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Sunday, June 04, 2006

kabit: a contemporary application of pinoy adultery

In the unique context that is the Philippines, both criminal acts of concubinage and adultery are being done in a rather rampant fashion, as may be gleaned in one of the passages in Jessica Zafra’s short fiction “Wordeaters.” Note the casualness in which the said passage was mentioned:
“Even as they live together, no one casts an iron stigma on [the adulteress and her lover]. [The society] views their relationship with a healthy pragmatism.”
The Philippines being a Catholic country, Filipino devotees attempt, with varying degrees of triumphs and defeats, to observe conservatism at all costs, more so at the sacred sacrament of exchanged vows. Marital issues are tried to resolve within the confines of homes, with the husband, being the padre de pamilya, doing mostly the piloting. Its former colonizer, Spain, is already liberated by allowing divorce among its married couples with unsuccessful relationships, but in the country, divorce is such a no-no that wives are left with no choice but to put up with their philandering husbands despite marriages gone sour. The Catholic Church does not tolerate adultery because it is a conscious violation of the two commandments namely, “Do not commit adultery” and “Do not covet thy neighbor’s partner.” Since the Church maintains that what God has united by betrothal cannot be torn asunder by man, divorce is out of the question and so it is up to the married couple to bear the sufferance of their disastrous union. Although one or the other or both may find who they claim to be the real person to bring them happiness for life (or be altogether wrong with their perception yet again), they commit at least two deadly sins if they get laid by any person they are not married to. This is especially supposed to be stricter for women who have been commissioned in the Bible to submit themselves completely to the husband, in which case men with patriarchal ideology working in their consciousness distort this to mean that they can do concubinage but otherwise interpret the same as a sort of restraining order for the wives to, say, commit the sin of voluntary sexual relationship with a man not her husband.
The Philippines is a male-dominated society, too, hence the double standards working for married men who engage in illicit affairs with women other than their wife, and married women who carry adulterous acts with men not the one they are betrothed to. Apparently, the former can be tolerated (even encouraged, if only for more macho points) to two-time for as long as they know how to play the game, but not the latter. An infidel wife is subjected to all proportions of social ostracism: calling her names such as the all-purpose expletive “putang ina,” casting her away from where the majority lives, having her undergo physical, sexual and psychological torment and the like. Men still view women as supposed to be as conservative as Rizal’s depiction of the Maria Clara woman: docile, modest, doting to her lover. If a woman so much as experiment, they already violate the Madonna template and therefore assume the image of a whore. For instance, a woman who enjoys sex or is outrageously aggressive before and during the sexual bout has gone the road to perdition, so to speak. They want to subvert the missionary position postulated by the Church and thus irreparably reduce themselves to the status of wild women. Adulteresses are typecast as wanton women for venturing out on a territory only men are ideologically privileged to populate. Needless to say, concubinage is more endurable than adultery. It is not uncommon for a husband to have second or third wife while the legal wife still lives, even keep all of them in a harem as some television human interest episodes would like to expose. Meanwhile, women who are found to be putting birdshit atop their husband’s head are lowly beings who are poked fun at, despised, loathed, or dismiss altogether as worthless women regardless of their academic, professional or social achievements.
Female sexuality always springs from human desire, which is always associated to the body and its senses. That being the case, sex is a basic need but according to prevailing social traditions, should not be done apart from the legal partner. By ideologically conditioning the “female body [to be] the territory that society [i]s built on,”female desiring is largely muted and politicized sexuality empowers males only. This partly answers why adultery has a more intense sting than concubinage: women are supposed to control their libidinal juices over hot men not their husband while men can go sow their wild oats, with less the hassle.
The very bedrock on which the society rests is the family, so the ruinous effects to the family in particular and to the society in general of a scandal caused by an adulterous mother or married daughter is tremendously unimaginable. An adulteress is a big shame to the family that tries to uphold social and religious laws. The Filipino family values honor and reputation, especially its flowers that are no other than its women, and what an ill-repute indeed if the family’s good name is tarnished by no less than the act of consensual deflowering of the family’s women.
As an examination, the following aspects of daily Filipino life are investigated as they are recorded in a contemporary book, a film, a song and two adultery-dealing reports on a celebrity icon and a nationally-sensationalized event:
