The Modern Kerida: Extramarital Affairs in the New Iloilo
February 11, 2016
Querida. How in the world did this delightful word, which means “beloved” in Spanish, transform into an expression that most Ilonggos deem horrendous and degrading?
Mistress. Kabit. Number 2. The other woman. Kerida. If you’re reading this right now, then you ought to know what these words mean and how it turned out for people who were “outed” by it.
If only we could consider this piece as a bandwagon companion for the popular “mistress-porn” genre. However, we have always lived in a world where this subject has always been a constant source of fascination for people; consider how the mistress and her lover become objects of novels and films, of fodder for news and gossip. To psychologists, they are subjects for study. There really are some earnest individuals who really want to know the reasons behind infidelity: Is it because of the routinization of marriage? Is it because of the prevalent machismo lifestyle?
We are often quick to blame the mistress in seducing a married man to her bed because we often see her as a sex object. We often overlook the case of the man and see him often as the “victim” rather than the “initiator”. Because of this, mistresses over the generations have mastered the skills of discretion and patience out of necessity, more so to ensure that this “illegal, illicit lives” they’re living will never be discovered. Every mistress must also endure those excruciatingly lonely days of hoping for those fruitless communications from her lover.
Well, if this recent film is any indication, then it seems that our old concepts of what an “extramarital affair” is now being challenged. We now hear stories of mistresses becoming more proactive, as opposed to being submissive, in their “roles” by gaining control of their relationships, even demanding the wives of their lovers to give them their men, secrecy and shame be damned.
Even in a “conservative” city like Iloilo—and really, all you have to do is to look at how we glorify our 19th century heritage to realize that Ilonggos are still a mostly conservative lot—these are the kinds of stories you hear being whispered in social circles everywhere; people know it, but it hardly gets acknowledged beyond a bato-bato-sa-langit Facebook post. That’s why it’s so rare to snag interviews from people who have been tangled up in extramarital affairs—wives, husbands, mistresses—to hear their perspectives on this matter.
So, before you get to judging the Ilonggos we have interviewed for this story, do know that they are people who also aspire to live their lives peacefully, much like us. I hope we got that clear?
“Not my choice. It just happened.”
It started with their shared love of books.
*Cynthia, 24, and *David enjoyed discovering each other’s favorite authors, Sure enough, one thing led to another and, despite having a 10-year age gap between them, they pursued their relationship.
When Cynthia shared her situation with friends, most of them were horrified. Concerned, even.
“(It’s) unlikely of her character to do it since she came from a well to-do family, and she’s pretty much a prim-and-proper kind of girl,” *Sam, one of Cynthia’s friends, said.
Cynthia, when asked what led her to that decision, answered with what may count as a very clichéd sentence to many reading this: “I love him. It’s not about his money or status.”
“He’s cool, smart and funny. So yeah, I fell for him. Not my choice. It just happened,” Cynthia continued. “I even dated another guy for months so that I can stop whatever feelings I’m having with David. But in the end, it was David.”
It was mentally and emotionally stressful for her to keep this relationship secret from her friends and family. She broke the news only five months later; it was killing her not to let out her heavy secret—and, along with that, also her issues with David.
“I understand that he has to be with his wife and kids; I respect that. But I can’t help but feel lonely and unwanted sometimes by him. His gifts do not console me at times,” Cynthia further shared.
Cynthia, however, doesn’t wish for David to leave his family for her. But deep down in her heart, she sorely wishes one day he will. Will it happen? She doesn’t know, and she tries not to hope too much for it. And then she started crying.
For Cynthia to say “yes” to having an affair with a married man, it’s a decision she did not arrive at easily. After all, what woman in her right mind would want to bear the burden of being a kerida?
For situations like hers, there is obviously more than just love and security she is looking for—it may even be a certain “want” she did not even discover yet.
“I never mentioned to them nga kasal na ako.”
Men desire to have to have mistresses who are young and beautiful—and that’s not even myth anymore if we’re going by the algorithms that back this claim up.
However, today’s definition of a “trophy girlfriend”—at least according to the men I interviewed— now include qualities like being smart, career-minded, and independent. If so, then you could argue that men today are also being “progressive” with the way they cheat, but this a topic for another day.
With men still being men, most of them only offered answers like “Basta, amo ina natabo [Well, it just happened].” when I asked them why they cheated. A few, on the other hand, just shrugged and chuckled.
