The “F” Word

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“Are you a feminist?”

My Turkish student asked after I told them I was studying women and development. I did not know much about their country but  later on, I found out that they were religious and at the same influenced by European culture. They could not get over the fact that in the Philippines, or in China, when a guy asks you for a date, it’s the guy who usually pays the bill. In their country, they split up the bill regardless the status of their relationship. Whether it’s serious or a first day, they practice equal sharing of the expenses. True sense of gender equality, right?

I just smiled and after five seconds, I said “yah.”

So you do the bra-burning?”

They asked teasingly.

My five-second pause came from the popular images of feminists: A woman with an iron fist, or a muscled woman, or Beyonce. Some call themselves feminists by displaying their armpit hair. Gee, feminism is much more than that! I don’t have a tough looking face to be called a feminist. I don’t want to be branded by any political ideology because feminism just like any political ideology should not be treated as a fundamentalist truth. I don’t like to be labeled because feminism is also against stereotypes.

I may not agree in everything feminism believes in but you and I can benefit a lot from feminist thinking. Feminists comes in different shapes and sizes. They fight for different causes but they share some common beliefs which people from different walks of life can get inspiration from. Here are some:

Motherhood is important.

Some say feminism movement is responsible why many women neglect their responsibilities at home, why they prefer career over family. That is not feminism! In fact, motherhood is important to feminists. This is the reason feminists fight for long maternity leave, daycare centers, and breastfeeding stations in offices and public spaces. It is so important that feminists would like to share the gift of motherhood with men. We don’t take motherhood lightly. Feminists have high regard for mothers. We know how heavy the role of the mother is. This is also  the reason some opt not to have kids of their own.

Domestic work is important

Some people might think that feminists are fighting for reversed roles that feminists are the brand of women who prefer to do what boys do and who do not like to cook, and take care of children. But feminists are actually fighting for domestic work to be recognized as real work. There are many women who would just introduce themselves, “housewife lang” “nasa bahay lang.” This shows how much we undervalue women’s work, just because it does not bring economic value. We want to change the minds of many women to take pride of what they do, that they should stand tall when they say “I’m a full-time mother” or “I’m a homemaker”

Women experiences are important

We believe experiences are entry point in understanding women’s condition. We believe knowledge does not only come from scholars, books, or from a special kind of jargon that are highly institutionalized. We take time to listen other people’s experiences because they are also rich source of knowledge.

We don’t belittle personal stories

We don’t because we believe the personal is political. We believe your silence is a product of life events. We believe your aggressiveness speaks a volume of entries of your life journal.

We believe in sisterhood and solidarity

We recognize that sometimes in the course of a woman’s life, it is a fellow woman who pulls you down. A women empowerment campaign often shows a highly successful woman in the public sphere. This encourages a lot of individualism. A real feminist does not aim competition among women but rather equality not only among different genders,  but among different classes, and races.

We value diversity

Because we respect differences, we don’t impose a life prescription on how you should live your life as a woman, as a mother, as a wife. What we care most is your freedom and empowerment.

Lastly, we recognized that you are not only oppressed by your gender, but also by your age, race, class. And we recognize that it’s not only women who are oppressed.

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Worth Forgiving

moving forward

moving forward

There were nights that I could not sleep just because I could not forgive. Whether it was a mirror or a name, it reminded me of how unfair life was. I wanted to curse and use all the swear words that never came out of my mouth.

When I remember those nights, I feel nothing anymore. Looking back, the reasons were frivolous to extinguish anger and grudge. It is just a story, like everybody’s story of moving on and forgiving. When every detail of the story turns vague and blurry, this is how I know I have forgiven.

I am very much aware that people experience much worse in life. To say, “forgive”, is over simplified for someone who is going through a complicated life. When I think of how grave other people’s offenses are, is it possible to just forgive? Are they worthy of forgiveness?

It is easy to forgive when the offender realizes his mistake or when we see the offender punished.

When I think of what Jesus did in the cross,  it reaffirms the famous quote: “To err is human. To forgive is divine.”

This  passage is one of the many teachings of forgiveness in the Bible.

“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:33-34

Long Captions

They say when you write a message make it “short but sweet” but sometimes  the longer  the better,  the sweeter.

Writing long captions can be relieving

If  I have to use one word to describe my 2015, it’s “cheesy”

Here are my cheesy, hugot-filled, and longest captions in instagram 😀

On this caption, I just want to justify why I have to post a photo of tulips when all I have to say, “Thank you very much for the flowers. I really really like them”  😀

Complaining and “hugoting” are quite similar feelings. It is not very unlikely  to compare MRT with love life.

