“May nangyari na (Something has already happened)” is the terse explanation given by a Filipino parent when queried why she (more frequently it is the mother) is marrying off her daughter. That “something” is usually sex, usually after the daughter “elopes” with her boyfriend or comes home after an unauthorized night out.
There is even an unsavory Filipino saying to explain why the family honor must be upheld: Kapag ang aso kinagat ang buto, hindi pwedeng ito’y hindi malawayan (roughly, when a dog runs away with a bone, there is no way it won’t be licked), so that even if the young couple loudly protest that in fact “nothing happened,” nobody would believe them.
Coming home to her hometown of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, and looking for a research topic for her doctoral dissertation, Maryknoll nun Sr. Teresa Dagdag (“Sister TD” to her friends) asked influential persons in her community what they considered the “biggest” problem in society. The common response, from parish priests to parents, was teenage marriage—young people getting married even if they lack the necessary preparation for it simply because the bride is pregnant. Initially planning her dissertation to focus on the “indigenization” of the Catholic marriage ritual, Sister TD decided to probe deeper into the social and cultural roots of early sex and marriage.
The book “May Nangyari Na: Mga Kuwentong Kabataan” is a distillation of Sister TD’s research and analysis, an effort to bring her findings and conclusions to an audience beyond academic circles. At its heart are interviews and case studies with 10 young women (out of about 60 interviewed) in Nueva Ecija and in Jala-jala, Rizal, where the Maryknoll sisters have a mission.
“This book takes a studied look at the junctures from socialization to marriage,” writes Sister TD, “a path which is marked by decision making.” When forced to make a decision—to enter a relationship or not (courtship), to take the relationship seriously, to engage in sex, to enter into marriage—young people need “the anchoring and connectivity of their parents,” says Sister TD. But too often, this parental help line is unavailable, judgmental, or half-hearted.
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Key to how a young woman survives the transition from girlhood to adolescence to womanhood, says Sister TD, is the “mother-daughter dyad,” their exchange of communication, information, values and confidences, and how these bear on the process of making life choices. In much of her research, says Sister TD, “the father is usually invisible or absent.”
But what happens in many cases, the Maryknoll nun finds, is that in the absence of a genuine mother-daughter dynamic, when “something happens,” social factors come into play.
We are all familiar with the pressure put on the family of the disgrasyada or disgraced woman, who is suddenly burdened with the responsibility of upholding the family honor. And much too often, this means marrying the father of one’s child, thereby “restoring” the family’s name, or “face.” And thus does marriage—hurried, furtive, falsely celebratory—become what Sister TD describes as “a community response to an otherwise stigmatized outcome.”
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Explaining why she persevered in the years between research, writing and publishing, Sister TD says that foremost in her mind was the desire “to share with parents, mentors, educators and counselors and with young people” the thoughts, feelings, experiences and life-lessons shared by the teenage wives and mothers she interviewed.
She also wanted to encourage youth-carers “to support and accompany young people as they explore positive sexuality,” as well as to share the aspirations “of young people who had become mothers.”
A supporter of the Reproductive Health Law, Sister TD advocates the crafting of a sex and sexuality education curriculum that takes into consideration young people’s values, self-image, and aspirations, as well as awareness of one’s body, emotions, and reactions. At present, the Maryknoll nun observes, “sex education is only about menstruation,” what was once known as “hygiene.”
Sister TD also thinks a serious examination of gender structures and gender expectations is needed when teaching healthy decision-making among young people. She cites the language used by many of her respondents: “ginamit” (used), “nilaspag” (run to the ground) when referring to their sex lives, references to their view of themselves as machines.
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During the book launch of “May Nangyari Na” at Miriam College, two reactors gave linked and contrasting testimonies around the matter of teen sexuality.
Edna, a community leader, spoke movingly of early sex viewed from the parent’s perspective, telling the story of her daughter who left home while still in her early teens and putting them through the wringer as they traced her journey through delinquency and even prison.
Erika, on the other hand, spoke of her experiences of being an 18-year-old “single mother” who, supported in her decision by her parents, continued to pursue her college education and is now gainfully employed. “It’s not easy,” she told the audience, especially because she is no longer in a relationship with her son’s father, “but I am thankful my parents did not force me to marry him.”
When “something happens,” young women face a crossroads in their lives. In her book, Sister TD points out that there is no single path, no single destination, for them. The young woman has her whole life ahead of her, and she can make the right choices for herself only if the significant adults in her life take time to listen to and respect her story, her feelings, and her dreams, and provide support and emotional anchoring in a tumultuous time.
SOURCE: Philippines Daily Inquirer >> http://opinion.inquirer.net/77547/when-something-happens#ixzz3ChOyv1S7