Local women’s health center changes stigma around menstruation | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Photos by Madeleine O. Teh

Instead of calling menstruation “red days” or feeling ashamed when the PMS blues hit, let’s embrace our bodies’ seasons



It’s that time of the month. Aunt Flo is visiting. It’s shark week. Why do we still use euphemisms to talk about periods? Is there something wrong with menstruating?

It’s 2024 and it’s high time to re-examine this aspect of our culture.

On June 29, 2024, women’s health center Kindred hosted #OwnYourFlow at the KMC coworking space in One Ayala East Tower, Makati City. The event celebrated Kindred’s second anniversary by highlighting the importance of understanding menstruation and its impact on personal and professional lives.

event on mestruation
The first talking session at #OwnYourFlow

The team at Kindred, led by co-founders Jessica De Mesa-Lim and Abet Valenzuela, conceptualized the event’s programming. De Mesa-Lim, a former nurse-turned-Zalora executive, stresses the importance of education in an interview. “Knowledge, after all, is the first step toward change.”

However, #OwnYourFlow was nothing like those dense paragraphs and complicated diagrams from high school textbooks collecting dust.

Kindred’s event was jam-packed with activities
Kindred’s event was jam-packed with activities

The event’s holistic approach represented Kindred’s mission of being an all-in-one destination for women’s health, menstruation, and according to their website, “breaking the silence around women’s health issues so she can take charge of her health.” 

sticky notes
Guests answered this prompt on colorful sticky notes, which they stuck on the wall

Opening up about both physical and mental wellness

#OwnYourFlow featured two sessions of talks. The first session, “On being future-ready with health and career” brought together women from different industries and stages of life: Sabina Yulo (founder of Hi Smithy and Kaddadia), Claire Ongcangco (founder of Parlon), Ceej Tantengco (author and host of Go Hard Girls), Doc Jean Palis-Filomeno (Kindred OB-Gynecologist), and Amanda Cua (founder of BackScoop). 

The panelists discussed striking the delicate balance between one’s personal and professional lives. Palis-Filomeno spoke about juggling her career as a physician at Kindred with her role as a mother. Kindred’s hybrid clinic setup allows doctors like Palis-Filomeno to take charge of their careers while also taking care of their families. 

One particularly pertinent moment was when Cua opened up about her new approach to health after graduating from high school and starting BackScoop a year after. “The body I have today isn’t the same as what I had at 19,” she said. “I may not return to the same shape or size, but I could be fitter.” 

Tantengco, Ongcangco, Palis-Filomena, and Cua onstage together
Tantengco, Ongcangco, Palis-Filomena, and Cua onstage together

Many tend to believe they need to maintain the body they had from a previous life phase. But what Cua gets at is the importance of embracing physical changes as one enters different seasons in one’s professional and personal lives.

Yet, the most intriguing conversation took place in the small moments through affirmative hums, soft glances, and nods. While the panelists spoke candidly in front of an audience, listening to their talk felt like being let into a conversation with old friends. 

Dealing with the demands of work and life is often difficult, especially for women. It’s lonely at the top—and it’s lonely on the way to the top. According to one study, 60 percent of women in leadership said that feelings of isolation increased as they moved up in their careers. 

Discussing work tales and professional reflections appears somewhat removed from the intricacies of biological processes. Yet, the first session contextualized the scenarios women have to navigate and set the tone for the rest of the event.

Hack your cycle

#OwnYourFlow’s second session, “On hacking your cycle with cycle syncing” delved into the science behind menstruation while still maintaining a relaxing atmosphere. Palis-Filomena and Halia chief operating officer Kim Bigornia walked the audience through the different stages of the menstrual cycle over 28 days: menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. They also described the changes in biologically female bodies during these phases, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during the luteal phase and the fertility window during the ovulation phase. 

Anecdotal wisdom prescribes powering through menstruation-related discomfort through a combination of over-the-counter painkillers and hot compresses. Yet, what Palis-Filomena and Bigornia propose is to be mindful of the changes throughout the 28-day cycle and to practice activities that take advantage of energy levels during specific phases. 


