Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Training with Adoption Workers

Yesterday was supposed to be a lull day but it was actually a challenging day for me because an international adoption organization requested us to train them on GS. There were seven men and nineteen women. I talked about sexuality, reproductive health and RA 9262. First, I introduced a game that sent us all into thrill of excitement and laughter. I let them group themselves into the kind of relationship they are into at present and answer the question: "Are you happy or not?" "Why or why not". So four groups emerged. Some admitted being single parents, unmarried. The all men group were all married. The biggest number were the married women. The last group were the "searchers" or the singles. The tittilating part was their answer to the next question. The all men group said: "masaya pa naman" (still happy). The married women seemed to be the happiest because of their big belly laughters. But at the end of their report they posed a bit, saying, "hindi naman kasi kayo ang pinipilit" (you (pointing to the men) were not being coerced). The single parents derived their happiness from their children. The searchers pointed to the group of married women and said "gusto naming maging ganyan" (in the future, they wanted to be like them). Wow! that goes the reality of women's lives: violence, hardships, pleasures and all...from there my discussions took me to sexuality, RH and VAWC...how I wish I could this kind of discussions over and over again...perhaps, in the future the "searchers" can have other choices (hehehe)...

Analysing Cases Using CEDAW

We had a three-day workshop at Golden Prince Hotel in Cebu last week. This was the second time we studied CEDAW but it was only now that I realized how difficult it was for me to analyze a case using CEDAW framework. I had to review the different types of state obligations, the core content of the different elements of right (e.g. right to health (availability, quality, etc), what rights were violated and what are the mechanisms available for redress (legal and metalegal). No wonder I got perfect in the quiz because I have to remember all of those things before I can rewrite my initial version of the draft case. But I highly appreciate it that I learned this framework especially when we analyzed the case of a regional hospital which denied access for health service for a prostituted woman. I was also touched when a participant revealed that she had experienced the same (her daughter was denied access that led to the untimely death of her daughter). She narrated it in a very controlled manner but I can sensed how she loved her daughter and the crushing pain that her daughter's life ended that way. That pain was relieved when we had a night of Thai massage at a nearby spa (at P200). I hope next year, the office can possibly apply the same rigor with our VAWc cases.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

echo-series of "women's empowerment" thru ICT

we had finished two sessions of the echo series (though there was a twin brothers who joined us). i received yesterday fourteen emails from the participants and how thankful they were for the basic computer literacy training. i was so delighted because i too was not that literate in computer so i had to brush up in my readings re: short history of internet and other statistics to be able to begin my session on the internet. i let them composed their own g-mail addresses and send me a letter. what amazed me most was one of the participants was a 'hearing impaired' (young woman) and she was able to compose her own gmail(tagalog4@gmail.com) though i did not find a letter from her and the twin brother was not also levelled in their learning (one was more adept than the other). the two mothers (battered wives)-participants were also overjoyed and they want us to refer them to any kind of computer job that will help them augment their income. how i wish i can do that (job referral) but it takes a lot of networking and equipping of skills before one can be considered a computer worker. hope we can have another training (advanced) on computer. we were not able to take up e-commerce and e-data management because the entry skills of most participants were basic (though three of the young women were already well-versed in the internet; so we let them assist us with the other trainees). i too learned from this training because i am not yet knowledgeable with the excel program. i'm so thankful with this this amazing computer technology. i hope someday we can also provide these women a computer unit of their own.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Feminist Counseling at Work

In my sharing of FC practice, I began with the issues I encountered in the counseling room, notably 'bipolar disorder', abortion, wife battering and sexual identity issues. These issues precisely define why FC is needed. But more than that, my take are the principles I believed in why I go into FC. First I knew that those frameworks I have learned from college were not empowering women. So, I read about Gilligan (a different voice), Jean Baker Miller (women's strengths) and Chodorow (relational qualities of women). These are the principles that I envisioned would be the core of FC. Aside from these, some instruments were already developed to measure women's empowerment like the FIDS (Feminist Identity Development Scale), the "Stages of Women's Awareness" (Judith Palmer) and the "The Feminine Cycle" (Joan Borysenko). Interestingly, Borysenko noted that unlike boys, girls developed both the right and left brain (for concrete operations and emotional intelligence) at ages 7-14. And the rest of her stages of 'feminine cycle' were empowering compared that made by Erik Erikson. The reactions to my presentation were significant: one participant was hesitant to approach a counseling room if she is not sure that the counselor is an FC, she admitted that she is a bisexual lesbian. Another participant shared her difficulties in counseling lesbians in violent relationship. So, I told her, one should also used the 'power' factor in a relationship and also rescue the 'batterer' in that relationship.

