My version of 40

Running on Empty & Out of Touch

Today I planned on simply sleeping through my 40th birthday. Anyway, I thought, what’s the big deal? It’s been four decades, yes, but so what?

Image My most favorite birthday picture ever… my brother Tong-Tong’s birthday… yup, am the one drooling next to him holding a hotdog-on-a-stick

Honestly, my birthdays have never been a huge deal to me… except that Mommy always prepared for them. Like I said in my previous entries (in FaerieQueeneBuknoy), even when I was a kid, I enjoyed being a birthday party guest more than being the celebrant. Then of course when I worked as a party assistant at McDonald’s, being a puppeteer and character… I enjoyed entertaining children too. But I would always see the big mess afterwards… the spilled drinks, dirty floor, wasted food and children who needed a good scrubbing.

Image My cousins Alma, Dulce, Din-din and myself

But what have I learned about…

View original post 1,178 more words


A moment.

Again, I find myself dwelling on my past mistakes — wondering about why things are the way they are, how things spiraled out of control and what led to what is. It’s strange, this life. People make plans and wonder what happened afterwards.

In an instant, everything can change.

Today you can be on top of the world; down in the dumps in the next. Success or failure. Success or failure — one second, a minute can make a difference… a big difference. I watch “The World according to Monsanto” again, and I wonder what I can do. I can’t even help myself… hahaha!

I sometimes feel like am drowning in a pool I can never swim out of… but then I hear from a doctor friend and his team in the West Bank, struggling to get their medical equipment and supplies confiscated by Israeli troops. The Israeli government couldn’t help, nor the German embassy (they’re mostly Germans/Europeans). They were there on a mission to operate on children whose limbs were torn during Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.

And I suddenly feel very very small, including my problems.


Then I get new data from ASEM in Mozambique and get new info in the course of my research. How children continue to suffer in Africa… people suffering all over the world. People unable to meet their first level needs (using Maslow’s model)… this again, makes me feel less significant.

It’s sad that in the midst of the knowledge we have, and the constant bombardment of information, a lot of us choose to immunize ourselves in indifference or some sort of “shallow sympathy”.

But I guess something is better than nothing. And some would argue “life is short, might as well enjoy it”.

Carpe diem — – people have chosen to interpret it in different ways. Do you “seize the day” and live it according to how you choose to live, or do you “seize it” by living it well… do all the good you can do now because tomorrow may never come.

We choose to live in a bubble of luxury (or “pretend luxury” — that’s how I call it). And to be in a place where real world topics are avoided or not openly discussed, a place where people choose to cover themselves up in the armor of consumerism, perhaps conscious or inadvertently trapped, where the trappings of an easy life seem easier to come by, is in itself a form of misery. Covered as we are in expensive rags bought at grotesquely exorbitant prices… is it a new drug? Or an old one disguised as something different?

Yes, people take comfort in knowing they “can afford” to buy the same bag Paris Hilton or Ivanka Trump is holding. Can’t blame them I guess. Artificiality is so attractive sometimes. And who doesn’t want to escape sordid reality?


I look around me and see faces, lives haunted by similar worries and fears, facing guilt in various forms and dealing with it… or not. For one, it may be “Will I have anything to eat tomorrow?”. For another, it’s “Will I fail yet again?”

We’re in the same place, like it or not. Crawling our way to the end of all ends… digging up our own graves.

My apologies for sounding so morbid.

I revel in it, hahaha. The dark humor. I enjoy the darkness much as I enjoy the light of day.

Such is life. It’s all just a matter of time, right?

And here I am again thinking about life.

It’s a daily struggle, but I made a choice to live it, and to live it well.

I hope I don’t disappoint… any more.

Still, I am grateful to just be. And then there’s God.

© Lovely Claire Dangalan, 2012

(As posted on my Facebook wall 30/11/2012)

Ragnarökr & The Sociological Imagination

(Or how to use the sociological imagination to break the barriers of social stratification & so much more…)

An imbalance between the rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal

ailment of all republics.

— Plutarch

Although Charles Wright Mills consistently studied and produced volumes of material about social stratification & Marxism, he is best remembered in social scientific circles & in the academic world for coining the term “sociological imagination” and his treatise about it (read about the sociological imagination:

My purpose in writing this post is to reintroduce you to the dilemmas facing mankind, help you see the urgency of each problem and relate global issues to you as an individual.

But hey, let’s face it (and am saying this almost a year after I began writing this post – today is April 6, 2012)… who needs reminding, really?

I have been employed in a major Gulf newspaper in the past five years and I have never failed to make it a point NOT to read the news. Yes, current affairs do not interest me anymore. News on index crimes, local politics, sensational(ized) stories and celebrity gossip have lost their appeal… not because they are any less relevant, not because they do not reflect our time & state, but because I have chosen not to clutter my mind with them.

A self-imposed media blackout if you will.

I have chosen to engross myself in articles regarding the environment and poverty (with the many “evils” that follow).

Ah yes, I am not ignorant of the interrelated-ness of these various elements of life as we know it; I have merely chosen to immerse myself in these concerns and work my way from there.

Your point of view, your concerns, your thoughts & ideas… your life – they have their own place in this world for sure.  I hope I find my way into yours just as your life and the many other lives irrevocably intertwined in this tangled web of existence find their way into mine. Who knows? As I sit here in bed typing away, we are already on each other’s way. 🙂

We have to learn to recognize our relationship with the world and understand that each one of us does matter. Our actions are not done in isolation, just as our thoughts are influenced by factors not entirely within ourselves.

In effect, our actions (or inaction) have a ripple effect on everything and everyone else around us. This way of thinking, this attitude may not be agreeable to our hedonistic human tendencies towards living in excess. However, it is when we take control of ourselves after acknowledging this basic truth that we are able to unchain ourselves from the garrison of fear, uncertainty and entrapment that make us recoil at every unexpected turn in our lives… in our existence.

We live in fear because we have built a fortress built on false explanations and false hopes… an artificial world where the rich live in opulence and the poor accept their lot & wait for the next life for some ease, some gratification.

Life is both complex and simple. The intricacies of our existence have been the subject of discussions among philosophers, scientists, religious leaders and scholars… the erudite among us have come & gone, having added to the massive collectivity called “wisdom” leaving some of us still – none the wiser.

When we come to this realization – this recognition that our individual lives are linked, only then can we seek and find change within ourselves – so we can change the course mankind is steering itself towards, to change our fears of impending doom – to see that beside our vices are virtues we can use to take charge of our lives & navigate the present for the future of our planet.


It takes guts to use the Dubai Metro.

I’ll tell you why… but later, much much later. 🙂

Oh yeah, I’ve seen worse, been to worse – after all, I come from the Philippines… a country usually classified as a 3rd world country by the less politically correct or a developing country by the more politically sensitive. Hogwash! B******t! Does it really make a difference? It all boils down to one thing. We’re poor. I come from a poor country. That’s a fact.

In the morning I rush ahead to catch the 6.45am train from Al Rigga, so that even when I am certain I will be standing for the rest of the 20-odd-minute journey to Business Bay, I’d have a wall to lean on or a handle to hold onto. A later trip would mean less chances of getting a relatively stable and more comfortable place in an impossibly huge throng of commuters.

Some people refuse to budge as you try to get out; if you push past them, be prepared for the dagger looks that will be cast your way as you get out of the train as fast as you possibly could. If you’re one of those reticent souls who couldn’t shout “help!” even while being robbed, be prepared to leave at the stop after yours or the one after or the one after that. 🙂

One particular morning, a tall Caucasian lady (possibly from the former USSR– I noticed via her heavily accented English) got on at the Khalid Bin Al Waleed station. Now there was still room for her farther inside the train in the ladies section, but wonder of wonders! She stood there, towering at the section entrance, refusing to budge whenever the doors slid open and people had to exit or come in. I heard her loudly saying, as someone said “excuse me” and pushed past her: “Why you not come near the door when you know you’re going away?!?” I didn’t see the hapless soul she was referring to when we were already at the World Trade Centre station. She looked around her, looking over our lower Asian heads, gazing around as if to check if anyone would dare defy her. Her nose was wrinkled in disdain.

I wasn’t sure if anyone standing beside her actually smelled bad, but at that moment in time, she was the one who stank very badly.

Well you can probably say it was all in my head. Nasty thoughts. But I looked around me and saw some women shrugging their shoulders or discreetly shaking their heads in dismay. Even the people near her started to inch away. I looked straight at her from my corner and watched her every move. She fumbled for something in her big bag and put her huge sunglasses on. I kept my gaze steady even as she looked around again.

I was determined to bump at her when it was my turn to leave. There was one other Filipina who always got off where I did. She was about 5’6” and big. I was thinking about what she planned on doing.

Finally, my stop. The big Filipina girl bumped into her, mumbling “excuse me,” ignoring whatever foul words escaped the woman’s lips. I quickly noted she had three rolled up yoga mats on the floor right next to her. I bumped into her and glared at her briefly and left. I did not say “excuse me” or “sorry.”

Oh yeah, I would stoop so low, dear me… hahaha! I am not one to go quietly when provoked.

I was thinking, yoga? with that kind of attitude? If she didn’t want to be in a crowd with the “lowly” Asians (from whom, by virtue of the Indians, yoga originated by the way!), she could’ve taken a cab!

Sigh. Dear me, my friend in the office said my ears were quite red when I got there – 15 minutes after getting off the metro.


Today, Saturday at 1420hrs (UAE time), I took the metro as usual.

Today, May 21, 2011, at 1800hrs (RP time), they said the world would end (c/o Harold Camping)… but it hasn’t.

Not that I looked forward to it. When asked last week about it, I just said, I am ready to die any time… whether on my own or with the rest of the world. My only disappointment would be, if the end came for everyone, if I died away from my family – especially my children. My inadequacy as a mother should end there. I should be there to comfort them if it happens in this lifetime.

Anyway, so the ills of the world continue as I write this post.

As I walked from the metro under the C 41º heat, I was thinking – all’s clear. I have yet to write this post that I have been itching to write weeks & weeks ago.

Life is not fair. Fact.

We are born into families we did not choose to be born into. Hell, we don’t even get to choose our parents! Your mom and dad can be the worst slobs on earth and there is nothing you can do about it. So whether or not you believe in fate is beside the point… the exact point in the beginning of our existence is a matter that is beyond our control.

So we look to the world of ideas and mankind, genius and ideals… philosophies and systems that have been brought to life by the brilliance of human minds – those who have decided to think for themselves and beyond themselves… studied good & evil, darkness and light, water, air, earth, fire… all for the sake of study or with secret hopes of enlightenment & change.

I do not pretend to be any more profound than you or the Average Joe standing next to you. I do enjoy reading about the latest gossip on some Hollywood stars I know of and British royalty & the royal messes they tend to make 🙂 … but, well, I always end up wondering how one earth have humans become so superfluous & superficial?

Take poor little Suri for example. The child is blameless… but for her parents to suit her up and encourage her every whim & fancy is a tad foolish and very reckless. Salvatore Ferragamo? Louis Vuitton? Come on!?! I pity her. I pity them.

For surely the smallest population at the tip of the social iceberg scarcely has any idea of how the people in the languishing bottom, the very foundation of the iceberg… continue to agonize over where they will get their next drink of clean water and a decent meal.

OR. Or if some of the extremely affluent members of the society are aware of the plight of the poor, many still view their lifestyle of privilege as a birthright or reward… something they also have had no choice in. Others, like celebrities & entrepreneurs who have risen from the middle income or even the low income segment of the population may consider their newfound fortune as just deserts for their hard work, talent and innovation.

Ostentatious living has become a fad among the rich and extremely wealthy. Dinners in the most upscale restaurants, owning the most expensive pair of shoes, possession of an island or islands, yachts, private jets, cars,  jewelry, couture; nothing but the best (or what seems to be the best).

(Let your pointer hover over the image to get the file name / description of the photo :-))



(Read more about unnecessary but expensive stuff:

Still, it would be so great if they’d care for others a bit. Just a little… the way a few of them do.


Most societies continue to be mired in poverty. Another fact.

The thing is, while scholars have devoted hundreds of years of study trying to explain this widespread social problem, poverty remains and continues to worsen. Various organizations have been established to help alleviate the plight of the poor but nothing seems to work for the longer term.

What makes it worse is that poverty in itself is the source of other social ills, as the rich take advantage of the poor… or the slightly better off poor takes advantage of the poorer or the poorest of the poor, and vice versa.

Economic disadvantage is not, in itself, an obstacle to achievement. However, people’s lack of economic resources can and does produce a string of other problems that may arise within a lifetime and linger (& worsen) through several generations.

Hunger, Undernourishment, Malnutrition & Obesity 

Consider the following:

Over 9 million people die worldwide each year because of hunger and malnutrition. 5 million are children.

Approximately 1.2 billion people suffer from hunger (deficiency of calories and protein).

Some 2 to 3.5 billion people have micronutrient deficiency (deficiency of vitamins and minerals).

Yet, some 1.2 billion suffer from obesity (excess of fats and salt, often accompanied by deficiency of vitamins and minerals).

Food wastage is also high:

    • In the United Kingdom, “a shocking 30-40% of all food is never eaten;”
      • In the last decade the amount of food British people threw into the bin went up by 15%;
      • Overall, £20 billion (approximately $38 billion US dollars) worth of food is thrown away, every year.
    • In the US, 40-50% of all food ready for harvest never gets eaten
      • Of the food that does eventually reach households, some 14% is wasted, resulting in something like $43 billion of wastage
      • If food reaching supermarkets, restaurants and cafeterias is added to the household figure, that wastage goes up to 27%.
    • In Sweden, families with small children throw out about a quarter of the food they buy

In some parts of Africa, a quarter or more of the crops go bad before they can be eaten. More generally, high losses in developing nations are mainly due to a lack of technology and infrastructure as well as insect infestations, microbial growth, damage and high temperatures and humidity.

    • The impact of this waste is not just financial. Environmentally, this leads to:
      • Wasteful use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides;
      • More fuel used for transportation;
      • More rotting food, creating more methane — one of the most harmful greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change.
      • Reducing wastage in the US by half could reduce adverse environmental impact by 25 percent through reduced landfill use, soil depletion and applications of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

The direct medical cost of hunger and malnutrition is estimated at $30 billion each year.

Data Source:

High Infant / Child Mortality

The effects of poverty on infants and children are far-reaching, fatal, deplorable… stark. A child born into an affluent family is almost a hundred per cent certain of wanting for nothing, whereas a child borne under the most difficult circumstances is lucky to be born at all.

Based on the findings of the WHO (May 2010 report with figures collected for the year 2008), the country with the largest number of neonatal deaths (0-27 days) by all studied causes (diarrheal diseases, tetanus, pneumonia, preterm birth complications, birth asphyxia, neonatal sepsis, congenital abnormalities & other causes of neonatal deaths) is India with 1,003,767 neonatal fatalities in 2008. China has, by comparison, 205,710.

The countries with the lowest rates of neonatal deaths include: Seychelles (9), Andorra (1), Iceland(6), Luxembourg (5), Monaco (1), Tuvalu (3), Fiji (3), Niue (1). However, apart from Iceland & Luxembourg, the countries with the lowest neonatal death rates are very small and less populated nations.

Globally, the total of neonatal deaths for 2008 caused by (any of) the aforementioned factors was 3,575,053.

When it comes to the death rate for children in the age group of 1-59 months, India still heads the list at 826,060, followed by Nigeria (778,459) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (390,839). The world total number of deaths for the year 2008 for this age group is 5,220,296.

The third class of available data is for the death of children under 5 (<5) years of age from identified causes (diarrheal diseases, pertussis, neonatal tetanus, measles, meningitis, malaria, pneumonia, other infections, preterm birth complications, birth asphyxia, neonatal sepsis, congenital abnormalities, other non-communicable diseases & injuries). By country, the ranking from the highest number of deaths for 2008 is as follows: India (1,829,826), Nigeria (1,076,613), Democratic Republic of Congo (553,529), Pakistan (464,886), China (369,289) and Afghanistan (310,739). The global total number of children in this category who died in 2008 from the identified causes previously mentioned is 8,795,349.

In sum, considering all three age ranges for children (only till those below five years of age), the global total number of deaths in 2008 add up to 17,590,698. This astounding number does not include undocumented deaths from the same or similar causes, abuse, neglect, natural disasters, war and hunger.

For more info, go to:


Abortion has always been a contentious issue and remains to be so; voices from both sides of the issue – the pro-life and pro-choice defenders – continue to be heard, building websites, publishing research, lobbying and circulating materials to support their cause.

But for most women in poverty-stricken communities, opting for abortion is not really so  – meaning these women sometimes feel powerless, incapable of seeing anything other than the most immediate solution to their pressing problem… so the word “opting” does not really apply. No matter how unsafe, unsanitary and dangerous the conditions may be, or even if it goes against their community’s moral code and laws… some women do go through the horrendous physical pain of terminating the life of their unborn child. Oft have we heard of a woman saying she’d rather not have her baby than bring it out into a world of torment, hunger, disease, uncertainty and despair. Thoroughly unprepared for the physical pain, emotional anguish and moral scarring… the woman who goes through abortion does so in hiding, guiltily skulking in the shadows – on one hand defiant in saying society and life have given her no choice; on the other hand secretly branded in her uterus and in her soul for the guilt & shame her act has brought upon her.

Statistics on abortion are incomplete and unreliable since a great number of abortions occurring in countries where abortion is illegal remain unreported & undocumented.

Reports from countries where abortion is legal, e.g. US, Canada, Australia, Cuba, Norway, Italy, China, North Korea,  etc., are intermittent and/or irregular. Among them, Greenland has the highest percentage of documented abortions (based on the total known pregnancies for the year covered in the report) with 51.1% in the year 2007.

This figure is not a good basis for concluding that Greenland must have the largest number of abortions worldwide since not all countries submitted data for the same year, and not all countries participated in giving a report; not to mention the fact that no such report has been given in countries where abortion is not allowed except in case of medical abortion where the life of the mother is threatened (e.g. ectopic pregnancies).

Based on the “Summary of Registered Abortions through April 2010” collected, analyzed and presented in the website of Wm. Robert Johnston. Since the amount of data is varied and comprehensive, for this blog post,  I have decided to include the following items which may also be of interest to you.

Please click on the Abortion Table to see the data I am talking about here. My apologies for this inconvenience, I have not yet mastered HTML so I converted my bitmap file into Adobe PDF just so I can insert the link in my blog.

