Tuesday, November 30, 2010

13 names added on heroes wall

Philippine Daily Inquirer/FEATURES/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Human rights lawyers, a pastor, teachers and organizers of students, the youth, peasants and communities?13 men in all, two of them, brothers?will be honored on Tuesday and their names engraved on the Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) in Quezon City.
The way they lived and died varied?some were arbitrarily killed or disappeared, while others died of natural causes.
This year?s honorees bring to 193 the names etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance near the 45-foot bronze monument by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo that depicts a defiant mother holding a fallen son.
The monument, the wall and other structures at the Bantayog complex are dedicated to ?the nation?s modern-day martyrs and heroes who fought against all odds to help regain freedom, peace, justice, truth and democracy in the country.?
Close examination
The Bantayog recognition is conferred only after close examination of a person?s life and manner of death.
The 13 are Roy Lorenzo H. Acebedo (1951-1975), David T. Bueno (1956-1987), William T. Chua (1955-2004), Jesus F. Fernandez (1955-2007), Arthur E. Galace (1942-1993), Eduardo E. Lanzona (1946-1975), Salvador F. Leaño (1921-1986), brothers Alfredo (1947-1973) and Armando L. Mendoza (1949-1975), Alex A. Mirabueno (1951-1988), Modesto C. Sison (1947-1977), Teresito G. Sison (1930-1980) and Rolan Y. Ybañez (1958-1985).
Honor studentt
Acebedo was a student organizer. He was a scholar, honor student majoring in mathematics at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
A student leader and activist, Acebedo was hunted down by the military during the martial law years. He was arrested, heavily tortured and detained for eight months.
He did not return to school after he was released and proceeded to the countryside. He was captured in a military raid.
Witnesses said Acebedo and his comrades were tortured and ordered to dig their graves. His remains have not been recovered.
Bueno, a human rights lawyer, graduated from San Beda College. He defended pro bono political prisoners and the tribal Yapayao farmers.
Based in Ilocos Norte, Bueno denounced military operations and atrocities in the North and organized a human rights organization there.
He took in village people and sent poor children to school. Bueno was assassinated in 1987.
Satirical pieces
Chua, a graduate of Xavier School, De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines, was not only a human rights lawyer. He was also a writer who penned scathing and satirical pieces during the martial law years. He gave his services to striking labor unionists and civil society groups.
Garrulous and funny, Chua was a well-liked person who brought much laughter even in times of danger and while doing serious work. Later, he would help expose graft and corruption in government.
Chua died of natural causes in 2004 and received several posthumous citations from his alma mater and the Chinese-Filipino community.
Youth leader
Fernandez was a youth leader who helped organize massive protest rallies. Working in the underground for several years, he was known for his planning and organizing skills and his work for the poor, justice and peace. He died of natural causes.
Galace was a human rights lawyer who organized fellow human rights advocates in northern Luzon. He defended political detainees and also wrote a column in a provincial paper.
He took up the case of farmers massacred by soldiers in Nueva Vizcaya. He died of diabetes in 1993.
Economics teacher
Lanzona was an economics teacher. He attended Ateneo de Manila University. Although he came from a wealthy family in Davao, Lanzona became passionately involved in the farmers? clamor for land reform.
He helped organize professors in Ateneo de Davao as well as bank employees. He joined the underground and became a hunted man. He was arrested, tortured and executed in 1975.
Leaño was a pastor for the Foursquare Church in San Andres, Romblon, at the time of his death. A poll watcher during the 1986 snap presidential election, he was shot and killed while defending the ballot. His body was stuffed inside a sack and found buried in a shallow grave.
The judge who convicted the murderer was all praises for Leaño?s dedication to duty and nominated him to be among the Bantayog heroes.
Brothers Alfredo and Armando Mendoza are considered ?desaparecidos? (disappeared). Their names are inscribed on the Flame of Courage Monument in Baclaran Church grounds for the missing.
Alfredo was a church worker and organizer while Armando was a student and peasant organizer.
Arrested in 1973, Alfredo was detained and later disappeared. Armando was arrested and detained in 1974. His captors said he escaped but his family received reports about him being rearrested and killed. The bodies of Alfredo and Armando have not been found.
Mirabueno was a human rights lawyer active in his home province of Cotabato. He hosted a radio program and rallied listeners to demand for reforms, he denounced corruption in government and illegal loggers.
He was also the provincial chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group. Mirabueno was gunned down in broad daylight.
Modesto Sison was a high school teacher in Davao Oriental and later, a peasant organizer. As a member of the Federation of Free Farmers and the Khi Rho movement, he went deep into the peasant movement. He disappeared in 1977 and has never been found.
Former seminarian
Teresito Sison was a former seminarian and a gifted teacher. He taught in Angeles City and later led a teachers? strike.
Arrested in 1971 when President Ferdinand Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus, Sison was detained, tortured and charged with subversion.
The torture he suffered led to physical disability and eventually, kidney failure.
Ybañez was a community organizer. Born in Mindoro Oriental, Ybañez the activist moved around in several places and later settled in Cebu where he became involved in protest rallies.
Although a behind-the-scenes person, Ybañez became a marked man. He was abducted on the same day that Fr. Rudy Romano was seized. Both of them remain missing to this day.
Honors will be conferred on these 13 individuals starting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Bantayog Memorial Center. Located at the intersection of EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) and Quezon Avenue, the Bantayog complex now boasts a P16-million building, with a floor area of 1,000-sqm which houses a mini auditorium with 72 seats, symbolic of the year (1972) tyrannical rule was imposed through martial law.
A museum and library-archives are also housed in the building. Bantayog?s facilities could accommodate gatherings for special occasions. (For details please call 4348343 or visit www.bantayogngbayani.net).
Bantayog?s 1.5-hectare property was donated by the government, through Landbank, a year after the Marcos dictatorship was toppled and Corazon Aquino became president in 1986.
Every year names are added to the Wall of Remembrance. The first 65 names were engraved on the black granite wall in 1992. An estimated 10,000 Filipinos are believed to have suffered and died during the Marcos dictatorship that ended in 1986.
Founded after the 1986 People Power Revolution, The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation Inc. is chaired by Alfonso T. Yuchengco. Former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga is chair emeritus.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

