Opinion: Paano na si Dolly?

There’s a lot to be said about education in the Philippines. We have the rising tuition fee, competitive education, K to 12 benefits, the lack of teacher incentives and teachers in general… valid and very concrete concerns which have echoing repercussions on the national academic community. But there are also other concerns that are more subtle but no less present and damning.

I’m talking about Dolly. More accurately, I’m talking about how Dolly was talked about.

“Who’s Dolly?” you may ask. It’s not Dolly Parton, who was the first person  to come into my mind. It’s Dolly Montero, a side character in Amado V. Hernandez’ acclaimed novel Mga Ibong Mandaragit (1969), a reflectionist and socially critical work literally following the likes of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.[1] She’s the liberal, the person of questionable decisions, the embodiment of the Filipino’s susceptibility to Western influences. And this characterization of her is perfectly acceptable; most critics agree that she was written not only as a developmental tool but as an opposition to the character Puri, a wholesome provincial girl who is also a romantic interest of the lead character Mando Plaridel.

But it’s not her author-based characterization that’s the problem; it’s the lack of comprehensive discussion on the modern implications of her decisions and actions. It’s all well and good to criticize her “fickleness” –for falling in love and having sex with at least three men of varying political loyalties– in accordance with the zeitgeist of that time, but stressing how shameful it is, even in the modern age, irritates me. Am I making sense? In high school, when we discussed how Dolly had an abortion, our teacher illustrated how abortion was very un-Filipina, un-Catholic and basically inconceivable. She mentioned how impure and unadmirable of Dolly it was to lose her “virginity” (nevermind that Mando Plaridel could have spawned several children the way he was going), and it was impressed on us to follow Puri’s way, behaving cleanly and intelligently in some respects. It maddens me how most discussions on non-mainstream practices tend to go on this antagonistic campaign route.

…because discussions like these harm everyone, not just the Dolly Monteros already living free in the world. Here are two reasons why:

 

(1) It promotes a very narrow “Filipina ideal”.

The ideal Filipina is Puri, and the ideal characteristics are hers: patience and fidelity (to an unsure love, thanks Mando Plaridel), simplicity and familial loyalty with a side of incest (have I mentioned that Puri and Mando were first cousins?). But there I was, in my 16 year old glory, admiring how Dolly Montero was assertive and aggressive, willing to fight and bitch her way through life (one memorable time against Puri, for Mando’s affection and for general posturing) while Puri acted impassive on her pedestal. [2]

And a similar tangent occurred in our recent Psych 10 class. It’s not a personal story, so I suppose I could share it blindly with impunity. The gist of it is that there was once a college student who had multiple abortions because of her so-said constant need for romantic affiliation. And while our prof probably tried to be as impartial as she could be, she still wasn’t objective. Yes, it’s only natural for her to color her discussion with bias; only it was painfully clear that she disproved of that girl’s dependency on men, and of her repeated choice of aborting the child.

So the point is this: even someone intelligent and open-minded would be forced to curb her own impulses and stifle her preferences in order to escape forms of persecution and discrimination. We students and children internalize more than just what was said outright. It’s so dangerously limiting, this reinforcement of the ideal Filipina.

 

(2) It creates misconceptions on important issues and mechanisms.

The details of the discussions also worry me; even mentions of contraceptives in Bio 22 lec create this harm–

In discussing contraceptives or abortion or whatever in university level discussions, there is always the implication to women that if you use these measures, you’ll end up barren. And that infuriates me. I don’t want to spout statistics in a discourse like this, but somehow I feel like I have to. The slant the instructors take most often ignores the substantial benefits of various contraceptives and instead focuses on quite singular cases of failure. I’m not saying these negatives don’t exist. They do.

What I’m saying is that it’s once again limiting our generation, this time by limiting information. Normally people would research the hell out of something they don’t understand, but in cases such as this, why should they? One, it’s been implied by an authority –the instructors, the lecturer– that’s it’s inadvisable (even though the basis is probably non-scientific and more on bias). Second, the social limitation discussed earlier persists. No one’s going to talk about sex or contraceptives. It’s all very vague to you, so there’s the naivete and ignorance that can be easily overridden by persuasion, impulsiveness or misconception. –on a side note, I’ve heard from some of my friends that they don’t talk about sex with their parents or guardians or siblings. And I’m so curious about it, because who are they talking to? If nothing else I hope they have access to reliable written or electronic resources.

It’s information deterrence and insufficiency like this that leads to pregnant women and panicking men.

 

Am I suggesting a course of action? No, not yet. I have no idea what to do about the aspiring Dolly Monteros in the world, or the Puri types who fill their roles by rote and not by passion.

But at least I got this off my mind. [As I cry for more comprehensive, less biased discussion on socially sensitive issues in “progressive” Philippine colleges]. It’s been bothering me for ages.

 

[1] Read this book. I don’t enjoy many Filipino works, mainly because the language is too difficult for me to decipher, but this novel was worth the pain of searching word definitions. I enjoyed it even more than Jose Rizal’s works because it came off as more relatable and less heavy and infuriating on the political issues. 

[2] This whole thing might be due to the fact that for a short skit in high school, I played Dolly opposite Puri in the face-off scene. And, okay, I may have internalized too much.

 

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I want to blog about my weekend during my sister’s graduation

 

and the stress of classes,

and basically my first year in college as it ends

 

but this came out first. Sigh.

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