Abortion Table

My basis for the groupings is the similarity in the years covered although the range may not be exactly consistent in all cases. Some noteworthy details about Group Ainclude the following:

PR China in the years 1971-2007 has a total number of 307,252,167 reported abortions. It must be noted thatChina’s “One Child Policy” is a major factor in the huge number of abortions done. An estimated additional 17,809,257 abortions have been done in PR China till April 2010

• In Group A, India is the only country where abortion is illegal, with the following stats: for 1972-2004, a reported 17,143,717 total abortions were done, with an estimated additional 3,437,749 till April 2010

Vietnam, within a shorter span of time (1976-2000) has reported a total of 11,713,366 abortions, with an additional estimate of 6,421,604 abortions till April 2010

For Group B, I have noted the following distinctions:

Bangladesh, for the year 2000 alone, has had a total reported 119,600 abortions with an estimated additional 1,116,266 done till April 2010. Abortion is illegal in this country

• Ukraine, even after considering the one year difference in coverage with other countries in this group, has the biggest number of reported abortions (within the years 1992-2008) numbering up to 8,238,842

All countries in Group B have legal abortion, with some taking a selective or case-to-case stance

Regarding the third group, i.e. Group C – which comprises the former USSR and USA, the following details have been noted:

From 1922-1991, the former Soviet Union had a total of 282,429,483 reported abortions (there is no more data after that since the dissolution of the Soviet bloc)

The USA on the other hand, has a total of 47,638,390 abortions in the years 1926-2004, with an additional estimated 4,662,666 number of abortions till April 2010

For Group D, I have included the following noteworthy details:

• In spite of the approximately 30-year gap between Iceland and other countries in Group D relative to the starting point of the abortion data, Iceland still has the lowest estimated number of additional abortions till April 2010: 1,273 and the lowest latest annual abortion figure: 955

• Abortion is legal in all countries in Group D

To illustrate the relatively low abortion rates in these countries, I have taken the liberty of presenting the data for Group D in this manner (please click on Group D Table).

Group D Table

The world total number of reported abortions from 1922-2009 is 862,695,400, while the estimated current global monthly average is 1,237,000 abortions. The world total does not take into account what may be a substantial number of abortions done illegally, or quietly – in secret in countries where abortion may or may not be legal. However, one may safely conclude that the incidence of underreporting would be greater in countries where abortion has legal sanctions.

Abortion Data:

© Lovely Claire Dangalan, 2011

Broken picket fences

A Critique on Contemporary Human Relationships: Coupledom, Cohabitation, Marriage & The Family

So you have decided to move in together. After going through the motions of dating, maybe an on again-off again pairing and finally deciding to stay together… after some time, you’d think, this is it.

If you’re the guy and you’ve given her a key to your apartment months ago… it seems quite natural to assume that the next step would be to ask her to move in with you. If you’re the girl and you already have the key to his place, you’re thinking: If he asks me to move in after some time, I probably should say “yes.” After all, moving in together is a prelude to the “real thing”, that is, marriage – the vision of marital bliss. 🙂

Hold that thought… and very quickly read this post.

Of the many aspects of my complicated life, one of the most troubling, I must say, is my inability to stay in a relationship. I am no commitment phobe, quite the reverse actually – and while I value my independence, I do like having a man around even just to hold me in the middle of the night, with or without words of comfort. And I do like to feel loved and needed by a total stranger with a totally different background and set of experiences from mine… who will further enrich the life I already have, and yet… the thing I earnestly have been searching for – that true & lasting relationship – has remained elusive so far.

I have never been wont to have one-night stands or flings or FWB types of associations [though I did try one of the three… with adverse consequences, hehehe :-)]. At first, it was more an act of despair… for I wanted to hold on to the relationship for as long as I could, in whatever way… then realized my folly before I let it destroy me completely.

But I am not going to continue ranting about my sentiments regarding my experiences… this entry is more about my desire to dispassionately analyze some of our most profound, all-consuming and life-changing human relationships: between two people (hetero- / homo- – though this will deal more about the former since am no authority on the latter, however, I will share whatever info I gleaned from research & experience in this post), marriage [and its (sometimes) dissolution] and the family in its various forms.

My discussion will not take into consideration alternative views / customs on courtship, marriage and family that have been in existence in cultural (ethnic) communities, though they may be mentioned in passing. The focus of this post will be on the “mainstream” traditional and contemporary norms regarding such life events.

However, in this discourse, you will come across real life cases of people I know… myself, old friends and acquaintances, who, I might add, would know exactly who they are when they come across this post. Let them not be offended for, by citing their example (& mine), others can only learn something from our / their lives at the very least, be informed of the possibilities and hopefully avoid the pitfalls that we have been through without living life in fear.

Some of the narratives are abbreviated versions; and be warned: truth IS stranger than fiction.

While our ancestors exhibited simpler though somewhat interesting (by today’s standards) courtship behaviors with olden ways as diverse as throwing a spear in front of the family abode of the woman whose hand the man sought to ask for in marriage… to chopping wood and transporting (by foot) pails and pails of inaccessible water for the family of the beloved… and using a “bridge” to hand over love notes to his lady love under the watchful eye of the parents and/or chaperone, our ways today, though more direct – belie the tendencies of people to complicate their lives with relationships.

In the Philippines, there really wasn’t any dating involved, just courtship. A woman could have many suitors – men who pursued her with the intent of marrying her, and she chose or her parents chose for her. Usually, unless they were already betrothed, they would have to engage in group activities and were given very few (if any) opportunities to be alone together. Some “wayward” young couples usually resorted to eloping – running away together. Once the elopement has taken place, if the girl is restored to her parents by the parents of the young man (which was wont to happen) – she was already considered disgraced – whether or not they have consummated their relationship. The only recourse for them was to get married. For the majority who did not elope but got “properly” betrothed, the couple was only allowed a few moments alone and a kiss may or may not happen. Greater intimacy was expected only after marriage.

This practice, though no longer strictly adhered to, has left some remnants in the Filipino mentality & attitude towards dating and relationships. Some young people have gotten into the Western mode of dating, but for most of us, dating happens only with the assurance of future and immediate exclusivity – not dating and then exclusivity which may (or may not) happen sooner or later.

Men used to dominate and control women’s sexuality. Women were expected to remain virtuous (virgins) until they got married. Men dictated who wooed whom. It didn’t matter if you loved Sam instead of Paul. If your mother & father decide for you to marry Sam, you have to marry Sam. Even if there is no Sam and you are attracted to Paul, as a woman, you should rather want to die in shame than make the first move. That is why women had to resort to fainting spells (although with the corset in Europe & America, this happened with great frequency), dropping the handkerchief, peering from behind the curtains or the fan or whatever object one can peer behind from, casting a meaningful glance at the object of one’s affection… hoping he isn’t too stupid not to get the message clearly. 😉

When I came here to Dubai and met some Westerners & experienced dating firsthand, I had trouble adjusting to the practice of dating multiple people and weeding out the desirables from the undesirables (or so it seemed)… just as the man, on his side, eliminated the women he was going out with one by one – making a distinction between girlfriend material types & the casual dating types – perhaps having intercourse with one or two of those he weeded out in the process.

The dilemma of dating someone in a place like this is that even after assurances of exclusivity, the fact is that a lot of people who date or become couples come from diverse geographies & backgrounds – which is true for all people, but in this case, we’re talking about thousands of miles & cultural differences in between. Loosened from the social fabric of their original communities, both men & women behave in ways that may be contrary to social expectations. Finding a date (usually online) has become so impersonal & easy, relationships have become so brittle and people have become so mobile & busy with their individual pursuits that everything seems to be up against people’s desire to have stability in their intimate relationships.

The machine has taken the place of the person… and this does not bode well for human relationships.

Notice how you first meet up and seem to get along well… then you don’t get a text message or a phone call, not even after you initiate communication. Everything went so well, but why hasn’t he returned your calls or responded to your messages? Why was she so sweet but is now picking a fight via text messaging? Remember how you dated during the weekend and everything went off without a hitch and just a few days after, you’re already having a row via your mobile phone?

The availability of technology has given us the opportunities to be constantly in touch with people who matter (and don’t matter) in our lives. The downside being that, when tensions rise and pressure builds up, becomes unbearable & we just want to shut out the rest of the world – technology has enabled us to neglect, abuse, ignore people & even totally sever our ties with other human beings. The messages we send, especially through text messaging, have become ambiguous… prone to misinterpretation, misunderstandings… and what is supposed to be a fun, harmless message ends up as something one has to explain & apologize for.

Case: How a man informed his young wife he was divorcing her on the phone. It happened to one of our students who was trying to finish her last semester of university studies. She was unable to graduate before since she opted to get married to a Filipino US Navy serviceman during the last year of her studies. Well & good; they got married after all and lived in Hawaii where he was stationed. She came back to the Philippines about two years later to finish her education. They were, as yet, childless. She was happy and hopeful like any young wife.

And just as she was about to defend her thesis, she had a phone call from him: he was divorcing her on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences” which only he seemed to know. We told her, he’s obviously a jerk to do that via a phone call… so, good riddance. Of course, that wasn’t enough consolation… she was distraught & could barely focus on her research. She needed help. We were there… but Lord knows how she managed to make it through graduation after what he put her through.

Case: Love marriage vs. arranged marriage? In the course of my life here in the UAE, I have befriended some Indian women, two of whom had “love marriages”… meaning they chose their mates for themselves, usually against the wishes of their families. One is in her early forties, childless & divorced from her apparently “lazy” husband. Love (or passion), as usual, blinded her in the beginning from his faults. She saw him through rose-tinted glasses – his seeming lack of ambition & complacency made her see him as the atypical Indian man who wasn’t pressured by the expectations of society – hence, the epitome of the “free” man who didn’t care, an attitude she thought she shared with him, until he started hurting her physically and refused to make a decent living.

My other friend is in her late forties and has two grown-up children by her husband. They were devoted to each other till they came here to work. Their former uncomplicated lives became marred by quarrels, usually because of his lack of attention & concern. She suspected that he was having an affair (or affairs). She would always tell him off when they had fights and tried to kick him out of their home, but he always managed to wheedle his way back into her life. She was emotionally tangled and found it difficult to refuse him after the heat of their spats had cooled, until late 2009 when she kicked him out of the house once and for all. They have just recently got back to talking, usually because he called her incessantly. My friend says she no longer feels anything… only indifference. What will happen to them remains to be seen.

I’d also like to share one incident I can never seem to shake off. It isn’t anything dramatic or tragic, but I always recall that bus ride I had going to the Bur Dubai bus station about four years ago. There was a married Indian couple on the bus. By the looks of her, the woman seemed to be about seven or eight months pregnant. When it was time for them to get off in the bus stop just before our final destination, the man hurriedly got up and out of the bus without turning to assist his wife who was slow to walk since she was heavy with child. He waited for her on the curb and began walking when she reached him. Ah, rather unfairly, I assumed that theirs must have been an arranged marriage. Still, arranged or not, when the man’s family has taken the dowry, he also accepts the responsibility of being the husband – caring for her & giving her the assistance she needs as his wife. It shouldn’t matter that he feels he is too good-looking for such a plain Jane like her… does that even count? They are already married.

Oh well, some of our Indian female friends and us Filipinas are of the agreement that most Indian men are ungentlemanly, that’s all. One friend of ours even went so far as recalling how her father used to physically drag her along on outings without any thought for her comfort. I laughingly told one of our Indian friends to teach her son manners if she ever has a son & she agreed. 😉

Case: Which do you think is better: a long-term or short-term engagement? Most people like to think that long-term engagements are more stable or ideal, eventually leading to the altar of matrimony. This guy has always had long-term relationships in high school (usually lasting more than a year) and two of his former girlfriends were close friends of ours, in fact, the guy in question was also a close friend of mine. Fresh out of college and working in Manila for my first employer and after not seeing him for quite a number of years, I was surprised to get a call from him announcing that he was getting married. They’d been together for about six months, and when I asked him about it he simply said that his long-term relationships ended and what he did with his soon-to-be wife was to simply take a church administered couple’s compatibility test and after that, he decided to marry her.

He said it’s not about how long all the time. What’s it about then? If you would consider how some say that it’s a matter of timing for guys. Not so much whom they choose to marry but who IS there to be married to when the man feels ready to settle down. Some guys talk about “the one who got away”… that really nice woman they fell in love with who was everything they would have wanted in a wife – but figuratively got away because he let her go. Not because she proved inadequate; in fact, she was perfect… but he wasn’t ready to settle down. She was ready, or maybe he thought she was… and he was not, so she had to go.

Case: The FWB (Friends With Benefits) She’d been through a string of broken relationships… not that she didn’t try. In fact, her shortest relationship lasted five months. Every time she met a guy.. the guy who seemed to be the man of her dreams… all her cares and suspicions faded away.

All she could think of were the little ways with which he pleased her: he would carry her bags, open the door for her, take her to nice restaurants, cook for her, take her to parties to meet his friends and compliment her every time. How smart he was and how much they shared in common.

After a while, while the romantic sparks were kept ablaze, the cold water of reality would douse all of her romantic dreams. He was married, a liar or a cheater… whatever, she always had to be the dumper or be the dumpee.

So she decided to give the serious side of her dating life an indefinite rest. She declared to all of her friends, am saying no to dating, and saying only yes to sex – if and when I want it.

It was a rash, bold move… something even she was scared to do. She did not frequent bars and refused to be set up with someone by friends. No blind dates.

A couple of months after her last heartbreaking relationship, she met a guy online. He was from Australia, 32, a Chemistry and PE teacher at the same time. He was decent enough on the net and he sounded nicer still on the phone. He was cute too.

After a couple of chat sessions, they decided to meet (two months after meeting online)… and everything went smoothly. He was quick to declare that he had just gotten out of an 8-year relationship that ended when he found out his girlfriend had cheated on him. That was one of the reasons he packed his bags and ended in the Middle East. For her part she informed him that yes, she wanted to take things more casually, that she was not ready for a serious relationship and that she wasn’t expecting him to be a boyfriend right away.

She actually believed she could do it. And she tried.

They had sex a couple of times… every time, it was always what he called “mind-blowing” and neither one of them dated other people. They had an agreement that any time one felt like dating someone for real, they would separate amicably. Honesty was going to be the policy.

This went on for a while, till she started to feel jealous of his other Facebook girl friends. She told him that she was getting scared of what their “relationship” was doing to her… and she wanted out. He refused. He said they had a good arrangement, why would she end it that way?

So she stayed. But at the back of her mind, she always feared that he was keeping her on the side till he found himself ready for the “real thing” which may or may not include her.

She knew she was deluding herself into thinking she would never feel emotionally attached to him. But she already began liking him months before and she let him know when she tried to end it.

When she made a decision to deal the final blow, it was already five months after they first met. Her gut had been telling her he must be flirting with others, and he was. She saw the evidence on his phone.

She never told him how or why she knew… but three weeks after they saw each other last she sent him a message saying she wanted to end it and that they needn’t see other to discuss anything. She was calm and polite and simply said goodbye.

He tried to make her change her mind but she remained adamant. She did not say angry words or anything. All she could think of was one of the girls he was dating (she’d seen the girl’s profile on Facebook and her comments, etc.) and how she saw this girl one night on the train all excited and talking to him. She was standing right next to the girl and overheard everything. She even tried calling him on the spot. His phone was busy of course. It became available only after the other girl hung up.

She was so angry… but managed to keep her calm.

Coincidence? She is not really one of those people who believed in such, but that incident strengthened her resolve.

And finally her “friends with benefits” experiment ended.

It’s been almost a year and she has not dated anyone. When I asked her what her plans were on the relationship front, she just smiled… I’d rather wait it out than go out looking for my prince, only to end up kissing a toad. 🙂

Case: How can the man – the love of my life – hurt me if he loves me? They’d already been together for about five years (engaged for a year) when the girl decided she wanted some space. Now this person is a strong-willed intelligent woman and a thorough professional, so were surprised to know later, when she could talk about it, that the reason why she called off the engagement was because sometimes he coerced her into having sex and he had hit her once for refusing. Who would think that such a nice, gentlemanly, upstanding guy could do that? But he did. The wedding never took place and the girl has remained single five years after and counting. Another woman I know who is separated from her husband recalled how he forced her to have sex even when she was physically exhausted – she had to imagine Brad Pitt or George Clooney to shut out the pain of being forced to submit.

It is true though, that some women, even after going through physical and emotional abuse, find it difficult to leave the abusive husband / boyfriend. Insecurities, inadequate financial & social support, misguided thoughts on love and fear of being alone & facing the unknown can and do incapacitate certain people from ending abusive relationships and moving on.

Case:  Are you really a man… really, are you sure? They had been together since the latter part of college well until graduation and when they had their first jobs. She was an English Education major and a soprano hoping to enroll later in a prominent university and major in Music while he was a licensed mechanical engineer. They made an attractive couple. He was one of those guys who aren’t handsome but are very attractive… in fact, he attracted both ladies & gays. She, on the other hand, was a sweet, cute, attractive and smart career woman who knew how to take very good care of her guy. To cut the story short, it was when he came to our place on a two-day holiday that he got her pregnant. It was unplanned of course. They were planning on getting hitched after two more years… but since she got pregnant, they had “no choice” but to wed. I put no choice in double quotes because people with opposing / liberal views towards these circumstances may not understand. So get married they did and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. She continued working in the same place while he continued his career in Manila.

One summer, when they already had two boys and my friend had transferred to her husband’s province to teach, she came to my place of work briefly (after about eight hours of travel) to tell me she suspected her husband was having an affair & she already had a woman in mind. She begged me to devise a way by which I can find out from him what exactly is going on with him there in Manila. He came home during the weekends (his province is approximately 5 to 6 hours away from Manila) and she expected him to be as eager to see her & the kids as they were to see him. He was less than enthusiastic and, based on her own account, was not even enthusiastic enough to actually make love to her even on just a weekly basis. I reassured her. Told her his travel by bus must tire him out and he does have a high-pressure job… she said no, she was sure he had some other woman on the side, ‘a wife can tell’ she said dejectedly. I didn’t know what to do… when I went with her to the bus station next morning, I felt less bothered and decided it must be temporary insanity on her part and once she got home and saw their kids, she would realize she had to relax & just forget about what she told me. But she didn’t. She waited for me to do something so I had to find a way. As an aside, I must mention the name of Dr. Margarita Go-Singco Holmes a.k.a. Dr. Margie Holmes, a hugely popular Filipino psychologist specializing in sex therapy. I say that I must mention her (and extend my apologies to her & her staff) because it was by pretending to be her / one of her staff that I was able to probe into this man’s psyche. So, what I did was I made up a public service campaign allegedly launched by Dr. Margie Holmes and her staff to help the public in their FAQs on love, sex & relationships in general… sort of like a Q&A assuring anonymity… all for free.

