Being female is hard enough as it is, but being female & a Filipina to boot is a total nightmare. Even in this day and age, women are still expected to be subservient to either their mothers or to the man she would eventually marry. I really find it so barbaric how as young girls, we Filipinas were trained how to be mirror images of Maria Clara, with her ever-present fan & hankies just within reach — just sitting pretty, waiting for her Prince Charming who’ll sweep her off her feet.

Our country is the only Catholic country in Asia. Our culture put too much importance in our ancestors’ old values & traditions since time immemorial, making it the absolute law within each family unit of the land. My family is no different. We were ruled with an iron fist.

Rule #1: Obey your elders at all times. 
 Rule #2: If you have issues about the rules, refer to Rule #1.

I was born in an era before the internet was conceived, without social media & Facebook. At a time when commingling with boys were strictly forbidden. Unfortunately, perhaps by some twisted force of nature, I was genetically inclined to have this intense desire for wanting things that girls my age haven’t even thought about. I was always questioning the ways of the world. I was greatly influenced by the books I’ve been reading all the time. I wanted to have the freedom girls my age from the Western world are experiencing & eventually I started to resent the stifling old-fashioned way of living I was brought up in.

My family was alarmed. They are liberal in their own way but they still couldn’t relate to the ideas & beliefs I was able to conjure up on my own. I was the “free spirit” personified. When I was only being true to myself, I was becoming a nightmare to my family. I became the first girl in our small town to have ever dared being seen smoking in public, the first girl in this town who stayed up till dawn drinking booze with her childhood friends who were all male. I was waaaay ahead of my time.

As far as I can remember, most people labeled me as a “wild child,” a willful & obstinate child who always does what she wanted. A deviant. Perhaps I am indeed a deviant in other’s eyes, but not because of the deeds I do but because of the simple reason that most people in a small town like mine has this extremely conservative & prudish way of thinking deeply ingrained in a culture such as ours.

I was simply practicing my freedom to pursue the happiness that I’m entitled to. As long as I’m not hurting others in the process, I see no reason why I should stop being me. The injustice of being labeled as a pariah was totally unfair. I refuse to believe that I’m the monster people thought me to be.

I was simply the first Maria who broke free.

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