An open letter to Mr. Tito Sotto from a single mother’s daughter
I'm proud to say that I owe her many things. I owe her my belief that being a woman is not a handicap.
Hello, Mr. Sotto.
How are you these last 24 hours? Were you able to get home early to your family? How was conversation at the dinner table?
I suppose I'm getting ahead of things. Allow me to introduce myself-- not by name though, because, in light of your recent remarks, I believe I should introduce myself in a more relevant manner.
I am a daughter of a previously-single mother. I say previously because she has since found a partner who respects and celebrate her, but that bit comes later on in my family's story.
But this letter isn’t about that, this focuses on a much earlier part.
"I'm proud to say that I owe her many things"
I am 26 years old, and for majority of my childhood and adolescence, my mother had to leave me with my grandparents to go work overseas so she could put food on the table, clothes on my back, and send me to a good school. Affection mainly came in the form of phone calls, greeting cards, care packages, and cassette tape recordings. Actual visits were a huge deal, and if my memory serves me right, those didn't start until I was six or so.
Despite this distance, however, I'm proud to say that I owe her many things: my sense of wonder and adventure, my great love for literature, my compassion, and my sense of fairness and independence. But most importantly, I owe her my belief that being a woman is not a handicap.
There's heavy lifting needed to be done? Why should we wait for a man, if we're capable of doing it ourselves? Is something up in the ceiling? I can hold the ladder while she climbs. There are small repairs needed to be done in the house? If the solution seems simple enough, I don't see why she nor I can't pick up the hand tools and have a go at it. My mom taught me how to depend only on myself in doing things other people think girls won’t be able to do.
Now don't get me wrong, she didn't teach me to hate men. She just simply taught me that it was okay if there was no man around. Our home is a home, and our family is a family. The lack of male presence apart from my dearest Tatay (my grandfather) does not invalidate those facts.
And before you think of us as butch, as I imagine you would, let me share another thing my mother taught me: being able to lift and toil and get my hands dirty does not take away the softness of my femininity. She taught me how to cook, how to run a household, how to channel grace, and how to walk and stand tall. In fact, I've joined a couple of beauty contests before, Mister Sotto, and I've won them — in case you need me to justify all that.
Which is why I took much offense at your remarks towards Secretary Judy Taguiwalo yesterday.
"No joking matter"
You must understand, Mister Sotto, that your words were dismissive and condescending. Your choice of phrase: "na-ano lang" implies that the lady was simply a vessel that a man used and then discarded, that her entire being is solely defined by that circumstance and that she is nothing beyond that. I cannot accuse you of intentionally shaming her for that small detail in her personal life--I am not privy to how your mind works--but again, Mister Sotto, you must understand that that is how it sounded to many of us. You tried to shame her.
And to us, who can sympathize with that kind of situation; to us daughters and sons and others who were single-handedly raised by women; to us women who see our peers and mentors brave life and everyday judgement from people like you; that is unacceptable.
Because let me tell you, Mister Sotto: every mother, every woman, has depth and meaning beyond what is found between her legs. It is in the curve of her shoulders and her spine, unyielding despite the burdens she carries. It is in the size of her arms and in the shape of her hands, which lift and create as equally as they caress and wrap in an embrace. It is in the line of her legs, willing to go as far as she can for her child. It is in her brain which holds her wisdom and iron will. And it is in her heart, capable of a love so great and unconditional, it encompasses everything.
And that, Mister Sotto, is no joking matter. I pray that you live long enough to see that.
Have a nice day.
This open letter was sent to TheAsianParent Philippines by Glerren Bangalan. Glerren is a Manila-based writer and editor who finds delight in a lot of things. She lends her talents to publications, events, and performance groups alike, such as Deus Sex Machina and GeekFight.
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