10 things that make PH ugly

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The little paper that roared

Editor's note: For 25 days, we will be telling stories about the Inquirer to mark the paper's 25th anniversary on Dec. 9, 2010. Some are littel stories but impacting oon how we cover unfolding events; some are mark-the-day stories that became talk-of-the-town types, others are turning point stories that have changed the landscape of history, still others, big or small, seize the heart and never let go. But whatever, the Inquirer will tell you the story.

First of the 25-day series
Philippine Daily Inquirer/FEATURES/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—And so it came to pass that the new kid on the block issued an announcement that sounded like a portent of things to come: “A new event is crying for our attention: possible snap elections. When and if that happens the Philippine Inquirer may respond with a snap daily. This new broadsheet size is in preparation for that eventuality” (Nov. 11-17, 1985).
The weekly tabloid-size Philippine Inquirer was born on Feb. 4, 1985, in response to a need to watch closely the Sandiganbayan trial of the 26 men accused in the assassination of former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. on Aug. 21, 1983. With the trial over except for the verdict, the Inquirer prepared for a “snap eventuality.”

The women in charge: publisher and editor in chief Eugenia D. Apostol and editor Leticia J. Magsanoc.

On Dec. 9, 1985, a Monday, the Philippine Inquirer became the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ISSN 0116-0443, a broadsheet eager to participate in and report daily on the nation’s unfolding history.

That day, fair weather, with light and variable winds, prevailed in Metro Manila. Other parts of the country had fair weather with isolated rain showers.

The first banner headline: “Cory rebuffs Doy demands.” Above it, “I am against communism, says Cory.” Below the fold: “Marcos claims God ordered him to lead Filipinos.”

Above the masthead of the “unmade bed” (referring to how the paper’s layout looked) was the come-on: “A slogan? Help us write one and win a prize.”

Weeks later, “Balanced News, Fearless Views” was chosen from more than 27,000 entries. Proof that people out there were reading the Inquirer and eager to participate in its becoming.

Defining moments
But it was during the days ahead that the rhyming catch phrase would be put to the test. The Feb. 7, 1986, snap election that pitted Ferdinand Marcos against Cory Aquino and its aftermath became defining moments that would create a ground swell of protest and catalyze a powerful people power movement never seen before in the world. The Inquirer was in the midst of it all. But this is getting ahead of the story.
That February of 1986, the Inquirer continued to report on the fraudulent election and the protests in many parts of the country that began to shake the dictatorship in a major way. As the powerful Catholic Church hierarchy breathed down on Marcos and called down on him the wrath of God, it was clear that his days were numbered.