More importantly, I also shared the reasons why I prefer FC. Primarily because of the challenges posed by two significant people: one GC commented: "there is no such thing as FC!" and the keynote speaker below that I mentioned who is also at the topmost position in my profession. Oh I wish we can talk face-to-face and learn from each other why FC is more important for women more than any other framework. Despite all those obstacles, I wish all (probably rare and few) FCs more power and love in their life...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sexist jokes at the Conference

The last plenary speaker, a male, may not consciously knew it or may deliberately uttered those sexist jokes. But he must be held 'unaccountable' in whatever way to the damage he has done to the may women participants at the Conference. One joke was 'the woman (married) kept on studying that she neglected her husband; eventually the husband found another woman (mistress). Another repeated joke was 'being loveless' makes one a 'matandang dalaga' or a woman becameangry because she was 'loveless' for a long time. Though there are some 'truths' in his jokes, other 'truths' may be more liberating to women. Jokes when unconsciously absorbed become more detrimental than deliberate lectures.

Also, he presented a framework of counseling philosophy but never mentioned that "needs" are also created by one's context. That woman in his example (married woman who kept on studying) was also a product of her historical context that valued realtionship with a man as 'central' to her life. Pretty good if she was able to live without a man or neglect her husband because it contributed to getting a degree. But the speaker ended with a more disgusting comment: 'why is it that the woman realized too late that she wants her husband so badly that she had to get a degree to impress him'. Why can't the speaker realized that the woman acted on her own 'need' and not inspired by 'the husband'. The remark on 'matandang dalaga' was another assumption that a woman cannot choose to become a woman (alone) for the rest of her life. And that getting angry is part of being a human, not related to one's status (marital) in life. The speaker must also question his assimptions before concluding on women's choices.

My philosophy rests primarily on women's empowerment and I believed those sexist jokes is one of the processes that disempower women. It must be curtailed. Unfortunately, we were not given time to react. Though the president of the association interrupted him saying, "dalaga ako".

Sunday, October 12, 2008

children's wisdom

we conducted a validation yesterday regarding 'children exposed to violence in the homes'. it was wonderful to hear children elaborating, clarifying points and 'rejecting' adult interpretations of their life stories. these children ages ranged from nine to sixteen. one of the young participants articulated that she need not consider the material things that her father bestowed on them. she only weighed on the virtues that she learned from her mother and from the violence that she saw when her father inflicted pain on her mother. so, she eventually sided with her mother.

another wonderful moments with youth was yesterday when i conducted a sort of gender sensitivity training among young women survivors of violence at the RGS. i was delighted when one of them came up with the terms "ninakaw", "inagaw" and "binigay". these Filipino terms refer to the concept of virginity. the young woman elaborated that virginity (the physical hymen) can be lose either through the use of force or through one's choice. yes, truly children's wisdom abound. we need not look for various review of literature to explain what they think because the themselves can articulate it very well.i believed hearing children speak their voices can make adults, like me, reflect and realized that children and youths really know what they want in life. the 'soul' of children and youth are much more in them than we thought we have. they can really be good decisionmakers of their own lives, if we give them the time to speak and the space to realize what they want...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Why can't they call it sexual harassment?

I attended an organization's GA yesterday. It was attended by about 36 active members and about 10 applicants. One of the agenda was to hear and vote on a case of sexual harassment. I was there together with another staff from another UP unit. The president presided the meeting. Then, he started with:"the EB decided that this case does not constitute sexual harassment". The whole GA was supposed to have read the case via e-group. And then the votation went on: "those who are in favor of the GA's resolution, raised their hands and those who want to abstain can abstain in the assumption that they have not read the case" (6 abstained, all men and mostly matured looking). The decision of the EB was upheld. Some protested for the 'reprimand' proposal, they went for a higher penalty which was suspension. The member argued: "we had a case of violation of the 'leave no trace' pithaya principle and he was expelled, why can't we expel this one". Another said:"There was also a case of 'eating guavas' and that member too met a stiff penalty". A woman member was still asking "has this been proven (SH)?"What infuriated me was the reiteration of the president "the EB decided that this does not constitute a case of sexual harassment." Why can't they name it SH?

Earlier before the meeting, we talked with their EB-lawyer. She said the three elements of SH must be fulfilled before it can be regarded as an SH case. Then, she remarked that perpetrator was not anymore under the jurisdiction of the law because he is already an alumni. We insisted that the case fell under number 3 element (the victim's feelings of being humiliated, etc.) and it was an "or" clause, not. She said having interviewed other members who were present during the applicants' party, only the version of the complainant was 'unique'. She said, the complainant narrated she was boxed in by the harasser. But based on the others' testimonies, the man was sitting beside the girl. Later, we learned from the EB, that the girl even hugged the man prior to the SH incident.

I told them the continuum of abuse in any sexual harassment case must be looked it. Yes, it was true the girl hugged the man prior to the SH because it was a friendly gesture and she did not feel anything wrong about that. Perhaps, it showed that she was not thinking of anything ill about the man. That gesture must be appreciated. But when did she feel sexually harassed? It was when the man mashed her breasts and her back. She was resisting mentally during taht time but cannot react because she was still feeling her way (as one can see she hugged the man earlier but did not feel any violation, but at this point she felt there was something wrong but cannot yet name it). So,when somebody asked her 'binabastos ka ba'? She even said, "matagal na" (perhps with reference to the text messages he sent him way back when). This question affirmed her initial feelings. This somebody who pinned down the man on the wall allowed her to name her feelings (the EB said she was ranting afterwards).