Dr. Margarita Holmes

My friend crazily agreed with the idea. Now during that time, Dr. Holmes was extremely famous and admired for her wit & humor and sincerity in answering sensitive topics few people would want to discuss with a stranger. I showed my friend the first text message I was going to send him and she approved. How did I address the fact that I texted him in particular? That was covered in the message. We selected random numbers and sent them the offer, that is, each person who wants to be part of the public service campaign may send their age, gender, civil status and occupation along with up to three questions regarding the aforementioned topics, with further instructions for them NOT to send their name or address unless necessary. I sent that message at about 10.30am. Before 1pm, she had gone on her bus but there was no reply as yet. She sent me one text message after another, asking me, nay, pleading with me to find a way to get through to him. Now I was also busy preparing for my summer holiday at my hometown. My mom and my son were waiting for me… anyway, her messages were so desperate they got me thinking… okay, so it just might work. I resolved to record all our exchanges in a notebook to avoid contaminating the information he was going to share (too bad I don’t have that notebook with me right now). At about 4pm that same day, he took the bait. He was honest: male, mechanical engineer in his mid 20s, married with two sons. His concern went something like this: If a straight man has sex with another man, does that make him gay? I asked for more details and since he must have been extremely frustrated and confused, with no confidant, he must’ve thought who better to share this with a total stranger like Dr. Holmes? He went out for drinks with his officemate, an engineer and a family man just like him, and they sort of ended up going to a gay bar where the last thing he could remember was that they met up with some guys and got really drunk. Next thing he knew, he woke up in the morning with a guy in bed with him. He could not remember the details, but from what sensations he could recall, in spite of the initial aversion, he felt an overwhelming sense of pleasure. And memories of that stayed and affected his desire for intimacy (or lack thereof) with his wife.

He later admitted that he increasingly found same sex desirable and his wife less & less sexually attractive. I was conversing with him, noting down everything (my inbox was full so I had to record them and then hit ‘delete’) and at the same time, trying to calm down my friend. I still could not tell her what exactly was happening. I hadn’t the heart. I told her to be patient and I will tell her when all the required information was available. She tried to keep quiet when I told her that he was, at least, receptive… and that she should not, at all cost, text him… or give any hint that she was aware of our exchanges, otherwise, all will be lost. It must have taken her a herculean effort to hold her tongue and control her fingers, but keep silent she did. Some time after midnight, close to 3AM, after an eight-hour-long bus ride home (with many more rides in between & me getting chased by a pack of rabid neighborhood dogs on the loose – I had to walk the last 8 kilometers home; there were no more rides), I was exhausted from the trip, the text messages and the notes I had to take. Everyone who knows me is aware that I sleep, really sleep even during half hour bus rides… but I had no sleep the entire time… couldn’t, the messages came left & right.

The gist was this: he found same sex pleasurable, he began to dread having sex with his wife, still loved her and their sons. So I asked him, which is his priority: exploring this new side of him or keeping his marriage intact. I gave him the pros and the cons of either choice and he ended up saying that even when he found her less physically appealing, he still loved her and would like to try and repair whatever damage had been done on their marriage. I was quite happy with his decision but I was still unsure about how I would break the news to my girl friend. She expected a woman to come between them, not a man / men. Anyway, thinking she wouldn’t bother me when it was already past midnight was misleading, she didn’t let up. My mommy and I were talking, catching up… when my phone battery went dead, she started calling the landline. Sigh. Mommy said, ‘better put her out of her misery… she needs to know the truth.’ So I did. I told her what transpired. To say that she had a breakdown is an understatement. Oh if only she lived closer to our place, but she was too far away. After narrating the events of the day and promising her that she would have the transcript of the message exchange, the line went dead. My mommy told me we should just pray for them and hope for the best. I didn’t hear from her for a while and when she did contact me, she sounded both optimistic and unsure. I was certain the whole thing was driving her nuts. She’s a smart but simple woman. She had no inkling as to what was going to become of her relationship with him. Her dream was simple, fall in love, get married and have kids, go to church, be a good wife and mother and still hopefully keep singing. Everything was perfect until the ugly truth found its way out… and even he was unprepared. It went downhill after a couple of months. She came to our place one time and talked about how they would have quarrels, how she ended up stalking him, trying to trust him but unable to… him becoming violent and calling her names, insulting her… telling her to just go away and leave him alone.

She forgot about her sons, she forgot about herself, her career… sometimes she would get on a bus from her in-laws and find herself somewhere in Manila that she did not know – a state of fugue. She was miserable and I told her, if he has started to hurt & insult you, you should go away with the children and give him space & herself time to think. The sad thing was that her parents were not as supportive as would have been required, but she did manage to get her kids and take them to her own province. Their younger son had a heart problem and she used up all her energy trying to find doctors in any country in the world who could operate on her son free of cost. It was an expensive procedure and no doctor in the Philippines was accessible & willing to do the required surgery. Eventually, she found a way and he was operated on in the USA. She was with him the whole time. That was the last of what I heard of her and her kids.

We lost touch.

But through a social networking site, she located me and their profile photo shows her and her husband and their sons together. I have not read her letter to me, but I am glad that all seems fine. He must have decided that family was more important than anything else. Human sexuality and one’s sexual orientation may be areas that are very personal, but the choices we make about such affects everyone in our lives – our partner, our spouse, our family, and collectively – society.

P.S. Again, my apologies to Dr. Holmes. 😉

Case: Am I just a rebound girl or really your girlfriend? She had just ended her intense four-month affair with a married guy. He was leaving for the US and the breakup was inevitable but no less painful. They both knew at the very start it was going to end anyway. So, two months into the breakup, she met a young man who swore he fell in love with her at first sight. She wasn’t very keen on him but he pursued her. He was good-looking and had a job, not a great job but… to women does it really matter when love has entered the picture?  Eventually, they became an item and he hung around her place a lot. He cooked for her and she cooked for him. They were crazy about each other.

Months passed and he finally had the break he was waiting for. He’d be transferred overseas in the Middle East which wasn’t the best news on earth but she was willing to make it work. A long distance relationship just might prove enduring no matter how inconvenient it would be, so they agreed to continue their relationship. They agreed to send each other detailed emails once a week and so they did. At first his emails were quite frequent until, into the third month, they bordered on non-existent. She got really worried. She texted his sister and found out he called them every week and was fine. She could not concentrate at work and wondered whether she’d be able to deal with what she was set at discovering. She went through his Friendster profile and picked one of the six women he had in his list of friends.

She sent an email to that girl and asked about him, in case he was corresponding with her. It turned out that she had made a very accurate choice. The girl’s answer was short & direct – she was his girlfriend and when they had a major row, he walked out and they stopped talking. That was the period when he came upon my acquaintance & befriended her. Furthermore, the girl said that it’s not the first time that this has happened. She didn’t know whether to be angry with or to pity the girl. She must either be too stupid or too madly in love to stay with such an asshole (bad, bad boy!)… she promptly sent the guy an angry mail saying they were done and that he can go to hell. He called her up a few days later to explain but she was incoherent. She did not take his calls anymore after that. More than a year later, he emailed her asking her to take him back. Let it suffice to say that they are not back together at present.

The above is an example of a quandary some women find themselves in today. To be at one point THE girlfriend and then become the OTHER woman (third party) after getting dumped and the (stupid) guy changes his mind and (allegedly) wants her back while he is with his new girlfriend. This is not a good scenario to be in. Get out of it as fast as you can!

Case: The trouble with premarital sex… This friend of mine got hitched pretty early, for a guy I mean. He was barely out of college when he was told he had to marry his girlfriend. After all, it was the most honorable thing to do, as advised by his parents. She was pregnant with his child. Or so they thought. You see, they didn’t bother to get her checked or use one of those pregnancy test kits. It would have been unseemly and uncomfortable. Her menstruation was delayed for a considerable amount of time, and they were boyfriend and girlfriend anyway… might as well get married right? So, the wedding was arranged, the reception… everything.

During the reception, after going to the ladies room, the bride nervously took the groom aside and reported breaking news. She got her period! She wasn’t pregnant! Alas, they were already married. Three children later, they eventually parted ways. I have seen my friend go from girlfriend to girlfriend… a lot of them resembling each other physically… most of them long-term, but none leading to the altar. Anyway, he’s still waiting for the annulment to be finalized. He is on speaking terms with his ex-wife, pursuing a career he apparently likes and is now with a relatively new girlfriend.

Case: Did I contribute to him becoming gay? Now this is a rhetorical question because my friend knows she was not responsible for the guy’s becoming gay. He was a classmate way back in elementary school. He was handsome and cute & smart. He was technically her first boyfriend but not the real thing (they were too young) – hence, technically. He pursued her when school was about to end and we were about to enter a new phase in our lives: high school. She said “yes” not because she liked him (she found him to be too full of hot air) but because it irked her no end when he was following her around like a sick puppy dog even when she knew he was just out to play a game of cat and mouse. Anyway, they immediately lost touch after being boyfriend-girlfriend for a couple of minutes. She didn’t even mention him to us, her friends, because she felt it didn’t matter; that it didn’t count. She saw the guy a few times in high school but they never got to talk again. About two years ago, he tracked her down on a social networking website and they chatted a few times on YM. He was working in Saudi Arabia. She didn’t inquire about his civil status since she didn’t want him to misread it as a sign of romantic interest. He was very friendly, even flirty… but she had a boyfriend so she left it at that. Then they lost touch again. Just about two months ago, he tracked her down on Facebook and sent her a couple of friendly messages which she replied to.

What shocked her (just a tad) was the fact that his profile name was that of a girl with his real name inside parentheses, and he had a couple of profile pictures of himself dressed and made up like a woman. She never asked him to about how he “transformed.” She is still wondering, though, about the trigger that led him to become what he is now.

Case: Are we or aren’t we? He was a successful lawyer engaged to the daughter of a prominent family in their community, she being a lawyer just like him. They had been together for about four years and made plans to get married. The whole community knew about it. He befriended a girl in our group who had just undergone a tragic breakup and we assumed, oh… they’re just being friendly with each other, not inappropriately so. Well, the platonic relationship became romantic and we (including the girl) were under the impression that he had broken off his engagement. Besides, his fiancée had gone to Manila, further fuelling the rumors that their relationship was in muddy waters. We welcomed him into our group and he became one of our own. Of course, we had our own trepidation… concerns for our friend. She had barely overcome her disappointment over her last long-term relationship and here she was again, happy & content. But was he?

By all appearances, he seemed alright. They did not hide their relationship and that (kind of) gave us some reassurance regarding his sincerity. Besides, our friend was also from a good family, so if their relationship became really serious, he would have been marrying well too. Some months later, he went to Manila and informed our friend (through text messaging, no less!) that the wedding was back on, and that they (him & our friend) were done. It was the rainy season and it could not be any gloomier. It has been a couple of years since and he’s been officially married. When our friend asked us what she should do when she learned he was returning to work for the company she was working for, I just told her to ignore him. She is under no obligation to be nice to him. Bygones, yes, but he hurt her further after her previous heartbreak… and he knew it, but was an asshole anyway. So, if it were you, what would you have done?

Case: My straight friend who discovered he was gay after being molested. I had a close male friend from the office. He was smart, generous, a gentleman and dark, not so tall, but very cute. He was actually a crush of some of our colleagues & a manager. When we got assigned for a week to a province in a different island he confided his great secret. He was being groomed to become a pastor in their church and he was an excellent church youth leader, but, he told me, recently found out he was gay. He had an unpleasant experience of being groped at the metro by another guy – presumably a gay. But the moment of unraveling occurred when he went to a park frequented by cyclists. He was in a particularly pensive mood and was sitting quietly in a corner when a pair of arms dragged him behind the bushes. He was sexually assaulted by a bigger guy – gay. He never reported this incident to the police and never told anyone, not because he was afraid of the negative attention, but ashamed by the pleasurable feelings he felt while being attacked. He could not, would not accept that he was gay. His greater dilemma was his need to tell his family and his pastor. He eventually embraced who he was.

The last I heard of him was when he was in a relationship with a doctor.

Case: Finding out you are pregnant by your ex after meeting someone new… I used to think this only happened in the movies. This woman got involved with another guy eight weeks after having breakup sex with her ex. She thought she was safe and thought no more of it. She was with a new guy who was into her and she was quite happy to be with him, until about two months after the breakup sex (with the ex), she realized she didn’t get her period. She was already with the new guy and they hadn’t done it yet and there she was… pregnant with her ex.

She tried to contact her ex through his best friend. The ex already went abroad and he couldn’t be reached. She emailed him through AOL but never got a response. She had to make a decision. To complicate matters, she was already raising her own kids on her own and her job required her to live a not-so-scandalous life. After some gut-wrenching thinking, she decided to lose the baby. He current boyfriend noticed the changes in her body and she had to pretend it was his (when it was possible to say so). When the baby was gone, timed to happen when he was out of town, she told him she had a miscarriage.

Today, she is no longer with her then boyfriend and she has a different job in another country. She still regrets her decision to lose the baby every single day, but she knew that at that time, it seemed to be the safest thing to do. It was cowardly, and she will have to live with that fact for the rest of her life. The father of the baby on the other hand wrote to her two years ago apologizing for not being there and for not being able to answer her pleas for help. He is now married with two kids. He named one of his kids after her. He says he still loves her and wants to see her when they have a chance to meet back home. She relishes the thought of seeing him again but knows she won’t go out of her way to be with him anymore.

Case: The attractive older man… He was a handsome lawyer and professor and she was the daughter of a prominent politician. It would not have been a problem if they had a relationship. She came from a good family and was in college. They could have waited till she graduated and decided to get married. But they couldn’t. He was already married and had three kids of his own.

I saw a portrait of him and his family once, when we were invited to a party in his house. It was a beautiful painting of him, his beautiful wife and their three lovely children… a happy family by all appearances. The girl in question was his student in one of the classes he handled. They had a clandestine relationship that went on for months, ending only when she got pregnant and had to have an abortion because it was also what he wanted.

Case: A woman you once loved has become a source of annoyance but you can never seem to shake her off… She’s a pretty girl, not the smartest in class, but able to cope well with the demands of university life and further postgraduate studies. Attractive, but attracted only to one guy that her parents wouldn’t want for her. A married guy (separated for over a decade) going through a long and painful divorce, with three kids, two of which were almost the same age as her, with the last one about to enter college. At first, he felt he was the one in control… she was docile, submissive and sweet. He was under the illusion that since she was younger and just a girlfriend, he could still be where he wanted to be with people he wanted to be with… including his group of male and female friends. She was jealous, possessive and insecure. She tried to get along with his friends and it was mostly alright with the guys. With the women, it was a different story.

She always felt a stab of jealousy whenever any one of them called or texted him. He loved her so he changed his number. She knew his email addresses and the passwords. He had no privacy, and he was more tied down with her than a regular husband, but he loved her so this went on for years; till he got tired of her checking his mail, deleting (allegedly) flirty messages from his students or replying to them. They broke up and got back together a million times. Before he realized it, five years had gone by. She used to blackmail him whenever he threatened to leave her or asked her to move out. The last news I had was that they’d finally broken up and he now has a new girlfriend. Better? Worse? I guess only time can tell.

Case: Getting an annulment / divorce after being married for more than 40 years… My mommy’s brother-in-laws parents divorced (filed for annulment) when they were already in their late 60’s. I didn’t know them too well although I did stay in their house when I went on summer vacations in Angeles City when I was around seven or eight. The wife worked as a telephone operator in what was formerly known as Clark Air Base while the husband was semi retired – suffered from a limp I never quite learned when he got injured or how. All I knew is that my mom referred to him jokingly as “general” (I don’t know why either). Anyway, whenever I witnessed them at home – physically together that is, I never really felt the warmth one would expect between people who’ve been married for such a long time. My mommy was a very temperamental woman, but she and daddy used to joke around a lot… mommy was usually the butt of daddy’s jokes & vice versa. I didn’t see much of that in this old couple. They were formal to each other. She took care that he was served properly during his meals, and his needs attended to… but beyond that, I didn’t see much intimacy.

But I was just a kid right?

Anyway, a few years ago, I learned that she had filed for divorce. She’d been in the US for a long time; some time after the American military & navy bases withdrew from the Philippines, she got a “green card” quite easily by virtue of her status as a former employee of Clark Air Force Base. She had been financially independent for the latter part of her married life, providing economic support, not just for her spouse but for her grown-up children as well. In retrospect, I sometimes wonder if they would have stayed married for so long had she been compelled by circumstances to be a hands-on housewife (they had a “maid” – auntie was how we called her, who was mostly in charge of the domestic activities – in fact, there was no event considered possible without her) or if they did not have a faithful & loyal auntie who basically ran their household for them.

Case: My gay friend who couldn’t take the plunge. I have a friend who’s a psychologist – he’s gay and very good at his job. Sometimes I would go to him for advice. One particular time while I was in a relationship with a pathological liar & womanizer, he remarked: My dear, you love a man like a gay! I shook my head and said I didn’t understand. He said I am like a typical gay who’s abused by a guy. Abuse may be emotional, psychological, financial or physical… and from what I told him, I loved like a gay would love his man. He said that’s why he’s always been wary of flirting or dating – much less having a relationship. Most of his gay friends had tales of frustration and great hurt from their own relationships. I told him: You may end up with a great guy. Why are you so afraid to live? He shook his head, smiled and said: I love my family too much to let myself go like that and am just too much of a coward. I’m not ready.

Case: “If only I could turn back time…” 

She was one of those smart girls who rarely stood out in a crowd and usually ended up being one of the wallflowers in most parties. Not really shy, but quite indistinctive… too ordinary perhaps, for ordinary eyes.

Anyway, she met him, a young American, on the worldwide web – yes, the Internet. They began with the usual friendly chats and progressed to Skype video talks. They announced their relationship status on Facebook and Friendster (as it was before). Almost a year after announcing their relationship in social networking sites, he came to see her in thePhilippinesand formally asked for her hand in marriage. They were finally engaged!

This was  promptly announced on Facebook (Friendster was changed into something else). Engaged. Their profile pictures were identical – a picture of them as a happily engaged couple.

When she was able to obtain a fiancée visa, he took her to the States to meet his family. Everything went smoothly although she had to go back home to continue with her work and eventually plan for a smooth transition after their wedding.

Just a little over a year after their engagement, she deactivated her Facebook account. They had made wedding preparations immediately after meeting each other’s families, and they were constantly in touch.

Then he disappeared.

She did not hear from him after three months of anxious phone calls, emails and inquiries about how he was, where he was and why on earth he disappeared…

He said he met someone. That’s all.

She cried till here were no more tears to shed. She screamed her heart out… the agony, the shame, the humiliation. Most of all, he broke her heart.

The first time she entrusted her heart to a man entirely… was not a time she thought she’d lose it, along with her mind.

