Each term I assign my students to visit the microfilm section of the library and dig up the newspaper on the day they were born. I know students hate being sent to the library to physically handle a book that unfortunately is not available on the Internet. But the visit is a chore most of them actually enjoy. The aim of the exercise is to make them experience historical research and writing. Students are also asked to interview their parents to find out what they remember so they end up learning an important lesson—that parents can be an unreliable source of information!
For this column I go back in time like my students, except that I travel at least a century back to see how much we have changed or not. Some people think that history is biased in favor of men because most of the primary sources being used by historians were written for and by men. Thus a feminist school of thought tries to remedy the situation by trying to let us see history from a different point of view, from historical sources for and by women. Rabid feminists even want to change his-tory which they claim is unfairly masculine, into something current and politically correct. They insist we should remember her-story instead. As if that wasn’t enough, the so-called “third sex” wants equal space in the past, thus causing yet another paradigm shift they call “Queer-story.” The only problem is that gays and lesbians are quite invisible in history. One can only wonder what new school of thought will come next.
One of the her-story accounts of the Philippines is “An Ohio Woman in the Philippines” by Emily Bronson Conger (1904) who spent time in Jaro, Iloilo. Although her impressions of the country and its people are over a century old, these are not stale but surprisingly current and engaging. The 23rd chapter of the book is on domestic life and begins:
“The houses are made of bamboo; some of them are pretty, quite artistic; the plain ones cost about seventy-five cents each; no furniture of any kind is needed. The native food is rice, or as it is called in the vernacular, ‘sow-sow.’ It is cooked in an earthen pot set upon stones with a few lighted twigs thrust under it for fire. When it is eaten with nature’s forks, the fingers, with a relish of raw fish, it is the chief article of diet.
“House cleaning is one thing that I never saw in practice or evidence. I took a supply of lye with me and it was a huge joke to see the natives use it in cleaning the floors.
“The windows are made of oyster shells which are thin and flat; these, cut in three-inch squares, make a window particularly adapted to withstand the heavy storms and earthquakes; it transmits pleasant opalescent light.
“Coffee is raised, but not widely used by the natives; they prefer chocolate. After many unsuccessful attempts, I gave up trying to have my dishes washed in my way; I soon discovered that the servants used the tea towels on their bodies. This convinced me, and I let them wash mine as they did their own, by pouring water on each dish separately, rinsing and setting to dry on the porch in the sun, the only place where the vermin would not crawl over them.
“The irons used for pressing clothes are like a smooth, round-bottomed skillet, the inside is filled with lighted sticks and embers. The operator who sits on the floor, presses this smoking mass over the thing to be pressed. The article, when finished, looks as if it had been sat upon.”
Unlike most expatriates who did not adapt and complained a lot, Conger was more flexible and seemed to have enjoyed her stay in Iloilo even if you get a sense that the Philippine-American War was always in the background. She had to take an interpreter and an armed guard when she travelled about to protect her against the “insurrectos.” The irons she described are not in use today and can be found in antique shops where they are sold as either plant holders (large ones) or ashtrays (small ones). You will find capiz shell windows only in old houses and nowhere will you find a hut that costs 75 cents today. Coffee shops abound throughout the country for a people whose tastes have shifted from thick Spanish chocolate to frapuccinos. We are slowly being warned against the dangers of smoking tobacco and some places like Makati have no-smoking ordinances for public spaces. Yet in Iloilo, Conger found children smoking:
“Nearly all little children are naked. One day I saw a little fellow, about three years old, who was suffering severely from the smallpox. He was smoking a huge cigar of the kind the natives make by rolling the natural tobacco leaf and tying it with a bit of bamboo fiber. He did look ridiculous. A native teacher told me that they all begin to smoke when [they are] about two years old; poor, little, stunted, starved things, fed on half-cooked rice and raw fish.”
Of course, Conger brought to her writing her Ohio background and saw the Philippines from her American viewpoint. But what is striking in her book is the sympathy for the poor. Much of the things she described in the early 1900s are no more but the poor remaining the same.
We often think that the Philippines has changed a lot in the past century, reading travel accounts like that of Conger’s makes us realize how much it remains unchanged.
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MANILA, Philippines — Filipino women are showing the world that what men can do, they can do also.
According to research by Grant Thornton International, women hold 47 percent of senior management positions in the Philippines, leading the world average by as much as 23 percentage points.
“Women in the Philippines have really broken the proverbial glass ceiling, not only in the corporate world but also in the government,” said Lily Linsangan, Punongbayan & Araullo audit partner and business risk services group head.
“As an auditor of more than 25 years, I have not encountered an all-male management team. In our own firm, eight of the 18 partners and five of the seven members of the management committee are women,” Linsangan said.
