A Reconstructed Pprtrait Of Juan De La
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How do we describe today’s Filipino? What are the qualities or physical attributes that make us stand out among all the races in the world? What distinguishing marks do we have? Is it our nose that is as big and wide as the gorilla’s? Is it our fair skin? Is it our round brown eyes? Is it our moderate height? Is it our unique black hair? Is it our proficiency in the Filipino language? Is it our conservative way of dressing or the barely naked one? Is it because we live in the 7,107 islands of the Philippines whether it’s low tide or high tide? Is it because we eat street food like fish ball, squid ball, and chicken feet? Or none of the above?
Even before the intrusion of the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese, we Filipinos already have atypical and unexplainable personalities that set us apart from other races. Aside from our physical attributes, we unveil an individuality that depicts a Filipino today. But honestly, we show a lot of ironies and paradoxes in our lifestyles that at times, we, ourselves, are confused about our true identity, as if we do not know who we truly are.
Because of rapid technological advancement and the unstable conditions of our lives, we have evolved making ourselves famous in one way or another — good or bad. At this juncture, I may say that we typify the following traits:
First, We Filipinos have a Remarkable Sense of Humor. Where in this world (aside from the mental hospital), do we see people laughing for no reason at all? Where do you see people smiling even in the most disheartening situation? Where do we see people making fun of their own mistakes? Where do we see people discussing trivia at the height of a clear and present danger?
When I saw the television footage of typhoon Reming in Bicol, I felt sad for the people who lost their houses and other important properties. However, I felt slightly appeased when those typhoon victims smiled and waved as if nothing cataclysmic happened when they saw the lights of roving cameras. Well, it’s only in the Philippines where people do not take serious matters seriously.
I remember the president of the Philippine Normal University when he narrated his childhood experience with his English teacher during my week-long seminar in English Language Teaching and Testing in April of 2007. His teacher brought apples, oranges, and mangoes to make their lesson on nouns understandable and memorable, and so the teacher started teaching…”This is an apple and this is a noun, use nouns in a sentence?” His classmate seated at the back raised his hand to answer, soothe teacher called him and said, “Ok, use nouns in a sentence.”His classmate stood straight and confidently said, Ï want to eat those nouns.” And everyone burst into laughter. I realized that laughter is indeed the best medicine because you feel good every time someone makes you titter.
Still others, because of technological advancement, are contented to express their whimsical hilarity through text messaging.
We Filipinos never run out of jokes. We are very resourceful in creating shaggy dog stories despite the burden we carry on our shoulders and the preoccupations that we have. We always find time to make other people chuckle, as the saying goes, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer other people up.” It’s ironic because we appreciate and desire funny and sometimes ribald text messages than the inspirational and religious ones. Well, it’s only in the Philippines.
Second, we Filipinos Have Incomparable Sense of Hospitality. We always offer the best we have to our visitors without any reservation. Even with foreigners, when they visit the Philippines for a vacation, we still speak their language to accomodate them because we regard them so much; on the contrary, when we go to a foreign land as tourists, they do not speak our language, so, we do not have a choice but to speak their language to facilitate effective communication. We do not always find this incredible trait from other people here in the Philippines.
Third, We Filipinos are very Creative and Inventive most especially during the most unthinkable situation. Nobody can deny that we are ingenious especially when the situation calls for it.
Whenever Metro Manila is flooded, people make small wooden bridges for the stranded pedestrians to cross the flooded part of the street so as not to get wet. In exchange, the “owners” of the wooden bridges ask for “voluntary contribution.” Instant money, isn’t it? It’s only in the Philippines.
In the provinces, when there is a big flood, they take it to their advantage to go up on the roofs of their houses to fish tilapia for their dinner. Others would row boats filled with the things they would like to sell to other flood victims. It’s only in the Philippines.
These do not imply, however, that we are so puerile; it only shows that we have the knack for turning something bad into something good for we believe that there is light in total darkness.
Our creativity is revealed when we are able to generate something from seemingly useless things. Some Filipinos became popular because they were able to make an artwork, a bag, or apparel from the disposables and sold them for thousands of pesos. It proves that there is money in garbage for people who have the right mental attitude.
Fourth, we Filipinos are Great Violators. In Metro Manila, it’s typical to see big warning signs saying, “Walang Tawiran, Nakamamatay.” But still, we don’t follow the city ordinance even though there is an overpass or underpass nearby for safe street crossing. Maybe we are either tired of going up and down or we are just too lazy that we would rather take the risk of and sometimes enjoy, crossing the highway. In the same way, we throw our garbage in places where there are signs: “Bawal Magtapon ng Basura Dito.” The same is true with “Bawal Umihi Dito” for we are like dogs urinating anywhere we please. We are repulsive at times for we spit almost anywhere. We even abuse ourselves by eating foods that are forbidden by the doctors for we imbibe the idea: “Life is short, so make the most of it.” We also patronize pirated cassette discs in Quiapo and Greenhill’s for practical reasons. It is ironic that we do uncivilized things for we are civilized people. As Manuel L. Quezon said, “Our greatest fear is not that of doing wrong, but that of being caught doing wrong.” That’s why we always get in trouble. Walang ganyan sa States. It’s only in the Philippines.
Another false claim of uniqueness, this time thoroughly insulting to the Filipino. That these traits (unsanitary habits and garbage disposal, buying of pirated goods, eating unhealthy foods, etc.) are not exhibited in America is a false claim and a useless comparison worthy of the old term “colonial mentality”.