“FM next Duvalier-Cory” the Feb. 20 headline said. Marcos ignored the gathering storm.
In editorial after editorial, in its reports, the Inquirer exposed a regime that was falling apart and yet continued to show brute force.

The Inquirer prominently reported the slaying of former Antique governor and Cory supporter Evelio Javier after the snap election. It was like Ninoy’s assassination all over again, with the bloodied Javier looking like his slain idol at the then Manila International Airport.

The wide spectrum that was the protest movement was not wanting of martyrs, media persons among them.

Major unraveling

The Inquirer reported on governments taking Marcos to task for clinging to power by foul means. His regime was crumbling and his health was failing. Didn’t he see the end was near?

“15 nations snub FM/Won’t attend inaugural” the Feb. 21 headline of a banner story said. As the Inquirer editorial of Feb. 22 stressed, “When diplomats do this openly and in full view, then it is time for Mr. Marcos to consider the meaninglessness of his election victory and the prospects of his country’s being unwelcome in the family of nations while he leads it.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Save Sakineh from death by stoning

SENTENCED TO death by stoning is Iranian woman Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani who was accused of committing adultery and other crimes. What a barbaric, messy way to kill a person.

I watched a convicted rapist die by lethal injection more than 10 years ago (after the death penalty was revived and enforced for several years) and I still remember the details. Although everything at the death chamber looked so antiseptic and clinical, I still considered the process brutal and merciless even as I shut off all emotions and concentrated on taking down notes. The next day I could not look at the photo of the convicted man that went with my front-page story.
Death by stoning is merciless and messy. Good thing a man named Jesus had, long ago, made a dramatic, slow-mo, bulls-eye pronouncement on it that stunned and stupefied the stoners of a woman caught in adultery. “Let anyone among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” And to the woman, “Go and sin no more.” Fantastic choice of words and with elocutory value, I must say.
But in this modern society and in some cultures, death by stoning is still a form of punishment. As in the case of Sakineh. A news report last week datelined Tehran said, “Iran said on Wednesday that a woman sentenced to death by stoning was in perfect health and that her case was still being reviewed after Western officials expressed concern her execution was imminent.

“Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast accused Western governments of a ‘shameless’ attempt to pressure Iran over the case by turning it into a human rights issue.”

But it is a human rights issue.

This brings to mind a gripping 1980 British docu-drama, “Death of a Princess,” believed to be based on a true story of Princess Masha’il from the Middle East. The princess and her lover, a commoner, were publicly executed. I remember watching the film on Betamax in the 20th century when DVD and Internet were not yet in our vocabulary.

We’re now in the 21st century and punishment of death by stoning—public, I suppose—is still being meted out.

Sakineh is not a Muslim princess. But because of new media technology, she might be luckier than the princess who was beheaded. There is a petition on the Internet calling for Sakineh’s immediate release. Add your name to the signatories (close to a million) from around the world who are calling for her release. Log on to http://www.avaaz.org/ en/24h_to_save_sakineh/98.php?CLICKTF

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Her true colors

FROM red to Red.

But before coming full circle, she had her share of long and winding roads that sometimes led to straight and narrow paths as well as dark tunnels and well-lit alleys. Then at some point, she just knew it was time to make a sharp turn and bid goodbye to a world she had known so well and embrace a life that would be the fitting culmination, if not continuation, of her commitment to a world crying out for redemption.

Before she became Sr. Angelina Celeste of the contemplative Order of the Holy Redeemer (O.Ss.R.), Celeste Barcenas was a known figure in community organizing (CO). Friends, colleagues and comrades called her Celê. For 30 years she inhaled and exhaled CO and knew the CO terrain like the back of her hand. It was like she was to CO born.

But her involvement with communities began much earlier. “I was studying agriculture at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños,” Sr. Celeste narrates. “Then I was drawn into activism.” It was the early 1970s, a time of ferment defined by protests against the Marcos dictatorship and clamor for radical change.

The young Celeste dropped out of university and joined the leftist underground. She lived and worked in marginalized communities and was on her way to becoming a communist cadre.

