Women on the shelves
I’ve noticed that many women with foreign boyfriends in the Philippines submit to certain requirements: They should be dressed in skimpy outfits and covered in heavy makeup. And they should be weak, simple-minded, predictable, passive and agreeable. As though only by meeting these requirements can they be loved, if love is what they’re after.
In an isawan a while ago, a couple arrived—a local woman and, from his accent, an American man. She was wearing a sando and leggings and rubber shoes; he was topless, sweaty and tattooed. Both looked sporty, and the way they presented themselves suggested that they’d been exercising. Jogging, in particular.
I’m addicted to people-watching, so I studied the woman. Hair in pigtails. Dangling earrings (leaves hanging on the stem). Bluish eye shadow and heavy lining. While I was wondering about the impossible relationship between her makeup and jogging in this tropical weather, he left her in the clouds of smoke and went to the other side of the street. The task of waiting for their BBQ order fell on her.
For a better view of them, I adjusted my position and went behind her. Her head kept moving, following his trail as if he’d get lost, though his movements were full of certainty.
It went on like that—me watching them, her watching him—for some time, until the vendor handed her the BBQ. He came back and they left together—he with his tattoos and she with her melting makeup, both of them quite young, early- to mid-twenties, and I wondered if they had sex.
I wondered if, after present conditions and requisites had successfully made her a commodity, he would still take her entirely. Or if, in the end, he would be like the other passing foreigners in this country—the GIs in Olongapo, Subic or Clark, say—snatching only the meaty portions of the market and discarding the rest. Including their babies.
I’m still wondering how we have arrived at this point where human lives are reduced to products for sale—labor, women, even happiness and love. And when we would finally break these shelves and liberate ourselves from conformity and expectations.
Luna Andres, 23, of University of the Philippines Los Baños, says she is “like the gushing lady in Chekhov who is dying to be described.”
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.