In our Pinoy patriarchy, like the way English uses “men” to include women, we fail to note that women are sweeping men off office floors. Cities find women bus drivers to be more safety-conscious than men, maybe because the machisma is not easily offended when overtaken on the road. 

The current brouhaha over the ordination of women priests in the Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican traditions suggest that we offer Virginia Slims to recalcitrant clerics who refuse to acknowledge that “You’ve come a long way, baby! The RC Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1975 found it necessary to state: “…in fidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.” A U.S. Marine Corps commandant wants to exclude women from combat duties!

Sri Lanka Buddhists ordain female monks, no longer necessarily subservient to male monks in monasteries. Thai nuns are blessed as bhikkhunis (ordained female priests) in Sri Lanka to the great consternation of Bangkok monks. Thai Buddhism gets public funds and civil society welcomes female equity.  Like many Rock-of-Peter counterparts, the clerical office prefers to be a province of the male.

Pinays asked for equal time after we reflected on Pinoylandia. Pinays remind us that Pacific Islanders are fundamentally matriarchal, so we huff to comply. Growing up, my mother took care of the purse and the food, and the practical relations to vendors and other service providers; Papa attended to income and official relations. It worked well. It was a division of power where the men get the credit but the women hold the power.

A Refaluwasch friend often jokingly reduces the Pacific formula to women responsible for the bed, board, and babies; the men tend to boats and navigation. That explains how matrilineal inheritance on real estate developed in the Carolines as maledom was at the mercy of marine maelstroms.

If one watches how Filipino organizations operate on Saipan and elsewhere, frontlines always get the credit but guess who does most of the work? Why is it that a woman invariably occupies the organization’s secretary position? The glitter is seldom there, but the workload is heaviest!

We are not into strict gender divisions. I did not mind being my elementary classmates’ fussed-over dressed-up doll model until the 6th grade when my effeminate features got chiseled into Apollo. Self-centeredness claimed space before we gained self-esteem.

See what I mean? I am talking of Pinays and I keep intruding into the picture. Which is probably what should be recognized. Sinosphere ancients long ago recognized that male and female are the yin-yang to reality, and reducing one part is at the expense of the other. Balance is the key, not separation. The French learned it well in Indochina: Vive la difference!

Pinoylandia meant to include all genders relies on the masculine expression of the word. We leveled the playing field when we reduced the third person singular pronouns to “ze”. Mandarin aka Putunghua (Beijing-PRC), or Guoyou (Taipei-ROC) does not differentiate gender in pronouns.

BTW, the Filipino language might be predominantly Indo-Malay but many words are influenced by eastern Yue (Cantonese), Kejia (spoken by Fujian Han, aka Hakka that gave us Sun Yat-Sen and the Soong sisters), and the Min (a variation of Hanyu, the language of the Han people), the last being the language of Chinoy in Pinas!

Much of Pinayhood is couched in the gallantry of 19th century Europe. The Filipina is lifted to a pedestal, to be admired or taken advantage of, never seriously considered for who she really is. She is made in the image of Pinoy but the liberated Pinay manipulates events from the back and lets the male takes credit upfront. It never fazes her to get what she desires by orchestrating events from a distance, except for the rare Harvard-educated machisma who thinks out-male-ing the male get them points.

We had Cory Aquino of the Yellow Brigade after McCoy’s manipulation of the polls, and diminutive Gloria Arroyo, easily male daughter of Diosdado Macapagal, continued the tradition of manipulation vs. Fernando Poe Jr., and now an FPJ-Susan Roces’ adopted daughter Grace Poe, a Pea Eye senator, rumored to be an illegitimate child of Ferdinand McCoy (“rumor” is the Filipino Achilles heel; we bulong, a wit says, is poised to make Malacañang indigenous to Pinaylandia.  Patriarchy was a Spanish imposition. It used to be an American prejudicial preference as well except the next U.S. President is going to be female, and at the moment, it is Hillary vs Fiorina!

The equality of females in society generally remains questionable as pay still favors males and female CEOs are notably in short supply, hitting a glass ceiling in the ascent. In the outback of Australia, after a farmer’s dog is fed, the wife has her meal!

So Grace Poe is poised to lead Pinaylandia out of the bahay-kubo into a traditional place in Pacific matriarchy! What say mo, ‘day?

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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