Mainlanders who visit Hawaii for any length of time often develop a condition called "Island Fever". It is rather like claustrophobia. The limits of the island impose limits on the spirit. The constraints are tangible, that stupid sand and all that stupid water beyond. Sure it is pretty. As are the tropical mountains draped in mist.
"But I gotta get outta this place!"
Which reminds me of a surreal experience I once had upon arriving in Viet Nam. We were carted off a big commercial jet and hustled into green buses with chicken wire over the windows to prevent assorted bombs and grenades from being tossed in as we were shipped to the transition center. In front of each bus was a jeep with loaded 50 caliber machine gun. Another 50 caliber gun was in back, bullets trailing like deadly brass intestines from the guns to a box in the floor.
My buddies and I stayed one night at the transition center. We spent the evening at the bar which had a stage and a live Vietnamese band. The troops about tore the roof off when the band struck up a rowdy rendition of "We gotta get out of this place!" From day 1, that was the goal.
I suppose islands, to mainlanders, strike up the same sense of a desperate need for exit.
But I don't get island fever here, even though my island is rather small. Perhaps it is because it took two days to drive here, including a queasy trip by ferry to get from Luzon to Samar. I don't feel at all trapped.
But islands are different, you know? It is not like Colorado is next to Kansas. And Utah. And Wyoming. And Arizona. And the Interstate connects New York to Los Angeles at 80 miles per hour. Or you can go from Canada to Mexico by car in two days.
You have to get food from island to island in the Philippines. And electricity. And gasoline.
The cost of so doing is built into the economic framework, stealing a few pesos from each family's bank account, or peso jug.
It also seals the culture off from social progress that moves so easily across the United States. Gender equality in California soon becomes gender equality in Florida.
But gender equality in California does not hip hop across the Pacific to infest Luzon.
So many women here remain indentured servants of deadbeat husbands who won't support the kids they sired in a night of macho glory. The women have no recourse. Indeed, laws encourage them to have babies and prevent them from getting out of a dysfunctional marriage. If they happen to be married to an abusive slug, they are stuck with him.
And the kids are forgotten, palmed of to Lola, abandoned by Dad.
No wonder the nation's esteem is so highly bruised.
It's a nation of abandoned kids. Not nurtured kids.
Now if Luzon were side by side with California . . . not an island, but attached . . . women of the Philippines would not be treated so poorly. Women would be educated about birth control. They could plan their families. They could escape from punitive relationships. They could be assured that fathers would support their children. They could have meaningful careers and not have to depend on anyone but themselves.
It always amazes me that the so many ardent Catholics are women. After all, the Catholic Church does not hold that women are equal to men, and it promotes the lack of education and active birthing as good things. I try to connect the dots but cannot.
Maybe the Philippines needs a sexual revolution like the US went through in the 1960's, with hippies and free love shocking the established morality. But the shock gave American women the realization that they are not bound to others. They can define their own destiny. If they want to be sexual, without babies, they can. Same as men. If they want to be their own person, or join the army, they can. Same as men.
From that it was a quick leap to equality in the job market. Today, women are for sure equal to men in America. They are not second class citizens with no right to an independent lifestyle. They are not sealed to an abusive man by the State's chains.
I personally think the Catholic Church should be made into a moral island in this particular secular State, the Philippines. Actually, all church groups should be islands apart from the mainland government.
Too many women in the Philippines are trapped on an island, sealed from the mainland by 12th century morality.
They are marooned.
They should "get outta this place". They should understand they will get precious little help from men. Or the law. Or the Church.
They need to do it themselves.