This is a guest post from my work colleague, Margaux Ortiz.  Margaux used to write for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.  She was covering the environment beat when she wrote the story mentioned in the post below.  She occasionally continues to write feature articles and her work has been published in Working Mom, Celebrity Living and the Metro section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.  You can read more of her work at Here Lives a Bookworm.
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Some years ago, I had the chance to interview environmentalist couple Joey and Annette Papa of Bangon Kalikasan Movement for a landfill story. It had been seven years since a 50-foot “monster” mound of garbage collapsed in the Payatas landfill in Quezon City, killing a thousand people in the process. I think I was doing a follow-up story on the tragedy then, as one of the questions I posed to Annette was the actual composition of the killer garbage mound. I was surprised when she answered “diapers and sanitary napkins.” Who would have thought that something as “natural” as baby poo or a monthly period could cause something so horrifying?
When I asked Annette what her proposed solution to this issue was, she unblinkingly said: “Better if one used the good old pasador (for monthly periods). Also, lampin (or cloth diapers) are still best for babies as those of previous generations were made to use.” As a single twenty-something whose main issue in life was how I could escape that torturous weekly trip to the neighborhood laundry shop, my only thought was an eloquent, “Huh?! What the?!”
Needless to say, I pushed that disturbing image of the folded katsa (cheesecloth traditionally used in the Philippine Isles for women’s troubles) out of my mind. After all, I was only an insignificant speck in the big universe of Modess and Kotex users. And, yes, I had “bigger” problems then, like where to forage for my next meal and what to wear the following day (the shallowness of youth). I just couldn’t deal with additional laundry.

Fast forward to two years ago. I learned that Jenny Ong was re-selling cloth pads on her Multiply site. I
decided to take a look out of curiosity, and I fell in love with them at first sight! They were so beautiful and colorful…and okay, I know—it’s weird to talk like this about a sanitary pad. But honestly, it was the cloth pad’s beauty (and novelty) that convinced me to buy my first Luna Pad. Which soon led to my second Luna Pad. And then led to my first Domino Pad, and second, and third—you get the drift.

So what made me change my mind, aside from the aesthetically pleasing aspect of the modern cloth pad (vs. the katsa)? My periods have become shorter and lighter (from five very heavy days to four light days). I also have less skin allergies (I’m quite allergic to many napkin brands), zero urinary tract infections, and significantly lesser episodes of dysmenorrhea (which have plagued me since I was 12).
Since using cloth pads, I haven’t taken an Advil or a Midol for menstrual cramps. Maybe it’s also because of my eventual emotional maturity (ehem) in dealing with laundry, or maybe because I’ve been living a healthier lifestyle of late (though still single, but that’s a whole different tale), but cloth napkins ARE a godsend. I can’t believe it took me half a decade to finally “hear” Ms. Annette!

For those who are curious as to how I take care of my cloth pads after use, here is a detailed account of what happened when I got my period last October 2012:

Day 1 (October 28) — I got my period in the late afternoon and immediately used my raspberry (Heavy Regular) Domino pad.

Day 2 (October 29) — I changed into my green (Heavy Regular) Domino pad after my morning bath. I repeatedly squeezed my used raspberry pad under running water, rubbed white Perla soap on it, and soaked it in a pail of (preferably cold, but room temperature will do) water.
Day 2 (October 29) — I changed into my orange (X-Heavy Long) Domino pad at 6:20 p.m. I washed my previously soaked raspberry pad with Perla and hung it to dry. I then squeezed-soaped-soaked my used green Domino pad in a pail of fresh water.

Day 3 (October 30) — I changed into my black Luna Pad after my morning bath. Same cycle with previously soaked and used pads.
Day 3 (October 30) — I changed into my smaller raspberry (Petite Medium Extra) Domino pad at 6 p.m.
Same cycle as above.

Day 4 (October 31) — I changed into my dark raspberry (Ultralite) Domino pad after morning bath.
Repeat cycle.

Note to the reader: You may notice that I change my cloth pads only twice a day. As I have said, my periods have become lighter after I started using them so I feel no need to change every now and then. The pads are also quite absorbent so the “icky feeling” that we usually associate with unchanged sanitary napkins is virtually nonexistent. However, one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, so feel free to disagree with me if your experience with pad usage is different from mine. After all, there aren’t any hard and fast rules on how often you should change your cloth pads. Best advice for this: learn to listen to your body and heed its complaints/suggestions/whinings 🙂

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