I wrote this with my heart singing…. char! 😀

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When I browse through the narratives of my life: blog entries, old diaries, random posts online, I realize I enjoy writing about pain , dramatic moments or simply called “kaechosan” or “kaartehan”.. But I can't write happiness in full details. My theory is that pain demands to be released while happiness demands to be locked, to be sealed and if you can store it for a long time, you will. But if you can vomit pain through words, you will…. For how can you write happy thoughts? Every time I put into words, I get stuck on that memory that I cannot continue
Moments like when you cannot speak as you catch your breath after a long hike
and all you can think of is the vast landscape in front of you or when you are caught by surprise and the only sounds coming from you are “woooooh” wow”
they do not even constitute a meaning Moments that could have been elaborated with fancy quotes
but hormones, heartbeats block your vocabulary
and of all the words you can pick in the dictionary
You just say, “happy and beautiful”
to describe your feelings The things that we cannot express are the ones that are most profound. In summary, thank you! You are the kind of happiness that I have never written before… You are the kind of happiness that I cannot articulate #chos #travel #travelph

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Invisible

 

“I am the master of my fate

I am the captain of my soul.”

These lines come from a classic poem, Invictus which I memorized for my English subject in high school. I used to like this poem as much as I liked the ideology of self-love.

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Now that I have lived more than two decades of my life,  I realize I am not the best architect of my own life.

I have no control of the people I meet, the opportunities I have, what people think, what people feel. I may control time by setting a timetable or deadline but I cannot freeze moments, delay aging or speed up things in my life. Some things just happen, like storms and sickness. I have no control over many things but I can only control how I respond to given life circumstances. I can control how I feel and how I react, and how I would like these changes or lack of changes affect me.

I come to a conclusion: “You can only plan your life to a certain extent but there’s always a hand of God that leads you to where you should be.”

Destiny is real and it is inevitable.When I was younger, I thought believing in destiny was for people who were lazy and complacent. I refuse to believe in destiny because I do not like to feel defeated.

Destiny does not mean surrender. It just means humility and having awareness we have limitations. By learning to accept destiny, we become more forgiving to ourselves and  to others. If you can’t make it, forgive. If others choose to break you, forgive.

I am still optimistic about freewill and fate but now I believe fate is only kind to people who are kind to themselves.

osmena 3

I like nature trips because they help me realize how small I am in this universe and how narrow-minded I am to think that pieces of my life are not synchronous.  The hymn How Great Thou Art best describes how I feel:

“When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze….

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!

I guess when everything is against your will, go to the mountains, wilderness, forests, not to meditate or not to be a monk. But go there to ask yourself, how can there be so much error in this world, when the trees, the skies, the mountains are perfectly colored, arranged and built as if there were too many engineers, architects, and artists who are responsible for these? There must be invisible hands working to make everything seamlessly beautiful. We are too small to fathom the mysteries of the world. Who are we to say something is wrong that the universe conspires to make us miserable?We need to be invisible to appreciate the divine plan set before us. There is always a plan unforeseeable.

We need to be invisible

We need to be invisible

Life events are like converging lines. They will lead you to one point someday.
Every long lost dream is like a Northern star leading to where you should be
Life is messy
Cupid is clumsy
For in chaos, there is calculation (Lorde, 2013)
For in battles we fail, there are newborn victors
For opportunities we miss, there are threats we dismiss

Similarly as what spoken word poet Ben Norris:

“For everything that crumbles, there are monuments erected in defiant celebration.
For every slip and broken bone follows four score epic baseball catches. It made the sky a place to aim for, made Buzz Aldrin and Felix Baumgartner not just normal blokes. It made a hundred kids look at the moon wanting nothing but to try it.

We need the speed of our flying dreams; we need gravity to defy it.

This is not about destiny. It’s  faith over fate.

All my life I sailed the sea of reason, I was captain of my soul…there was no need of my Savior, I tried to do it on my own…
Then I heard him speak the language of compassion, words of healing..for broken lives...

(From I Choose Jesus lyrics)

And we know:

“... that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8: 28

“God has made everything beautiful in its time.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

 

 

If “True Love” is True

Disney Maleficent Movie

Disney Maleficent Movie

My professor in one of my MA classes asked us, ” What do you think about romantic love?” I said, “I think romantic love is overrated.”

I was bitter but I was able to validate my opinion when Nicholas Sparks just filed a divorce. It was the worst heartbreak ever. If swallowing more personal heartaches could save his marriage, I would just to keep that fantasy.

If I am going to use my feminist lens, I think romantic love is used to oppress women. In fact the romantic love we know characterized by euphoric feelings is too modern. This true love is that kind of love that is pushed by Victorian era. The bourgeois ensured their bloodline by picking one woman for one man. It makes women long for male validation. It makes the ideal kind of love unattainable, inaccessible. It makes love an achievement when it should be free. As stated by Janis Ian, love was meant for beauty queens.

My academic reading reflects real life drama

My academic reading reflects real life drama

I don’t want people to think negatively about love but I am selling the principle of love in its basic and universal form. There are principles that are worth fighting for but the principle of love encompasses all principles that is good for humanity.