Thankfully, I was eventually able to get a decent explanation from one: *Paulo shared to me that when he wants a woman, he will get her and make her his—even if that woman is already married.
“First, I never mentioned to them nga kasal na ako [that I’m married]. Pero kung nabal-an nila [But if they knew about it], it’s up to them if they want to continue,” Paulo said.
However, Paulo never exactly told me why he would cheat on his wife. Really, you would not even imagine it since he speaks very highly of her and defends her if anyone speaks out against his partner.
“Dungol lang ako, eh [I’m just mischievous],” Paulo reasoned. “Basta ang wife ko daan, makailintindihon, dako pasensiya. Grabe lang guid siya mamantay sa mga babae [nga] guinaistorya ko. Basi amo gani mo,” he mulled.
[My wife is understandable and patient. She’s just wary of the women I talk to. Maybe that’s the reason why.]
Ultimately, it’s what makes a man a “man” that may be driving them to cheat. The men I interviewed could not even believe their luck that they have managed to catch a young woman’s attention even though they describe themselves as “old and taken”. It reinforces their egos and, really, who would not want that feeling?
“Tak-an na ako manghilabot.”
We may have all asked ourselves this question at one point in our lives: if the poor wives had been cheated on by their husbands, why do they still continue putting up with their husbands’ crap?
Well, can we blame them if annulment is frighteningly expensive in this country?
Indeed, many of the wives I have interviewed for this piece mentioned it as such, with some even choosing to swallow their tears for the sake of protecting their children.
*Rosalie, 44, a working mother, has been married to her husband for the last 16 years. She says her husband, who’s working in a government organization, has been seeing a younger woman for two years. Rosalie thinks she is only hooking up with him for connections and job security.
“Basta guinistoryahan ako sang neighbor namon nga daw guinabuligan na siya sang bana ko mangita obra sa gobyerno man [I was told by my neighbor that my husband is helping her find work within the government],” she said. And, in what could also be taken as an act of resignation, she continued, “Basta, tak-an na ako manghilabot [I do not care anymore].”
Of course, she was expectedly hurt and angry when she found out about the cheating. She confronted her husband the day she found out, and he just left the house and stayed with a friend. He came back days later to ask for her forgiveness. Rosalie, still in love with her husband and thinking he had truly changed, gave him another chance. Later on, she discovered that not only did he continue the affair but was also cheating on her years before with another woman.
Rosalie is clearly exasperated, but she just kept bearing the situation for their three children.
“Si *Nonoy, ang kamagulangan guid, achiever eh, running for honors siya. Manami ang mga grades niya. Daw ara ako sa sitwasyon nga kung isugid ko sa mga bata, basi masabad man ang panulukan sa ila kabuhi kag indi sila maka-concentrate na school or sa iban pa dira,” she said.
[Nonoy, our eldest, is an achiever and running for honors. He has good grades. I’m sort of in the situation where if I tell the children, they will have a different outlook on their lives and they won’t be able to concentrate on school or anything else they may be doing.]
*Eva, 36, had also experienced the same thing as Rosalie. And like Rosalie, she also put off leaving her husband for her children. When she got married at the age of 24, it was because she got pregnant and that pressured her partner to marry her to save themselves from humiliation and speculations.
“He told me that he will stay with me because of the kids,” Eva said. “Children always have been a huge factor as to why men stay with their wives despite having affairs.”
The Price of Happiness
Being labeled a kerida, just like everything else in this country, offers a very linear way to categorize, especially women, as such. However, much like with any problem that affects society in general, there is no question that the culture that allowed this labeling to persist is more deep-rooted than simply having two consenting parties agree to carry out an affair with each other when the rest of the public, and even the law itself, criminalizes it.
However, do remember that Ilonggos are now living in an era where the traditional roles of the husband/father and wife/mother, though still very observed, are slowly being reinvented to suit the demands of society, if not the current economy. Or maybe people just don’t care anymore about those labels anymore. Who can tell?
Here’s the thing, though: people are always in pursuit of happiness. And Ilonggos, in general, are the kind of people who would prefer to avoid drama, if they can help it, when chasing for the thing they believe they deserve. All this sneaking around to carry out hidden affairs with someone you fancy may be “acceptable” in polite society, but if you’re not willing to address its inherent problems in it, then who’s to say you’ll be totally happy with your decision to push through with it in the long run?
So, are you willing to fight for your happiness? You tell me.