Some unplanned sex and marriages took place between relatives in the old days.
Back then, families were very close. They spent vacations together, or those from the province stayed in relatives’ homes in Manila while studying.
In my own family, many first cousins married each other at 16 or 17. And younger relatives, I remember, would teasingly squeal that it was because lola and lolo were caught red handed in bed!
But not all encounters were pleasant. One 60-year-old informant remembers her male cousin taking her to the garden and forcing on her a hot, hard, lips-to-lips kiss and fondling her breasts. She felt violated. And she was so afraid she would become pregnant. She never told the old people because she knew that, no matter what, it was she who would be blamed.
“I had an uncle who would always ask us nieces for a kiss,” said another informant. “He would place an arm over your shoulder and say, ‘Naku, Miss Philippines, how are you?’ And somehow it gave you the creeps. I couldn’t tell my mother about it, who would just say I was malicious since nothing really happened.
“I think mothers should tell their young daughters that encounters with an older relative or family friend that made them feel uncomfortable should be reported. And that the child should be told how to deal with it.”
“My sister and I were living temporarily in my lola’s big house in Dimasalang,” related one interviewee, “because my mother was having one child after another. I loved pedaling around the many rooms on my tricycle. I was 4. We had no yaya, but needed someone to take us to and from school.
“Our father’s jobless first cousin was hired for the job. He was in his 20s. One day I was playing on the bed when he pinned me down. He lay on top of me and I could feel his organ trying to penetrate me. I don’t know if he succeeded because it only took a few minutes. The door was ajar, but the maids outside didn’t notice anything because they were listening intently to a soap opera on the radio.
“The molestation went on for years till I was 8 years old, and stopped when a real yaya was assigned to us. The young uncle then shifted his attentions to the yaya, who got pregnant so he married her. I was having a lot of bad dreams about it, but I didn’t tell my parents till I was 21. My mother didn’t believe me. She said I was just hallucinating. But my father did.”
The most difficult cases are when the mother does not support the child. The child feels that her only refuge has abandoned her. Some victims of abuse ended up promiscuous or homosexual and they always ask, will I ever be normal again? Healing takes a long time. But you know that it has happened when the victim can talk freely about it.
A UN study released in 2009 showed that, statistically, one in every three women has been molested or abused as a child by a relative, a family friend or (horrors!) even a father.
To illustrate: In an intimate local meeting of 10 guidance counselors who were asked if they had such an experience, six raised their hands. One, at 7 years old by a teenage neighbor, another at 14 (and also her sister) by a seaman father who dropped anchor in Manila only twice a year.
Another at 12, by a semi-invalid father who was mostly in a wheelchair. (Some fathers think they own their daughters, and some mothers feel all right about the daughter being a stand-in for her, better than some mistress.) So the father, probably feeling that he was getting impotent, took liberties with the child when the mother was out.
At night, mother, father and young daughter slept in that order on the same bed. The mother liked watching TV and faced the other way while the father freely did with his child what he wished under the sheets.
A father’s right
Another girl talked about a tito and his son abusing her during family reunions when she was a child. The uncle would tell her to go with them to one of the rooms to lie down and take a siesta on the bed. Then they would do her one after the other. No wonder the tito and his son were giving her so many gifts and were so kind to her. Many macho men feel it’s a father’s right to teach his son sex that way, never mind what girl.
Now grown up, the girl is a messed-up creature. She has blocked off the memory and can’t remember anything! But sex revolts her (nandidiri siya). Her boyfriend finds her hard to handle and they finally broke up.
One victim was abused by her father every time she went home to the province. She told her mother about it, who told her, “Tanggapin mo na lang.” Sometimes the wife does not confront the husband out of fear. He might deny it and hurt her. Or he may leave when he is the family’s only means of support. When this mother confronted the father, he said “Sorry!” and that was that. No wonder many victims of incest think that sexual intercourse with the father is just normal.
There is now a three-generation gap between today’s generation and mine, when one’s father told us, “Boys will take advantage of you. All they want is one thing and once they get it they will never respect you.” It made us feel that all males had only an animal instinct, and that girls were powerless against them.
Our parents fervently espoused that belief and the culture supported it. Adults were very suspicious and malicious. They thought daughters were always up to something with some boy, and to protect theirs from such temptations, they had to be unreasonably vigilant.
One of the by-products was that it was very difficult for young people to procure any information about sex. There was no literature on it, and doctors’ daughters resorted to clambering up cabinets for old medical books only to find all kinds of venereal diseases in them, but still nothing about sex.
“I knew lola just wanted to protect me,” said an interviewee. “She was a judge and felt that women were always lugi, on the losing end. I think she didn’t want me to get married. I tried to search our Grolier’s Encyclopoedia, but everything on sex had been removed by my grandmother.”
In the ’80s, there were easier ways for young people to obtain sexual information. There was already mass media. Hugh Hefner was the kids’ foremost educator. “We played hide-and-seek and found Playboy (and also Penthouse and Hustler) magazines under our parents’ bed or under their mattress.
“Playboy showed scantily clad models in alluring poses, but still with their legs demurely together. In Penthouse their legs were open and the view was frontal. Hustler was downright porn.”
“When my parents were abroad, I found all kinds of steamy reading matter in their closet like ‘Fifty Shades of Gray,’” said one girl. “Otherwise their closet was always locked. But they gave me the key because I had to get the salary of the help from a drawer in it. That’s how I discovered their stash.”
“In the coed school where I studied,” revealed another girl, “there was a locker inspection by the teacher. If she found Playboy, Penthouse or Hustler magazines in the boys’ lockers she would confiscate them. Then she would give them to me for safekeeping. Sometimes there were only models in swimsuits, but if the magazines contained something bolder they were hidden in folders or brown envelopes.
“However, the boys would manage to whisper to me, please pass on this issue to one of the boys because it’s his turn to take it home tonight. And I would.
“Of course every classmate who had read anything ‘shocking’ would quickly pass the information on. Like Anne Rice (known for her vampire movies) also had a very erotic novel called ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ Sydney Sheldon and Harold Robbins, too, wrote a lot of steamy stuff. Even Jingle Magazine had green jokes which we always read.”
One girl learned about sex from their maid’s copies of Abante, which contained a lot of stories of scandal and rape. “It was difficult to read Tagalog. I had to look up the meaning of words like hinalay… ”
Then there were the ubiquitous Betamax tapes to learn from. “We watched them in our friend M’s house,” my informant said. “We would first wait until the elevator brought down her mom. Then we would go to the master’s bedroom and replace the Betamax reel M’s mom was watching with our own. But after seeing those vulgar pornographic scenes, we would say ‘Yuck, ang pangit, who would want to do that!”
Another young girl related that when she was 7 she and her brother habitually watched tapes of cartoons in his room. Once she put on a tape marked ‘Lion King’ and it turned out to be porn. She kept asking him what they were doing, so he told her. She thought it was such a frightening way to get pregnant, and asked him if there was any other way and he said, test tube! Later she found out her cousins and titos were exchanging those terrible tapes.
“Whenever there was a break because the professor was absent,” related a colegiala, “someone would set up the class projector and put on the pornographic VCD of a Japanese animé called hentai. We would all watch it. Actually you can even watch it now on a cell phone. The alternative to hentai was ‘American Pie’ which was R-18. We were all below 18.”