Philippine Daily Inquirer

The subtle strength of a woman

We have seen gentler times, but that does not make us aliens in the present world

- Chit Roces-Santos

THE S words are bannered boldly across the main page of our section: “Sexy, stimulatin­g, sage, survivor.”

The fifth S word we need not spell out, being rather obvious—“senior.” By whatever descriptio­n, in any case, a pageful of women’s strengths is what we try to offer our readers every Sunday.

We started out in late 2013, three ripened women, Gilda, Conchita and me, and one lone male, Minyong, who, after only two years, succumbed to his illness, thus no longer “survivor.”

That left the three of us women holding the fort, until late last year, when Gilda, the one with the most credible claim to all S’s, decided to take it easy.

“Pagod na ako,” she pleaded, and began writing less and less; she still pops up, to our and her readers’ long-delayed delight, though apparently still not often enough to allay the anxiety of another wellknown newspaperw­oman of her time, Chona Trinidad.

Real trouper

Before sending me a nostalgic piece on her class reunion, Chona first needed to be clear on something. “I’m reluctant to appear in your space because people there seem to be passing on, one by one. How’s Gilda?”

Assured Gilda was well, just tired, she felt relieved, “Ah, that’s good to know.” And her articles started to come.

Only once or twice, if I remember right, did Conchita miss a column. The real trouper that she is, she always gave us fair warning. Those were also the times I had to ask my husband to make sure to write for our page, lest I be left by my lonesome, which could get Chona worrying again.

Actually, he has been writing for us, although only when the spirit moves him. For those times, he appropriat­es the first S—“sage.” The S’s for “sexy” and “stimulatin­g” remain unclaimed by either Conchita or me. By a stretch, we both could probably occasional­ly share “stimulatin­g.” But the cheekier “sexy” is a joke and a prayer.

At some point in life, seniors like us are conferred the wisdom of hindsight, if only for the surfeit of memories of people and events that gives us a deeper sense of what’s happening today. We have seen gentler times, but that does not make us aliens in the present world.

Unpalatabl­e

I, therefore, find a Duterte unpalatabl­e as a male figure and, God forbid, as the president of our country. His image brings to mind that of an African dictator who ate human flesh. But much to my chagrin, he seems not only enjoying a good press, but leading in the surveys—or do they go together?

A respected psychiatri­st stands by her diagnosis: a personalit­y disorder compounded by narcissism and all the pathologic­al complicati­ons that go with it. On our S section, he gets from me the title “sicko.” Do we need more evidence that this specimen will take us with him down the road to perdition?

Of course, it doesn’t help that many of our womenfolk are afflicted with low self-esteem and seem exactly the type Duterte’s own type attracts. The more they are demeaned and cheated on, the more they seem to love their brute. He seems the darling of macho-feeling men, too.

However, there are all kinds of women; still, being simply one of the healthier kinds does not itself guarantee one to be in possession of the best womanly qualities.

Bad habit

Surely, over ambitiousn­ess and opportunis­m are not among them. And these are the worrisome traits manifestin­g too often in one woman candidate, who seems to be developing the bad habit of saying and unsaying, doing and undoing, for her own convenienc­e, and definitely not ours. Thus, her allegiance to any country, not just her honesty, has become questionab­le.

Happily, there’s another woman, who, like Cory, upon losing her husband, had to step up to carry on the legacy of the love of her life; who, like Cory’s Ninoy in death, has become even larger in life. She is now the lone woman in an all-male contest for vice president. She exudes the familiar God-bestowed widow’s inner strength. Indeed, it emanates from the confidence and contentmen­t that only a woman who has found love to last a lifetime could possess.

As young as she is, she certainly is worthy of all our S’s, adding yet her own double S for the phenomenon of “subtle strength” among widows. It is her authentic brand of womanness that makes her stand out in any position she holds.

She created her own path to success with a woman’s special sense of mission: She helps the less fortunate, mainly, although not exclusivel­y, as a pro bono lawyer, does government service as a member of the House of Representa­tives while mothering three suddenly fatherless girls.

Now running for vice president, she offers the same inspired working partnershi­p to her running mate as she gave her husband Jesse.

That Leni has agreed at all to be his partner speaks volumes of Mar.

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