I live in a country that places a lot of values on our traditions and culture. And that means that despite the way the rest of the world is changing into a liberated way of living, some Filipinos are still pretty much set on living the way we were raised – to be a conservative maiden, to be the perfect gentleman, to be obedient, to grow up and marry and raise the perfect kids. Anything less and you’ll be a shame to your family’s name because that was just how things have always been. From one generation to the next, sons and daughters gave their children the same treatment that their parents gave them in their childhood.
That isn’t to say that there are some open-minded parents out there who tries to hear out their children’s voices first before giving judgement; but some Filipinos (particularly the elders) seem to be stuck in a period of time where they expect the younger generation to be as disciplined as they were. But with times changing and paving the road to more light hearted behavior, what more could they expect?
As a child, I’ve always been a greedy reader. Whatever I could get my grubby hands on, as long as it had words, I would be satisfied. I’ve read books that are inappropriate for my age, or books that older people would say was not the right time for me to read because I was too young and I just wouldn’t understand.
But I shook all the warnings off and read anyway. And you know what? I’m glad I’ve taken the time to read books that are far off what people would recommend for my age. I grew up always trying to be in another person’s shoes and thinking how would I feel? Reading the lives of various people and characters from all over the world made me realize that everyone’s just as human as you are and that the only difference is our circumstances in life and the way we respond to them. That made me cautious of my actions and language – I’m always aware of negative emotions from the people around me and I always try to understand them, to make them feel that they are as important to the universe as much as chocolate is.
Having said that, I’d like to introduce my older sister. We’re only four years apart and that means lots and lots of childhood fights over who gets the bigger slice or the shinier piece – but that also means growing up together and covering for each others’ backs. Normal things like, “I won’t tell mom your secret, if you won’t tell her mine.” That’s how it’s always been between us.
I’ve known for a very long time that she’s always been interested in girls. I never once minded but sometimes when I think about it, I get sad because not a whole lot of girls in our city gets interested in girls, too. So I didn’t know how that could have a happy ending for my sister.
But finally the day came when she brought a girl home! I thought they were great for each other. My sister needed someone to understand and support her, someone she’ll get along with and someone who’ll make her forget about the troubles happening in our family. And I’m happy that she found it with her girlfriend.
However I know not a lot of people can be as supporting as I am of her. Whenever I speak with pride about my sister’s girlfriend, I get a lot of mixed reactions. While others are happy for her, others are not much so. Someone even asked me once, “Don’t you get grossed out?” And I vehemently replied that despite me being a Christian and knowing how the church stands on this issue, I’m very much a humanist and I’ve always put a person’s freedom and equality above all. If she makes my sister happy, why would I be grossed out? Everyone has a right to love who they want and to be loved in return, regardless of sex, age, nationality, etc. Besides that, she’s family. Despite us not seeing eye to eye a few times, I care for her.
In comes my mother, who grew up with six other siblings. Their parents had very strict and physical ways of disciplining them and things always had to be done a certain way. When she found out about my sister’s relationship, she cried. She never expected my sister to be a lesbian and she wanted her to end it. She’s always had this idea of my sister marrying a young well-to-do man and having kids and all that jazz. But learning about my sister’s preference struck her deep.
I know she only wants the best for all of us but sometimes what she thinks is best may not be what my sister thinks is the best for her. There comes an impasse for both camps. And sometimes we all have to come to a compromise.
I don’t know how the future will shape up: if my mom will be able to accept her or if my sister will let go in the end. But being open-minded won’t ever hurt us – in fact it’s the first step in knowing a person closely. Being open-minded means giving a chance to the people who are misunderstood or judged unfairly. After all, we are all human. Sometimes, we just need to be the light in the dark for them.