Data from the Department of Labor and Employment show that women have steadily outnumbered men in executive positions in the past several years.
In 2002, the ratio was 1.86 million females to 1.4 million males in supervisory and executive positions, the DOLE said. The trend became even more pronounced in 2006, with the ratio of female managers to male managers becoming 2.257 million to 1.629 million.
By 2007, this ratio had become 2.281 million female managers to 1.677 million male managers.
Joining the Philippines in the list of countries ranking high in women empowerment in the workplace are Russia with 42 percent of senior management positions held by women, Thailand with 38 percent, Poland with 32 percent, and China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Mexico with 31 percent.
The biggest leaps were made by Turkey and Mexico, whose percentages of senior management positions held by women jumped from 17 percent in 2007 to 29 percent in 2009, and from 20 percent in 2007 to 31 percent this year, respectively.
“Mexico is a country that is standing up firmly and constantly for women’s rights and equality. It is known that women need an elevated education level to compete with men in employment, so the Mexican female sector is preparing itself more and more, and the results can be seen with the rise of 10 percentage points in this survey,” said Veronica Galindo, audit partner of Salles Sainz Grant Thornton.
“However, there is still much to do regarding equal salaries compared with men, but I am certain that sooner rather than later, the salary differences will decrease,” she said.
Globally, however, women continue to have a difficult time climbing up the corporate ladder, with only an average of 24 percent of senior management positions held by female executives.
This was the same percentage registered in 2007, which was just a few notches up from the 19-percent figure posted in 2004.
More than a third, or 34 percent, of privately held businesses worldwide did not have any women in senior management.
Countries and territories that remained unreceptive to the concept of women in senior management positions included Japan with only 7 percent, Belgium with 12 percent, Denmark with 13 percent, and India and the Netherlands with 15 percent.
Drops in the percentage of senior management positions held by women were registered by Brazil, from 42 percent in 2007 to 29 percent in 2009, and Hong Kong, from 35 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2009.
By Helen Flores Updated March 13, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – An international study has revealed that Filipino women are better in math than their male counterparts.
The Science Education Institute (SEI) said two studies of the Trends in International Science and Mathematics Study (TIMSS) consistently showed that Filipina students do better in math than their male classmates.
The 2003 TIMSS Philippine Report for Grade 8 Mathematics showed that Filipino female students were “significantly better” than boys, overall and in the items of Number, Algebra, and Data.
The study also showed that in terms of average percent correct score by cognitive domain, Filipina students bested males in items involving “Knowing Facts and Procedures” and “Reasoning” by a difference of four percent and two percent, respectively.
Boys and girls performed equally on items involving “Using Concepts and Solving Routine Problems,” it said.
Male students were better by a difference of one percent in Geometry, are equal in Measurement, but the girls performed better than the boys in Number, Algebra, and Data by a difference of three, four, and two percent, respectively, the study said.
SEI, education-arm of the Department of Science and Technology, said an earlier study by TIMSS showed the same outcome in relation to performance by girls and boys.
In TIMSS-Repeat, which was done in 1999, Filipina students “performed relatively better” than the boys in all areas of mathematics.
“In three content areas and overall performance, Filipino girls did better than Filipino boys,” the TIMSS-Repeat study said.
Filipino girls performed well in Fractions and Number Sense; Data Representation, Analysis and Representation; and Algebra. In Measurement and Geometry, Filipino girls did as well as Filipino boys, the study said.
“This is in contrast to other international studies which show that male students are better in mathematics than females, except in algebra,” the study said.
SEI said last year, 118 science and technology oriented schools from the 16 regions in the Philippines took part in the TIMSS-Advanced which was aimed at gauging the performance of students in the country in relation to advanced science and mathematics.
TIMSS 2003, third in a series of studies, offers a state-of-the-art assessment of student achievement in science and mathematics at the fourth and eighth grade levels.
SEI said data provided by TIMSS are useful for participating countries to reassess their programs in mathematics and science, and to examine and revise existing practices in curricular provision, textbook design, teacher preparation, school organization, and instructional practice.
The TIMSS is an international assessment of the mathematics and science knowledge of fourth- and eighth-grade students around the world.
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A commonly held belief is that Filipino women are a most privileged sector, enjoying the same rights and opportunities as the men. On the contrary, there are many areas in which women are not so privileged. The recent approval of the Magna Carta for Women in the Senate is thus a milestone piece of legislation. A similar bill in the House of Representatives, once joined with the Senate version and passing into law, will remove the discriminatory biases and practices against women.
Sen. Jamby Madrigal, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations, was jubilant over the approval on second reading of Senate Bill No. 1701, also known as the Magna Carta for Women, saying that the “milestone legislation (defends) the human rights of the poor women who have no access to proper health care, who are marginalized and victims of discrimination and abuse.”
