CNN hero, Baguio girl, reunites with kinBy Desiree Caluza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
“I love you. I believe in you.” Midwife Robin Lim says her grandmother, Vicenta Munar Lim, used to repeat this phrase to her as an 11-year-old girl at Sta. Scholastica Village in Baguio City where she recuperated from a kidney ailment from 1966 to 1968.
Lim, the CNN Hero of 2011, says the phrase lingered when Vicenta pierced her ears for the first time.
She says the same phrase haunted her as she made her way back to this Baguio neighborhood on Sunday to reunite with her relatives. It was her first Baguio visit since winning the CNN network title.
Lim spoke in General Santos City on May 5 in a forum that celebrated the International Day of Midwives, before motoring to the summer capital for a chance to see her cousins.
“My heart was beating fast on our way here. It’s really good to be home. I’m really excited,” says the Filipino-American, who is based in Indonesia where she runs the Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation).
As soon as she arrived at the home of her cousin, Remy Lim, on Sunday, the CNN Hero was immediately surrounded by nephews, nieces and their own children. Most of the children appeared awestruck, and barely spoke whenever Lim turned to them.
The midwife credited her Baguio relatives for helping draw attention to her advocacy for natural birth practices and traditional medicine that eventually won her the CNN title.
Lim peppered her 13-year-old nephew Yvan with kisses. She explained that she helped Yvan’s mother deliver the boy.
“I am so happy and proud of her. We feel much closer to her now after she won [as] CNN Hero. I voted for her many times and I even encouraged my friends to do the same. My [family] feels very much connected to her,” Yvan says.
Remy says: “[There were critics who said Robin] is not pure Filipino, but look at her heart. She is pure Filipino.”
Lim says she is a pure Baguio girl. “When I was growing up [here at Sta. Scholastica], there were only a few houses. We played at the watershed. We really had a good time. For me, it was the best place anywhere on earth,” she says.
Tradition also helped shape her outlook on life.
Lim says she grew devoted to Vicenta, also a midwife, after witnessing her grandmother’s traditional healing practices.
She says tradition was also a lifestyle in their Baguio household. Vicenta would undress before catching fish at the nearest pond, and when she had to chase after chicken so she could prepare adobo, she says.
“I love Filipino food, and I like alamang (shrimp paste). It’s what I buy before I leave (the Philippines). It’s not a Filipino kitchen if you didn’t have that,” Lim says.
She says she was also no stranger to Remy’s place. In 1998, Lim lived in that house for a year with her husband, William Hemmerle, and five of their eight children.
The ground floor served as her underground free natal clinic because she was not licensed to practice in Baguio, Lim says.
At one point, she says she helped a breech baby survive after it stopped breathing.
While Lim performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the newborn child, she advised the mother “to talk to her baby … and to say “I love you.’” The baby stirred into consciousness, she says.
Lim is called “Guerrilla Midwife” by friends who know about her Baguio adventures.
Guerrilla Midwife is also the title of a film about her life, which was directed by Deja Bernhardt, and which was screened this week at the Victor Oteyza Community Art Space in Baguio.
Her 1998 experience has convinced Lim about building a Baguio natal birth clinic in the future. She says the Baguio project may replicate the Yayasan Bumi Sehat, which she established in 2003. Last year, the clinic served more than 40,000 mothers for free.
Lim says her project may even come to fruition because the attention her story is getting is drawing support from many Baguio people.
She was the guest of honor on Monday at City Hall’s weekly flag ceremony. Lim was also gifted with a Mt. Province skirt by her new admirers.
In all her travels in the Philippines, she was always introduced as “The CNN Hero, a Baguio girl.”