It did not take long for the military to track her down. The “subversive” was arrested and thrown in jail in 1972 when martial law was declared. Celeste was among the thousands who suffered in detention during that dark period. She was detained for almost a year in the Bicol region, with her family trying to understand her cause and supporting her.
The former activist does not go into the details of her arrest and detention and the identities of the persons she associated with in the underground at that time. But she does say that after her detention, she veered away from the influence of ideology and went into community service.
CO became the focus of Celeste’s life. “My first assignment was Cebu,” she recalls. She spent 30 years doing CO work, first with the Philippine Ecumenical Committee for Community Organization (Pecco) and later with the Community Organizing of the Philippines Enterprise Foundation (Cope). Cope was founded in 1977 after Pecco, the so-called mother of CO work in the Philippines, was dissolved.

Through Cope’s CO methods, many poor communities in the urban and rural areas were organized. Cope continues to carry out its mission through CO training, capability building, advocacy and networking. Cope also helps organize “people-centered and spiritually nurturing communities.”

Celeste’s work brought her to many places around the country and abroad. In the 1990s, she was sent to Nairobi, Kenya where she worked for six years. She came home in 1993 for a brief visit when her mother died. At that time Celeste was already experiencing some “disturbances” or turbulence inside her. Was God telling her something?

Friday, November 5, 2010

A few meters of loving space

Sunday Inquirer Magazine/FEATURES/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

WHEN I asked her how couples can be intimate in such a congested setting, the slum woman gave out a throaty laugh. “Ah, wala nang pa-tumbling-tumbling pa. Deretso na kaagad para makaraos.” She sounded almost casual.

“You know,” she added, “you are the second person to ask me that. The first one was a Belgian woman who came to visit us and see how we lived.” I was then doing the mini-biography (her odyssey, actually) of this spunky but consumptive slum woman. We were chatting in the “privacy” of her small Tondo home where about 20 members of her family lived.

After she had unraveled her personal life, we talked about urban congestion and its effects on people. Of course, I had to inquire about the slum dweller’s private lives but only after we had discussed their food, their wages, their dilapidated homes, their religious faith, their political views, their coping abilities, even their toilet habits.
Some nights, the woman said, when every single one in her multi-family household was at home, their two-story patchwork structure would be packed to the corners with steaming horizontal bodies in deep slumber. In the heat of the night, while she lay awake, she would feel movements and hear muted sounds. She was familiar with these things. “Alam ko na kung ano yun. Naiintindihan ko,” she said rather solemnly.
Researchers on people’s sex live have become commonplace but most of them, it seems, are conducted among the middle and upper classes. The results of these researches are published in expensive publications for these same classes to lap up, for they see in these glossies a reflection of their bedroom lives, their fatal attractions, their forbidden romances, even their gynecology.

Who cares what the poor do? The way the idea of sex has been glamorously and expensively packaged (as in the glossy girlie mags, the ads, the movies), it is as if only the haves make love while the have-nots merely copulate. Sex and the poor are oftentimes discussed only in the context of prostitution, child abuse and such worries as population explosion. But despite the constraints of space, time and privacy, the poor also generally live normal and vigorous sex lives. Whatever quirks and pathologies they have could not be any worse than those of their well-to-do counterparts.

I tried to find research literature on the poor’s sexual habits or something closely related to that topic, but there was none so I decided to go down to the slums and ask around. What at first I thought would be a voyeuristic undertaking yielded no-holds-barred discussions with very open and articulate interviewees. No euphemisms – they call a spade a spade, a penis a penis.

The first and last time Joel and Yolanda Lapena had a very private moment to themselves was when they attended, with some other poor couples, a three-day marriage encounter seminar in Taytay a few years ago. They had gone at the invitation of a nun. The encounter, the Lapena couple says, was “honeymoon talaga.” But more important to them was that they had time to talk intimately to each other. “We even wrote letters to each other,” a beaming Yolanda reports. A non-physical dimension and a spiritual communion with each other were to them new and exhilarating.

Married for almost 15 years, the 34-year-old Lapenas have six children aged 14 to eight (that means one baby every year). “Sa bunso na kami kinasal,” reveals Yolanda who adds that they were married in mass wedding rites sponsored by civic-minded citizens.

