Marie Rose and Jacinto together

Love & Sustainability in the Philippines: A Journey to Self-Reliance .

In the Philippines, a couple is putting 10 years of lessons learned from participating in USAID projects with Chemonics into practice. Marie Rose and Jacinto embody how development works by sustainably improving maternal and childcare in their community for generations to come.

Ten years ago, a chance encounter sparked a partnership that would create lasting ripple effects on the well-being of a small community in the Philippines. At the time, Marie Rose Victoriano was unaware that organizing a workshop would reunite her with her college classmate turned local midwife, Jacinto Managbanag. She had no way of knowing that this moment of reconnection would start a journey that would lead them to use their combined passion for healthcare to improve, strengthen, and empower their community — and would also begin their love story.

Marie Rose and Jacinto are now married, parents of two, and owners of a clinic serving about 200 patients a month. The clinic is a community staple, providing prenatal and post-partum care, family planning, newborn vaccinations, and delivering almost 30 babies per month. As midwives and community leaders of their 4,000 inhabitant barangay, or village, they are expanding access to affordable, sustainable health care in the province of Leyte, where the maternal mortality rate has significantly decreased from 106 deaths to 30 deaths per 100,000 live births over the past six years.

Marie Rose and Jacinto standing in front of their clinic
Jacinto and Marie Rose posing in front of their clinic, Ancing Paanakan (Dancing Baby)

Jacinto and Marie Rose’s Journey to Self-Reliance – and Marriage

Before becoming a mother and an entrepreneur, Marie Rose was a project coordinator for the Leyte Family Development Organization (LeFaDO), a local NGO partnering with the Private Sector Mobilization for Family Health Project (PRISM I), a USAID-funded project implemented by Chemonics. Part of her work at LeFaDO included organizing training workshops, and Jacinto happened to be one of the midwives attending the trainings she organized.

“She helped me develop my skills and confidence as a midwife through the trainings and seminars organized by the project,” Jacinto said about Marie Rose while explaining how their love story started.

The couple continued to use the training and services provided by Chemonics to become better midwives and entrepreneurs. After five years as a volunteer midwife, Jacinto had firsthand experience on how poverty prevented mothers from having access to dignified, affordable maternal care services. Simultaneously, Marie Rose began to realize that her familiarity with the Department of Health’s requirements to be linked to PhilHealth — the national health insurance program — gave her a valuable skillset that she could use to establish her own clinic.

With their combined skills and experience, Marie Rose and Jacinto came together and started their own clinic, Ancing Paanakan. Jacinto painted a modest picture of the clinic’s early days: “We went out in search of patients, crossing rivers and walking endlessly through unpaved roads and mountains in the scorching heat of the sun to look for mothers who need the services. Our mantra is to serve the underserved.”

Initially, there were many challenges. The couple experienced financial difficulties early on, as most of their clients lacked the financial resources to pay for the services they received. But thanks to their knowledge of the National Health Insurance Act and its requirements, Marie Rose and Jacinto were able to apply for PhilHealth accreditation, meaning that they could receive reimbursements from the government for every qualifying patient served. The couple also received financial assistance to purchase medical equipment and ultimately achieve financial stability through a public-private partnership with PRISM II.

Jacinto doing a community event
Jacinto explaining family planning options to the community

We went out in search of patients, crossing rivers and walking endlessly through unpaved roads and mountains in the scorching heat of the sun to look for mothers who need the services. Our mantra is to serve the underserved.

Jacinto Managbanag

Training the Next Generation of Midwives

The clinic has been so successful that the couple is using the funds received from PhilHealth to offer free transportation for clients that do not have the means to visit them. The clinic even doubles as a home for student midwives who receive free board and lodging while they work to obtain accreditation from the Department of Health. Today, Marie Rose and Jacinto have been able to extend their high-quality maternal and childcare services to other nearby villages, expanding overall access to and affordability of health services in the province of Leyte.

Jacinto and Marie Rose with a patient and their family
Jacinto and Marie Rose after bringing home a client who delivered in their facility for free

Calling on their years of experience, the couple is working closely with the Provincial Health Office to implement health system strengthening approaches like supportive supervision. Both Marie Rose and Jacinto became mentors for public and private midwives through the Community, Maternal, Neonatal, Child Health, and Nutrition Scale Up (CMSU) project implemented by Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines (IMAP). Now, with support from USAID’s Human Resources for Health in 2030 (HRH2030) program, Jacinto is serving as one of the Leyte province private birthing facility supervisors to ensure adherence to quality of care standards across private facilities. The couple is also part of a research study using the new tablet-based app developed by HRH2030 that digitized the paper-based, provincial supervision checklists.

Breaking Barriers and Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Jacinto is now the president of IMAP’s Leyte chapter, and he and Marie Rose have become pillars in their community due to their dedication to service. As a male midwife and community leader, Jacinto is aware that gender barriers exist within his profession.

“The thought of being an inspiration to others enforces my burning desire to always raise the bar, break down gender barriers in this profession, and to always be reminded to serve the underserved,” Jacinto said.

In turn, Chemonics’ legacy in Leyte continues long after our projects have ended thanks in part to USAID’s entrepreneurial approach that encourages capacity building and gives community leaders like Jacinto and Marie Rose the necessary tools to start their own businesses, demonstrating that development works because of great partnerships that ensure long-term sustainability and scalability. Their clinic’s impact will be felt across Leyte for years, and the couple is perfectly poised to influence and empower a new generation of health workers in Leyte and beyond.

USAID’s Journey to Self-Reliance initiative has brought lasting impacts to many communities, but helping to spark a love story like this is one of its most unique contributions to the development world. The couple has placed no limits on what they can achieve in pursuit of their vision to “continually help the underserved, provide quality services, and to make every family healthy and happy.”

The couple's vision is to continually help the underserved, provide quality services, and to make every family healthy and happy.