This week, we talk about the odd names Filipino parents give to their kids. Then, we discuss what sorts of things parents should not do to their kids.
You may also download the podcast file here.
Posted on 22 March 2014.
This week, we talk about the odd names Filipino parents give to their kids. Then, we discuss what sorts of things parents should not do to their kids.
You may also download the podcast file here.
Posted on 26 February 2013.
Br. Armin A. Luistro FSC
Department of Education
DepEd Complex, Meralco Avenue, Pasig City
An Open Letter from the Parenting Chapter of the Filipino Freethinkers
While we respect and fully support the mission of the Department of Education, “to provide quality basic education that is equitably accessible to all and lay the foundation for life-long learning and service for the common good,” we believe that there is a need to review its mission, namely to be, “globally recognized for good governance and for developing functionally-literate and God-loving Filipinos,” and one of its core values, “Maka-Diyos,” as reflected in the current DepEd Mission and Core values in the following link, http://www.deped.gov.ph/index.php/about-deped/vision-and-mission;
(Image source: foundersintent.org)
While the Philippines is a country whose population mostly belongs to or adheres to a certain religion and believe in the existence of a Higher Being, we believe that such a fact should not find its way nor bias the vision and core values of government offices, but should rather support the separation of church and state and consequently, should be secular in nature.
By contrast, there is still a minority of Filipinos who are neither Catholic, Christian, nor sectarian but subscribe to alternative beliefs or unbelief, including the irreligious, and even Indigenous Peoples (IPs) with their traditional beliefs.
There are some who may argue that the wording, “God-loving”, and “Maka-Diyos” is not a major matter as these are not policies that the DepEd is implementing, per se. It should be clear though that their presence in the vision and core values of the country’s primary government agency involved with primary and secondary education assumes and gives license to the DepEd to translate these motherhood concepts into policies which it can strictly implement in the basic education curriculum.
Moreover, the presence of these two phrases undermines this diverse but significant group of non-theistic Filipinos whose beliefs or lack thereof has been disregarded, overlooked, and not represented by a national agency like the DepEd.
Therefore, there is an urgent need to have an inclusive mission and core values that would value and represent the diversity of all Filipinos’ belief or non-belief.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution is explicit in the primacy of parents’ roles in bringing up their chldren, as expressed in article XIV, section 2.2, “The State shall establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels. Without limiting the natural rights of parents to rear their children…”
Moreover, educating children about religion still falls under the authority and jurisdiction of parents as reflected in Section 3.3 of the same article, “at the option expressed in writing by the parents or guardians, religion shall be allowed to be taught to their children or wards in public elementary and high school…”
Thus, the law is clear, religion is still primarily the business of parents, and not the State (as represented by DepEd). If parents or legal guardians do not want the state to teach any kind of religion or belief to their children, they are well within their rights to do so.
We also do not think that it would be costly for DepEd to re-evaluate these concepts while keeping true to its goals and aims. And while we heard of some news that DepEd is doing just that (reviewing its VM and core values) https://twitter.com/ffreethinkers/statuses/298730354322313216, the results remain to be seen.
This is our second earnest open letter on this matter to the DepEd, as our first one was already sent almost three weeks ago. http://filipinofreethinkers.org/2013/02/05/open-letter-to-the-department-of-education/
We expect much from the DepEd and we hope the department will not let us down.
Frederick A. Fabian
Joselito D. Paderes
Clarissa Therese Jagunap-Soco
Andrew Mark S. Uyboco
Lyza Maria Viejo
Philippe Batingal Schleinitz
Manolo Luis Del Rosario
Editor’s note: the signatures of Cecilia Deveza-Bonto, Philippe Batingal Schleinitz, Manolo Luis Del Rosario, and Josephine Tiongco were added after the publishing of this letter.
Posted on 11 June 2012.
Long before ‘facepalm’ became a meme, I had a conversation with a friend, a young teenage mom about 5 years ago, that made me literally put my palm to my face. We were talking about her baby boy.
Teenage mom: My son is always suffering from diarrhea. I don’t know why.
Me: Are you boiling the water you use for his milk?
Teenage mom: No…am I supposed to?
