Saturday, November 25, 2006

Of Being Pinoy

I was born and raised in Manila, the place where Filipino is most corrupt. By “Filipino” I mean both the language and the people.

It is my excuse for my poor mastery of my first language. I know I should be ashamed for not understanding the words lumagom, ilaw-dagitab, wating-wating, untag, bagol, lukbutan, gora, and natulig—all of which I got from Efren R. Abueg’s Mabangis na Lungsod, a short story I read back in high school. Thanks to my brother who has a penchant for leaving his things at random places in the house, I got a chance to refresh my memory with the story whose title I often use to refer to Manila.

However, I do love Manila—Intramuros to be exact. If there is one thing I enjoy about being my sister’s maid of honor, it will be having an excuse to visit Intramuros. It probably is what Rizal meant by “primordial sense of belonging.” I somehow feel attached to Intramuros having been born in Manila. Then again, it is Intramuros. Who wouldn’t want to explore its rich terrain and history?


Don’t think that I am kidding when I say that I learned English from Sesame Street because it really is how I learned Uncle Sam’s words. It is very rare that we speak in English at home. As far as my family is concerned, Filipino and Cebuano has been our vernacular. Note the “Cebuano.” The little Cebuano my mom uses have contributed to the slight “distortion” of my Filipino (or should I say “Tagalog?”), along with a number of gay and kanto words, thus my incapacity to speak and write in straight Filipino which is bad, especially for a UP graduate.

But my half-mutilated Filipino language is the least of my worries for now. There is the Filipino people I have to deal with.

For all good reasons, I try to hang on to my faith in our kababayans. I cannot inhabit my country and at the same time loathe its people. Plus I still believe that despite every Pinoy’s shortcomings as a citizen of this nation, deep inside he has that heart of gold with “Made in the Philippines” carved on it.

So call me naïve. If that’s what it takes to have hope in our people. If that’s what it means to choose to believe that the reason why an alarming number of Juan’s and Maria’s are migrating abroad is to bring in more dollars to their Inang Bayan rather than to run away. If that’s the price I have to pay for preferring to count the number of smiles I get from our brown-skinned fellowmen instead of taking note of their grunts.

Yet, the Filipino psyche puzzles me. And sometimes, it saddens me.

Last Wednesday, I went to the mall to look for a lotion or a moisturizer that would heal a dry patch on my skin. To my dismay, around 98% of the products I saw claimed that they will make my skin whiter. I had no intentions of having “fairer” skin but, apparently, beauty product manufacturers assume that a Filipino buyer would, more or less, want to become lighter than s/he is. Colonial mentality has consumed our people’s vanity so much that it has begun messing with the Pinoy melanin. If you think about it, it is quite disturbing.

I found my moisturizer with no “whiteners” printed on its label. Hopefully, there is no whitening ingredient in it, too. As I was about to pay for it, I noticed that a beige purse was left unattended on the cashier’s counter, which I found weird because the purse is almost the same size as a tiny ladies’ bag and what kind of a lady would ever leave her bag on a cashier’s counter?

I informed the female bagger of the purse which she previously thought was mine. I swear, she tried to listen to the bag before she kept it. I would have done the same thing, I guess, because the possibility that the bag contained a bomb of sorts did cross my mind. And two people with whom I shared this story with thought so, too. So there goes the applaud-worthy Pinoy honesty and the depressing repressed fear for Pinoy security.

The mall did not explode after I stepped out of it and, thank God, it remains intact until now. Still the more “explosive” part of my story is about to come.

That same night, I happened to ride an FX with two guys sitting on the bench parallel me and the lady beside me. It would have been a normal ride home had it not for the older guy telling the driver to drop them off to Danny Floro. I have lived in Pasig long enough to know that Danny Floro is Pasig’s motel strip. I am aware that it is none of my business to scrutinize the guy, who, as perceived by my gaydar, is gay. To be clear about it, I do not have a thing against homosexuals and their indiscretions, heaven knows why but that is beside the point.

Last Wednesday’s incident especially bothered me because of whom the gay guy was with. It was not just some guy; it was a boy, probably one third his age. And by the look on the boy’s face, I do not think he had a vivid idea of what he was getting himself into. The whole trip, he tried to tuck his head on his lap, or the old gay guy’s left lap—I am not really sure which. I was hoping that I was judging them incorrectly. I was silently wishing that they prove me wrong. But they got off in front of one of the motels so what was I to think?

Yes, this thing happens to different parts of the world, but I was not prepared to witness it in my own country. Maybe the gay guy and the boy were in a relationship—neither of them was forced to get off the FX and step into the motel. Maybe both of them get something from each other. I would not really know. Still, these thoughts will not appease me and I am just a spectator.

They say that last week during Manny Pacquiao’s final battle with Eric Morales, the crime rate dropped to zero. Imagine if the fight lasted 12 rounds—how long that would have bought us peace, how those 12 rounds would have kept us from screwing up. Pacquiao’s gloved fist fight somehow proved that we Filipinos can be united and civilized. Ironically, it is a legal, violent form of sport that held us together. And during the whole three rounds, the time when Filipinos seemed to have behaved themselves, I kept uttering in between my faux sobs, “barbaric!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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