Born this way

by Marily Sasota Gayeta

When I was a little girl, our house was a small, narrow two-story structure with not much space to hide. But I would always find that space, that place where I could be by myself. Where I could be alone. And I would enjoy every moment of it.

You see, I was born that way. An introvert.

I am averse to groups of more than four people ( that already includes me ). Crowds and social gatherings exhaust me. I can pretend to be feeling normal, but deep inside I’m suffocating. The talking, the chatter, the proximity of people — they all tire me. School programs  and even conferences suck my energy.  It’s not other people’s fault. There’s nothing wrong with them. But there’s also nothing wrong with me. People are just different from each other.

Solitude is a necessity for me. I need time —a lot of time —to be alone or I go crazy. I don’t need a fancy place at the beach front, though that would be nice if I can afford it. A bare, simple room would be fine.  When I am by myself, I feel re-invigorated. The energy comes back to me and I breathe it all in.  And I am sane again.

Joy. Happiness. Yes, I find them in solitude. And it surprises me that in this century, 21st century, I still come across people who think that introverts are lonely, depressed people. No, I am not. No, we are not. It’s fun to be alone with your thoughts, with no one bothering you.  You are free to think and to imagine anything, with no distractions. If you live alone, you  can play your music with no embarrassment for the genre you choose. And you are spared from other people’s drama and rules.

Don’t get me wrong. I do have friends. It’s a small social circle that’s perfect for me.  It’s made up of people who know me and respect my distance and silence. I go out with them, one or two at a time. Not all of them at the same time, because that would drive me nuts. I find ways to connect with other people, without the intrusion and overcrowding.

True, there are risks in being alone most of the time. I minimize those risks by being alert and careful. I always check out my surroundings when I go out for a walk. I don’t let strangers come within arm’s length. I double check electrical appliances before I sleep.  And I eat slowly because I know, no one would give me first-aid if I choke.

As a foreigner in the country where I am currently working, I still prefer to be alone. Doesn’t the solitude add to the homesickness? No. The presence of other people will not make up for the absence of my family. I would still prefer to be alone even in those times that I really feel down and sad. I suffer alone. I heal alone.

In solitude, I am unchained and unboxed.

In solitude, I am at peace.

In solitude, I am free.

The scourge of teen pregnancy

by Marily Sasota Gayeta

( This article was published at Rappler in November 2019 under the title Time To Act On This Crisis)

The numbers are appalling.

538 babies are born to Filipino teens each day.

2000 10- to 14- year-olds got pregnant in 2017.

30% of Filipino teens had sex in 2017, 10% higher than in 2016.

170% increase in the number of new HIV infections among young Filipinos since 2010.

The Philippines has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Asia and the world, and is seeing a sharp increase in sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. This has led to disrupted education and employment, chronic financial difficulties and serious health complications.

Who is to blame for this undeclared national emergency?  Parents, guardians, church people, government leaders and other supposedly responsible grown-ups. We are all guilty in our failure to tackle the crisis in its manifold aspects.

First of all, we refuse to recognize human nature at its nastiest stage: adolescence. This is a turbulent period characterized by rebellion, insecurity, young love and sexual awakening. Teens are constantly in a roller-coaster of emotions and erratic behavior. This is biology. And biology always wins.

Then, let’s put in another factor: peer pressure. Once outside the radar of adult supervision, teens are subjected to non-stop cajoling and temptations, and it is almost impossible not to give in.  Add to this the unlimited access to pornography. WI-FI is available at every nook and cranny and the internet offers a buffet of sexually explicit materials.  Then, there is freedom of physical mobility. Teenagers are sneaky and they will manage to go where they want to go. We can never beat them in the game of hide-and -seek.

These factors have led to the present crisis— a crisis that adults have refused to see or deal with. They are blinded by affection and traditional beliefs, or frozen by ignorance and indifference.

The solution is arming our teenagers with sufficient, accurate information about human reproduction, sexuality and safe sex; and giving them anonymous access to safe sex commodities, like oral contraceptives and condoms, through qualified health workers. We have to harness the power of every possible resource in the soonest possible time to curb the problem.

But no, Filipino adults are still dilly-dallying, not realizing that each day of delay translates to hundreds of additional babies born to young, poor mothers.

Filipino parents and religious sectors have been preaching abstinence for years. Unfortunately, this is not working.  In 2016, 20% of teens were having sex. Then, it rose to 30% in 2017. It’s almost 2020. You do the math.  These kids have raging gonads and a high aversion to old-style lectures. They are not receptive to biblical, moral preaching at this point. “Fornication is not pleasing to the Lord.”, we tell them.  Well, these kids will gladly go to hell to be with their Romeos and Juliets.

Religious groups have criticized the use of artificial contraceptives. The immorality or morality of using these commodities will never be settled, and we should not allow this debate to further stall urgent intervention.  As for the risks— yes. There are health risks involved in taking pills and using condoms, but there are more health risks in widespread teenage pregnancy and unabated unprotected sex.

Parents and guardians are either in denial or incapable of communication. “My daughter would never do that.” Guess what. She already did. Parents are always the last to know. On the other hand, talking to children about sex is never easy. It needs training and preparation.  Hence, we need teachers and school counsellors to help parents in this respect. Teachers should train parents how to communicate with their children about these things. This can be done in PTA meetings.

The government should swiftly implement much-needed reforms in health, education and legislation. Aside from funding, legislative amendments are also necessary to allow teens to get safe sex products without parental consent. School curricula should be updated to give administrators and teachers the leeway to integrate real sex education.  

There should be gender-segregated sex education classes (with other subjects still gender-mixed) where teens can ask questions without being embarrassed. They need lessons where human anatomy and reproduction will be discussed direct to the point. When we use euphemisms and metaphors even in science classes, we are sending the message that the human body is shameful and dirty. And we wonder why teens refuse to talk to us about this. Teenagers need frank and non-moralizing conversations on human desires and how to handle them. They also need to know the use and risks of safe sex products, and be aware of the consequences of every action they take.

Many parents worry that teaching teenagers about contraceptives and safe sex will encourage them to have sex. There is no empirical data to support this. But assuming that it is true, that’s one risk we have to take. Besides, what is the worst risk of talking about safe sex? Your teen going from being a virgin to having safe sex and staying healthy.  What is the worst risk of not talking? Your teen going from being a virgin to having unsafe sex and contracting AIDS. You choose.