(insert massive facepalm here)
Common sense parenting isn’t common
For many of us, boiling water for a baby’s milk is standard operating procedure (SOP). Many people won’t even tell you that. You’re just supposed “to know”. The rationale is that babies’ digestive systems are still sensitive to too many pathogens, including “ordinary” free floating bacteria and viruses found in unboiled tap water. It doesn’t matter even if the water has passed through the usual microbiological tests and deemed 98 to 99% “safe”. For most babies, that’s still not clean enough. Having a brand new immune system, much of a baby’s immunity has yet to be developed. Moreover, immunity is acquired through the immune system’s memory cells, whose role is to store information on past pathogens. Babies, being brand new human beings, have not yet been exposed to enough pathogens, and have therefore not developed the required immunity to withstand even drinking water fresh from the tap.
Parental ignorance is not bliss
Contrary to that adage, “ignorance is bliss”, a parent’s lack of information can easily harm the child. Recalling a time when I went with my dad to get rabies shots for a dog bite at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), I overheard a tragic conversation between a doctor and a mother with a young man of about 14.
The young man was brought in for some symptoms which the doctor diagnosed as rabies. The conversation went something like this:
Doctor: So your son was bitten by a dog a few months ago?
Doctor: And you didn’t get him anti-rabies shots?
Doctor: I am sorry but he’s manifesting some advanced stages of rabies infection. We have no other choice but to pray now…
I couldn’t bear to stand and listen to what came next because the mom started to weep while the thin and pale face of the boy took on a resigned look. I don’t even know if he survived.
Parents have no excuse to be ignorant. In this modern age, information is everywhere. Even information on medical and health-related concerns abound. There’s the Internet, Google, and cheap Internet cafes that can be used for as little as Php 10-15 an hour. There are also medical advisories and tips posted in public places and school bulletin boards. One can even opt to ask advice from veteran parents. There are also regular health and medicine-related shows on TV and even medical columns in the newspapers.
And if there’s cause for concern, there are free medical check-ups provided by PCSO, its satellite clinics, and many barangay clinics and hospitals offered by LGUs in their respective areas. There’s even the occasional medical missions organized by many NGOs, medicine retailers, pharma companies, and philanthropic organizations. The bottom line is, parents have little excuse to be actively ignorant. In fact, I would go as far as to say that only parents who are determined to be ignorant stay uninformed, to the possible detriment of their children.
And since parents are parents, they are granted automatic de facto rights, responsibilities, and obligations towards their children. If parental negligence results in a child’s death, parents can be held criminally liable.
Making money from ignorance
Moreover, there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing ready to take advantage of parental ignorance, ignorance that is not solely limited to the lower socio-economic strata. There are companies who leverage on the media machine, money, and advertising savvy to take advantage of the good intentions of even more affluent parents.
One example is this new sound device that purportedly help parents “interact” with babies while these are still in the womb. Other asserted benefits for prenatal babies include babies turning themselves to the proper orientation so that they come out heads first. And a third articulated benefit is helping the unborn baby familiarize himself/herself to the parent’s and grandparent’s voices so as to bond with them.
How the makers of these products came by this “bonding” conclusion is beyond me. Granted, babies may be able to hear the sound in vivo, but the sound that passes through the amniotic fluid (in which the unborn baby is suspended in) is likely to be muffled since sound changes speed in a different medium.
In other words, sound behaves differently in air than it does through amniotic fluid. Moreover, even if the baby does respond to the sound, for example, the baby moves more often, it is doubtful whether this increased movement is caused by babies’ being able to distinguish between a person’s voice from any other sounds they hear. Why? Because babies lack the experience in contextualizing verbal information; they do not yet know what words mean, much less phrases or whole sentences. Thus, baby product companies that make such claims of these sound products are in a very precarious situation just in case someone challenges the company to prove its declarations.
Baby product companies aren’t the sole exploiters of parents’ lack of information. The other major group comprise religious authorities. In the Philippines, a largely Catholic country, separation of church and state is an illusion and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reigns supreme and uncontested. The CBCP may be “spiritual” fathers to some but this fatherhood is merely metaphorical. The fact that they are not real parents makes one doubt if they can truly empathize with the plight of parents, specifically mothers, as reflected in their consistent antagonistic stance towards the RH bill.
Moreover, in the instance that pedophilic and sexually abusive priests do sire offspring, such a scandal will surely be swept under the rug and denied, including their parental responsibility. Worst, these priests just get shuffled between one country to another, to victimize more children and women in their wake while they exercise, ironically, their spiritual faculties to the faithful.