A year after he left her, her mind and heart remained blank. Unable to see nor feel the romance that had once left her dazed and unaware of all else, save him & their love.

He began calling her again at home (she changed her mobile number) and sent her emails. He said he made a mistake; he was sorry… can she please forgive him?

Bygones. Forgive & forget, that’s what they say… but it is sometimes easier to forget, to heal, to feel better… but virtually impossible to forget.

She still loved him, but what he did ruined it for her, for them.

Trust. How can one restore trust & faith in something that has already been broken?

The wounds in her heart healed but have left a deep scar. She couldn’t let him in again. Wouldn’t dare.

Some of us may say, if one loves so much, why not? Why then? Or why not?

It has been more than two years since they broke off the engagement. She has no Facebook account or any account in any social networking site.

She has since moved on and is exclusively dating someone new.

And, she says: I try not to look at him with sad & worried eyes.

Case: High school sweethearts… Their relationship began in their youth & matured into adulthood. It’s actually a romantic scenario a lot of people wish for… friendship blossoming into love.

Emma & Eric were high school sweethearts. They belonged to the same group of friends since they were 14 & 15 respectively, although they were not particularly close.

He began courting her shortly after the JS prom in their school. It was summer and a great time to be in love. By the time Eric graduated and had to leave for Manila to study engineering, Emma thought that was that.

But their relationship endured the long distance between Manila and their hometown (it was a 10-hour long bus trip – one way). They remained a couple well until it was time for Emma to earn her own college degree.

They got married and made Manila their home.

Emma worked in a major financial firm; Eric worked for a Japanese contracting company.

Within two years of marriage, they were able to move in to their own gated 2-bedroom house and have a baby boy. They got a nanny to take care of the baby while they were both at work.

Everything was going very well, too well in fact, that Eric always had extra money for drinks after-hours.

Five years into their marriage, it was no longer uncommon to hear wine bottles being thrown at their living room wall.

Eric would come home tipsy at or just after the break of dawn to an Emma holding a wine or beer bottle in hand ready to throw it at him.

When Eric began drinking even on workdays, Emma didn’t worry so much. He never got drunk, never drove their silver grey Pajero into anything, and when he did go out for a late dinner with a little drinking, it was always on business: to close a business deal or discuss a possible expansion. He would come home in high spirits and tell her how the dinner was a resounding success.

But things began to change. He paid her less and less attention. They began to ignore each other. He always went home late at night, usually tipsy or drunk. She gained weight and spent more time with her neighborhood amigas.

They both forgot about their young son.

One day, they were both called for an urgent parent-teacher conference. Their son, it seemed, was causing some problems in his Kinder 1 class. He was hot-headed and got into fights. It was also noted that he sometimes had welts on his arms and buttocks (these were checked when he complained of pain when sitting).

The couple began to argue and blame each other. It was Eric who used his belt to discipline their child.

The teacher and the child counselor intervened. They had to undergo marriage counseling or they may end up losing their son.

Needless to say, it didn’t work.

Eric left their home and began living in an apartment close to his office. He complained to his friends about the trouble of having a joint account. He opened his own account so that his entire salary would not have to be accessed solely by his wife (she had the card and passbook). He started saving from his “sideline” income (extra earnings outside work).

They were separated for over a year.

Parents from both camps intervened and the couple were advised to start talking again, for the sake of their only child.

Quite unwillingly, they began by making irregular phone calls to each other. Then they had a few family outings.

They were back together before a year was over.

Now they live in Canada with their two boys and little girl.

Case: “Sad to belong to someone else…” How many times have I heard people say how the lyrics of this song ring true. My! How tragic… been there, done that ;-p … not a nice situation to be in I must say. But am not talking about myself. I had just informed my manager of my intent to leave my part-time job and I was supposed to go through the usual exit interview. I sat down across my manager, a very kind and gentlemanly person. He looked very serious and said I had excellent prospects in the company but he remained supportive of my decision since, he said, it was a matter that would greatly affect my future career options. Then he became very grave. He said, you’re still very young, but I feel that you are someone I can trust to understand. May I confide in you? He was about fifteen or twenty years older than me. I shrugged and said: Yes of course, you can tell me anything.

He proceeded to tell me about how he fell in love with someone in high school, how they became an item but somehow drifted apart. Now he’s married with kids; so was she. That would not have been a problem EXCEPT THAT… except that the one he was talking about was one of the other managers working in the same outlet as him & me. 😦 Then I got a bit worried and I think my thoughts were written all over my face… he patted me on the hand and said: I love her and she loves me. We have spoken about this but we don’t plan on destroying the happiness of others.

Then he asked for my opinion. But what did I really know? I still skipped ropes and was addicted to video arcade games! What could I possibly say? I said: Sir, I am just a young girl and I know it is not my place to tell you what to do but… perhaps, if you allow yourself to have some distance from her, you may both be able to move on. Both of you are married and you’re both good people so I hope you’ll stick to doing the right thing, even when it may make you unhappy at first.

He smiled and said: Actually, I have taken steps to get assigned elsewhere. I already informed the Operations Manager of my desire to work in a different outlet without telling him the real reason of course.

I asked him if she knew about his plan and he said she did, and she supported his plan.

We talked some more about life in general… but I can’t seem to remember the rest of what he told me. All I know is that after I left that room, I looked at them both… all adults actually, in a very different light.

I realized that as kids, we’re all in a hurry to grow up… thinking that as adults, we’d be able to do whatever we want. We don’t. We can’t. Life gets too complicated when one grows old… choices become more complex and nothing is in black & white. Thank God for childhood then, right?


So you think you have met The One. Moving in together are you?

Let’s move on to some facts about cohabitation brought to light through social research:

• People who live together have a decreased likelihood of marrying each other.

• People who live together before getting married have higher separation / divorce rates early in the marriage compared to those who did not go through cohabitation.

• Couples who go through cohabitation and manage to stay married for seven years have the same risk of divorce as a couple who didn’t cohabit before marriage.

• Just over 50% of cohabiting couples get married.

• Living together is considered to be more stressful than marriage for reasons like: undefined / blurred domestic / financial arrangements, higher possibility of secondary sexual partners, lack of social / legal definition & recognition. Cohabitation may be even more difficult if one or both parties have children from previous unions / relationships. Children can cause emotional and financial strain on unstable partnerships. Children of cohabiting couples may get emotionally scarred when their parent separates from his/her partner and moves on to another.

• Cohabiting with a partner with the intent of getting married to the person in question reduces the likelihood of separation.

• Cohabiting couples (in the US) who receive relationship / sexual counseling or premarital education courses are not at a higher risk for divorce.

• The majority of cohabitational relationships terminate within three years.

• Men, as often as women, push to get married; neither men nor women had greater success than the other in persuading their reluctant partners to get married.

• Cohabitation is usually based on an arrangement implying the need for romance – keeping each other happy & satisfied – testing the waters – and when things get rough & tough – somebody gets going.

Much more can be said about cohabitation, but one thing that I find very striking was a statement which says: Those who have trial marriages do not have better marriages.

If we are truly committed to someone… we don’t spend our lives testing that person… trying to find out how much or how little it will take to ruin what we have.

Commitment implies a desire to be with that someone, to experience pain together, to compromise and grow. Emotional maturity implies making concessions, adjustments to make room for the other without having to lose one self. The “I” is replaced by the “we”… and this may or may not include children.

It’s funny how I am only beginning to learn all this and see this part of my life with greater clarity after all that I have been through. I am just hoping it isn’t too late for me and for others who face a similar dilemma.


Taking the plunge is a complex affair – at least, in most societies, though there are some cultural communities which have very simple customs related to betrothals and weddings. In traditional Malay practice for example, a betel leaf is offered by the parents of the prospective bridegroom to the parents of the bride-to-be in a ‘family circle.’ The simple offer & acceptance “ceremony” was done through chants; then the engagement settlement was discussed, usually involving an amount roughly equal to $22 or £2.6.

Engagements may also be as elaborate as the old practice in Japan where: “…the families of the engaged couple will still get together and present each other with approximately nine gifts, each with a special significance that’s been handed down for thousands of years. Once the gift exchange is complete, the groom-to-be will then give a large betrothal gift to the bride’s family, which is like a reverse dowry.”

In the USA and other Western countries, it is not uncommon for a woman who just got engaged to “show off” her ring if it is of substantial value – the social status & economic circumstances of the fiancé are apparently reflected in the quality & size of the stone (usually a white diamond) and the setting.

In most cases, however, formal engagements don’t happen at all… especially among the lower class where any money the couple can save will mostly be allotted for the wedding preparations.

The period of waiting after the betrothal may be brief or quite extended depending (usually) on the prevailing norms and sometimes, on the families involved or the couple in question. The traditional Chinese are well-known for their elaborate preparations before, during and after the wedding ritual. An auspicious date for the nuptials is chosen followed by a set of formalized steps towards the official union of the bride and groom, who sometimes met only on their wedding day.

Weddings in Mexico in the earlier times were also formal and elaborate:

In Tepoztlán, “on the evening before the wedding, the boy’s parents traditionally sent a basket of bread, chocolate, some bottles of wine, and a turkey prepared with the necessary condiments, to the home of the girl. They also sent along the wedding dress, its accessories, shoes, stockings, and flowers.”26 That evening the girl spent the night at the home of their padrinos de boda to receive marital advice. The advice emphasized her need to obey and conform to all of her husband’s wishes. The formal exhortation of the bride and bridegroom is also another old Aztec custom.On the day of the wedding, the bride and groom and everyone involved in the wedding left the bride’s house in carretelas (horse-drawn carriages). The modern variation of decorating cars and cruising to and from the church parallels the old processions. The wedding party included bridesmaids, flower girls, a little girl to carry the bride’s “cola” or train, and a small boy to serve as ring bearer.

Queen Victoria & Prince Albert             Princess Diana & Prince Charles

Sometimes, the degree of complexity of the marriage arrangements & ritual and scale of the economic considerations have something to do with the prominence of the families involved in the union, hence the grandeur, pomp & splendor associated with traditional weddings among members of royal families.

With the onslaught of globalization, some societies have embraced a Westernized model of the wedding while retaining certain traditional elements.

People in contemporary societies have become so caught up in their complex lifestyles & engrossed in their individual pursuits that events like weddings have become a major chore. That is why professionals are now available for hire to attend to all the minute details needed to create the “perfect wedding” with all the essential trappings: the invitations, the cake, the music, the venue, the reception, the programme, the dresses, the rings, bouquet & flowers, the works… anything to make sure the nuptials go smoothly, without a hitch. Then of course, the idyllic honeymoon.

Oh if only romance… the passion… if only the couple would take care to keep this alive as they settle into domesticity. If only people could invest as much time & energy into their marriage the way they do to their careers and their dreams… here I go again, I stray and let my emotions betray me.

In terms of the definition of “marriage” I tend to focus on more anthropological approaches (pardon my professional bias):

Anthropologists have proposed several competing definitions of marriage so as to encompass the wide variety of marital practices observed across cultures. In his book The History of Human Marriage (1921), Edvard Westermarck defined marriage as “a more or less durable connection between male and female lasting beyond the mere act of propagation till after the birth of the offspring.”

In The Future of Marriage in Western Civilization (1936), he rejected his earlier definition, instead provisionally defining marriage as “a relation of one or more men to one or more women that is recognised by custom or law”. The anthropological handbook Notes and Queries (1951) defined marriage as “a union between a man and a woman such that children born to the woman are the recognized legitimate offspring of both partners.”

In recognition of a practice by the Nuer of Sudan allowing women to act as a husband in certain circumstances, Kathleen Gough suggested modifying this to “a woman and one or more other persons.” Edmund Leach criticized Gough’s definition for being too restrictive in terms of recognized legitimate offspring and suggested that marriage be viewed in terms of the different types of rights it serves to establish. Leach expanded the definition and proposed that “Marriage is a relationship established between a woman and one or more other persons, which provides that a child born to the woman under circumstances not prohibited by the rules of the relationship, is accorded full birth-status rights common to normal members of his society or social stratum.”

Leach argued that no one definition of marriage applied to all cultures. He offered a list of ten rights associated with marriage, including sexual monopoly and rights with respect to children, with specific rights differing across cultures. Duran Bell also criticized the legitimacy-based definition on the basis that some societies do not require marriage for legitimacy, arguing that in societies where illegitimacy means only that the mother is unmarried and has no other legal implications, a legitimacy-based definition of marriage is circular. He proposed defining marriage in terms of sexual access rights.

However one may define it, marriage implies some form of legally or socially recognized economic, sexual and emotional bond. Now you may or may not refute this… we can all go back to what our professors taught us in the classroom, but nothing… and I mean nothing I read from textbooks; nothing I learned from extensive research; nothing I computed based on statistical data; nothing I had ever come across in the vast library of knowledge has prepared me for the real thing… relationships, much less, marriage itself.

It seems that no matter how freely we enter into the bonds of matrimony, after fighting so hard for our right to choose our mate… nothing can guarantee the longevity of a marriage. People are different… but courtship and the engagement are supposed to settle or address those differences, especially the more important things like whether or not to have children, religion or lack thereof, residence, financial arrangements and so forth.

What then have we learned?

Separation – whether temporary or for the long-term, perhaps even leading to divorce, is both painful and traumatic. The scars of a failed marriage take a long time to heal. A wounded heart takes time to forgive and never forgets.

Sociological studies reveal that men usually suffer more, both physically and emotionally, from the loss of their mate – whether it be through separation / divorce or death. Widowers and divorced men have a much harder time coping with loneliness after having spent the greater part of their lives with a woman who, for better or worse, was there to attend to most, if not all, of their needs. It is said that most men who choose to remain alone after losing their wives usually die within five years after their mate.

Women, on the other hand, are more hesitant to find a new partner after separating from their spouse or becoming widowed. In spite of our belief that women have gained mileage when it comes to equality, the domestic scene has always been a little battlefield where they have to make compromises & sacrifices to win minor victories. Ask any married woman if she is a hundred per cent happy with her life. She will probably say “yes”, but not after a pregnant pause.

Marriages die, not when the man has given up. Men who stray or lose their feeling of connectedness to their spouse may begin the cycle of decay in a marriage if there is no communication. But the final blow is dealt when the woman surrenders. While the woman is willing to carry on and patch things up, work things out and compromise, even when the husband is hesitant… hope remains in the horizon. But when the wife gives up… the verdict has been read.

Here are some fast facts on marriage and divorce:

• People in contemporary societies are less inclined to marry.

• Those that do opt to marry tend to put it off later in their late twenties or early to mid-30’s.

• The procreative function has become secondary as people marry for a permanence in companionship rather than solely for the purpose of having children.

• The chances of commitment & permanence are better with marriage.

• Married couples are more economically stable, emotionally secure, have better sexual relations overall and well-defined functions & obligations that ensure mutual support in the long-term.

• There are fewer married households in the US – the pattern of decline in the number of married households has prevailed for years.

• The divorce rate per capita has fallen as well as a consequence of the preceding statement. This implies that the remaining “married” households may be more stable for raising children.

• People have ambivalent feelings towards the rise in the number of single parent households (usually female-headed) – some view it as a cause for alarm while others see it as having no impact on society in general. The economic consequences of single parenthood cannot be denied, however, especially when there is no support from the absentee parent.

• More than half of married individuals (men & women) confess to having had at least one extramarital affair during the course of their marriage.

• Common law marriage, which is allowed in some countries (e.g. Canada) is a better alternative to indefinitely “living in” – but certain stipulations have to be met for a couple to qualify for this type of legal recognition. Gay couples in some places are allowed to declare a state of “community partnership” to formally register their relationship with some legal rights & obligations involved, in cases where no legally binding marriage ceremony is available.

• Divorce cancels the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolves the bonds of matrimony between the parties. However, economic obligations to the former spouse (alimony) and offspring (child support) may remain depending upon the ruling of the court.

A Broken Family                                                               A Blended Family

Single Dad

Single Mom

Divorce splits up the couple or the whole family and leads to the prevalence of single parent households, hence the terms “single moms” and “single dads.”

However, some people who have been divorced do decide to remarry later on leading to the phenomenon of blended families where the husband and wife have children from their previous partnerships or unions. I will not discuss this at length since “family” in itself is a vast subject matter requiring its own report.

Now I am bereft of words…

I see a fabulous four-bedroom whitewashed house in the suburbs with a nicely landscaped garden, a two-car garage, a pond, birdbath, a half court & tree house for the kids, and of course – the white picket fences. That is the Western version of our dreams of “happily ever after” with The One.

Back home in the Philippines, our vision of the happy couple is more or less the same, thanks to the appeal created by real estate company advertisements showcasing that beautiful suburban dream house by the sea, with husband and wife frolicking in the beach with the kids, with a pet or two thrown in to complete the image. Sigh. How nice it must be to have all that. Straightforward, pure & simple. So unlike life.

I want to share the words of Sir Anthony Giddens in his BBC 1999 Reith Lectures (Family):

In conclusion, I should emphasize that sexual equality is not just a core principle of democracy. It is also relevant to happiness and fulfillment.

Many of the changes happening to the family are problematic and difficult. But surveys in the US and Europe show that few want to go back to traditional male and female roles, much less to legally defined inequality.

If ever I were tempted to think that the traditional family might be best after all, I remember what my great aunt said. She must have had one of the longest marriages of anyone. She married young, and was with her husband for over 60 years. She once confided to me that she had been deeply unhappy with him the whole of that time. In her day there was no escape.

Should we do away with tradition in human relationships then – that is, including couple-hood, marriage and the family? In truth, I am still in tenterhooks when it comes to this question. There is so much more to learn and understand. To take a purist view – for convention or modernity – would not be wise… in my humble opinion.

Left to my own devices, I tend to look inward and wonder… am I, in reality, commitment-phobic? Usually, a month into a relationship, with all the deadlines (self-imposed & external – both for personal & professional projects) I usually face, I sigh and wonder if I really have time to nurture a full-blown relationship. There is so much I have set out to do and so little time. Yet visions of me as a lonely old woman staring out into the ocean – wanting to plunge myself into its depths – one final act of despair & control over my destiny for one last time… such images haunt me in my darker days.

There are times when I am nonchalant. I just shrug and say I will end up a missionary in one of the far-flung regions of the earth, an environmental activist, or peacefully gardening in a compound I share with my single female friends – happily bickering every once in a while, laughing over the travails of our youth… reminiscing about how we lived, ah… how we all lived!

I yearn for freedom yet still want a man beside me, to get to know me… see how strong & weak I can be… and still remain at my side. A man who will inspire me to move forward… a man I will admire & respect and want to share the rest of my life with.

