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The Village Society

(Ricardo G. Abad)

In a long Bar on a Metro Manila highway, Jane Gomez, a young Filipino singer commands center stage with Tagalog pop songs, while above to her left, international pianist Cecile Licad, a Filipino of the same generation, plays Rachmaninoff on a television broadcast. Why doesn't anyone notice this cacophonous duet? Probably because to the Filipino patrons, this is just one more of the many juxtapositions of everyday life. What Filipino is surprised by a house that doubles as a beauty shop and a copy center, or a goiter clinic that also sells ice, or a mother who takes a sick child to a doctor, but just to be sure, takes him to a faith-healer as well, or a Catholic procession in which the Virgin Mary is bejeweled and begowned like a beauty queen? None.

These are just some of the improvisations of Philippine social life that date back to ancient times. In the 17th century, for instance, Filipinos, then called indios, were resettled by the Spaniards in inland centers where they all fell "under the bells" and within the reach of law. Eager to please, the natives adapted to their new environment and its traditions as best s they could without giving up their indigenous way of life. When told by the friar to go to confession, they did, but instead of confessing their own "sins", they confessed the "sins" of their neighbors.

A Steward Of Nature

(by: Ezperanza B. Gatbonton)
 
Pre-Hispanic Filipinos lived in a virtual paradise. Nature's garden was their backyard. It gave them everything they needed for their livelihood.

Dense thickets of bamboo and nipa groves provided housing material. Coconut palms gave them sweet water to slake their thirst; from its heart they tapped palm-wine to warm their bodies at ritual feasts. The nut yielded oil to scent their hair; and vinegar to flavor their simple meals.

There was an abundance of mangrove in the swamps, game in the forests, gold dust in streams flowing down from the mountains. Edible tubers could be dug up almost everywhere. The early Spanish chroniclers noted that even in the worst droughts, when no rice could be planted, the large trees and dense foliage kept the earth moist enough for rootcrops. And the waters' surrounding the islands-whether sweet, brackish or saltyteemed with marine life.

Clothing came from the bark of palms and from fibrous leaves. The forests held a wealth of scented woods, wax, bensoin, honey, and wildlife-all of which were trade items convertible into luxury goods like muslin, silk or porcelain.

Sharing, A Sense Of Being A Filipino

Anywhere-in the Philippines, if your neighbor borrows your soup tureen or serving platter, it will never return empty. You can be sure it will have some of what they cooked for you. It is said in the provinces that the ownership of a talyasi, a deep, thick, army-sized wok used for cooking in the yard, assures you of a steady supply of viands. The few talyasi in town are forever out on loan for some fiesta or other big celebration. Of course the borrower never sends the wok back without a package of goodies for its owner.

In rural areas, everything is communal. The missing ingredients of a vegetable dish come from other backyards. You can plan meals around Susing's squash leaves, Oyong's green papayas and the string beans in Naty's patch. Of course the chili of the whole neighborhood comes from your own bush. If someone in the barrio has a visitor, neighbors slip in one by one until the whole neighborhood is sitting on the stairs waiting to hear what he has to say. Since most likely each neighbor would bring food, drink or even a guitar, before long a gathering of three or four becomes a block party. Many small towns have no hotels, but there is always an extra pillow and sleeping mat to share with a guest or benighted traveler.

Soul People

(by: Guillermo M. Pesigan)

Recently , Filipinos experienced, following hard on each other's heels, a volcanic eruption, a killer earthquake-, countless flood, seven coup attempts and a fuel crisis climaxed by 12-hour daily power outages.

In the past, they had gone through over 300 years of Spanish colonialism, over four decades of American rule and three years of Japanese occupation. The postwar reconstruction of the Republic sadly ushered in 20 years of dictatorship. (The People Power Revolution, which toppled that infamous regime, is among the bright moments in the nation's modem history.)

How do Filipinos cope? They transcend. They rise above the fact through a kind of spiritual reflex action acquired through historical experience. Modern-day Filipinos are a product of multi-cultural layering. One aspect of the national character which has been transformed by an interesting history is the Filipino soul. The Filipino's Malay ancestors, who were animists, were exposed to Islam in the mid- 15th century, to Catholicism in the 16th and to Protestantism in the 20th. At other times in their history, they had encounters with the Chinese, Japanese and Indians who did not press their faith on them but did leave behind some elements of worship that now show up in their language and folkways.

A Sense Of Being Filipino, Shared Spaces

The rooms in a farmer's bamboo but are few and small. Up front, there is a porch, then a receiving room which leads to a dining room, a kitchen and, finally, a rear porch for washing things. There may be only one bedroom or sometimes bedroom space is merely marked off by a row of closets. Yet the household might consist of eight children of various ages, parents, grandparents, as well as unmarried aunts.

How do they manage without getting into each other's way? By sharing space. Every space in the house has multiple uses. And every bit of space is shared by all. At the front porch, strangers are received; family members and neighbors sit around to catch a breeze often amid sacks of freshly milled rice, for the porch is storage space as well. Inside, the dining and living rooms-one continuous space - are where familiars are invited for refreshments or where the children play while mother sews or irons. Afternoons and evenings find the family unrolling straw mats, not only in the bedroom but throughout the length of these rooms as well.

There seems to be no privacy, as the walls are made of thin bamboo strips. Conversations are easily over hear since there are usually no interior doors Still there are boundaries. A sudden lowering of a voice warns the children that serious matters are being discussed. When a mother bares her breast to nurse her baby, the rest of the family to looks elsewhere

 

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