Bernardo M. Villegas
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Housebands Should Be The Exception

          I thoroughly enjoyed the music and the dancing of La La Land, the musical that garnered a record harvest of Golden Globe awards and could very well repeat the feat in the Oscar awarding ceremonies at the end of February.  I have already sung “City of Stars” in some gatherings and am intent on learning how to play it on the piano, fully identifying myself with the character of Sebastian in the story as played by Best Actor awardee Ryan Gosling.  In fact, one of my secret ambitions when I was a teenager was to be a jazz piano player.  There were many things in La La Land that appealed to me.  There was, however, a fly in the ointment.  As a full-fledged romantic, I always want a love story to end well.  In La La Land (pardon for being a spoiler to those who have not seen the film), boy meets girl, falls in love with her but does not marry her.

         Without overly philosophizing a simple story, a morale I got from the film is that two overly ambitious lovers are not a good match for a successful marriage.  One of them has to give:  one has to sacrifice his or her ambition for the other.  Selflessness on the part of at least one of the partners is a requirement for a happy marital union.  Of course, in these days of gender equality in the access to higher education and professional development, it is not necessary that the woman should always be the one to sacrifice her ambition.   There are successful cases of the “houseband” taking over the management of the household.  With all due respects to the radical feminists, however, I am of the opinion that the phenomenon of the  “houseband” should be the exception that proves the rule that it should generally be the woman who should stay at home and take care of the children.

         This fact of life came to me with such an intensity in a recent 75th birthday celebration of a good friend of mine.  She will remain nameless because women usually do not want their age to be publicized at that age.  Besides, the content of this article may provoke a negative reaction from the extreme purveyors of gender equality that I don’t want my friend to be caught in the middle of the controversy.  This friend of mine—married to one of the most successful CEOs in the country—was herself a potential CEO in the late sixties and early seventies of the last century after she graduated with the highest honors from one of the convent schools of Manila.  I got to know her during my early days as a business economist at the Center for Research and Communication when she was one of the few lady business economists working for a leading think tank.  Equipped with years of graduate studies in the United States and working with one of the top economists in the country, she had a very promising career in the business world.  If she had stuck to her work as a business economist, she could have become the CEO of a large bank or a commercial or industrial enterprise in no time at all.

         As her five grown-up children—all accomplished professionals—said in their moving testimonials to her selflessness, my friend decided to give up a brilliant career in the business world to devote herself full-time to caring for her husband and  bringing up her five children.  She accompanied her husband in his foreign assignments and said goodbye to her promising career.  Her children could not thank her enough for the love and care she showered on them and the unwavering support she gave to her husband in the various assignments he took on in different parts of Asia.  As one child after another greeted and thanked her during the celebration, there was a common word used:  “selflessness.”  I thought to myself, looking around and seeing other couples who came to her surprise birthday celebration, that she exemplifies many other women of her generation who did pretty much the same thing:  give up ambitions to reach the top of their respective professions to devote themselves primarily to caring for their respective husbands and to child rearing.  I earnestly pray that the millennials will continue to follow the example of their respective mothers and grandmothers.

         In his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of Love,” Pope Francis wrote:   “Nowadays we acknowledge as legitimate and indeed desirable that women wish to study, work, develop their skills and have personal goals.  At the same time,  we cannot ignore the need that children have for a mother’s presence, especially in the first months of life.  Indeed, ‘the woman stands before the man as a mother, the subject of the new human life that is conceived and develops in her, and from her is born into the world.’  The weakening of this maternal presence with its feminine qualities poses a grave risk to our world.  I certainly value feminism, but one that does not demand uniformity or negate motherhood.  For the grandeur of women includes all the rights derived from their inalienable human dignity but also from their feminine genius, which is essential to society.  Their specifically feminine abilities—motherhood in particular—also grant duties, because womanhood also entails a specific mission in this world, a mission that society needs to protect and preserve for the good of all.”

            No wonder the children of my friend mentioned time and again how grateful they were for the “selflessness” of their mother.  They were just unconsciously echoing the words of Pope Francis:  “Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism…It is they who testify to the beauty of life.  Certainly, ‘a society without mothers would be dehumanized, for mothers are always, even in the worst of times, witnesses to tenderness, dedication and moral strength.  Mothers often communicate the deepest meaning of religious practice in the first prayers and acts of devotion that their children learn…Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth…Dear mothers:  thank you!  Thank you for what you are in the family and for what you give to the Church and the world.”  I employ the very same words of the Pope to thank my own late mother, Isabel Malvar Villegas, who taught us her seven children our first prayers and acts of devotion and who unselfishly devoted her very long life (she lived put to 102 years) to caring for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  May her soul rest in peace.  For comments, my email address is