Ka-women-an in our minds


THE times are exciting for kawomenan, i.e., ka-Pinay-an, being Pinay, being woman in this country.

Lest you’ve been living under a rock, we got a presidential candidate in Grace Poe, a vice-presidential candidate in Leni Robredo, both celebrated as women who are clean and uncorrupted – incorruptible! – by the political system that we all know is dirty dirty dirty. We’ve got Leila de Lima running for the Senate, as we do Lorna Kapunan. And recently – depending on how public your Facebook news feed is – there’s been a call for volunteers for what looks like a Miriam Defensor-Santiago campaign.

Poe beyond gender
The woman card has been played by both the Poe and Robredo camps, and certainly it was interesting to begin with that these two women were being courted for the same position by one Liberal Party.

It is telling of course that the men of LP thought these two women “worthy” of the Vice-Presidency, one unworthy of the Presidential post, the other unworthy of a Senatorial one: just as they had hoped Poe would agree to a demotion despite her presidential survey numbers, so they had hoped Robredo would be flattered into a swift promotion from Congress Representative straight to the second highest post in the land.

That they would win over Robredo and not Poe is of course no surprise. After all, if you had a chance at the presidency, why would you say yes to second fiddle – which historically has also meant practically no function at all? There is also the fact that for whatever reason, Poe believes that she is fit for the presidency because she’s her father’s daughter, and because she must continue what he begun.

That FPJ, with all due respect to the man’s work in Pinoy film, did not do anything as politician or public servant, seems irrelevant to Poe of course. That her claims to fame over in the Senate the past three years has been revealed to be empty rhetoric, well, we don’t like to talk about that either.

As she says, and she paraphrases her father: “<…> ang mahalaga ang may tapat na pusong manilbihan upang tulungan ang mahihirap, labanan ang pang-aabuso, at pumanday ng isang lipunang masagana at makatarungan.”

I could’ve learned that from my father. But who cares?

The woman as action star, as President-wannabe. That sounds good enough.

Robredo beyond gender
Where Poe falls back on her role as daughter, Robredo falls back on her role as wife to Jesse Robredo, hailed incorruptible hero who wore tsinelas (or went barefoot!) to highlight his oneness with the common tao,

But Robredo is her own woman, and has a career as lawyer to show for it. Unlike Poe, Robredo’s got more than just the names she inherited and married into to fall back on – and she knows it, too. Watching her speak, she gives the impression that she does not have much to prove. There is a confidence in Robredo that highlights how she has in fact done enough, and is willing to do more. There is a sense that she knows what she’s getting herself into, and is ready to face the repercussions.

She said: “Hindi po ako si Jesse. Ngunit noong namatay po siya, maliwanag po sa aming mag-iina na siya ay umaasa, na sa abot ng aming makakaya, susubukan din naming magsakripisyo, gaya ng kanyang pagsasakripisyo, para makapag ambag para sa ating bayan.”

But sacrifice is also what we’ve heard from the President himself, something that he drops each time he is faced with a difficult decision, something that he uses when he feels that the public is being ungrateful, or his burdens too heavy. But one gives Robredo the benefit of the doubt. After all she has “sacrificed” before, not just when she shared her husband with nation, but as she became lawyer who is also public servant.

Speaking of having worked at the Public Attorney’s Office: “Mahabang panahon po yung ginugol ko sa pakikisalamuha sa mga magsasaka, mga mangingisda, mga manggagawa, mga maralitang panglungsod, mga kababaihan, mga kabataan, at mga katutubo. <…> Namulat po ako sa katotohanan na ang karaniwang Pilipino ang tunay na lakas at pag asa natin bilang bansa. Nakita ko po ang kanilang likas na dignidad, galing, at kakayahang makilahok sa pamumuno. Naranasan at nakita ko na kung mabibigyan lang sila ng kaunting tulong sa kapasidad, sila ang may mas magagandang solusyon sa mga problema kanilang hinaharap. Sila ang kailangang bigyan ng boses at mas malaking puwang sa ating bansa.”

The lawyer as public servant, as voice of the marginalized, wearing slippers as she does it. Puwede rin!

The gender question
And yet there is a lot that we wait for from these two women, as far as truly taking a stand for kawomenan is concerned. And that cuts across everything from the safety of our women and children on the streets of any city, to her twice marginalized status in the workplace. The rape, literal and figurative, of the Lumad women who are displaced from their homes, and the countless Lumad children who are losing their schools and teachers as we speak.

And then there is popular culture and its predisposition towards judging women as mere bodies and faces. There is a beauty industry that bombards our young girls with images of superficiality and fakery, from whitened skin to thin bodies, making them believe that what is most important is how they look. There is the Pinay who is at the mercy of consumerism, where who she is has to be equal to what she owns.

Both Poe and Robredo are sold as the counterpoint to this Pinay: they are simple and unassuming, two women who have worked hard to get to where they are, and whose hearts are in the right place, with good heads on their shoulders. Now we wait for them to prove that having them as candidates truly matters because they will take a stand for our women, beyond what we expect from their inherited names, beyond what is dictated by party lines.

One waits with bated breath.


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