The proposed bill had been languishing in the Senate since the 12th Congress, said Madrigal, and, thanks to the “decisive leadership” of Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, it got approved in the 14th Congress. Enrile, she said, “is not afraid to reckon with the various pressure groups opposing this bill.”
Enrile said the bill was “part of Congress’ effort to revise the discriminatory provisions against women in various laws existing in the country.”
These laws include provisions in the Family Code that pertains to a husband’s decision prevailing over the wife’s disagreements involving conjugal property, and in cases of parental authority and legal guardianship over the person and property of a common child. Also to be revised are provisions in the Labor Code and the Revised Penal Code covering night work prohibition for women workers and the Anti-Rape Law which defines marital rape and its penalties.
I don’t know how the House of Representatives will react to amendments of the provision that defines marital rape, and to the Revised Penal Code’s articles on concubinage and adultery, where women can be easily charged with adultery. The Muslim legislators may also have reservations about amendments covering polygamy, early and arranged marriages and unequal inheritance for women in the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.
The bill was sponsored on the floor by Madrigal’s committee. It was authored by Senators Pia Cayetano, Edgardo Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Ramon Revilla Jr., Richard Gordon, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Manny Villar, Loren Legarda, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, principal sponsor of the measure, said that the bill seeks “to boost the government’s commitment to uphold the human rights of women especially small farmers and rural workers, fisher folks, the urban poor, women in the military, migrant workers, indigenous people, Muslim women, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and solo parents.”
The bill further enumerates the rights of marginalized women such as the right to food security and productive resources, housing, decent work, employment, livelihood, credit, capital and technology, education and training, and right to information and social participation. It also provides that the Commission on Human Rights can now oversee and hear complaints of discrimination against women.
A statement from Madrigal’s office said the senator considers the most important aspect of the bill its defining in the law of the meaning of “discrimination,” thus making unlawful all forms of discrimination against women. “Many Filipino women continue to suffer discrimination despite the enactment of pro-women laws, like the International Bill of Rights laid down by the United Nations in its general assembly on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.”
Zubiri said gender equality is always on top of the international agenda. “The approval of this bill will strengthen gender equality and empowerment of women in the Philippines,” he said.
The bicameral conference committee has been meeting to reconcile differences between the Senate and House versions of the measure. Senator Cayetano has warned against attempts to emaciate the bill, saying that a watered-down version of the Magna Carta will render it toothless and ineffective in advancing women’s empowerment and welfare in the country.”
Both Madrigal and Cayetano are wary of Catholic forces which have blocked the passage of the bill since the 12th Congress.
As in the Reproductive Health Bill now pending in Congress, these forces have interpreted the Magna Carta for women as seeking to legalize abortion through various provisions upholding safe motherhood and women’s access to reproductive health information and services.
“Abortion is strictly prohibited under the 1987 Constitution,” said Cayetano. “Legislators will not allow it to be included in the Magna Carta, explicitly or otherwise.”
Cayetano said, “But with respect to contraceptives, which is allowed in some religions but considered taboo in others, I don’t think any religious group should impose its belief on what lawmakers should and should not legislate.
“Moreover, legislators, policymakers and local government units must realize that there are so many barangays across the country where women have little or no access to maternal health care. They do not receive pre-natal care, or give birth while attended to only by a ‘manghihilot’ who does not have the skills to ensure a safe delivery.”
Cayetano said the Philippines has the distinction of having one of the highest Maternal Mortality Rates (MMR) in the Southeast Asia Region.
Citing latest official data, she said the MMR in the Philippines was recorded at 163 maternal deaths per 100,000 births as of 2006. But the country’s target under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to reduce MMR by three-fourths from 1990 to just 52.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 births by the year 2015.” At the current rate, the Philippines will be unable to meet this target.
“Ten to 11 Filipino mothers die each day while giving birth. This will not happen if the public health system is sufficiently able to provide reproductive health services to our people, especially the women.”
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FROM THE STANDS
By Domini M. Torrevillas
Updated February 21, 2009 12:00 AM
Filipinos are known worldwide for their strong family ties and filial love and respect for elders and as staunch defenders and protectors of their women and children. Their respect and care for mothers, wives and children are relatively much more intense and intimate than that of people in any other country.
This admirable trait is deeply embedded in our culture. No law is even necessary to bring about such kind of respect for, as well as care and protection of our women and children. But just to preserve, enhance and support this desirable Filipino culture, and to assure that it will not be eventually set aside and disregarded, our legislators chose to enshrine it in the legislative annals by enacting Republic Act 9262 otherwise known as “Anti Violence against Women and Children Act” in 2004.