But what is love? My idea of love is theological and philosophical. They say love is a social construct. It means many things to many people. We are living in a world where we like to deconstruct ideas. But when someone tells you “I love you,” it’s one truth that you wish is absolute.

heart

found this on my way to school

I look back at the book of 1st Corinthians 13 and other passages in the Bible that show love to figure out if I am loving. I have heard this many times. When I was a kid, I whispered, “Oh that’s no-brainer! Isn’t it natural for a human being to love?” But growing old, watching people come and go, gaining experiences, losing trust, I just come to a conclusion love is expensive. I discover that only a few people can love me that includes my mom and dad and that my capacity to love others is also limited. And I have no problem with that. Knowing that only a few people can truly love me sets the bar on how I love people.

What I’d like to highlight in 1st Corinthians 13:  “It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” “Self-seeking” means that we should not try to seek what we will gain or benefit from people. We love for the purpose of loving alone. If you are counting the rewards and perks of gaining people to love, that is not true love.

Love does not keep records of wrongs. Love does not have quota for how many mistakes the other makes. You just love and forgive those who make. We love not to prove that we are better, more righteous, smarter than the other. We choose love not to please ourselves but to please others.

Nothing is written in the book that love is mutual. As what Shakespeare said, “Love is not love that bends with the remover.”

The most beautiful and most difficult in the biblical view of love is the principle of sacrifice. Love calls for a sacrifice. When soldiers put their lives at risk, that is love.

Photo from Michael V  instagram

Photo from Michael V instagram

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. “ – John 15: 13

The way Christ demonstrates love……

Photo from: heiscomingblog.wordpress.com

Photo from: heiscomingblog.wordpress.com

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we laid down our lives for our brothers and sisters. “-1 John 3: 16

Love is expensive. Love is not as shallow as giving extra food, extra cash, extra time. Love is not giving what we have in excess. Because when it is just an extra of what we have, there is no sacrifice. In Mark 12: 41- 44,  between the rich people who gave large amounts of money and a poor widow who only gave two small coins as offering, the poor widow has put more treasury than all others.

In the course of love, we make ourselves vulnerable. Christ made himself vulnerable. He became human and died for our sins. We love the unlovable. We love even our oppressors. We love the ugliest. We love the people who exploit us. I  have to agree if people say that Christianity is a religion of death and martyrdom.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?– Matthew 5: 43- 48

It does not matter who we love but how we love matters.

When Jean Valjean was dying , he and Cosette in Les Miserables, sang : “To love another person is to see face of God” There are many religious people who are vigilant in criticizing others but they forget how to love.

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. “-1 John 4: 8

So….Are you just a clanging cymbal?

Photo from Versifylife.com

Photo from Versifylife.com

Most of the time, I am.

Postcard from Thailand

If I meet you in Thailand

one that got away

Wat Pho Photo by Rima Granali

I will make your feet sore
You will receive many smiles.
But One will be the brightest

Maybe from a Thai, maybe from a farang

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Wat Pho

We will take motor rides
in highways
in alleys
There is danger
But there is liberation

We will ride a tutuk
It will take us to many places
including a jewelry shop
And if they know you have no money
Just tell them I’m here
to find an engagement ring
Then I’ll pretend and say
“I change my mind”
Trust me,
It’s a scam

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Grand Palace Photo by Rima Granali

If you want to have a sign from heaven,
ask for a bird to come near you
I will take you to the nearest park
and call a flock of pigeons to gather around you
Then..

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I will ask you, Have you heard about the movie The King and I?
There’s a line, “Will you be my new romance?”
And I will point you to Grand Palace.

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Grand Palace Photo by Rima Granali

We will travel along Chao Phraya River
we will survey the Old Bangkok
and notice it is a city of rainbow
where red, orange, yellow are alive
where the person next to you is pale
and your driver is made of bronze

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We will visit Jim Thompson’s house
If you ask me if I want to live there
“No, I don’t want to live in the past.”

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Jim Thompson’s House

If you want to cry but you just can’t
I will let you eat the spiciest food
If looking into the elephants’ eyes hurts you
Just look at me
and you will laugh

jack by rima3

We will climb the highest temple

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Wat Arun

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We will climb all the temples of Ayutthaya

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Photo by Rima Granali

We will never stop climbing

photo by ted dy

Photo by Ted Dy

until I hear you catching breath

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Wat Phra Mahathat

There, we will wait for the sun to sink
for the ruins to be at peace
like scratches of pain healed

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Wat Phra Mahathat

We will see ruins and say they make a beautiful disaster

jack by rima4

Wat Phra Si Sanphet Photo by Rima Granali

We will smile at the camera without thinking that this sight
is a place where many have rebelled and died
we will not think at all
We will not be weary
even if our feet will tell us
even if our stomach will grumble
We will just be happy

jack by rima5

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol Photo by Rima Granali

If you ask me, Why Thailand?

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Wat Phra Si Sanphet Photo by Rima Granali

My reply: “I just want you to be enlightened”

jack1 by rima

Photo by Rima Granali

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