After writing an article lamenting the loss of good men in the Philippines, I come to wonder just what it means to be a “man” in our dear country.
Ilda in this article here is asking if indeed a good number of men in the Philippines are suffering from a case of narcissism. Based on a lot of problems the country is experiencing, from overpopulation, traffic to petty crime, one has to wonder if indeed there is something wrong with how we define the idea of “manhood”. As I look back at my own experiences and the various norms that surround being a Filipino male, I can only wonder if we’re just looking at the big picture the wrong way or if we’re just looking at the wrong picture in the first place. I’m not exactly comfortable sharing personal details about myself but after Zaxx’s statements about the squatter mentality, I think it’s time we reconsider our place in society.
I was born with my genitals outside rather than inside, can grow facial hair (though I prefer not to as my skin gets irritated easily) and possess a Y chromosome. Does that automatically classify me as a “man”? Well, I suppose so. Now I do get mistaken for a girl sometimes because my voice is a bit too high-pitched but, well, I guess you can’t win ’em all. However, being undeniably male, I cannot help but notice how the rest of my family looks at me and measures me up. Be that as it may, I never really cared that much about what other people have thought of me but I often wonder just what it is they’re looking for.
In my life, the only clear role models I’ve had when it comes to the idea of manhood are my father and my grandfather, two very different men with two very different worldviews…
My father grew up in the province of Ilocos. One of only two sons in a family of eight, he was unable to finish school as he found it more enjoyable to climb trees and what not. While he did enjoy woodcrafting and excelled at it, he was always a happy-go-lucky guy who believed that things will work themselves out even when he never does anything about them and prefers to just drink himself silly when he has earned enough money to buy booze.
My grandfather, as I’ve already mentioned before, is not my real grandfather. However, he has always been a stronger father figure to me than my father ever was. Hailing from the Deep South of the United States, my grandfather is a self-professed “Redneck” and a proud one at that. He joined the Navy somewhere in the 1940’s and is old enough to have seen the taking of Iwo Jima from Imperial Japan. He is a well-traveled gentleman and an avid collector of books which he was more than willing to share with me.
Again, I will take the time to mention that I’m not saying my grandfather is superior to my father because he’s American or because he is more well-to-do, I’m saying he is superior because of his worldview and general approach to life…
Allow me to expound:
My father is big on pride. The wrong kind. He acts with a kind of self-entitlement that only a typical squatter would have. He has a certain amount of disdain for “procedures” and all too often relies on my mother or his sisters to take care of them. He also seems to think that garish material belongings like gadgets, shoes and cars are something to be proud of and bugs me constantly about them and asking why I don’t own such things even though I myself am quite well-to-do.
My grandfather is also big on pride. However, his idea of pride is more or less having a sense of duty. The man was big on responsibility and he made sure that I understood that he didn’t approve of making irresponsible decisions. He always pushed me to make something of myself even in the moments that I had lost all hope in things because, as he once told me: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”
My father seems to think that having a lot of kids was a sign of being a good “family man”. In fact, just a few months back, he bugged me constantly about giving him grandchildren and whatnot. Like your typical romance-addled Pinoy, he went on and on about how incomplete my life was because I didn’t have a woman or a family in my life.
My grandfather always wanted me to be happy. He told me that when or if I wanted a family of my own, I would have to think about their happiness as well. Indeed, now that I have gotten far into young adulthood, I tend to hope that if I have children of my own, I’d like to give them a happy childhood like the one my grandfather gave me. My grandfather also taught me that unless I could find happiness in myself, then I would not have nothing to share with the woman in my life, if ever she existed.
My father has never owned up to any of his wrongdoings. He blames his alcoholism on the fact that he was raised poor even though he had fellows who were equally poor but grew up to be productive citizens and exemplary parents. He also seems to think that his son doesn’t like to spend time with him because he was brainwashed by his grandparents and not because he did horrible things to him.
My grandfather, on the other hand, tried his best to embed a sense of responsibility on me. He taught me that even when I am a victim, I should at least consider the reasons why I became a victim in the first place. He also often compelled me to apologize to teachers and other school authorities when it was clear that I was the one at fault and not them.
My father is now pushing 50 and is suffering from various health issues because of his alcoholism. He also desperately tries to attract my pity but it’s quite clear that a lot of the things that have happened to him over the years are the result of his own doing. Worst yet, he is still largely unrepentant over his more heinous acts and blames his circumstances and other people for it.
As for my grandfather, he’s heading up to 90+ now. A very old man, he has now become senile and bedridden although still capable of recognizing me and the people in his household. While he may not be the strong old man I remember from my childhood, I still love him for everything he’s ever done for me and my family.
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