Author Archives: Richard Leo Ramos

About Richard Leo Ramos

Richard Leo Ramos is a writer, editor, and pop culture enthusiast. When not working, he is a bass guitarist of the metal band Cog. He is also the founding "bar owner" of an online hangout for mecha anime enthusiasts in Facebook, known as Mecha Toys.

Crossroad

The Crossroads: Going where you are meant to go

Thursday, 23 June 2016 | Written by
Crossroad

Crossroad

Choice: it’s another word for free will, and as humans, it is what we want the most – and at the same time, it can be what we deeply fear. When you are confronted with a serious life choice, the sort that will affect your life for years to come, it’s easy to suddenly to suddenly go weak in the knees.

So how do you approach this sort of situation? After all, the problem with life choices is that there’s usually a window of opportunity involved. You can’t just delay it to another day.

Don’t be surprised.

Generally speaking, one of the best ways to be blindsided by a crossroad choice is to think that it won’t happen to you. Case in point: for some of us, flunking out of our chosen course in college (or the course our parents chose for us) would be enough to trigger nervous breakdowns. However, when you think about it, you should have prepared yourself for the possibility that it could happen, if only for an instant.

The idea is to be open-minded. While everything is going well, it’s good to prepare for the worst that can happen, so you won’t be caught with your pants down.

Don’t think big. Think in sequence.

Life choices, generally speaking, are epic in nature. So what do you do? Don’t think of it as epic. Rather, you should think of it as a sequence. Know where your end-goal will be five, ten years in the future. After that, you can work backward, until your present day. If you can, work out different scenarios. Once you’ve chopped down the big thing into workable steps, then you won’t feel so anxious. If anything, you may even have found the way to get the best choice out of so many paths.

Now, some people may think: Thinking big is bad, right? Welllll, the truth is, it’s okay to think big – your life goal is a big thing. However, thinking about it as one big thing is not. As we mentioned, it’s about steps and sequences. Heck, you might find out that thinking big may mean thinking about ten small things that plug into each other to make the big thing that you’re looking for.

Dare to be “stupid”

When you say you have to dare to be stupid (as Weird Al would sing), it means that sometimes, the best choice isn’t the sensible one. For many people, the sensible choice has a lot of payback, be it in personal happiness, elevated stress, and even health issues. Yes, the “stupid” choice may give you a lot of initial heartache and financial distress, but the issues should always be what your final goal is, and what you are willing to do to get there.

The best example for a stupid decision doing right by you would be choosing your own college degree. Your parents may have a say in it – and like it or not, here in the Philippines, they usually do. It’s the reason why we have whole generations of nurses – and yet many of them have to work abroad or find other jobs, like in call centers. Nurses may earn a lot, but you also have to look at the job market, and a person’s own character. For all you know a person who took up nursing would have made more in another job, had they chosen another course.

There is nothing wrong with admitting you may have been wrong

Now, we’ve been talking about how important life choices are. Therefore, the idea of admitting you were wrong sounds very counterproductive. On the contrary, it’s actually important you recognize if you’ve gone down the wrong path. After all, the Crossroads are there the moment you know you have to make a decision. It’s not necessarily a magical time or place in your life where everything changes. It can be any point in your life where you know you are unhappy, or unfulfilled. It can be a boring job, or, on the other hand, a job you feel you have outgrown. It could be a relationship, or even a house or a general area you live in. The fact is, it’s all about changes that you know will affect your life in a major way. It’s not always dramatic, and sometimes, it can actually happen gradually, over time.

So, don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong. The upside of it is, you can start correcting your choices in a shorter time. Do remember, though, that it does not mean you should always be changing your mind whenever things get hard – there is a need to balance your determination with being open-minded enough to know if it’s not going to get you anywhere where you’ll be happy.

It’s important to know when to embrace the inevitable

There are times when the truth is, you can’t run away from your fate. It’s a frustrating thing: many people believe that they can lead their own lives, but due to family, social circles, or just plain circumstances, there seems to be a predetermined path. Now, the trick here really isn’t to fight it, but to embrace it – the true Crossroad choice is sometimes knowing when to merge paths, as it were to find one you can be happy with, and will make other happy at the same time.

The inevitable could also be about realizing that even if you don’t want to do something, that’s what you’re really good at anyway. The trick there is to think about why you hated in the first place. SO, when you feel like you can’t escape something in your life choices, perhaps the proper thing to ask yourself is: Should you even try to avoid it? For all you know, you probably have some traumatic experience that prevents you from enjoying what should have been your specialty.

Step forward

It’s important, in the end, to know that whatever the case may be, what you have to do is step forward. You can’t be the ghost at the crossroads, and neither should you stay there forever. What you should do is to keep on going. Because unless you do, you will be stuck in time, in the middle of taking a choice.

So take the step, and get back on the road.

 

 

Voltes

From outside the nation: Anime in the Philippines

Monday, 20 June 2016 | Written by
Voltes

VoltesFor many decades now, our country has been entertained and influenced by Japanese cartoons, more popularly known as anime. For each of the generations that are alive today, anime has come to mean something different, and has imparted different values. But what is anime, really, to begin with?

Modernization and memory

Some sources point to anime as part of Japan’s drive to modernize early in the last century – it used technology and themes that were taken from the West – like having animation shorts of mythical legendary creatures such as racoons and rabbits playing a game of baseball.

Then as now, Anime in Japan served as a way to bring traditions up to date to the present. It’s no surprise, then, that even if some modern anime characters dress up practically as Westerners, you will still find them having friends or parents who are in more traditional Japanese clothing, or following Japanese traditions. In fact, some of the most successful anime in recent times, like Bleach or Gintama, owe much of their virtual themes and worlds to mixing traditional samurai themes and mythology within a modern-world framework.

However, these early Japanese works were not anime as we know it today – the exaggeration and generally loose “reworking” of reality that is a staple of anime is usually attributed to one man: Osamu Tezuka.

Big eyes, weird hair

Osamu Tezuka – also known as the creator of Astro Boy – is “the man to blame” for wide-eyed characters, and evolving, involving story lines. Anime is generally known for long narratives, where the full story arc can take years to unfold. If the anime series is based on an ongoing manga, the story may last decades – Detective Conan is one enduring version of this, given how the main characters have actually begun to use modern technology like cellphones, whereas in their earlier episodes, no such technology existed. In many cases, all the characters stay in some sort of perpetual moment in time, where no one gets old.

