In the month of love, it’s good to focus on the singles because February is dominated by married couples and lovers and the month after the world celebrates Women’s Month. A growing number of women these days are single and they are an interesting group for study for they are taken for granted, discriminated, but very influential. To be single in the Philippines, especially for the females, is to bear the endless name-calling: wa mahalin (as if she’s for sale), nabiyaan sa train (as if marriage is a trip), lagas (as if she’s an agricultural product), dagang guwang (said with a tone especially if a male is the one describing), old maid (said with a smirk).
Before, being single just meant unmarried but now there are single women who were married once but decided to go solo in raising a family (after stormy marriage). There are also single women who are not married but have live-in partners. But whatever status they are, single men and women are the most burdened in the family. They are made to finance the education of their nephews and nieces from elementary and even up to college. During Christmas season, a big chunk of their bonus goes to the long list of gifts for their godchildren. During times of family crisis, the single members of the family usually hold the fort. But when it comes to paying taxes, the singles are the most burdened. They pay more taxes than those with children—the more children the taxpayer has, the more deductions, hence less taxes to pay. Why are the singles being punished for being single? I have heard some single friends suggest that the reverse should be the case—taxpayers with more children should pay higher taxes and those with no children should pay less. In this way, married couples will have second thoughts about having many children, and population will be controlled without the church and government intervening. I tend to agree with that suggestion as one of the tax reforms to be looked into.
Singles in the rural areas tend to be dependent on a companion when coming to the city to shop or watch a movie or transacting business with an office or agency. But in urbanized areas, singles dine alone, watch movies alone and transact business anywhere alone. A few of them even live alone. Many times I bump into some acquaintances and former students in the mall especially in restaurants. They always ask me if I am alone. Once I answered them if it was objectionable to dine alone. When people learn I live alone, they ask me if I am not afraid to live alone, I tell them I’m not. In the workplace, they are among the most efficient and dependable workers and oftentimes potential for leadership of the institution they are connected with. In the community, they are the most active and oftentimes selected to do some of the most meticulous part of a project. When they retire from their jobs, they actively help in the church and community services. When I and a colleague were once invited to a session of major seminarians, we suggested to the would-be priests to tap the expertise and experience of these retired women for the activities of the parish.
What makes these women remain single? “So many men, so little time” jests a friend of mine. “No one dared to ask me,” says another. For whatever reason each one has, single women are very career-oriented. They are very successful in their career breaking the glass ceiling. But this does not mean that they are married to their work, for there is no such thing as being married to one’s work. They just love their work. But they do not forget to balance their time. They could have fun anytime they like for they travel along and engage in several sporty activities. Many of them share part of their time as staunch advocates of concerns and the rights of women and children, and environmental issues. They are into so many things and yet they could balance their time for family obligations, career goals, advocacies, and their personal interests. Do singles have a love life? Of course, but it varies for each person.
Single women in the Philippines are better off than their counterparts in Asia. In 1988 when I was in India, I chose to join the group for exposure in Kerala (southern India) because it is the only socialist state in India. When we visited a women’s center, I learned that many girls are entering the convent and become nuns because they could not afford to pay the dowry for a husband. One sister told us that every time these nuns go home in the afternoon after their work in the communities, the men in the street corners would mock them in a loud voice, “How could these women go to bed without a man?”
In the month of February, the singles have their own way of celebrating the love month. It is ironic that the next month we celebrate International Women’s Month, and it is also the month when we pay our individual taxes.