Joel works as a taxi washer while Yolanda has her hands full just taking care of the family. Joel earns P20 for every taxi he washes. On a good day he can earn P100. Home to the family is the second floor of a creaky house squeezed between two rundown houses in the Malate slums. The place, measuring about five by 15 feet, is divided by a curtain. At night 11 people (the couple, the six children and in-laws) sleep in this cramped space. There is only one bed that is too small for two, so the rest have to sleep on the floor.

So how and when did Joel and Yolanda “make” those six children? “Panakaw-nakaw lang pag-walang tao,” says Joel, and never at night. “Mabilisan lang. Pag umakyat ang mga bata napipigilan pa.” Even in the daytime, there is no way the couple can hide from anyone who happens to climb the ladder and enter the narrow door. So husband and wife are always on their guard and have to have their outer garments on just in case. “Wala nang romansa-romansa, basta makaraos lang, pero hindi naman bitin. Nerbiyos lang ho yung madalian.” No post coital conversation either, as in the movies. “Pagkatapos wala nang paguusap. Tayo kaagad.” They can hear the children playing downstairs.

Yolanda admits to having been so fertile. “Mahagisan lang daw ng briefs o malakdawan buntis na.” Several times she tried the pill but she developed rashes and had difficulty breathing. Although Joel worried about her, he never considered vasectomy. Yolanda wouldn’t have wanted that anyway, so after the sixth child she had a tubal ligation. It has been sex without worry twice weekly since then.

“Maligo ka na,” is Joel’s way of inviting his wife. She has never been one to ask for it, Yolanda admits. “Minulat kaming malayo sa lalaki,” she reasons.

Carlito Martes, 38, and wife Teresita, 37, have been married 18 years. They have six children, aged 18 to two. Laking Maynila, the couple started married life with an elopement. They now live in the Leveriza slums. Carlito works as a mason, Teresita as a laundry woman. She is a member of Alay Kapwa, a community cooperative.

The family’s abode, 20 square meters, hardly gives anyone privacy. And with so many children around, the couple had to make a papag practically in mid-air, a “mezzanine” that functioned as their bed. For some reason that papag had to be removed. “Walang papag, dieta,” quips Carlito, adding that sometimes they forget to have sex. “Nakakalimutan na rin.” Once a month is how regular it is and because there’s no more papag they have to have sex in a rush – “baka may magising.” When he’s had some drinks, then “doon ko lang ginagalaw.” Besides the fact that there’s hardly enough space, fancy positions are out for another reason. “Pang-prostitute lang daw yun,” Teresita quotes Carlito.

“I used an IUD (intraurine device) for nine years,” Teresita reveals. But twice she had infections because of it. She resorted to the pill, but after experiencing dizzy spells she stopped taking it. After nine years she gave birth again – to twins.

“We’ve never had a time to go out and by ourselves,” complains Teresita.

“Mabubuhay ka ba ng puro ganun,” Maria Cabello repeatedly points her finger downward, “kung ang tiyan ay kukulo-kulo?” Maria is a housewife whose husband Diosdado works as a photographer in the Manila Zoo which is a short distance from the Cabello home. He charges P20 per shot, P10 of which goes to him, the other P10 to the laboratory men. (The shy husband made himself unavailable for the interview saying he had to go to work.) The Cabellos, both in their late 30s, have four children aged 16 to 11. Neither parent finished high school.

The Cabello home is small, but it is quite neat and clean and is a lot better than their neighbors’ as they have some space and a few trees around them. Maria and Diosdado also have a little private corner to themselves.

Because the couple could not afford more children, Maria took the pill, but after some time she developed cysts and bleeding. She switched to injections and bled every week. Vasectomy was out of the question as the Cabellos erroneously believe it is hazardous to health. The ever-sacrificing wife says, “Hindi na baleng ako ang magkadeperensiya, huwag lang ang mister ko.” The couple has, since, then, used either the rhythm or the withdrawal method.

“Paghindi siya napagbigyan sa gabi,” says Maria of her husband, “maniningil sa araw.” Pagkakataon naman, e,” Diosdado would insist, “because the children are not around.” At night, the couple has to wait for the children to be fast asleep.

Sometimes, Maria says, their bodies are just too tired for anything. “Pata na ang katawan sa kakatrabaho.” But when Diosdado makes kalabit and Maria is not up to it, she psyches herself up so she can enjoy sex too. Otherwise she says she’ll have a hard time. “Mahihirapan din ako kung hindi dudulas.” They are always ready for their private moments to be disturbed. “Lagi kang handa baka may magbukas ng ilaw. It really all depends on the mood. Thirty minutes is long enough.”

