Interview with Kristine “Tin” Chan – Reproductive Health Advocacy Director, Filipino Freethinkers

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Kristine “Tin” Chan is the Reproductive Health Advocacy Director for Filipino Freethinkers. Here we talk with about her life, work, and views.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start from the beginning. What are some familial and personal background?

Kristine “Tin” Chan: I am the youngest of three siblings. We grew up in Metro Manila, Philippines. Not sure what else you’re interested in.

Jacobsen: How did you come to the Filipino freethinking community?

Chan: My husband, Red, started the Filipino Freethinkers group and started having meetups. It all started when we would host overnight hang outs with two other friends and we’d watch movies and often talk about ethical questions, philosophy stuff.

We’d often stay up till morning just talking! And we thought if we enjoy talking about these things, perhaps there are other people out there who are similar Red found some atheist mailing lists and found out that they’re not really active in terms of meeting in person.

So, he decided to organize the first FF meetup. At first, I wasn’t so well-versed in philosophy terms and names and those were the common discussions there, so I didn’t join the discussions as much. But I’ve always helped in terms of organizing. As I learned more over time, I’m now very much involved.

Jacobsen: What are important lessons for the Filipinos and Filipinas in terms of the advancement of equality within the general culture, and, perhaps, starting with the secular community? 

Chan: The Philippines is a mostly Catholic, very religious and superstitious country. Much of the oppression, especially those experienced by women and the LGBT community, is justified using religious dogma. I believe that promoting critical thinking, logic, empathy, and secularism will help a lot of people question these sources of inequality.

Jacobsen: As the Reproductive Health Advocacy Director of Filipino Freethinkers, what tasks and responsibilities come with the position?

Chan: We were recently elected to the National Implementation Team of the Reproductive Health Law, so our responsibilities include high-level planning and advocacy. Other responsibilities include attending gatherings of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network and collaborating with other groups for SRHR related events and activities.

Jacobsen: For the RH Bill (The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10354)) in the Philippines, which is important for the guarantees universal access to women’s healthcare in a variety of ways, how was this important to the role of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Director? 

Chan: During the time of the fight for the RH Bill, I wasn’t an advocacy director yet, but I was in charge of coordination. I was in charge of mobilizing volunteers and creating various props and materials they would use for our activities and demonstrations. They usually need to be eye-catching to get the media’s attention. We even used fake blood! During the rallies, I take photos and hand press releases and coordinate with media.

Jacobsen: How has this RH Bill assisted in the acknowledgement of, respect for, and implementation of reproductive rights for women in the Philippines? 

Chan: It’s a big win for SRHR and secularism because the Catholic Church here has been trying to stop it for more than a decade. The fact that it’s now a law validates that every citizen should have access to the proper education and services. However, the fight is not over yet. The Catholic church tried to get it declared unconstitutional. And when that didn’t work out for them, they were able to influence conservative legislators to limit the budget supposedly allocated for its implementation. Keeping an eye out on how it’s implemented will be crucial, and being part of the NIT helps.

Jacobsen: What are some important initiatives of the freethought community in the Philippines? 

Chan: Our main initiative for members is hosting meetups twice a month and an online discussion forum for over 20,000 people. For the wider society, we are involved in various human rights advocacy issues, reminding everyone involved that the secularism enshrined in our constitution should be respected. We believe in being visible. We’ve been told numerous times before that some nonbelievers felt so alone that if they didn’t find out that there are other atheists or freethinkers out there, they would’ve killed themselves already. In certain cases, we try to be of help as a sort of support group.

During controversial topics like the RH Law, Sogie or anti discrimination bill, divorce bill, marriage equality, etc., we always make sure to bring up secularism or to show people where the prejudice comes from or what is used to justify it (religion usually). We also try to monitor these topics and try to inform people about it through our social media channels and our video podcasts.

Jacobsen: How can people become involved or donate money/time to Filipino Freethinkers?

Chan: They can check us out by going to our meetups. Our next one is a Cafe Humaniste this April 27. They can also email us at secretary@filipinofreethinkers.org if they wish to volunteer. We also have a PayPal link on our website for donations. http://filipinofreethinkers.org/support

Jacobsen: Any recommended public intellectuals on Filipino or Filipino secular issues?

Chan: Check out my husband, Red Tani. He has a lot of articles on our website https://filipinofreethinkers.org/author/red/ and several articles on one of our national newspapers, the Philippine Daily Inquirer https://opinion.inquirer.net/byline/red-tani.

Let me know which other personalities you’re looking for.

Jacobsen: Any final thoughts?

Chan: The Philippines has been dominated too long by conservative, Catholic narratives, and it’s about time people considered alternatives. With our focus on reason, science, and secularism, we hope freethought will be one alternative Filipinos seriously consider.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Tin. 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Photo by Eibner Saliba on Unsplash

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