Forbidden Fruit: Women Write the Erotic is an anthology of erotic writings by Filipina women who cavorted on sensual shores strewn even with controversial concepts like female masturbation, lesbianism and, yes, adultery. From among the literary assortments, a story in Filipino and a couple in English run the third theme. “Sila, Isang Hapon”from the novel-in-progress Sila, at ang Gabi narrates the illicit sex happening between two married heterosexuals, with the adulteress, Monica, lamenting that what she supposed to be an erotic fulfillment with Emil, a man not her husband is in reality the same mechanical act her husband Frank does with her. At the surface, it may be regret that overpowers the female protagonist in considering her supposedly bombastic sex with Emil turning dud, but in hindsight, it may be the guilt of having to get laid at the expense of committing adultery. Another novel-in-progress, Inday, presents the story of a wife who, in order to get even with an infidel chauvinist pig of a husband, will “lie on the bed beside [an American Captain]” and make love with him and “lead [them] both to destruction or salvation--” although in her religious and sociological contexts, it is the former all right. In the same vein, “The Other Regina” is another vengeance story with the female protagonist, Regina, chooses “a better life” than the one offered by her polygamous husband Miguel—an affair with an American who eventually leaves her for another Filipina in New York. For attempting to rectify a sin with another sin, this is what an adulteress gets.
Meanwhile, Mano Po 3: My Love by Joel Lamangan (Regal, 2004) is a film dealing with the adulterous affair of a Chinese crime crusader, Lilia Chiong (Vilma Santos), with her lover of old, fellow activist Michael (Christopher de Leon). As she was preparing to celebrate her silver wedding anniversary with Paul (Jay Manalo), she ran a chance encounter with Michael in Thailand, and so their relationship that was abruptly cut short by Martial Law was now illicitly continued. A terrible intrinsic conflict in Lilia ensued: will she proceed with her adulterous relationship with Michael because “may batas bang nagbabawal sa pusong magmahal ng dalawang tao? [is there a law preventing the heart from loving two persons?]” or will she choose to be faithful to Paul for the sake of her family and marriage? Ultimately, Lilia has to choose her lawfully-wedded husband and her family over her personal happiness, Michael, not so much as the society and her cultural background demand it as her unbraiding conscience eclipsing her raging passion. After all, love in its universality means sacrifice and letting go. Lilia's case shows why it is not just the adulteress' emotions that should be considered but a whole slew of things from her relationship with her husband and family, her status in the society and her personal values. If she so much as carry on with her will, she is going to compromise her marriage sanctified by social law and God's, and her career which earns for her the respect and admiration of the society.
Hiram by as interpreted by Zsa Zsa Padilla possesses sensual lyrics suggestive of an illicit affair between “unavailable” lovers. They only sneak out time for each other, but the persona, the adulteress, slowly falls in love to the addressee despite the passion that can never be by moral standards. The persona realizes that there comes an end to the kisses and stolen time and yet, she holds no regrets over carrying on with her unfaithfulness, her objectification (she being “hiram”) and dehumanization (“hindi dapat magdamdam”) be damned. She goes on to invoke her human frailty of being smothered by passion and of surrendering to temptation (...ako'y tao lang na/nadadarang at natutukso rin”) and, like a typical wild woman of adulterous proportions, won't mind hell breaking loose because it is heaven in her lover's arms (basta't kapiling ka'y langit). The justification of the act outweighs the gravity of the committed sin by the persona. The full text of the song follows:
May isang umagang `di mo hahagkan Ang mata kong `di ka magigisnan Turuan mong ako'y h'wag masaktan Kahit ako para sa `yo Ay `sang hiram At hindi dapat magdamdam Di mo lang alam na kahit pa mali Naging langit ang bawa't sandali Magmula nang halik mo'y dumampi Pag-ibig mo pag-ibig ko kapwa hiram Wala ka bang pakiramdam Di ba ako'y tao lang na Nadadarang at natutukso rin Maiaalis mo ba sa `kin na matutuhan kang mahalin Sa bawa't sandaling hiram natin Di ba ako'y tao lang na Nadadarang at natutukso rin Maiaalis mo ba sa `kin na matutuhan kang mahalin Sa bawa't sandaling hiram natin hah hoo May isang umagang `di mo hahagkan Ang mata kong `di ka magigisnan Turuan mong ako'y h'wag masaktan Kahit ako para sa `yo Ay `sang hiram At hindi dapat magdamdam O hiram na kung hiram bawa't saglit Wala ako isa mang hinanakit Basta't kapiling ka'y langit Walang sa `yo ay papalit Hinding-hindi ako sa `yo magdaramdam Kahit hiram…hiram
The song Hiram was used as a soundtrack to the wildly successful television soap of the same title, which stars the ever controversial, former presidential daughter Kris Aquino. This is a befitting segue as Kris herself carried on an adulterous love with Joey Marquez that whipped all of Philippine media into frenzy. While the hot item has since died down and the popular show host-actress is now blissfully married to cager James Yap, the celebrity icon confessed to having Alma Moreno's former husband as her greatest love. Kris' brazenness in her previous, tabloid-and-rumor-mills-material love affairs with older, married men did not cast her in bad light, nevertheless; puhlic trust on her did not wane as may be gleaned by her more in-demand multimedia advertorial image. However, it should be considered that public personalities such as celebrities and politicians are likely to be condoned for their misdeeds by their starstruck followers. For these admirers, it does not matter who these personalities do extramaritally but who they are as the public imagines them. It is easier for popular icons like Kris to get away from being pelted with stones than the average adulteress.

Jessica Zafra, “Wordeaters.” In Manananggal Terrorizes Manila an Other Stories (Pasig: Anvil, 1992). p. 6.

Jan Campbell, Arguing with the Phallus: Feminist, Queer and Postcolonial Theory (New York: Zed, 2000). p.25.

Lualhati Bautista. In Forbidden Fruit: Women Write the Erotic. Tina Cuyugan, ed. (Pasig: Anvil, 1992). pp. 40-47.

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard. In Forbidden Fruit: Women Write the Erotic. Tina Cuyugan, ed. (Pasig: Anvil, 1992). pp. 64-67.

Susan Lara. In Forbidden Fruit: Women Write the Erotic. Tina Cuyugan, ed. (Pasig: Anvil, 1992). pp. 69-73.


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