By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City
Studies show that women almost always think of themselves last. Her children are always her priority, followed by either by her spouse or family.
Filipino women who have less income are also likely malnourished, for instance, because they would make sure to feed their children and husband first, and have less food for themselves.
The biological make-up of women has been attributed why they are naturally self-less. They tend to give out their time nurturing because of their own reproductive capacity. Why won’t you ever be amazed how miraculously and perfectly her physiological frame can create a new life in the womb. A woman almost instantaneously could fall in love and loves the life growing inside her without question, in all bewilderment and awe.
The social construct, meantime, cements the mindset of women to conform to age-old stereotypes from the homes, to work places, and social institutions. Norms define correct behavior. But there are however two standards. One for men, and the other for women.
I look back at three generations of women ahead of me, and remember my great grandmother. How she had submitted to the norms of our culture, quietly doing her chores, and being treated like property.
Lola Epang (Felipa Pasco) was not allowed to go to school in her time. She was born in 1894, and could not read or write. Her life revolved absolutely on farm work and house keeping, fashioned in the Spanish style of rigidity and knack for details.
We did not even know her birthday, and never celebrated it because she does not know when was she born, along with her twin sister whom I have never met. We only knew of Lola’s date of birth when she died of heart attack at the age of 89 in 1983. Her daughter, my Lola Berta, went to the municipal hall of her hometown to register her death, and thus searched for her birth certificate. So we knew she was born on May 12, 1894 when she was about to be buried.
That was how selfless and not in control of her life my great grandmother was. But Lola Epang was well loved by her children, grandchildren, and us her great grandchildren, minus her birthday celebrations, weekends were always spent with her in the big old house.
How I wished I was old enough when she was alive to ask how does it feel to be married at the girl-child age of 14, to be widowed in her early 20s, and to be under the control of her in-laws in raising her four children? I would have loved to ask why did she not assert herself and marry again? Her in-laws literally stopped two men who sired her children and who asked her hands in marriage. The reason, I was told, was because the in-laws did not want to diffuse the inherited properties to her children outside her first marriage. Why was Lola Epang so meek and submissive?
I can only surmise that she conformed for the sake of her children. I bet that is her answer. Having no education, she was controlled by her own circumstances. Maybe it was not that bad, Lola Epang redeemed herself by choosing to keep her family single handedly intact. I so admire and love her for that.
Now back in my own life. Am I to dictate it in my own terms? Bravely so. I learned to say no to being an abused wife. But I dragged it for too long, until only one thing remained to be secured, my self-respect.
Lately, I said no to an unfair work situation. That felt painful but great, having to stand my ground, to respect my own terms. It was a choice of allowing the unfairness to continue or be jobless. By saying no, I chose myself.
Click here to connect http://www.fraserbasin.bc.ca/about_fbc_history.html