CEBU CITY -- At a time when the Philippines has its second female president and Cebu, its first woman governor, women in politics are no longer a rarity.

“It’s general knowledge that there are more and more women in politics nowadays,” said Pinamungajan Mayor Geraldine Yapha.

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Pinamungajan is flanked by a city and another municipality, both also being run by women mayors -- Toledo City by Mayor Arlene Zambo and Aloguinsan by Mayor Cynthia Moreno.

In the entire province, there are 11 women mayors out of 50 municipalities and component cities.

Apart from Dr. Yapha, Zambo and Moreno, the women in power in Cebu’s local governments include San Fernando Mayor Lakambini Reluya, Malabuyoc Mayor Daisy Creus, Badian Mayor Carmencita Lumain and Moalboal Mayor Yvonne Cabaron.

Mayors Jennifer Ilustrisimo of Santa Fe, Geralyn Escario-Cañares of Bantayan, Estrella Aribal of Catmon, and Sonia Pua of Carmen complete the list.

The Cebu Provincial Government is headed by its first woman governor, Gwendolyn Garcia.

But even as women gain leadership positions in government, the traditional thinking that they are better off focusing on their households still prevails, said Barangay Captains Mary Ann de los Santos and Nida Cabrera of this city.

Cabrera pointed out that under the Magna Carta for Women approved last year, the target is that by 2014, 50 percent of government positions should be occupied by women.

She is one of three women running for office in this city under the Liberal Party-Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan.

Opportunities for women do exist, but there remains the belief that women should take care of the home and leave politics and government service to the men, said de los Santos, who is running for the congressional seat in this city’s north district.

“There are not enough women yet to compete with the men. It is still a male-dominated government. At least, equal opportunities are provided,” she said.

“But we still need to educate women for them to try different careers,” she added.

Her opponent, Rachel “Cutie” del Mar, agreed there are “definitely not enough” women in government now, although there are no more obstacles for them in competing with men for government posts.

She said only 20 percent in the House of Representatives and in the Senate are women.

“But the important thing is the recognition that more are as capable as the men, that it is more a question of qualifications rather than gender,” del Mar said.

She is currently chief of staff of her father, third-term Representative Raul del Mar.

Mactan Barangay Captain Paz Radaza, who is running to replace her husband as mayor of Lapu-Lapu City, said that despite more opportunities in the workplace, women remain vulnerable to problems like domestic violence.

The law’s protection fails when the women themselves tolerate abuse, she said.

“Usahay makadismaya kay kon magluhod-luhod na gani ang bana unya mawala na ang iyang black eye, mabugnaw lang sab dayon,” she said. Radaza chairs the Local Council for the Protection of Women and Children in Lapu-Lapu City.

Women are making inroads as well in legislative, apart from executive, positions.

The Cebu Provincial Board (PB) has five women members, out of a total of 16. They are Agnes Magpale, Rosemarie Durano, Victoria Corominas, Teresita Celis as Association of Barangay Councils president, and Bhea Mercede Calderon as president of the Sangguniang Kabataan.

Magpale chairs the committee on women and children. She and Governor Garcia chaired the Provincial Women’s Council that initiated the Provincial Women’s Code.

“When you really think about it, gender doesn’t matter in political decisions because you make a decision based on what you stand for,” Mayor Yapha explained. There are four women in her town’s council, which has 10 seats. (JGA/RHM/AIV/Sun.Star Cebu)