Yes, the organization was surely right in pinpointing that aggressive act of 'pinning down' another person on the wall was a violation of the 'pithaya' principle. But did they not see the act of the man (SH) prior to the aggressive reaction of another man? The EB told me,"meron na pong galit yung isang lalaki dun sa isang lalaki" (the two had an initial conflict).

The feelings of the girl were resistance on her part. It was clearly voiced out through the help of another man (the one who pinned down the harasser) . All of the parties in the complaint were inebriated at some levels. But this state of body/mind also helped the girl to be more in tuned with her feelings (in a way allowed her not to be inhibited). The harasser was also under that state of intoxication and perhaps he too was 'aroused' (in that inebriated state). (Perhaps...) But all those psychological states need not intervene to let us see (outsiders looking in) that the mashing of the breasts and face-to-face talking with the girl constitute acts of sexual harassment (added to that the earlier versions of text messages amounting to verbal sexual harassment---e.g. "sana next time na malasing tayo ay mangyaring 'kababalaghan'; and "nakahawak ka na ba ng 'balls'). Nobody can attest to the acts; no one had uttered they had seen it; only the girl testified for her part of the truth.

I was there to appreciate the organization's process. But I realized an 'impartial' body is needed to see the case for what truly it is. The culture of 'a party' clearly allowed those 'friendly banters' and 'inappropriate acts' to happen. It so happened that a girl was harmed psychologically and emotionally (abuse of personal space). If the organization truly upholds the pithaya principles, perhaps they can see that the 'the essential is not always visible to the eyes'. The aggressiveness is a very visible thing to look at as violation of another's space. But SH is more of psychological transgression that only a victim can sufficedly identify.

I hope justice will illumine the organization and that the girl's aspirations to become a mountain lover will not be compromised nor undermined because the girl was braved enough to stand her ground (the harasser was not present during the GA).

Monday, September 29, 2008


This is a truly commendable activity of the department of psychology. Five of their students volunteered to "develop the social skills" of four of my children counselees (ages 7-9; three boys and a girl). We started with physical activities such as games (e.g. "stop/go") and then move to mental mathematics (e.g. solving simple arithmetics) and in the afternoon, we watched two clips of "Hiraya Manawari" (e.g. "Imbisibol" and another one). I was fortunate to join the "games" part so I was physically tired doing "habol" to the kids. Actually, one of the kids went home and we were alarmed (but later he showed up; he brought his gun pellet toy with him). Also, I joined them in watching the children's tapes. I was not able to join them in their group discussions because I have to go to Laguna. Hope I can join them till the end. But some aggressive acts made by the elder child made the rethink if they can finish the volunteer work with the children. These children were exposed to domestic violence and now suffering from 'violent' acts of the mother. I cannot possibly by now predict what would become of the children but the red flags are up that they too can become aggressive. As to how we could curtail those behaviors, I will update later on...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

MindBody Medicine

I attended this morning a lecture on "MindBody Medicine" by Dr. David Spiegel of the Stanford University. Three things I learned, aside from an exercise of self-hypnosis which made me aware of an issue that is not within my awareness at present. First, he said that "chronic" illness is different from terminal illness. That patients must be active participants in their healing process. For instance, a cancer patient does not necessarily die from the cancer cells but from other illness such as depression and other complications. Second, one should be more watchful of a "recovering" depressed person because she or he has more energy to go back to that former state of depression. Third, that when you talk with them let them see the different perspectives of the problem (life perspective approach). Fourth, that one way to manage bipolars is to let them manage their thinking. That can be done by teaching them how to do self-hypnosis.

Dr. Spiegel noted that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis because it pertains to highly focused attention. What surprised me even more was the result when he gave us a simple self-hypnosis exercise called "screening technique". He asked us to look up the ceiling and while looking up slowly close one's eyes and then he asked us to imagine that we are floating either in space or in a favorite place we want to be. Then, at the right side of the screen, we will imagine the person or the event or the thing that makes us stress. Suddenly, I saw our present coordinator. I was also shocked that she was causing a stress in my life. Then, we were instructed that at the right scree we can imagine how to address the left side of the screen. The image even surprised me more, I was also a little bit anxious about it. I saw swirling clouds that means imminent "typhoon" so what I did was to place my hands on the white sand. Then, we were instructed to look up again the ceiling and go back to our present reality at the count of three. I do want to interpret on the images that I saw... I would rather conduct a ritual to bury it or bless it to make that negative energy into a positive one...hope I will succeed.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Yesterday we had a paper-cutting workshop and it was a success! despite the odds (those who initiated to have it did not attend the workshop)... I produced only two designs, one circular and another vertical. I was inspired to compose this workshop because a friend of mine, Bobby, designed my counseling room (see right side picture). I just told him I want a bamboo and a sun design. I did not know that the bamboo means "wisdom" or truth and of course the sun means "light" (perfect for my blog title). At the left end of the room, Bobby designed the 'yin-yang' and at the center is his rendition of the UP DGO logo. Wow! Any body who visits my room does not fail to appreciate it. Next time around when I have explored my skills in paper cutting I will show you my designs. I love to produce a lotus flower in a pond or perhaps "tweety the birdie" (may be it will take me a year to figure out how to cut it). One needs only two things to do paper-cuttings: a small and sharp scissor and plenty of colorful Japanese papers (P19 for 10 pieces). You too could try to explore your skill in paper cutting. And you know what? You can use it to decorate your lanterns, to wrap your candies, of course to create a festive atmosphere of your room and other things that will spice up your life...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Taichi forms