Despite eleven daily maternal deaths due to birth-related complications in the Philippines, the CBCP have kept to their guns, and they will continue to oppose the passing of the RH bill. And why should they not? Education, a critical component of the RH bill, will not only inform women, but it also has the potential to liberate and empower them from the shackles of religion, dogma, superstition, and ignorance.
The RH Bill connection
Despite the CBCP’s contentions, we direly need the RH bill. And mothers know this best of all. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that families have limited resources, and in the case of poor families, more so. The more children indigent families produce, the more pressure is put on the scarce resources they already have.
One case in point is my teenage friend whom I introduced at the start of this article. While the two of us had our first child almost at the same time, I still only have one child while she now has five children (in the span of nine years), with the last one just turning three years old.
While I am gainfully employed with my freelance consulting work with long-term committed clients, and have a husband who also does paid projects at home, my friend can only occasionally sell ‘kakanin’ (ricecakes) and is married to a construction worker. While I consistently get paid an honorarium month in and month out, the husband of my friend earns only on a contractual basis. He has take-home money only when he is needed for some physical infrastructure project contracted to an agency. Thus, the primary source of family funds for my friend is not secure and seasonal at best. When the father doesn’t earn, my friend is forced to borrow from a “5-6” local agent.
Every time I do get to see her (which is rare nowadays as we have moved far away), she is always complaining about how hard life has become. In fact, life for her has become even more challenging now than when she was still single. Last time I met her, she admitted to eating her neighbor’s dog food out of extreme hunger, just to ensure she produces enough milk for nursing her fourth baby.
My friend’s story, and other women’s similar stories, should convince us to we must push for the passing of the RH bill now. The bottomline is: who will make the final decision here? Will we listen to what the religious authorities who pretend to be our “spiritual parents” say, or do we choose to save the lives of our poor, our children, and our Filipino mothers?
Picture credits (used under Creative Commons)
Posted on 04 May 2012.
“You can divide the Red Sea,” my son declared.
We had just finished discussing the story of Moses (assigned by our homeschool provider as a lesson under Values Education). I emphasized that Moses’ story was a great narrative but it was just a story.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “What did you think about Moses’ method of dividing the Red Sea?”
Sil answered, “His method was a miracle, but you can still divide the Red Sea even without one.”
“How?” I asked.
“Make a dam,” he said.
I chuckled. It’s moments like these that reinforce my determination to pursue homeschooling, at least until Sil finishes Grade 6.
Through homeschooling, I have witnessed the development of my son’s character, his mental faculties, and his talents. By no means am I saying that homeschooling is easy — it entails a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and a persevering commitment — but it has also been very fulfilling. At the same time, it is far too easy for parents who homeschool their kids to doubt their own teaching abilities, to worry if they are teaching their children correctly.
“Surely, a professionally trained teacher is better qualified than a homeschool parent.”
I used to think that too until natural curiosity had me googling the academic performance of homeschooled children when compared to their traditionally schooled counterparts. Many reliable sources agree that homeschoolers in general significantly outpace traditionally schooled children. A study by Rey (2010) reported that “In most studies, the homeschooled have scored, on average, at the 65th to 80th percentile on standardized academic achievement tests, compared to the national school average of the 50th percentile (which is largely based on public schools). A few studies have found the home-educated to be scoring about the same or a little better than public school students.”
This study shows that homeschooled students are not academically disadvantaged. In fact, in many instances, they are doing very well or even better. Homeschooling is one of the few ways parents can gain control over their children’s education.
While the nature versus nurture debate is still fiercely raging in many educational and psychological circles, I have to point out that we have limited control over our genes and resulting heredity. Rather than curse our fates for not being born with a mythical Math gene, and consequently failing calculus, we could rather concentrate on the things over which we do have control.
And one of these few things is parental involvement. Unfortunately, parental involvement is in a precarious position in relation to other priorities of Pinoy families. With the Philippines’ current unemployment and underemployment rate, and job-skills mismatch, it’s very challenging to find a job that pays well and can comfortably support a family. As a result, both parents are forced to work, to meet the economic demands of supporting a family. One natural consequence is that parents have less and less time to spend with and on their children. This is saddening because increased positive parental involvement has many benefits for the child and his/her development. In this relation, while I am certainly not advocating that parents neglect the survival of their family, I do encourage them to spend more quality and quantity time with their young children.