Lately, our legislators seem to have gone a step further by drawing up what it considered a “Magna Carta for Women” that on its face looks laudable or even badly needed in this present modernistic and materialistic day and age. Unfortunately on closer scrutiny, the said Magna Carta is turning out to be another insidious attempt to sneak into our statute books some of the toxic provisions of the RH bill. Vigorously campaigning for its approval is an organization known as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Watch Philippines. Working closely with it is the Philippine Legislative Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) the same foreign-funded NGO which is the architect and principal promoter of the still pending RH bill. The backers of the “Magna Carta” betray the hidden agenda behind it.
It is really quite deplorable that these groups where some members of Congress belong are exploiting our own Filipino culture to advance their anti-life and anti-family, pro-abortion-population control agenda under the guise of a bill purportedly empowering women, upholding their dignity, protecting their rights and assuring their equality with men in economic, political, social and cultural life.
Because of their subtly altered form, some unconstitutional, anti-life and anti-family provisions of the Magna Carta went unnoticed, enabling it to breeze through second reading in both Houses. The report is that an appallingly large number of the members of Congress were not completely aware that the versions of the bill in their chamber were already approved on second reading and what remained was the pro-forma approval of the printed version on third reading.
In the Senate, the approval on second reading was reconsidered to accommodate new amendments. But it appears that some of these amendments worsened the objectionable features in the bill and rendered it all the more unconstitutional, anti-life and anti-family. But as expected the bill has also been approved on third reading.
The remaining step in the legislative mill is therefore the reconciliation of the Lower House and the Senate versions of the “Act providing for the Magna Carta of Women” by a Bicameral Conference Committee (BICAM) which will come out with the final version for signing into law. This should be one of those times when the existence of this Committee as some sort of a Third House of Congress further refining the products of both chambers can be appreciated. But again this largely depends on the BICAM’s composition. In this particular bill, most of the BICAM members designated by both chambers are also listed as “members” of the PLCPD. So they will expectedly insist on their “pet” provisions which are similar to the objectionable portions of the RH bill but in subtler more appealing form because it is supposedly pro-women.
Indeed one of the Senate BICAM members and principal sponsor of the Magna Carta, Senator Pia Cayetano has already come out with a press release warning that the BICAM should not “emaciate” the said bill. Cayetano insists that there is nothing in the bill which would allow abortion as abortion remains illegal under the 1987 Constitution. Yet in almost the same breadth she is batting for the use of contraceptives by women for the “reproductive health” citing in the process the high maternal mortality rate among Filipino women especially the poor. Obviously Cayetano (Pia) is using the same fallacious and deceptive argument advanced by the proponents of the RH bill. She still refuses to see that the “reproductive health care services” she is promoting that allows the use of contraceptives may cause abortion or cancer among women; and that “reproductive health” is neither about reproduction or health as it prevents or terminates pregnancy and may lead to death due to breast, cervical or liver cancer according to the studies conducted by WHO itself.
In the Lower House, Congressman Edcel Lagman, the principal sponsor of the RH bill is also the staunch backer of the Magna Carta. According to highly reliable sources Lagman suggested at a pre BICAM meeting the bill’s provisions be anchored solely on their adherence to the CEDAW and other international instruments which are in direct collision with our Charter and existing laws. Lagman also reportedly suggested the retention of provisions formally objected to by the Episcopal Commission of Family and Life and the CBCP Office on Women. He also reportedly wants to remove the word “ethical” qualifying the family planning methods made available in the bill as one of the comprehensive health services while insisting on the retention of “management of abortion complications” obviously to bring them fully in line with his RH bill.
The BICAM should therefore be more careful and should not rush the drafting of the final version of this bill just to have a photo-op for its signing on Women’s day celebration this coming March. There may not even be any signing at all if the final version is adopted in similar fashion as the versions of the Upper and Lower Houses; or if there will be a signing, its unconstitutional portion will just be invalidated by the Supreme Court.
Note: Books containing compilation of my articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now available. Call tel. 7249445.
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A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away)
By Jose C. Sison
Updated February 20, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines—Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a measure that seeks to protect the rights of Filipino women.
Eighteen senators voted to pass Senate Bill 2396, also known as the Magna Carta of Women.
Senator Maria Ana Consuelo Madrigal, head of the committee on youth, women and family relations, said the bill’s passage is in compliance with the county’s international obligation “to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and to provide a comprehensive definition of discrimination against women in our national law.”
“This is a milestone legislation in defending the human rights of the poor women, who have no access to proper healthcare, of those who are marginalized and victims of discrimination and abuse,” Madrigal said in a statement.
She expressed hope that the measure would be signed into law in time for the celebration of Women’s Day on March 8.
“This is a very precious bill because it guarantees the basic rights if women and provides them with necessary protection against discrimination and abuse,” the senator further said.