You might encounter the term Pilosopo Tasyo (Philosopher Tasyo) or simply pilosopo in a couple of typical Filipino conversations, and is generally taken to mean “someone who takes things literally in a sarcastic way,” usually thrown at people who can’t help but nitpick on people’s faulty sentence construction for fun. While the word has donned a more amusing definition, and is nothing more than an often-used colloquial term, quite a number of people still recall the exact origins of Pilosopo Tasyo; an actual character in Jose Rizal’s iconic novel Noli Me Tangere.
As the title suggests, Don Anastacio, or Tasyo, was a philosopher. He was an intelligent man who immersed himself in the ways of science, and gained insight far deeper than those of the people in his village. Despite his intelligence, however, Pilosopo Tasyo was often ridiculed as a madman by the townspeople. He was always made fun of, and no one ever paid attention to what he had to say. Suffice to say that they didn’t even bother trying to understand him. And being a widower to boot, one could say that he’s the ultimate “Forever Alone” guy.
So why am I even bringing up a character from an old novel? That’s because the tension between those who are considered intellectuals and many Filipinos, something Rizal depicted through the proverbial philosopher, has not disappeared after all these years, and it still very much manifests in our daily lives. But to look at things in a larger scale, we can examine the events that transpired in the course of former Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment trial.
A single individual in the trial, despite having a powerful legal mind and a strong personality, something preferable in the world of politics, was often derided as some sort of a crackpot by many Filipinos. The myriad of insightful ideas this senator could share with the Filipino society often get drowned amidst the myriad of insults Filipinos throw at her, making fun of her personage, instead of absorbing and evaluating her judgment. One of the three senators who voted for Corona’s acquittal, she was often accused of being in cahoots with the respondent when she only wanted the rule of law be upheld, and received a generous amount of ridicule and sick jokes. Yes, we’re talking about the modern-day Pilosopo Tasyo, senator-judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Miriam Santiago accurately represents the philosopher, who in turn, helped readers visualize the social “cancer” Rizal has allegorically depicted more than a hundred years ago; the aversion of the many from the “different” few, especially if those “few” have curious intellectual aptitude. In the same way Pilosopo Tasyo‘s lecture about the principle of a lightning rod being met with laughter, Miriam Santiago’s free lecture about how the Constitution works was met with derision from many spectators of the impeachment trial, supposedly because she uses too much jargon, because she’s too mean, and because she’s apparently crazy or something. The alibis never end.
And recently, the senator-judge expressed her pain and contempt towards journalists when faced with reports of a certain online petition urging her to undergo a psychological test before being promoted to a judge in the International Criminal Court.
“I appeal to you, will you please be fair to me. You know there is a black propaganda campaign against me. [So] please don’t ask me anymore ‘What do you say about this black propaganda against you and they are listing…what to them is your [bad] personal characteristics.’ Please do not ask me that anymore. I feel very insulted. Just in case you still do not know, it is very offensive. It’s very rude and discourteous to me,” Santiago told reporters covering the Senate beat on Tuesday.
Infamous, ear-covering private prosecutor Vitalliano Aguirre II was involved in the issue, as he personally stated that Miriam take a psychological test before coming to ICC.
“Alam ninyo binastos na ako ng tao na yun [Aguirre], eh, pagkatapos binabastos pa rin ako tapos na ang trial. Wala naman akong ginawa na sa kanya. Nag-apologize siya, tinanggap ko ang apology niya,” she said. “Ngayon meron pa siyang pahabol na paninira; alangan namang i-devote ko ang buhay ko sa mga ganyang paninira na yan.”
Yes, that’s your typical Filipino lawyer, resorting to underhanded tactics to get back at the person who put him in his place. Is this how the Filipino ego truly works? Responding to the ones who shared their insights with things like this, because apparently, the lessons were given the hard way, and your ego was hurt in the process?
Apparently, yes. Filipinos instead lauded Senator Lito Lapid’s rhetoric about a “high school graduate judging the chief magistrate of the land,” because it packs more drama; a perfect concoction for the Filipino psyche. A serious, intellectual lecture about the Constitution coupled with a feisty attitude just doesn’t mix well with most Filipinos’ soap opera mindset, and so they dismiss it as a vanity project, a scream-fest, or just plain madness.
The social “cancer” didn’t die. In fact, it continues to thrive in the Filipino conscious, as generously demonstrated by the persecution Miriam received for standing her ground. Many Filipinos derided her as mentally unstable for giving the prosecution the lecture that they deserve. Many Filipinos insulted her personage for providing the country with another perspective regarding Corona’s impeachment trial. This begs an important question; what did the Filipinos do next?
After feeling satisfied about being normal compared to Miriam, did they even bother to study what Miriam actually said, and not just how she said it? After letting out their anger over Miriam’s alleged trampling on their personalities, did they bother inquiring about what the ejusdem generis rule means? Did they even try to find out to understand why Miriam acquitted Corona? In other words, did the Filipino people, at least attempt to understand what Miriam had to say about this quasi-political, quasi-judicial process? Or were we like the townspeople Pilosopo Tasyo was with, who simply dismissed him as nothing more than a madman, undeserving of our time and attention?
In our desperation to keep our egos unharmed, we unwittingly relinquished our chance to know more. For the recuperation of our pride deeply hurt by an intimidating individual, we sacrificed knowledge for feelings. Just to show that we’re no pushovers (when there is absolutely no need to do so), we forgot what the likes of Miriam and Pilosopo Tasyo had to say. Because we’re hurt, what Miriam said is wrong.
Such is the beauty of argumentum ad hominem.
As I end this article, I appeal to those who claim that she’s insane, to those who claim that she’s a bully and to those who claim Miriam does not intend to reach out to us laymen:
Have we attempted to reach out to her in turn?
Have we attempted to bridge the gap between those we consider as intellectuals, and ourselves? Have we taken the time to temporarily set aside our egos and come to an understanding? Who knows, maybe Miriam, maybe Pilosopo Tasyo, maybe they have something truly worth our time and attention. Maybe, just maybe, we should consider listening to those we consider as crackpots. After all, Pilosopo Tasyo knew the importance of the lightning rod, and we all know how important it still is today.
Meanwhile, the social “cancer” lives on in our society. And the cure, the business of getting real, it’s still in the works. But we can help speed things up.