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Hacking one’s cycle also entails being mindful of one’s needs. Yes, it even involves taking note of cravings—whether acknowledging them or giving in to them with a little grace. It’s okay to reach for a chocolate bar or two as long as you are aware of why your body responds this way rather than engaging in negative self-talk. 

Recognition for the changes during the menstrual cycle is growing. In 2023, Spain passed a law providing women three to five days of paid leave a month during their periods if they experience severe cramps, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. The law is the first of its kind in Europe, and hopefully, it won’t be the last of its kind. 

The prospect of menstrual leave is also gaining traction in the Philippines. Two bills in favor for menstrual leave for female employees were filed in 2023. House Bills 7758 and 6728 proposed female employees be granted two days of menstrual leave per month. Although these bills didn’t lapse into Philippine law, they signaled an increased awareness of how female biological processes affect everyday life.

Hacking one’s cycle isn’t just about maximizing productivity despite menstrual cramps, mood swings, and the like. It’s also not about seeing menstruation as a hindrance to achieving one’s goals. Ultimately, hacking one’s cycle is about embracing the so-called mini-seasons in one’s body to pursue goals and take necessary breaks.

Reclaiming women’s time

Although Kindred’s mission involves breaking the silence surrounding women’s bodies, the team acknowledged the importance of much-needed quiet and alone time amid the activities. 

According to a study, single men have on average five hours more of leisure time on a weekly basis compared to single women. In other words, single men have 260 hours, or around 10 days more, dedicated to leisure every year. 

Kindred’s inclusion of quiet, reflective leisure gave women the space to reclaim their time amid the pressures of daily life.

At the breathing room, guests could indicate their emotions through the stickers
At the breathing room, guests could indicate their emotions through the stickers

At the end of a hallway was the breathing room, a conference room converted into a dark, quiet area filled with bean bags. Attendees could borrow a pair of noise-canceling headphones to decompress after a busy afternoon. Of course, no photos were allowed in this area. 

Kindred tapped Belle Mapa, an expressive arts facilitator, to guide guests through journaling prompts. “We only have an hour together,” Mapa said at the end of the table. “But, I’d really love to learn your stories and get to know each other.” In that hour, Mapa asked questions such as “what is your body telling you right now.”

Journaling workshop attendees take a quiet moment to explore their inner worlds

Journaling and art-making are often time-consuming. “Normally, these workshops become five-hour-long chikahans,” Mapa laughed. It’s vital to understand journaling’s health benefits, such as reducing anxiety, lowering blood pressure, and improving moods. In one Instagram post, Mapa said, “By using expressive mediums like writing and drawing, you’re able to contain these strong emotions without letting them consume you.” 

By giving attendees the time and space to excavate their emotions through Mapa’s workshop, #OwnYourFlow drives home the importance of overall well-being. Understanding our biology is only half of the story. Surveying our emotional landscape helps us truly know ourselves and gives us the strength to reach our goals.

Spreading body acceptance

Kindred’s #OwnYourFlow event put forward new perspectives about navigating women’s holistic well-being by exploring the biological and social aspects of a woman’s life. The talks encouraged panelists and participants to share their experiences, while the reflective activities gave attendees a toolkit to use when in need of some grounding. 

For too long, the topic of women’s bodies was either taboo in polite conversation or free-for-all to comment. Just think of how many unsolicited comments the average Filipina gets about her weight, skin color, and eating habits. 

mirror selfie
Hi Smithy’s body acceptance booth lets attendees pose in front of mirrors while having their photos taken

Seeing fellow Filipinas talk about their challenges and triumphs in regard to their bodies makes one think, “Hey, I experienced that too.” Finding information about the follicular phase and estrogen takes seconds through a quick Google search or a teleconsult with a doctor. But, having a community to learn alongside gives one the much-needed space to have fun, make a mess, and find one’s power.  

So, instead of calling menstruation “red days” or feeling ashamed when the PMS blues hit, let’s embrace our bodies’ seasons and be fearless in communicating our needs. 

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