Priests and pastors should continue preaching abstinence, chastity and self-control.  We will always need that.  But they should stop demonizing the solutions proposed by people they don’t agree with. They don’t have the exclusive knowledge of right and wrong. Scientists and doctors are God’s instruments too, and they, too, have God-given wisdom to differentiate the moral from the immoral.   

Again, how did we reach this crisis?

Through years of silence, denial, inaction and sin-fixated mentality.

Until we change our mindset and act decisively, we will continue to descend into this pit of unsustainable population explosion, perpetual poverty and contagion of diseases.


Doll experiment: how dark-skinned kids feel about themselves

by Marily Sasota Gayeta

In 1939, Kenneth B. Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark, a husband-wife team, both African-American psychologists, investigated the effects of segregation on black American children. In their experiment, they showed   two  dolls to 253  black kids , whose age ranged from three to seven. The dolls looked almost exactly alike — the same size, the same hairstyle, the same shape of eyes , etc. —except  for the color. One  was black, one was white.  The children were asked  different questions. For questions like  “ Which doll looks nice ? “ and “ Which doll would  you  like to play with ?” , almost all  children chose the white doll. One child justified his choice with “ Because the white doll is clean.”  When they were asked questions like ,” Which doll looks  bad ? ” or “ Which doll is not nice? ”, majority chose the black doll.

                The final question was: “ Which doll looks like you ?”. Many of the children became emotional as they pointed to the black doll.  Immature as they were, they realized that they rejected the doll that looked like them, and that they were, in fact, rejecting themselves. One boy said “ I am actually white , but I got a suntan last summer .”  Two of the children also cried hard and ran out of the experiment room.

                The experiment was done at a time when African Americans  were  denied  so many rights  and were struggling for  equal treatment . The Clarks concluded that the responses were a clear sign of self-rejection and a feeling of inferiority brought about by the political  and social environment. The effects, based on their expert opinion,  may even be irreversible. The results of  the Clarks’ experiment were eventually used as a basis  by the US Supreme Court  to declare segregation in public schools  as  unconstitutional.

                 This doll experiment had been replicated several times. One  was  done  in 2005 by film maker Kiri Davis. The result  was the same . Seventy-one percent of the 21 black  children said that the white doll was prettier.  Imagine , that was 66 years later , a time when black Americans were supposed  to enjoy full rights and privileges as the whites. Those sixty-six years saw the rise of people like  Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey,  Michael Jordan , Will Smith , Tyra Banks  —and yet , black children still felt  inferior . 

             In 2009 , a media  company  in the US conducted the same  experiment for the show “ Good Morning America”.  The percentage of black girls who showed preference for the white doll was lower , 47 % , but this is  still significant .  Many  of the boys said both  were pretty. The change can be attributed to the fact that early that year, January 2009 , Barack Obama assumed the presidency of the US, bringing the positive  spotlight to him, his wife  and two daughters.

              It’s already 2020. Dark-skinned children born and living in many parts of the world  are still made to feel that they are  not pretty or handsome or good enough .  Stereotypes and prejudices are being perpetuated in so many ways . Racism still  persists even in advanced, culturally diverse  countries . Even among members  of  the same  ethnic groups that are naturally  endowed with  dark or brown  skin, there is colorism : a form of bias in favor of lighter-skinned ones .

               Colorism is prevalent in Southeast Asia. Brown-skinned children are bullied in school. They are called all sorts of names .  Dark-skinned employees  are usually the butt of jokes in the office. These things have persisted for a long, long time –but it does not mean that we should keep quiet about it .

          Obviously, the effects  of European colonial conquests have remained in the minds of many people. Western-centric or European-centric mentality holds that almost everything  from the West is   superior and worth emulating , including skin color. People in former colonies have not been able to disentangle themselves  from   this mentality, despite being technically and officially free from  their former masters.

               Colorism is also being indirectly perpetuated by billion-dollar  corporations that  sell beauty products. Their advertisements are relentless because they know fully well that  the public mind  is malleable .   In Southeast Asia —particularly in the Philippines , Thailand , Malaysia —- mainstream media and online media are  full of  advertisements for whitening products . Billboards  show  models  and endorsers   flaunting their white complexion. 

Some of the ads  go too far, insulting people  with dark skin. From  dusk till dawn, wherever  they look, young children in these  countries are bombarded  with propaganda that dark skin is inferior. The sad thing is, ordinary adult members of their societies are taking the lead. Social media is rife with verbal insults against dark-skinned  people.

               Of course, changing one’s skin color is ultimately a  personal choice. One is free to buy all the products she wants, or to undergo all the medical procedures, if she really wants to have a whiter  complexion . But that is not the thesis of this article.

               As proven by the doll experiments,  socially-tolerated  forms of prejudice  do a lot of damage to children.  Segregation by color, of course , is no longer the issue, but we know  racism  still exists . Also ,media-brainwashing  and consumerism are  just as harmful .   Bullying is just as damaging . For a kid who is a constant victim of bullying, going  to school  is a daily torture .

                 If you are a parent with dark-skinned children, you have to assure your children  that their  skin is  nothing to be ashamed  of.  Build their  confidence and teach them how to deal with bullying.  If you are a teacher, do not allow  any dark-skinned child ( or any child  for that matter  ) to  be the object of cruel banters. Show your class that you will not allow bullying and  any form of harassment  your class.  If you are a  responsible adult, explain how businesses  and the  media work,  and how they can affect  people’s mind –set and behavior.

              Do not tolerate racism and colorism , even in the name of ” fun.” 

                It took a pair of dolls to move the US Supreme Court  to make a historic decision  that paved the way for integration ( white and black kids studying together )  in American schools.  May these two inanimate  dolls remind   people in different countries  what Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1963 :

 I have a dream  that someday, my four children will be judged , not by the color of their skin , but  by the content of their character .”

When decent Filipinas get indecent proposals

Firstly, let  us define what  “decent ” means in this article.  It refers to an OFW  Filipina who is not a prostitute.  The job or salary does not matter. Whether she is an office employee, a teacher, a sales  staff  or a household helper — as long as she is not in the sex trade —  she is decent, as far as this article is concerned.

