chismis, pakisama & bayanihan : what pinoy migrants will & will not do for each other

Mayon Volcano, one of the most gorgeous sights in the Philippines. Thanks and acknowledgment to!

IT’S PAINFULLY obvious on both sides of the screen, but sometimes I need to restate it : blogging is above all a subjective exercise, what’s delicious and irresistible to Blogger X is blah and repellent to Blogger Y, though with less intense modifiers probably.

I remind the Precious Reader of this fact of blogging life, as I enumerate a composite of what Pinoys far from home might or might not do for and to their townmates, neighbors and countrymen who happen to share the same pigment, accent or condiment, namely kayumanggi, Taglish and patis :

Pinoys will give you the clothes off their back, share with your their breakfast, lunch and dinner, and tuck you in the most comfy bed in their house, and will happily do you any favor, a kabayan stranger, as long as it does not involve money.

Let me explain.  This surplus of altruism and thoughtfulness goes back to the days of bayanihan (neighborliness) when the barrio was one big family, everybody was kinsman to his neighbor and   if ever you needed anything from a kabayan (literally, “townmate”) all you needed to do was ask, witness the classic Filipiniana tableau of transporting a nipa hut by neighbors, a practice that is less common today but still persists in remote places.

These days, newcomers to Auckland who have yet to find permanent lodgings need only to request kabayan assistance on the various Pinoy yahoogroups  and FB groups and shortly offers will come to lend shelter to these newbie families.  Most of these offers will come without any need for recompense, I have seen these firsthand and have been the beneficiary of this fond vestige of bayanihan.

However, like many in countries in the Third World, we have been so inured to fraud and deception that though our hearts and homes are sensitive to cries for help, we become wary and mistrustful of stories and requests for monetary assistance from strangers, even (and maybe especially) if the source is from kabayan themselves.

To sum it up : there is a boundless wellspring of generosity that emanates from every Pinoy migrant home, but think twice when asking help in the form of money.  Otherwise you will be surprised how spontaneously kind-hearted we are to our own kind.

A popular bayanihan painting, townmates helping move house (obviously) 🙂

Pinoys will, at least on surface, never judge you, pigeonhole you or stereotype you.  But that won’t stop them from asking you about your most personal stuff, nothing sacred and nothing off limits.

Examples of cringe-worthy (but well-meaning) Pinoy questions : Anung trabaho mo sa Pilipinas (OK, this isn’t too bad; what did you do back home, but…); Katoliko ka ba?  (Are you Catholic?) Kasal ba kayo?  (Are you and your significant other married?) Sa asawa / kasama mo ba lahat ng mga anak mo?  (Are all your kids fathered/mothered by your current spouse/partner?)  And so on and so forth, usually asked with a straight face, as if the answers would change anything.  You find it hard not to be accommodating with your answers because not only is kabayan helpful, he or she volunteers all counterpart info to you, whether or not you want to know such info.  Believe it or not, it is not at all unusual to hear Pinoys you meet for the first time ask questions of these nature as casually as they do about the weather or the latest showbiz sensation back home.

Pinoys will instantly make you part of their basketball team, church choir, bingo/tong-its/mahjongg circles but it will be a long while before you will be considered part of the inner circle.

The contradiction to catch here is that while Pinoys are sociable, intimate creatures, you will be warmly welcomed only to a certain extent, somewhere halfway down the hall.  We are extremely parochial, somewhat tribal, and there are some limits that will never be breached.  These limits are set by blood, affinity, deep friendship, and geographical connections that have been existing for generations.  For the most part though, you will not realize this exclusivity until you have been with Pinoys for some time, the stranger / newcomer is given a feeling of belonging, but more often than not you are on the outside looking in.

There.  Those are my subjective, empirical observations on how Pinoys are and aren’t, ready for you to agree/disagree with.  As the bad guy in MIB 3 sez, let’s agree to disagree.  But chances are, if you are Pinoy, or know one well, or have lived with one for some time, you are familiar with some of what I’ve said above.