Parental involvement can give rise to many positive effects for children, but I will just name a few below:
Increased Academic Achievement
Many studies agree that parental involvement can either promote or retard cognitive (mental) development, and thus also affect student achievement. Bempechat (1992) cited Coleman et al. (1996) who reported that achievement was more influenced by family background and environment than the quality of the school.
In our case, the first school that we enrolled Sil in had a whole year to teach him how to read, yet he was still unable to do so at the end of that year. It was unfortunate because I thought he was ready to read. He was 6 at that time and could already identify all the letters in the alphabet (a sign that the child is reading-ready). The school failed us. This reading readiness was a major hindrance to enrolling Sil in the first grade of the next school, because this school (as with most other schools) do not admit non-readers to Grade 1.
So my husband and I worked on Sil’s reading using Starfall.com’s online reading programs which, had animation, text, and audio features. After just two months of working with the program, coupled with patient and consistent mentoring, guidance, and tutoring from us, Sil was able to read. At nine, he is now reading newspapers with lola, his interest and emotions piqued with the territorial standoff with China. He plans to read the “Lord of the Rings” soon.
So how exactly does parental involvement help in achievement? One is through providing tutoring when the child needs it (Haggard, 1957 and Toby, 1957 in Bempechat, 1992). This was what we did daily with Sil in almost all his lessons, especially in parts where he encountered a lot of difficulty.
For example, it took a while for him to comprehend and solve word problems. So I made sure that he first mastered the four basic mathematical operations — addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Then we went back to word problems, and this time around, he was finally able to comprehend and solve them.
The bottom line is that parents act as teachers, where parental instruction is embedded in daily life. Instruction need not be explicit nor involve some particular strategy (Bempechat, 1992). In other words, though teaching can be subtle and indirect, learning can still take place.
Parents also encourage achievement through an active approach in learning (Hess and Shipman, 1965 in Bempechat, 1992). How can they do this? By giving children many opportunities to explore independently and learn by themselves, while still ensuring the child’s safety and wellness.
Reflecting on this second principle, I recall how we observed an entrepreneurial spirit in Sil. One day, Sil said he wanted to earn his own money. So we asked him how he planned to do this.
“I’m going to sell mangoes,” he declared, looking at our fruit-laden Indian mango tree. Except for me designing his “Mangoes Sold Here” label, we left him on his own and offered little assistance. As a result, he contracted the help of two close friends and between the three of them, they were able to sell 100 pieces of mangoes and split the profit evenly between themselves. Now, every summer, Sil sells mangoes with his friends.
Rogoff and Gardner (1984) in Bempechat (1992) reported that parents help children learn by showing how adults handle new problems while using past strategies for familiar problems. In other words, adults organize children’s thinking tasks, monitor the difficulty level of the problem, while providing pointers, and modeling mature performance.
When Sil could not understand division, I used Lego blocks (which he was fond of playing with) to group items and explain the concept. After a few demonstrations, Sil was able to solve division problems much better.
Bempechat (1992) cited numerous researchers who asserted that parental attitudes, expectancies, and beliefs about schooling and learning are also instrumental in the development of their children’s attitudes and behaviors toward achievement. For example, although there is little evidence that Math ability is dependent on gender, mothers of Math underachieving boys tend to explain their poor achievement due to lack of effort. In contrast, mothers of Math underachieving girls chalk it up to lack of ability. As a result, many girls tend to think that their gender is to blame for their poor Math ability, even though this isn’t true.
Math is a tricky problem because like many students, Sil has a love-hate relationship with Math. He hates the fact that Math is so exacting, so when he complains how he is hopeless, I always tell him that he can learn Math. After resting or eating (he might just be tired or hungry), and upon returning to the problem, Sil develops a more positive attitude. When he finally gets a problem, he calls himself a “Math monster” and I always agree with him. Consistently doing this has enabled Sil to develop quiet confidence in his Math skills. He now has no fear of Math.