There’s never any time or place to discuss sex. Maria says they can’t even argue about it openly so they end up fighting about other things. One thing Maria knows – she can make her husband forget about beer or alcohol with a promise of good sex. “But no,” she clarifies. “I’ll never do what the prostitutes do.”

Over in Ermita where many squatters live, a pregnancy counseling center has been put up by pro-lifers who promote natural family planning (NFP). (The center gives counseling services to pregnant women with problems as well as to those who want to know more about birth control options, be they artificial or natural.)

May Belgica, NFP trainor, has invited two women from the Adriatico slums to share something about their sex life. The women, Fe A. and Vicenta B. are in their 30s. Fe is heavy with her third child while Vicenta has an only daughter who’s entering her teens. Fe and Vicenta are used to talking openly about their sex life because they’ve had many discussions about sex, anatomy and family planning with many other women in their community. Vicenta is, in fact, an NFP counselor.

“Oh, they talk about their orgasms quite openly in group discussions,” says Sister Pilar Versoza, a Good Shepherd nun who also works at the center. “Some of them would even admit that they’ve never had one in all their many years of married life.” But thanks to women’s talakayan many women have become more familiar with their bodies and their needs.

For example they once discussed the case of a woman whose first husband was a wife beater but who, even his wife would concede, was a satisfying lover. Another complained that her husband would just mount her without any display of affection, no kisses whatsoever because he felt it wasn’t proper. “What!!!” the women rose in protest and lectured the poor woman on her right to satisfying sex. If they could only get hold of the husband…

Fe admits she knew nothing about making babies when she eloped. She remembers being teased by her husband’s kin the night of the elopement with “Naku lagot ka.” She didn’t know what the ribbing was all about. She says she never learned about sex in school because she didn’t even reach high school. She remembers her sister getting spanked simply because she uttered the word pek-pek.

But while Fe has become conversant about sex, she admits that she is never one to ask her husband for it. Although their house is not all that spacious for intimacies, Fe says, the children aren’t a worry because they are very young and are always sound asleep at night. Her husband, she adds with a giggle, has fixed the loose floor boards so they won’t make any noise.

Vicenta butts is to say that since her daughter is almost a teenager, a partition was put in the tiny house to give her some privacy. And her parents more freedom. Vicenta claims it’s always her husband who gives her a nudge. (“Ma, gusto ko,” or “lumalakad ang kamay.”) Although Vicente knows it’s all right for women to take on an aggressive role, she can’t really ask for it verbally, she can only make him feel she wants it. Sometimes when they want to make love during daytime and their daughter is around, her husband gives the daughter money and she runs off to buy herself something.

“When we do it it’s showtime talaga!” exclaims the irrepressible Vicenta. "At saka ayoko ng walang foreplay,” she adds. Night or early morning suits them fine. They take off everything because they have their little house to themselves. Many of their neighbors do not have that luxury.

Vicenta is happy with her husband, a Muslim, who she says respects and allows her to practice her Christian beliefs and who has no intention of taking any more wives. Staffers at the counseling center attest to the wholesome relationship between Vicenta and her husband.

Most of these slum women interviewed admit they know little about sex before they married. “Now our children learn these things in school,” they say. But do they discuss sex with their children? Almost all of them answer no – because the children never ask and these mothers are not inclined to bring up the topic either.

Maria Cabello says she sometimes sees her children reading tabloids which have advice columns that tackle sex in very graphic terms. She wonders about the effects of such reading matter on her growing kids. Sometimes in these tabloids the subject of sex goes side by side with a lot of violence.

On sex and violence, Dr. Michael Tan, a medical anthropologist who teaches Sex and Culture at the University of the Philippines, has some interesting views. Low-income males, he says, tend to link the sex act with dominance and violence. “You will notice this in their language. Like they’ll say, binabanatan when they refer to the sexual act. That seems to indicate low regard for women.”

Low-income males tend to marry early, says Tan, and like the average Filipino male, they think they are the best lovers in the world. “It is a big blow for them to be baog. They are the locus of control. Males openly boast about their sexual abilities and their endurance. They are a study in contradiction. They are moralistic about women who stray and yet they’ll be boasting about their practices na kasing laswa.” Peeping toms, common in depressed areas, are men.

