The PAD-Ibig Diaries is the brainchild of Black Pencil Advertising and Roots of Health, as part of a campaign to combat the increasing rates of teenage pregnancy and HIV in Palawan. (PN photo)

Junior high school students from Palawan National School spent Valentine’s Day in 2024 learning about women’s reproductive health through an unlikely yet engaging medium: informative illustrated stories about intimacy and social relationships, creatively wrapped around menstrual pads.

The PAD-IBIG Diaries Sessions was a creative project initiated by Black Pencil Manila, an advertising agency, in collaboration with Roots of Health (also Ugat ng Kalusugan), a well-known local health organization specializing in delivering information about reproductive health to youth.

Both of these organizations worked together with Charmee Feminine Pads to create 24 unique stories, formatted as diary entries, printed on sleeves that wrap around Charmee menstrual pads. These pads were showcased during the PAD-Ibig sessions as a means for students to access factual information on sensitive topics such as personal health.

When Kat Gomez-Limchoco, the executive creative director of Black Pencil, sought a method to convey information aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy rates in the Philippines, she collaborated with Roots of Health. They discovered that Palawan had one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies.

Palawan National School’s School Nurse and Assistant Principal II for the Junior High School Ariel Argonzola accept the case of PAD-Ibig Diaries menstrual pads from Kat Gomez-Limchoco of Black Pencil and Marcus Swanepoel of Roots of Health on February 14, 2024. (PN photo)

“We are with the creative team of the ad agency and we really believe in allotting some of our energy for creativity and good projects. Since there’s a lot of women on our team, there was a lot of concern when we started hearing news one after the other about the alarming rates teenage pregnancy. Nine percent of teenage girls [in the Philippines] are mothers,” Limchoco said.

The 24 stories were written by Black Pencil’s creative team, then forwarded to Roots of Health for fact-checking and to enhance the content with more than just general knowledge. They also customized the stories to be more relatable to Palaweño youth.

The diary entry format engaged younger people in learning facts about various topics such as healthy relationships, consent, myths and facts about sex and fertility, sexually transmitted infections and diseases, and sexuality and gender identities and expression.

Youth Advocacy Manager for Roots of Health, Aika Pagusara, noted that while they were already active in conducting information and education campaigns (IEC) in schools around Palawan, this was the first time the health organization had entered into a creative partnership with a corporate entity like Charmee and an advertising agency such as Black Pencil.

“Usually what we do pag nasa school, more on teaching talaga- naka PowerPoint, may mga sample materials na dala. This is different, these are pads na may different stories, something that the students can really relate to,” Pagusara said.

Two sessions were held at the Abueg Auditorium in Palawan National School among the female junior high school students this Wednesday, during which they engaged in presentations on women’s health and fertility, creative writing compositions of stories regarding consent, and general knowledge on sex and pregnancy.

There were also guessing games surrounding common misconceptions around sexual and romantic relationships.

A large case of menstrual pads was given to the school nurse at PNS, which the girls can then discreetly borrow and peruse in the clinic, while posters were to be installed within the girls’ bathrooms in the junior high school building.

Limchoco pointed out that Filipinos still have a culture of “hiya” (embarrassment) surrounding topics such as sex and women’s health, a hurdle towards sexual education that is solved by the PAD-Ibig Diaries’ medium.

“We knew that the conversations around reproductive health and sex will be nakakahiya so this was a way to start the conversations privately or secretly, by using sanitary pads which really only girls see. (…) We still wrap [the pads], we pass it secretly to each other, so I thought it was a good medium to start the conversation,” Limchoco noted, adding that Charmee’s branding as a Feminine Protection pad is what led them to partner up with the company.

Pagusara highlighted the importance of updating informative material for the youth. As Roots of Health has been operating as the only reproductive health organization in Palawan for more than a decade, they stated that frequent campaigns were important as students graduate and other children grow up, noting that the last time they held a campaign in PNS was in 2015.

While the Charmee pads were intended as a limited-edition collectible for Black Pencil and Roots of Health’s campaign, all PAD-Ibig stories are publicly available for viewing on the Roots of Health website, https://ugatngkalusugan.org/pad-ibig-diaries/
.