Fifth, We Filipinos are Professional Crammers. In the antediluvian story of Juan Tamad, he waited for the guava fruit to fall down from the tree to his mouth. There was also an instance when he bought crabs and asked them to go home on their own. Since then, Juan has been used to name an idle Filipino.
Based on my personal experience both as high school and college literature teacher, I notice that when I give a requirement a month or so before the deadline, students do not mind at all. They procrastinate. They do it a day or two before the deadline. Well that’s the type of students that we have today, whether we admit it or not.
Sixth, We Filipinos are so superficial. When a person is confronted with the question, “how do you define beauty?” Common answer is “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or “beauty is not seen by the eyes, it is felt by the heart“ for the most important things in life are then things that we do not see. Bravo! I’m impressed!
We always underscore that the true beauty of a person is what’s inside, for the physical beauty fades but virtue lasts. Am I right or left? So why is it that we are still so superficial? When we ask: “Who would you choose: a beautiful but dull girl or an intelligent but ugly girl?” We will certainly take the first option because we believe that the intellectual inferiority of a person can still be improved, isn’t it? Although the physical look of a person can be enhanced nowadays, through modern technology and with the help for Dr. Vicky Bello and Dr. Manny Calayan, we would still opt for natural beauty. Do you honestly want to be with someone who looks like Bakekang for the rest of your life? Who could endure to be with someone who looks like a living monster?
There are very few men who would subscribe to the idea of Andrew E’s song, “Humanap Ka ng Panget” to be certain that they would not be left by their partners. We really want someone whom we can display in public, someone who exudes an angelic face with a flawless body. On the contrary, most women would subscribe to DJ Alvaro’s song: “Ang Tipo KOng Lalake ay Maginoo Pero Medyo Bastos” someone decent, but passionate and sexually aggressive.
Seventh, We Filipinos are so judgmental. We constantly see the flaws in other people whether we accept it or not. It becomes automatic that we criticize them without examining ourselves first. When we see a good-looking foreigner with a not so good-looking Pinay, we always conclude that foreigners are fond of Pinays who look like “kasambahay” (housemaid)…that they are continuously searching for Pinays with exotic beauty not present in other Asians. No wonder because Pinay is an “endangered species!” Well it’s only in the Philippines.
Eight, We Filipinos do not Provide an Exact Answer. We may not be sensitive about it, but when someone inquires, we do not give a precise answer. For example, if someone asks:
“Kumain ka na ba?” we usually say “busog pa ako” instead of saying oo or hindi;
“Anong oras na?” we usually say, “maaga pa!” instead of giving the exact time;
“San ka na?” we usually say, “malapit na” instead of saying our exact location.
or “Maganda ba GF nya?” or “Guwapo ba BF nya?” we usually say “mabait” or “okay naman” instead of telling the truth because we do not want to offend anyone.
This manner has become part of our consciousness. Well, it’s only in the Philippines.
Ninth, We Filipinos have a Strong Sense of Volunteerism.” Have you celebrated your birthday and you came across attendees or visitors that you are not personally acquainted with or never have met before? Have you felt alienated while asking yourself, is this my birthday?” Have you formed any suspicion wondering where those people are coming from?
If your answer is yes, you should not wonder why. It’s because we Filipinos have as strong sense of “volunteerism,” We attend birthdays, weddings, town fiestas, baptisms, anniversaries, victory parties, and the likes, even though we are not invited at all. Well, that’s Filipino Courage! So when someone congratulates you on your wedding with matching embrace even to the groom instead of just holding hands, you know that they are “volunteers” which make your budget collapse.
However, even though we have unexpected visitors, it is our hospitality that prevails to accommodate them. Just think that you are helping our less fortunate brothers and sisters. So the next time you celebrate an important decision, remember what the Boy Scouts say, “prepared”.
Tenth, We Filipinos are so Complaining. I just noticed that we become so cranky. We have not started doing what is expected of us and we are already dissenting. We often try to bargain and meet halfway. We are disinclined to carry on an arduous task because we want everything spic and span. We seldom appreciate the good intention of our superiors or elders. I personally experience this is school when I give a requirement or project to my students. Even in government, we are known worldwide for overthrowing our President through mass rallies or demonstrations. We create our own policy, Military officers say, “Obey first before you complain.” We say, “Complain first before you obey.”
Eleventh, We Filipinos are so pretentious. Where there is a conflagration, for example, we show our sense of “bayanihan” by helping our neighbors put out the fire, but in reality, we take this as an opportunity to rob them. We make it appear that we are saving their properties, but we are actually stealing them. We become so insensitive that we don’t bother what our neighbors go through during that depressing incident. So sad…Walang ganyan sa States. It’s only in the Philippines.
Twelfth, we Filipinos are so resilient. We have endured all the tragedies in life from Herculean typhoons such as Milenyo, Ondoy, and Pepeng to civil war, crimes, hunger, scarcity of rice, mounting prices of commodities, corruption, climate change, global warming, name it, we all have it, but have surpassed them all. We are true Survivors. Wherever we go, whatever the situation, it is never excessively alarming or disorienting. We can always adapt to the fast-changing environment to make the difference. Hurray!
This is the moment when we need to acknowledge our own imperfections and insecurities. The challenge now is to create a portrait that is worth praising and emulating — a portrait that is truly inspiring.