If you are a decent Filipina  and you  decide to work abroad ,  especially in an Arab country, you have  to bear in mind that  you are  carrying a stigma . And that you will be  working  and living in a backdrop of  prejudice related to loose morals and sexuality. Most likely, you  will be mistaken for a prostitute  or a  low-income worker  moonlighting  as a hooker.   You  will have to prepare yourself   for  insulting  remark,  degrading looks from men and women  from other countries, and brazen attempts  to  take advantage of you.

“ Indecent proposals ”  are a  common staple of a Pinay OFW’s  experience.  The proposal comes in different  male tactics.  She sits alone  in a café, and someone passes a piece of tissue  paper which says “ Wanna go out ? How much ? ”. She walks on a street, a  car passes by  and the  male  passengers  taunt her with  “ Five dinars ! ”  ( or riyals , depending on the country . And yes, that’s supposed to be  her  “ tag  price” . ) She goes  jogging , a car trails  her and the driver “ offers a ride ”. Decent Filipinas experience  this  almost all the time . And sometimes, it’s hard to  tolerate the insult and control the rage within.

Before we go further, let us take a look at the  root cause of this perception problem. We have to admit that there are Pinays  working  or sidelining as prostitutes abroad. We cannot deny that . We have no official statistics on this  but a short stroll on the streets of Dubai  or Hong Kong will reveal the scope of this  unfortunate truth. Economic hardships at home have forced not a few Filipinas into this lowly  trade. As the diaspora has  widened, so has  the stereotype.

Of course, prostitution is a universal phenomenon. No country doesn’t have it . Some won’t just admit it. It is not confined to the Filipinas alone . But  stereotypes  are very difficult to change. Even if you slap  some people with a UN-  or ILO-certified fact sheet saying that most expat Filipinas are actually  in decent, respectable careers — their perception won’t change . Their opinion has been marred  by previous experiences or by what they hear from their own kind.  People will believe only what they want to believe.  It’s useless to explain.

This prejudice is not a problem for women who are really in the sex trade. They are  ready for it . They have hardened their guts for it. It is really the decent women  like you who have to bear the brunt of  the disdain, the heckling , the danger.

 However , there are things  you  can do to  lessen the likelihood of getting that “proposal”.  

You have to be careful with your  behavior when in public. Courtesy is always  advisable  but too much  friendliness can be misinterpreted as an “ invitation”. Eye-to-eye contact  with men poses no problem  in the work place or in a professional context , but outside of  work  — like in a mall  or on the street— eye contact , especially a lingering one,  will  send the wrong message . A revealing attire and a flirtatious  gesture may also  be taken as an “ advertisement” .—-so it’s better to cover that skin and watch your gestures . You are not in the Philippines. Moreover, you should avoid isolated places where shady deals usually happen . When  you are alone , a conspicuously plugged ear phone  usually discourages conversation —let alone “ proposals ”. It will even save  you   from hearing unwelcome  comments .  

But what can you  do when you actually get  that “ proposal” ?

When it happens in a public place  like a street or a restaurant, keep calm and make no scene when there is no imminent danger. Calmly , but seriously  say “ NO.”  Men who make the “ offer” usually do not insist  when they realize that the woman is not for it . If they do insist , then , it’s time to make a little scene to attract  other people’s attention. Say NO in a strong , raised  tone . Public attention  will likely make them stop and leave . As for hecklers in passing cars, you can just ignore them. It’s not advisable to yell back. By the time you have screamed  your protestations , the car is gone  and you only get puzzled or sarcastic stares from passers-by. If it is very unlikely  that  you and  that  man would cross paths again —  you can just let it pass.

 Indeed, there are many times in  your expat life  when  you have  to control your  anger . Other women choose to  exchange verbal tirades  when they hear offensive comments . But this may spiral out of control . For example, if the man is a local , and he  felt offended  or embarrassed by  your reaction,  he can give   you a problem more complicated  than a bruised pride. He can easily trace where you live and harass you to no end .He  may even be a  relative of your  boss and invent things that may jeopardize your employment .   Remember , you are in an alien  territory . Locals can circumvent almost everything. So, before you go ballistic  because someone made an indecent proposal — ask yourself how far you can fight back when things get nastier . Sometimes , walking  away from an insult  is the wisest thing to do.

When the proposal is repeated by the same person – such as a neighbor or a co-worker —you  should tackle things  differently.  Keeping quiet is not  the right thing to do. If you simply keep quiet  and ignore  him, he may assume that you are just  playing hard to get .  Make  sure that you have said  “NO”  in a very clear manner . Warn him that if he repeats  his offensive offer, you will  report him . With the use of your  phone, you can actually record  his attempts.  Telling  someone else about these incidents is also a good move . At work , you may inform  your supervisor or  a Human Resources  staff   or anyone else who has some degree of power.  You may also tell the landlord  or  a trustworthy neighbor.   It is also safer  to live with or  near other Filipinos. 

On the other hand ,  the case changes when a  man insists  and seems determined  to force you. That’s no longer just a “ proposal “ . It’s  an impending rape and assault . Your life is now on the line. That’s the time to make a scene .  Attract attention. Shout  for help. Use your gadget.  If you have time , take a photo of the person  and send it to somebody online .  You have to  move away from the situation as quickly as possible.

At this point, we  have to emphasize  the importance  of personal image. Right from the beginning of your expat life , you have to  build a positive reputation. Excel in your work without bragging  and behave  in such a manner that commands respect . If you do this , more people will be on your side.  It also  makes you credible when you make a complaint against someone . It sounds unfair — but no one believes a flirtatious woman  when she sues someone  for sexual  harassment. And yes, many Filipinas are perceived as flirtatious and loose.

Let us summarize  what we have been talking about .   Calmly  reject  one-time random indecent proposals from strangers. Speak up  loud and clear against a repeated  offer from the same person  in a familiar place.  Run away  and scream for help when  someone gets too close  or starts touching you. 

Indeed, a Pinay OFW’s life  is  a tough lot. Surely, you will  face  many  trials and challenges . But with the  right behavior , precautions and prayers — you can survive the experience, achieve your dreams  and get back home  richer  and wiser .

To the girl who never got a love letter

You look at yourself in the mirror and start searching for answers. And you see them staring back at you. You’re not pretty enough. Your face has no symmetry. Your eyes don’t sparkle. Your smile is dull.  You look so  plain and  boring . Or maybe, just maybe, you’re downright ugly.

