Monday, January 29, 2007

The Colonization of the Pinoy Mind

I just hate it when some of my fellow Pinoys and Pinays behave more native than the natives of the country they emigrated to. They tend to act more European than the Europeans or more American than the Americans as if people can't see the actual color of their skin or the features of their face. DUH!
A lot, pretending to have forgotten their native tongue, refuse to use Filipino as their language and propagate the same snobbery in their children. If ever these same people visit the Philippines, they look down on their countrymen/women and usually see themselves as no longer Filipinos and more like the natives of the countries they have chosen to settle in.
Now don't get me wrong, some Filipinos abroad are still okay and they extend the same Pinoy hospitality when you meet them on foreign soil. These are the ones who long to be in the Philippines again and who still relish the idea of garlic rice and dried fish. At home, they also tend to eat Filipino food like sinigang, kare-kare, adobo, and kaldereta. Their kids are trained to speak in Filipino or at least, understand Filipino.
However, I would like to focus on those who tend to feel and think that they are better than most Filipinos just because they have assimilated the culture so well in their new homeland and have a better life over there. When they return to the Philippines as "balikbayans", they tend to act so superior to the natives and keep putting down the backwardness of the Philippines as compared to their adopted country. I hear haughty remarks like "Stupid Filipinos," or "Have you seen this before?" or "In the US/Europe/Canada/Australia/New Zealand, things are done this way or that way."
Okay, okay, I get it. Things are a lot better and done better in those First World countries. But for crying out loud, the Philippines is still a Third World nation so it is so unfair to make such comparisons. Plus, they have decided to abandon their native country for greener pastures already, why do they need to rub it in when they come "home" for a visit? Well, I guess it has something to do with the fact that a lot of Filipinos do envy them and wish they were in the same blissful boat.
But please, give us a break. We, Filipinos, who have chosen to stay or who have unwillingly stayed, have other problems to deal with and don't need any more putdowns. We get the picture, you immigrants are wealthier than most of us in the Philippines even though some of you, not all, are mail-order brides or domestic helpers or TNT's.
I have been abroad a few times before so I have seen for myself how some Filipino immigrants behave out there. Again, not all of them are snooty. I do understand that Filipinos born abroad have no choice but to imbibe the culture of their respective countries. It is but natural and this I can accept without any grudge. What irks me is the Philippine-born migrant who tries his/her best to have nothing to do with his/her country of origin as much as possible (even though, s/he comes to the Philippines for a visit every now and then).
In Amsterdam, for example, there was one Pinay who talked to us briefly when we asked her for directions. My friend and I assumed correctly that she was a Filipina by her looks and actuations (you usually know a fellow countryman/woman by instinct, I guess) so we approached her. After giving us what we wanted, she turned her face to her left so fast to hint that she didn't want to be bothered anymore, even though her body language showed she was in no hurry. Good thing she did not deny her nationality or else my friend and I would have looked like two stupid Filipinos talking to a stranger in their mother tongue.
In the US, one of my aunts had admitted that my cousins ,who were born in the Philippines and who used to speak Tagalog before, had refused to use their native tongue after migrating. It saddened me to see that my aunt did not view this action as a loss but more of a gain. I have nothing against the English language per se but I just hate it when Pinoys who know how to use both Filipino and English make English the superior language to Filipino as if the latter is just for the maids or the uneducated or the backward. Incidentally, this same aunt was guilty of referring to her "kababayans" as "stupid Filipinos" as if she is not one herself. The only reason she became a US citizen is through migration (plus passing the test and taking the oath of allegiance). They can't give me the reason that they had no choice but to use English since it is the language in the US. How come the kids of a Filipino couple I know can speak English and Filipino fluently even though they are in the US? It is just a matter of choice and personal belief.
I also noticed how my Philippine-born relatives behaved in the US. They were more condescending to me than the Americans themselves. They thought I had no idea about American culture. Goodness, with all the Hollywood films and American literature I have seen and read, not to mention that the Philippines was the only colony of the US, I do know a bit, thank you very much. And when I remarked at some new experiences in the US, I was usually greeted with patronizing looks and replies like "Oh, is this the first time you have seen/tasted/smelt/experienced this?" or "Don't you have this in the Philippines?". Come on! They were born and grew up in the Philippines. Some of them subscribe to the Filipino Channel and most of them have visited before. I wouldn't have felt bad if the replies had been innocent but I just couldn't stomach the patronizing air.