This is my third attempt at learning taichi. My past attempts proved to be futile because the teacher just let us imitate the moves or forms without breaking it down to small segments. Now, our teacher is more compassionate. She spends time breaking down a form into various sequences; thus, I learned the forms through persistent practice. Another realization was to see both the big and small picture of everything. Once one learns the details of a certain phenomenon, it is better to view it from a bigger lens or picture to be able to appreciate its meaning or context. But when I compared taichi with shibashi, I realized that the latter is easier to learn and I pray while doing it. Whereas while doing tai-chi I felt like "perfecting" every move at the expense of praying. I understand life more while doing shibashi, but with taichi, it was more like mastering the coordination of the limbs and memorizing every move. I hope that after "perfecting" the 24 moves, I can appreciate what taichi means to me, personally...

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I watched a documentary film of an American Indian healer who uses mandala-making as a healing tool. He searched the Grand Canyon for different shades of colors of sands and stones and gather these to serve as his material for his mandala-healing. When he faces his "patients", he initially pray and then start making a mandala for the patient. Then, he interprets the mandala including the way the patient would heal himself or herself. After that, he deconstruct or dissipate that structure (mandala).

Yesterday night, I attended a session on how to make one's mandala. We were just instructed to write positive words on the circular template. I chose to use three colors: orange, green and blue and start with the word "respect". That word served as a trigger word. I realized that orange stands for respect for one's boundaries, one's self, one's sexuality; green stands for respect for the environment including all the creations above, below it, including also the respect for the womb environment; blue stands for respect for countries, for world peace, for efforts to develop one's countries...I was enjoying it because it feels to me like a prayer and a processing of my own issues and the issues of the women's movement and the whole world...(I came up with a very "cute" mandala according to one of the participants.) I realized, yes! it was really a healing process for me. I was elaborating on the self, the other particularly the women and the world at large. I viewed peace as peace that is deliberately created by the self towards radiating peace for the others, for the world, including those we cannot see with our eyes, the other dimensions; including the womb environment of women...we cannot dictate upon women what to do with their wombs...

as for me, i did not dissipate my first mandala, i intend to mount it in a beautiful frame because i wanted to realize my goals as a human being, as a woman and as a citizen and spiritual being: respect for myself, for others and for the whole world, including all creations, above and below, tangible and intangible...so be it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Poetry-making and feminist spirituality

That life is similar to poetry-making or "autopoesis" is a metaphor I was so jubilant to hear yesterday. I attended a short lecture on "living in wholeness" where my collegue Luchie was the speaker. Yes! I was affirming her that really life is like making meanings through poetry: short, meaningful, full of metaphors and yet it carries you at a point of ecstasy after reading the whole verse. Emily Dickinson puts it in a more succinct form: "life is so startling that there's no room or minute left to think about it (something to that effect)". I was thinking in what way did Luchie incorporate feminism and spirituality in her talk. She never mentioned those concepts but these two concepts overwhelmed the whole presentation (in my own interpretation, of course). She was defining the "self" as a living organism capable of forming, dissipating and transforming itself. More than anything else, I was struck with the concept of a very strong agency or self but in the end this agency "chose" to dissipate and be one with the the others (social). Perhaps, that sounds contradictory to the eastern perspective and the western perspective would nod to it. Yes, Luchie's framework is a meeting between east and west. She however does not name it feminism and spirituality in its specifity. But from my own vantage point, I believe that making a strong agential self is what feminism is all about. The woman is capable of creating herself: know her own oppressed situation and rise from it. Maybe, that was something 'western', very individualist point of view but is it also liberating. What was 'eastern' about the framework was the concept of 'dissipating structures'. The Muslims believe in it when they say "believers must surrender to Allah". The Buddhists also believe in it when they say 'life is making a no-mind at all'. The Christians also harp about it when they say we must sacrifice for the sake of the common good. Ah, that is plain and simple spirituality: the merging into the uiversal mind/self or what is termed "turiya". Lastly, as a counselor I may say it is containing all these contradictions in life and dissipating what is not "constructive" for oneself then creating a consciousness that was not significant in creating the problem (so as Einstein suggested) in the first place which is a key to healing. That 'new consciousness' I believe is what I would like to claim as 'feminist spirituality'.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What it takes to love