Other girls in school get chocolates and cute teddy bears from blushing  boys.  But not you. Other girls open their bags, and giggle at the  scented love notes, secretly slipped in by a young lad . But not you. All you  have in your bag is a faded copy of an old fairy tale, where a damsel in distress is rescued by a knight in shining armor.

A delivery boy sometimes comes to the  office with a bouquet  of flowers, but it’s never for you. It’s for the girl in the other cubicle. You join the others in the teasing and light-hearted fun for that lucky  girl.You  cheerfully compliment the roses, but deep inside , you’ve got a question : “ When will I  ever get mine?”

You pass by guys on the streets, in the halls, or  between tables at Starbucks. They never notice you. Their eyes flit away  from you instantly.  They turn to their phones right away, or get smitten by that sexy girl at the next table. They never see you.   You are invisible to them. You don’t have what it takes to be “ that ” girl .  The looks. The charm. The appeal. You have none of those.

It hurts, right? To be a  girl, to be a woman, and to be  invisible to the opposite sex . You don’t  really thirst for attention, but for sure , an occasional  admiring  look from a guy would somehow bolster your feminine  ego. Who wouldn’t feel good  with  that ?

Other girls were given the beauty that society admires. Others, like you, are lacking in it . Other girls  have the appeal that captures guys’ attention right away. But not you . They never bother to give you a second  look.

 Life is not  fair. It never was. It never will  be.  Accept this fact with a bold, open heart. Then ,  get on with your life.

 Stop crying at night because nobody has written a love letter for you . Stop sulking in a corner because every girl in the gang has a boyfriend,while  you’re sitting alone on the bench. Stop pitying yourself because you don’t have a date on Valentine’s day.   For God’s sake , girl, stop it .

But don’t give up just yet. Try to doll up, but don’t overdo it . Find out which fashion style suits you. Develop your inner beauty. Be kind. Do good things — not for a show —but because you mean it.  Cultivate your talents. Learn how to play a musical instrument. The guitar or keyboard perhaps? That talent would be handy in a company party.  Enrich your mind. Read good books. Be aware of the world. This will prepare you for great conversations. Socialize, but don’t act like a slut. Act confidently despite your physical flaws.

And maybe, he will notice you among the vast crowd.

There are a lot of men who fall in love with character, talents and brains. And these are the men who keep lasting  and profound relationships. He will fall in love with you — not instantly — but gradually. Your knight will  find you. Maybe not in  chance encounters  in exotic places ,  but in little familiar corners  where time is essential  for  building intimacy .

When that time comes, he will fall in love with you in a special way. No. Not like the New Year’s Eve fireworks that explode and dazzle the senses , and then vanish  in thin air. His love will begin from a small  spark. A very small spark that grows very slowly, until it becomes a fire that  engulfs his whole heart and his whole being. His love  will be like  a  steady flame that burns  for all eternity .

Wow. That sounds so romantic.

But what if your knight does not come ?

So what, girl, so what. Nothing of what you did was in vain. The new clothes and perfume that you bought. The song that you learned how to play. The office mate that you helped. The news that you read . All of these things made  you a happier and a better person. Never regret them just because you failed to catch a man. 

Your happiness should not depend on whether or not there’s a guy  who  loves you . Don’t give a shit about what society says you must feel if you don’t have a man in your life. You can be happy  even if no one holds your hand in the park.  You can be  whole even if no one kisses  you at  night and says  “ Good night, babe. I love you .” A human being doesn’t always need a romantic partner to feel fulfilled.  Focus on the blessings of being single. Time. Independence. Family and friends . The full range of choices you have in your life. Freedom can be as satisfying as romantic love.

If your knight comes, well and good.

If he doesn’t, it’s okay .

You will be fine, girl . You are complete just as you  are .

How access to divorce will change us

( As of publication date, the Philippines remains the only country in the world without a divorce law. Attempts are already being made to introduce divorce to the country.)

Marriage, as all woke people know, is not sugar and spice. It is a relationship that, as years go by, tend to become complicated. Mounting bills, raising rebellious kids, meddling in-laws, mid-life crisis and career issues make marriage problematic. Keeping a relationship requires hard work, commitment and emotional maturity. Many couples are unable to cope and find themselves in troubled marriages. Feelings have changed.  The love is gone. Things have become nasty. In the absence of a divorce law, many Filipino couples are forced to stay together. Some sit down and talk, forgive and forget, and reclaim marital bliss. On the other hand, others simply tolerate, accept and bear the things that afflict them, especially if they have children to consider. These couples just go through the motions while they feel imprisoned in a loveless marriage.  They stay for want of better options since annulment and legal separation are long, arduous and expensive.

However, once divorce becomes available, things will likely change. It will galvanize unhappily married people into action.  It is human nature to seek pleasure and beauty, and to desire happiness and excitement.  It is a part of human survival instinct to flee from painful situations like having to argue with a spouse day in and day out.  If a divorce law is approved, it would be a door to escape from an unpleasant marriage, and knowing that we have that option may change the way we act and think.

Easy access to divorce will lower our ability to tolerate, accept and forgive. This will be replaced by judgment, rejection and decisiveness. An offense which could be forgiven in the present  divorce-less scenario can become unpardonable.  A wife who has been cheated and betrayed  may just decide to file for divorce. A husband whose ego is constantly piqued by his wife’s criticism may just choose to end the relationship. Grudges, which are normally hidden, are brought to the fore and are used as a basis to sever the relationship. 

Unsavory changes in physical appearance —wrinkled faces, grey hair and obese bodies which previously are accepted may be used as a justification for ending the marriage through a no-fault divorce. Why stick it out with your old, boring wife when you can divorce her and marry a young woman who sets your groin on fire? For some men, divorce is a way to awaken  their hibernating manhood without the guilt and legal repercussions.

Indeed, a divorce law may make stressed couples more receptive to other people’s affection. Instead of ignoring a romantic gesture from a third party, a person may entertain and welcome it— as a respite from their marital problems. They start comparing their spouses with this new person who seems so appealing, sweet and caring —the exact opposite of what their spouses have become. And since divorce is available, why not try it out with this new partner? We all deserve a second chance, we would tell ourselves.