And when you look at the eyes – that’s another Tezuka thing. The idea of large eyes was meant to show a wider range of emotions. While this may sound like a contradiction given how reserved the Japanese are, it made perfect sense – since their culture allowed for brazen displays of humor in their comedies.

The Philippine Invasion

It was only a matter of time for anime to reach our country. Even if the Japanese were the enemy in the Second World War, by the time that anime kicked into full gear in the 70s, we had become an overseas market for all things Japanese. And so it started: fanciful stories like Candy Candy, to mighty mecha shows like Mazinger Z. Towards the 80s, we even had anime based on stories in the Bible.

However, none of them became the cultural icon that defined the Martial Law generation: Voltes V.

Volting in

Voltes V wasn’t a “big” show by any means in Japan. Its main claim to fame is that it is part of a trilogy of shows – Daimos and Combattler V being the other two – that were similar in theme. However, it wasn’t even really original, as Combattler V was arguably the original “volt-in” robot.

It was, however, a case of being the right story for the times. A corrupt aristocracy and the sons of an outcast nobleman, fighting for truth, justice, and freedom, while outside you had the pall of Martial Law hanging in the air? SOLD.

It probably didn’t help that Marcos banned anime shows – including Voltes V – on the basis that they were too violent for kids. If anything, that fateful censorship may have made people think deeply about what really was happening. After all, how crazy would a dictatorship have to be if they would ban children’s shows for becoming allegories of real life?

And so it was that with the fall of the dictatorship, many of the shows left unfinished due to the ban were showed in their entirety, perhaps to bring closure to those for whom the sudden cessation of the narrative had been so pivotal.

GintamaNewer Generations

Now, it should be said: back in the day, it was difficult to be an anime enthusiast, since what you had to do was find the right video rental – or be lucky enough to live close to one that carried even a few anime titles. With the explosion of the internet, however, younger generations could now research on anime with impunity. Moreover, as higher bandwidth developed, downloading videos or watching them online made anime easy to access. Local TV stations were quick to adapt, and it’s no surprise that the tagalized or heavily promoted shows are the ones that have become the cornerstones of the local anime wave: Naruto, One Piece, Dragonball, Ghost Fighter, to name a few, and perhaps we should include new ones like Fairy Tail and Death Note. It’s come to the point where even among the local comic book artists, manga-style artwork is now a major movement.

Fairy TailThings that make you go hmmm.
For all this, it’s possible that many people don’t really understand anime – yes, it’s still for kids (be it actual or virtual). Anime is a culture carrier for Japanese heritage and history, and the lesson there doesn’t seem to be rubbing off on Pinoys. Our own heritage and history, perhaps, should be given the same treatment. Although it’s true, one can argue that it might end up being more popular oversees than here, given how things have gone with Japan and anime.

Looking in and out

For the Filipino youth, anime is both an ultimate escape, and a way for them to articulate their issues. The exaggerated characters of the genre are perfect for identification (which is, really, part of the idea), and that allows people to step into the characters they most resonate with. And if the story is told right, anime shows will allow its audience to somehow develop and learn things, by way of how they follow favorite characters through trials and tribulations.NarutoSo when people say that anime is just for kids, they are both right and wrong – they are right in that it appeals to the child in us, and yet they are wrong that it’s “just a cartoon.” These shows are stories in themselves that have the potential to teach people good things. Just do make sure to sit down with your children and younger relatives to see what they’re really watching. Who knows, you may just end up liking some of these anime shows.

Glorious Rain

When your partner is inexpressive

Wednesday, 13 April 2016 | Written by
Glorious Rain

Glorious Rain

Many people think that couples are two people for whom the heart beats as one. While this is generally true of most loving relationships, the real issue here is if your partner loves you in his or heart, but doesn’t necessarily know how to express it.

Be it in words, actions, or, well, gifts, some people just aren’t the sort to get their point across. And when this happens in a relationship, it can become a serious problem. The relationship in itself can be in danger of breaking up. And it could all be because one or both parties have communication issues.

Change can be the culprit
So, how does one take care of something like this? Well, it’s important to know first the following:

“The next stage” can trigger the gap
If you’ve been together for some time, and you both decide to take it to the next level – such as moving in together, or getting married – this can create new “rules” and “situations” that your partner may not be able to deal with as he or she normally does. When that happens, one natural reaction will be to keep quiet. The more intimate or serious a relationship is, the more likely it will be that the partner with more adaptation issues will end up being silent.

Unusual relationship events can be communication concerns
Sometimes, it’s not the next level. However, it can still be about a change in some aspect of the relationship. For example, if a long-distance situation happens, then one partner may feel a disconnection, or perhaps difficulty in finding ways to properly catch up once the couple is together. It could be as simple as a change of job, or job schedule – where the work shifts can upend established routines.

Some masks are being removed
This may sound weird, but a shift to being inexpressive may actually be a good thing. The partner may be finally, finally, just relaxing, and this means that he or she may be reverting to a more quiet personality, or even a more introverted one. In other words, without the pressure to “win” the other person over, they are beginning to show a less bombastic personality. It’s not laziness per se, but more of a “here is my real, quieter self.”

Being Inexpressive to begin with
Inexpressive partners can also be inherent in the relationship – in the sense that they were inexpressive to begin with. In this case, you have to ask your self the following:

Why did you fall for an inexpressive person?
Perhaps it was a special something about the person, like how they can just be there for you, no questions asked, that attracted you to the person. And now that you are, indeed together, you might be expecting more. If that’s the case, then you do have to review all the things you like about him or her, and weigh if it’s worth being together with a deadpan partner.

Did you really think you would change the person?
Straight up, this is a very dangerous question to ask. If you got together with a person because you saw some good things about them, and felt that being with the person would change them for the better, then you really, really, have to rethink the reason why you got into a relationship in the first place. If a person is naturally inexpressive or uncommunicative by your standards, and you want that person to change for love of you, then you need to have your head checked. It is unfair to want a reserved person to change just to suit your communication needs. It is different, of course, if that person initiates the change outside your influence.

