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Pinoy Insensitivity?

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A friend of mine passed me this email about GMA's speech about the tsunamis of Asia. Though I have not viewed the announcement myself, or have heard there even was one, I take it that if this were true, it's definitely very unfortunate that such statements were made:


(Highlights mine)

-----Original Message-----
From: Narciso Ner
Subject: Pray or Pay Over

I am wondering how much the Arroyo couple spent for the pray over on Gloria conducted by the so-called evangelists? The words uttered couldnever have come from pious people. Clearly it was part of their psychological propaganda of a war between good and evil portraying anyone who is against Gloria Arroyo as evil. What a way to govern! Also, the announcement Gloria Arroyo made thanking God for sparing the Philippines from that devastating tsunami just showed how insensitive and stupid this usurper and cheater who sits in that stinking palacealong the murky Pasig river is.

I hope the people of those countrieswould not feel that God has punished them. Anyway, did the Indonesian,Sri Lankan, Thai and Indian heads of state thank God that they werespared from the typhoons that caused havoc to Luzon lately? The epicenter of that earthquake was on the ocean floor northwest of Sumatra and if Gloria Arroyo knows her geography, she would see thatall the countries hit by the tsunami are facing the Indian Ocean. ThePhilippines which is blocked by Sumatra, the Malay peninsula and theisland of Borneo would have never been affected by the tsunami.However, if the predicted magnitude 9+ tremblor will strike New Guinea this year and the epicenter will be on the ocean floor then theresidents of coastal areas facing the Pacific should brace themselvesup for a tsunami. The qustion is, are we ready? Do we have the earlywarning system? Do we have rescue, evacuation and relief plans inplace? Has there been a dry run conducted? Do we have the money and resources?

Narciso Limsiaco Ner


Though I do not agree with all his political views about the administration, I am dismayed that such an insensitivity is allowed to be projected on prime time TV. It's not a very good PR job mind you, as far as I am concerned.

Larry King has this interview last week over CNN about God and the Tsunami feauturing the different perspectives from all major religions.

All of them seem to have said one thing: it's not punishment, that's an archaic way of looking at a disaster. I love what the buddhist monk said - it's a time for us to showcase that we are compassionate beings. The spontaneous outpouring of help from the private sector is a definite cry of humanity helping humanity. I beg to disagree though with the role of governments and their motivation, but suffice to say that this tumultuous event is a good sign that humanity can create good lives for humanity. Man's inhumanity to man is an often quoted line, yet now we have this gesture of Humanity for humanity not just utopian but possible. If the world can do that in a disaster area, why can we not duplicate this in other states of calamity as hunger, and poverty, war torn countries... among others.

The statement quoted about brings to my attention two things, one is the bang and blame culture, and the insensitivity that is still seen in Filipino Culture. The statement quoted in this email is definitely not compassion - it's the age old sister of blame culture: "buti na lang" which is what Filipinos say when tragedy and misfortune strikes them but misses just by an inch. It is said in these ways:

It's somewhat literally translatable to 'Good Thing' as in good thing it didn't happen to you. As if it's a good thing that something didn't kill you but killed another!!!

It's the reverse of the blame game. Instead of pointing to oneself as the lucky guy who got thru it all, the speaker is happily proclaiming he got lucky enough that the other person had the misfortune rather than him!

Pinoys love winners, no doubt everyone in the world does. But compassion for the enemy, the downtrodden and the conquered, or the loser is the mark of civility. This gesture proves that even the highest of leaders fall prey to cultural insensitivities. If this were true it's definitely a sad development. It means that our leaders are not just as flawed as us, but in fact quite stupid that they allowed a PR strategy to be read that way without thinking about it first.

Cultural sensitivity, by the way, is a subject not taught in detail in Philippine High Schools. There is a bleak mention of it about our Muslim brothers, and the Filipino-Chinese in Elementary textbooks, by proclaiming they are as Filipino as others are, but exploring the topic as a subject is not a priority in the educational system. In major colleges and university it is but an elective course, and only offered as a major course (in hybrids such as Business Culture, or in SOcial Science) to those in the Arts and Humanities courses. Of course it may not be needed to be studied in depth for it is reasonably pretty easy to explain.

However, Filipino jokes are laced with cultural biases such as "intsik beho". Or regional culture prejudice exhibited in words such as if you are Ilocano, or Chinese - you are "kuripot" a tightwad, or bisaya or bikol as referring to one who is either not well verse in tagalog, or one which is almost synonymous to a househelp. (Most maids in Manila are from the Visayan and Bicol regions) Or Indian, "bumbay/mabaho" foul-smelling that is, among others. It seems though that the culture has not progressed toward sensitivity.

Of course, some people have gone beyond that and I'm happy that there are those who are in the new world now. But popular culture and most notoriously the Philippine media is still biased against the marginalized, the ugly, the homosexuals, even the bald! Such people are portrayed as comedians and would always be the butt end of jokes.

Thing is, to date I wonder what the direct translations of the word culturally sensitive, prejudice, bias, etc. We have words like patas (fair and square) but I have yet to hear one of good translation of each! If there is one please email me and let me know, if none, I suggest these words should be included in the Filipino dictionary or make one. If we wish to be a country friendly to foreigners and a real vacation destination, we gotta start with being culturally sensitive from the top - down.

And stop calling African-Americans, and people from the black community negro for a change. Even as it is but a color bias - not a racial bias (since we call dark skinned Filipinos by the same derogotary term which we got from the Spaniards) it still is lack of sensitivity, a bias is a bias.

Are pinoys insensitive? We all wish we are not. In fact we know we are not, but perhaps we need to reviewlittle nuances that seem to make us such and make sure we adjust them aptly to fit the times. Time to be citizens of the world. Let's do something by starting with ourselves cause apparently, some can't change for us, at least our kids are going to grow up knowing better than slapstick comedy.


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posted by Jdavies @ 1/12/2005,

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J.Davies

Jdavies lives in Quezon City, Philippines and has been blogging since 2002. A brand manager in a leading technology company and a freelance new media/web strategy consultant, he has refocused his blogging from personal, political & sociological observations, to marketing-related efforts and Internet trends that are relevant to his career and branding advocacies.


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This blog is a depot of thoughts and observations on marketing trends which remain personally relevant to the Author as far as his marketing career is concerned. Having evolved from the personal blog of Jdavies, much of the earlier work contained herein are laced with personal speculation, political views, and similar advocacies. These posts are being kept for posterity's sake and for no other reason. No effort is being made to claim that the author will not contradict himself from his previous positions or that such advocacies are absolute.

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