This post was originally written in 2017 for LAPP’s blog under the name of Cynthia Romanova. The original post can be read here.
Many people know the Philippines for its rich biodiversity and gorgeous beaches in Palawan and Cebu. Although I never lived there, I consider the Philippines to be my “ancestral home” because it’s my mother’s country of origin. Whenever the country suffers, I feel a great sorrow for it’s people. And their problems have only worsened in recent times under the presidential term of Rodrigo Duterte, who has made headlines for his sexist comments regarding his female adversaries.
In 2016, Duterte was inaugurated and began focusing his administration towards winning the “Giyera Kontra Droga” (War on Drugs). He currently faces a civil war in Mindanao: the southern part of the Philippines that wishes for independence.
During his initial campaign run, Duterte did not shy away from showing his demeaning views towards women. He was originally mayor of Davao City and was questioned about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary during a prison riot of the 1980s. Duterte stated that she “was so beautiful” and as the mayor, “should have been there first….”
Even after winning the election, Rodrigo Duterte hasn’t improved his views. He recently gave a speech to former rebels about how to win against female communist soldiers. In his native language of Bisaya, he orders them to “just shoot…..in the vagina” since it would render them as “useless.” The word for female genitals, “bisong”, was omitted from the official transcript.
When I read about his remarks, I was absolutely mortified in every way. Duterte didn’t even care enough about his own people to show any sort of compassion. How could Duterte encourage sexual violence during wartime, when it violates UN laws and doesn’t help to solve the conflict overall?
He is literally reducing women to their sexual organs, as if their strength or intelligence has no value. A woman’s decision to participate in sex and have children should not determine her worth in society. We can live fulfilling lives regardless of what we choose to do. We are your family, neighbors, friends, and even your Vice President, Duterte!
At the end of the day, as seen with Trump and Americans, Duterte does not reflect the Filipino people or their culture, andI hate the fact that he creates such a negative view of the Philippines for those who don’t know much about the country.
Although I was born and raised in the USA, I have lived with Filipino culture all of my life. My closest friends are from the Filipino-American community. I have always celebrated Catholic holidays with Filipino foods and traditions. I wouldn’t feel like myself if I couldn’t honor my heritage in this way.
Whenever I visit the Philippines during the summer, I’m always amazed by the pureness of people’s hearts and their religious devotion despite the poor conditions. The people constantly go out of their way to provide the best hospitality too. They are extremely polite, not holding any bitterness towards the West for its historical imperialism. The rich are also constantly giving back to their communities, by volunteering with Gawad Kalinga (“give care”) and sponsoring students through university as well. I can’t even say that I am as humble as they are.
Even though I support the opposition against the sexism Rodrigo Duterte expresses, I don’t think the West should allow one awful man to speak for the kind hearts of his country. Thinking poorly of the Philippines only furthers his anti-western agenda and marginalizes a group of people who truly respect the West, but must live under a misogynist leadership.