BANSOT IS a rather severe term. it means unflatteringly short, positively runt-like especially next to lanky and statuesque companions. I’m not too vain to deny that it’s been used on me a few times in life; in school I’ve never stood taller than 3rd or 4th in line (when everyone’s arranged in ascending order) ; in adult life I’ve never been surprised to be among the shortest in the many workgangs i’ve been privileged to join; and by nature any male above 5’7 (1.68 m) and female above 5’4 (1.65 m) I consider model-sized.
Still it’s not too brutal, sometimes it’s almost endearing. A cute Visayan classmate in university called me potot, I didn’t mind cuz of the speaker’s eye-candy charms but the nickname was in reality even more unflattering than bansot (short AND pudgy). Contributing to the mitigation is the fact that hundreds of thousands of my kabayan share my below-average height, in fact it’s the supra 67-inchers that stand out back home in the Philippines, and no one would bat an eyelash at anyone below, because it’s the norm.
It’s a totally different story though half a hemisphere away in Isla Puting Balat. Here, the average height allows you to play interbarangay basketball with the bigs, and the guys on the high-end of the range are positively stratospheric, so that seeing people 6’5 (1.95 m) and above on Queen street is not rare. And so I find myself among the smallest members at the workplace, not that it’s a bad thing at all. I’m used to looking above eye level all my life.
Quite the converse of sour-graping: in my quiet little cave, small is good. For one thing, in a temperate, four-season clime like Wellington’s, being relatively short allows me to keep warm more easily than it would a considerably taller person. Think about it.
Shorter means less flesh for warmth-giving blood to circulate in, shorter bones and ligaments to percolate, and lower volumes of body fluids to heat up on a cold, windy and rainy day. Just curl up, snuggle up to the nearest willing snugglee and avoid the consequences of using rusty heaters, hungry fireplaces and extravagant electric blankets. As they say, kapag maigsi ang kumot, matutong bumaluktot. Never truer than with compact Asian bantams like me.
And as long as we’re on the subject of Asians, Mahal just loves it when a new store she visits provides a section for either teens, Asians, or even better, both. The obvious reason is for as long as we can remember, the fit is more snug, the symmetry is accommodated and the look is ultimately better if Asian dimensions are thoughtfully considered in any article of clothing, be it a trouser, skirt, blouse or especially outerwear like blazers, coats and jackets. More than a few times esposa hermosa found something she liked but couldn’t fit into perfectly, went to the teens section and found a similar item in her size.
Other times, the more established chains “downsize” their popular brands and made available to Orientals like Mahal and Pinays like her, trendy designs that she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to wear unless they came from Asian-based labels. For me, I’ve never been conscious about the difference between getting garments off the adult or the boys rack, as far as I’m concerned, as long as the shoe fits, wear it all day.
Lastly, being the runt of the litter may not be the most attractive role, but on the odd day it has advantages. You fit into spaces no one else can fit into, your smaller hands and fingers can reach into tinier nooks, corners and crevices, and you can even be allowed to perform one-man jobs (observing all the safety procedures, of course) where two men can’t fit into the space. Your time and energy acquires a premium that only a privileged minority at work can provide. The bite-sized, fun-sized minority.
I don’t remember the exact words, but one of my favorite authors once said, the only time I have the right to look down on my fellow man is to do so when helping him up. I may not have the height to look down on people, but I can always aim for the stars.
Thanks for reading !