*Larita Kutsarita - n. see THE AUTHOR
*Spoonfuls - n. articles/dispatches/scribbles by Larita Kutsarita
(Background photo by Aiess Alonso)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Onli in Da Pilipins

A scientific study once observed that in all of Asia, only the Philippines has people casually greeting one another with just the raising of the eyebrows. This simple gesture already means anything from “Uy!” (roughly translated to “Hi” in Pinoy context) to “Kamusta na?” If Chicanos make beso with one another and some Middle Easterners kiss on the lips, the Filipinos can get away with this effortless way of acknowledgment: the ascent of both eyebrows. This is also not far from the special use of our lips which may very well serve as substitutes to fingers pointing to certain objects. Whether it is “’Yun!” or “Doon!” the nguso has never failed to guide the Filipino sense of direction.

There are just a number of things that are intensely Filipino. These distinctions are even given special focus by a particular sub-field of knowledge that has been known as Sikolohiyang Pilipino. Even our values are considerably distinct from other cultures’. One Pinoy societal value that’s always appealed to me is the concept of hiya or shame. A couple will have to settle for a huge wedding celebration even if their finances aren’t sufficient enough because there simply is no way that you should invite people to the wedding ceremonies but not to, say, the reception. This greatly contrasts with the American way of sending separate invitations to the ceremony and the reception, a course of action that is highly pragmatic. Back here, the town fiesta is serious business that “caters” to the entire population whether we are capable of feeding n number of mouths or not. “Mangutang na lang tayo, nakakahiya naman”—a statement that is not atypical among true-blue Filipinos. This is also greatly mirrored in Filipino politics. One significant outcome would be that the great interplay of powers from small institutions to “Lopez-ish” ones involves endless bloodlines. Seemingly, nepotism in other countries has never taken a form as orthodox as it has in our country’s many establishments. You get your nephew into the company—never mind that there must be a better applicant around, say, a U. P. graduate—because it is a given that you prioritize the ties that bind the most over anything else. And those ties, in the normal Pinoy’s case, would be of blood and kin. You run for president and choose a running mate who may not exactly have the ideal characteristics of a competent leader but who happens to be your primary supporter in the turbulent political scene. “Walang kumpa-kumpare. Walang kai-kaibigan,” or so one infamous president, Erap, would say. And this was quite ironic because it was his friends themselves who sold him out. One particular kumpare, Bobby Tañada—who was lead prosecutor for the plunder charges in the impeachment case against him—would be throwing Erap’s lines back at his face by replying, “Walang kumpa-kumpare at kai-kaibigan kung paglilingkod sa bayan ang pinag-uusapan” when asked if his role in the case would ever affect their friendship. So much for the “nakakahiya” frame of mind. It is not as much as a positive trait of being thoughtful as it is a brand of hypocrisy. Kaplastikan. And the way I see it, it has never really taken us anywhere progressive.

Of course, one should not get me started on the Pinoy superstitions that have plagued everyday life, from the waking-before-sunrise-just-to-be-more-prosperous all the way to not-sweeping-during-night-to-avoid-bad-luck kinds of mentality. My personal favorite is not passing by an area in which a black cat has crossed, which finally condemns the poor believer to searching for another possible route, if any, to his/her destination. It is ludicrous that we’ve stuck with these superstitions even in the 21st century. During my Lolo’s—my father’s dad—burial, the family even had to break down a wall just so they could make a pathway for the casket since there is an old saying that one is not supposed to carry coffins through doors because that would mean more deaths would have to “come in” and occur in the family. Many practical matters are betrayed because of some of these beliefs and somehow, I cannot help but hypothesize about the reason the Philippines has not flourished, and has remained a third world country for centuries up to this day. These simple manifestations in the ways we communicate—the rhetoric of them all, if you will—say a lot about who we are, who we have been, and ultimately, what we will be, if at all such behaviors persist.

That is not to say, however, that there is nothing positive to be found in Juan Dela Cruz’s frame of mind. The world has been constantly amazed by our distinct way of laughing even during the heaviest misfortunes, i. e. happily bathing in chin-high floods during super typhoons, usiseros waving in excitement at cameras during a mutiny’s media coverage, etc. We are an exceptionally happy country in the most dismal of times. In my opinion, this all boils down to the broad scope of our concept of tiis. “Magtiis ka na lang kasi nakakahiya” (being considerate or being a hypocrite); “Magtiis ka na lang sa abroad para sa pamilya” (being family-oriented or being individualistic); “Magtiis ka na lang para swerte” (being hopeful or being superstitious); “Magtiis ka na lang kasi wala nang iba” (making do with what one has or being tolerant of society’s deficiencies). There is this pressure to be enduring at all times even if it meant keeping mum and tolerant of all things arduous. Whether this spawns more positive effects than dreadful ones is beyond me. Onli in da Pilipins, indeed. After all, I am only one Filipino, and—despite all this—proud to be.

1 comment:

Lorgen Shadoufang said...

Coolness =') I'm a Psychology major, and these Pilipino* (*is this still in use?) quirks interest me. (I gotta get back that book of Filipino Psych journals...)
I've been planning for years to write a journal about Filipino behavior in jeepneys, but, hnh...

Anyway, this was your first entry that I read. If I were asked if I would compromise my integrity for nationalism or patriotism, or gratitude,... I wouldn't. Nationalism or any sort of loyalty isn't bad, just as long as it's not an instrument for doing bad. However, as we've seen throughout human history, and even as we speak, unfolding to history, fanaticism (if I may call it that) has been the downfall of many individuals and, I suppose societies. And souls.

I will not be an instrument of evil. Uh... most of the time :'p

And yeah, I'm also proud to be a Filipino, but not of the things that make us ashamed of being one. ='p

Yours in the Force,
Lorgen Shadouness