POSTSCRIPT / March 15, 2022 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Surrogate babies, GFs in Ukraine war

Among the innocent victims of the war in Ukraine are surrogate babies being cared for in nurseries there while the country is under attack by Russia. The war is preventing their biological parents, who are mostly abroad, from visiting or claiming them.

A nanny caring for one of the babies at the Kyiv nursery. Photo: New York Times/ Lynsey Addario

Ukraine is one of the few countries offering surrogacy services to foreigners. The business is the largest in the world, according to its lawyers who say about 500 women there are now pregnant as surrogates for clients in the United States, Europe, South America and China who cannot have children on their own.

A report Saturday in the New York Times said also that surrogate mothers typically earn about $15,000 per child. Ukraine does not allow surrogacy for same-sex couples, or for couples who wish to choose the sex of their child.

The NYT reported from Kyiv: “Down a dusty stairwell, hidden from the shelling that has become the grim background noise of Ukraine’s capital, Ludmila Yashenko fusses with the babies. There are 19 of them, sleeping or cooing in neatly arranged cribs, fed regularly from tubs of baby formula.

“The kitchen has a sterilizer for bottles, while the nursery has a changing station stocked with diapers. Ms. Yashenko and other nannies bounce the babies on their laps and straighten their bibs, even as they watch television, wide-eyed, to learn the latest news from the war.

“Death and destruction are rampant in Ukraine, but in this basement there is new life, if also new problems.

“The babies were born to surrogate mothers, with their biological parents still outside the country. Because of the war, the citizenship of the newborns is unclear, as is the question of who their legal guardians are, since under Ukrainian law their biological parents must be present to confirm their nationality.

“There is also the question of how, or if, they can possibly be taken to safety.

“In the Kyiv basement, Ms. Yashenko and the other nannies are caring for the babies, even as they grow increasingly worried about the war raging overhead.

“’Of course, we cannot abandon the babies,’ said Ms Yashenko, 51. Her husband and two sons, all soldiers in Ukraine’s army, have urged her to get out of Kyiv.

“’They want me to leave, but I cannot abandon my colleagues, I cannot abandon my work, I cannot abandon these babies,’ she said. ‘I will remain here until everything is back in its place.’”

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In the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, meanwhile, Julia Pishchana, the thirtyish Ukrainian fiancée of Filipino lawyer Roberto “Argee” Guevarra wrestles with the question of how to leave her war-torn country. They met online in 2016 through Kontakte, which Argee likened to Facebook.

In 2020, after a lovely vacation in Manila when it was winter back home, Julia flew back to Odessa, a Ukrainian port city facing the Black Sea. She was soon locked in by the pandemic and now by the war.

Julia, her mom, her brother’s girlfriend, and a sister were to start yesterday their 700-kilometer journey to Lviv, which is 20 km from the Polish border, planning to seek refuge in the Philippines. (All men 18-60 years of age may not leave Ukraine and must fight to defend their cities.)

Around 300 Filipinos, Argee said, were in Ukraine at the start of the war, around half of whom had been repatriated. In Odessa, some 20 Filipino seamen are sheltered on a ship docked at the port where another vessel had been hit by rocket fire that killed some crewmen (not Filipino).

He recounted chatting electronically with three Pinoys working on cruise ships where they had met their partners. One seaman, he said, was distressed over his Ukrainian GF’s having to look for a way to escape to Poland to go to the Philippine embassy there and then fly to Manila.

Argee said that if the war worsens, Julia and her family would avail themselves of the Philippines’ readiness, as announced last week by President Duterte, to take Ukrainian war refugees.

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Argee Guevarra is my lawyer, btw, in my suit against a businessman who has been operating for some 15 years now the Bulawan restaurant on my lakeshore property in Pililla, Rizal, without a contract with me, without paying rent, and refusing to vacate the site despite a court order to leave.

While my family has been deprived of the use and enjoyment of the property and religiously paying realty taxes without earning a centavo from it, the big-time squatter rakes in millions from his operations using permits issued by municipal officials based on fraudulent paperwork and in violation of pertinent laws.

How do we cure our nation of the cancer of influential persons conniving with public officials to profit from the property of others in an ironic situation where laws are used to commit unlawful acts to the prejudice of the true and lawful owners?

 Jeep fare at ₱.10; gas at ₱.25/liter

By the time you read this, the price of diesel, the lifeblood of many public passenger vehicles, would have gone up by as much as P13 per liter, based on an advisory of Pilipinas Shell. Its planned per-liter price increase is P7.10 for gasoline and P10.50 for kerosene.

Other fuel firms are expected to follow close to that range. What will happen to the fare on passenger conveyances such as jeepneys and buses?

Those who scoff at factual records of how it was under Marcosian martial rule might also refuse to believe that there was a time when the Philippine peso was valued at P4 to US$1 (compared to today’s US dollar fetching P52+).

And, don’t laugh, there was a time when the jeepney fare was 10 centavos. For more of those odd items, go to my ManilaMail archive. Look for my Postscript of March 16, 2021, titled “Jeep fare was ₱.10; gas at just ₱.25/liter”! The direct link: https://tinyurl.com/my469abk

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 15, 2022)

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