Access to divorce may make us fail to realize that our troubled marriage is still repairable and redeemable.  Instead of choosing to fix it, we may choose to throw it away. There is the real danger of giving up too soon on something that can still be rebuilt. When we are hurt, it is natural to want to break free from a relationship that we feel is toxic. When we’re angry and exhausted from marital conflict, we will forget the positive qualities of our spouse, refuse reconciliation efforts and forfeit the chance to save our family. If given the legal provision, many of us would rather bet on a new partner than reunite with a husband or wife whose flaws and failures have disappointed or even shocked us. On the other hand, court officials, who are overburdened by work, may just haphazardly approve divorce applications, without first considering possible rehabilitation of damaged marriages.

Marriage-divorce-marriage-divorce. Our concept of marriage will become fragmented. It will become a trial-and -error thing. If the first one does not work, try again. If the second one fails again, go for a third.  And so it becomes a vicious cycle.

In the divorce debate, we have to consider a legal system that will swiftly dissolve high-conflict, abusive marriages while at the same time giving broken but repairable marriages a second chance at love.

It is profitable to make women feel ugly

by Marily Sasota Gayeta

They  are visual  feasts we see everywhere. Images  of goddesses descended from the  heavens.  They mesmerize us  as they  appear on our television screens. They seduce us as they arch their backs  on glossy magazine  covers  and giant billboards.  They entice us with their wicked smiles  as they  pop up  on our  computer monitors . Women in the media  , particularly  in  beauty advertisements.  All are  epitomes of modern beauty:  lean  body,  hour-glass figure, silky hair , flawless white skin .

A  study in the US  reveals that the  average  woman sees 400 to 600 advertisements a day.By the age of 17, an average girl has seen 250,000 ads. More than half of these advertisements use  the concept of “ beauty ” as a product appeal.  The product  is not necessarily  cosmetics or  fashion items — it can be a fast food restaurant , a smart phone or even a car. But just the same , they attract consumers  by using beautiful women in the ads. According to Chris Downs and Sheila Harrison , whose study was published  in  Sex Roles: A Journal of Research,  one out of every 3.8  television commercials has a message about attractiveness in it.

 Apparently, advertisements  are doing  the jobs they are intended to do. Otherwise, the advertising and the cosmetic  industries  would not have grown into the  giant industries  that  they are. But how do ads work ?  Dr. George Gerbner, a communications expert   who conducted extensive  research on the effects of television  on people,  came up with   Cultivation theory. A major idea from this    theory  says  that repetitive exposure to something will  have  cumulative effect over time. Gerbner’s  study actually  did not  focus on   beauty advertisements , but the  conclusions  are applicable.  To expound on  his findings ,if you bombard  women with   propaganda  showing what “ beauty” should be  and  with   ads of products  that would supposedly make them beautiful,  they would believe it —instantly or eventually. Even if there is resistance at the beginning, women will  finally cave in.   

The visual images in the ads  transmit the intended message more effectively than words do. Physical beauty is all that matters  and it can be achieved by buying and using a particular product.  This is the  message that  seeps into the  sub-conscious  mind  of women and subsequently affects  their feelings.  And  research says  that those feelings are, most of the time, negative.

When ordinary women look at these  idealized  images  and then  look at themselves in the mirror, they see the stark difference. And that  usually hurts.

Philip Myers Jr. and Frank Biocca, both academic researchers, concluded in their study published in the Journal of Communication, that a woman’s self-perceived body image can change after watching a half-an-hour of television programming and advertising. On the other hand ,  the  research of  Yoku Yamamiya and Thomas F. Cash  yielded  a more alarming result :  “Even a 5- minute exposure to thin-and-beautiful media images results in a more negative body image  than does exposure to images of neutral object.”

 Tiggemann and Mcgill ( as cited in Serdar ),  on the other hand, discovered  that even brief exposure to images of beautiful  females (11 images) led to increased levels of body dissatisfaction and weight anxiety among women. This finding is disturbing because the number of images used in the study is far less than what is present in any women’s magazine or shown in most television programming.

A study by Duane  Hargreaves of Flinders University in South Australia  had similar results. Females who saw ads  with idealized female imagery experienced a greater degree of  body dissatisfaction , negative moods and anger.  Teen-age girls  are more likely to be negatively  affected by what they see on the media.

The studies mentioned above are just  a small part of  extensive  evidence   showing  that women suffer   emotionally  and psychologically  due to  exposure to  beautiful images in  ads and other forms of media. 

But  wait. Isn’t this the very intention of  beauty  advertising ?  To make a consumer  feel  sorry for herself  because she has dark skin . Because she is  fat . Because she has pimples .  Because  she’s getting old. Creators of the ad, and they are very smart, know what’s inside the deep recesses  of a woman’s  mind and  heart. Fully aware of a  woman’s vulnerable spots , they  hit her self-esteem  with underlying messages. You are not good enough . You are not pretty enough . You are ugly . But then, as she squirms on her couch with self-pity,  she gets the other message. “ Don’t despair , lady ! There’s hope ! Use  our product  and you will be as beautiful as these models .You will get  perfectly white skin .You will have this body . You will catch Mr. Right.“ The woman now  rushes to the nearest mall — where sales agents wait for the prey who needs only  very little pushing  to buy the product.

 TV shows  are in connivance  with the ads. Most female protagonists and personalities on TV are slim and white-skinned.  Other females  who don’t fit this description  are more of the exception than the rule.  Some of them are on a  show for comic relief. 

Today’s women are  willing and unwilling  victims of the media’s   portrayal of what “ beauty ”should be. Though there are many great  things that the media can be credited  for ,  this is not one of them.  Women are  forced ,  or at least , are pressured to  somehow look like the women they  frequently see on advertisements and TV shows.

But aren’t women paying too much for psychological gratification and conformity ? And  how much of what we  see should we believe ?  

Firstly, let us take a look at the  ads  and  the endorsers’ faces.  The symmetry. The contour.  The  color. The “ texture” . Perfect . But  how near are these images to the  endorsers’ real faces?  And  how far did the air-brushing and the photoshopping  go ?

 Ad creators digitally enhance images — and this is on top of the  hours spent  by professional stylists  preparing the endorsers   for the  commercial shoot.  These things  are  normal in the ad industry. Thus, the images that consumers  see are  actually  the combined result  of  the endorsers’   physical assets, IT people’s  technical skills  and digital tools , and  the  make-up artists’ flair.   So many things come into play in the  making  of an ad. It’s not just the model’s face or body . Never.  Most of us know this — but we still get duped.

