The Inbox

Breaking remaining taboos

Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

Isagani CruzThe question "Why?" can also be the simplest editing and censoring tool. This was the consensus of the speakers at the panel on "All the Way: Writers expose remaining taboos, how to break them and why they must be broken" at the Third Philippine International Literary Festival at the Ayala Museum sponsored by the National Book Development Board.

Chris Abani, a US-based writer with origins from Nigeria, said asking "Why?" raised the specter of shame which is used to control people and serves as the basis for the legal system.

He added that if people cared about restitution, there would be no need for punishment that causes shame on those who could do things that normal persons could not. He said true restitution works for change from the inside out, the harder thing to do.

Abani, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for his novel Graceland and a literature professor at the University of California Riverside, said among the things straight or heterosexual men are afraid of are "the notion of 'performativity'", gayness, showing one's feelings. Real American men, he added, are expected to grunt a lot, make farting and burping noises and be uncomfortable around metrosexual males.

But then, he said, even the most celibate Catholic priest "still wears a dress."

Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio, professor of women and development studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman, said as a reproductive health advocate, among her bragging rights is she is one of the lead breach-of-ethics complainants against Sen. Tito Sotto.

In her work, she has found "lots of resistance" from various institutions in advocating for sex education for children and adolescents. She said those against it reason that this type of education "encourages promiscuity among the youth." However, scientific studies showed that those who are exposed to sex education are more likely to "delay sexual debut, and when they do it (get sexually initiated), they do it safely and responsibly."

Sylvia Estrada ClaudioShe bewailed how "the level of ignorance on sexual matters in the Philippines is very painful." She recalled how she guested in a radio talk program, and one of the callers revealed that she was raped at the age of five but considered herself a "virgin again" as she was growing up because she never allowed herself to be touched again.

Claudio said the problem may lie in the unenlightened view of sex and love wherein the romantic angle is split from the agape factor (love of God). This, she said, is the root of conservatism whose view of sex is splitting the body, which is considered impure, from the soul which stands for purity.

She suggested that enlightened people move away from this "patriarchal, sexist construction" and toward "solidarity relationships that involve love and the coming together of a multitude of desires and pleasures."

She said taboos on love and eros need to be broken down because they add to an already "socially inequitable" situation. Violence against women (VAW), for example, springs from "conceptions of manhood that allow for men's jealous possessiveness of women. Claudio added that VAW encourages "dominance and power play"

She is for the acceptance of "a new discourse" that ensures "equitable and happy relationships in society."

Dr. Isagani Cruz, retired professor, critic, playwright and fictionist, said he has always had issues with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), especially when it declared artist Mideo Cruz's Crucifixion installation at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Gallery last year "a blasphemy."

Chris Abani at Read Lit DistrictHe argued that a crucifix showing a cloth covering the penis of Jesus Christ is "more blasphemous" in light of the fact that in the days of Jesus, those crucified were always stripped naked. He said more blasphemous is the sight of devotees kissing statues of Jesus, his mother and the saints and praying to Jesus instead of through him.

He encouraged writers to continue exposing priests who sexually take advantage of their sacristans.

He accused the CBCP of not following Pope Benedict's edict that allows for the use of condoms to reduce infections between couples, especially homosexual men. Cruz said the CBCP's reaction was to declare the condom "immoral. The CBCP does not take its leader seriously. They are disobeying him."

He surmised that if the CBCP was present in the time of Christ, its members would be shocked that the son of God "surrounded himself with fishermen, prostitutes, lepers."

Abani said taboos may have come about as cultures evolved and some people became uncomfortable with certain practices. As a writer, he loves taboos because they "help with the writing. I live not within taboos but in a world without judgment. What is this common thing that makes us human? When we break a taboo, we give a person permission to exist."

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Aquino: Philippines to fly usual routes over disputed reefs

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine aircraft will continue to fly their usual routes over disputed reefs in the South China Sea, the country's president said Monday, defying China's challenges to its planes and those of the United States. …

  • Philippines to fly over disputed South China Sea: Aquino
    Philippines to fly over disputed South China Sea: Aquino

    Philippine military and commercial aircraft will keep flying over disputed areas in the South China Sea despite Chinese warnings over the airspace, President Benigno Aquino said on Monday. "We will still fly the routes that we fly based on the international law from the various conventions we entered into," Aquino told reporters when asked whether the Philippines accepted China's position. The Chinese military last week ordered a US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane away from airspace …

  • Mitsubishi reaches out to far-flung Batad community
    Mitsubishi reaches out to far-flung Batad community

    A “Dadbod” is a newly coined term now trending in media. It was introduced to the world by Clemson University sophomore Mackenzie Pearson as she refers to any man—father or bachelor—with a physique that’s a “nice balance between a beer gut and working out.” “It’s more human, natural, and attractive,” she adds. For this writer, […] The post Mitsubishi reaches out to far-flung Batad community appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …

  • A weekend of premium cars
    A weekend of premium cars

    Good news to all luxury car fanatics as PGA Cars, the exclusive importer and distributor of Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley cars in the country, will be holding the PGA Cars Premium Festival from May 29 to May 31 at the PGA Center in Global City in Taguig. The 3-day event will showcase PGA’s latest […] The post A weekend of premium cars appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …

  • APEC ministers to endorse Boracay Action Agenda
    APEC ministers to endorse Boracay Action Agenda

    Trade ministers at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Boracay, Aklan agreed yesterday to endorse the proposed Boracay Action Agenda to the member countries’ leaders, presenting opportunities for global trade for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). In a press conference following the conclusion of the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, who also served as chairman, said ministers agreed to recommend the adoption of the …

  • Talks with China over sea row urged
    Talks with China over sea row urged

    The Philippines should engage China in bilateral talks in its efforts to maintain peace and order at the disputed West Philippine Sea, Sen. Francis Escudero said yesterday. Escudero supports the government’s move to bring the issue before international arbitration but also stressed the need for the Philippines to pursue talks with China. Escudero made the statement after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called for a peaceful solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea. …

  • House panel tackles bill on regular disaster drills
    House panel tackles bill on regular disaster drills

    The House committee on national defense is deliberating on a measure mandating the regular conduct of disaster risk reduction drills in educational institutions nationwide. Authored by Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., the bill mandates that risk reduction drills be held annually in all educational institutions throughout the country in coordination with the schools’ respective local government units. “The Philippines’ location along the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator …

  • PCSO running out of funds
    PCSO running out of funds

    Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chairman Ireneo Maliksi has admitted that the revenue-generating agency is running out of funds as it continues with its mandate to provide financial assistance to indigent Filipinos. Aside from providing financial help to individual recipients, Maliksi cited at least 13 laws that mandates the PCSO to provide mandatory contribution to different government agencies. Just last week, PCSO released P100 million to the Commission on Higher Education as …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options