Filipino Society Through Foreign Eyes

A lot of people who are unable to read and understand Filipino are asking for translations of GRP author Dumangsil’s articles. Indeed, with such well thought out and masterfully written content, I’m not surprised that so many would like to see Dumangsil’s work translated in English. Unfortunately, I am in no position to do anything about that because Dumangsil’s work is strictly Dumangsil’s intellectual property. To do so would be considered an act of plagiarism and is not something that I approve of.

intellectual_bankruptcyHowever, I can at least provide something that is at least similar in spirit with Dumangsil’s latest article. Take note, this is not a translation of that article but is instead something that has almost the same point. This current article is also a homage of sorts to this one as it shows what actual foreigners have to say about the country and its society. This is just a recollection of some of my previous interactions with foreigners and their own opinions and ideas about children and youth in the Philippines.

Manhood and Fatherhood

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I grew up in my grandfather’s house instead of my parent’s house. Well, he’s not really my grandfather as we’re not even directly related. He is more or less my mother’s uncle but it was he who mostly stood as my father figure instead of my own dad. Hailing from the state of Tennessee, my grandfather was a big white guy with a southern drawl that the rest of the neighborhood was actually afraid of. He is a former member of the U.S. Navy and was a well traveled man who had seen his share of action in Vietnam and had a passion for geography and history.

My father, on the other hand, is an ordinary Pinoy with the ever hateful Juan Tamad mindset. According to some of my uncles, he quit school when he was only in elementary because he found reading books too “hard”. He was usually drunk when I’d see him and always wallowing in self-pity. Everything was almost always about him and he was always over-dramatic about everything my mother did.

Okay, let’s get this clear first: I’m not saying that Americans are superior to Filipinos as I know that there are also a lot of Americans out there that are alcoholic bums not so different from my father. There are also a lot of Filipinos who are not cursed with the Juan Tamad mindset and are actually great fathers to their children. I just happened to be lucky that I had a good grandfather like the one I had and unlucky that my father was a dumb, ignorant, self-centered and alcoholic bum.

Anyway, my father, even in his more sober moments often refused to give me a good answer when I asked him stuff as a kid. His answers were either always nonsensical and, whenever he didn’t feel like answering my questions, he would simply say: “Stop asking questions or the fairy/elf/devil will get you!” He was a man who liked to urinate in public and who like to casually throw garbage in his immediate surroundings. Then, when drunk, he would cry to my mother about my grandfather turning me against him because I didn’t want to spend time with my own father anymore. Really, the list goes on and on.

My grandfather, on the other hand, awoke in me a thirst for knowledge. He liked to tell me stories of his travels and tidbits of world history. When I asked him questions, he almost always had an answer ready for me and when he didn’t, he had a collection of encyclopedias he would read the answer from. For my twelfth birthday, he gave me Michael Crichton’s The Lost World as a gift and was what started my love for books.

Pedophilia in the Philippines

Sometimes, my grandfather’s nephews and nieces from the States would come to visit him here in the Philippines. Hailing from the more rural parts of Tennessee, they were mostly “humble country folk” as they often liked to say. They spoke with stereotypical Appalachian accents and didn’t mind the heat and humidity.

While they were mostly pleasant company, things got troublesome once when they watched TV with the rest of my Filipino family. Apparently, my grandfather’s niece, nephew and granddaughter got to watch that abomination of a TV show Wow Wow Wee with my local relatives. Remember that fiasco concerning how Willie Revillame made a young boy dance like a macho dancer and the boy started crying? Yes, my American “relatives” got to see just that.

There were mixed exclamations of “holy crap”, “what the hell” and “is this stuff even real?” from them.

“Look, that Willie’s a dick,” I said, trying to sound reassuring. “He’s been facing many charges over the years for his behavior.”

“Oh no, this is more than just being a dick,” my grandfather’s nephew said.

“This is sick and disgusting!” my grandfather’s niece said. “That boy was crying, didn’t anyone see that? That man should be arrested!”

“And beaten within an inch of his life,” my grandfather’s nephew added.

“Making a boy that age dance like a male stripper on live TV of all places,” my grandfather’s granddaughter shook her head. “No wonder pedophiles like going to your country.”

She soon realized what she had said and apologized shortly after. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any words to express how embarrassed I was for my own country when I heard that. Besides, that fiasco was only the tip of the iceberg. One can notice how many young girls today imitate the background dancers of Wow Wow Wee who dance like strippers. I wanted to apologize too for my country and how my people can consider even these sick shows involving sexualized children “normal” is beyond me.

Remembering and Understanding

Dumangsil’s primary point in his article is that the spirit of education has been lost over the years and I have no choice but to agree. While some teachers do try to make things work for their students, it’s quite obvious that the teaching system is already quite flawed. Lessons are more about remembering things rather than understanding them.

While sitting in the gym with some of my Russian friends, one of them was reading a local newspaper. After a few moments of reading, he quickly put it down and shook his head.

“You know chuvak,” he said to me. “You Filipinos like to quote your Bible so much.”

