luzon spearheads "Prick or Treat"

ANGELES CITY - Truly, the scariest thing for parents is not knowing if their child has a heritable disorder that may cost him his entire future. The first “treat” they can give their child is to have them screened through Expanded Newborn Screening in order to diagnose congenital metabolic disorders that may cause mental retardation or early death, if left untreated.

For this reason, VYLH-Philippines Central Luzon started a social media information dissemination campaign during Halloween in order to inform parents of the importance of Expanded Newborn Screening. The volunteers, headed by Dr. Ron Allan Cardona Quimado, changed their social media profile pictures using the Prick or Treat frame designed by Patrice Gayle Lumbang, a VYLH and a student nurse from Tarlac State University.

The volunteers also urged their friends, families and colleagues to do the same in order to expand the scope of the information campaign.# 

Author Nikki D. Dela Cruz, RN (NSC-CL)
Editor RPascual

Nikki is a registered nurse and Project Development Officer at the Newborn Screening Center - Central Luzon. An alumna of Angeles University Foundation, she joined NSC-CL in 2013.   




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