maricar reyesHere’s a letter from Aila Lenard of Bayanihan Times from Down Under she sent to my sister, Judge Chona Pulgar-Navarro. Aila said

“Dear Chona and Daprosa —

I knew I had to write this letter in order to purge the sadness I feel for a young woman who could have been a friend, a sister, a daughter….

Your friend —

aila lenard 2Dear Dr Reyes –

If the latest news item about you is true, then it is a relief to know that you have gone back to your daily routine as a doctor and resumed work on your other commitments. For a while, when nothing was heard from you, I couldn’t help but picture sad scenarios in my mind.

In my mind, I can see your mother and father consoling their daughter. Your parents, devastated  by the release of sex videos with you in them, are more hurt seeing you broken down by shame. You have been a dutiful and kind daughter to them. Not once have you caused them dishonour. You almost always gave them something to be proud of. They are proud of your achievements. You have studied well and graduated as a  doctor. Every time they see you on TV endorsing popular skin and women’s products, they knew that they have raised you well. But now that a sex video of you has been going around on the net, your image has been tarnished. They feel your sorrow and pain.

But what really concerns you are your parent’s feelings. It is the effect these events have on them that saddens you. You felt that you have marred your family’s reputation and this you couldn’t bear. As I close my eyes at night, I see you on the verge of despair and contemplating to end your young and productive life.

At other times I also imagine a scenario with you escaping to a foreign land. You leave behind a medical career that holds so much promise, a lucrative modelling job and a budding acting career. It will not be easy for you to start anew in a foreign land. I sigh at the prospect of you in self-imposed exile and losing everything you have worked hard for.

Some people might think that I am too imaginative but I have seen people go to pieces faced with a lesser problem. What happened although no fault of yours carries far-reaching consequences to yourself and your family. Only the toughest can survive it.

Your naked body was flaunted in public. It is a custom in our society that naked bodies are not to be displayed. In our country, women self consciously cover their cleavage or legs as they board a jeepney. (Ours is also a society that will go crazy over movies with nudity and sex scenes. People will line up to watch Ina Raymundo dance naked in Burlesque Queen, but we cringe at her nerve to do so.) Yet the whole nation has seen your naked body without your permission. What a blow this must be to your conservative parents!

But it is not only your naked body that was exposed, you were shown in the act of copulation. This exposure by far exceeded the furor caused by seeing a naked woman. Never has there been a sex video featuring a woman from a decent background, with above average beauty and intelligence, a graduate from one of the best schools around and above all, a professional doctor. There has never been one like this. This is not the norm. Beautiful and successful women from decent and well-to-do families are not supposed to sin. And this is what saddens you. You have given yourself in an act of passion to only one person. Yet this intimate moment became a public spectacle. People of all sorts have feasted their eyes on your naked body and some perhaps now harbour lewd desires towards you. People who are not supposed to be privy to that moment have dared to view it. What is more disturbing is that these same people, who were never supposed to witness that moment in the first place, are freely passing their judgment on you.

Such is the woeful situation you now confront. Many people have judged you unkindly. What they saw on the tape challenged their long-held values. They come from a culture that sets impossible standards for women, who when unable to attain  these standards are given cruel sanctions.

But if we analyse this incident carefully, what you did is defensible. You have done what any healthy and normal woman would do. You were in a private room with your partner. You are both young and at the peak of your sexuality. For you to satisfy a physiological need in a socially appropriate way is  in no way reprehensible. What two consenting unattached adults do in the privacy of their room is nobody’s business but their own. You can explore the various potentials of your desire wherever it may lead you.  So long as you act within bounds and no one is hurt or offended in the process, then you are free to express your sexuality with your partner. In your case, it is irrelevant to consider if people might think your private pursuit is distasteful or immoral.  This is not a matter for their moral consideration. Moral incorrectness does not arise in this case as you were both in love, free and consensually submitting to your sexual needs. What is immoral is  when people barge into a closed room and feel privileged to watch your intimate moments and then condemn what they have seen. This is what happened in exposing that tape. Your privacy was interfered with. You were judged unfairly.

So why should you be given a life sentence when you are the person aggrieved?  Those in the wrong should suffer and not you. The man who took this video without your knowledge should be punished. The brains who orchestrated the release of these videos out of jealousy or revenge should be punished even more. The person who capitalised on the distribution of these tapes should be sanctioned. These people may not have exposed their naked bodies but they have exposed their cruel and evil hearts.

But through all this injustice, you have decided to remain silent about the whole thing. Perhaps you do not wish for this controversy to escalate even more than it did. You do not want to be a spectacle once more in the senate. You have no desire for retribution. All you want is to put this nightmare behind you and move on.  Although it is a struggle, you are slowly reclaiming your life. Such an attitude is worthy of everyone’s respect.

Needless to say, everything with a negative effect has a concomitant positive reaction. One positive thing that has come out of your experience is that it has catapulted your name to soaring popularity. You have, without knowing it, somehow helped broaden people’s attitude about sex. Sex is a part of our lives regardless of our background and our looks. It should have a proper place in our existence, but it should not be the cornerstone of our values. We should free ourselves from the lingering guilt that sex is an expression of our lower selves and that yielding to our biological nature is vulgar. We should not allow sex to be more than what it is. It is simply a dimension of our lives and should be accepted as such and nothing more. Customary beliefs can no longer be accepted without question.

Although a number of people are easy to condemn you, some are more understanding. I have noticed this from people’s reaction on the internet. They view what happened with open minds. Some women identify with what you did. They do not see premarital sex as reprehensible. It is a choice an individual has to make. Some men admire you because you have shown that women can be a more active partner in the sex act and not simply a passive recipient of tenderness.  The sex tapes  have added scores to the number of your fans and admirers.

What you should focus on now is to take advantage of your increasing popularity by accepting more product endorsements and movie projects. The way things are, I am sure business companies are already lining up to get your endorsements. If companies have keen business sense, they should know that having you as an endorser of their product, automatically makes that product popular and ensures a market for it. Just make sure to get the services of a good business manager.

Concentrate on furthering your medical career. We need doctors who embody intelligence and humanity. We need doctors who are in touch with their own bodies and feelings; not simply diagnosticians. I foresee a future with you having your own TV show.  It wouldn’t surprise me if your show will have a “Doctor in the House’ format, an informative show with people asking you questions about health and beauty and perhaps, sex issues.

In ending this letter, let me give you my support for you are a woman of indomitable spirit. You did not allow yourself to be swallowed by the events that happened to you. You have remained resolute in the face of an insurmountable hurdle. You did not allow yourself to be a victim for long. Victims, after all, will only remain victims if they continue to act like one.

With time people will get to know you better. They will admire and respect you for what you do.  They will realise that what they saw in your sex video is just one aspect of yourself. It does not define who you are.

Yours in prayer —

Aila Lenard

Bayanihan Times

(About the Author— Aila Lenard is a former UP (San Fernando) Senior Lecturer. She is now based in Melbourne where she works as a Language Consultant. She has worked as a language teacher, translator, interpreter, writer, researcher and lexicographer for various institutions in Australia. She hails from Quezon Province.)