Warning signs
Of course, an inexpressive partner, if it is a new development in the person’s character, may also be a warning sign.

It may be a sign of not getting what they need or want
The relationship, may, well, be winding down. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as not all relationships are meant to last forever. However, by taking note of sudden coolness or silence, you can start figuring out why it’s happening, and, if necessary, asking point-blank questions to find out if things should go on. It’s no joke to say that keeping on with a relationship that has run its course can only end badly.

It may be a sign of divided loyalties
Let’s put it our there: a suddenly cold reception in a relationship can be a sign of cheating. However, this is the one case where you better do some research and get some proof (unless it’s already glaringly obvious), since an erroneous accusation can trigger the infidelity anyway. It can also be a sign of cheating, but not necessarily with a person – it could be about familial loyalties, or perhaps the simple fact that you are not his or her big priority. In such a case, you have to do much soul-searching to figure out if it’s worth it to be second fiddle to your partner’s other priorities.

rain what rain

Dealing with it
If your partner has always been inexpressive and it’s only bugging you lately, then the question should be on your side: why is it a big problem now? You may have to find out if you are the one who needs to do some soul-searching. It may be that times are changing for you in the relationship, and that your inexpressive partner may no longer satisfy your need for more active communication.

However, if your partner is retreating from you, then it’s something that you should analyze carefully. It could be that your partner just needs some space to work something out, or may actually just need the occasional space to reset his or her senses. On the other hand, extreme shifts or erratic bouts of silence or even outright hostility have to be dealt with squarely, and as soon as possible. It’s generally not a good idea to let awkward situations fester, anyway.

So, if you feel that your inexpressive partner needs to get a load of his or her chest, it pays to have a mental checklist like the above, just to see if you actually have to do something or just let things be. After all, lack of communication isn’t necessarily bad, it could just be, well, normal or cyclical. Relax, and just be more observant.

From Flickr.com:
“Glorious Rain,” Christopher Michel
“Rain what Rain,” Daliscar1

800px-Chinese_draak

More Tsinoy than we think

Wednesday, 23 March 2016 | Written by
800px-Chinese_draak

800px-Chinese_draak

With the current global issues concerning China, it’s easy to come up with negative thoughts about anyone with Chinese heritage. But before we go into full-tilt racial stereotyping, perhaps we should realize that our own culture is more “Tsinoy” than we think.

The roots of Chinese influence in our culture started in ancient (though not necessarily prehistoric times). As far as is known, some experts put the earliest contact with Chinese traders at 982 A.D., and from there, interaction grew until Chinese communities with permanent settlers were established, ostensibly to function as trading points for Chinese and Filipino goods and services.

It was only a matter of time that intermarriage would happen, and hence Chinese mestizos were already established as a part of the population by the time that the Spanish arrived at our shores.

These days, it’s thought that at least 30% of the Filipino population (28 million or so) has Chinese blood, with around 2 million having pure Chinese ancestry. And this does not include those who are still immigrating to the Philippines.

The “Chinatown” communities
The most visual aspects of Chinese culture within the Philippines are the “Chinatowns” in major cities; areas where many of the Chinese restaurants and shops oriented for Chinese products and services are located. It is here that you can find everything from the most authentic Chinese food in town, to more exotic fare such as traditional Chinese medicine, medical services, and furniture.

But these are not the only “Chinatowns” in our communities. One should also think about the residential communities as well as schools where the secondary (or even primary) culture is predominantly Chinese.

In fact, one of the best ways to see how influential Chinese culture is in a given area is to see how well they celebrate the Chinese holidays – from dragon dances and tikoy, to the burning of paper effigies during funerals, Chinese cultural influences are markedly seen during important events.

Food
When it come to our Pinoy culinary traditions, let’s just say that Chinese food is the bomb – from Peking duck to siopao, from yang chow rice to all those sweet to savory sauces and preparations, Filipino cuisine has integrated Chinese food, and even our traditionally non-Chinese preparations have certainly been informed by Chinese cooking.

Language – Lutong Macao
Our language itself has been permeated with adapted Chinese terms, from those we use to denote sibling rank by birth (Ate = Achi, Shobe = younger sister), we also have those that have been absorbed into street vernacular, such as hao siyaw / hao xiao, bakya, buwisit, tong, and a whole slew of other terms.

It’s no surprise that in places with heavier Chinese influences, one could even hear people developing dialects that are a heavy mixture of Filipino, English, Chinese and Spanish – depending on what is most useful. For example, it would be no surprise that people who are in a wet market near a Chinese community would pick up on all the marketing terms that Chinese Filipinos would use.

Oh, and yes, for many Chinese Filipinos, they do keep two names: their Chinese name, and their Filipino/English name. The tradition probably stems from a strong cultural bias, but is mostly also a sign of respect for their family traditions and cultural values.

Appearances
Even when it comes to fashion and general style, the Chinese heavily influences the Philippines. Be it in clothes that mirror traditional cheongsams in cut, to the use of Chinese motifs in interior design, like red and gold in gaudy designs, Chinese sensibilities abound in Filipino households – particularly if it’s about good luck. If you’ve seen that cat statue with the swinging arm, then congratulations, that’s Chinese culture for you. It’s even more impressive if it’s an actual cat.

The not-so-good
That’s not to say that Chinese culture doesn’t have dark moments in our history. We all know about how some Chinese Filipinos tend to speak in Chinese so that non-Chinese people won’t know what they’re saying. We also know of how the stereotypical Chinese parents who won’t let their daughters – and sons – marry Filipinos, unless they are from rich families. These, and other negative claims do have a basis in reality, but if you were Chinese-Filipino, it would be no surprise if you did at least have some amount of caution when it comes to non-Chinese people.

The Sad Truth of Being Pinoy, but not really Pinoy
When we think of Chinese-Filipinos, most Pinoys call them… chekwah, intsik, beho, all with equal parts glee and ignorance. It is rampantly unfunny, and it is even more unfunny when we try to pass it off as just being “funny” or “because they’ve always been called that.”