Aside  from “ perfect faces”,  another contentious issue  is the prevalence of  images of thin women Television , print media  and the internet  teem  with images of slim  — rather  thin   —models, with their collar bones  and ribs sticking  out.  Twenty years ago ,  models   weighed   only eight percent less than the average woman that time. But these days, models weigh 23 percent less than the average woman. One study reveals that most models these days  are 20% underweight — and this is far from healthy . Yet, women look up to them and try to imitate them. The  modern  weight  standard is unattainable  for most women — leading to negative self perception  as studies suggest. Then, they rush to buy  slimming pills —- many of which  did not undergo strict laboratory or scientific  testing .  In many countries , especially those with corrupt governments — it is very easy  for businessmen to get permits  for their products. Many consumers  are not aware that sub-standard diet pills  and  misuse of standard diet pills  may  have serious consequences like blurred  vision , unstable  blood pressure and congestive heart failure.

                                           Women starve themselves  to be slim   

“ White skin ” is another issue .  The skin whitening craze in Asia and Africa has gone to, well , crazy  levels. And it is being fueled  by the  media’s love affair  with  white-skinned models  and  leading ladies. Whitening soaps, whitening lotions, whitening capsules. Then , there are whitening medical procedures  like  lasers  and  intravenous glutathione The media continues  to send the message that white skin is  more beautiful than brown or black skin.  Although skin whitening has been done by women  for centuries —-it has never been so popular  and widespread as it is these days. The ancient saying ” One whiteness can cover three ugliness” has become a modern battle cry.

Skin whitening advertisements  are  everywhere in Asian countries. Many of the endorsers  were born with  white  skin in the first place. That is clear deception.  And it is infuriating  that governments  actually allow  them .

These marketing  ploys are succeeding. According to a 2004 study by global marketing firm Synovate, nearly 40 percent of women in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines used skin whitening and lightening products that year. That was many years ago. The figure must be higher these days. In terms of  purchases , it is said that  Asians  now  spend US$  13  to 18  billion annually on skin whitening products  alone .

                                     Before and after . What’s wrong with ” before ” ?

 This  desire   for  white skin  is mainly rooted in colonialism , particularly in Eurocentrism . Most countries in Asia and Africa were once colonized by white people: Americans , British , French, Spanish.  White is the color of the masters. White is the color of wealth .  On the other hand , black is the color of the slaves. Brown is the color of poverty and ignorance. Then enter Hollywood,  selling glittering  entertainment dominated by white  actors and actresses .

Westerners who visit  Asian countries  are just shocked  at the skin whitening phenomenon  and the  prejudice that goes with dark skin.

There is a bit of irony here. Asians  and Africans  nowadays are  sensitive  when it comes to racism committed by Westerners. Yet , among themselves , there exists “ colorism ” .  Colorism is a form of prejudice that  favors lighter -skinned people  over  dark-skinned people in the same  ethnic group. When Asians and Africans denounce racism  yet condone colorism— that is hypocrisy.

Chao-uanTsen, a member of  Awakening Foundation, a womens’ rights organization in Taipei , says that the whitening trend is a  “ form of self hatred. “ On the other hand ,  The Beauty Myth author Naomi Wolf  believes  that modern  standards of beauty are “  a plot to keep women politically, economically, and sexually subjugated to men—apparently by keeping them too busy curling their eyelashes to have time for political action .”   These may be extreme views  which should not be taken in their entirety — but they  have some nuggets of wisdom in them. 

Women like Chao-uan Tsen and Wolf  may  decry this trend until they get hoarse . But  the end to this is so far from sight.

The media and corporations  will not allow  women  to be really happy with themselves   because the moment that happens, it will be the end of many businesses.

A happy, contented woman is a smart, cautious spender. She does not need much because her happiness  comes from within.   Businesses have to make  her  unhappy , discontented  and irrational — so that she would  go into a shopping binge  of make-up , skin whiteners  and  diet pills ( and clothes , accessories ,etc. ).  TV shows  will continue  to glorify    white skin and thin bodies . Advertisements  will continue  to point out flaw after flaw, defect after defect .They will spare no part of the human anatomy : from the scalp  down to the heels.   Armed with catchy  lines   and   images of beautiful women  — they will continue  to ensnare women into the  vicious  cycle of beauty trap .

Advertising is the lifeblood of  media companies and it is a US$100 billion a year industry. On the other hand ,  the global beauty industry is worth  US$160 billion a year.   There is no way  corporations and individuals   are  going to  let go of that  money . Top  and middle  executives  are buying   mansions , yachts  and  private planes. Sales agents are  making six-digit incomes and even  millions.

Indeed , it is profitable to make women  feel ugly.  

This is not to demonize the media. This is not to paint an ugly picture of all corporations with the same soiled  brush.  They have their own positive contributions  to society  but it is still  the desire for money that rules them.  Businesses exist to earn profit .  They will do what they need to do for better bottomlines.  Ultimately, women are responsible  for their own  decisions and actions.  It is up to women themselves  to stop unbridled , ignorant  consumerism  and blind conformity  to society’s  standards.  

The key is awareness  and balance.

Women have to be aware of how the media impacts  viewers. When a woman  looks at a beauty ad , she should remember  that  it is designed to create emotional discomfort  and to  lower her self-esteem.  She should  guard her own emotions  and determine her own needs . “ Do I really need this product ? Or  will I be wasting my money ? ”

Awareness means knowing the options. For instance, many women  do not know  that a  cosmetic  or a pharmaceutical  company  usually produces  both expensive and cheap versions of the same product ( for example ,  moisturizer ) . If the first five ingredients are the same,  the products would give almost the same result. So, why  burn  your money  on the expensive  version?    But women have to develop the habit of  reading  and comparing.  With just a click of the mouse , women can find out which  products  will give value for their money  and which  companies deserve to  be trusted .

Sub-standard whitening  products,  and  some  of them  may have  been approved   by your  government,  contain mercury and hydroquinone , both of which have adverse effects on health. It is  also  a well-known fact in scientific circles  that melanin protects  the skin from  cancer . When the skin is stripped of  melanin— and this is what skin whiteners do — the person becomes more prone to skin  problems .Says  Dr. Ernesto Gonzalez , director of International Dermatology Training at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital,  “ The whiter they become,  the more chances they will be subjected to skin damage and skin cancer.”

