“Kasumpa-sumpa ang maging Pilipino sa panahong ito…”

In the library of Philippine feminist works, there is a poem that reads:

Kasumpa-sumpa
ang maging babae sa panahong ito:
Depinisyong pamana
ng nakaraa’t kasalukuyan…
Anong pag-ibig o pagpapakasakit?
Anong paglilingkod o pagtitiis?
Ikaw ang pundiya ng karsonilyo,
ang kurbata, maging ang burda sa panyo’t kamiseta.
Susukatin ang ganda mo sa kama,
ang talino sa pagkita ng pera.
Kumikita ang beer at sine,
nagdidildil ka ng pills…

Ruth E. S. Mabanglo’s “Ang Maging Babae” captures the frustrations of an oppressed identity. And in times like these –with an administration that boasts of crucifying the opposition, a legislature that’s scrambling to legalize discrimination, and a people that prefers alternative facts to reason– it is easy to replace “woman” with “Filipino”.

Kasumpa-sumpa
ang maging Pilipino sa panahong ito:
Depinisyong pamana
ng nakaraa’t kasalukuyan…

There is a long list of things to cry about. There are the small things –the culture of spitting in public, our casual disregard of pedestrian lanes, our morbid fascination with rags-to-riches love stories– and the bigger issues too, from our lack of efficient and humane public transportation, the corruption in our government, to the death of quality education and information.

Yet despair does nothing but hurt; even Mabanglo’s closing lines suggest this. “Tunay, ang maging babae sa panahong ito’y magiging kasumpa-sumpa lalo / Kung di babalikwas ang lahat, / matiim na magmumuni’t magsusuri…”

We can bear to suffer now to work for a future that would be both better and more free.

A contemporary of Mabanglo, Lilia Quindoza Santiago, wrote a poem in response. Her poem “Isang Tugon kay Elynia: Ang Pagiging Babae” begins:

Ayaw kong isumpa ang pagiging babae
Sa panahong ito, kabarong makata
Kahit pa sugatan ang lahat ng sulok
Ng puso ko’t kaluluwa.
Ayaw kong isuko and kayariang
Ako rin ang bumubuo.
Di ko ipamimigay
Ang mumunting butil ng diwang
Ako rin ang bumubuhay.

Quindoza Santiago concedes the truth to the suffering –but the suffering becomes true only when we cease to defend our identity. We suffer only when the cause is wilfully surrendered.

She goes on to expound on the virtues of a woman, and her potential. “Ang pagkababae’y marami pang kahulugan / Bukod sa pagtutol sa kostumbre’t kaugalian / Ang pagiging babae’y pagkatha / ng mga tulang di pa nalilikha.”

It’s a reminder for any of the oppressed to keep fighting for the ownership of identity. As a Filipino, this means recognizing our obligations to both our ancestors, to ourselves and to our children. We have to keep the dream and spirit alive.

As both women and Filipinos, we need to shake off our learned cynism (or ignorance) in exchange for our own potential. While there’s not much in the world that inspires confidence, the responsibility to move the fight forward, and to keep the morale high, is on those of us who have the privilege to do so.

Ayaw kong isumpa ang pagiging Pilipino
Sa panahong ito, kabarong makata
Kahit pa sugatan ang lahat ng sulok
Ng puso ko’t kaluluwa.

Featured Image: The Making of the Filipino Flag by Fernando Amorsolo

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