I was reading a past article titled "dharma of relationships". I realized it really takes two to succeed in a relationship. It's worth noting that the concept of romantic love pertains to something like spiritual love 'personified' in the 'beloved'. So, if one projects the 'ecstasy' of having a romantic partner, it actually or essentially pertains to a longing for a more fulfilling or 'spiritual' love. Three models of a relationship were noted: one is two egos satisfying each self in a relationship, another is two egos plus love at the center of a relationship and the last one is loving for the sake of love. Perhaps most of us can relate with the the first model. That of two equal persons sharing 'mutual' love. But the politics of this is when one of the partners is not satisfied with the relationship and then decided eventually to separate. The second model is an ideal of sort. We can find this among couples who see a God or something spiritual in between them. This 'being' or guide is the one guiding the relationship. So anything which happens in the relationship will be attributed to the will of 'heaven'. The last model can only exist, I believe, as of this time, in our creative imagination. It speaks of individuals who go into a relationships with the purpose of growth (in all aspects) of each 'other'. I say it is not yet happening because most of us believe in the concept of romantic love where one or both are swept under their feet by that feeling of 'falling in love'. Thus, in the course of their relationships, each partner is stripped off of her/his 'true' colors which the other might found wanting. So, the reason of staying in the relationship to let each other grow in all aspects of being may be far out...there goes my and most of our frustrations...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Disempowering the Disempowered

8.08.08 was supposed to be a 'great' day. Not in our case. I attended to the needs of a young woman who was battered by an uncle. We went to the Infirmary hoping that she could access free medical services to support her case. Nope! every step of the way, we have to pay a corresponding sum. Even for a single mefanamic medicines which have been given for free has to paid! The worst came when we have to ask for a medico-legal certificate from a "national" something hospital. Guess what? The woman has to be exposed once again to an x-ray which she has just recently underwent an hour ago because the present doctor cannot "read" the x-ray film of the first health unit. I did not accede to that request because the woman is breastfeeding her child. As a hindsight, I was thinking what could have been the proper time "empowering" interventions should have been done. The woman told me that their barangay captain even requested her to deny that her abuser was present or can still be found in the area so they can have some sum from the congresswoman. Another incident of dis-empowerment was when a female doctor even asked: "nakipagbugbugan ka ba?" Whew! i coould almost feel my tears rolling down for this woman. How can this insensitivity abound in places where they are supposed to heal and cure patients? The last incident was when we asked once again from a national hospital for the same medico-legal certificate. The female doctor also proudly said: we cannot possibly give you that because it was almost a week since the incident. That was my breaking I told the woman, "we better find another option..." As i was riding on a jeep, I cannot contain anymore my tears. I thought these women mustered their courage and overcame their poverty and everything just to say "I was abused!" but nobody wants to give her a single piece of paper which she can possibly hold on to file a case against her abuser. What about those who were abused way back several years and only now that they have come out to say they were abused? How can they access justice and healing? Yes, my heart still pulsates...I know I have a very long journey to walk or run perhaps to be able to change this kind of thinking...

Monday, August 4, 2008

"Boses" (Voices)

My women friends invited me to a premier showing of a cinemalaya film. Actually, I knew beforehand that a male friend was involved in that film. So, without knowing the storyline, i already guessed that it was about children and music because those two things are dear to his heart. When the movie opened, the first scene already struck me. The father was being interrogated as to whereabouts of his own child (boy). My heart was pounding when the camera drew close to a sort of cabinet. And that was the beginning of engagement in the movie. Goose bumps arose when I saw pockets of cigarette burns on the boy's back and skin. He was delivered to a shelter where he met a supportive friend (girl) and a bully (boy). The friendship developed while the bullying intensified. Audiences at my back (students) made fun of the friendship by turning it into some sort of 'puppy' love; so they twittered as the scenes of 'getting to know you' were shown. Perhaps, i surmised they just do'nt want to feel sad for the boy. Onyok, the boy's name, was mute. He suffered from throat trauma because something was forced to it (according to the film). I guessed it is more of psychological trauma than physical (insertion of something). Remember that the boy always hide inside the cabinet whenever his father got angry and looked for him. The fact that one has to suppressed one's tears and even any sound coming from the mouth and nose will surely caused 'trauma' to the organs. Another thing that seemed 'wrong' about the plot was when the father was able to visit the child in the shelter. This is a 'no-no' among shelters especially the father was the abuser. The shelter and the administrative office are usually separated (geographically). Though i gave it a benefit of the doubt. The movie was so moving that I was also in tears while watching it, from the beginning up to the end. What I missed or the movie missed was the point when the father really underwent a 'real' change. Of course, it showed that the father persistently visited the boy in the shelter. But outside of that, no scene of how 'internally' he acquired that mode for change was depicted. Though the movie excellently depicted the boy's memories of how he was abused by the father and how he was able to differentiate a 'good' and 'abusive' touch. The role of Ariel, the crazy man, was terrific. When the boy and Ariel performed duo in violin, it was heavenly! The scenes on Ariel and his former deceased wife were neatly woven, i love it! The movie's contribution, i believe, is its alternative imagining of a father's role. Perhaps, it is a long journey for most abusive fathers i knew...but it's worth the try (though the movie failed to show how the father arrived at the point in his life).

