From Dr. Nicholas Alipui, Country Representative, UNICEF Philippines
It is with anguish and a deep sense of loss that I received the news about the passing away of our dear friend and colleague, Dr. Clavano. My wife Ana Mabel and I composed the following personal tribute for her:
Today 3 years since we got to know you we realize once and for all that the time has really come for us to release you into the bosom of the Lord Almighty and we do so in humility and in thanksgiving for your wonderful and enchanted life. In your passing, we remember you for your beauty, your warm friendship, your deep intelligence and above all how full you have been of life, passion and ideas, and how in life you have always put the Rights and welfare of others above your own comfort. You had that simple way of giving yourself completely for the happiness of others. And in your search for justice for infants and young children, you gained international recognition and worldwide praise for your breastfeeding promotion work.
Once, every so often in our lives, we meet rare and extraordinary people who leave indelible marks in our memory and few who actually touch the core of our humanity with their own human spirit. We are very happy to say that you have been one such friend and colleague for us and for many others with whom you worked for children here and all over the world. It has been a delight knowing you and a real priviledge sharing the same podium with you sometimes. We are happy that already in life while you were still here with us, we have had the priviledge of letting you know just how high our regard and admiration has been for you and for all your achievements. Together, we have enjoyed warm light moments as well as the passion and intense advocacy and practical work for children's Rights. You have been a worldwide icon for breastfeeding and a tireless defender of the Right to food security for infants and young children. You have not lived long enough to witness in this life the verdict of the Supreme Court in the ultimate challenge in the defence of the Right to breastfeed for young Filipino children but your work continues to inspire and motivate us all. We have learned so much from you and hope that in some small way we too in our interactions with you have managed to impart some joy and happiness to you.
Thank you for your love. Thank you for your friendship. We will miss you very much. But your work lives on. Ate Sempre! A Luta Continua! Dr. Clavano descanse em paz eterna!
Patti Rundall, Policy Director, Baby Milk Action, sent an email and a picture of her, Prof. David Morley and Dr. Clavano taken in 1989 during the IBFAN-BUNSO Convention in Manila. "She was such an important person and a huge inspiration. Her story has been an inspiration to many of us because she so honestly examined what was going wrong with the health worker practices and was prepared to do something about it. Her actions have huge relevance today for health professionals everywhere a the "friendly" stranglehold continues," Patti wrote.
INFACT Canada wrote the following tribute in its newsletter:
INFACT Canada was dismayed today to hear of the death of eminent Filipino breastfeeding activist Dr. Natividad R. Clavano. Our national director, Elisabeth Sterken, had met Clavano, who will be long remembered in the Philippines and around the world for saving the lives of many, many children.
INFACT Canada would like to extend our condolences to Dr. Clavano’s family and friends. She not only saved the lives of many infants, but also convinced thousands of others to work towards the protection of infant health. She and her work will live on in those she inspired.
From Innes Fernandez, Executive Director of Arugaan and convenor of Save Babies Coalition:
Dear Dra. Clavano,
You have lived a great life, an inspiration for us whom you left behind to continue the struggle for the rights of mothers and babies for the protection of breastfeeding.
Most admirable was your being a doctor- warrior who spoke strongly against the abuses of the multinational milk companies in either media interviews or in any arena of learning. You have reached 2 Senates to testify on the unethical milk marketing correlating your intensive research studies that bespeaks of bottlefeeding menace that wreak thousands of lives. The first one was at the USA Senate Inquiry under Senator Ted Kennedy 3 decades ago and lately at the Philippine Senate on the Milk Code Inquiry.
I can never forget how you bravely told the story on how Nestle officials tried to bribe you in Geneva meeting in exchange for stopping your breastfeeding research study that became a global reference. And how you rejected them in disgrace.
Also, how you kept saying that the enormous work you have done was first recognized by the international community and only after that the local recognition came later.
God is the witness to your valuable work.
I am blessed to have worked with you at the last trainings you gave for the UNICEF initiated testing of the breastfeeding manual in Tagaytay and Davao 2 years ago. I vividly remembered your advise with regards to poster making addressed to me and Jing in your house in Baguio: "Mapaiba naman" (make it different). You showed an article from the Inquirer about ads impact. Then you got some banner photos of breastfeeding mothers and remarked that " sawa na ang public seeing the same photos" and you brought out the slide where yellowish milk colostrum drips and you said," tingnan mo this has an impact, people will pay attention to this precious life saving mother's milk" . I told myself that if I got the chance with funds, indeed I will make use of this colostrum poster and create one for the public.
And how you pointed to me while I was giving lecture on breastfeeding and working women management, you corrected me that there is no need to sterilize the cup in keeping the preserved breastmilk. The cup just needs to be washed with soap and water and kept clean. You emphasized to the participants that it is the artificial rubber teat that is the culprit of contamination.
In Davao, I could sense the frailness of your health but you persevered and continue to 2 do things simultaneously hopping from one training to the other as resource person for the breastfeeding seminar and the nutrition event.
You are a character that no one can match. Full of life despite vulnerabilities. Unafraid of giants.
As you jokingly said, " I am small but like big, look at my husband, and I like big study to undertake thousands of respondents".
Dato Anwar Fazal pioneering founder of WABA and IBFAN described you as " a tiny woman but moved mountains".
In sadness and in sympathy, we pray for your peaceful journey in heaven. Knowing fully well that you will be our guardian angel and guide the Supreme Court Justices to see the pot of gold in breastfeeding not the green bucks of the milk companies and prod them to sign the passage of the final verdict on the revised IRR of the MIlk Code( en toto) as Christmas gift. Sorry Dra. Clavano even if you are already in heaven you still have favors to bring for us.
Innes in behalf of the Filipino mothers and babies and the world's activists for food- health security and sovereignty.