Monday, December 5, 2011

An Island Frame of Mind

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.


  1. They should "get outta this place"

    If they would get the opportunity they would. Also they would not put up with the way they are treated back home. Why Filipinas who live and work here in New York still end up dating and marring Kanos and not Filipino man from the Philippines? They could go back and date their own kind and bring them here but they prefer not.

  2. Truly TRUE ! I just do not get it why women get the brunt of it all from getting up early in the morn, prepping the child for school to schoolwork and homework to sex slave in the evening. While the husband wake up late, fed and watered for work and come home drunk squandering heard-earned money and force their women to have sex. And, when they get pregnant women are blamed for not being careful.

    This is totally unfair to women.

  3. Filipinos wanted separation of the church and the state, but, unconsciously they cannot separate it from their state of mind.

    Their want of separation is because that is what they read from the civilized world and wanted to be cool, hip and civilized but inside their body is that gnawing virus that eat every fabric of their waking hours, RELIGION.

  4. The good thing about Americans is they can separate the state and the church physically and mentally.

    The civilized people of the world has this mantra that they can do it, if they cannot they look to God as a LAST RESORT. In the uncivilized world of Filipinos, they look to God first, last and forever. If they cannot do it because they thought it is not meant for them.

    Religion is screwing the 3rdworld countries. The recent 2011 Transparency/Corruption Index shows graphically and in numbers, without saying, that religion is corrupt. Countries that are vehemently fanaticallyr eligious are the most corrupt.

  5. This is what I see in the Philippines, though, in the absence of statistics, just by observation, I see plenty of women that are employed than men.

    I checked 2010 POEA employment by sex abroad but this moment POEA website is down.

  6. Mariano, interesting point. Yes, women are everywhere in the workplace, in the shops, in the government offices, at the senatorial desks. For those of little means, I wonder how the kids are doing.

  7. Gosh, Joe. In our neighbor we have a hodgepodge of families. Our next door mid-20-something-girl next-door has 2 kids living with their grandparents in lean-tos. Every day I pass thru this alley where everyday she feeds her children porridge and soy-based beverage (taho). It's not a pretty sight. She's separated from her husband.

    When I come back from work, her parents 60s-something are out in the same alley, miecrophone in hand and tuba on the other. If they are lucky they will have Tanduay.

    Before they turn in for the night they finish it off arguing and screaming at each other.

    The last time I heard from them the girl-now-a-woman works in a bar. I'm happy for her. That is why I respect prostitutes because they have gone thru very tough life and prostitution is the best honest thing that can happen to them.

  8. @Mariano Renato: Your girl-next-door has the potential to make more money than the average daily wage earner.

    @Joe: It all depends on where the woman is. I think male dominance and gender inequality increases as you move away from large urban centers. Where TV channel choices are limited or where TV isn't available, expect more subservient females.

  9. branitus, yes, I believe you are correct, that Manila is more gender equal and even worldly than outlying areas. Manila benefits by having a large component of university graduates or students. Outlying areas are considerably more restrained by gender role models that are not always constructive.

  10. @Joe:

    Moving away from Manila, I also noticed that some of the progressive people both have husband and wife working. I mean, working in the sense that both have entrepreneurial sides to them. Man has a business, the female has a business.

    Traditional setups with the man as sole provider are slightly below in terms of economic mobility. That's unless the man is some sort of power broker in the community (politics and some illegal activities).

  11. brianitus,interesting that. It is very similar to the US, where people who want to grow their wealth combine incomes. Maybe we are merging our social ways, eh?

  12. @Joe:

    Merging of ways? Could be, but I think of it as something that came out of necessity. Filipinas or even Filipinos, in general, need some form of stimulus to realize that multiple income streams are better. Escape from poverty is a good motivation for those smart enough to figure out what to do.

    If people want an improvement, they have to push themselves out of their comfort zone. Breaking out of the traditional setup is one of those ways. I mean, guys should welcome it. Both male and female of a couple can be risk takers in improving their lives. If one fails, one can move forward while the other picks him or herself up.

    In rural settings, there are microfinancing institutions that cater specifically to women. I think that's a good start and a good way to empower the female.

  13. b, ways out of poverty. hmmm. . . sounds like a blog title to me!


Please take up comments at the new blog site at

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.