Saturday, April 01, 2017


MY late maternal grandmother would probably say that the scandal entangling House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. only proves that men, like women, discover gardening with age.

Once, while we were discussing oregano in her garden, she observed that I was finally showing my age.

I confirm: after passing the first half of a century, I enjoy more time spent in the garden. I like to focus on the physical exertions demanded by weeding and pruning while leaving my mind free to appreciate quiet, the signs of life thrusting out, and the calming sense of decay and going back to earth.

The horticultural must also be on the minds of the congressmen, who, in the latest controversy, seem to be of the garden variety of politicians.

Although the issue initially focused on the graft charges filed with the Ombudsman by the Speaker against his former bosom buddy, the public’s attention has shifted to the catfight involving the congressmen and their women.

Both men no longer live with their wives. Their common-law partners or girlfriends accompany them publicly, including on official functions and social media posts.

Article 147 of the Family Code of the Philippines recognizes that many couples enter into a live-in arrangement, also known as a “common-law marriage”.

The Speaker has also admitted fathering several children out of wedlock.

He has dared critics to seek his disbarment, and expressed disbelief that anyone would raise his affairs as an ethical violation: “Come on! Who does not have a girlfriend?”

His incredulity must be genuine. By now, “telling the truth” must be accepted as “manly” and normal not just by womanizers but also by Filipinos used to the confessional rambling and sexist jokes of President Duterte.

In the code of machismo, men dominate by observing double standards: different sets of morality for men and women. In this macho binary, women are either for “casa (home)” or “calle (street)”.

The first kind washes his clothes and bears his children. The second promises pleasure, variety, and stature with his friends.

A Stanford paper cites a Mexican joke about a wife’s three prayers. “Lord, let my husband remain faithful,” prays the bright-eyed bride. “Lord, let me not discover his unfaithfulness,” prays the realistic wife. “Lord, let me not care,” she prays, finally, for sanity and peace.

For the Speaker and his ilk, I will not bend the deity’s ears. I prefer the clear sight of my late grandmother:

Just as women turn to gardening when their wombs go barren, some men collect orchids: the young and the beautiful to decorate and camouflage the stumps of what used to be trees.

( 09173226131)

* First published in SunStar Cebu’s April 2, 2017 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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