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A second look at women's dynamics

The first time i witnessed a group of women fight each other (literally hitting each other) was in 1995. This time the same situation arose between my co-workers. I was unable to do anything to stop one from hurting the other (though verbally). So, what i did was to listen to the one left behind. The next day, i also talked with other women in the office who witnessed the verbal infightings. The following day, I spent some time with one of them, threshing out the roots of their conflict. Funny, because it was not due to 'negative past encounters'. It was more of an emotional thing: one rejects the other in their first encounter. Then, I also spent some time with the other party. The other woman was pointing to 'professionalism' and 'ethics' as issues sans the emotional thing. Between them, the latter was more straightforward in saying what she feels. the former was more of the 'demure' type or one who does not show her feelings publicly. Afterwhich, yesterday we had a meeting (formal one) among us. i was at the middle. guess what happened? i was so afraid that the meeting would never take off because of the contention if it must be taped or not. Of course, just to let the meeting proceed, we did not tape it. For the simple reason that one wants to bring home the tape and transcribe it (using the term 'professional transcribers). Fortunately, the other party gave in. So, she did not respond violently to the following remarks: "I am pulling ranks"; "I am the coordinator, I will the parameters; if you don't want to obey, you can consider your options". I never imagined hearing those threats from a woman leader. I tried to resist the urge of arguing because I knew that was not our goal. Our goal was to move the unit forward so that we can proceed with our job or service to other women. If we will argue with her, it will hamper our day-to-day operations. So, at the close of the meeting, we produced SOPs of doing things. A second look at this kind of women-to-women dynamics also bring me to a deja vu because this was the same dynamics that I faced then; but now, I knew enough: 'quitting' the post is not a sustainable solution to the 'power' problem. It pays to stay and strategize of how the surface the 'truth' or wisdom of leading people, particularly women, in a more creative, open, and expansive ways. Kudos to both of us and may the Force of truth be with us and for those who dare to imagine different ways of handling 'normative' lifework like running a group of women...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Two Different Gatherings

I was at the Capitol estates area in Commonwealth listening to the speeches of progressive groups during the SONA. I walked past over the bridge leading to Sandiganbayan. I also walked up the overpass and guessed what I saw? Planks of military men in different uniforms (light blue, dark blue, all black, dotted, etc). And when I gazed at the street leading to Congress, not even a single activist was there marching on the streets. The military was very successful in controlling and cordoning the masses. But the distance between the masses, the military and Gloria speaks of how far this government is from the people. Hope Gloria rethinks her position of using the military to the hilt just to extend her term...

Contrast this with another gathering that I attended today. Lots of students converged to learn about the Japanese culture: sushi, kimono, ikebana, calligraphy. There was also an alibata session at the sides. People were so happy learning and sharing about each others' culture. i found out that my name means "elegant" and that the ikebana arrangement must always reflect a 'triangle' shape; as to why, I can only surmised that it is a more stable shape. Another observation I had was the expansiveness principle of Japanese flower arrangement. It creates a sense of openness and welcoming spirit to anyone who sees the flowers. Perhaps, our leaders can learn something from these two different gatherings; though they may be of different nature-- at least it tells us that the more the spaces are open for participation, the more creative people can become. And life becomes more meaningful for both the 'leaders' (facilitators) and the 'led' (participants)...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Men's Realities

We had a three-hour GST at the Ipil dorm. About 30-50 young men attended this late night session. Three intriguing questions cropped up that made me realised there were realities uniquely from men's perspective. First, one young man observed that it was "fair" to debar Nancy Navalta from joining the women's run since she is a hermaphrodite. Another added it may be due to the hormonal secretions that made Navalta a more advantaged player compared to other women athletes. While their observations may present 'half-truths', the fact that Nancy was raised as a woman should have qualified her to run for the women's division (since there was also no competition level for 'transgendered' people). So, it must have been unfair for Nancy to be barred from the sports competition. Second observation was in a man-man intercourse, the penetrated might be the one who is exploiting the penetrator. This is in the context of rape. The law on rape stated that the penetrator is guilty of the crime, so this only pertains to women's rape. Men's rape is another reality that must be exposed. But nobody wants to stand up and point out that "hey, we men are also vulnerable to sodomy" which is a crime in Muslim countries. Third observation was about sexual harassment. A graduate student asked if sexual harassment that happened not in educational or work setting can be considered as such. We had a case where the professor invited his student to a party where the student was introduced as his boyfriend ( a lie). Will this incident constitute an SH case? Of course! but the excludes such setting. Another recent incident was when a first year woman was sexually harrased by her co-passenger in a Katipunan jeep plying from UP to Katipunan. Will this also constitute an SH case? The fact that the harasser is non-UP excludes it from the law; another fact is that it involves verbal abuse ( a less grave act). So, our recourse was to file it under Child Abuse law. But if the law covers even public harassment, all those incidents of gender violence maybe easily filed. It is high time the law must be expanded or redefined, for the sake of all genders.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Day of Revelations

