OVER the holidays, I decided to check out what’s new in Philippine cinema and lined up for the annual Metro Manila Film Festival. Out of all the eight entries this year, two movies stood out – Thy Womb and One More Try.
Thy Womb, directed by Brillante Mendoza, left me feeling dazed and hollow. I was impressed by the rawness of its cinematic scenes and the standout acting of Nora Aunor as Shaleha—a Badjao midwife in Tawi-Tawi struggling with the irony of her own infertility. What I couldn’t reconcile with my reality though is the story of Shaleha trying to find her husband Bangas-An a new wife to fulfill his wish of having a child.
She did it with such dedication, too, even at the risk of being cast aside. Whoa, was this pure selflessness, or just plain crazy or stupid? It boggles the mind to consider that in some parts of the world, this is acceptable, even a practical way of life.
Then there’s Star Cinema’s “One More Try,” a story of two couples turning their lives upside down to save a dying child. Have you ever met a woman like Grace (Angel Locsin) who will sleep again with a man who hurt her, even at the risk of alienating the man who loves her, to save her child? Or have you ever been a wife like Jacqueline (Angelica Panganiban), consenting to lend your husband to another woman (vocally or not) because you feel guilty about not being able to bear him a child?
Both movie plots were quite raw and original—a testament to how far Philippine cinema has gone—and yet, for me, so crazy, too, they bordered on the ridiculous. But what if these actually happened in our own lives? What choices do we make? These movies make you wonder: Are you less of a woman if you can’t bear a child? Or will you have to give up everything to have a child?
I have a successful friend who’s been married for more than five years now and still with no baby. Everywhere we go, despite her loving marriage and other achievements, the inevitable question crops up, “So when are you having a baby?” I can only sympathize. I know it annoys her as much as it annoys me being asked, “When are you getting married?” Apparently women—single or married—just cannot hide from the pressures of society.
On a more personal level, I mused, am I ready to have a baby? Even as a 30-something, I find that is one question I still cannot answer with certainty.
I love babies, though. I love to cuddle them, put them to sleep or make them laugh. I am amazed by their brilliance and their ability to absorb new things and grow up so fast. I consider it a privilege to watch my baby nephew grow up to be an active nine-year-old boy. Up to this day, he still amazes us with his curious words and funny, even brilliant, answers.
But, like what every woman at some point asks herself—do I want one now? Am I ready to be responsible for a delicate human life? To choose to be there when my work takes me elsewhere? I barely have time for myself now and current loved ones. There are still so many dreams to work through—will I not resent being tied down when that rare opportunity strikes? Can I give my baby the best life he/she deserves now?
It is not uncommon to find 30-something single and childless women in this city and age. Despite the flak from society, there are perks to being one—being able to travel light, to come and go as you please, to take chances without guilt. One time, over an after-movie pizza and beer, I asked a similar friend, “Will you give up your life now, your career and dreams just to have children?” Her answer: “If I have to give it all up, then maybe I don’t want children.” Perhaps, we are too selfish yet. But as a woman, is it really so wrong to pursue dreams that don’t include children?
Just recently, while on the road, I asked my partner, “Do you want children?”He answered without a doubt, “Yes, always.” He shifted gears and teased, “We can have one now if you like.” I could feel the panic rising in my stomach. Am I ready? I swallowed. “What if I couldn’t give you one?”
He was silent as he maneuvered through the city streets. I looked at the long, lonely road ahead. Is this it? Will I have to choose now? Like Shaleha, will I be deemed a single useless figure in society if I choose to be childless? Do I need to give him up? Or like Jacqueline, do I have to lend him to another woman if I don’t bear him children? Before my crazy thoughts could choke me, we reached an intersection. As the light turned red, he pressed on the brakes, gave me a light kiss on the head and looked into my eyes, “Then, we will be enough.”
My world settled. I can’t remember loving him more as in that moment. I guess, for some of us women, it’s not really about having a baby or not. It’s the knowing that, with or without, we are enough.