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Mindanao Sex Strike

Are we not the nation, after all, which invented People Power? Is there any nation in the whole wide world that is better than ours when it comes to finding innovative solutions to pesky problems?

Shamcey Supsup, step aside please! There are new heroines in the landscape: a group of very determined housewives in an obscure little barangay called Dado somewhere in the Mindanao province of Maguindanao.

But I am getting ahead of the story…

Before anything else, let me tell you about this socio-cultural phenomenon that I only learned about last night from a television news report: the rido. Although, as a general characteristic, we Filipinos are clannish by nature, those among us who live in the more urban and cosmopolitan areas have also lost touch with our tribal roots.

Modernity and its corollary pace of living have a lot to do with this; ditto transience, which keeps members of the immediate and larger family apart. Not so in the invariably more rural countryside; and particularly in Mindanao, where many of our southern brethren hold on steadfastly to their tribal ways.

Those of us who were born in a much earlier era and who grew up in communities where families tended to be large and where just about everyone in the community is a relation of some sort will remember the occasional alitan between members of the clan which got out of hand. I am sure this sort of thing still happens these days; just not with the same frequency.

Apparently, in remote communities in Mindanao, particularly those where the presence of central government and its enforcement of civil order are weak, the rido still tends to break out intermittently. The rido is a Maranao term that means a feud between families or clans.

These ridos are mostly retaliatory in nature; i.e., if an injustice – perceived or otherwise – is committed against a person, members of his or her clan come together to plot revenge against the offender in what can result into a cycle of violence. These frequently get out of hand; and are disruptive to daily living.

Families are forced to evacuate when violence breaks out. Women and children are placed at risk. Innocent civilians are sometimes injured if not killed in the encounters. It is almost like the Wild West of American folklore but in the modern age and in a country a whole ocean away.

Well, a group of housewives in barangay Dado knew when and how to say enough is enough. These women work hard and honestly to earn livelihoods for their families and could not see anything good coming out of these ridos, particularly as they and their children were only incessantly and unnecessarily placed at risk.

You thought those youngsters who were planking on the streets of Metro Manila in support of the jeepney strike to protest oil price hikes were creative? What did the planking achieve other than traffic jams?

Last night, in the news, there was this other report that was horrendously called – without any attempt at euphemism whatsoever – the sex strike. In a manner of speaking, it was also about planking in the sense that it required the housewives of barangay Dado to keep their legs tightly held close to each other.

However, their version of planking was not only well thought out; it was also admirably simple and – more importantly – effective. If their men were insistent on going off to join other clan men in the rido, well, they would be left as dry and thirsty as wanderers lost in the middle of the wide Sahara. If you get my drift…

One housewife, interviewed by a news reporter, was shy: “Walâ siyang maaasahan…” Another was more candid, albeit she spoke in metaphor. In English pa, in fairness, “He will get no salary from me!”

I do not believe, in my entire lifetime, that I had ever heard of sex referred to as “salary” before that news report. What the toothless woman was trying to say was that her man would not be availing of any conjugal rights if he insisted on going off into those ridos.

Although there is a humorous angle to the story, the truth of the matter is that this also offers the rest of us a rare window into the oft-misunderstood lives of Muslim women. Often, we have this notion in our heads of the submissive Muslim wife who hides her face from society and who does exactly as the husband says.

An Imam – a Muslim religious man – interviewed by the same reporter thought that there was no conflict whatsoever with Muslim tradition and teachings. They (the housewives) were doing this, he told the reporter, to achieve peace in their community. And peace, he added, is what Islam is really all about.

Bravo! I hope we can all – Muslims and Christians alike – remember that!

At any rate, within a week – or so the news reporter concluded – peace had returned to the community. Farm to market roads had reopened and life returned to normal. I do not think that anyone really needs a lively imagination to realize that everyone in that community – and most especially the men – ended up happy with their housewives’ most unlikely but effective solution.

Didn’t the hippies of the sixties – in between puffs of marijuana – used to hold two fingers up in a “V” and say to everyone who cared to listen, “Make love not war.” Precisely.

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