Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Iron Lady

   In the 50's to the 60's, before the cost of electricity became outrageously expensive, Filipinos ironed not just clothes but bedding, hankies, curtains, table cloths and napkins.  In those good old days pants were mostly slacks with crease (piston), skirts had pleats, collars must be straightened stiff and to leave home with wrinkled clothes made you "burara" (sloppy; untidy).  

   In the Philippines, laundry was then a long process.  Without a washing machine, laundry was done by hand, then rinsed with starch then hanged to dry stiff.  When the pile was ready for a day long ironing the entire bunch was sprinkled with water and bundled overnight.  The moisture on the starched fabric made ironing smooth.  The next day the flat iron was laid on banana leaf while ironing to make it slide easier.  

   The crease must be ironed straight and skirt pleats must be even.  Every item must be smooth as new with no residual wrinkle called 'manhid' which means the iron was not hot enough or the iron itself produced the wrinkle which happens when the fabric is not stretched flat correctly in the ironing board.  Thus ironing was a special skill.  Filipinos hired a planchadora, an ironing lady on a per diem basis.  Aling Monang was a planchadora in Pasay City.  We had two lived-in maids but my mother still hired Aling Monang to do the ironing because the maids could not the job as well as she did.  

   When my mom found out that Aling Monang lived alone she invited her to live with us.  She got free board and lodging but she did our ironing once a week for free.  The other six days she used to work for her other clients in the neighborhood or saw a movie, etc.  She got a family in us and I got a chaperone whenever my boyfriend came in the evenings.  

   At the tail end of the 60’s the wheels of change started to grind.  Oil prices began to climb.  “The 1970's energy crisis was a period in which the economies of the major industrial countries of the world, particularly the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Japan…were heavily affected and faced substantial petroleum shortages, real and perceived, as well as elevated prices.” (Wikipedia)  The Philippine economy, as always, intertwined with the US economy, felt the sting.  Under martial law, President Ferdinand Marcos made the decision to build a nuclear power plant.(Wikipedia)   “In 1972 the government altered the legal arrangements for oil exploration from concessions to service contracts (this change made the Philippines own the oil, we just paid for the exploration), and serious oil exploration began in the mid- and late 1970s. As a result of exploration in the Palawan-Sulu seabed, oil was discovered”(U.S. Library of Congress)
Pantabangan - Masiway
 Hydroelectric Power Plant
Tiwi Geothermal Power Plant
In addition, the country's hydroelectric power plants and geothermal power plants were commissioned in 1979. (Wikipedia)  A food for thought - President Marcos did all these.   (Romans 13:1

   They say “necessity is the mother of invention”.  The term wash and wear came into fashion.  Polyester and double-knit fabrics that needed little or no ironing were developed and marketed.   Slacks turned into non-iron denims and lost the crease.  Since flat irons take a lot of kilowatts to run the planchadora became a thing of the past.  

   Just in time, Aling Monang got her US immigrant visa (her daughter married an American named Clifford).  We never heard from her again. 

See also:
The Politics of Marriage
1950’s Kitchen
Remembering Cousin Rey

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