bakit nga ba balat-sibuyas tayong mga Pinoy?*


[ Thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to!]

MAY KASAMA ako sa trabaho.  Sabi ni Mahal (nakita na nya nung sinundo ako minsan) may hitsura naman sya, matangkad at matipuno.  Nasa kanya na sana lahat, problema lang ay (1) matapang ang putok nya, at madalas nyang nalilimutan mag-deodorant; (2) minsan lang sya mag medyas kahit nakasuot kami lagi ng balat na work boots (summer pa man din), at (3) tinatamad syang magsipilyo araw-araw.  So sa madali’t sabi, kahit anong kapogihan nya, nababawale-wala sa kalamugan nya.

For obvious reasons that paragraph up there had to be in the mother tongue, but it’s just for me to tell you what happened next: he was told, once by our supervisor, and another time by me, probably his only friend on the work site. We didn’t exactly get the result we wanted, but substantial change isn’t made overnight. And the first step/s has been taken.

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The Filipino in me would not have survived a talking-to like that, because I am so balatsibuyas (onion-skinned).  Being told you have not only one but three repulsive hygiene habits would be enough for me to shrink into an emotional cocoon for an indefinite period.  Other races and communities may react differently, but I’m confident enough to say that Pinoys (Filipinos) have such a fragile (yet confident) self-image of themselves that a personal attack would have lasting effect. Which leads me to the following strong reasons why we are so sensitive:

Pinoys are eager to please, so when they’re not appreciated, they just don’t get it.  From Day One at my job here in Wellington, I’ve tried to be friends with everyone, avoid conflicts whenever I can, and be pleasing in my demeanor and personality.  Through the eight-plus years, I’ve learned that this doesn’t always work.  There will always be people who wonder, what’s up with this guy, trying to be nice to everybody???  Sometimes it has the opposite effect, and generates awkwardness or even conflict when your too-eager-to-please effort creates misunderstanding.

Minsan iisipin ng tao sipsip ka sa boss, kahit wala ka namang balak sumipsip, o maiinis naman ang mga katrabaho mo kapag masyado kang masipag, dahil maraming tinatamad.  You can’t please everyone.

So this is the way the average Pinoy processes the situation: ang bait-bait ko na nga, pinapansin ko lahat, ngiti to the max, tapos ngangaragin pa ako? (Despite my niceness, efforts to say hi to everyone, smiles all around, I still get vexing comments?) And the expected counter-behavior follows.

Pinoys are very careful in their words, so even the slightest sharpness in language affects them negatively.  In our ideal world, we do our best to say only positive things both at work and socially,  not only because it’s in our nature, but because we don’t want bad vibes to rebound to us.

As in the first situation above, reality is quite different. There will always be negative people, people who use profanity and colorful language regularly, and people who won’t think twice about putting you down, for whatever reason.

The trick is, to use a double standard; one for people you know share your values and manners; and another for people you meet everyday at work or in public, where anything goes.  It’s a bit cynical, but if you get used to it, you don’t get as bothered.

And lastly…

Every little gesture or thing counts for Pinoys, so there is greater probability of getting hurt or offended by the littlest things.

Ang Pinoy kasi, di lang nabati, nasisira na ang araw. Minsan nginitian mo na, kulang pa.  Kailangan daw, bungisngis.  Kung ano’ng kinasanayan ng kabatian mo, whether it be a big grin, a high five or unmanly giggle, if you don’t do the same every day, it becomes an issue.

Some Kiwis I work with say as little as “uhms” or grunts the first time you see them in the morning, with the barest of nods. Unless there’s something to be happy about or celebrate, people don’t just jump out of their skin to greet each other where I work, or maybe it’s just me.  Because I go out of my way to punctuate a morning with the warmest “good morning bro/sis!” kahit alam ko minsan mapapahiya ako.

Not so much with other Pinoys.  Minsan lang sila mapahiya, masama na ang luob.  You’ll never get the same greeting from them again, just because you failed to greet them with the same intensity they greeted you.  Am I making sense?

I used to be the same way kasi. The smallest gesture missed, the simplest hello unsaid, always set me off and made me do a double-take.  Was it intentional? Did I do anything to displease that person previously or the day before? And so on and so forth.

Now, I know better, belatedly of course. You can’t please everybody.  You can’t let others dictate the way you feel. More importantly, what we perceive in other people’s outward gestures can never be 100% correct. In fact, we are often wrong. So that, being balat-sibuyas because of one or two gestures is simply folly.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

*or, why are Filipinos so onion-skinned (sensitive)?

it shouldn’t be too hard distinguishing between partisanship and just doing your job

Amba crowd

Our current Ambassador Jesus “Gary” Domingo, far from being partisan, is just doing his job, which is besides representing the Philippines in New Zealand, serving his one and only constituency in New Zealand, the Filipino community.

There, I’ve said it.  If you don’t want to read any further kabayan, that is the tight, concise summary of what I’m saying here.  It’s enough.  But if you need me to expound, please read on.

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Like most of us kabayan early last year, including nurses, teachers, IT professionals, scaffolders, dairy workers, accountants, admin officers,  to me “Jesus Gary Domingo” was just a name on the list of ambassadors-in-waiting at the Commission on Appointments published in our national broadsheets back home.

Two things intervened: I would soon visit the Philippines, and the ambassador and I had a mutual friend from a few years back, something I discovered on Facebook (of course).  One inquiry led to another and before I knew it, Amba Gary (as he is more well known now) and I were having breakfast at Pancake House in Greenbelt Makati the same Sunday I ran a half-marathon.  (That was a BUSY morning.)

That breakfast turned into brunch and turned into an early afternoon merienda.  We didn’t stop talking about Star Wars, our alma mater, common friends, his stints abroad (through which I vicariously lived his diplomat adventures) and a myriad other topics. Time simply flew.

One of the few things I remembered about him, in that solitary conversation, was that, representing his country in the various countries (and international organizations) he was assigned to was a given.  It was part of the job.

The unwritten part of your job, he said, was being the unofficial “elder” or respected person in the Filipino community.  That was nowhere in the statutes or codes of the foreign service, but it was implicit in the nature of the job.

In a very real sense, Amba Gary told me, politics is an essential part of the job of ambassador.  But at the same time, the ambassador is above politics.

He is there for everybody.

In this regard, I believe with my heart that if anybody (political party or not) asked Amba Gary to endorse or support their candidacy or cause, basta Pinoy, Amba Gary would not think twice.  He would do it.

He never does things half way.  Statements, pictures, the full support of the Embassy, logistical support within reason, anything.  Basta Pinoy.

In this sense, therefore, let me correct what my title above might convey.  Amba Gary is indeed partisan, but only partisan for the cause of the Pinoy community.

I have not read any statement made by or on behalf of the Ambassador.  I don’t need to read it, actually because everything here is based on my opinion and mine alone.

Neither have I consulted anyone in the Embassy, least of all Amba Gary, before posting this.  It would at the very least be awkward, and Amba Gary would simply recoil from saying anything in defense of what he believes is doing his job.

I’m taking too much of your time now kabayan.  Please let me just say one more thing.  Amba Gary is probably one of the best the foreign service has now.  We have been lucky enough to have him.  If he has any fault, it’s being naive enough to dismiss the possibility that anyone would think he has less than the purest motives.

Well, nobody’s perfect.

Thanks for reading and mabuhay tayong lahat!