Think about it: Tsinoys (let’s get that term in there now-now) count among the hardest working in our population, but always, always, there is that idea that they aren’t as Pinoy as normal ones, whatever that means. Now, for some of them, cultural pride does go to the extreme, but to lump them all in as such is patently unfair. Is it any surprise, then, that those who have experienced racism at the hands of normal Pinoys would just pay the treatment forward?

Pinayavatar

Being there: Tsinoy and Pinoy
Tsinoys do, in general, have a dichotomous life. On one hand, they are part of a rich and diverse cultural background that, at best, balances creativity with a work ethic that can assure success under most situations. On the other hand, many Tsinoys are also viewed as outsiders even in their own communities – you can be a rich Tsinoy, but you’ll never get rid of the stigma that you became rich because you are Chinese.

And the irony is, this makes the Tsinoy all the more Pinoy – in fact, if you think about it, the cultural and genetic mish-mash that is the modern Pinoy probably had its roots in how ancient traders – Chinese ones among them – decided to lay down their roots on our home soil. If anything, Tsinoys can lay claim to being just as Filipino as any other Pinoy.

However, this deep connection with Pinoy culture is, at times, countered by the rather intense devotion to Chinese culture. What is important, then, is to realize that Tsinoys are Pinoys. Whatever happens, Tsinoys aren’t culture-traitors. They are an important subculture for Filipinos, and we should appreciate the Tsinoy strengths, while being mindful of minimizing the bad habits that come with their now-ingrained reactions to “full-blood” (whatever that means) Pinoys.

Photos Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chinese_draak.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pinayavatar.jpg

gaybearholdinghands

The tangled, mad-sad world and how LGBTQ people do or do not fit into it

Thursday, 3 March 2016 | Written by
gaybearholdinghands

 

gaybearholdinghands

 

Filipinos have prided themselves on having a culture and society that supposedly accept gay people – after all, we have our parloristas, and our gay comedians (even Dolphy himself put on the gay for many of his skits and characters). We have our binabae boys, who help bridge the gap between boys and girls who are – presumably – straight. We have our old queens and butches, who many times take over the role of surrogate mother and fathers for the abandoned children of their clans.

But let me ask you: do we, as a people, really “love the gay?”

Forcing the pedestal
To those who keep on talking about “babaylans” and how the older generations used to just be “discreet” about sexual shenanigans, and would have families and all, let me say this: that’s a great pedestal that I would not want to be on. Because all these roles, while rendering gay people relatively acceptable in society, also imprison them into stereotypes. How many times have emerging gay teens been bullied that all they will ever be good for is styling hair? How many butch girls have become the taxi or jeepney driver, or the taga dala ng tubig sa bahay?

If you think that’s a bit of a reach, let me remind you: Dolphy and Lolita Rodriguez were the stars of the original Jack en Jill, possibly one of the earliest Asian films about homosexuality (if not the first). But in practically every version of this movie (and there have been quite a few), the gay boy becomes a “normal” straight man. And the tomboy finally accedes to being a bit more girly, if only by finding budding love in the arms of a man. Hallelujah, it’s the Philippine version of the closet in Narnia: you can only enter a fabulous world when you go in it. Outside, it’s the real world.

The gilded cage
That’s always been the condition of being gay in the Philippines, that one has to follow a certain mold to be acceptably gay. A hard-working, masculine man in a macho job, like engineering, or law, or some other position with authority would have to be a man’s man – even if he has the heart of a woman. And, not surprisingly, it is the same the other way around, where no woman should ever be in the “man’s world” of jobs.

Does this mean that women’s rights and LGBTQ rights are intertwined? Only in so far as it is about what is acceptable. However, the bigger problem about being gay and happy is about the issue of who the LGBTQ fall in love with. While for women it may be about who is acceptable to the family (for the most part), for gay people, it is about religion, about hatred, and, sometimes, about life or death.

Crossing lines
There is nothing inherently wrong about religions forbidding gay people to be “real.” Even if it is reprehensible by modern standards, religions do have the right under law, to practice their beliefs without the law interfering. However, the big issue of the day is when people who do belong to one religion try to push their religious beliefs as law, using elected government officials who practice their religion as their chess pieces.

And this is where the Philippine LGBTQ situation becomes horribly dangerous. The culture of expectation, combined with religious issues, have combined to make gay people cardboard characters. It’s fine for them to entertain, or to do jobs that are traditionally for them, but no, they cannot get married; no, they cannot love another person in their way; and no, they cannot be accepted for what they really are – as people, as loved ones, as friends. It seems that in the Philippines, the best way for “normal people” to interact with members of the LGBTQ segment would be to simply see them as how cultural, social, and religious norms paint them to be: clowns, or people who are “assigned” certain jobs.

Where is the love?
As some people may be thinking: Where is the love? Where is the Filipino penchant for always smiling, always being generous? Well, that in itself is an explanation. The Filipino stereotype functions in the same way as local gay stereotypes do: it’s all for show, and probably a way to enforce social stability (yes, social stability through enforced LGBTQ roles sounds as bad as it reads on paper). Because, essentially, LGBTQ society functions as a shadow or an underground society in itself, it is easier for mainstream society to find ways to demonize it, make it less appealing. In fact, it’s so unappealing to the uninformed that many kids who find out they are gay go through the worst of times when finally coming to grips with what they are – these include being thrown out of their homes, being bullied by schoolmates, alienation from friends, and, ultimately, suicide.

Living normal: the dream
While many gay people prefer flamboyant lifestyles, the truth is, it’s highly probably that the majority of the gay population are just happy to have “normal lives,” sticking to their jobs, living their love lives quietly, and generally being “undetectable” to people who don’t know them. It’s a tempting offer, and one that is highly polarizing, since the choice of integration or rebellion within the LGBTQ community is by far the most divisive. For one side, it’s about finding a way to slowly be accepted into society, even if there are concessions to be made, and for the other, it’s all about winning, with no uncertain terms.

But the funny part is, in the middle of all this social, cultural, and religious conflicts, the real irony is that it is about private lives, it is about people loving each other – which really shouldn’t be anybody’s business but their own. The problem, it seems, is that other people who aren’t involved in the relationship want to impose their idea of legal rights and “proper” codes of conduct on what is essentially not their thing.

