Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Contested Torch

A beacon of light was lost, it seems with a death of an erstwhile feminist. Like many who were frustrated with gatekeepers in the country, she found and nurtured a space for herself elsewhere. And with her substance and persistence, her voice echoed back, so strong that she just could not be missed.

Rare is such a person that after her death, her protege could only sigh, "we suddenly need to grow up fast." While she groomed maybe one or two younger women - defended even against her contemporaries, she was generous in supporting the rest of the younger women --- both young in age and in the movements.

Unfortunately not all women have such self-consciousness over one's power nor the grace to respect the space of other women. Not demanding respect for the past or the old is the exception. The operative word is "demand" more than "respect".

It is even more appalling that some other women would be so arrogant to brag about themselves, their past entitlements and achievements, with hardly any regard to existing systems and people, including those who are supposedly in the path to discovering a new skill and a potential commitment.

Then there are the younger ones, who while espousing young feminisms, have not quite imbibed these. While their models remain the mothers of the movements, they expect their contemporaries to be of the same likeness as their idols.

Whatever happened to the I, identity, difference, process, becoming, subjectivity, location that both scholars like Stuart Hall, Avtar Brah, Luce Irigaray, Deniz Kandiyoti and even ordinary folks have imparted?

In the midst of such frustrating contradictions, there is solace among those who toil in the background, who could hardly care less of titles and entitlements. Such arrangement has generated ease for them and their colleagues, who have found renewed faith among themselves towards carving their own spaces.

Because for the more self-assured, it is not about passing the torch from the old to the young. It is about enabling the latter to create the torches that will light the paths they have chosen, paths that are littered with learning and daring, paths for self-discovery.

Friday, September 18, 2015

(Dis)placing Home

The long queues at the airport are once more shortened by conversations with strangers. While the day's headline was capped by Grace Poe's bid for the presidency and the re-emergence of citizenship issues, I met a woman for whom nation has not meant as much as providing food on the table miles and miles away.

Meet Minda, a 40 year-old domestic worker from Kuwait. While I kept myself busy recharging my phone and surfing the internet while falling in line before the check-in counter, I was disrupted by an assertive voice that asked, "magkano bili mo sa ticket mo" (how much did you pay for your ticket). As I was flying solo, I did not bother to turn and pick out a face behind the voice, until she nudged me. Surprised, it took me sometime to respond.

"Ang mahal ng ticket ko. Halos isang buwang suweldo" (My ticket is expensive. It is worth a one-month salary)." Minda earned a meager PHP13000 a month while working for an Egyptian family. It may sound high for someone from Cotabato, but not when you are supporting oneself in a foreign land and shouldering the expenses of so many others, from basic meals to utility bills, from education to rentals.

Not too long later, she gave hints on how life has been, referring to the never-ending suffering, "hirap" as a low-paid domestic helper in a conservative household. At that moment, she was like a child who was telling her parents how her playmates wronged her and at once a  grown woman whose certainty of not returning to Kuwait was forged by stone and fire.

"Nakumpleto mo naman eh" (You completed it), I remarked about her finishing her two-year contract in the end, despite the odds. Minda seemed to have felt the sense of achievement. But still not quite. For she knew that there was hollowness over a her self-proclaimed mantra, "tapos na ang pagtitiis" (the suffering is over). 

Two years of slaving, she was coming back to a nation, unbeknownst to her as a nation. It is merely a place where much of her journeys began.