Other Positive Learning Behaviors
Sénéchal, and LeFevre (2003) reported that parent’s involvement in teaching children about reading and writing words promoted the development of early literacy skills. They also reported that early literacy skills directly predicted word reading at the end of Grade 1 while it indirectly predicted reading in Grade 3 or specifically, that the word reading skill acquired at Grade 1 influenced reading comprehension in Grade 3. Thus, the child’s ability to read fluently is rooted in his early experiences, including parental involvement.
Although Sil was a little late in reading, our intensive two-month reading intervention made him a voracious reader. Nowadays, when I buy Sil a short book, he can finish it in 30 minutes. He is also reading encyclopedias, Calvin and Hobbes comics, the Sunday’s funnies, and newspaper articles on the Spratlys issue, among others.
Reduced Behavioral Problems
Finally, parental involvement can help even in the treatment of social phobia and general anxiety. Parental involvement was reported to significantly reduce children’s and even adolescent’s social and general fears, and that this improvement was retained even after one year (and presumably even beyond that). In addition, Domina (2005) reported that parental involvement can also prevent behavioral problems.
Sil has always been quite physical and easily bored when he is not mentally challenged. The language barrier didn’t help either because children in our neighborhood were intimidated by his mastery of English (his primary language). As a result, he was often misconstrued by his classmates, their parents, and even his teachers.
For the longest time, I felt like a failure as a parent. But instead of giving up, I did more research, talked to other homeschoolers, and visited another homeschool in Paranaque. Still, it was quite providential when we found a homeschool provider that had many UP Education graduates who acted as academic consultants and staff. One of his “homeroom” teachers understood that Sil was an intelligent, strong-willed, and active child. Since she was also the one who administered the annual Weschler test http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wechsler_Preschool_and_Primary_Scale_of_Intelligence , she appreciated that Sil needed to be mentally challenged. She narrated a test on conservation of mass. Sil was shown two groups of seven blocks. One group was arranged in a line. The other group was scattered. Most of the children readily answered that the disorganized group of blocks was fewer. Sil looked at her and said, “I will check”. He counted both sets of blocks and remarked, “See? it’s the same.” Then he said, “I will check again”. Sil rearranged the scattered blocks into a straight line, beside the arranged groups of blocks. He then remarked, “See? It’s the same.”
Sil’s fellow homeschoolers were fluent English speakers, very bright, confident, outspoken, and very active. We have also enrolled Sil under a local taekwondo class. All of these interventions has enabled him to expend his energy on something productive, build up his physical strength, earn him friendship with his peers, and again made us confident that we are doing the right thing.
The Bottom Line
The verdict is out: parental involvement can promote children’s academic achievement and attitudes, influence other positive behaviors like reading and writing, assist in easing fears and phobias, and even prevent behavioral problems, among others.
Although the modern Filipino family has many priorities, especially economic ones, such considerations must be balanced with the critical need for parental involvement in children’s lives which can greatly influence their learning, their attitudes and ultimately, their future.
Bempechat, (1992). The role of parent involvement in children’s academic achievement. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from http://www.adi.org/journal/fw92/BempechatFall1992.pdf
Domina, T. (2005). Leveling the home advantage: assessing the effectiveness of parental involvement in elementary school. Sociology of Education, 78 (3), 233-249. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from http://soe.sagepub.com/content/78/3/233.short
Marin, C.E. (2010). Parental involvement and group cognitive behavioral treatment for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: treatment specificity and mediation effects. Florida International University. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1314&context=etd
Ray, B. (2001). Academic achievement and demographic traits of homeschool students: A national study. Retrieved April 25, 2012 from the Academic Leadership: The Online Journal, 8(1) http://www.academicleadership.org/392/academic_achievement_and_demographic_traits_of_homeschool_students_a_nationwide_study/
Sénéchal, M. and LeFevre, J. (2003). Parental involvement in the development of children’s reading skill: A five-year longitudinal study. Child Development, 73(2), 445-460. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8624.00417/abstract
Spence, S., Donovan, C., and Brechman-Toussaint, M. (2003). The treatment of childhood social phobia: the effectiveness of social skills training-based, cognitive-behavioural intervention, with and without parental involvement. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41 (6). Retrieved April 28, 2012 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1469-7610.00659/abstract
Photo credit for ‘Slices of Parental Involvement’: Copyright 2010 Forsyth County School. Used under Creative Commons.
Posted on 31 May 2011.