In the end, it’s incredibly stupid that all these issues are coming out because some people just can’t find it in their hearts to have compassion for others. Indeed, for some people, the LGBTQ community are worse than animals, and deserve to be killed.

To live normally, to love someone who loves you back; taken simply as that, isn’t it what everyone wants? So why can’t it be the same for the LGBTQ community?

Photo: “gay bear holding hands” by happy lab dog, c/o Flickr.com

Crab Claw

Isip Pinoy: How much of talangkas are we?

Sunday, 28 February 2016 | Written by
Crab Claw

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ed

Crab Claw

In Filipino folklore, the crab, or talangka, is the ultimate bad example. It’s the animal that pulls down others like it just so it can get to something, normally food. There is no respect in them for others, and there is only the question of survival, the instinct for self-preservation.

And that’s why the crab is the source of the term “crab mentality” (“utak-talangka”). It’s been observed that many people here in the Philippines would rather bring people down, than see them do better. Of course, that’s the generalization. The truth is even more uncomfortable: it isn’t really about bad habits or simply bad character development in a person. It’s about how our own history and our cultural personality has been shaped by it.

The Filipino as Juan Tamad
The Philippines is blessed with many natural resources, so it’s always been a bit of a mystery to many Pinoys why the heck crab mentality came about. After all, we had everything (relatively speaking) at arms’ reach. But therein is a possible origin for the crabby characteristic.

Spoiled
The first thing we have to realize is that culturally, we do know that we have a lot of resources, but the problem is that we also have a combination of national characteristics that make us, well, lazy. That happy-go-lucky attitude, combined with a passive, accepting nature, and then linked together by a sort of amnesia for bad things that have happened in the past makes the Pinoy susceptible to crab mentality.

Why? Because once the resources are harder to get, or the Pinoy is denied those resources, then things fall apart. Pinoys do look for the finer things in life – and if they can’t get it, that’s where the problem begins.

Lacking in fiber
Relatively recent history has had its share of making us more prone to crab mentality. Many people point to the after-effects of the Marcos era as somehow “refining” and making crab mentality a necessity for living the good life – or, at least, making sure no one else does. The uncertainty of life in those times, coupled with the sudden increase in perceived corruption, made people think that perhaps the only way to survive was to look out for themselves – be it in a communal sense of family, or really, truly for their individual selves.

This historic “training” of the Filipino psyche is something many of the younger generation do not know, since they weren’t there when the Marcos era happened.

Corruption of work; as a form of work
Another big problem that leads to crab mentality is that corruption within an already-corrupt social framework is insanely easy to give in to. After all, all you have to do is follow how things are done, and turn a blind eye to how others are negatively affected. In fact, it’s the reverse of a meritocracy, in that it’s not about actual talent or skill, it’s about who you know, and what you can offer that person.

Sadly, though, corruption isn’t even the big thing when it comes to crab mentality – if anything, it’s actually a more aloof, acceptable thing than crab mentality, because, really, crab mentality can get personal.

Envy
The big thing about crab mentality is that it’s very much about pulling more successful people down. And there’s much that is twisted in that thinking.

Enjoying other people’s failure
For many crab-minded people, it’s all about seeing other people fail. And why? Well, the thinking is, “why should that person have success that I can only dream of?” And so, when a successful person fails, or has a scandal, many people feel vindicated that they were right all along – that person is nothing special!

And even if that person remains successful with little or no issues, you can bet that there will be the snarky comment: “Maybe, that person has something wrong that we don’t see.”

Misplaced pride
If there’s one thing that Pinoys are not lacking in, it’s pride. We have big, healthy doses of it, and culturally, it’s become a liability at times. After all, there is now a fine line between “Pinoy Pride” as an encouragement for Pinoys to do better, and “Pinoy Pride” as an excuse to find anything that can make us proud.

This misplaced pride feeds the envy – if one can’t be proud for one’s self, then why should another person be proud of his or her achievements?

Take-downs
All these issues create a mindset where a person or even a community may want to see a successful individual taken down – with or without cause. Funnily enough, it can even work in a reversal, where when a person admired does something wrong, people would rather uphold the person’s wrongdoing, and then castigate the accuser. It’s still a form of crab mentality, where doing the right thing is what is sacrificed.

Addiction
Because it’s such an “empowering” action or course of action, crab-mentality take-downs make people feel good for all the wrong reasons, and sadly, that means that they’ll want to do it again, simply to prove the point, or, worse, to get the high of being proven right.

What it really can do
When you bring people down, it’s not just the target that is brought down. What happens is that crab mentality forces everyone not to excel, or be afraid of being better. This also means that it can go overboard, where social order and norms are kept, but at the cost of a certain static existence for the whole community. And as the reinforcement becomes more and more powerful, in the end, you will have a society that will spiral down into mediocrity.

So how do you stop it?
In the end, only education and personal choices can make the crab mentality go away. Suffice to say, as long as we as a country and society cannot find it in ourselves to make things better, then we shouldn’t expect that things will get better.

It all starts with people deciding to improve themselves, and not look at ways to belittle other people’s achievements. At the same time, it’s about doing the right thing, which is to always work for positive personal and social development. Once we can do that, we’ll be able to evolve into a better nation, country, and people.

“Crab Claw,” by Aurel c/o Flickr.com

Side B

There’s always a Side B

Monday, 22 February 2016 | Written by
Side B

Side B

Many of the Millennial Generation would probably wonder what the heck Side B means, and why we have the saying that there’s always a Side B. But for those who are familiar with magnetic tape memory – and vinyl records! – having a side B held a near sacred meaning.

Looking forward
The idea of a Side B, specifically, probably began with the use of vinyl records for audio recordings – in some cases, if people were not satisfied with the music or audio recording (yes, they did have non-musical albums) tracks in the first side of a record, one would look forward to the other side – the “B” Side of the record itself. This carried on in practice with the audio cassette tape, which had a Side A and Side B, depending on if you played it one way or the other. In fact, many cassette players took the mirroring of vinyl records to exacting lengths, by having the same amount of magnetic tape wound up to play the side of an album with the longer playing time. Presumably, this was meant to have the same experience as flipping the vinyl record over for Side B. Auto-Reverse tape players allowed cassettes to play continuously through out the whole length of the album, though.