Tan says that poor young women, who, early on, have been lured to sex-for-pay tend to later justify their getting stuck in prostitution with “naggamit na, tuloy-tuloy na.” Sociologist F. Landa Jocano, in his book "Slum as a Way of Life", made the same observation 15 years ago.

Most low-income women still think of their role in the sex act as a passive one. And so they say “Ginamit ako” or “Ginalaw ako ng mister ko.” (The Filipino word for sexual intercourse is pagtatalik, pagsisiping or pagniniig. The six-letter word is considered vulgar.) Many women also think it is never for them to initiate lovemaking. Ironically, in birth control, it is their bodies that must carry the gadgets, take in the drugs and submit to surgery. As if child-bearing – getting pregnant, giving birth, suckling the baby – are not difficult enough.

It seems the urban poor have fewer hang-ups and scruples about sex, never mind if it is far from the romantic, idealized thing that they wish it to be. But they can joke about it all. How they laugh about the rich bored women who spend money on vaginal tightening. “Landscaping,” they guffaw.

In slum areas there is very little that people can hide from one another. The walls have ears, the walls have holes. (Incidentally, there was this billboard in Quiapo which advertised a movie entitled "May Butas sa Dingding".) It’s all part of life. Sometimes when there are community meetings during daytime and it takes so long for some people to get out of their lean-tos, a leader would yell from the street, “Hoy, bunutin muna niyo yan!” A flustered couple would come out and find themselves being ribbed with, “Baun na baun ba?” followed by lusty laughter. Among the poor, sex, like hunger, is part of their common everyday lot.

Sunday Inquirer Magazine,
November 26, 1990

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Miracle, live on 'Dr. Love RAdio Show'

JANICE (NOT her real name) was holding a bottle of pills and ready to gulp them down and call it quits. But first she was going to end the lives of her four young children before ending her own.
That was the scenario in her mind when she called dzMM Teleradyo on Tuesday night. When Janice called out for help, the “Dr. Love Radio Show” (10 p.m. to 12 midnight, Monday to Friday) of Brother Jun Banaag, O.P., was not yet on air so staffers had to keep her engaged. Who knows what Janice was going to do in those desperate moments? When “Dr. Love” finally went on air, Janice was heard sobbing, sobbing, sobbing.
Before I go to sleep, I usually do a last-minute TV surfing to find out if there are late breaking news in the world out there. Since some radio programs have become live viewing on TV, it has become my habit to “drop” by them and read the latest news updates crawling on the TV screen. “Interrupting” these regular teleradyo programs are news that are breathlessly delivered in crackling street-corner Filipino. (I sometimes imagine myself spoofing them.)

“Dr. Love,” hosted by the 50-ish Brother Jun (a married, lay Dominican), happens to be aired during my last-minute surfing. Brother Jun counsels callers who have all sorts of problems mostly of the heart and about family, including OFWs’ woes. He provides information and Bible-inspired reflections. The program also plays period and inspirational music. One could tell that the program has avid followers. Brother Jun dishes out no-holds-barred and in-your-face responses (“Bakit kasi naghubad ka ng panty?” or “Ang asawa mong kuneho na tinamaan ng kidlat” or something) but which are, I must say, unabashedly Catholic.

Janice was not the only caller last Tuesday night, but she was the one who held the listeners’ breath. She wanted to end her and her children’s lives. She had a problematic husband (uncaring, addicted to gambling) and sick children who, that night, hadn’t had supper. One of them had bleeding gums and another could be heard throwing up. Janice had a doctor’s prescription but she had no money to buy the medicines.

Her crisis had begun long ago. From the sound of her, one could surmise that Janice was at the end of her rope and had no one to turn to. She was ashamed to run to her parents. Although she was working in the Department of Education, her earnings were not enough to support a household. Her husband, who, she said, just got a job after many years of joblessness, was often in the casino.

What did Dr. Love/Brother Jun do? He zeroed in right away on the children and their needs. They should be taken to the hospital, he said. He told Janice to find the doctor’s prescription. (Bad doctor’s handwriting, so she couldn’t read them.) He asked what the kids needed. He and the staff were calling so-and-so and so-and-so for help for the children. Phone lines were burning.