Head down. Look straight. Earphones in. Walk quickly. Don’t make eye contact. Look behind every now and then to make sure you’re not being followed.
This is exactly how many women toughen themselves when walking down a street to drown out all the “Hi miss, ang ganda mo naman,” and “Ate, pwedeng pa-kiss?” remarks.
When you’re a woman living in a big city like Manila, these things become an ever-present part of the background noise while walking to and from school or work. We know they’re there, we hear what they’re saying—but we keep walking away hoping that those words somehow won’t get to us.
In the Philippines, catcalls and street harassment have long been a part of a woman’s reality. And it has become a part of our lives so early that it is a common everyday thing; it’s just accepted, buried, and ultimately forgotten.
I say it’s time to stop being quiet about it. These eight brave souls have gone on the record to tell their tales:
1. Cass Dela Vega
Cass was on her way back home from her thesis mate’s dorm when a guy in his car slowed down and opened the window. “He started calling me, ‘Hi miss,’ ‘Uyyy babe,’ and ‘Sexy,’” she said. “I was in my PJs, by the way. I just ignored him until he’s gone.”
“It makes me cringe when people claim that it’s our fault for wearing revealing clothes. I was wearing pajamas at that time when the guy catcalled me,” she added.
Cass advised women to either shrug it off and walk away or be bold and tell guys that they’re being inappropriate.
2. Schan-Schan Fuentes
“They would whistle or say, ‘Hi miss’ or ‘Pwedeng mahingi number mo?’” Schan-schan said when asked what catcallers would often say to her. “I just ignore them. I don’t usually do anything. They mean no harm.”
“Ignore it or smile and walk away,” she said. “If they do something to you, that’s when you should go to the nearest Barangay Hall or police station and report what happened.”
Jen’s worst catcalling experience happened last year. “I was standing near our house, talking to one of our neighbors when two strangers behind me started to whistle,” she said. “My neighbor told me to go home, and when I asked why, he said, ‘Kanina ka pa binabastos ng mga lalaki sa likod.’”
Jen was about to go home when her dad came with his motorcycle and grabbed the shirt of one of the guys. “My dad insisted that we should make a blotter report in our Barangay Hall,” she said.
“My advice for women? Speak up and call him out. Tell him he’s being disrespectful.”
N.R. was walking her dog around 8:00 in the morning, wearing her usual morning clothes: a shirt and a not-so-short pair of shorts. “A garbage truck suddenly passed by. One of the garbage men saw me and said, ‘Ate, pakagat sa legs!’ I carried my dog and went home,” she narrated.
“For the ladies who think catcalling is flattering, it’s not. Please remember that it’s wrong and rude. Guys who do that are low and don’t deserve your attention,” she said.
Nix has experienced street harassment many times, but there is one experience she hates the most. “This guy started calling me with a ‘Miss, miss!’ I didn’t turn around because I was thinking baka hindi naman ako ‘yung tinatawag niya. After that, he started whistling and said, ‘Miss! ‘Yung naka-dress!’ Doon ako lumingon and he said stuff bordering on sexual harassment,” she narrated. “I said, ‘Next time kuya, ‘wag mong tatawagin ng ganu’n ang babae, nakakabastos.’”
Nix said it’s safer to just continue walking as if you didn’t hear anything. “We’ll never know what might happen if you did what I did, especially if it happens at night and far from home. What if nagalit din si kuya, eh ‘di big trouble lalo,” she said. “We are not animals. There many ways to catch the attention of a woman you’re attracted to—but catcalling is never one of them.”
Catcalling is an everyday thing for Rae, no matter what she wears. “Sometimes, meron ‘yung mga nakasakay sa jeep or sa truck nagsasabi ng ‘Hi miss,’ or minsan pumipito,” she said. “What I do is hindi ko na lang pinapansin.”
“Men should learn how to control themselves,” she added, advising women to just don’t mind them. “Makakahanap din sila ng katapat nila.”
Macy and a friend of hers were going to cross a street along Buendia. “There’s this truck loaded with a group of men. They were staring at us. When we were already near, one shouted, ‘Hi ganda’, then each of them started to laugh and said, ‘Sungit niyo naman,’ ‘Pansinin mo naman kami’, and ‘Ngiti naman diyan,’” she narrated. “A guy then mentioned, ‘Ang taba taba.’”
Macy advises women to ignore them always. She added, “Dress appropriately as well. Baka naman naka-super short shorts ka tapos crop top pa. You can wear them covered muna, then if you’re at a place where you can flaunt it then go.”
“Minsan kasi kahit sabihin mong it’s fashionable, sa mundo ngayon sadyang maraming bastos.”
“I had this experience in one of the popular vacation spots in the country where local young men think it’s appropriate to call out ‘Ate, ang ganda mo naman’ and other similar statements to passing women,” AJ said. “While I was taken aback, I simply ignored them.”
“Catcalling has a way of making people uncomfortable in their own skin, like our existence as women, and men in some instances, is reduced to our sexuality and physical appearances. There are better ways to flatter someone,” AJ added. “Just keep your head up high, control yourself and don’t engage catcallers in any way.”
The issue of street harassment and catcalling in the streets of Manila has remained taboo for way too long. It’s time to talk about it openly.
So what’s your story? Got any piece of advice for other street harassment victims as well?
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Dyan is a 25-year-old writer with a sense of humor of a prepubescent male. On weekends, she hibernates.