Looking back
The idea of finding a better “something” in another part of a work probably started with books and other written texts, particularly when written texts started to be partitioned in chapters, or as a sequence of stories. It would be no surprise if people would find certain chapters or story sections better – hence, the Side B.

Music to soothe the savage breast
However, the idea that the Side B could be better seems to really be with the music formats for vinyl and tape. And that’s probably where the idea goes – though it has also been applied to underwear (and if you know the joke… ewwww!).

So, how do we really apply to the Side B idea to our lives?

Perseverance
Sometimes, the best things in life are right around the corner. While the more pessimistic among us probably think that there’s something out to get them lurking just beyond the line of sight, the important thing is that we prepare and look forward to getting to the other side – the Side B, in other words.

The reason for this is simple: if you give up easily, then you’ll always be stuck on Side A. You’ll never get out of your current track in life. But if you just muster enough endurance, you might find out that all that Side A was preparing you for was the wealth of opportunities in Side B.

That’s the real gift of looking forward to Side B, be it in your life, your work, or even your music (for the given value of “having a Side B”). You have a goal, rather than a hope. Even if Side B won’t be necessarily a great thing, the fact is, by preparing for a second wind, you will be more prepared. Remember: it’s not about optimism, but preparation – just like how many artists have songs in the first side that prepares people for the later songs, particularly for theme albums.

Preparation
We’ve actually started talking about preparation anyway, but here’s the full idea: if you want a great Side B, then you have to be prepared to have a great Side B. That means that even if you feel you are in the worst “Side A” of your life ever, the fact is, you can and should learn from all of it, so you will be prepared for opportunities or future hard knocks (which can be the same thing) as life goes on. Does this mean that life will always be difficult? Well, it will be if you keep on thinking of it that way. Once you change your outlook, what Side B is changes for you, as well. It could be horrible, like an extra project on top of your daily workload, but if you’re looking to show what you can really do, then that extra project might be the feather in your cap that you need.

Turning over a new leaf
Alternatively, having a Side B may also mean that you can walk away from whatever Side A was, and start anew. This applies to your job, your relationship, and even something like the hobby you’re in, or the choice of music you listen to. The idea here is that no matter what you are currently, no matter what you were in the past, you are still allowed to have a fresh start (at least, once your debts are paid for, be it literally or figuratively).

Going to the Side B of your life should be a real option for you, and this means that you shouldn’t keep your mind to one track. Even if your life is already very comfortable, if you feel that somehow, you can do more with it, then it’s time to pack up your bags, or get your resume ready. Side B might be the time of your life when everything does click together.

Many people ignore this side of having a Side B, thinking that all they need is to have an outlet or an occasional vacation. But if the longing or dissatisfaction is always there, then it’s time to eject the cassette, as it were, and switch to the next side of the album.

Staying in the groove
The hidden lesson of Side B, however, is practically an irony: you should stick to your guns. But it’s not about being stubborn. Rather, it’s about keeping a set of goals in mind. It means that Side B, whatever it is, isn’t something that is separate from you, or is given to you. Rather, Side B is something you create for yourself, be it a set of medium- to long-term life goals, or it could just be a life track where you have to be at a certain level of comfort and job stability at a certain age. Whatever the case, the real Side B is about you getting to your Side B, not a Side B that’s given by someone else, or imposed on you by society. It’s not about being a millionaire, it’s about being financially stable on your terms. It’s not about reaching job goals, but about personal development goals that make sense for your lifestyle.

In the end, when you say there’s always a Side B, what you should really be saying is that you should always have a Side B that you’re aiming for, or have the options prepared for.

Philips C60 – Tape – ISO” by stuart.childs, c/o flickr.com

Singing the Kundiman

Nostalgic for the Kundiman

Thursday, 11 February 2016 | Written by
Singing the Kundiman

Singing the KundimanWe all know that Pinoys have this love for love songs – in fact, Pinoys love anything with a hint of love or sentiment. This explains why Celine Dion had such a hit with “My Heart Will Go On,”, why Pinoys love “Let it Go” (the movie version), and why “My Way” has become the killer karaoke song.

Some people think of it as part of the Spanish culture ingrained in us, the European romantic mythology, translated to our Asian roots. The truth is, it may go deeper than that, into our pre-colonial past. But if you think that our love for the romantic, sappy, or sentimental songs are just a function of present culture, then here’s some food for thought: let’s get nostalgic about the kundiman.

Kundiman, Cundiman
A good number of historians and scholars believe that kundiman songs originated from the Visayas, with the “Father of the Kundiman Art Song,” Dr. Francisco Santiago explaining that the term kundiman originates from a song where the term cundiman was a repeated term in the lyrics of the first stanza. Dr. Santiago, along with Nicanor Abelardo, would create the formal musical structure for the kundiman – including the artistic value of the lyrics, paired with the music.

The existence of the kundiman in the wild, as it were, has been noted as early as the 1870s, where it was still known as, of course, the cundiman, and was already typified as the “love song genre.”

Spanish scholars had a rather biased view of the kundiman (or as they called it, cancion indigena – native song), describing it as pathetic but with pleasant overtones.

By the 1880s, the kundiman was being recorded in lyric form by historians and scholars, with a portion of these texts Spanish translations of the original lyrics.

Oh, the feels!
The kundiman song is primarily seen as a serenading format. It’s meant to be a song that will pluck at the heart strings, no matter how saccharine-sweet the lyrics are. However, because of this ability to tap into primal emotions, the kundiman has also been used for politics and ideology. National hero Jose Rizal himself used the song form by creating a highly-charged set of kundiman lyrics in his novel, Noli me Tangere.

Later on, during the revolutionary period, the kundiman song known as the Jocelynang Baliuag would become the “Kundiman of the Revolution.”

The makings of a kundiman song
The kundiman has a very specific structure, though this may have been, in part, the formalisation of Santiago and Abelardo.

The kundiman takes on a 3 / 4 time signature, similar to the waltz. The first verse is played in a minor key (which probably sets the melancholic or emotional tone), and then this is followed by a second verse where the chords are put in a major key (an assertion within the mood) within the song. Stricter schools are explicit in that this is the kundiman formula, and nothing else.