Sometimes I imagine myself growing old with The One… finally. He who loves me in spite of my flaws. He who is willing to see beyond my scarred life. He who will stand by me even when I am my meanest self. He who will always believe in me & my dreams even when the rest of the world holds me in ridicule & disdain.

The One – him whom I will love many times over… the one I will search for till I reach the world’s end.

Ah, yes, I am hopeless indeed!

Yes, I do declare… I am a modern woman with liberal views haunted by my fanciful yearning for a fairy tale ending with my knight in rusty armor. 🙂


References I used that you might want to check out for yourself

Cohabitation – Cohabitation (PowerPoint Presentation) –,3,Background Leading to the Problem

Cohabitation before marriage by Joseph Champlin –

Cohabitation: Issues That Affect Intimacy-

Cohabitation: The marriage enemy-

Cohabitation – Trends and Patterns, Reasons For Cohabitation, Meanings Of Cohabitation, Consequences Of Cohabitation, Conclusion –

Cohabiting Couples Not Likely to Marry, Study Finds –

Cohabitation Facts and Statistics By Sheri & Bob Stritof, Guide –

Confessions of a Female Chauvinist Sow, Anne Roiphe, 1972

Definitions of Kinship & Postmodernism from Wikipedia – /

Family and Intimate Relationships: A Review of the Sociological Research by Val Gillies, South Bank University 2003

Family and Social Structure: The Changing Functions of the Family –

Is marriage an outdated institution? –

Living together: Sociologist studies facts, myths about ‘living in sin’ By Diane Swanbrow, News and Information Services –

Marriage Breakdown and Family Structure in Ireland –

Marriage decline reflects social change, The Daily Orange –

On Becoming Male, James M. Henslin, Down to Earth Sociology 14th Ed. (also in earlier editions of the same book)

Runaway World: BBC Reith Lectures (Lecture 4, Washington DC: Family) 1999 by Sir Anthony Giddens –

Research looks at cohabitation’s negative effects By William Harms, News Office –

Sociological reasons not to live together – from All About Cohabiting Before Marriage –

Sociology by John J. Macionis (all editions)

Strengthening the Family – Implications for International Development, Marian F. Zeitlin, Ratna Megawangi, Ellen M. Kramer, Nancy D. Colletta, E.D. Babatunde, and David Garman, 1995 –

The Facts Behind Cohabitation –

The family basis of social structure by Edward Goldsmith –

The Traditional Family is Disappearing by Edna McNicholas, Empire State College –

The Verdict: Cohabitation vs. Marriage – Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

by  Count Lyev Nikolayevich Tolstoy

© Lovely Claire Dangalan, 2011

Waiting for the pin to drop…

Sometimes I feel like a broken record… and I know that my friends would want to shut me up at times. But I am not alone, I know. A lot of people out there: scientists, researchers, teachers, social workers, environmentalists, students, writers, farmers, politicians, businessmen, housewives, policy-makers, fishermen, the UN, governments, NGOs… people who notice things, people who have a care… they have similar concerns too – maybe with varying motives, but yes, everyone has a cause to be worried.

What I have enumerated below are fast facts about the world and the people inhabiting the planet earth. Whether or not knowing will make a difference in the way you think and live your life remains to be seen.

I can only say I have done my bit – sharing information other people have meticulously collected, analyzed and put together so that people like you and me – who want to know the stark realities that will, if things remain as they are, someday betray our dreams, our ambitions and our hopes for the generations to come.

(This will be a long list of fast facts – I will be updating it on a daily basis until all information that must be shared is out there in the open – the latest addition will always appear first so you have to scroll down for content that was posted earlier. Most of the images used here are taken from various internet sources and have been included for their visual impact; if you know the original source of the photo and require attribution, do leave a comment and I will edit the post accordingly. Thanks.)

Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.

At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.Source 1

  • More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening.Source 2 

  • The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.Source 3 

  • According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”Source 4 

  • Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.If current trends continue, the Millennium Development Goals target of halving the proportion of underweight children will be missed by 30 million children, largely because of slow progress in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.Source 5 

  • Based on enrollment data, about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57 per cent of them were girls. And these are regarded as optimistic numbers.Source 6 

  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.Source 7
  • Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.Source 8
  • Infectious diseases continue to blight the lives of the poor across the world. An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with 3 million deaths in 2004. Every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities: Africa accounts for 90 percent of malarial deaths and African children account for over 80 percent of malaria victims worldwide.Source 9 

  • Water problems affect half of humanity:
    • Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
    • Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.
    • More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.
    • Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%.
    • 1.8 billion people who have access to a water source within 1 kilometre, but not in their house or yard, consume around 20 litres per day. In the United Kingdom the average person uses more than 50 litres of water a day flushing toilets (where average daily water usage is about 150 liters a day. The highest average water use in the world is in the US, at 600 liters day.)
    • Some 1.8 million child deaths each year as a result of diarrhoea
    • The loss of 443 million school days each year from water-related illness.
    • Close to half of all people in developing countries suffering at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits.
    • Millions of women spending several hours a day collecting water.
    • To these human costs can be added the massive economic waste associated with the water and sanitation deficit.… The costs associated with health spending, productivity losses and labour diversions … are greatest in some of the poorest countries. Sub-Saharan Africa loses about 5% of GDP, or some $28.4 billion annually, a figure that exceeds total aid flows and debt relief to the region in 2003.Source 10


  • Number of children in the world
    2.2 billion
    Number in poverty
    1 billion (every second child)
    Shelter, safe water and health
    For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:

    • 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
    • 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
    • 270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)
    Children out of education worldwide
    121 million
    Survival for children

    • 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy)
    • 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation
    Health of children

    • 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized
    • 15 million children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom)

    Source 11


  • Rural areas account for three in every four people living on less than US$1 a day and a similar share of the world population suffering from malnutrition. However, urbanization is not synonymous with human progress. Urban slum growth is outpacing urban growth by a wide margin.Source 12 

  • Approximately half the world’s population now live in cities and towns. In 2005, one out of three urban dwellers (approximately 1 billion people) was living in slum conditions.Source 13 

  • In developing countries some 2.5 billion people are forced to rely on biomass—fuelwood, charcoal and animal dung—to meet their energy needs for cooking. In sub-Saharan Africa, over 80 percent of the population depends on traditional biomass for cooking, as do over half of the populations of India and China.Source 14 

  • Indoor air pollution resulting from the use of solid fuels [by poorer segments of society] is a major killer. It claims the lives of 1.5 million people each year, more than half of them below the age of five: that is 4000 deaths a day. To put this number in context, it exceeds total deaths from malaria and rivals the number of deaths from tuberculosis.Source 15 

  • In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%: 

The poorest 10% accounted for just 0.5% and the wealthiest 10% accounted for 59% of all the consumption:

  • 1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity:Breaking that down further:
    Number of people living without electricity


    Millions without electricity

    South Asia


    Sub-Saharan Africa


    East Asia





  • The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.Source 18 

  • World gross domestic product (world population approximately 6.5 billion) in 2006 was $48.2 trillion in 2006.
    • The world’s wealthiest countries (approximately 1 billion people) accounted for $36.6 trillion dollars (76%).
    • The world’s billionaires — just 497 people (approximately 0.000008% of the world’s population) — were worth $3.5 trillion (over 7% of world GDP).
    • Low income countries (2.4 billion people) accounted for just $1.6 trillion of GDP (3.3%)
    • Middle income countries (3 billion people) made up the rest of GDP at just over $10 trillion (20.7%).Source 19


  • The world’s low income countries (2.4 billion people) account for just 2.4% of world exportsSource 20 

  • The total wealth of the top 8.3 million people around the world “rose 8.2 percent to $30.8 trillion in 2004, giving them control of nearly a quarter of the world’s financial assets.”In other words, about 0.13% of the world’s population controlled 25% of the world’s financial assets in 2004.Source 21 

  • For every $1 in aid a developing country receives, over $25 is spent on debt repayment.Source 22 

  • 51 percent of the world’s 100 hundred wealthiest bodies are corporations.Source 23
  • The wealthiest nation on Earth has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation.Source 24
  • The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money.Source 25
  • In 1960, the 20% of the world’s people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20% — in 1997, 74 times as much.Source 26
  • An analysis of long-term trends shows the distance between the richest and poorest countries was about:
    • 3 to 1 in 1820
    • 11 to 1 in 1913
    • 35 to 1 in 1950
    • 44 to 1 in 1973
    • 72 to 1 in 1992Source 27
  • “Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.”Source 28
  • For economic growth and almost all of the other indicators, the last 20 years [of the current form of globalization, from 1980 – 2000] have shown a very clear decline in progress as compared with the previous two decades [1960 – 1980]. For each indicator, countries were divided into five roughly equal groups, according to what level the countries had achieved by the start of the period (1960 or 1980). Among the findings:
    • Growth: The fall in economic growth rates was most pronounced and across the board for all groups or countries.
    • Life Expectancy: Progress in life expectancy was also reduced for 4 out of the 5 groups of countries, with the exception of the highest group (life expectancy 69-76 years).
    • Infant and Child Mortality: Progress in reducing infant mortality was also considerably slower during the period of globalization (1980-1998) than over the previous two decades.
    • Education and literacy: Progress in education also slowed during the period of globalization.Source 29
  • A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and these 12 percent do not live in the Third World.Source 30


Reasons the UAE has such a high carbon footprint…

October 14, 2010

…and some steps it is taking to deal with it. From thousands of private flights to the world’s first green city, here’s the lowdown on a very contradictory country.



The United Arab Emirates, the world’s third-largest oil exporter, has one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in the world.

According to a U.N. Development Programme report in 2003, the UAE emitted 33.6 tonnes per capita, second only to nearby Qatar and over nine times the world average of 3.7 tonnes.

The 2008 WWF Living Planet Report gave the UAE the world’s worst ecological footprint per person. It placed the United States second and fellow Gulf Arab state Kuwait in third place.

The ecological footprint measures humanity’s demand on the biosphere in terms of biologically productive land and sea required to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. The UAE has said it is becoming greener. The following lists some of the UAE’s green and not so green credentials:



Dubai’s Executive Flight Service handled 6,060 flights and 19,797 customers in 2009, according to figures from Dubai International Airport.


Dubai Taxis made 70 million journeys in 2009, in which they transported more than 140 million passengers, the emirate’s transport authority said. That compares with 120 million people who took public buses in 2009.

Since its inauguration in September 2009, the number of passengers using the Dubai Metro has risen from about 40,000 a day to more than 120,000 a day. In total, it has transported more than 19 million people so far and expects 35 million passengers in 2010.


In 2006, the UAE’s population of around 6 million consumed nearly 500 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of gas.

Germany, which has a population of more than 80 million, burned 942 billion kWh in 2008, according to the German energy industry association (BDEW).


One of the most ambitious schemes in Dubai, The World is a collection of man-made islands shaped into the continents and countries of the world. As the slump has frozen much building activity, homes have yet to be built there. If completed, the islands would be reachable only by private jet or boat.

Property developer Nakheel used 34 million tonnes of rock to build the 27 kilometre breakwater that surrounds the 300 islands in the development.

Nakheel has said its activities have no harmful effect on nature, although environmentalists have said the consequences of such extensive artificial islands on the natural ecosystem are unknown and could be damaging.



Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, better known as Masdar, was set up in 2006 with a mandate to develop, commercialise and deploy renewable energy technologies and environmental solutions.

Its flagship project in Abu Dhabi is Masdar City, a $22 billion investment in what will be the first zero-emissions, zero-waste city when completed in 2020.

The plan is for Masdar City to be home to some 40,000 residents.


The Desert Islands resort comprises the former royal nature reserve of Sir Bani Yas Island, and the Discovery Islands, six nearby offshore outcrops. All of them will be linked by a ferry and hydrofoil service, water taxis, private ‘resort’ boat service and regional and sea planes.

For every visitor to Sir Bani Yas, one mangrove plant is planted to offset the environmental impact of the visit.

Other initiatives include breeding programmes for rare and endangered wildlife, removal of human interference, including closing roads and removing old irrigation pipes, and water conservation.


The UAE has set itself a goal of reducing the maximum sulphur target for both diesel and gasoline to 10 parts per million (ppm). Industry analysts say the target will be reached once a refinery upgrading project is finished.

Until then, the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology has set a maximum sulphur limit for gasoline at 100 ppm, which must be followed by all oil companies in the UAE. For diesel, the maximum limit is 500 ppm.

(Reporting by Amena Bakr, Barbara Lewis, Nina Chestney and Henning Gloystein, editing by Lin Noueihed)




• 10.9 million children under the age of five die in developing countries each year.

• Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of the deaths.

• Almost 16,000 children die each day from hunger-related causes – that is, one child every five seconds.

• Malaria kills an African child every thirty seconds.

• Some 1.8 million child deaths occur each year as a result of diarrhea.

Half of the 2.2 billion children in the world live in poverty.

• 121 million children do not receive basic education.


• Pneumonia and other lower respiratory infections are the number one cause of death in the developing world. This is followed by HIV/AIDS, malaria, diarrhea, TB and measles, respectively.

• TB is a frequent killer for people with AIDS. African states suffering from the HIV pandemic have experienced an annual 10 percent rise in TB cases.

• Africa and Southeast Asia account for 82% of cases of measles.


• It is estimated that 39.5 million people live with HIV globally. Africa is home to 25 million, or 64%, of total HIV infections.

Everyday in Africa HIV/AIDS kills 6, 600 people and another 8, 500 people are infected.

• 12 million children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.


• Close to half of all people in developing countries suffering at any given time from a health problem that is caused by water and sanitation deficits.

• Diseases and productivity losses linked to water and sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa amount to 5% of their GDP, which is more than the region receives in aid.

• Only 29 per cent of those living in rural areas in the least developed countries are served with adequate sanitation.


• In 1960, Africa was a net exporter of food; today the continent imports one-third of its grain.

• More than 40 percent of Africans do not even have the ability to obtain sufficient food on a day-today basis.

• Declining soil fertility, land degradation, and the AIDS pandemic have led to a 23 percent decrease in food production per capita in the last 25 years even though population has increased dramatically.

• For the African farmer, conventional fertilizers cost two to six times more than the world market price.


• There are an estimated 771 million illiterate adults in the world, about two-thirds of whom are women.

• Women in the least developed countries have the lowest literacy rate of any region in the world, with only 44.1 per cent being able to read.

• Only about one in three children will complete primary education in six countries: Niger (21%), Guinea-Bissau (27%), Burkina Faso (27%), Chad (32%), Burundi (32%) and Mali (33%).


• A woman living in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy. This compares with a 1 in 3,700 risk for a woman from North America.

• Every minute, a woman somewhere dies in pregnancy or childbirth. This adds up to 1,400 women dying each day — an estimated 529,000 each year – from pregnancy-related causes.

• If a girl is educated for six years or more, as an adult her prenatal care, postnatal care and childbirth survival rates, will dramatically and consistently improve.


• Africa owes $227 billion to Western creditors – $379 for every man, woman and child in Africa.

• Sub-Saharan Africa receives $10 billion in aid but loses $14 billion in debt payments per year.

• Every day Sub-Saharan Africa spends $30 million dollars repaying debts to the world’s rich countries and international institutions. Often they spend so much on debt payments that they have very little left over for health or education.

For every $1 the West gives in aid to developing countries, $9 comes back in debt service.

• Africa’s debt burden is twice that of any region in the world – it carries 11% of the developing world’s debt, with only 5% of its income.


• The world population has reached 6.6 billion in 2006, up from 6 billion in 1999, and is heading toward 8 billion by 2025.

• Ninety-nine percent of that growth will be in developing countries.

• Between 2005 and 2015, the Least Developed Countries as a whole are expected to absorb nearly a quarter of all population growth in the world.

• The population of the 50 Least Developed Countries is projected to more than double, passing from 0.8 billion in 2005 to 1.7 billion in 2050.

• During 2005-2050, eight countries are expected to account for half of the world’s projected population increase: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, United States of America, Ethiopia, and China, listed according to the size of their contribution to population growth.


The total Official Development Assistance (ODA) flow to Least Developed Countries rose by 8.8 per cent to $25.6 billion in 2005. Only seven of the world’s wealthiest countries have met the target as set by the Brussels Program of Action of spending 0.15 to 0.2 per cent of gross national income on aid to the LDCs.

• Within the least developed countries, the landlocked developing countries are predicted to have a high 7.6 per cent GDP growth rate for 2007.

• The oil and mining industries have increased the predicted GDP growth to over 7 percent in Sudan, Chad, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea.

• Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to have a 6.3 per cent GDP growth rate this year due to oil output recovering in Nigeria and new oil fields in Angola and Equatorial Guinea.


•  In the Least Developed Countries, 1 in 17 women have a lifetime risk of maternal death compared to 1 in 4000 in industrialized countries.

• The average life expectancy in Sub-Saharan Africa has only risen one year since 1970, from 45 to 46, while least developed countries overall have seen an increase of 9 years, from 44 to 53, over the same time period.

• There are 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in the least developed countries.

• Of the 130 million babies born every year, about 4 million die in the first 4 weeks of life — the neonatal period.

• Globally, women give birth to approximately 2.6 children during their lifetime, compared to an average of 4.86 children per mother in the least developed countries.


1.1 billion people lack access to clean water and 2.6 billion people lack access to decent sanitation.

• One in five people living the developing world lack access to clean water — suggested minimum of 20 liters per day -while average water use in Europe ranges between 200-300 liters per day and 575 liters in the United States.

• Poor people living in slums often pay 5-10 times more per litre of water than wealthy people living in the same city.

• About 700 million people in 43 countries live below the water-stress threshold of 1,700 cubic metres per person per year. In 20 years, 3 billion people will live in countries under that threshold.


• Net deforestation rates have fallen since the 1990-2000 period, but some 13 million hectares of the world’s forests are still lost each year, including 6 million hectares of primary forests. Primary forests — forests with no visible signs of past or present human activities — are considered the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet.

• According to NASA, the polar ice cap is now melting at the rate of 9 percent per decade. Arctic ice thickness has decreased 40 percent since the 1960s.

• More than a quarter of Africa’s population lives within 100km of the coast, and projections suggest that the number of people at risk from coastal flooding will increase from 1 million in 1990 to 70 million in 2080.

• By 2050 rainfall in Africa could decline by 5% and become more variable year by year.

Courtesy of:



Consumption and Consumerism

By Anup Shah

Global inequality in consumption, while reducing, is still high.

Using the latest figures available, in 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%:

Breaking that down slightly further, the poorest 10% accounted for just 0.5% and the wealthiest 10% accounted for 59% of all the consumption:

In 1995, the inequality in consumption was wider, but the United Nations also provided some eye-opening statistics (which do not appear available, yet, for the later years) worth noting here:

Today’s consumption is undermining the environmental resource base. It is exacerbating inequalities. And the dynamics of the consumption-poverty-inequality-environment nexus are accelerating. If the trends continue without change — not redistributing from high-income to low-income consumers, not shifting from polluting to cleaner goods and production technologies, not promoting goods that empower poor producers, not shifting priority from consumption for conspicuous display to meeting basic needs — today’s problems of consumption and human development will worsen.

