Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gaya-gaya Puto Maya

Orig yan! This is a common saying in the Philippines that refers to the authenticity of a product made in the United States especially clothes. This statement is usually followed by showing off the inside tag or label of that particular piece of clothing to prove that it is truly an original American brand and made in the United States. This focus on the importance of authenticity of an American product is a small evidence of the Filipinos’ continuing obsession with American made products. Lately, this obsession has come to the point that they have started to sacrifice their identity as Filipino people. In addition to their strong desire for material things and the presence of the remnants of the US legacy in their government, they are now imitating anything and everything American. Many especially those in the public arena – political and entertainment - are trying so hard to act like Americans and have even made permanent physical alterations to look more like Americans. This imitation of another culture has now become a perversion and in a way a rejection of their own culture. But what the Filipinos do not realize is simply imitating the Americans will not make them Americans. For that matter, no culture can become another just by mimicking the other. Ironically, the people and culture they are imitating are also from the country they love to hate. Looks like somebody is envious.

This shameless behavior of imitating Americans or anything American is prevalent in the Filipino culture. Lahat ginagaya. It is not difficult to notice it. It is so obvious. It is all over the mass media, from prints, to radio, to movies and television. It seems like that every American TV show, especially reality shows, has a counter show complete with counterpart cast members. Everything is imitated from the look down to the mannerism. It is beyond absurdity. It is vomit-inducing. And the participating ‘celebrity’ judges are definitely something else. The judges themselves, the so-called stars, are no different than most of the contestants they are judging. Most of them have no talent at all, definitely lacking any form of ability that can be considered entertaining. They have qualified as ‘stars’ in the Philippines mainly because they are: first, light or fair-skinned; two, has Caucasian or Roman-like nose; and third can lip-synch the first couple of lines from a song. Maputi, matangus ang ilong, at ma-alam magkunyaring kumanta. Many of the so-called celebrities are basically untalented, wannabe white people. Incidentally, Koreans and Chinese that are descendants from the Han Dynasty that are now living in the Philippines, as well as Filipinos born from mixed parents (usually a Filipina mother and a white father) are given celebrity status and finding success in entertainment – talented or not - just because of those physical features. Those traits are also the main reasons why there are so many products in the Philippines developed strictly for whitening the skin. And for the many unlucky ones not born with those desirable traits, whitening products and a couple of trips to a particular doktora’s clinic (shamelessly advertised and thanked in many shows) can alter their natural features to make them an instant celebrity. It’s quite a compliment to the Americans to have their inherent physical features desired and copied by Filipinos as they make permanent alterations on their own natural features.

Besides the physical alterations, they also like to clothe themselves like Americans beyond practicality, preferring and wearing American brands of clothing. The Philippines is just several degrees north of the Equator so its climate is tropical throughout the whole country. The annual average temperature is fairly warm, around 82-84 F and decreasing slightly during the rainy, monsoon season, the only other season – wet or dry. It is hot and humid most of the time. It’s quite a sight to see many of those so-called Filipino celebrities donning cold weather clothes that are more suitable for winter in New York, and not break out a single drop of sweat. Now that’s talent!

It is not unusual for institutions of the Philippine government to be similar to that of the United States. The US established the foundation of the Philippine government, and the Philippines was under the American tutelage for several years before and during the commonwealth period. But despite of the similarities between the two governments, they are in the names and structures only, not its workings and principles.

From departments of government to branches of military and to committees in the Senate, the Philippines has copied the United States. They have the NBI; their version of FBI. Department of Interior, the NSA, and the Ethics Committee are a few more examples. Even the branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; they also have the Army, Air Force, Navy, and the Marines. To have this kind of military make up implies that the country is capable of some kind of offensive operation, battle-ready. But then again, the Philippines is only about names and structures. The world witnessed the offensive capability of the Philippine army as one platoon, a mere platoon that President Arroyo committed to the Coalition Forces against the war on terror, boarded a bus so they can go back to the Philippines even before participating in any mission. Talk about losing face to the international community. Arroyo succumbed to the demands of the terrorists when they kidnapped a Filipino citizen and threatened to behead him; the kidnapped-then freed-and returned to the Philippines Filipino went back to work in Iraq soon after he was released. Looks like Iraq is still a better place than the Philippines.