Lyrics-wise, the kundiman is plaintive, to the point of exaggeration. Some people have observed that this could be a reflection of an innate passivity in the Filipino character, combined with a very emotional streak. There have been controversial views that this is a reflection of how Filipinos have allowed themselves to be taken over by foreign interests.

The kundiman in pop culture
The kundiman in its traditional form has not survived well in present-day pop culture. The very fact that it is a foundation for tradition makes it “baduy” in the eyes of younger Filipinos, where mournful, plaintive songs can be sneered as sounding like a Kundiman. True, there have been highlights, such as Sylvia La Torre’s career, and the popularity of songs like “sa Ugoy ng Duyan,” but these can be also seen as drawbacks, since it further puts the kundiman in the position of either being “high brow” culture, or worse, “library culture.”

One of the few times the kundiman is seen in a positive light is when the term itself is used to refer to the primary purpose: that of a song being used in serenading. In that venue, the term loses most, if not all of its negative aspects, save perhaps for the quaint idea of hearing a song sung by would-be lover, or a lover who cannot go into the home.

The key to making the kundiman acceptable in pop culture may, ironically, be in changing the form somewhat. While the strict musical structure can be retained to this day (though the instruments used and arrangements can be updated), the lyrics themselves might be the key to a kundiman resurgence. One can either go to the point of exaggeration, at the risk of sounding like a parody, or one can ditch the whole mournful and melancholic feeling altogether, and use more modern language, while liberally retaining the basic idea of the kundiman being a love song.

In some cases, you have “Kundiman” from Silent Sanctuary, which retains many of the traditional touches of the kundiman, but upgrades the arrangement and time signature. In other songs, such as Hale’s “Kung Wala Ka”, one can clearly hear the spirit or tone of the kundiman, though the actual song itself leans closer to classic western pop.

Where do we go with the kundiman?
The first thing that has to be done, obviously, is that the kundiman should be brought out from “high culture,” and then once again taken to the masses. Once could say that the kundiman as a cultural art form should have a makeover, making it more accessible to pop culture through either a glorification of its role in Philippine art and culture, or through updating it through musical releases that stay true to the idea and, if possible, to the musical structures that technically make a kundiman song a kundiman song.

Or, we can take comfort in the fact that the kundiman actually does live on in spirit in Philippine pop music, though we’ll probably never hear the original kundiman style reach the heights of popularity that it once did. Whatever the case may be, the kundiman as a signpost of Philippine character and culture should be an accepted fact. The yearning, sadness, and romanticism that the kundiman can bring to the fore are uniquely Filipino, be it bakya or high art.

Original Photo: “Singing the Kundiman,” Shubert Ciencia c/o Flickr.com
All copyrights of the Youtube videos used in the article belong to their respective youtube channel owners or original sources.

with the cellphone at the migrating coastal dune

The Millennial Generation: bridging the gap

Friday, 29 January 2016 | Written by
with the cellphone at the migrating coastal dune

 

with the cellphone at the migrating coastal duneMillennials, as the current younger generation are called, has been the bane of all other older people. They have been called lazy, entitled, unproductive, and probably every other term in the book to denote a failed generation.

However, with Millennials becoming part of the work force, What is important now is how to get people to make Millennials work and be productive. Here are some points to ponder about the latest generation to join us.

Millennials are tech wizards
You’re looking at a generation that grew up with an online connection. That may sound funny, but it also means that how they use technology and consume information has become very different from older generations.

For example: While older generations may see the Internet as a tool for information – research and social communication, for millennials it is an integral part of their social network. The hoary “new” joke that kids today would not survive without their Internet connection could very well be true, from a certain point of view.

It’s the same thing with information. Millennials aren’t about digesting and understanding the ramifications of a few lines of data. They’re all about quantity and search results. This is bad in the sense that perhaps, they aren’t as philosophical or “deep” as we expect them to be, but the ability to process (albeit shallowly) large chunks of data allows them to spot trends, and perhaps even react to them instinctively.

How do you harness this?
Be it in personal life or in the workforce, the important thing to understand is that they are the most technically proficient tool users for the information age. While they may take some years to develop analytical skills to make deeper sense of the information they can gather and cull, this also makes them masters at acquiring information, and spotting trends that older people may miss. A logical extension of this is that they are also much more experienced in using the information tools and infrastructure at their disposal for marketing, sales, and database use. Just remember, though, that you’ll have to teach them that thinking about the different levels of meaning for data is just as important as acquiring a tonload of it.

Millennials have different motivations
For the longest time, the idea was to have a great life by having all needs and wants one could have. This meant, of course, that a focus on work was necessary – live to work and get all the needs and wants, such as it was. However, thanks, in part, to changing attitudes about work and quality of life, the younger generations now redefine their own pursuits in life – and this means that their motivations for doing things are very different.

For one, it’s not about monetary value, but rather experiential value. Yes, this is in conflict with their need to always have the latest gadgets. But if you think about it, their need for the latest gadgets is about improving experience, rather than simply having the best mobile device money can buy. If they can improve the performance of an older device to let it last longer as a functional tool for them, they will (and many have, particularly in the Philippines).

Since their motivation is based more on a direct line to quality of life and experience, rather than the acquisition of resources to allow for a higher quality of life, then it’s no surprise why we don’t see millennials planning things on a long-term basis to get their rewards, so to speak.

How do your harness this?
When dealing with millennials, you could, as larger companies do overseas, offer a friendly, recreation-heavy atmosphere. However, given the cost constraints of the Philippine setting, what you can do best to motivate your millennial workforce – and to make them get used to a more realistic work output – is to enforce a work schedule based on deadlines, with an option for days off or bonuses based on quality of work or earlier submission. Yes, it may sound somewhat “corny” by the standards of older generations, but let’s face it, if it works, then it works. By offering them more value for the work when done correctly, or offering the value of the work in terms of time off from work, it becomes easier for millennials to connect with the work ethic of older generations.