April 30, 2010
This is your mother. I hope that you’re reading this no earlier than 2025, because I have no plans of having you in the next few years. I am not yet rich, and only rich people can have children because children are superstrength money vacuums. I trust that you are able to read this thanks to formidable schooling which I was effortlessly able to provide.
How is it over there? It’s election season back here; so far, Noynoy’s leading the polls, and Villar and Erap are tied 19 points behind. I’d vote for Noynoy if I were registered, but I’m not, and yes I suck. My half-baked defense is that I had just moved out from the family compound in Pasig and into an apartment in Quezon City, so I got confused about which district I’m supposed to vote in or some shit excuse like that, but the truth is I got lazy and now I regret it. Did the election work, though? Are you still living in a country mired in frustration? Is the Catholic Church still wielding its Scepter of Ignorance over our multitudes? Has Jolo Revilla run for anything?
Anyway, about the apartment. I moved in about 6 months ago with my boyfriend. (I would like to think that he’s your father, but in case life decides to trivialize my relationship with him down the road [which the both of us are doing our best to dissuade, because we are both of the opinion that we are awesome together], I hope your dad is not a total dickwad, and that we are no longer in contact with him in case he is.) Living at the family compound had led to claustrophobia; it had come to the point that I very desperately needed a place where I didn’t have to be cautious of what I said or did, a place where I wasn’t automatically assigned the role of “wayward offspring.” I was agitated. I stayed out most nights and did things I can’t look back on now without literally burying my head in my hands in shame. Getting the apartment has definitely made me a calmer person; the best part of any day has become the time when your maybe-father and I would make dinner and watch three straight episodes of Randy Jackson Presents: America’s Best Dance Crew (fastforwarding over that insufferable Mario Lopez) or whatever we’d scrounge up at the dibidihan, and just exalt in our general domesticity.
Of course, it didn’t come for free. I had to get a steady job that paid well, a concept that was definitely frightening, as I had grown so accustomed to the unhinged disposition of the freelance career. But I sucked it up and landed a job as the copywriter of a big hospital’s Corporate Communications department. I believe that I’m good at it, and working in a hospital does provide a modicum of weird shit to liven the workweek, but as with any other steady job, it can get steeped in tedium nonetheless. There’s a part of me that wants out, a part that wonders what had happened to the old me, the reckless child of yore. I liked being a homebody, but that didn’t instantly purport that I was fine being an office drone too.
Now, I’m the type of person who cuts things out of my life very easily. I could’ve quit that job and tried to figure things out for myself all over again; I have that ability to harden my heart. But I only edit out things that I know are dispensable in the long run: incompetent bosses, fair-weather friends. For the very first time, I found this latest version of my life pretty necessary. And it’s not just because it allows for a place of my own, and a bit of money for some nice things and the occasional dinner out. It has also become the first crucial step towards the bigger, better version of my life I hope to achieve.
Your maybe-father and I made a pact some time ago that we would save up enough money and move from one province to another every couple of years. We wanted to have adventures. We wanted to get ourselves in trouble, to have something new and ridiculous to do together all the time. There was no better way to do that than by restarting our life together over and over from one strange place to the next. And our first stop? The tiny town of Dumaguete, where we first met a couple of years ago.
So Mom’s a big, fat cheeseball, you say? You think Mom’s masterplan is a classic illustration of the kind of idealistic and impracticable claptrap people in their quarter-life crisis hold dear? Well screw you, futurespawn. It doesn’t matter. You might know for a fact that things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped, that something went wonky along the way, dashing my precious plans and proving that I was just another 20-something with an idiotic strategy for the future. But right now, that masterplan is what I want, and I’m going to do everything in my power to realize it. I’m going to make sure that when you read this letter, the first few sentences of this paragraph are grossly contradictory of how you feel and what you know. I mean, Mom’s always been a total hard-ass, right? Correct? Damn straight.
But again, I really do hope that these plans come to fruition. I hope that I’ve already regaled you over and over with tales of the many places I’d lived in (so far, Dumaguete, Baguio and Cebu are on our itinerary), with many strange stories and hare-brained schemes your maybe-father and I had amassed during our travels, and that you find this letter annoyingly redundant.
But if things really didn’t work out for me that way, these pieces of paper you hold in your hand is proof that I pursued that life with tremendous resolve nonetheless. That there was a time when everything I did was geared towards that specific version of a bright and shiny future, a time when I wasn’t going to let anything or anyone fuck with me in my pursuit.