Advertisements  gloss over  not-so-pretty facts  and sales agents  won’t volunteer  them.  They are actually experts at evading “ uncomfortable “ questions . And it is not a wise move to ask questions  to  somebody  who stands to gain money  from you. Therefore , women  have to dig for the information themselves.

Awareness  also means distinguishing   between  capricious  cosmetic issues   and  genuine  medical  concerns  that are worth spending on.  For example ,  morbid obesity does  need medical attention  because it is  closely associated with cardiac diseases , diabetes and other illnesses.    On the other hand, a flab in the belly is not necessarily life-threatening , and  can be either flaunted  or hidden by an appropriately cut dress.   Chronic  acne  should  also  be treated because  of the discomfort   caused by the inflammation and the itching .Dark skin , on the other hand,  is not a medical problem.  It is a perception problem. Same   is true with wrinkles,   flat noses  and line-less  eyelids  typical  of many Southeast Asian women. A perception problem can be solved by changing the way we look at ourselves and the way we handle criticism.   The solution can be found inside us — not inside a jar  or a clinic. And it is free. 

Women who constantly feel insecure  without  make-up  or  women who always feel paranoid about how other people  judge their  physical appearance  may have  deep-seated problems. Women who go overboard trying to please society  may be emotionally disturbed.  They  need  a psychiatrist, not a plastic  surgeon.

Now,  let  us be realistic . Let’s  put our thoughts in the  context of the current society  where women live .

No woman—no matter how intelligent —  can be  totally  immune from the effects of  beauty advertising.  She will be affected , whether she admits it or not , whether she knows it or not. No woman — no matter how independent   — can completely stand up against  the pressures of society to look good. She will have to conform –whether she likes it or not.  And  no woman  can completely ignore the longings  nature has   ascribed to  her gender .  Which  woman had not  wished , at least once in her life,   to be given  a second  admiring  look by  men?

But it is the extent  to which she allows  herself  to be pressured by outside forces. It is the degree to which she allows the media, businesses  and society to influence   what she should buy, how much she should spend,  how she should look and how she should feel about herself.

A woman will always need to  be neat , clean   and presentable  for herself ,   her family  and   her career. She can do that without much  toll on her income  and with minimum rituals  in front of the mirror.  

We don’t want  women losing  hard-earned money  on products that hardly work , or products that they don’t need at all.  “  The fool and his money are soon parted ” as a sage once said . (Well , “ her “ would be the better  pronoun here . )  Money that should have gone to family savings  had gone instead to a bottle of diet pills. Money that should have been spent   on life-saving procedures like mammogram or cervical cancer screening  had been spent on liposuction.

We also don’t want women starving themselves to  anorexic levels , or working –out too hard  because they want to  get slim. Women should eat right and  do exercise to be healthy, and not to please an appearance-obsessed society. They don’t need to deprive themselves of  the gustatory delight a slice of cheese cake brings , or the pleasure of lingering on  a soft bed. “ Moderation ” is the word.  Anything in excess is bad. 

We don’t want Asian and African women  feeling ashamed of  their brown  or black skin .We don’t want young girls  from these places  to grow up insecure   thinking  that there is something wrong with dark skin.   If there is something   wrong  that we should  all be ashamed of — it is  racism, colorism, greed   and deception.  

We want women to stop comparing themselves  to  ad endorsers, movie stars and models  whose careers  and lives have  far different requirements from theirs.  We  want  women to  see their own  worth  and  feel proud of who they are . We want them to focus on things that really matter:  character, brains, personality, health . We want them,  not other people , to  choose for themselves  how they would look  and how they would feel .  And we want women to realize that they can be  truly beautiful  in whatever shape size , age  or color they are in.

Sources / Works Cited

Alkon , A. ( 2010 Nov 1 ) .The truth about

Hirsi, I. ( 2013 Aug 21 ) Somali woman researches health risks of skin lightening practices. Minneapolis

     Post .

Kendrick. ( 2013 July 4 ) Voluntary recall of products ( Skin Care )

Kilbourne, J. (n.d.) The beauty and the beast of advertising .

Navert,R. ( n.d. ) Media can damage self-image.

Ross , K. ( 2014 March 11 ) Asia skin lightening — an obsession that’s here to stay.

Serdar, K. ( n.d. ) Female body image  and the  mass media : Perspectives on how women internalize

            the ideal beauty standard.

Swinson, J. ( 2011 Aug 10 ) False beauty in advertising and the pressure  to look good.

Tsang , E. ( 2013 July 5 ) Kanebo  recalls skin whitening products.  South China Morning Post.

Zafar , A. ( 2012  Feb 3 ).Too perfect ? Rachel Weisz’s L’Oreal ad banned in Britain for being


Websites  Advertisements and their negative effects on women and girls.  June 30,2004 Asia’s skin whitening craze . Why white skin is all rage in Asia . L’Oreal UK ads banned for retouched photos. July 27 ,2011.  Avoiding  the anti-aging quackery.

                                                  ( e-mail received on September 29, 2014 ) Effects of advertising on teen body image . . Pots of promise. ( Rulings )

Bertang Kubeta

Bertang Kubeta ang tawag sa kanya  
Tagalinis ng kubeta sa Avenida . - 
Bitbit ang balde , tabo  at eskoba 
Mahabang patpat  at gomang pambomba
Chlorox ,  sabon na  powder at  bareta
Sinimulan  ang masayang  araw nya  
Pinuno ng tubig , dram na kalawangin  
At paraiso ‘y  sinimulang linisin.
Sa isang partisyon, tumambad sa kanya  ,
Sukang galing sa sikmura ng iba  
Kanin , isda , manok , kape  at  gatas
Mais , tinapay , kendi at iba pang katas  .
Si Berta , gamit  ang  lumang pahayagan  
Malapot na suka , kanyang pinunasan .
Isinunod ang baradong kubeta  
Nakasusulasok sa ilong at mata  .
Hawa-hawak   ang payat na kahoy 
Sinundot- sundot ang barang   impiyerno  ang amoy  
Ihi at tae , tumilamsik sa kanya 
Lintik na bara ,  natunaw din    pagdaka .
May pumasok na tatlong  tao
Ang isa’y  dumahak ng sandamakmak .
Ang isa’y suminga , ibinuga ang berdeng plema  
Ang isa’y pilit na  pinigil ang utot
Ngunit sumambulat din angot .   
Si Bertang Kubeta,  sa narinig ay tatawa-tawa !
Ala-una  na pala!
Tumigil muna itong si Bertang Kubeta
Naghugas  ng  mga kamay , gamit ang sabong bareta 
Tapos ay pasalampak na umupo sa may pinto
At buong sarap na   nanilantakan  ang munting tanghalian  
 Na kaning tutong , kamatis at tuyo.  