Millennials are living in a harsher world
One thing that most people don’t seem to realize is that millennials, in general, live in a harsher world. This is a cold reality that many of the older generation don’t see. Salaries are lower, and the cost of goods – heck, the cost of everything – is higher. It’s no surprise, then, that they value experience and other non-material things more than they do “what can be bought”. The simple reason for that is that they can’t buy much material stuff anyway. This outlook is probably exacerbated by the virtual lives they have online, where they can be anyone they want.

This means, too, that their world has smaller or nonexistent safety nets for failure, or lack of success. The shrinking set of opportunities, combined with the change in how people value time versus work, have effectively made millennials the unwanted children, whether they like it or not.

How do you harness this?
Quite frankly, millennials sometimes do feel that they are entitled to some sort of easy life – but that’s not because they feel they should have it, but more like they know they’re at the losing end of things, and will find ways to get it, even if it means they have to act like babies. What’s important, then, is to harness what their generation is good at, and then use it to add to the work that older generations do.

Instead of telling millennials to get off the proverbial lawn, maybe what should be done is to tell them that the lawn needs some mowing, and then give some incentives. Yes, not all millennials will bite at the chance to be productive, but then, it’s no surprise if any generation has its share of bad eggs.

In the end, bridging the gap with millennials is strengthened by an attitude of acceptance, combined with an understanding that, like many younger people, they do need guidance – and in their case, much more than normal, since the times they live in are definitely more difficult.

Photo: “With the cellphone at the migrating coastal dune,” Susan Nilsson c/o flickr.com

Barrel of Monkeys

Truths and fallacies about middle children

Sunday, 10 January 2016 | Written by
Barrel of Monkeys

three monkeys

Among siblings, if you’re not the Alpha-Panganay, and you’re not the Master-Bunso, then that means you’re the unlucky one who falls between the two extremes: the middle child. But is a middle child really so unlucky? Here are some truths – and not-so-true things – that middle children exhibit.

Middle children are wallflowers
It’s a common thing to say that middle children tend to be more passive or quiet than the aggressive eldest, or the boisterous youngest child. But this can be a matter of perception.

The truth
Middle children are definitely more passive, in the sense that they have no problem (normally) if the spotlight isn’t on them. After all, they do not have the leadership or aggressive qualities of elder children (…not exactly, but more on that later…), nor do they have the demanding social interactions that youngest siblings do tend to exhibit.

This passivity, however, is more about finding a middle ground – in other words, in a setting where social adaptation with a large group is necessary, middle children may actually be even better, since they don’t hog the other people’s attention – that’s how they’ve been raised, after all, to survive between two stronger personalities.

At its worst, this sort of social skill can lead to people being wallflowers or being socially inept. However, if the negative aspects are addressed early, middle children tend to become great negotiators and social organizers. Their very ability to be the “proper” middle child makes them perfect for balancing out social interactions with many people.

Middle children are more “negative” in terms of outlook
It’s a normal thing to say that middle children tend to have more hugot. That is to say, they have more resentment and bitterness due to all sorts of issues. But this is more a function of how they are dealing with how people see middle children.

The truth
Middle children may have some negative aspects to their personality, particularly if they feel that as a middle child, they aren’t getting the same attention and share of resources (like clothes or gadgets) as the usually-favored eldest and youngest siblings. However, this can be addressed – and should be, at the earliest possible time. Middle children who learn to cope with situations like this learn to be adept at interpreting psychological and social mechanisms present in social interactions.

Taken one way, this again leads to them being talented social organizers and negotiators – with some of them becoming great leaders, since they can balance their being a leader with being “one of the normal guys.”

But taken another way, this can also mean that middle children can be very adept at manipulating others – which can be a good or bad thing. What is important, then, to encourage in middle children (be you a parent or a loved one) is the sense of fair play. After all, as middle children, the default will always be to come out not so much on top, but to at least survive not being overwhelmed by other more aggressive personalities.

Middle Children don’t feel like they belong
For some middle children, the fact that they aren’t the stand-out child makes them sometimes feel like they don’t belong. After all, the eldest will always be the eldest, with all the attention and responsibility that the position entails, and the youngest, the bunso, will always have an advantage in terms of attention given – maybe not as much as the eldest, but it is significant. For middle children – particularly in cases where there is more than one middle child – this can be an issue because, simply, they don’t feel they are getting proper attention, and as a result, they can feel like they don’t belong.

The truth
Sadly, this is a very common concern among middle children, particularly those who haven’t mastered how to balance themselves socially. It can be exacerbated if the middle child is also the introverted one, as the inherent aloofness of an introvert will play into the whole middle-child trope. Feeling out of place can and will be an issue with middle children for the simple reason that they also have to be the ones to adapt the most to their social and family environments.

If the positive outcome happens, middle children will learn how to deal with this feeling of alienation by being the one to develop out-of-the-box interests. They may be the ones who turn out to be travel-oriented, or may end up being even more socially adept than either eldest or youngest siblings. Middle children like these tend to compensate for their feelings of loneliness by doing something  that will address the issue. However, they will still be prone to some stress about it, for obvious reasons.

For middle children who dwell on the negative aspects of it, then the trope comes in full force: a middle child can become sullen and withdrawn – or, even worse, simply refuses to engage unless he or she totally has to (or is ordered to by parents).

Do middle children really behave like this?
Many people are probably thinking: do middle chldren really stick to the stereotype? Well, the answer to that is that it is both true and false. While it is true that people don’t necessarily have to stick to type as middle children even if they are, the fact stands that the environmental pressures of being a middle child can force them into those stereotypical characteristics.

Does this mean that middle children are fated to act the part? Well, that depends on if they themselves will accept it, and if their loved ones and the people around them will reinforce the issue. Also, it depends on if the acceptance will take on the form of positive adaptation, or a negative reaction.

At the end of it all, being a middle child is just that: being the child who was born before the youngest, and after the eldest. All other “traits” may or may not be true. Genetics and some paradigms for nurturing may be at play, but in the end, it’s all about whether or not the middle child will allow himself or herself to be a middle child.

So, is the Middle Child thing a myth? Well, to be honest, it may just be more of a self-fulfilling prophecy – and for middle children, that can be a bit of a cross to bear.

Photo: Barrel of Monkeys, Enokson c/o Flickr.com

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