… The real issue is not consumption itself but its patterns and effects.

… Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures — the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%. More specifically, the richest fifth:

  • Consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5%
  • Consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4%
  • Have 74% of all telephone lines, the poorest fifth 1.5%
  • Consume 84% of all paper, the poorest fifth 1.1%
  • Own 87% of the world’s vehicle fleet, the poorest fifth less than 1%

Runaway growth in consumption in the past 50 years is putting strains on the environment never before seen.

Human Development Report 1998 Overview, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — Emphasis Added. Figures quoted use data from 1995

If they were available, it would likely be that the breakdowns shown for the 1995 figures will not be as wide in 2005. However, they are likely to still show wide inequalities in consumption. Furthermore, as a few developing countries continue to develop and help make the numbers show a narrowing gap, there are at least two further issues:

  • Generalized figures hide extreme poverty and inequality of consumption on the whole (for example, between 1995 and 2005, the inequality in consumption for the poorest fifth of humanity has hardly changed)
  • If emerging nations follow the same path as today’s rich countries, their consumption patterns will also be damaging to the environment

And consider the following, reflecting world priorities:

Global Priority $U.S. Billions
Cosmetics in the United States 8
Ice cream in Europe 11
Perfumes in Europe and the United States 12
Pet foods in Europe and the United States 17
Business entertainment in Japan 35
Cigarettes in Europe 50
Alcoholic drinks in Europe 105
Narcotics drugs in the world 400
Military spending in the world 780

And compare that to what was estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries:

Global Priority $U.S. Billions
Basic education for all 6
Water and sanitation for all 9
Reproductive health for all women 12
Basic health and nutrition 13

(Source: The state of human development, United Nations Human Development Report 1998, Chapter 1, p.37)

We consume a variety of resources and products today having moved beyond basic needs to include luxury items and technological innovations to try to improve efficiency. Such consumption beyond minimal and basic needs is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, as throughout history we have always sought to find ways to make our lives a bit easier to live. However, increasingly, there are important issues around consumerism that need to be understood. For example:

  • How are the products and resources we consume actually produced?
  • What are the impacts of that process of production on the environment, society, on individuals?
  • What are the impacts of certain forms of consumption on the environment, on society, on individuals?
  • Which actors influence our choices of consumption?
  • Which actors influence how and why things are produced or not?
  • What is a necessity and what is a luxury?
  • How do demands on items affect the requirements placed upon the environment?
  • How do consumption habits change as societies change?
  • Businesses and advertising are major engines in promoting the consumption of products so that they may survive. How much of what we consume is influenced by their needs versus our needs?
  • Also influential is the very culture of today in many countries, as well as the media and the political institutions themselves. What is the impact on poorer nations and people on the demands of the wealthier nations and people that are able to afford to consume more?
  • How do material values influence our relationships with other people?
  • What impact does that have on our personal values?
  • And so on.

Just from these questions, we can likely think of numerous others as well. We can additionally, see that consumerism and consumption are at the core of many, if not most societies. The impacts of consumerism, positive and negative are very significant to all aspects of our lives, as well as our planet. But equally important to bear in mind in discussing consumption patterns is the underlying system that promotes certain types of consumption and not other types.

Inherent in today’s global economic system is the wasteful use of resources, labor and capital. These need to be addressed. Waste is not only things like via not recycling etc; it is deep within the system.

The U.N. statistics above are hard hitting, highlight one of the major impacts of today’s form of corporate-led globalization.

“Over” population is usually blamed as the major cause of environmental degradation, but the above statistics strongly suggests otherwise. As we will see, consumption patterns today are not to meet everyone’s needs. The system that drives these consumption patterns also contribute to inequality of consumption patterns too.

This section of the web site will attempt to provide an introductory look at various aspects of what we consume and how.

  • We will see possible “hidden” costs of convenient items to society, the environment and individuals, as well as the relationship with various sociopolitical and economic effects on those who do consume, and those who are unable to consume as much (due to poverty and so on).
  • We will look at how some luxuries were turned into necessities in order to increase profits.
  • This section goes beyond the “don’t buy this product” type of conclusion to the deeper issues and ramifications.
  • We will see just a hint at how wasteful all this is on resources, society and capital. The roots of such disparities in consumption are inextricably linked to the roots of poverty. There is such enormous waste in the way we consume that an incredible amount of resources is wasted as well. Furthermore, the processes that lead to such disparities in unequal consumption are themselves wasteful and is structured deep into the system itself. Economic efficiency is for making profits, not necessarily for social good (which is treated as a side effect). The waste in the economic system is, as a result, deep. Eliminating the causes of this type of waste are related to the elimination of poverty and bringing rights to all. Eliminating the waste also allows for further equitable consumption for all, as well as a decent standard of consumption.
  • So these issues go beyond just consumption, and this section only begins to highlight the enormous waste in our economy which is not measured as such.
  • A further bold conclusion is also made that elimination of so much wasted capital would actually require a reduction of people’s workweek. This is because the elimination of such waste means entire industries are halved in size in some cases. So much labor redundancy cannot be tolerated, and hence the answer is therefore to share the remaining productive jobs, which means reducing the workweek!
  • We will see therefore, that political causes of poverty are very much related to political issues and roots of consumerism. Hence solutions to things like hunger, environmental degradation, poverty and other problems have many commonalities that would need to be addressed.

Entire volumes of research can be written on this topic so these pages provide just an insight to these issues!

Creating the Consumer

This section looks at the rise of the consumer and the development of the mass consumer society. While consumption has of course been a part of our history, in the last 100 years or so, the level of mass consumption beyond basics has been exponential and is now a fundamental part of many economies. Luxuries that had to be turned into necessities and how entire cultural habits had to be transformed for this consumption is introduced here.

Children as Consumers

The market for children’s products and food is enormous. Parents on the one hand have a hard time raising children the way they want to, while on the other hand, kids are being increasingly influenced by commercialism that often goes against what parents are trying to do.

Effects of Consumerism

Because consumption is so central to many economies, and even to the current forms of globalization, its effects therefore are also seen around the world. How we consume, and for what purposes drives how we extract resources, create products and produce pollution and waste. Issues relating to consumption hence also affect environmental degradation, poverty, hunger, and even the rise in obesity that is nearing levels similar to the official global poverty levels. Political and economic systems that are currently promoted and pushed around the world in part to increase consumption also lead to immense poverty and exploitation. Much of the world cannot and do not consume at the levels that the wealthier in the world do. Indeed, the above U.N. statistics highlight that very sharply. In fact, the inequality structured within the system is such that as Richard Robbins says, some one has to pay for the way the wealthier in the world consume.


In this section, we look at the example of tobacco consumption. Smoking kills millions. Furthermore, it exacerbates poverty, damages the environment, and (through diversion of land resources away from food production) contributes to world hunger.


Obesity typically results from over-eating (especially an unhealthy diet) and lack of enough exercise.

In our modern world with increasingly cheap, high calorie food (example, fast food — or junk food), prepared foods that are high in things like salt, sugars or fat, combined with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, increasing urbanization and changing modes of transportation, it is no wonder that obesity has rapidly increased in the last few decades, around the world.

The number of people overweight or obese is now rivaling the number of people suffering from hunger around the world. Obese people were thought to be mainly from richer countries or wealthier segments of society, but poor people can also suffer as the food industry supplies cheaper food of poorer quality.

Environmental, societal and life-style factors all have an impact on obesity and health. While individuals are responsible for their choices, other actors such as the food industry are also part of the problem, and solution. Unfortunately, the food industry appears reluctant to take too many measures that could affect their bottom line, preferring to solely blame individuals instead.


In this section, we look at the example of sugar consumption; how it has arisen (as it was once a luxury, now turned into a necessity). We look at things like how it affects the environment; the political and economic drivers in producing sugar (for example, historically, sugar plantations encouraged slavery); its health effects today; its relation to world hunger (as land used to grow sugar and related support, for export, could be used to grow food for local consumption); and so on. As we will also see, it is an example of a wasteful industry. That is, so many resources go into this industry compared to what might be needed. This wastes labor, wastes capital and uses up many resources.


Beef, like sugar, is another vivid example of using resources wastefully, degrading the environment, contributing to hunger, poor health and more.

More than one third of the world’s grain harvest is used to feed livestock. Some 70 to 80% of grain produced in the United States is fed to livestock. A lot of rainforest in the Amazon and elsewhere are cleared for raising cattle — not so much for local consumption, but for fast food restaurants elsewhere.

There are enormous related costs of what is an inefficient process when considered as a whole. Subsidies in farming in the US and elsewhere end up encouraging unhealthy foods to be cheaper than healthy foods. Just factoring in the cost of water alone, a more realistic estimate of the real cost of common hamburger meat would be $35 a pound!

As with sugar, beef was a luxury turned into an everyday item. Like sugar, it is also an example of how people’s tastes are influenced and how demands can be created (or very much expanded), rather than meeting some natural demand.


The banana industry in Latin America and the Caribbean also touches many other issues. Rainforest destruction is one effect of the banana industry.

Dependent economies is another, where bananas are grown not to feed local people and meet their demands, but to create exports for Europe and America. The recent trade disputes between those two regions have received the most attention. However, the focus of the debate is limited. It continues to leave both dependent Latin American nations, and the Caribbean nations in poverty and hunger, while Latin American nations, large multinational American banana corporations and the American government seek to destroy the Caribbean banana economy, via the World Trade Organization, in order to gain dominant access to the European markets.

So many resources are poured into the banana industry, and like the sugar and beef examples, there is a lot of unnecessary use of resources that could otherwise be freed up to help local people in a way that is also less degrading to the surrounding environment.

Wasted Wealth, Capital, Labor and Resources

We are beginning to get just a hint of how wasteful our societies are. Sugar, beef, and bananas are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of examples of wasted industry and waste structured within the current system. Not only are certain wasteful job functions unnecessary as a result, but the capital that employs this labor is therefore a wasteful use of capital. As a result, we see waste and misuse of the environment, as well as social and environmental degradation increasing. Our industries may be efficient for accumulating capital and making profits, but that does not automatically mean that it is efficient for society. However, with such wasted labor what do we do? We can’t have such an enormous idle labor force, right? Well, as J.W. Smith points out, we should share the remaining jobs. This would also reduce our workweek. Something technocrats have kept promising us in rhetoric only!

Mathematics of Wasted Labor—an Example

With kind permission from J.W. Smith, a part of the conclusion to Part I of World’s Wasted Wealth II (Institute for Economic Democracy, 1994) has been reproduced on this page. That part is titled The Mathematics of Wasted Labor. It is a vivid example of wasted and unnecessary labor using the United States as the case study. While the book was written back in 1994 and the numbers, facts and estimates are hence based on data from the early 1990s, the pattern and examples shown here are still very valid. His calculations suggest that with the elimination of wasted labor in the U.S. and sharing the remaining productive jobs between all those who can work, workers would need to work just 2.4 days per week!

Energy Security

Energy security is a growing concern for rich and emerging nations alike. The past drive for fossil fuel energy has led to wars, overthrow of democratically elected leaders, and puppet governments and dictatorships.

Leading nations admit we are addicted to oil, but investment into alternatives has been lacking, or little in comparison to fossil fuel investments.

As the global financial crisis takes hold and awareness of climate change increases, more nations and companies are trying to invest in alternatives. But will the geopolitics remain the same?

Illicit Drugs

The global illicit drugs market is enormous, estimated at some $320 billion. This makes it one of the largest businesses in the world. Some believe in strong prohibition enforcement. Others argue for decriminalization to minimize the crime and health effects associated with the market being controlled by criminals. Are there merits to each approach?


Pineapples are nutritious and popular. But the cheap fruit comes at a high cost. Health and environmental degradation has affected both workers and local communities. Price cuts in European supermarkets has led to wage cuts for workers already earning very little.

By Anup Shah

  • Created: Friday, September 07, 2001
  • Last Updated: Saturday, December 11, 2010

 “There’s enough on this planet for everyone’s needs but not for everyone’s greed.” — Mahatma Gandhi

 © Lovely Claire Dangalan, 2011

The Human Flea Market

Alright, so I am prepared for the slaughter… for the beating. Frankly, I don’t really care. This is my space and I have a right not to be silenced. Warning: Do not read this post if ugly social realities make you cringe or enrage your narrow point of view – that is, if you have any – if you care at all. Remember the storming of the Bastille? When the French revolutionaries’ crying call was: Liberté, égalité, fraternité? The ideals that filled the French people with a raging desire for a republic are principles that find resonance around the world… in countries where people dare speak their minds even under the threat of death… in nations where people are free to speak up to a certain degreefreedom-of-speech1 But what is freedom really? And are we truly free? It’s unfortunate that I cannot remember, for I always rightly attribute important sayings to their source, but all I can recall right now are the words I truly believe in: “One’s freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins.” Quite simple and straightforward is it not? But very few actually respect freedom in its very essence – not people, not businesses, not governments. Institutionalized discrimination is so solidly built into societies and the social structures that influence individuals that people are not even aware at times at how deeply caught up they are in social web that simply refuses to let them act on their own behalf, to live… to be human and humane. Back home in the Philippines, news of oil price hikes or any increase in costs of certain commodities leads people to groan and say: Lahat na lang ng bilihin nagmamahal, tao na lang ang mura – which means “the cost of everything continually rises, only people remain cheap” – roughly referring to the value of human labor, or lack thereof. If you run over someone on the street, better make sure that the person is dead – PHP 50,000 would cover the blood money, however you may call it. It would be more expensive if the person would remain alive and you have to pay for the medical bills and whatever costs you have incurred relative to the victim’s livelihood. Walk around the poorest nations, take a stroll along the streets… a woman, a prostitute – even a male prostitute would cost you only two a penny – so to speak. I have no knowledge of the prevailing rates but they do say that in Abu Dhabi for example, a Chinese hooker will charge as low as twenty dirhams. And this country is not a poor country – at least, evidence of poverty isn’t so glaring, right mate? 4037522419 434368675 dubai_prostitutes How about other prostitutes here – the women from the former USSR, Filipinas, Indians and Pakistanis… Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Kenyans, Ethiopians, Arabs, etc. – I am sorry people, ‘hate to rub salt in the wound, but don’t say I didn’t warn you – this ain’t a nice cute little post. They are everywhere. Look, notice them. One of them is in a corner negotiating. She looks decent enough, even pretty. Ugh, what a dirty old man – but yeah, she’ll take his money and give him what he needs right? Lord, I was shocked to know even this happens here. I thought.. I thought… I thought so many thoughts – had my own expectations… I guess that when I learned about this, I finally felt the culture shock I had been discussing in my anthropology classes back home. Well, there are also Caucasian hookers – Western educated – but they are usually found in high-profile clubs – those nice big posh places where the chances of finding a rich horny guy with sweaty palms and wads of cash (or a platinum card) are quite promising. And it doesn’t end there. If you live here long enough, you’ll find out that the cheapest expat professionals in the job market are the Asians – I hate to name nationalities, but even within this sub-group, there are hierarchies. It doesn’t matter what your qualifications are, how vast your experience is and how promising you are as a person – very few companies are willing to put the proper price tag on someone who comes from a poor country… it doesn’t matter if your parents back home own an island or that you worked as an administrator in the government – you can still end up working as an office girl as luck would have it. But if you are a Westerner (my apologies to my Caucasian friends – you understand right?), my – expect better pay and better treatment! Oh well, some Arabs have a way of making you feel owned, one way or another, even if you earn AED 50,000 a month. They have certain annoying ways that will make you feel that even when you enjoy a privileged position, you are still just one of their hired help. Still, “whites” (pardon the political incorrectness – but… sigh… let’s call a spade a spade) are at a much better place than us Asians. And don’t get me started on the you-know-whos who get their jobs by virtue of the fact that they own the place. Hahaha… their own government did a study on their employment patterns and discovered most of them quit before the probationary period of six months. Why? They felt that the working hours were too long (c’mon, we have to work ten hours or more!). They felt lazy – why work when you can just laze around your swimming pool, shop in Dubai Mall, party in Club Cavalli or frighten off some pedestrians as you drive your Hummer like a crazed demon?!? Some of them wanted a promotion just a few months after joining. Hilarious! Makes me want to put a bullet to my head… As you struggle to decide whether you’ll get a Blackberry Smartphone 9780 or a Samsung Galaxy P1000-16GB Tablet PC… the person you passed by is wondering how far her 100 dirhams will get her through the month.


Hey, am not saying that you  should start giving your money  away… I just wish you’d realize  how lucky you are. How tremendously fortunate you are.  You can afford to pay a cleaning  lady to take care of your flat and  your laundry. Most domestic  helpers, on the other hand, are  paid anywhere between 700 and  1500 dirhams (this has been the  wage range, with the upper limit j  just a bit lower at 1000 dirhams,  in the last 25 years!!!) no matter  how rich or affluent their  employers are. The wage  requirements are there of  course, set by the Ministry of  Labour. But who follows the law? Why would you respect the law if you feel you’re above it… or if you know how you can circumvent it? 84791025 233940616 labor Those men who sweep the street… who cut the grass… earn something between 300 to 500 dirhams a month. That guy who smilingly rushes to get the grocery cart from you, wearing a neat uniform, has no wage or salary – he is a hundred per cent dependent on the tip you will give him. And how about the laborers who built all the ‘iconic structures’ (text that reverberates in their PR material) the city is so famous for? Who’s to blame? The people? The government? The culture? The notion that the West is superior? Is it the high cost of living in the West and the seemingly inherent cheapness of life in the so-called developing nations? Is it globalization? Is it the fault of the ILO? Or is it simply human injustice? A distorted view of human worth that (over)values some as it devalues others? Do you justify paying an Asian low wages because you know he comes from a poor country? So where do qualifications figure and the job description? Do they matter at all? Even simple urban geography would show you that the high income groups occupy the newly developed sections of this country – the high-end areas, while members of the low income group have flocked into the older sections of the city. Not that we like living with other people in the same room. Not that we like having all our stuff on our beds because we have no space. Not that we like sharing a tiny kitchen with ten others. Not that we like living in a flat where we have no receiving room or living room. Not that we like taking a bath for exactly fifteen minutes because the next person is waiting outside. Not that we want to sleep in bedbug infested bunks because we have no choice; because even if we get rid of the pests the old building we live in is still full of them. Not that we like to flock into stores that sell the cheapest stuff on the market. Not that we like to eat in cramped restaurants with unhygienic & questionable looking dishes. Not that we like struggling to get to the bus stop on time just to have the bus come half an hour late and afterwards takes us on an unwanted city tour that will get us to work an extra half an hour late. Not that we like to crowd into the metro and smell the armpits & the breath of our less clean neighbor. The odors, the smells – sometimes dank – are annoying. Get your own car they’d say. Huh, I have to get me a new job first. Maybe a new country too. I am not finished. Just tired. Aren’t you? © Lovely Claire Dangalan, 2011

Of Dogs & Men

Make no mistake, this blog entry makes zero effort to be reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s compelling and heart-rending novella. There’s no George or Lennie here. Just me and my so-called life with old pets and “men of old.”