Yesterday was something special for our friend and 'boss' Sario and for me: it was a day of revelations! It was my first time to hear about the "alims" of Ifugao. Alim, according to Sario, is a ritual sang by all-male singers/chanters to heal a sick member of the community and for 'wooing' a woman. It depicts the story of a husband (name of whom I forgot) and his wife, 'bugan'. That name sounds familiar because it was the character played by Ai-ai in 'Kapitan Kidlat' TV series. So, Bugan wanted to separate from her husband which the latter resisted so much because he love her very much. So, to his dismay he went on a head-hunting streak (popular during those times) to vent out his anger. Another version of this is he chopped the grasses in Bugan's garden. What interest me most was Bugan connived with her mother-in-law to be able to separate from her husband. and it took her eight separations or partners before she succeeded in having a child. That was sexual freedom during those times! Ifugao women can separate from their husbands and found another family or partner. The husbands do not also engage in finding other wives (in their local places because they can be traced and punished) but visited lots of places to have sex with 'kabulean' (prostituted women). Perhaps, they were freer during those times. Another interesting aspect is there were several men who were dressed up in women's clothes and danced like women (transgendered). If these rituals depict the context of their times, truly, women were a lot freer to choose their partners and men have also choices like being transgendered people. Then, i looked up the meaning of "alim" in my Arabic book. Its says, one can become an "alim" if she or he has no more secrets in his/her hearts and soul. Thus, he or she becomes a luminous being. So, those rituals perhaps if the origin of the word is Arabic may truly depict the secret yearnings of both men and women to have choices in terms of choosing their identities or sexualities. And it is a continuous process that rendered Bugan eight or nine times of separations before she was able to find a 'right' partner to bear a child. Or the man in turn shifted from being a violent man to a gentle dancer and found that transformation more humane (just speculating). Hearing those community rituals makes me think that ideologies which are embedded in oral traditions can easily be changed just by mere rendering of various versions of the story. And here media can do a lot in transforming our society's binary treatment of sexuality. As my colleague whispered, "Prescy, your idea of sexuality as expression of creativity is historically-based". If I may add, indeed the highest force/form of creativity is our expressions of sexualities.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dynamic Meditation

At the Gender Office, we held a three hour session titled 'dynamic meditation'. Wow! it was really a revelation that there is such a thing as dynamic or moving meditation (of course, aside from the one that I was doing: running while meditating). We did a five-step thing that I thought were usual rooutines for some people but done in an exaggerated manner. First, we exhaled vigorously for 10 minutes using our nose/s. Second, we jumped with the heels touching the ground, while saying the word "Ho" (also for 10 minutes). Then, we contorted our faces while saying 'things greek to us' (like a little theater exercise. Then, we meditated (at last!) in a standing position (which I can't help but sleep). After that, we danced in different beats. All those exercises were back-upped with different sounds and music. The session wrapped up with some insights from the participants. My take was the same nauseous things came out of my nose and mouth (it was like my regression session 10 years ago) sans the tears. I thought these are the residual 'bad things' of the past memories. As I was doing those exercises, I was thinking still that these are good exercises for the kids and a useful and safety way of releasing tensions and other 'stuck' energies in the body. And late in the evening we did some drumming. Initially I enjoyed it but the loudness of the beating of other big drums led me to conclude that I would rather do those moving meditations I mentioned earlier. Hope we can offer these things to the women and children especially...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Crying Times and into the Circle of Love

As I was crossing the EDSA-east avenue pedestrian, I saw this boy carrying two bagful of garbage. Then, a bag suddenly fell and garbages rolled off the streets. So, I slowly picked up each flattened plastic bottles and returned it to him. Lo and behold! He looked into my eyes and said, "salamat po!". I can't helped it, tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought for a long time that I had this flat emotions but I was surprised that I can still empathized with real life situations. Then, while commuting, a text message also touched my heart, "elma (encio) passed away this morning at 7:10am". Elma was a good friend of mine. I used to visit her to buy something from her "tindahan ni Ate". She died of cancer of the uterus. But I was also thankful and she already overcame this physical pain. What I remembered from her was her concept of 'love for humanity'. Despite her condition, she served the Movement half of her lifetime. Also, she never thought that her physical dis-ability (hunchback) might be an impediment in pursuing a 'romantic' love. In her lifetime, she had experienced a 'true love' and never thought it was impossible (despite her physical deformity). I too believe in the greatness of love but more than the 'romantic' notion of love, I treat every moment of my life as loving life; thus, there is no demarcation between 'romantic' or any other kind of love. Everything is love. As Rumi would say, "out from the circle of time, into the circle of love". Farewell, elms and congratulations because you are now traveling again into the circle of love...

