She may be occupying the seat of power in the whole province of Batangas, but in her heart, Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto is simply a mother taking care of the health of her family and of the community. The love and concern she shows to her constituents through her “health-first” policy has earned her the respect and trust of her people.
“As a mom, it is my priority to take care of the health needs of my family, and this extends to my larger family of Batangueños,” she conveys. “I have always believed that even if you raise the quality of education, give jobs or livelihoods, or provide infrastructure, it would all be useless if the people suffer from poor health.”
Santos-Recto channels this outlook through her Hearts Foundation, which stands for “Health, Education and Environment, Agriculture, Roads, Tourism and Security.” Putting much emphasis on health, she is rightfully concerned about the condition called micronutrient deficiency and how it affects millions of Filipino schoolchildren.
This is the reason why, for several years now, she has been supporting health advocacies that fight malnutrition. Her campaigns continuously educate and encourage both parents and kids on the importance of eating healthy foods and drinking milk.
“Parents should know the right food choices at ito ang dapat na binibigay nila sa mga anak nila,” she says. “Lalo na ngayong panahon na naman ng pasukan, being healthy is very important because otherwise, maaaring maging masakitin ang mga bata, o kaya matamlay, laging nag-a-absent.”
Santos-Recto explains that kids who always seem to lack energy, easily get tired or have a hard time concentrating on their schoolwork are likely candidates for micronutrient deficiency. Lacking essential nutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin C in their diets, these children often grow up to be underweight or stunted, conditions from which roughly half of Filipino kids suffer.
“Ayon nga sa survey ng Food and Nutrition Research Institute [FNRI] ng Department of Science and Technology [DOST], four out of five schoolchildren suffer from lack of iron,” she says. “Seven out of 10 public school students naman ang may kakulangan ng vitamin C, samantalang one out of five ang kulang sa zinc.”
The governor is happy that, through her collaboration with Nestlé Philippines and FNRI-DOST, she is able to communicate to a wider audience the importance of eating nutritious food and drinking milk. She agreed to endorse longtime powdered milk drink Bearbrand because it is fortified with “Tibay Resistensya” nutrients iron, zinc and vitamin C to help children in their proper growth and development during their formative years.
“Ako at ang mga kapatid ko ay pinalaki sa gatas kaya yun din ang ginawa ko sa aking mga anak,” says Santos-Recto. “Alam naman natin lahat na talagang masustansya ang gatas lalo na kung fortified ito. Isa ito sa mga napatunayang paraan para malabanan ang micronutrient deficiency—bigyan sila ng wastong nutrisyon kasama ang pag-inom ng gatas na may dagdag iron, zinc and vitamin C,” she adds. “Gusto ko ma-absorb ng parents ang importance nitong solusyong para sa pagpapalaki, pagpapalusog at pagaaral ng kanilang mga anak. Ang Micronutrient Deficiency, kaya nating labanan!”
As a respected actress and public official, and as a health advocate, Santos-Recto’s commitment as well as credibility comes from being a mother herself to her family, to her community and, ultimately, to the whole country.