I hear stories like this from some of my friends. Some of their relatives act the same way as if they were the natives of the foreign country they migrated to. It can be worse in Europe, I was told. Since Filipinos know English already, acquiring a new one like German or French is no small feat; hence, some Filipinos who have migrated to Europe and have assimilated well tend to be more snooty than their American counterpart. They have the air of "I have made it here and it is not an easy task." Since there is this prevalent thinking that Europeans are refined and cultured, these Filipinos believe that this notion has rubbed off on them as well. So they are now classy and act accordingly. They now couldn't understand why Filipinos, as a rule, are not into fine dining or quiet evenings or nature tripping.
Filipino migrants are not the only ones who belittle the Philippines and her inhabitants (never mind what First World nations think of us). Filipino expats do the same. After being abroad for a few years, some of these expats want to follow the traditions and habits of the country they've seen and lived in. It would have been all right had it not been at the expense of the Filipino culture, as if the Filipino way of life is barbaric. I have nothing against getting the best from other cultures as long as we don't put down ours.
Sadly, it all boils down to how Filipinos think. Even the natives of the Philippines view Filipino culture as inferior to others. It is no small wonder, foreigners, especially caucasians, are treated well in our country. We generally think highly of them and can't even envision having a caucasian serving us hand and foot, right? English is considered as the language used by the rich and the educated. Filipino is seen as the language of the masses. Such views propagate the idea that the Philippines as a nation is nothing without "western" influences. Filipinos become somebody only when they are not much a Filipino in language, actions and thinking. Isn't it a shame that despite our independence, the Pinoy mind has been colonized so well? I am not surprised we don't get proper treatment abroad. As long as we are not proud of ourselves as Filipinos and live in dignity, we will always be living in the shadows of our colonial masters.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My Fashion Identity

I do not go for trends when it comes to fashion. I usually stick to classic clothes, neutral colors, and natural clothing material. Therefore, most of my clothes are considered safe and can blend with whatever is the trend at the moment (though the fashionable tend to see me as tacky). They are also predominantly made of cotton since I live in the tropics and sweat a lot.
When I find time to buy clothes, something that is quite rare for my personality (I simply detest shopping), my first concern is the fabric. I always ask the saleslady, "Is it made of cotton?" or check the label if it indicates the fabric. If it is not made of cotton, then I move on just for the simple fact that my body needs to breathe in a tropical country. The Philippine climate of 32-36 degrees centrigade all throughout the year is enough to make me sweat just by standing up without making a move. Imagine wearing polyester all the time in that climate. I am so suprised that some Filipinos can stand wearing clothes that are not made of cotton. But then again, they do not perspire the way I do.
One would think that cotton clothes for women are easily found in the Philippines, but this is not the case. A lot of clothes nowadays are tagged as "wash and wear." This means no ironing is involved so cotton is not the main clothing material used by the manufacturer. I was also told by dressmakers that cotton is more expensive so manufacturers try to find cheaper material for their clothes. In addition, most businesswomen tend to prefer clothes that are not easily crumpled. Well, I'd rather look untidy than uncomfortable and sweaty.
After finding the suitable clothing material, I then look at the style. I ask myself, "Will this style last more than one season or is it just the trend at the moment?" If it looks like the clothes will go out of style after a season, then I won't even try it on. I am not rich enough to change wardrobes every other trend. Plus, changing clothes gives a "shopphobic" like me a terrible headache.
After figuring out that what I have found is a classic, I will go into the details of what is suitable for my body type and personality. Since I have bigger boobs than most Filipinas and am chubby, I lean towards a V-neckline or any neckline that shows more of my chest without revealing too much cleavage (I am a bit conservative as a rule). I prefer short sleeves over long ones, again because of the overwhelming heat in the Philippines. I still go for high-waisted pants and skirts even if low-waisted ones can make me look less chubby and more fashionable. I guess, I just dislike tugging at low-waisted pants to keep them up or the feeling that they might slide down my legs if I forget to wear a belt (I abhor belts, by the way). I used to wear tapered pants, a product of my 80's teenage past, but after watching that BBC show of Trinny and Susannah "What not to Wear," I veered away from them and now try to find either flared or bootleg pants to complement my chunky torso. If neither style can be found, I have to settle for straight-legged pants.
Lastly, I will ask for the available colors for that piece of clothing I have chosen for myself. My usual colors are what I call the autumn colors like tan, brick red, olive green, beige, cream, periwinkle, muted orange, or sun yellow. These colors brighten me up because my complexion is a bit yellowish and bronzy, depending on the skin area.
I would be lucky indeed if I can find these autumn colors. Sadly, sometimes the colors for each season are determined by the fashion designers of this world. It seems that red is a favorite, judging by the number of times I see this color on clothes of any given season. Blue comes in second (hence, the reason why I have lot of red and blue items in my closet even though they are not my favorite colors). My problem is I cannot seem to accept certain colors that are available for a given season as part of my wardrobe. I avoid pastel colors, especially pink and lilac. I hate gray. I like white (a non-color) but it doesn't suit my complexion and makes me look fat so I usually skip it. I like black, as well, but with my flaky scalp, black has to stay from my waist down :) So, I am stuck with varying shades of red and blue if my autumn colors are off season. SIGH!