And enough of the men-bashing already, hehehe… not that I’d mind getting a chance to beat up the assholes / jerks that I’ve met in my life (it was good that those were the one-time-date types). Oooops! But my imaginary shrink said that if I keep on getting attracted to the wrong kinds of men, then there must be something wrong with me! 😉 Makes me wonder, is that right?

One more thing, this isn’t a comparison between men and dogs; at least, that isn’t my original intent :-)… how can I compare them with one another? Can you think of a reason why I should even try doing that?

Well, the two most beloved dogs in my life were and still are Venus & Dexter— though I love pets in general: cats, dogs, hamsters, chickens, rabbits, pigs and guinea pigs – yeah, we had all sorts. My brother and I spent the first couple of years in the country or barrio as we call it, and we had a lot of pets. My brother even had spiders and dung beetles.

My first real pet was a chicken. I guess I was about three and my dad was then stationed in a high altitude area called Bakun, Benguet in the northern part of the Philippines. He worked as a surveyor for a mining company and we had to live near the company site… “near” meaning a couple of kilometers away on the other side of the cliff-side community. In between was a rocky, shallow stream where some people did gold panning. Most of the time, my mom and I were alone in the big house assigned to my dad.

One kindly old Igorota (a term used to refer to the female members of an ethnic community there) we called Manang gave me a chick for a pet. She must’ve seen how bored I was. I would pick at the wild strawberries and eat them even when they made me grimace. They were extremely sour! Sometimes I’d make a nuisance of myself and start picking the coffee berries while they were still green. So finally, I had my pet chick.

My mommy helped me feed her/him – I couldn’t really tell and my chicken, well… I’ll tell you later. I took care of my chick and dutifully fed it and played with it and held it close to me, even as it struggled to get away. So my chick grew into a chicken and I wasn’t bored anymore. I had a playmate/thing. I was content. One day, my chicken disappeared, along with a few other chickens mommy was taking care of.

I cried. I bawled. I screamed for my chicken. My mom’s dad, I called him Lolo Tang (literally translated as grandpa dad) once said I had lungs of steel. I could cry for hours and I wasn’t a silent weeper either. Mommy had to tell me finally, about what happened to my pet.

The poor thing was already in the tinola (chicken cooked in ginger broth with unripe papaya slices and fresh pepper leaves & whole peppercorns). I refused to eat of course. I was beyond consolation. In fact, I cannot remember what happened after that. All I know is that I never have and never will eat chicken wings, the neck, head and the feet.

Then there was our pig Norming. We always bought piglets in pairs… to be brought up, fattened up for a fiesta or a birthday or a christening or some other special affair. And the odd thing was, our piglets were always named after “love teams” — names of actors and actresses whose careers are inextricably tied together.

But Norming was the exception. He was bought as a solitary piglet and he was named after his owner. He was a pure white, sweet-natured loving pig. Whenever I came home on vacation, he was always neat and well-behaved, and like our dogs, he would always greet me with his snout. Ima (my mommy’s mother) washed him and had his pen cleaned daily. All I had to do was caress his tummy and his lids would flutter till his eyes closed and he fell asleep.

When he was slaughtered for the fiesta, Norming had grown really big. He was a real eater… and we cried, even Ima, as she cut him up (part of him was roasted to crispy golden perfection) and served him to guests. I think that was the only time my lola (grandma) refused to taste lechon (the name of the dish). It was pretty traumatic. I don’t know why, but we had always fattened up our pigs for such. Somehow, Norming was more special. I had trouble eating the menudo which was my favorite pork dish.

Later on I had a dog, I christened her Venus, after the goddess of beauty & love. Aphrodite would have sounded funny or too extreme for a dog, so I opted for the Roman counterpart. My landlady in Baguio City gave her to me when the family pet Peanuts, a beautiful caramel colored furry dog, gave birth to her litter. Venus was a fiercely protective dog and the most beautiful. She had thick white fur dotted with big black spots and the biggest, darkest eyes you’d ever seen.

I took Venus with me wherever I went: Baguio City to Arayat via Dau and vice versa. She knew how to behave even inside a bus, and people adored her at first sight. We went jogging together while I was studying. We ran even in places that people in Baguio City considered haunted like Loakan Road – in the wee hours of the morning, even when it was foggy. I always felt safe with Venus because she was brave, smart and grew quite big. I kept her clean and healthy, and she was free to come & go into the room I shared with my brother. Venus ate everything I fed her, whether it was dog food or vegetables, but she had her favorites. She had a rather sweet tooth… liked chocolates as much as I did, so I had to brush her teeth a lot, which was a little hard to do.

When I worked as a marketing and production assistant cum usher for an events company one summer break, Venus was with me on the day of the ill-fated concert of Regine Velasquez.

A lot of people bought concert tickets – it was only for one day – and most of the people were out-of-towners and celebrities spending the weekend in Baguio. Unfortunately, her concert was scheduled on the same day as that of Jo Ramos – the daughter of then-president Fidel V. Ramos.

It seemed that the Neocolours, who were guests of Regine in her concert (the venue was the Baguio Athletic Bowl), were the front act in the Jo Ramos concert to be held in the outdoor auditorium of what was formerly known as Club John Hay (at least, that was what they said) and Regine acquiesced in favor of Jo, the latter being a presidential daughter. The concerts were not scheduled at exactly the same time, but part of the schedule overlapped.

Everything would have been okay except that the concertgoers, including us hapless concert usherettes, were informed of the postponement of the event only when we were already in the venue at the designated time. Celebrities like Claudine Barretto and her family were already there, as well as some young stars from a teen variety show called “That’s Entertainment.”

The people went crazy when the announcement was made. Baguio City is eight hours’ worth of road travel from Manila. Some people who bought multiple tickets were from Olongapo City – far, just like Manila. Others were tourists, Filipinos who came back home just for a holiday.

Venus and working students like me – we were trapped. We were the ones who put up the posters and sold tickets. The people knew our faces and they started to chase us. I don’t know where my energy came from, but I held on to Venus’ chain as she bounded away and headed for safer ground. I don’t know how I was able to lift her over a three-foot-high mound. A guy helped me too, I can’t remember who – a Good Samaritan for sure. He dragged me up. Then we kept running till some guys called us and let us inside their van.

As luck would have it, they were the UMD – Universal Motion Dancers!!! Guests in the Regine Velasquez concert. And yes, they were as handsome in person as they looked on TV. They were nice guys too. I think there were three of us girls and Venus. We had to stay in the van for about three or four hours. They were very kind. They had all sorts of snacks and drinks so we didn’t get hungry at all. They chatted quite a bit too. We had to wait for everyone to go… people chased them all over the place coz everyone recognized them. They had to lie low just like us.

When the coast was clear… we could hardly feel our legs. We happily jumped out of the van to breathe in the fresh air. We had a mini photo shoot. Venus was their Muse. 🙂

To this day, I don’t know why I never got their autographs. But then again, it has never been in my nature to do so. I have seen and met quite a number of celebrities, but I always felt it was too embarrassing & impolite to do that (sorry to fanatics out there – it’s just me).

The concert was postponed and scheduled the following week, but I was too shaken up to come. I was never paid for my services like the rest of the group.

It was a scary, crazy and unforgettable experience – not something I would ever forget.

I decided to go home with Venus and spend the rest of the summer at home in Arayat, Pampanga.

When my brother and mommy left me behind in Baguio City, they took Venus with them. I didn’t see her for over a year because my mommy and I were estranged (I got pregnant in college). I missed them terribly and I missed her.

So I had a son and graduated, then worked right away.

After working in Manila for about three years, I moved back to Baguio City to teach and hopefully study for my masters.

I studied Anthropology in Ateneo de Manila (Katipunan) under a scholarship grant I acquired through Saint Louis University. I had been teaching there for about two years when I was given an opportunity to start graduate school studies. After finishing my academic load, I went back to teaching while trying to finish my thesis paper. I had the data and the analysis, all I had to do was write everything down according to graduate school standards.

To cut the story short… we fast forward to the period when I was already separated from my ex-husband for quite some time.. Like a reversal in the “normal” lifecycle, I had a boyfriend… but he was six years younger than me. He was still in college. How did I meet this guy?

If you were my friend, you’d know the details… but nope, I didn’t meet him in a bar or anything like that. He’s mentioned in this entry simply because, well, for one – he’s the father of my daughter, and second, he was the one who gave me Dexter, my second most beloved dog. Dexter was a yellow Labrador retriever.

This guy had a Rottweiler named Corky – she looked fearsome like the rest of her family, but my, was she a good-natured dog. There was a time when he left Corky with me as he (witnessed by friends of mine in the same event) strolled in Camp John Hay with one hand holding a girl and the other one holding the chain of a pit bull. They went to watch the dog show.

Well, he was a jerk, but I loved him… I was kind of a masochist I guess… but it was a first for me so I forgave him every single time he begged for my forgiveness.

Let’s move on to Dexter. My boyfriend and I had a big fight and made up eventually. He and Corky came… then he left again. Corky was with me in the bedroom when he came back an hour later. He came with a rather bony yellow Lab. The dog looked a bit scraggly…  not so clean so I told him to put the dog in the enclosed area behind the apartment. The poor little thing was hungry. I fed him and gave him water to drink.

Corky was on our bed playing as the yellow Lab wistfully peered through he window. I felt for him, but he had to be clean to be allowed inside the apartment. The next day, I gave him a bath.

My boyfriend told me that his name was Romeo (he had medical records from the vet) and that his owner did not take proper care of him, hence, he became thin. To avoid psychological stress, I renamed him Dexter Romeo. And when he got all fattened up and handsome, and some months had passed, I stopped with the Romeo and kept Dexter. I named him after Dexter of Dexter’s Lab – a play on words right? Well, Dexter was sweet and playful. Children usually felt scared around him coz he was big and muscular and he had a big voice. Even my son was scared of him at first till he was able to distinguish between the serious Dexter and the Dexter with a play face.

We took him with us most times, but he didn’t have enough exercise. He loved to eat and play. One time, me and a girl friend took him out on a stroll around the park near us. Halfway through, his tongue turned blue and he collapsed in exhaustion. We couldn’t lift him up! Anyway, we were able to revive him and lead him back to the apartment. The vet said he was grossly overweight.

Dexter was happiest when he was running around and playing…

When my mommy was very ill (she had ovarian cancer), Pongki – a mongrel, died. He was a moody and choosy dog – my uncle’s… but he liked me even when he hardly saw me. Venus followed… my pet.

In the Philippines, when the master is sick and the pets start dying, we believe that the master would be saved since the pets have made a sacrifice. We were wrong.

Mommy had undergone chemo thrice and both her lungs were revived, but she passed away on December 13 – because of a dangerously low hemoglobin count.

I had to go home early – not for the holidays, but to bury my mom. We took Dexter with us… then after the interment, we (the whole family) went to Manila to spend Christmas at my daddy’s mom’s place. To get away… even when there was no escaping the sorrow.

It was the saddest Christmas ever. And sadder still since Dexter died on December 26.

My uncle said Dexter got restless and depressed. He was new to the place and I left him almost immediately. He went round & round the stake to which his chain was tied until he strangled himself. He had to be buried while I was away.

I miss Venus and I miss Dexter. My only consolation is that both of them must be in dog heaven with Pongki and the rest of the other pets who’ve gone through the years.

I’ve never had a pet ever since. Maybe someday. I dunno.

There’s a void in my heart no man can fill… left wide open mostly because of my mom and the passing of my pets.

Not that I am discounting the value of men. I have made and kept male friends who are very close and dear to me. I can talk to them about anything and vice versa…

But boyfriends? I am not saying that men are expendable as boyfriends… the thing is, I always prefer men who make no pretense of who and what they are over those who pretend to be what they are not.

I know that we all try to put our best foot forward in the first meeting… try to make a good impression, but deceit is another thing.

Guess am still pretty lucky though. A man can be a dual person of sorts, some parts good and some parts, well, not so pleasant – but the same can be said of most people I guess. Not keen on playing the martyr, I’ve exchanged heated words with some of my exes – but remained faithful and honest… too honest sometimes it was hard to take. Sigh…

But you know, no matter how bad some experiences were, it’s mostly the good that I remember. Doesn’t mean I’d go back to the guy given another chance – but I just find that it is easier and better to be at peace & look back without regret. Anyway, how can I be at peace with myself & move forward if I made nothing but regrettable decisions?

Besides, the men in my life have made me  a happier person – most times. And that includes my dad, my brother, uncles and cousins, my close male friends and yes, my exes.

Men and dogs – two very different creatures… but they do offer similar infinitely wonderful experiences.

Both species have enriched my life.

My dogs filled my life with magic and the beauty of unequivocal friendship.

Men, on the other hand – challenged me, teased me, hurt me, consoled me, humbled me, uplifted me – they’ve taken me to adventures, helped me reach new heights, led me to paths I would never have crossed… through men, I discovered my own strengths.

I discovered myself and discover more as I journey on… through time and space… I know I will meet more men, not so many pets… 🙂

I look forward to the surprises that await…

© Lovely Claire Dangalan, 2011

me, the anti-woman

Me, the anti-woman (à lòpposé femme). Hippolyta before Persephone. Athena before Aphrodite. Kriemhild before Helen. Medea, Electra, Countess Ellen Olenska, Alice Munro, Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, the decadent destroyer of men – Nana and Viola of the Twelfth Night before the virginal suicidal Ophelia – no, am not praising the adulterous nature of some of these women, but I find it remarkable that they dared go against the grain of conventional society even if it led to their ultimate destruction. The murderously jealous Medea over the fair queen Desdemona, who, in all her goodness and loyalty perished at the hands of her own husband Othello. 


When I was about 13, my dad asked my mom in earnest: Is our daughter a tomboy? The term being the (mild) Filipino counterpart for a girl with boy-like mannerisms – “tibo” on the other hand is more of an ascertainment of a fact that if one is “tibo”, one is most definitely a lesbian. My mom laughed it off and wondered why he asked such a ridiculous question. Dad shook his head and said: It’s coz of the way she walks.

Indeed, when my breasts started to grow, I developed a stooped posture (presumably a way to hide my developing “assets”) and, as a consequence, developed a rather manly gait that was the reason my dad began to worry about my sexual orientation. Little did he know that the latter part of my childhood was marked by little romantic tragedies chronicled in my tiny little diaries.

Anyway, you must wonder why I call myself the anti-woman.

Not that I have anything against women, in fact, I am a staunch supporter of women’s causes, women’s rights – am against all forms of abuse and believe myself to be a Marxist feminist. I am just not your typical feminine woman that’s all.

I am not your coy little angel with fluttery lids and pouty lips (well, I pout sometimes, but in displeasure). I won’t wear thigh high slits or show off my cleavage to attract a man’s attention or get a job / promotion. I avoid make-up as much as possible (my cosmetics usually get expired – I purchase some, just in case, then they end up moldy). I do not make eye contact anywhere except in business functions and interviews. I do not smile at everyone I see. I do not say “good morning” to everyone. I do not look around as I walk. I look straight ahead and walk really fast. To some, I’d look like a snob – actually, am myopic. Can’t see clearly beyond my nose. 😉 I don’t walk with a deliberate swaying gait or let my butt and breasts jut out to look better. I am not wont to ask a man to buy stuff for me to tip the already imbalanced scales of power (ah, power, yes – there is a power struggle even in a relationship involving just two people). I don’t go running in the park with my hair loose and cosmetics on, wearing the latest trend in running clothes and matching trainers. I don’t grow my nails and never have foot spas and facials. And what is a Moroccan bath by the way?

When I was three, I witnessed a bridge a few meters away from our place collapse as water lilies, carried by the strong currents of that great flood, piled at the foundations and pulled the structure apart.

I have seen members of the New People’s Army pass through our neighborhood, asking for new slippers, some water and a little food.

When I was around seven or eight, I smelled the stench of death as a carabao plodded on through our barrio with a covered cart … it carried the body of a man (an informant of which side I cannot remember) and his seven-year-old son who was tied to him with a rope and shot in the grave that he was ordered to dig up himself.

I survived a major earthquake and a catastrophic volcanic eruption. I’ve scaled mountains and groped my way in the dark on my stomach through caves.

I’ve been hit by a 4WD, got a little bruised and had to have an X-ray, went to work and was sent home anyway.

There have been regrettable episodes in my life that I would not care to mention except maybe in an autobiography which I have no plans of writing just yet. Things I wouldn’t wish any human being to have to go through. All the bad that has happened to me and the misery I witnessed in the lives of others weakened me… temporarily. Enough to sometimes make me wish I were dead, but never, never enough to kill me.

I guess that is why I’d rather not dilly-dally. Have no time for BS.

I hate pleasantries and small talk.

When someone asks: How do you do? OR How are you? I usually feel a strong compulsion to say: Bah, humbug (ala-Scrooge)! What a stupid question..! Do you really wanna know? I feel shitty. Do you wanna hear about my shitty life? Of course not. Just trying to be pleasant, you might say. Sorry, but I am a lost cause. 😦

Yeah, I can be nasty sometimes 🙂 … I can be blunt to the point of no redemption. Well, at least, you will know I consider you my friend when I give you uninhibited responses – my frankness towards certain people is a gauge of my degree of trust. If you find me all pleasant and nice, then you must not know me that well and I don’t trust you that much either. I am myself (real frank me) to those of whom I feel closest.

You can imagine how many fights I had with my mother and how much I teased my brother… made him cry when he was small. My mom used to ask my dad to give me a good spanking sometimes because I was a hardheaded kid. I would fight with anyone… my aunts, my uncles and even my grandma Rosita (we called her Ima)… so the neighborhood kids were nothing to me, hahaha! Once, I had a fight with my boy cousin. They tied us upside down by our ankles on the star apple tree (please, no social workers – I had fun!) because we wouldn’t stop bickering. Well, I didn’t play fair I guess, coz my cousin had boils on his head, I started hitting him there. He was a bit older than me, but I made him cry.

