Is she the callous sex kitten oftentimes depicted in Philippine movies and telenovelas? Or the woman in the shadows who is forever suffering in silence, waiting for the man to leave his wife?
“Kabit” in the Filipino vernacular, “home wrecker” in English, “Number 2” in street parlance, and “other woman” for the rich and sophisticated. All these terms refer to that irresistible female known to snatch men from their blissful and not-so-happy marriages. Typically, she is portrayed as a scheming lover out to destroy families and futures – the ultimate conjugal demolition expert. She has another moniker originating from Spanish times — “querida.”
Accused of plunging into a messy (yet exciting) affair with a married man, the usually voluptuous querida is more than just a one-night stand but less than a wife. She is considered and treated as a partner, a sounding board, and a scintillating bedmate who is usually an expert on many sexual positions. Despite being a recipient to all kinds of condemnations, insults, verbal loathing, and outright discrimination, it is undeniable that the querida exists in every facet of Philippine life, literature, and history.
The Querida is Ubiquitous
According to Singapore-based Filipino psychologist and author of the book Affairs Don’t Just Happen Lissy Ann Abella Puno, extra-marital affairs are categorized into three — sexual affairs, midlife affairs, and emotional affairs. Generally, men who have affairs fall into the first two categories, while most women cite the last as their reason for going “off course.” Whatever their reasons, both men and women usually whine or trace their infidelity to certain unmet needs they cannot get from their partners. One thing is sure though, whatever category a man belongs to and whatever is the reason for committing infidelity, the other woman is always present.
In 2009, the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women said 36% of men admitted to having extra-marital affairs. In 2015, the Philippine National Police data showed that there were more than 300 concubinage cases or married men having extra-marital affairs in the country.
The Pew Research Center’s 2013 Global Attitudes survey asked 40,117 respondents in 40 countries what they thought about extramarital affairs, and respondents were asked whether this is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue. The chart below shows that 90% of Filipinos think extramarital affairs are unacceptable. Yet, the other woman persists to exist.
What is it like to be the “other woman”?
Do these women really deserve the shame and humiliation that society has so punitively inflicted on them? Some people say these women rightly deserve what they’re getting from society. But then, it is so easy to heap judgments on them. Do we know how they really feel? What is it like to be the other woman?
She is the “filthy secret.“
Being the other woman means being always kept under wraps. Whether it is a boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend, or a husband cheating on his wife, the other woman is always kept hidden and not spoken of. It means going on secret dates, sending stolen text messages, and getting contented with certain “conditions” in order not to be discovered.
For the other woman, going out on dates in public is a big NO-NO, unless she wants the entire community to gossip about her. This is a big letdown for someone who may be truly in love with the man and wants to shout to the whole world about the relationship.
She is lonely
Being in a clandestine relationship can get relatively lonesome because there will always be something missing. While there will be several many moments of physical intimacy, these are never enough to cover the twinges of isolation, of something deeper than just the physical moments that the other woman and the love of her life both share.
She has stigma attached to her.
When it comes to forbidden affairs, society will always rear its obnoxious head. Women who become the querida have to withstand the cruel labels (e.g. slut, home wrecker) given to them.
Aside from the name-calling, she will also have to deal with the disdainful gazes and gawking of people over and above the subdued murmurs whenever she enters a room. But at the end of the day, painful as it is, the other woman will brush all these aside in order to keep her relationship with her man.
She is in the “waiting game”
This means she always waits for the lover’s go signal to do anything, like when can they get to see each other again or when is the next rendezvous and where. The waiting game is such a tough and, oftentimes, maddening game to play because the other woman is ravenous for whatever scraps of affection the lover has to give to her. Once the tryst is over, the querida is left craving and waiting for the next call, which can usually take days or even weeks to arrive.
She is the “interim girl”
The querida who becomes the “meantime girl” finds herself living in an emotional hell because she is filling the emptiness of whatever her lover is not getting from his marriage or legitimate relationship.
What is excruciatingly painful about being the “meantime girl” is that she will always just be an option, and a second one at that. No talks of a future together, she will find herself living in the moment. She will find herself clinging on to whatever happiness she can get from her time with the lover, because in her heart she knows that these moments are just transitory and can end anytime.
She lives on “stolen moments” and “borrowed time”
Among the fundamental conditions of being a querida is that she has to work around a fixed schedule. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the man has someone to go home to everyday, has obligations to fulfill. Naturally, they cannot see each other daily, thus, a certain agreed schedule, typically involving a few hours. The male lover cannot even spend the night, or else he stirs the suspicion of the legitimate partner.
She is NOT a priority
The man will not be there to comfort her during the days when she is feeling down. She cannot spend the holidays with him, and she cannot help but feel distraught by the fact that he is spending the holidays with his legitimate loved one. She cannot hold his hand when she feels like she needs it the most, or put her arms around him whenever she feels lonely. In short, she can never experience life with him because he clearly has established that with someone else.
She has an “expiration date”
This is perhaps the most terrifying and distressing truth of being the querida. The entire affair could end as snappishly as it began. This means she probably even won’t have any closure, at all.
For a Few Moments of Bliss
Countless women have attested to the fact that being a querida is like committing social suicide. They are likely to abandon whatever ideals they have set for themselves in exchange for a few moments of bliss.
With all these things inflicting devastation on the emotions of the querida, people will continuously wonder why she still bothers to put up with all of pain and the uncertainties. In actual fact, there are innumerable different reasons, which differ from one mistress to another. These reasons are often strong enough to make them stay, despite the cruelty that society may throw upon them.
For the wife or girlfriend who repetitively and persistently blames and condemns the other woman (intruder) for breaking into her home (relationship), try to look at it this way – perhaps, you have kept leaving the door open, inviting the “housebreaker” in with welcoming arms.