Can you see now why shopping for clothes can be such a nightmare for me? Shopping for a blouse can take hours because I have to consider the clothing material, style, and color before I can buy it. Sometimes, when I have finally found the item that fits all of my criteria, I couldn't find the correct size. Remember I have bigger boobs than most Filipinas so even if it fits my waist, the chest part looks too tight for comfort.
My friends do not have much of a problem. In the first place, they couldn't care less if the fabric is cotton or not as long as it is stylish and in vogue. They don't sweat like a pig anyway. They prefer pastels that are commonly used for women's clothes. They look good in white because they belong to the "winter complexion" like most Filipinas unlike me, an autumn-complexioned Pinay. They don't have big boobs and they are not so chubby so it is easier for them to find clothes in their size.
Yes, I am picky despite being unfashionable, but hey, that is me. My clothes, in a way, speak volumes of who I really am. They show that I am sensible, conservative, down to earth, and practical. I am what I wear and I think I can apply this principle to almost anyone. Given that everyone has the money and choice of what to wear, their clothes will reveal who they really are. In other words, my fashion identity is basically my identity....well, sort of.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Consequences of Being a Woman

Yes, I am a woman, unfortunately. This means I have double the struggle in this male-dominated world. Though I have come to terms with my gender, there are many moments when I still prefer to be born a man. Don't get me wrong. It is not that I look down on women, it is just that I know how women fare in this world.
Physiologically, women are at a disadvantage and not just because we are physically weaker(due to less muscle mass). We seem to be naturally exposed to physical pain as we go through the life cycle of a woman. Budding breasts are not as painless as they look. Menstruation, which comes on a monthly basis by the way, has made a lot of us women miserable and made us feel uncomfortable and messy. Then comes the overrated first sexual experience which is more painful than pleasurable, especially if the man is a brute. And how about the nine months of pregnancy that makes us look fat and feel heavy? The pain of looking ugly can be as severe as the pain from the kicks of the baby. However, pregnancy is almost nothing compared to the agony of childbirth. The onset of menopause finally puts a cap on the entire female experience. For most Asian women, menopause is a much-awaited event since it means no more monthly period, no more sanitary napkins or tampons, no more dysmennorhea, and no more unwanted pregnancies. So, as anyone can see, just being a woman is enough to give you a headache.
Of course, it is not only from the physiological point of view that we women are at a disadvantage. Society has put a lot on pressure on us to be beautiful. Imagine this. Before we can leave our homes, we need to put on make-up, brassieres, stockings, well-coordinated clothes and accessories to be considered acceptable. Our hair should be in place, with the use of either a spraynet or hair accessories. We have to smell nice and look good all the time. Isn't the physiological aspect of being a woman burdensome enough?
As women, we are also victims of sex maniacs. The possibility of rape is a reality we need to accept as something that comes with the territory. Even if we don't get raped like some women, we get violated in other ways. We are usually the butt of sex jokes. Riding public transportation will occasionally give us the experience of a deliberate boob or butt graze in one of these rides. It is not unusual to receive sexual stares on our bosoms and rears. By the way, dressing conservatively doesn't necessarily mean we can escape inappropriate sexual behavior from men. Though men relish being the object of sexual desire and some women may actually like this form of attention from strangers, most of us women find it disgusting.
Aside from trying to stay beautiful and becoming sex objects in this world, we are burdened by yet another expectation. Even in this enlightened era, society expects us to have the lion's share of household chores, whether we are married or single. Whether we have a job or just stay at home, we need to do well as an all-around maid or else we are viewed as good-for-nothing individuals.
We are not only expected to perform well as a maid at home. We are also expected to perform well at work in this m0dern age. So one can just imagine how stressful life is for a working woman, especially the working mom. Ironically, performing well at work doesn't usually translate to earning more or getting promoted. Women, more often than not, do not have high-income occupations so performing well as a teacher, for example, will just make a woman a better teacher but not a better earner. On the other hand, most women who do have high-paying jobs are not paid as highly as their male counterparts.
I guess, people should not think ill of me if I prefer to be born a man instead of a woman. In my opinion, men are a lot better off in this world. They don't have big breasts that are hampered by bras. They don't have monthly bleeding that makes tampons and sanitary napkins a fixture in a woman's life. They don't need to put on make-up to look great. They don't have to worry about getting pregnant and seldom feel pain during sex. The only pain I know they experience is during circumcision, which may or may not happen depending on the culture. They don't do most of the household chores when women are around. If they become sex objects, they revel in it. And, they generally do the raping (gay or straight).