Its Air Force, though the name implies air power, has neither air nor force. Whatever planes (decommissioned US planes that were used in Vietnam) they have are not flight-ready, let alone combat-capable, because they are poorly maintained and usually do not have the parts and fuel. The Navy is even more pathetic. It consists of a small group of shore patrol boats that are essentially floating rust buckets. They are decrepit and stained with all shades of brown to burnt orange, deteriorating from rust. Its sad state is even worsened by its own sailors, its crew, taking away any remaining sign of dignity of a naval unit. The decks of those corroding boats are normally used for drying out washed clothes. At any time, it is not unusual to see shabby uniforms along with undergarments hanging on clothes lines flying on its decks rather than its flag and maritime colors. Considering the appalling condition of the boats, conducting the traditional mission of amphibious landing with the Marines appears to be an extremely daunting task. But at the very least, the Navy and Marines will have uniformity in colors. The colors of rust on the boats will match that of the equally poorly maintained rifles and machine guns. It’s no surprise that Abu Sayyaf can escape to an open sea from Palawan to Jolo. And good luck reclaiming the Spratly Islands.

Even traditions in the United States with long-standing history have been taken, and oddly enough injected in the proceedings of the Philippine government. One example is the State of the Union address, a formal speech given once or twice a year by the current American president to discuss his agendas, the overall state of the country, and the direction where he wants to lead the country. The Filipinos have taken this American government tradition and dubbed their version as SONA, State of the Nation address. How original! Gaya-gaya na naman. But it does not have to be called that. For the acronym-loving Filipinos, there is a more appropriate name and an actual Tagalog translation. It can be called Pahayag ng Kalagayan ng Bansa or PaKaBa for short. The headline would probably read, “Kinakabahan ang Buong Bansa sa Gaganapin na PaKaBa” o “Magpa-PakaBa ang Pangulo Mamayang Gabi”. Such name for the speech is more accurate and descriptive since nothing changes in the Philippines anyway no matter what comes out of the president’s or the rest of the politicians’ mouth. It should continue the concerns and worries of its citizen. Nakakakaba talaga.

Normally someone or something is imitated because it is admired or respected. It provides some kind of influence or motivation, hopefully positive, to cause improvement of someone or something. Throughout the history, styles of earlier works ranging from arts to literary and musical compositions and artistic performances have been imitated. Acts of men as well as ideas have also been followed, causing and inspiring other people to do both magnificent and terrible things. Those imitated are normally the established standards that are desired to be equaled or surpassed.

It would appear that the Filipinos are expressing their admiration for the Americans as they imitate them. This is true to a certain extent but the main underlying reason has nothing to do with their admiration for the Americans. It is all about economic and social dominance over other Filipinos. Starting with wearing American brands of clothes, they try show to fellow Filipinos that are better off financially because they can afford the much more expensive American products. And since the American products have limited availability, their social status is also elevated by having access to such exclusive things. They want to show their privileged status as portrayed by the many so-called celebrities. One such typical behavior is exhibited by one of the Philippines’ most popular ‘celebrities’, an extremely tacky and tactless award-winning actress/talk show host, as she openly and constantly boasts about all the things she can afford and buy in the US. She’s the extreme example for such vulgarity of trying to act like an American. But sadly enough, her crude behavior is admired and imitated by most Filipinos. Pure madness.

Because the government of the Philippines is essentially patterned from the US, it would appear that its public and economic systems would have some resemblance to that of the US. This is the farthest from reality. The Filipinos turn everything the Americans gave them on its head. As a result, the Philippines never progressed and has been in the state of a Third World country since. There is no hope in sight. Its leaders are corrupt to the core and only interested in being part of the bureaucracy to rob the national treasury. Because they are incompetent and do not have the capacity to appreciate the workings of a civilized society, they continue to imitate American institutions and public programs but only for their names and not for the purposes they are intended to serve.

It seems that when the United States gave their form of democracy to the Philippines, the first thing the Filipinos did was check the inside tag, the label, the brand. They soon found out that it was orig, ‘Made in America”. And that moment cemented the fate of the Philippines to where it is now today. They imitated it immediately, but unfortunately just the name.

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