It is a fact of our bourgeois existence that every so often we gather around, open a bottle of wine or sip our cappuccinos, nibble on a bruschetta or pick on sushi, and discuss the household help.
In recent days, however, the chatter has not been about how inday forgot to pick up the butterflied lamb from Santi’s, or about how manong driver didn’t show up for work again this morning for the third time this month because of LBM. Speaking of which, could the acronym and the words they stand for not be spritzed away with Febreeze, like our clothes, and called something else, like an upset stomach or gastro?
Before the screams of “clueless elitist!” reach a crescendo, let me just say, now that we are speaking in scatological terms, that shit is the great leveller; we all do it, and it always smells. So there. But can’t we just find a deodorized alternative for LBM?
Like shit and death, sex is the great leveler, too. We’re all either having too little, too much, or none of it. But we’re all entitled to a sex life. Even the help.
And that was the topic of conversation at dinner two nights ago. Not so much that our helpers and drivers were having sex, and oftentimes with each other, whether they were married to each other or not—they are just like us, after all, with desires and urges and fetishes, for sure—but that they seemed to keep getting pregnant and having children.
I mean, there is such a thing as Responsible Parenthood and the Reproductive Health Act that was signed into law in 2012, right? Republic Act 10354, the one that guarantees universal access to methods of contraception, fertility control, sexual education and maternal care. The one that should have received an allocation of one billion pesos in funding to make contraceptives available to everyone, especially the poor and the marginalized.
When the national budget was signed, it turns out that two senators, Tito Sotto and Loren Legarda, in particular did, with the chronic, pathetic myopia of the arrogant and idiotic—a dangerous combination in any situation, but glaringly so in the Senate —a deplorable, deceitful thing at the last minute. They defunded the RH Law of crucial funds that were necessary for the proper implementation of the law.
So much for guaranteeing universal access to artificial contraception. It’s one thing to educate the people about responsible parenthood and sexual and reproductive health; it’s a complete travesty to deny them access as mandated by law to the means of applying what they’ve learned.
And it’s downright criminal to cut the funds intended for the law’s implementation.
All this proves, once again, is that we are a nation of shitters and bullshitters. We pat ourselves on the back for our bewilderingly high ranking in gender equality worldwide in the Global Gender Gap Survey in 2014. The Philippines topped the list in two indicators: educational attainment, and health and survival, the others being economic participation and political empowerment. Still we lead our ASEAN neighbors overall.
Yet, we do not even have the decency to provide free birth control to the very women who are truly disadvantaged on all fronts, women doomed to remain trapped in the same stultifying cycle of pregnancy, poverty, and despair—lather, rinse, repeat.
It’s a story that rarely ends happily.
My friend N recounts how her she discovered that not only was her helper, seven months in her employ, having an affair with the gardener, she was pregnant with his child as well.
“And she already has three children of her own! When I asked my cook how this could have happened to Delia, she said, ‘mainit kasi!’”
Mainit is normal. Mainit is a state of horniness. Mainit happens, no matter your socioeconomic class. However, the privileged classes have the luxury—if they’re smart enough—of indulging their horny impulses while making sure they and their partner are protected from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases through the use of condoms. Privileged women can choose and can afford a plethora of options: intrauterine devices, the Pill, contraceptive patches and injections.
What choice do the poor have, especially the poor women whom we so desperately wish to empower? The same women are constantly hindered by the very institutions who should have their well-being—and those of their children, past, present, and future—at heart, barely even know how their sexual organs function, or what ovulation is, much less what the risks are apart from pregnancy in having unprotected sex, mainit or not.
N says she’d like to send her help to sex education seminars. She’d like to provide them with condoms, since small-minded, shortsighted, and devious senators, in collusion with the Catholic Church, insist on keeping the disadvantaged among us not just poor, but also ignorant.
But N says they refuse the condoms because their husbands, bristling with machismo, refuse to wear them. “Iba daw ang feeling,” they claim.
And what about having six kids, one after another, before the age of 29? Kids one can barely feed, much less look after because that very same husband will not be bothered to look for work?
And what about leaving those kids unsupervised and uneducated, not by choice but the abysmal lack of it? Kids that may turn to drugs, crime, and prostitution, kids that are perfect prey for pedophiles?
How does that feel?
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published earlier this year by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online.When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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Photo courtesy of The Independent