At Large

Six reasons for ‘SSS’

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Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, “Manong Johnny” to all those presuming to cover and follow the political scene, has railed against the inclusion of a reference to “safe and satisfying sex” in the RH bill. (As I write this, both the House of Representatives and the Senate have yet to pass the measure, but banning some last-minute “act of God” and desperate recourse from our bishops, that event is expected to come to pass.)

I don’t know what Manong Johnny has against safe and satisfying sex, but I can only beg him to consider the alternative: unsafe and unsatisfying sex. Who would want that? Certainly not our virile oldest senator!

Anyway, allow me to quote a young journalist, freelance writer and website editrix (SexandSensibilities.com) Anna Santos (take a bow!) to explain to Manong Johnny and others of his ilk “why every woman has a right to a safe and satisfying sex life.” As outlined in her “SASsy Six Series” of blog posts, these are Anna’s reasons:

One: We have a brain.

Two: We can tell the difference between fornicating and making love. We should have access to information and be educated on how to be safe from STIs (sexually transmitted infections) if we freely choose to engage in either activity.

Three: We have a heart.

Four: We can freely give love and show love. We should feel secure in doing so without the fear of mistimed pregnancy or other relationship complications.

Five: We were created with a clitoris.

Six: The clitoris has one—and only one—purpose, to give pleasure. ’Nuff said.

* * *

A FRIEND of mine says that ever since the Catholic bishops stepped up their opposition to the RH bill, she has stopped going to Sunday Mass “because I might just end up sinning more if I hear another word said against the RH bill.” Indeed, she says, she has lost count of the number of times she walked out of church during the homily when the priest would start fulminating against the measure.

This reminds me of some relatives in the United States who have likewise stopped going to Sunday Mass because they felt like retching every time the priest began to preach against President Barack Obama, using the “peg” of abortion to denounce the then presidential candidate (in the campaign against John McCain), and once again during Obama’s campaign for reelection (against Mitt Romney).

Now, I’m not exactly the ideal person to be commenting on some people’s loss of enthusiasm for church-going (my record being uhmmm, somewhat spotty). But I can empathize.

If someone is keeping track of “winners” and “losers” over this protracted, bitter and baleful battle over reproductive rights, then count in the losing column—along with Enrile, Tito Sotto, Ralph Recto, their cohorts among the “show biz” senators, and the muddle-headed antis in the House—the Roman Catholic hierarchy and their rabid followers.

I am still a Catholic, and do believe in the central tenets of my faith, and I do still care about where the local Church is headed. But in waging battle against the forces of modernity and rationality, not to mention the rights of women and children, the bishops have taken the wrong fork in the road.

* * *

I HAVE never believed that the battle to secure our reproductive health and rights was about Catholicism, or the quality of our belief systems.

It was about securing the right of women—and men and youth—to access information, services and commodities to help them make responsible decisions about their lives and to actualize those decisions.

It was about respecting the right of individuals to—yes, Manong Johnny—safe and satisfying sex, and giving them the means to achieve those ends without worrying about the wherewithal to secure those means, or the condemnation of people who think as promiscuous anyone having more sex than they do.

But the bishops turned the debate into one over faith, and as a Catholic I could not but recoil from this judgment based on whether or not I favored the use of contraception (which I did use early in my “reproductive career”). Am I a bad Catholic, a good Catholic or merely a “Catholic out of convenience”? That, may I tell the good bishops, is nobody’s business but mine and my God’s.

And judging from the harsh, judgmental tone of many bishops’ declarations on the RH bill, may I say that their God is so different from the God of compassion, understanding and forgiveness that I know and embrace.

* * *

ON QUITE another topic, for gift-giving and gracing of coffee tables, may I suggest the book “Lipa: A Jewel of a City,” written by

Visitacion “Chit” de la Torre.

The volume contains a capsule history of Lipa, which grew out of a settlement of migrants fleeing the wrath of Taal Volcano, then prospered with the cultivation of coffee trees and the town’s dominance of the coffee trade. This was when the town prospered, enabling wealthy families to send their children to be educated in Manila and even abroad, and unwittingly sowing the seeds of the revolution against Spain when many of these young folk took up the cause of liberation.

Replete with photos of historical events and personages, as well as of prominent families and accomplished residents, the book traces the growth of Lipa even after the collapse of the coffee industry and its emergence as a commercial, social, educational and even religious center of Batangas.

Lipa is best-known perhaps, as the bailiwick of Vilma Santos Recto, who put her show biz fame to good use as a three-term mayor of the capital city and now as governor of Batangas province. But as the book amply demonstrates, this “Jewel of a City” boasts as well of a storied history and many fine families proud and happy to call Lipa their home. (Those interested may e-mail the author at chitdelatorre@yahoo.com.)

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