Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baba Wawa's Vajaja

The other day I got an email from my friend Elena Buensalido Mangahas calling on Filipina women and men to audition for the production of The Vagina Monologues, sponsored by the Filipina Women’s Network (FWN). In collaboration with Eve Ensler’s V-Day organization, FWN is now in its fifth year of production with the mission of ending domestic violence in the Filipino community.

FWN’s production of The V Monologues is in Tagalog. Naku po! Yikes!

If you haven’t seen The V Monologues in English, be prepared to hear 1,001 synonyms for the word “vagina”. It’s shocking! But after a while, the crackle and pop of “c-nt” and “p-ssy” loses its shock value. I still can’t type it, much less say it. Nevertheless, it’s not quite nails on the chalkboard.

If you’re a native Tagalog speaker, however, and you hear the Tagalog version, Dios mio! Oh – My – Gawd!

This may not resonate with monolingual people but bilingual people will relate to this.

A gentle, noble, loving thought expressed in the native tongue bypasses the filter of the intellect and goes straight to the heart. “Mahal kita” – “I love you” -- is filled with profound meaning and evokes such sweet sentimentality. As well, nasty, four-letter-words uttered in the vernacular can make you cringe with shame and disgust.

The V Monologues in Tagalog – Usapan P-ki – is pure torture. Not that it isn’t any good. It’s fantastic! It’s funny! But it’s like watching porn for the first time in the presence of your mom and dad. It’s eye-popping, jaw-dropping, knee-slapping, foot-stomping, and seatmate-smacking. You’ll want to slide and hide under your seat. This kind of excruciating, mortifying un-ease is especially felt by burgis collegeiala Filipinas, middle-class Catholic school-bred Pinays.

Two months ago I went to see my Ob-Gyn. I was lucky to find Dr. Lilia Lizano. I didn’t intend to look for a Filipina doctor but I was referred to her by my health network. Dr. Lizano is a very petite, dainty, soft-spoken, stern-looking woman who looks more like an all-girls’ high school principal than a successful doctor with a thriving practice. She has been written up by San Francisco magazine as one of the best.

She instructed me matter-of-factly to put my feet into the stirrups and to scoot down. I protested. I said, “Dr. Lizano, this is so undignified.”

“What do you mean, ‘Undignified?’” She asked in an even tone. “What about me? I’m the one down here who has to stare at it!”

Not a one time during the medical visit between me and Dr. Lizano was the word “vagina” uttered.

Since Eve Ensler’s V Monologues, however, “vagina” has become a mainstream word. Stand up comics, both male and female, throw it around frequently to get cheap and easy laughs.

Kathy Griffin, in her Bravo special, “Straight To Hell”, recounts her guest appearance on the ABC TV show “The View”. She said that in the green room, all the ladies ever talked about was menopause. Kathy said she was warned by Joy Behar and Barbara Walters that when she got to their age, her vagina would dry up.

Kathy, wanting to get a rise from the always poised and unflappable Barbara Walters, said she knew exactly what to do with a dry vagina. She would slather on gobs of KY Jelly, Kathy said.

To which Barbara Walters supposedly replied, “I prefer Astroglide myself.”

Oh – My – Gawd!!

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