As in other occasions, during our recently held first ever high school reunion (after 25 years) in Cotabato City, one recurring introductory phrase among the lady batchmates was, “I’m a plain housewife.” In other words, it is like saying “I’m only a housewife” or “I’m just a housewife.”
Let’s see how ‘plain’ this plain housewife is. Let’s see how simple function being a housewife is.
This housewife is the automatic Vice President of the house. In the military parlance, she is the second in command.
She is the acting President of the house in the absence of the husband. Her assumption of this role lasts for many weeks, nay many months if the husband is one of the men-in-uniform, and worse still, even for a couple of years if the hubby is an OFW or seaman.
For a single-parent mom or widow, this is no longer a temporary role. She is the de facto President and Vice President of the house. In this case, she serves as both the pillar and light of the home (“haligi at ilaw ng tahanan”). She is the towering moral foundation of the family to which the children cling.
She is the Secretary of the house. She is the ‘kalihim’. In other words, she is the husband’s co-keeper of family and household secrets. In fact, one of her most difficult tasks is her unflinching determination to keep the untold ordeals, sentiments and sufferings she has as a secret to her children, parents and even friends. That’s why whenever I learn that a mother or wife dies, I tell myself, “With her shall also be buried forever many a secret – pains, melancholy, ignominy, injustices, self-sacrifices, scandals, and abjectness, to mention but a few.”
She is the Treasurer and the Budget Officer, at the same time. That is, she keeps the limited financial resources and judiciously sets the priorities for expending the same. In sum, it’s making do with less. And worse still, sometimes or many times, she is also the breadwinner of the family. There’s no need to give details in this regard as the primetime telenovelas are already replete with this line of story.
Of course, she is also the Head of the Monitoring Team that meticulously keeps track of the whereabouts of the family’s President.
To sum up, this ‘plain’ housewife is the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Budget Officer, Monitoring Team Head, mother, and wife – rolled into one. This is how ‘plain’ plain housewife is.
To this unsung heroine of every household, it’s up to her to maintain the cliché, “I’m a plain housewife,” or to declare to the whole world that she’s higher in rank than the CEO of a multinational company by saying with utmost confidence, “I’m a housewife!”