In 1997, the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation launched its social welfare program Bantay Bata 163. This foundation is a socio-civic organization of a media conglomerate in the Philippines and I could hardly forget the rage and fury I suppressed every time the TV network flash its advocacy material on TV. Children sobbing and mothers lamenting and cried for justice and questioned why the hell their daughters were raped. Then one ad would show a social worker sharing how they rescued the girl being beaten to death by their father. Then another ad telling a story how a daughter survived from the threat of her father if she would tell anyone her vagina is "being touched."
I remember it well how I secretly ran to my room and pressed my eyes so that tears would dry up. That mixed emotions of fear, hatred and jealousy—
I grew up deprived of anyone to talk to. I was not permitted to play outside of the house and make friends. I could hardly watch Tom and Jerry because I am a girl and I am supposed to clean the house, wash the dishes, stitch my worn-out clothes. I got beaten by my Mom every time I tried to relax. The rule was, I cannot decide on what I want to do, unless permitted. But that rule though was never consistent.
I could sing karaoke when I am sure I’ve done all the household chores. I would sing songs she loved to listen—Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, My Way, Imagine.
And then at night, I would pray hard I could sleep well. That no one will break into my room, undress me and disturb my sleep.
A few months ago, just before the deadline week for the VOF Action Plan of the VOF 2016 Training, I was consigned to do a case story writing for a local non-profit, non-government institution. There were about 15 stories written by adolescents and the topic revolves around adolescence reproductive health and rights. Before my fieldwork to conduct an interview with the young writers, I was given the draft copy of their stories and I was taken aback when most of their stories are reflective of my own experiences. They explored stories on incest, teenage pregnancy, rape, early marriage, sexual discrimination. Reading at their stories was too difficult for me that I had to stop just to pour out my emotions.
There was a stepfather who rape his stepdaughter then she got pregnant, yet the mother choses to stay with his man and abandoned her daughter instead. But did not stop the daughter to succeed in life. Then another story would tell how the mother fought and stood up for her daughter and gave her all the best she could give for her future.
Every word of the story is like a dagger.
And I remember it well how I secretly ran to my room and pressed my eyes so that tears would dry up. That mixed emotions of fear, hatred, and jealousy—
The landscape of my girlhood days may be dark, sullen and as I grew older I realized how I kept running away in stark terror but end up coming back to the remorse and hate I had thought I already outgrew.
Amazingly, I keep my hands full of engagements that will make me face my terror and at the same time provides me a space that will conjure healing and acceptance of the things I could no longer change. Because I thought then that if I cannot overcome my fear and my hatred and then worst, I had this feeling of jealousy, "why these little girls have these chances and why I did not have them during my time," I will turn to be the grown-up girl that will take revenge, thus, I will be the person I onceresented.
Girls are not just girls. They have the absolute right to feel safe, to express themselves without fear of rejection and discrimination, to do what they want to do that will help them develop their skills and knowledge.
They are young and they must be taken care with great love and understanding most especially during these critical formative years. What we give to these girls now are crucial in their growth. I believe it is necessary to create an environment facilitative of their needs as they mature. They are real assets to change the world. Soon they will become workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders.
To uphold their rights promise an equitable and highly prosperous future and if we take this seriously, no girl and grown-up girls will succumb in facing the monsters of her life and feed herself in submission. Instead, she will confront the monster strong enough to cut its head off.