None of my rabid feminist friends have taken the initiative to survey
Spanish colonial material for reference to women. This would surely
pinpoint the roots of the pinoy macho attitudes they detest so much.
One source ripe for picking, i.e., if they can read Spanish, is the
handbooks by which the friars were trained when they came to the
Philippines. One of these published in Manila in 1745 by the
Augustinian Casimiro Dias is particularly funny. In it he says that:
Woman is the most monstrous
animal in the whole of Nature, bad-
tempered and worse spoken. To have this animal in the house is
asking for trouble in the way of tattling, tale-bearing,
malicious gossip, and controversies; for whatever a woman is, it
would seem to be impossible to have peace and quiet. However,
even this might be tolerated if it were not for the danger of
unchastity...not only should the parish priest of indios abstain
from employing any woman in his house, but he should not allow
any of them to enter it, even if they are only paying a visit.
Dias probably blamed Eve for the loss of paradise and took it out on
rest of Eve's sex. I wonder what kind of women this man had in mind or
had known. Did he at least have a mother or a sister? What about the
culture that produced such a mentality? If Dias and his ilk were alive
today, there's no doubt they would foam in the mouth over the landmark
decision of the Church of England to ordain women priests.
For centuries, Spanish chroniclers claimed that Filipinas had no notion
of chastity or fidelity. By the late nineteenth century, indios started
to strike back. Rizal, Luna, del Pilar, and others used their pens to
answer every unfair remark hurled at their race. Sometimes, when the
pen was not enough, Filipinos resorted to fists, pistols, or swords to
defend their honor.
W.E. Retana, the prolific writer and historian, repeated sexually
repressed friar rhetoric, like that quoted above, declaring Filipinas to
be "of easy virtue and nature deprave." The Filipinos were outraged
because they took this as an insult to their mothers, sisters,
relatives, wives, and girlfriends. Only one course of action was open
to them -- to challenge Retana to a duel.
Everyone being so hot-headed, they had to draw lots to decide who would
be the defender of Filipino womanhood. They wrote their names on
pieces of paper, folded them, and put these in a hat. When Lauro
Dimayugo of Batangas was picked, he was so elate he bought everyone a
round of drinks. Two medical students were chosen has his seconds --
Rizal and Galicano Apacible.
To insured the legality of the duel, Apacible and his cousin Rizal
consulted their friend the Marquis of Heredia, an authority on duels.
To their disappointment, they were told that the code of honor declared
that for a duel to be fought, the offense must be personal, public, and
grave. Though public and grave, Retana's article was, however, not
personal because it attacked women in general and not any particular
woman. As all three conditions had to be met, the idea of a duel had to
be abandoned because there was no more legitimate cause for it.
Undaunted, the Filipinos went to absurd lengths to provoke Retana.
painter Telesforo Sucgang, who was studying in Marid and who usually saw
Retana along the Paseo del Prado, twice pushed him into a gutter.
Retana merely moved away. When Antonio Luna saw him in a ball at the
Teatro Apolo dancing with a bailerina, he went up to the couple, pulled
the woman away from Retana's arms, and let loose a mouthful of insults.
Again, Retana did not bite the bait.
Apacible relates that they played a trick on Dimayuga to test his
bravery. They informed him that the weapon chosen was the Italian sword
and that the duel was set for dawn the next day. To their surprise,
Dimayuga did not practice nor sleep early. He ate a hearty dinner and
was jolly the whole night. When they came by Dimayuga's flat at dawn,
they found him snoring in bed
-- proof that he was not even nervous. Dimayuga was so angry at his
friends for tricking he refused to speak to them for a week.
Our indios bravos in Spain carried a chip on their shoulders.
think more than the issue of racial prejudice, they wanted to fight
duels hoping to earn a visible scar or two -- to display as a bade of
courage and as a charm supposedly irresistible to women. How's that for
nineteenth century pinoy machismo?
Source: Ambeth Ocampo, "Bonifacio's Bolo," Anvil Pub., 1995.