I’d like to end this letter with something I told my friends back in college. I still remember it because it was likely the only lucid thing I said during a particularly drunken afternoon in a bar across school. I told my friends that if I ever had a kid, the most important thing I would tell him (I’m set on a boy, by the way, so if you’re a girl, I apologize in advance for being such a resentful bitch) is that if he has his heart set on doing something, even if I am totally against it, so much so that I will be furious with him for the rest of my life, he should do it. So I’m telling you now, futurespawn, that if there’s something you know you will utterly regret for not doing, some idea that skulks in the back of your brain every second of every day, do it. Even if I give you hell for it. Even if it breaks us apart. Your life is yours entirely, futurespawn, so make sure it’s totally awesome, okay? Okay. Good boy.
That’s it; I’m all letter’d out. Off you go now. Fly your hoverbike or whatever the hell it is you kids do. I love you.
It’s been a little over a year since I wrote that letter, and while the maybe-father and I are still very much together, we remain in Manila in the same apartment and have yet to see the aforementioned nomadic lifestyle beckoning from the horizon, if at all. But that’s beside the point of this current essay, and for the record, something did come along that drew our focus away from this particular dream: becoming active members of the Filipino Freethinkers. (And so far, it’s been the best distraction I’ve ever had.)
What hasn’t changed, however, is my stand that my child should do whatever he damn well pleases when he grows up, no matter if his father and I blow our tops for whatever reason — even and especially if we play the utang na loob card in a key moment of a desperation.
Utang na loob, or debt of gratitude, is not a real reason for anyone to forgo the life they want to live. Doing favors for each other out of goodwill, I totally understand. But doing things out of a certain unspoken indebtedness — wherein guilt is more potent than goodwill — is something that I find bothersome, especially when it concerns parent and child.
Granted that I did not come from the most stable of backgrounds. My father was an angry and abusive man, the main reason why I cannot dub my childhood “happy.” And it would make sense for me not to feel indebted to someone who went out of his way to physically and verbally hurt his own daughter (and sons, and wife) on a regular basis. As far as I’m concerned, and as anyone with the faintest concept of self-respect should know, whatever my family says about utang na loob in his regard is null and void. In fact, I estranged myself from him when I was 13 and have never looked back.
But my mother is a different case. She’s done a monumental amount for me. For one thing, she was the main breadwinner, and would always go on overtime at the office in order to support a five-person family. Her sacrifices were all for us; in fact, rooting through sales bins at dinky department stores for the rare pair of semi-decent shoes was her idea of splurging for herself.
Moreover, she endured my estrangement from my father despite her personal conviction that sticking to one’s family is the Right Thing to Do. She did her best to respect (or at least try to respect) my decision — not to mention grin and bear the endless prodding of other relatives as to my whereabouts and mental state — while I lived apart from them in my own little hole in the family compound (and, later on, in my own apartment). I did what I had to do, and while she didn’t like what I did — and yes, for a while nagged at me and berated me for it — she eventually let me be. And for that I am grateful, because it has led me to live a life that is entirely mine.
Everyone should do everything they can to live their own lives as well, and not the lives expected of them. What’s the point of being our own sentient beings if we can’t even choose what to do with ourselves? Everyone should be able to stick with what they believe in and act on that belief (provided, of course, that this does not involve building a money-making mega-church, strapping bombs to your belly, and other dangerous, deceitful, and destructive acts).
Everyone should want a child not for their own selfish purposes, but for allowing this child to experience the awesomeness that is life, and in the best, most positive manner possible, at that. Last I heard, love is not related to suppression, or blind obedience, or guilt. Last I heard, parenting was about raising a child, not strapping one down to the ground. (Suffice it to say that the RH Bill can bring us one step closer to a society that understands this.)
My mother can ask of me a whole host of things in return for all she’s done, but compromising the paltry few decades of consciousness I have in the first place — when I could be doing something that I feel is actually worthwhile, such as being a nomad, or an active freethinker, or a nomadic active freethinker — is not one of them. Being in a situation that would prevent me from writing the above missive to my future child is not one of them.
Once again, there is only one belief that I will impose on my own child, and it is that he owes me nothing.