Sunday, April 13, 2014

If condoms grew on trees

SCHOOLS are temples devoted to learning. These are fertile grounds, too, for myths and superstitions.

A friend who knew I was studying at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines asked me if I saw “The Condom Tree”.

In my two years here, I have still to cover the campus’s entire 493 hectares or 1,220 acres. Yet, even with a heavy school tote, a visitor will enjoy walking under the ancient trees, with about 500 acacia and fire trees rimming the Academic Oval.

I have not spotted The Condom Tree. As described by my friend, who heard it from a friend, students making out in the open jettison their used condoms at the base of this tree.

It is a curious tale as it conjures a crazy collage of hedonism and regimentation: after a romp in the wild, young people troop to deposit their rubbers at some tree that may either be languishing from the plastic dumped on it or thriving from the rivers of fluids watering its roots.

A friend, female this time, asked me if it was true that after nightfall, the open spaces in the campus became motels. After evening class, I have stumbled over tree roots and uneven sidewalks but have yet to come upon enthusiastic couples tussling in the dark.

When the toilets in my college were renovated, a discussion that made the rounds among students was whether it would be practical to install a vending machine for tissues, sanitary napkins and condoms.

The women argued that condoms should be available in the women’s toilets as well because we bear the brunt of unprotected sex. Boys may always spare coins for beer and cigarettes, not necessarily for condoms.

When the toilet rehab was done, we had bidets but no dispenser. Since condoms have yet to grow on trees, will prophylactics be available in campuses only if these were placed inside a glass box, with the sign: Break glass in an emergency?

Many campus myths are stuff for levity. Some misconceptions that endure are not.

X, a fresh graduate confided her worries about Y, a fellow coed who did “It” with her boyfriend, Z. Both women were worried because X and Y have their regular menstrual periods at the same time and Y was already delayed by more than a week.

Y and Z did “It” twice, without taking any precautions to prevent pregnancy. Z opted not to use condoms because the sensation was keener for him. I wondered how much fun it is for Y every time she gives in to Z and then waits for a monthly period that may just be delayed or not.

The dilemma faced by X and Y (Z, being the unknown factor, only known for his predictable devotion to the ultimate sensation) is classic. I’ve heard this when I was a teen. Now that I have teens of my own, many girls still await the dreaded confirmation of an unplanned pregnancy as if this were manifest destiny, not something forestalled through abstinence or preparation.

The Supreme Court (SC) recently ruled the RH Law is constitutional. The corpus of the RH Law is to control the population, declared SC justices.

But more important than preventing pregnancy is empowering Filipinos with information. An informed person makes better decisions. And yes, does not leave one in thrall of myths, superstitions and ignorance.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Apr. 13, 2014 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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