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Being Filipino
by Gilda Cordero-Fernando (editor)
Date: 2/19/2010


Few will disagree that the last three decades have witnessed far-reaching changes in the Philippines. From being an agrarian economy, the country has become a manufacturer of light consumer goods: textiles, garments, chemicals, plywood, cars, electrical appliances. Manila, the hub of this industrialization, has been transformed from a small, sleepy town “where everybody knew each other” into a huge, sprawling metropolis where the ties of neighborhood and kin have loosened considerably, allowing therefore experiments with new lifestyles. Under the impact of land reform, more education and the Miracle Rice program, all of which induce new attitudes, even the countryside is changing. Besides vast numbers of rural folk are migrating not only to the local cities but even abroad to the U.S., to Europe or to the Near East. Distances between different points in the archipelago and the outside world have shrunk because of the radio, the television, the movies and air travel. Thus the current fad in New York or the latest rage in Manila reaches the far-flung towns and barrios within hours. What is commonly called the Youth Protest, the Feminist Movement and the New permissiveness in sex have become familiar to urbanites.

An important corollary, if not consequence, of these developments is that traditional, everyday role-playing in the Philippines has become less obvious and more open to question. Once a Filipina gets married, should she build her whole life around her family, as her elders took for granted? Or may she also seek success in an outside career? As for her spouse, the question is in reverse: how much time should he spend at home with his family during his free time? How much affection and care may he show them without appearing unmanly to his peers? His father and uncles answered the question in the minimum. Certain patterns of behavior, certain obligations and privileges that traditional roles have carried are no longer accepted that readily by all. Younger Filipinos, newcomers to the play, want the lines rewritten according to their lights. One author in this book sighs that it is so much harder to be a mother these days; but so is being a wife or a father or a husband or an adolescent. The individual can no longer be so certain as to what society expects from him when he takes up a role; or else he may not care at all for its opinion, preferring instead to define his own script. Either way conflicts inevitably break out.

At the same time characters have left the sidewing shadows for center stage: the gay and the lesbian have come out of the closet, no longer fearing ridicule; the mistress and the lover are quite open these days about their dalliances; and those whose marriages have broken up openly speak of their problems, caring little for public censure. All of these suggest a society in ferment and transition, with problems no doubt, but where new forms of behavior are possible.

These phenomena have called the attention of sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists—themselves also a strictly post-war phenomenon in the country. The changes have also served as the theme of journalists and fiction writers. But these insights and observations have been scattered in books here and magazines there. It has been a crying need to bring all these together in a single, handy book where the average reader can understand the various roles he either plays or may want to play.

Offered here are essays on 14 characters* who are surely familiar to most of us but are really misunderstood, depending on the viewpoint one takes. The writers are a motley group of behavioral scientists, humanists and journalists, all keen observers of the Philippine scene. Rather than render finished portraits with detailed analyses and delineations, they have sketched highlights and general contours. A more finished portrait of each personality would crowd out the rest by requiring a book to itself. Side by side with these essays are scraps of information that the editors have thrown in, as in a collage, to add dimension. For instance, together with Lapuz’s essay on the Filipino mother, a box gives the most common superstitions and sayings believed by mothers of an earlier time. By juxtaposing these 14 familiar characters, the book identifies areas where they contradict and quarrel with each other, as well as areas where they come together in harmony; it thus gives a much needed overview of the recent Philippine drama.

* The Mother, The Father, The Child, The Adolescent, The Wife, The Husband, The Lover and the Mistress, The Gay, The Lesbian, The Ex-Wife, The Ex-Husband, The Child of Separation, The Old Maid, The Widow and the Widower

Source: From the Introduction of the book

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