Maasim na ubas

Dahil hindi ako graduate ng UP, La Salle o Ateneo ,
Ang sasabihin ko ,
Wala naman 'yan sa  pangalan  ng eskwelahan
Kundi sa kung ano talaga ang natutunan
Dahil wala sa akin ang kagandahan ni Gretchen Barreto
Sasabihin kong pinaglalaruan lang nya si Cojuangco
Isa siyang  malanding  kerida na di dapat pamarisan
Ng  mga kabataan, lalo’t kababaihan .
Dahil hindi ako matalino tulad ni Miriam Santiago
Sasabihin kong  baliw siya at 
Magaling lang siyang  magpatawa
Siya’s dapat nasa pelikula  at hindi sa pulitika .
Dahil hindi ako sikat tulad ni Kris Aquino
Sasabihin kong  kawawa siya
 dahil malas siya  sa  tunay na pagsinta
Aanhin nya ang katangyagan at   pera  ?
Dahil hindi  ako mayaman tulad ni Henry Sy
Sasabihin kong sa diyablo galing  ang  maraming salapi
Sasabihin kong biyaya ang kahirapan
At si Henry ay di  makapapasok sa kalangitan
Dahil wala akong visa papuntang Amerika
Sasabihin kong  mahal ko ang aking bansa
At dito’y maligayang mamumuhay kahit dukha
Hindi ipagpapalit sa  bansang marangya .
Ngunit ,sandali ! Di ba’t  halatang- halata ?
Inggit ang ugat ng maaanghang kong salita
Lahat ng meron sila, ako nama’y wala
Nagpupuyos ang damdamin sa buhay  kong  salat sa  biyaya .


Narinig niya sa aandap-andap   na radyo
Ang paparating na  malakas na bagyo
Sa mataas na lugar, lahat ay dapat  ay umahon
Walang dapat manatili sa peligrosong  nayon .
Ang unos na padating, wala raw sasantuhin
Kaya’t paglikas, dapat nang madaliin.
Kaya’t ang  babae, nagsimulang maghakot
Ng kanyang kayamanang  kakarampot   
Ang maliit na radyo, ilang  pirasong damit  at kumot
Baso,  pinggan at kalderong  pingot.
Malakas  na hangin nagdadala   ng takot
Ungol nito ay nakapanghihilakbot .
Maya-maya 'y dumating  ang asawang batugan
At  nang walang nakitang pagkain para hapunan
Ang babaeng  naghahakot  ang siyang pinagbuntunan
Mukha’y nakabusangot at yamot na yamot
Magdudulot na naman sa kabiyak ng bangungot
Ang babae, hinila sa buhok , sinampal , sinuntok .
Sa labas, ang hangin, palakas nang palakas
Animo’y  halimaw  na  umaangil at humaharibas
Ang langit, parang higanteng banga
Na nagkalamat at  nabiyak sa gitna
Lumugwak, bumagsak   ang tubig  na  ka-dagat  ,
Binabali, tinatangay, nilulunod   ang lahat .
Sa loob ng dampa, tuloy ang kakaibang bagyo
Hagupit ng  bisig,  bigwas  ng kamao  
Ang panaghoy  ng  babae, nakapapangilabot
Matinding pambubogbog  na kanyang inaabot
Bisig at kamaong matindi pa sa kalikasan
Paano niya ito  malalampasan .
Nahablot ng babae  ang  kalderong laging walang laman  
At  hinarap  ang kabiyak  at malupit na kalaban  
Na ngayo’y may  kamaong muling   nakataas
Ngunit bago niya ito muling naiigkas ,
Hinambalos  siya ng babae  nang buong lakas
Buhay ng lalaki, noon din ay nagwakas.
Nangatog sa takot, tuyot niyang  katawan
Batas  ng lipunan, siya’y  uusigin  at parurusahan .
Nang biglang rumagasa,  tubig na hindi inaakala
At pinunit ang  ang maliit  na kulungang    dampa
Ang babae , nagkunyapit sa  natitirang  amba
Habang ang lalaki’y tinangay ng maitim na baha .
Nakapangingilabot  ang  panaghoy  at hiyawan
Ng mga taong natangay sa  laot  at sa kawalan
Paghingi ng tulong , siyang ipinagsisigawan
Upang buhay nila’y sakaling madugtungan.
Patuloy ang hagupit , ang hampas  ng kalikasan
Ngunit para bang  ang Diyos , nagbingi-bingihan .
Kinabukasan , pag kalma ng kalikasan
Si haring araw, muling nasilayan .
Kahit saan mga  mata’y tumingin
Mapapausal ng “ Diyos na mahabagin !”
Puno man o bahay , lahat nakadapa
Sa matinding pagkakasalanta .
Ang babae’y  nagpunta malapit sa barangay  
Kung saan  dinala  ang mga bangkay
Nilapitan siya ang  ng kapitan at iniabot ang kamay  
Kanyang  ramdam ang pakikiramay nitong tunay
Ikinalulungkot ko, usal nito -- nasawi ang asawa mo
Nang siya’y tinangay, maaring nahampas ang ulo.
Tinanggal  ng  ginang ang takip na pahayagan   
Ang  putikang  bangkay, kanyang natunghayan  
Nakangangang  sugat  sa noo ay  tinitigan
Di maiwasang siya’y matakot  at  kilabutan.
Malupit na kamao’y nakaikom pa rin
Para bang handang siya’y  muling buntalin .
Tumulo ang luha  ng  babaeng kababalo
Siya lang ang nakakaalam ng kahulugan nito
Pilit na ikinubli ang  paghinga nang malalim
Siya at ang unos , may alam na lihim
Krimen na  di maiwasan , tila ba  hinugasan
Nang malupit at  maunawaing inang  kalikasan .
Disyembre  2013
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