“We’re a religious people,” I answered. “It’s just the way we are.”

He smiled at that.

“Religious?” he shook his head. “Look chuvak, I know that your Church different from Russian Church but I tell you that it not matter as long as you know what Bible says. You not suppose to memorize Bible, you supposed to understand it and make it part of your life. That’s what Tolstoy say anyway.”

Before I could answer something, he continued.

“For example, sometimes priest or politician say ‘blessed are the poor’, even when they not know what being poor like,” he said. “‘Blessed are the poor’ mean that God loves poor people but he does not want them to stay poor. It just say that God loves you even if you poor but it not mean that you have to be poor to please God.”

When I think about it now, I realize just how twisted and manipulative our society has become over the years. Truly understanding words prevent you from being manipulated but just remembering them won’t make a lot of difference. Just knowing words without knowing the true nature of them or their context makes what you say not all that different from speaking gibberish. The key to a word and its right use always starts with understanding it.

12 Replies to “Filipino Society Through Foreign Eyes”

  1. Oh…Grimwald…you are a part “Redneck”…I have some Southerner friends; and visited them in the South. These people in the U.S. Southern states; still Blame those people in the Northern states (Yankees), for their loss in the U.S. Civil War…anyway , I find them hospitable. There is still some discrimination…but , they are adjusting to people like me, with brown skin…I did not find someone, asking me, if I have a Tail…however, they are amazed, that I speak good English, and can understand modern Science and Technology…

    1. Indeed. But what I’m saying is that even if my American relatives are “Rednecks”, they at least have progressive thinking.

      However, you cannot say that I am Redneck myself as I’m not really related to them by blood. Their family matriarch, my grandfather’s sister, probably sees me as some kind of hobbit to their Gondorian…

  2. @ Grimwald , it surprises me that you would even think you were unfortunate to have been dealt the father you were dealt. To be fortunate to have had the Grandfather you had was blessing enough and to not have the father you had would be to NOT BE.So cheer up dude, that is the cards you were dealt and making the best out of that hand you were dealt is,in itself, understanding it all,yes?

    N e way, the title of this essay led me to think it would be a different type of atricle.One where a foreigner like,or unlike myself, could point out the good the bad and the whatever about the Republic of the Philippines. Certainly a strange culture that copies all it see’s and ignores the talents of its own as if they do not stack up to the rest of the world.That is just not so because to be world-class at anything, all you have to do is be part of this world….and….practice practice practice at whatever it is that one wants to be world-clas at. A sad fact that the Philipines seems to squander what it has inside its borders in order to imitate what is from outside its borders.Do Filipino’s understand that?

  3. On “blessed are the poor”, politicians or priests who quote this alone are quoting it out of context. It should be “blessed are the poor *in spirit* ”

    It’s not about those who are economically poor, but those whose who are humble, hence “poor in spirit”. To be poor because of plain laziness and stupidity is not a blessing from God.

    Yeah, I agree. Education here is mind numbing. I went to private school yet education is just viewed as plain memorization. For an example, in history, one should memorize who was the leader at the time, who killed who, the birthdate of the heroes, etc.

    Frankly, I don’t care about their birthdate! Nonetheless, when I read historical books, I find them enriching and entertaining, learning from the stories of leaders and prominent people; and how a nation was built and destroyed.

  4. Makes me think we are no better than our ancestors during the Spanish Era who were made to recite verses of the bible without understanding them. Well, if you think abt it, we are actually worse considering that we have a choice (to try) to comprehend but do not. It isn’t the lack of intelligence but just the lack of will of our collective society to empower and to teach the less fortunate. I long for the day when an alternative media rises to compete with mainstream media. This website – and others like this – is a good start but by no means does it replace the trashy local media we know today. Not yet.

  5. If us Filipino doesn’t like who we are as a Filipino and as a society, then can foreign countries see us other way around? The acceptance and change must start first within us and for the purpose of pleasing ourselves and not them(foreigners). We are a country fond of foreigners because we think they’re above us. What’s the connection then? If only we Filipinos can show other countries what we are really capable of, aside from being their slaves and servants, then probably we can be out of those stereotypes that we are only good in any form of serving. Would it be nice that those non-tagalog speaking people will adjust to us, study our language and respect who we are as a person. Well,that’s an illusion.

    True enough that we spend money just to have good education. I agree that most of the time we just simply memorize without knowing whats the purpose of memorizing it. And unfortunately I can assume that those teachers don’t also know the real purpose of those facts they kept installing on their student’s mind. We are really misguided by the way.

    1. Yep. I agree that majority of teachers, especially those in public schools, do not seem to know where they are headed when teaching.

      And they still get mad when they encounter a challenging child. What lessons do they cover in educational units again?

  6. too bad translations of a body of text will actually be your intellectual property. keep in mind that other people might perform the same translation and end up with a text having a different choice of words. and as long as you attribute it as a translation of another person’s work, then you’re off the hook.

    the only question remaining is, if said work is done as a worker of a translation agency, if it becomes the intellectual property of the individual or of the agency.

  7. A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.

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