THE celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month this year has been more poignant because of the crossroads we have to take as Filipinos elect a new president on May 9, 2022.
Only one woman is running for the highest office — Vice President Leni Robredo — against seven men, and past surveys would say Bongbong Marcos, the son of dictator Ferdinand Marcos who was ousted from office by the 1986 People Power Revolution, is the frontrunner.
However, the tide has turned and the momentum has shifted in favor of Leni Robredo as she and running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan take their campaign to different parts of the Philippines and was received by 45,000 to 70,000 enthusiastic kababayans in towns and cities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
These rallies are streamed online and so we have been witnesses to this astounding show of support for Robredo who have given so much hope for Filipinos who have been fighting for truth, justice and honest government.
However, in the exchange of comments, opinions and perspectives among Filipinos from different parts of the world, I read one comment among many kababayans — “Babae lang” [She’s just a woman] si Leni, they would declare. “We need a leader who is strong, who can stand up to world leaders and the enemies of the Philippines,” they would emphatically argue.
“Babae lang?” That is a prejudice we all know is painfully real, despite the fact that all of us would not be here on earth without our mothers who endured the difficulty and excruciating pain of pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing, while at the same time having to work and still do household chores.
“Babae lang?” Even as women around the world have proven to be transformative forces in politics, science and technology, medicine, the academe,business, the arts and culture, public service, the military, faith-building and character formation.
Despite this, however, women are still deemed as “less than” by many. They are paid less than men for the same job that they do. Men are also given more opportunities to go up the corporate ladder than their women counterparts.
The same is very true in the Philippines. Why is this so? Why do we still have deep-seated prejudice against women, especially against strong high-achieving women?
Let me share with you this piece beautifully written and posted on Facebook by Ian Layugan and I hope it will help us discern better on our belief systems and prejudices against women as we make a very consequential decision in deciding who to vote for in the coming May 9, 2022 elections:
Sara cut her hair into a boyish bob, rides motorcycles, and shows off her tattoo. Astig, ‘di ba? These all fit into the patriarchal narrative. But when a woman removes her heels and gets angkas as a ride to a destination, suddenly it’s all for show.
The way we have been viewing our women are always with the male gaze. Our patriarchal upbringing. We don’t allow our women to embrace their own womanness to navigate through their personal and professional lives. Dapat may ingredient, dapat may checklist.
Leni’s campaign is the plight of every woman in this country. Nakakapanlumo. Nakakapagod. Discriminated, bullied, underestimated, and prejudiced on account of dahil babae.
Vico Sotto was never mocked for overachieving. Sandro Marcos was applauded for his education. Duterte gets away for showing simplicity by having a cup of rice as a birthday cake.
Yet: Leni was always underappreciated for all her efforts. Her daughters always get thrown under the bus despite their advocacies and education, and Leni is lugaw.
Kapatid, mukhang hindi talaga si Leni ang ayaw mo. Sadyang mababa talaga ang tingin natin sa babae. Hindi na iyong kandidato ang kaso dito; iyong pagtanaw natin sa kababaihan at sa kanilang kayang gawin.
Check your biases. We’ve been shunning women leadership when many problems we have in this world are created by men to begin with.
We seem to choose our biases over the welfare of our country. This is not about Leni anymore. Imagine all the women leaders who could have turned our lives around, but were not given a chance on account of sex.
Change the narrative on women leadership. We have to confront socio-cultural drivers of gender inequality. Build discussions that topple harmful gender norms in whatever level they may be. And uphold each woman’s agency.
Hindi dahil sa ugali at trabaho nila ang problema.
Ang problema, ayaw mo silang iboto—
DAHIL BABAE SILA.
BABAE LANG SILA? Babae lang tayo?
What is in your heart? I hope we truly learn to look at women for who we are, for what we can contribute to society with the strengths that we have.
Let us remove all prejudices because LENI is NOT the lesser of two evils. Leni is in fact, the BEST candidate for president our nation needs in this critical moment in our history.
Leni Robredo has the character, integrity, educational attainment, exemplary record in civil service as a legislator and vice president, and has lifelong experience as a public servant giving legal assistance to the poor and marginalized people of the country as a lawyer.
After the death of her husband, DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo in 2012, Leni raised her three daughters singlehandedly and they all excelled in their respective fields of calling, graduated from prestigious schools as scholars and with honors. They have been as grounded as their mother who raised them, passed on to them the value of faith, strength, hard work, pursuit of excellence, honesty and integrity, living a simple frugal life, offering one’s self in the service of people in need.
Leni may not have the “pa-macho” stance, or bullish talk, or the arrogant payabang projection of men who, by the way, have caused our country to spiral downward because of their record of abuses of power and yielding to the enemies like China.
Leni’s power is emanating from the pureness of her heart and the fire in her spirit to abide by the Constitution, follow the rule of law, to truly serve the Filipino people. She has more testicular fortitude than most men ganging up against her because she has the strength of restraint in saying NO to corruption to enrich her self with the power she is entrusted with.
Leni has time and again warned that if elected president, she will require transparency and accountability from all people in government, and would create a participative platform so that all citizens will have a voice in the way the government handles and spend taxpayers’ money.
Leni is fighting for us all, Filipino people and vows to work hard to give us a clean and honest government, to free us from chronic corruption that has plagued our country for so long. She is doing this by the strength of her example and faithfulness to her vow as a public servant.
Ever wonder why the Trapos and thieves are so afraid and are in “unity” as a team to destroy her and to do dirty tactics so she won’t win?
The last man standing in this election is and will be a woman. She is Leni Robredo.
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989. She was a news anchor, TV host and radio commentator and public service host for ABS- CBN and DZMM. She is now working on her advocacies independently, serving the Filipino audience using different media platforms. You may contact her through email at email@example.com, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos. Also on Twitter, Instagram: Gel Santos Relos