One in every 13 Filipino women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. The Philippines has the highest incidence rate of breast cancer in Asia, and is among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest increase rate in more than a 30-year period, according to the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology.
The same study also determined that the Philippines has the lowest survival rate for breast cancer among 15 Asian countries.
So it was only apt for Marc Coblen, the Dutch timepiece brand, to choose the Philippines to jump-start its global breast cancer awareness campaign last week. Marc Coblen is created and owned by the family of Jordy Cobelens, founder of TW Steel watches.
Called the Pink Ribbon watch, the special limited-edition timepieces—only 300 units are available in the country—come in an elegant rose-gold finish steel case. It has an oversized, 48-mm mother-of-pearl face with a Swarovski-encrusted pink ribbon at 6 o’clock.
It comes with a pink baguette Swarovski crystal bezel, with a pink silicon strap with rose-gold clasp. The bezel and strap, like all Marc Coblen watches, are interchangeable. Purchased with a Mastercard at P15,000, the set will also include a white leather strap and a rose-gold finish steel bezel.
“Marc Coblen is a family company and, unfortunately, everybody knows someone who has to deal with cancer—your sister, your brother, your friend, your neighbor—somebody is dealing and fighting with it. This awareness program comes from the heart. I’m a cancer survivor myself,” said Christel Slagt, global marketing manager of Marc Coblen, who flew in from the Netherlands to launch the campaign.
A generous 30 percent of the proceeds, or P1.35 million, will be donated to the Philippine Cancer Society (PCS), who in turn will use it for its Patient Navigation Program. The program, said PCS chair Dr. Roberto Paterno, includes services such as assistance for laboratory/diagnostic examinations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and patient education and family counseling.
“We have patient navigators in several hospitals who, under our supervision, hold the hand of cancer patients through all their tests, diagnosis and treatment, in many cases even including their families. Most of them are indigent and have nowhere else to go. They don’t even want to have themselves examined because it will cost money, but we have outreach programs that seek them out. This is the kind of work supported by Marc Coblen now,” Paterno said.
Marc Coblen’s campaign ambassadors, who will help drum up more awareness, are breast cancer survivors: Bb. Pilipinas 1991 and model Patty Betita, actress Liezl Martinez and pastry chef Ann Puno.
Betita said she was only having her annual pap smear in 2008 when her doctor noticed a lump on her left breast. That same day she had a mammogram for the first time, and in five days her results cleared her of cancer.
But a breast lump was a breast lump. As her hand unconsciously sought it out with every opportunity, Betita grew restless and asked for a second opinion from a breast surgeon. She had, after all, a son, who was then about nine years old.
It was another five-day wait, and when the results came, it showed she had Stage 1 breast cancer.
“I didn’t even cry. I was too shocked. I was supposed to leave for Osaka for a fashion show. So I asked my doctor, ‘Pwede ba mag-show muna ako?’ Even women with no history can get cancer. I’m not scaring you. That’s just the reality. Don’t wait until you’re 40 years old,” Betita said.
As for Martinez, getting herself examined crossed her mind but she never took time to actually do it—not until her friend, pop singer Pops Fernandez, had to drag her along that fateful day in 2008 for a checkup, where she was consequently diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.
Three years later, in 2011, just when her hair had started to grow long and finally started to regain its luster, Martinez learned her cancer had returned and metastasized to her left lung. She was diagnosed with lung cancer, Stage 4.
“I know October is breast cancer awareness month but we don’t count our blessings by the year. We count it every day, because every day matters. I can’t stress how important checkups are,” Martinez said.
Like the two women before her, Puno never imagined she would get cancer. She was a health buff, teaching aerobics and eating healthy. Cancer was the farthest thing from her mind. She had her first mammogram at 45, and received a clean bill of health.
Six months later, in 2006, after the celebration of her son’s birthday, she noticed a lump on her breast. She shrugged it off; it could be just fat for all she knew, she thought then, but her husband insisted she get herself tested once more. And there it was: Stage 2B breast cancer.
“Every day when I wake up I make my coffee, I go to the garden, and I look up and thank Him, whether it’s a sunny or rainy day, that I’m still here. My sons, who were on the honor roll at that time, got so affected they dropped out of the list. My daughter, while she was able to remain on the honor roll, had to see a psychiatrist because she would faint each time I had a checkup. Chemotherapy is something you don’t want to wish on your enemies,” Puno said.
Slagt hopes that by wearing the watch, people will be reminded of breast cancer every day instead of every October of each year. Different bezels and straps are available to instantly change the look, especially since nobody might be able to wear a pink watch for an entire year, she said.
“But it’s not about the brand. It’s not about the watch. It’s truly about that scientific research on breast cancer,” Slagt said.
Marc Coblen timepieces are available in 13 countries. In the Philippines, Marc Coblen’s local retailer partner, Lucerne, will carry the Pink Ribbon watch, now available at the Marc Coblen pop-up store at Century City Mall, Lucerne Shangri-La, Swissgear in Greenbelt 1 Makati and SM Cebu, and Wristpod in SM Megamall and Clark, and Power Plant Rockwell.