[ Note : The video above has nothing to do with the post, just touched me in a very positive way. here’s hoping the pain and misery following the massive floods back home is minimized, and that a sea change on our pork barrel culture starts to happen. Yeah, right. Btw, “ganito kasi yon” is Tagalog loosely for this is the short explanation. Thanks for reading! ]
CALL US A lot of things, but don’t call us Pinoys (also known as Filipinos) anti-social. We smile and laugh easily, engage with other people like it’s second nature to us, are great listeners, and can easily wriggle out of a potentially embarrassing situation via diplomacy or tact.
But more than all these, Pinoys are good talkers. We love to show our facility in English to fellow English speakers (maybe sometimes too vigorously), love to show how we can discuss government and politics, even if we sometimes don’t have the slightest idea of what we’re talking about, and even use the smallest excuse to show off our familiarity with international showbiz, cable entertainment and even socially relevant issues where our region is concerned.
Trouble is, no matter how sociable we are, how cosmopolitan or how well we pass ourselves off as citizens of the world, there will always be aspects of our culture that will remain imprinted on our collective selves. Conversely, there will be aspects of other cultures that will grate on us, simply because, like the proverbial fingerprint, no two cultures are alike, although on surface we may seem similar. Whenever we confront face-to-face other cultures, there will be an inevitable clash, and it will be folly for us to compare these cultures with our own. At the same time, when these cultures try to compare ours to them, it takes every bit of our strength not to react negatively and instead tell them, live and let live.
Below are just a few examples of how these awkward situations surface whenever different cultures clash. They are not theoretical or abstract scenarios but actual vignettes of what happens when what we consider questionable (or sometimes disgusting) happens to be completely acceptable in other cultures. And vice versa.
Unwashed hair. Let’s talk about our hosts first. Because it’s a temperate climate here, dreadlocks and braids are acceptable hairstyles, especially among those who pursue the so-called alternative lifestyle. Frankly, it’s a look that fits a certain body type and personality; and if you can wear a mop on your head and pull it off, well kudos to you.
Unfortunately, it’s a style that precludes daily washing of your hair, and such lack of washing is aggravated by the volume of hair and the resulting need for grooming. It becomes worse when the temperatures rise and the owner of the hair adds sweat to the natural oils trapped in his dreadlocks. I think you begin to see (and smell) the picture.
Now, about us Pinoys. Washing our brown bodies is a daily essential, and our hair is no exception. We like to smell good not just for ourselves but especially for those around us. We think nothing of anointing ourselves with lotions, colognes, perfumes and other fragrances twice or even thrice a day, especially our ladies. Does it follow that we should expect others to do the same?
Sorry kabayan but the short answer is no. I have a dreadlocked colleague who is otherwise a decent chap and pleasant enough, but even in the cold weather, his hair is beginning to reek. I thought that it was just me being an odor-sensitive Pinoy, but a tactless workmate hit it right on the nail : he mentioned that even with a hairnet and cap, it looked (smelled) like Dreadlock Guy hadn’t washed his hair for a week. And with winter ending soon, the warmer weather was going to make it worse. Now the million-dollar question is : who’s gonna be the one to tell Mr Alien Predator (of the famous braids) that the hair ain’t helping his social life??? 🙂
Corruption and lack of honesty in public service. As they say in all democratic countries, public service is a public trust, although in many developing countries like ours, this rule is usually honored in the breach. In those same free states also goes the saying Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There’s more : Graft exists in all societies, to the victors in public office belong the spoils, and if you want to avoid more trouble, think twice before reporting a crime to the police. We’ve all known these truths to be self-evident back home, so much that a political career untainted by corruption is probably beyond comprehension, it’s simply inconceivable to us. And yet, whenever a New Zealander asks me any detail about how pervasive corruption is in our political culture, I hasten to justify it, explain it away, or compare it to other countries where dishonesty is tolerated as much as it is condemned.
The truth is, we accept the evils of crony capitalism and the old-boy network as part of the necessary evils that make modern government work, as long as it doesn’t offend our sense of proportion or some vague moral boundary (a line which I think was crossed by that Pinay found to own 28 houses in the Philippines and several more in the USA). But the moment people in other countries try to pass judgment or tsk-tsk the way our government runs things, the usual instinct is for Pinoys to circle the wagons and defend ours as the Confucian way of governance (which usually means look the other way or your time will come, mwahahahaha).
digital stealing. We like to do the right thing, watch movies as they actually come out in the moviehouses, borrow DVDs from the corner rental, and wait for the clearance sales on movies we missed. But the temptation to go to the dark side is too strong sometimes, when people give you the latest, unreleased films on their flash drives, when they talk about the newest pictures even before the reviewers do, and when a lot of people do it, you begin to wonder if it’s worth being one of the good guys.
It’s even worse back home, where frankly speaking everything can be downloaded without paying for it if you know your way around the internet, intellectual property is a joke, and paying for licensed software is something only big companies do.
Don’t think that Kiwis don’t know that Third World countries do this with impunity, because they automatically assume that Asians use software, listen to music and watch movies without always paying for it, and that’s putting it mildly.
To them I fashion, as usual, a defensive response. The day will come when everything on the internet will be shareware, free-to-use and for everyone to download as they please. Besides, I like to delude myself into thinking that the world is divided into two : those who pay for stuff and those who can’t afford to pay for it, but ultimately still end up using it, I mean who doesn’t depend on gigabyte power these days?
What I mean is, those who pay for movies, music and software, unless they opt for a lifestyle change, won’t consider downloading it illegally, while those on the other side of the fence have much more important issues of survival and won’t have the money or inclination to buy the digital stuff.
Yes, we Asians download stuff like it’s the most natural thing, without even considering paying for it. We watch the latest movies and listen to the latest hits, and only pause to buy the movies or music as an afterthought, And software we buy, if we buy it at all, is of the bootleg variety. But we also have mortgages to maintain, rents to pay, groceries to shop, tuition payments to meet, and yes, bills to pay. These, out of a puny paycheck that’s running on fumes. Is it still a surprise then that I can hardly think of respecting intellectual property?
If it sounds like I’m justifying stealing things I should be paying for, I’m not. But as sure as the sun rises at dawn and sets 12 hours later, movies, music and software will always be stolen (or copied, as simple as that) outside the so-called Western world. It’s just a fact of life.
Now, how do I tell all these to my Kiwi hosts and keep my straight face on?
- Pinoy Henyo collection (tellygunge.wordpress.com)
- Pinoy’s funny way of weathering a storm (rojan88.wordpress.com)
- Funny Pinoy Signs (englishclubjshs.wordpress.com)
- The ultimate pinoy gadget (pinoytabo.wordpress.com)
- More Pinoys still believe corruption a big problem (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Atlanta woman has 55-foot long dreadlocks (rollingout.com)