Oftentimes, I envy men for being so lucky. I wish they could share the normal female experience to make things even. But hey, why would they want to share a hellish experience anyway? The biological clock is not ticking for them and they have so much fun acting like rogues.
Well, I'm off to the store to buy a new set of sanitary napkins to complement my bloody week!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Women's Rights and Chivalry

As a woman, I thank God that I don't live in the Dark Ages when chastity belts were in vogue. I am grateful to those women who fought for women's rights so now I have the right to vote, the right to higher education, the right to be in the profession I prefer, etc., etc., etc..
However, with the onslaught of feminism/women's rights, chivalrous acts from the male species have declined. I can't say I blame men for being less of a gentleman. They are also confused about how to behave towards women, especially women from developed countries.
Though I enjoy the rights of women today and agree with some of these rights but not all of them(I am anti-abortion), I do miss some male assistance every now and then. I see less and less men offering their seats to women in buses today. The same goes with opening the door for women or helping women carry heavy items. Once, when my brother offered his seat to a pregnant woman inside a bus, someone yelled in derision,"Whoooo, boy scout!" as if it were such a bad thing to do. However, this same brother of mine often questions my plea for some male assistance when carrying heavy items and will usually rub in the women's rights issue--that men and women are equal(so carry your own damned things!).
I think the problem is how men and women interpret women's rights. For the hardcore feminists, the issue of women's rights means not only enjoying the rights and privileges given to men alone, but sometimes behaving like men. For example, if men can enjoy casual sex without being looked down upon by society, then women should also enjoy casual sex the same way. If men can be boxers, weightlifters and combat soldiers, so should women. If men can't be faithful to one partner, so should women. If men fix their own cars, do some carpentry and plumbing, carry heavy items, refuse doing household chores, so should women. The tendency of men, then, is to treat women like one of them. This usually means that women should not expect men to give them special treatment the way men used to do before the introduction of feminism.
It is no wonder that men are at a loss on how to behave towards women with this hardcore view on women's rights. Some men are rebuffed for trying to help women carry their things. Some women couldn't care less if men open doors for them or offer their seats to them. Some women do not appreciate men who refuse to argue with women. These chivalrous acts are seen as backwardness by some emancipated women.
Now why would I like to behave like men in areas where I think women should not dabble in? I believe women can do things men can do, but that does not necessarily mean, they should enter areas where women can be at a disadvantage. I also feel that women should not do things that are not second nature to them. You see, I maintain my personal belief that though all human beings are more often similar and should be treated with respect, men and women do have differences in their physical and psychological make-up.
I don't want women to be boxers. I don't think much of boxing as a sport anyway. Aside, from glorifying aggression, boxing is dangerous. Plus, it does not lend itself to women because women have bigger chests than men (and getting one's boobs hit is quite painful for women). Weightlifting creates unsightly bulges in women(even in men, for that matter). I like to see women with toned muscles but not to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Women doing combat is disturbing because I know that if they become prisoners of war, they can be raped and can get pregnant. Since women have monthly cycles, having menstruation during battle can be very uncomfortable. In addition, the aggression needed in war is not something I can accept as second nature to women. I just can't picture women in general as Rambo even if some can act like him.
My interpretation of women's rights is women being given the same rights and privileges accorded to men because they are human beings just like men. Women should be treated with respect and given dignity and not treated as second-class citizens. Women should matter in this male-dominated world. It does not imply following the loose sexual morality of men. It does not mean behaving and thinking like men. It does not mean denying the physiological attributes of women. It does not mean trivializing the traditional role of women(like what most men do).
Women give birth. Women are generally physically weaker than men and emotionally stronger than men as a rule. Women have bigger breasts and can produce breast milk. Women experience menstruation and menopause. Women can easily multi-task.
We should rejoice in being women and appreciate men who still want to act like boy scouts towards us. I don't see myself as the weaker sex when men give me special treatment for being a woman. I don't take offense when men are gentler towards me but brutal towards their fellow men. I do feel insulted when men look down on me for being a woman or when they see me as a sex object. It might look like I would like to have my cake and eat it too, but if this is so, I am not one to complain about it.
Yes, I really would like to enjoy the rights accorded to women today and still be given that special treatment by men for being a woman. What's wrong with that? I am tired of carrying all my heavy stuff without any assistance. I am tired of standing in a crowded bus or room. I am tired of figuring out the plumbing or taking out the trash. I am just plain tired!
So, to those chivalrous gentlemen out there, continue what you are doing, please. Though it is no longer the Dark Ages and women are not that chaste anymore, it wouldn't hurt to be extra nice to women. Some women are not that hardcore a feminist, especially here in the Philippines. Long live male chivalry in this world of partial gender equality!