Women at home, work and life

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

Straight from Carolinas

Friday, March 21, 2014

THE role of women in the Philippines is explained within the context of Filipino culture, standards, and mindsets.

The Philippines, a nation of 7,100 islands in Southeast Asia and known in tourism circles as “the Pearl of the Orient” is described as a nation with strong women who run families, plantations and very recently in businesses and government agencies.

It is their central role in running the family that the Filipino woman is known for and it is this role that I talk about in earnest this month of March also known as Women’s Month.


March is significant to me because it is the month when I joined the ranks of the Philippine media 20 years ago. To anyone else, March is just the month after February the love month and before April, the summer vacation month.

When I joined the fourth estate, I became more aware of the issues and concerns of women because of the reports and accounts reaching me and waiting to be aired or written.

As a radio and then TV host-anchor, I have to schedule the whole month of March to interview women from different sectors of society. These include women in government service, politics, judiciary, religious, business, legal, medical, engineering, mothers, single moms, prostituted women, the academe, the entertainment industry and so on. Sorry, if I missed a group.

All groups have their own story, accounts and willingness to share it to the world. Others are numb, reluctant and muted by their harsh times and circumstances.

In my long experience in the media, it is the mothers and the prostituted women that definitely draw a lot of reactions from the audience. Of course hearing the lives and experiences of successful women draw more interest because they are high profile types and live in glass houses.

They are public figures but audiences easily empathize with and identify with mothers whom they rightfully consider to be the hardest working people in the world. I don’t’ want to start a debate here.

Just bear with me because I am talking about women who work 24/7 at home taking care of the children and the husband. It is different here in the US because you see men bringing children or kids in school, pool, church or to the doctor’s office.

There’s no quarrel about the rights enshrined in the US Constitution and the amendments that ensured equality between men and women, but it’s different from the Philippines where I come from.

While it’s true that the Philippines has laws ensuring civil liberties that were adopted from the US, Philippine society is still different- taking care of home and children is still a major prerogative of men, who have been cast as the traditional breadwinner except in some cases.

I can still remember interviewing a mother who requested that she not be named over the radio. She works in one of the canning companies in the city and at the end of the day would pass by the market to buy food to cook at home. She would also bathe the kids and see them off to bed and clean the dishes before she can sit down to rest and watch TV.

At that time, the husband is home too but he would rather sit on the rocking chair, sipping beer or any other liquor while watching the basketball game or news on TV.

After supper and dishes, the mother would teach the kids on their assignments and prepare their clothes and snacks for the morning. She would also post the instructions in the front of the refrigerator for children and her husband to see.

This is the usual scenario in most households. While there might be once-in-a-blue moon exceptions to this situation, i.e. husbands sharing household responsibilities, the women are usually burdened with home tasks unless they have a maid.

When children are sick, it is usually the mother who stays awake monitoring their condition while the father snores to sleep. Parenting for women is a 24/7 responsibility with barely enough time for relaxation and little to no room for complaints.

Too often, mothers forget about their health due to their busy schedules. Simple checkups like mammogram, pap smear, colposcopy and other medical examinations are re-scheduled or dropped because these tests are expensive.

They only check in at hospitals whenever they’re sick or in dire need of medical attention. We’re not even talking about physical, mental, sexual and psychological abuse. These mothers and all other women I remember as we celebrate March.

It is this month that I doff my hats off to groups who have committed to working for the improvement of women’s lives.

I am reminded really of friends like lawyer Beverly Selim-Musni, Lalae Garcia, Atty. Remy Llego and my high school classmate Dora (goodness I forgot her family name but she is from Sta. Ana) and many others who in the past years found all ways to help those in need.

There are still many more months of March to celebrate, many more years to give opportunities to empower women who, regardless of their state in life, continue to forge their own path and identity in this world.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 22, 2014.


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