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I was a little bit hesitant to use this blogname but eventually I understood there was really no accidents in life. While I was doing a round in UP oval, I was always asking myself about existential questions. It all started when I asked myself, "why do I personally believ in God". While running, I was amazed to find three significant answers regarding that question. First, it dawned on me that that the great expanse of the blue skies is really welcoming me to appreciate its vastness; then, I smelled the bitterness and sweetness of grass among other smells; I looked up the trees and I saw its wide stems and branches as if embracing the skies. I also heard the birds chirping and of course, the ants were all over the grasses. "Ahh", I said, "really God is so great that s/he enabled me to enjoy all these things for free!". Then, i looked into my self. Again, I realized the gifts that I have up to these days also come from the Great Creator. Up to now, I was so ungrateful not to thank him/her for those. And last, I thought about death. It was a mystery to me. But on second thought, I believe we await its coming because it is also one proof that there is something beyond us, the living Earth. Then, when I had a counselee in the afternoon, it was a serendipitous question that she asked: "why do I have to believe in God?"

Friday, May 30, 2008

Discrimination et.al

We had a one-week training with the university personnel. I was shocked with the issues I heard particularly with regards to the workers at the food service. I love to eat at the UFS, i often buy arroz caldo and tokwa because they serve them hot and crispy. But woes befall them when they heard that the administration will eventually close the UFS for a "better" food service. This "rumor" is becoming real with the number of workers in the UFS being reduced from 130+ to only 30. Though still surviving, many of them now are doing nothing on the job because they have no more budget to buy for food supplies. My heart was bleeding while listening to them. "ahh, I thought my campus is the freest in the country but obviously with those actions they are bleeding their workers to death." If I could only tell them the blatant truth: truly privatization has already seeped in the university. They are using this 'bleed them dry' tactic to eliminate the "excess" workers. Another issue that touched me was the story of a pregnant single mother. She was deprived of her right for a maternity benefit for the simple reason that she intends to keep and raise her baby alone. Another woman related that she worked for 45 years in the university, but up to these times she had not received any commendation (loyalty award) from the job. Whew!!! I never thought officials in the universal could be that cruel! How much more in other universities which do not label themselves progressives. Perhaps, we can do something about these different forms of discrimination. Unfortunately, the union itself is divided and crippled with its own issue of "divisiveness". Perhaps, some re-thinking and grounding must be done to help solve those problems: we cannot remain silent and compromise our position primarily because work is an expression of life and love. Not finding ourselves in our work can only mean "death". What can we give to our country and how can we extol our humanity if we are just living "deathly lives".

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I never thought visiting blogs can be that enjoyable. I loved that kind of cross-country visits like that of simple-mom's blog on "taking-off one's shoes" before entering another home. She comes from Kosovo and yet that same practice happens almost in every Asian country, including the Philippines. I also visited "doy cinco's discourses on the use of the English language. He argued that most Asian countries which are now ahead of us (in development) did not make English their medium of communication in school or government. Another interesting blog is that of an intimate friend who narrated, blow-by-blow, her experience of finishing a 42K run. How I wish I was there to congratulate her. Other blogs that I nominated were interesting in their lay-out and color choices like that of Sanrio, the greens in theroserambler really attracts me and the scenic spots of Sagada held my breath...wow!

Hope i can combine those features of good writing, balance and attractive lay-out and a firm political stance on issues.

My Top Ten Bloggers for 2008

This is my entry to the top "Top 10 Emerging Blog of 2008"
1.on running and happiness
-a blow-by-blow account of a first time marathoner: thrilling!

2. pinoymountaineer
-perfect guide for first time travelers to Sagada especially the gallery site!

3. welcome to my world
-picturesque and pleasing to the eyes

4. mga diskurso ni doy
- written in the vernacular, talks about developmental issues particularly the use o the English language and development

5. blog ni inday!
- i love this one! full of Filipinoy-jokes

6. the wisdom journal
- if one wants to be a leader, one can truly gather wisdom from the writer

7. the rose garden rambler
- full of greens! if one wants to learn more about flora and fauna

8. simple mom
- her cultural approach in writing really invites me to come and read her articles plus homey pictures

9. only in the philippines!
- political commentaries on presentday issues

10. sanrio town
- this is click for girls and girls at heart! the big spaces in between pictures and words is comforting to the eyes!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Test of Patience

Malu was right. I was becoming so impatient waiting for an email from our woman speaker. Thus, I ate my lunch minutes earlier to dissipate my "impatience". Hope i can come up with lots of tips besides "praying" and eating while waiting for the computer to work.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Very Interesting topics and speakers!

We have two contrasting set of male speakers for today: the first set are lawyers and a community health doctor. Personally, I found one of the speakers as "theoretical" because he was trying to convince us that exploitation/abuse only happens with minors and with contact sex. The other I loved and enjoyed especially because he speaks in very fluent Filipino and a very firm stance on women's issues.

at last! i created my own blog

I always thought that blogging is a waste of time primarily because i am not fond of writing. I just love to move, to paint and teach but not writing. But this time, for the past 6 hours, I was given the space and time to appreciate this kind of mental activity. Hope I can always be this enthusiastic and sustain this blogspot.

Anyway, the title of my blog seems strange. Actually it is a combination of two female names (one greek and one islamic in origins). Perhaps, I will be delving on this issue of women, of women's dilemma ("that sounds greek to me') and of women in "shrouds" or "prisons" (not literally metal bars).