Schooled by a schoolgirl
Let’s start things off with this story about a Grade 1 student named Ayesha Agura shared by her elder sister Dianne. Ayesha is being guided by Dianne through her “blended learning” experience in this time of quarantines and remote learning.
One time, Dianne shared in a post, she found that while she had stepped away from her sister’s side, Ayesha had answered portions of her worksheet by herself. In one page, students were instructed to encircle illustrations of toys meant for girls, and enclose in boxes toys meant for boys. Ayesha had encircled and boxed all the choices.
Asked to explain, Ayesha said “Ate, ang laruan, laruan kasi. Pwede naman lahat ’yan sa babae at sa lalake eh. Ako nga ’di ba naglalaro naman ng kotse-kotsehan at dinosaur, lalaki ba ako? ’Di ba hindi naman? Edi pwede ’to sa babae. Parang damit Ate ’di ba? Pag ang lalaki nagdamit ng dress, hindi naman bakla agad?…”
(Ate, a toy is a toy. Everything is fit for a girl or a boy. I play with cars and dinosaurs, does that make me a boy? It doesn’t. So this is fit for a girl. It’s like a dress, isn’t it, Ate? If a boy wears a dress, that doesn’t make him gay at once, does it?)
Aside from teaching her teacher (or whoever prepared the module) a thing or two about gender parity and stereotypes, Ayesha also has a lot to teach other public figures, including Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. who recently, in the guise of dishing out “advice,” kicked a hornet’s nest by threatening and red-tagging, in a roundabout way, assertive, progressive-minded women who were somehow linked to anti-government groups.
Parlade, who is the spokesperson of the government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, singled out young actor Liza Soberano for appearing in an online forum sponsored by Gabriela Youth. The forum centered on violence and prejudice against women and featured Soberano recounting how, as a young woman living in the prevailing misogynistic ethos, she was constantly filled with fear and apprehension.
Gabriela Youth is a wing of Gabriela which is a women’s rights organization that currently holds a party list seat in the House of Representatives. Despite its being a legal above-ground political organization, Gabriela has found itself among the groups Parlade and his group have “red-tagged” or claimed to have links to the local Communist Party and its armed faction the New People’s Army.
With regard to Soberano, Parlade said, obviously with tongue in cheek, that the young star “is not an NPA” because “she was merely advocating women’s rights.” Still, the general, while insisting he was not red-tagging the actor, advised Soberano to cut her ties with Gabriela Youth. “Is she an NPA?” Parlade asked rhetorically. “No, of course not. Not yet. So let’s help educate her and other celebrity targets of Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Makibaka), the underground mass organization hiding under Gabriela Women’s Party.”
The general then advised Soberano that “there’s still a chance to abdicate [sic] that group. If you don’t, you will suffer the same fate as Josephine Anne Lapira,” a UP Manila student who died in 2017 in a clash between the army and the NPA and who Parlade claimed had accused comrades in her NPA unit of sexual abuse.
He then issued a similar warning to 2018 Miss Universe Catriona Gray, who has lately been making social media waves with her political opinions. Parlade even roped in the sister of another actor, Angel Locsin, who is likewise known for her activism, one Ella Colmenares, who he said had joined the NPA in Quezon.
Even a stranger to these public figures, man or woman, would sense much more than a whiff of a threat against Soberano, Gray, and Locsin. Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas described Parlade’s statement as “starkly ironic,” because by saying that Soberano is “not yet an NPA,” he is, said Brosas, “maliciously associating the actress with the armed movement when what she did in the youth forum was to only speak up for the victims of gender-based violence and abuse.”
Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan also came to the defense of Soberano and Gray. “Don’t use your power as a military general to scare and threaten these women,” warned Hontiveros. “Your threats and harassment are unacceptable. By silencing them, you are excusing violence, rape, and abuse that are experienced by so many Filipinos.”
Indeed, as lawyer Wilfredo Garrido pointed out in a Facebook post, Parlade’s logic “makes almost everyone a communist, not just women in general, but every father, mother, daughter, sister, brother. Because who will disagree with Liza’s and Catriona’s advocacies? No one, unless you are a misogynist and a pervert.”
General Parlade, take a leaf from Ayesha Agura, who even at her tender age already knows far more than you about gender fairness and awareness.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.