When I was in fourth grade, I got into a hair-pulling episode with a playmate of mine, who, incidentally, was also our neighbor. I wouldn’t call it a fair fight either coz they shaved off all her hair (she had lice) and I had shoulder length tresses. Still, it was good fight. Everyone, including the cheering spectators, was given a good hiding by our otherwise good-natured class advisor. Why? The fight was held on the school grounds, right behind our homeroom. 🙂

I do Pilates to improve my posture. I run, not to be sexy (is that all people obsess about when they exercise?), but for health, strength and stamina – and to have a running chance in the runs I joined and plan on joining. I wear what I want when I want to. I am more comfortable in jeans & running shoes than anything else. I find wearing heels a nuisance (but they do give the butt a nice lift ;-)). I like body bags and backpacks / satchels and find tiny bags unsatisfactory – have you seen those teensy weensy bags women carry around in bars? Oh yeah, that’s just for the compact and the lipstick right? I don’t bat my lashes, except when I’m around my guy – and I end up looking gay as a consequence. And I will NEVER… like NEVER… will ever shave my legs or get myself waxed (not even when I can afford it… :-)). I don’t mind being the joker or the butt of jokes (I can always turn the tables around – can’t do without wit!). And the possibility of falling flat on my face anytime, anywhere is always a challenge, not a possible failure. I will bawl, I will cry, for a moment – I’d feel like dying, when I get dumped or even when I do the dumping… oh well, let the Phoenix rise from the ashes. Forever the optimist.

Oh, but don’t get me wrong… I love the male kind of the species. I appreciate what they have done – what great philosophers, builders, politicians, scientists, artists, businessmen, soldiers, gentlemen they are and what they can still accomplish for humankind. I also like it when a man offers to carry my bags for me and opens doors. Nice to have a guy who would help me take my coat off and pull a chair for me… sigh. Chivalry. Good times 😉 — well, partly… don’t like to be the damsel in distress though. Even when I am neck deep in shit, I wouldn’t admit it to my guy… not if I can help it.

A strong woman is a real woman. If man still lives in caves like the troglodytes we were about 2.5 million years ago,  he has to have a woman with the wit and the strength to defend hearth & home from invaders while he is out hunting for food. Alas! Some men would prefer a pretty face above all else… while some of us do resort to using our feminine wiles to have our way. Play the coquette and manipulate.

I cannot play such games and I cannot tolerate a man who plays the same way.

And men, do you know that the gene for intelligence is passed on from mother to offspring? Think of your future mate and your children. Choose wisely. 🙂

How glad and fortunate I am then, for my mother was of the strong and intelligent kind… for surely, if not for her, I would not be “I”.

I do not belittle women viewed as average. Like Forrest Gump’s mom said: Stupid is, stupid does… hehehe. There IS education to help challenge our minds and develop our abilities.

How sad it is then, for the countless number of women who, by stroke of misfortune (realistically, because of social stratification), find it hard to get out of the mire of poverty – simply because of decreased life chances.

It is up to you and me then, to help them out and give them a fighting chance.

Yes, I am the anti-woman – more accurately, the anti-feminine Marxist feminist woman.

Not your cup of tea.

It’s okay, you’re not mine either.

© Lovely Claire Dangalan, 2011

feet of clay

i keep thinking of Miss Rosete and her (secret) lover named Clay. of the many short stories i have read and the many female protagonists i have known, it is Imaculada Rosete who stands out (even in her weakness – actually, she figures briefly in the story, mostly just inhabiting the childish imaginings of the narrator who is obviously infatuated with her), and then of course, there’s Maria Concepcion and Miss Emily Grierson.

Maria Concepcion is a remarkable character whose piety was considered exemplary in her community. her strength of character belied her seething jealousy for Maria Rosa… the girl her husband Juan, was cavorting with, while she, Maria Concepcion, was heavy with child. her murderous obsession led her to a moment of weakness, that is… killing Maria Rosa. if i were in her place and were in an uncontrollable rage, i would have killed Juan and not Maria Rosa.

as for Miss Emily Grierson… i feel for her. like the rest of humanity, Miss Emily was scared of growing old alone, with no one to love her.  she being a solitary daughter tightly reined in by an authoritarian father left her an old maid. so when the opportunity to find a companion presented itself in the person of Homer Barron, Miss Emily could not let go even as she realized she was just one of his conquests. he actually seemed to prefer the company of his men more than hers. that’s when she thought of buying arsenic, purportedly to kill rats… and, well, we know in the end that the skeleton on her bed with the initials HB was no rat, but the man she clung to and loved to death.

but right now, I’d rather focus on Miss Rosete and her own feet of clay.

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back in college, when i first read the short story “Clay” by Juan T. Gatbonton, the story did not particularly strike my fancy… i had very vague notions of immorality and deviance. i only had thoughts on love —  the way poets and writers have described it: pure joy, full of passion, drama, rapturous even in despair.

pretty childish of me i know. but what little i knew about love was virtually nil. i had teenage crushes and read a lot of books on love: my mom’s novels, short stories i collected from magazines and my books, not to mention the many films i had seen depicting love in its many guises. but always… always… what i had in mind was an idealized view of love. the hero and his lady overcoming all obstacles and ending up together, living happily ever after. pretty much like any fairy tale i guess.

when i got to know Miss Rosete and realized, ah… she’s the boy’s teacher, crush and friend… and then there was Clay saying: Boy, is she good! Boy, did old Clay have a good time. and how he pronounced her name as “Imacool-ada.” how he would laugh sarcastically in the narrator’s face, unknowingly hurting the youthful sensibilities of the boy.

the story is riddled with symbolism of course beginning with the title “Clay.” Clay’s heavy boots crushing the white flowers near the pool, the rotten guavas, the carabao who muddied what used to be a crystal clear pond… even Miss Rosete’s name “Imaculada” – a Portuguese word meaning immaculate, pure, undefiled. Clay’s character made sure that Imacool-ada didn’t stay chaste for long, even comparing her to the common whores they (American soldiers) consorted with: Once ya get one of those babes convinced, they’re just like the girls here.

Clay – the guy – is, in a way, proof of Miss Rosete’s very own  feet of clay… much to the chagrin of the young man telling the story. what better waterloo for an innocent woman than a man of the world like Clay?

the term originated from an event in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar who asked the prophet Daniel to interpret the following dream for him:

“Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.

And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.”

like Achilles’s downfall in Iliad by an arrow shot by the Prince Paris to the only vulnerable part of his body – the heel… Miss Rosete’s “failure,” though not at all epic in proportion, is equally as hard. she is a teacher after all, the epitome of grace & virtue. in the eyes of the young narrator, she was perfect… beautiful, virginal… with an ethereal quality that struck a chord in his young heart. but Clay ruined all of it when he began to speak about her with great familiarity… the way he talked about her – it was like he was talking about an ordinary flawed woman, so unlike the lady of the young man’s dreams. another broken dream.

but what of this expression feet of clay? i don’t know but i have always found it fascinating. perhaps because at this point in time my feelings, so raw, have forced me to rethink my decisions in life. how my own feet of clay have led to numerous failures that i never seem to recover from.

my weakest point being my heart…  i live and die for my feelings… i make no distinction between love and life. in fact, i am without a choice, i make no distinction. am incapable of making a distinction, and that is a huge failing i suppose.

most of my misadventures begin and end with affairs of the heart.

i learned about crushes and love quite late in life. i had my first infatuation when i was eleven. my penchant for tragedy made me ask the guy (who actually courted me – he was my partner in the school dance troupe) to court another girl (a gymnast who, by mistake, i thought was my friend) who also had a crush on him.

why did i make such a rash decision? i liked him so much – i cried over him. but you see, that girl opened my bag during recess time and found my diary. she read it and passed it around. he (the boy) had a code name in my diary, but i described him so well that everyone knew i was talking about him. so i felt, when he started courting me, even when he denied it, that he was beginning to show interest just because i was a “sure thing.” the thought of never knowing the truth behind his intent worried me more than actually ‘losing’ him to the other girl. anyway, so he did court her just before graduation and i think they were together for a few months, then broke it off.

after him, i had no lasting crushes and suitors scared me. if a guy i was friendly with started to get sweet on me, it was guaranteed that i’d keep as far away from him as possible & avoid all contact. this happened with a really close guy friend of mine. we were very close and i even thought he was effeminate and he was a really talented artist. he confessed his ‘love’ when we were about to graduate. i was eleven and he gave me a pretty cutout to hang up on my wall – it said: i love you claire. i didn’t talk to him months after that, but i hung his gift on my wall. my mommy asked about it and i said a really good friend of mine gave it to me so it left.

then there was the big brother of one of my classmates. he was a senior and we were still in junior high. he was smart and funny… but, well, it turned out that he wanted to court me. he gave me flowers and a really lovely poem he made for me on valentine’s day… i felt betrayed. he was a senior officer of the club i was about to head once they graduated… i was very upset. it was really childish of me, i know, but it took me a while to get over my shock & irritation.

my real crushes were mostly movie stars / celebrities: barret oliver, noah nathaway, corey haim & corey feldman, michael j. fox, ralph macchio, bryan adams, paul mccartney (even when i was really small i thought he had the sweetest face among the beatles, while john lennon looked enigmatic), the menudo, steve armstrong and prince zardos (of the Japanese anime Voltes V), perseus (Clash of the Titans), that guy from macross, astroboy, macaulay culkin, elijah wood, bruce greenwood, mark lester, shaun cassidy, leif garrett (my aunt’s used to fight over them), john denver, etc.

after high school, i worked at McDonald’s while taking up short courses on computer programming. i was infatuated with our professor who was a very nice looking chinese mestizo. i can remember sir victor’s calm and gentle gaze. he had nice almond shaped eyes and a kindly gaze. he didn’t notice me, of course. he had a very beautiful girlfriend who was also a chinese mestiza.

at work, i had a crush on the “baddest” looking guy… not bad-looking, i.e. ugly – he looked mean and tough, somewhat unapproachable, and yes, he had a girlfriend (he was already in his mid-20s). actually, one time, he and i got into a fight at work (a word duel) then later became good friends. and my, how he danced! they joined the national championships among mcdonalds crew and they were in the top five, thanks to him! then there was sir allan with his chinky eyes. he was married and i was his confidant. he said that even though i was just fifteen, i thought like an adult. when i resigned, he confessed something to me (no, it wasn’t because he was attracted to me in any way!), a secret i will keep till the day i die.

in college, i had a really huge crush on robert who was two years ahead of our batch. i don’t know why he ended up taking botany with a bunch of freshmen (maybe he failed the first time? it didn’t really matter that time)? i called his girlfriend “the pendant”. robert was really tall and she was petite. she would bring him cakes and stuff she baked, and like a pendant, she would wrap her arms around him and walked thus, hence, she hung onto him like a pendant…

then there was superman. i never found out his name since he belonged to a higher year level, but he did resemble christopher reeves so i christened him that way. there was also a nepali engineering student who struck my fancy. he looked like a greek bronze statue. he had a girlfriend of course, and i never found out who he was.

all of these crushes came and went harmlessly into my adolescent life. there was one junior pastor in my friend’s church who, after being transferred to another medical school, confessed his love for me from afar. he wrote me beautiful love letters, alas! i had superman and the bronze statue to distract me. he would have made an ideal boyfriend, but having one was the farthest thing from my mind.

then there was a former classmate of mine in high school. he was our class clown and we were joking friends. in college, he studied biology… but in our old city. he also started writing and said he was in love with me. i was young and falling in love was something idealized, distant from my own life, so i told him that it wasn’t a good time. all i wanted to do was study.

i had a crush on my trigonometry and botany professors, and, much later, on my anthropology professor. they were all much older and i feared and respected them. and nope, i never behaved like a groupie – obvious and brazen enough to confess my “love.” no way. i was never like that.

there were a couple of guys i liked but they never found out of course. there was jonathan and adrian – both student leaders. i was a regular attendee of the student demonstrations they led… during the july 16 earthquake, i had just gone back from home (our province was more than four hours worth of bus travel away) to support the student strike they were leading.

all in all, my infatuations were relatively harmless and had no real bearing on major life decisions i made. i was just another nerd in college, until…

i would call it pride and rebellion on my part. i asked mommy to come live with us there ‘coz daddy was abroad. everything was great, oh well… it was ok at first till things got complicated in the house we lived in (we rented one room). i don’t wanna go into the details, but yeah… coz of a big fight with my mommy over a guy who gave me flowers (he also lived in the same house – he was older than me & already working). i think, before that time, mommy knew and was certain tat i had my eye only on my studies. but the more she cautioned me about him, the more i wanted to bolt. i was stupid, yes. but back then, i didn’t realize how fatal my error was.

i ended up without my mommy and my brother… started living with the guy. got pregnant (and miscarried & got pregnant again) some months after and had to struggle through my last year in college. i had a scholarship but i was so used to just having everything i needed. the guy tried to be responsible although it was obvious on both our sides that, in the beginning, we were not in love with each other the way a couple should, but we stayed together and the affection grew (but not to the point i would say “love”).

am talking about my son’s father, my ex-husband. he was a good man all in all, but getting married was a mistake. we were fine (except for the occasional philandering on his part) just being a couple with a son, but because of a job i was applying for (which i didn’t really get coz i submitted the requirements too late), we had to get married. so we did. his co-workers in the hotel wondered why, on the occasion i found out that he was seeing another woman (it wasn’t serious according to him), i never confronted the woman and demanded that he go away. i thought i was just being an open-minded wife, understanding and all. i was mistaken. i wasn’t jealous like i wasn’t crazy possessive when other women tried to hook up with him before (he’s a handsome guy). i never realized that i didn’t really love him and that i didn’t know what love really was (between a man and a woman).

we eventually separated after being together for seven years – after a lot of controversies and drama – our son has suffered most through it all, i am certain. sigh.

everything went downhill from there. i experienced a reversal in what i thought was the normal lifecycle of an individual.

i never had a boyfriend. i just got pregnant, married, then separated. i was single again – without any idea on how to handle relationships, much less men.

later, i got involved with different kinds of men who, by all appearances, were truly, madly, deeply (like the song :-)) in love with me. some were older, most of them were younger than me… every time i fell in love, i thought that was it… then the relationship would end after some time (my shortest relationship lasted five months; i know, everything and everyone must count… it isn’t the length of time that matters – after all, one can love a person long after he / she has gone) and i was back in the square corresponding to “zero.”

i actually hate to say it, that “falling in love”… makes room for “falling out of love”… which goes against my ideal of love. if it must be called love, it must be eternal, in whatever form, in whatever way.

well, i don’t know why, but the most serious of my relationships were with men who were already married. how sad and pathetic! don’t worry, i was never a mistress. they never had to spend money on me unnecessarily because i had enough for myself, and i never asked about the wife or if he would leave her. they were the ones who made plans and spun beautiful romantic dreams of couple-dom — which, as a matter of self-preservation — words i always took in a stride, no matter how wonderful they seemed.

i called these kinds of relationships “relationships with an expiration date.” i knew from the beginning they would have to end, no matter how happy we both were and how committed to each other we both seemed. am just not built to be a home wrecker. hypocrite! you may say. i don’t really care what you think, but after my own marriage “failed,” i have not felt a strong enough compulsion to go down that road again. besides, i am lover of tragedy. no great love story without a tragedy. no hero without a tragic flaw. am not saying i am a heroine, but i have been one in my own tragedies. and i know that you & i are of the same opinion that i most certainly DO have a tragic flaw or even many flaws.

i didn’t finish my masters thesis because of three men. i ruined myself financially because of two. it is just too bad that i am not alone in my suffering. my family is struggling to know and understand why i am in this state, and my friends have to bear witness to my sad story… how my life has been on a downward spiral in the past few years. maybe you want to ask: was i ever alone? the longest i was without a relationship (after my marriage ended) was around four or five months  except in the last almost three years when i sort of drifted alone in an ocean, neither here nor there. there are a lot of men indeed in this tiny city i am in, but very few worth noting. the abundance is just a number but nothing would count as anything real. they refuse to be real. no diamond in the rough. more of sand & stone in the guise of diamonds… how sad… but i can’t be bitter. i’d rather smile through it all and sigh. hope. sigh. hope some more. sigh some more.

but yes, perhaps you already know, that even in a relationship… a person can be alone. at least i have been, many times over.

when i was pregnant with my daughter, her father and i had been on a long break (about three or four months). sometimes i would see him on the street and we would each nod our heads in recognition and keep on walking. i had a good job and my dad sent me money every month so i was fine financially. but yeah, it was basically just me, my son and my unborn daughter. it was a great thing i had a few really true friends and fewer close relatives who knew and understood. no one in my family has ever seen me pregnant, either for the first or second time… to date.

so have you ever had that feeling then… of being with someone and yet feeling isolated or alone? when you can’t even reveal what you feel, who you are at that moment to the one you are with? when you feel vulnerable and inadequate… afraid of being misunderstood?

i sure have and i am not blaming the guy… the man. it just happens I guess. life, nay, relationships are a lot of work. quite contrary to our expectations that love — the thing that poets have written about — must be pure and simple if it is real. but it hardly is simple, especially in this day and age where brittleness characterizes most relationships. how ironic, we have all forms of technology available to keep us close… but what has happened is that, technology has made communication impersonal — has led us to escape from our own feelings and re-create who we are — pretend to be someone else, be not who we are but be who we think others want us to be. to be accepted or admired. how superficial, yet how true…

oh, where has my subject gone? am talking about feet of clay… my very own. oh yes, love is life to me. i live and breathe it. love.

through love, i have experienced the vicissitudes of life… how things that seem everlasting actually come to an end. how something thought of as fleeting outlasts what may have seemed permanent.

and even if others may see me as a failure… i am, after all, still single. disappointed. my travails as a wife and girlfriend are a testament to how i have been in my relationships. after a few months of separation, an ex-boyfriend would be calling me and asking about my life, saying he cares for me still… one ex-boyfriend of mine actually named his daughter after me, and to me, that is one source of great pride.

i must have been good to them right? or at least i must have done something right to still be missed.

and since my feet of clay are here to stay, i will have to keep walking and hoping i will finally stumble upon the ONE. recently, i thought i’ve finally found him, but my own predicament has led me to thinking i should resolve my issues first before i continue. i let him know how i felt, what i thought… most of all, he now knows about my situation and has been quite kind about it. i don’t know if he’ll stick around long enough in my life for him to witness who i was before i got myself into this quagmire i am currently in. i am hoping he would, but who knows? i just need to go on and hope to be the whole person i was before… so that i will be capable of being the best person i can be for the guy in my life and for everyone else in it: my family, my friends.

if not, so be it. i have been alone in the darkest days of my life and i am prepared to enter the darkness still in isolation.

© Lovely Claire Dangalan, 2011