Most interpersonal engagements in the Philippines are measured by the polar standards of win or lose. Gain face or lose face. Exercise power or be subservient. Act rudely or shrug when someone else is rude.
Indeed, this polarity applies to women in the Philippines.
They win, serving as managers, senators, businesswomen, and even President of the Philippines. They have a firm hand in managing the family. They direct the placement of kids into schools or with relatives or nanas like a conductor leading a large orchestra. They cook, clean and work the rice fields. They truck off to Dubai to work.
But they also lose, being hounded as sinful if they want a planned family, and being locked to abusive, neglectful husbands without recourse to divorce. And when they lose, most are passive, subservient.
The irony of the female condition in the Philippines is that women also anchor the Catholic Church, the institution that keeps them bound to archaic moral standards and laws about 50 years outdated.
I think Filipinas are unusually strong and aware, dedicated to the chekka news network and following the drama of political and entertainment shenanigans like a bee chasing pollen. They are stylish, a condition jammed down their throats by television commercials and magazines. They have the courage and strength to work in Dubai or marry a foreigner, for the practical gains. They like to learn, and they cruise through various Philippine dialects and English like a seal through water.
But they hold to the drawbacks that influence all Filipinos. Subservience . . . to their government, to their Church, to the laws that treat them unkindly. They also possess Ego . . . to a way of doing things that cannot change, for they must defend "the way things are" to the core. Most appear not to grasp the big vision of Filipina as fully liberated.
Inspired by a big vision, Filipinas would DEMAND liberation. They would unify, organize and shout the loud shout of women offended that they are treated so poorly.
They would stand up to the chekka news network, the place where backbiting and social pressures are applied, and decide that two kids is quite enough, thanks. They would take neither advertising nor the opinions of friends as gospel.
Many are doing this, I know. Too many are not.
I can't say there is a lack of courage. Filipinas are plenty courageous.
But there appears to be a lack of a sense of the wholeness that comes from being independent, from letting no other person define who this particular "Filipina" is.
There seems to be subservience when there ought to be outrage.
President Aquino's face should be red with shame that he is doing so little to bring Filipinas into the modern world. Congress should also be red-faced, especially that Sotto guy.
Filipinas are letting these official men define them. Letting them snort their sexist jokes at the nara-wood tuba table under the Congressional mango tree.