For Malaya and Alon
I had this boyfriend years ago. We fell in love and despite the inevitable shortness of it all, I was grateful for the fall. We enjoyed the roads, the mountains, and the seas — and while being lost in between, we promised we would name our future children Malaya and Alon.
But this is not about him. Here are words meant for Malaya and Alon, whose existence will never come into reality because I decided not to bear a child.
This is not a novel idea. Some women before me have also realized that womanhood will never be defined by motherhood. This thought has been on my mind for a decade now and like any other person, my decisions change from time to time. Upon seeing cute babies, I marvel at the thought of being a mom and making them happy. On the other hand, I feel a different kind of liberation upon knowing I have choices.
Motherhood is a noble responsibility. My mother is a clear example of the limitless persistence that mothers have, and it will always amaze me how she is always ready. She is always ready to help us, to protect us, to support us, and to understand us—no matter how much we get crazy and immature sometimes. My bravery comes from her own bravery. I look up to her whenever I feel demotivated. I tell myself that quitting is not an option because my mother never quits.
However, as I see her and other mothers around me, I know that I can never be the same. I know that a lot of my friends want to be mothers. This would sound like a selfish idea, but my realization does not in any way make me less of a person. This does not also mean that I hate children. I love them, and I love seeing them giggle, play, and sleep. Someday, when I’m old and looking at the sea all alone, I would probably be sad that there would be no children giggling, laughing, and playing around me. But that is not the point.
I believe that the decision not to have a child contains some degree of strength. I do not want to bring another human being into this world when I know I can’t take care enough of myself, when I know that the world will not properly provide the protection and support he/she deserves. I do not want to bring another human being into this world of injustices, where leaders do not solve our climate crisis, and in this nation where children’s deaths are deemed “collateral damage.”
There is more to womanhood than being a mother. We can take care of dogs; focus on our careers; collect ideas, speak of them, or write them down; take care of our cousins and nieces; travel the world; look at others’ families—and still feel complete.
I remember the night when I decided that I do not want to bear a child. I cried, holding my pillow to silence my sobs, afraid that I might wake up my parents. Nothing was clear in my mind, yet deep down, I was saying goodbye to Malaya and Alon. I was saying goodbye to the images of cute little smiles and colorful socks, to the path of motherhood. And as I imagined myself walking far from that road, I felt calm. I felt a different sense of clarity and renewed strength. It was good knowing that you have the power not to follow the steps society dictates on how you should live: be proper, be prim, study hard, get a job, marry, have a baby, lead a decent and simple life, follow your husband, and die silently. It was a sudden, sheer moment of happiness realizing that the shackles this society imposes on us women were being erased, burned down, and destroyed.
I am aware that not everyone has a choice, especially in this country. We have sisters on the streets, mountains, provinces, and cities who have it much worse. We have sisters, who unlike me, are looking and praying for a child. We have sisters whose lives have been lived differently because of the impositions of their family. We have sisters who are consistently facing the dangers of discrimination and harassment. We have sisters who are jailed, abused, and, worse, killed.
But we all know that persistence cannot be detached from the narratives of women. We speak of power when we tell the world that patriarchy is destructive and that these deaths will never be justified. We speak of resistance when we take care of each other and hold arms while we move forward.
This is a eulogy for Alon and Malaya and also an ode to women. So let me end this piece with a short poem:
Sa harap ng Krus at ng bandila
Itinaas ang kamao: Kasing tayog ng
Langit, kasing bigat ng mundo.
Sa kabila ng putok ng mga baril at iyak ng mga Anak
Tumingin ka sa akin, ako sa iyo
Na walang bibitaw
Hangga’t may isa na hindi malaya
Na ang paglaban at pagsinta ay hindi maiwawaksi
Ng mga makapangyarihan o ng mga pinuno na panandalian
Sapagkat ang katapangan na taglay ng mga kababaihan ay
* * *
Margioleh G. Alonzo is a 24-year-old teacher from Bataan. She hopes to be a lawyer someday.
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