I was nearly a teener when I had my first period. That Tuesday, I played piko, sipa bola, and climbed the sampaloc and starfruit trees. Incidentally, my playmates and I found a dying kid-Maya bird. We thought he deserves a funeral, so we gave him one. We stick-plowed some portion near a school’s yard. As I was about to bury the poultry angel, one of my playmates screamed as she saw blood marks on my shorts. I was so shocked I couldn’t scream. I told them this shall remain as a big secret. I’d never ever play with them should there be any tiny leak of information. I walked (legs apart) as fast as I can as I tried to reach home. It was my late grandmother who witnessed my cow crying. As the situation demanded, she explained about the menstruation stuff.
Yes, the period has been discussed in a couple of Science subjects before that fated day. But apart from that, we never really talked about it at home. That time, the elders thought it’s either too early or too bold to tackle. That Tuesday was declared a local holiday because it was Jose Rizal’s birthday. I remembered well because the succeeding day was my assigned day to recite Panatang Makabayan as part of the regular flag ceremony (in some days I was randomly assigned to raise and/or fold the flag, etc.) It was too uncomfortable then because of the newest biological change that happened to me. I functioned like a robot . Whew, improper orientation is ridiculous.
The peak of my enlightenment happened when I participated in the Population Commission (PopCom) quiz bee. But years before that, I remember exchanging notes with selected classmates-pals about menstruation and related stuff:
(a) I was told not to bathe the entire duration of red days. Sooner, I didn’t. As much as I respect the elders, I explained to them that it’s so unhygienic and has no scientific basis. “We know better than you, we’ve been there, blah blah…”
(b) Classmate # 1 was told by her aunt to jump off the stairs so the period would be shorten from the ordinary seven to three days. The fool in me envied her. I thought it was not fair that no one told me to jump off the stairs.
(c) Classmate # 2 was obliged by her mother to wash her face by blood (first occurrence) to avoid getting pimples. I almost crazily believed because she really got very nice skin. But then I didn’t envy her because I thought that’s purely yucky. There’s a related myth: to wash your eyes by pee to cure the sore eyes. Double yuckyness.
(d) Classmate # 3 was told by her sister that once she had her period, she’ll get pregnant anytime if she’s kissed (even on the cheeks). And just when we were well-oriented by our Science teacher about the wonders of reproduction system, we thought her sister was oddly just trying to scare her. She’s just being too protective. That’s the better way to look at it.
(e) That virginity would be lost by riding a bike. But we were intense bike riders especially during 6th grade.
(f) That the one who had her first period too early is the pinakamalandi in the batch. Lol. Lol. and Lol.
(g) And a lot of things = myths
Hence, I nodded and sighed as I read the results of the recent survey on BodyLife (really one word) IQ study. Of the 1,800 (women aged 12 to 24) respondents from six Asian countries, Filipinas were with the biggest information gap about body knowledge. The online survey covered questions on woman’s body, female biology, pregnancy, virginity and health.
“Young women from two countries with the lowest body-knowledge IQ scores—the Philippines and India—expressed the most satisfaction with the education they received, suggesting that lack of knowledge is self-perpetuating because ‘you don’t know what you don’t know,’” the paper said.
With the exception of respondents in Singapore, the other young women surveyed revealed that their top sources of female body-knowledge were their close friends, followed by their mothers and their older sisters.
You know how these myths are being passed from one generation to the other. But I didn’t expect it is still this worse as of today. Although these are sometimes discussed with younger ones in our family/among relatives, these are clearly explained to them why they are the so-called myths and why such misinformation survived. Proper orientation should really be given to young women. And well, I think awareness like love and charity should begin at home.