The Filipino male and his ego

On the evening of December 23, we drove my mother to her house in Caloocan and, on the way back, along Elliptical Road in Quezon City, an Isuzu DMAX swerved sharply from the lane on our right to the lane on our left. My husband hit the brakes and instinctively honked his horn, acts which apparently bruised the macho ego of the DMAX driver. As we passed him, he already had the passenger window down and he was cockily looking at us and showing us that he had a hand gun.

Twenty years ago, if I were driving the car, I would have swerved and cut right in front of him. If I weren’t the driver, I would have egged on the driver to do just that and engage the arrogant other driver in a road war. But it isn’t twenty years ago. The DMAX driver wasn’t worth the time and the energy (anger requires energy). I got the license plate number – ZBR 871 – but I’m not even interested in finding out the name of the owner. For now, at least. If the driver needed to pull out a gun to show he’s macho, the gun must surely be a substitute for non-existent balls. Too pathetic for attention but a very interesting point to explore.

See, growing up, there’s one thing I have learned about Filipino males. And please note that I use the term “males” instead of “men.” Real men are secure about their masculinity and don’t need guns nor big cars nor arrogance to assert it. It is the males with tiny balls – literally or figuratively, take your pick – who find this psychological need to play the role of a cock about to attack his opponent in a sabong confrontation at every opportunity and whatever the circumstances. What they lack in real worth, they try to make up for with arrogance hoping that people would take the arrogance as a sign of manliness instead of what it truly is – a pathetic attempt to cover up their insecurities.

And I’m not just talking about pompous drivers. I’m also talking about womanizers, hard drinkers, the neighborhood toughies, the fraternity and street gang war freaks, the wife beaters and the rapists. It would be so easy and convenient to simply label them as evil deviants but that would be too simplistic. That would be ignoring the root of their actions. They are victims, really. Victims of a culture that expects men to be strong and virile and always be full of that take-charge attitude – expectations that often become too overbearing, overwhelming and totally misunderstood that they lead instead to acts of senseless violence and grief. Continue Reading

Perceptions and images of women

In a television commercial, an attractive young woman calls out “Darling” to the out-of-focus image of a man in the crowd. She runs to him, he picks her up, she tells him she missed him and he says the same to her. The camera focuses on his face which, in wry Filipino humor, would be described as a face only a mother could love. Next comes the message that more women suffer from eye damage than men. The young woman goes to Executive Optical (EO), gets glasses, sees her beau clearly and looks confused as though wondering if it was indeed him.

The first time I saw the EO commercial, I laughed. It was definitely attention-grabbing and able to deliver the message succinctly through visuals – an effective application of a good understanding of human psychology via a vis the visual medium. Continue Reading

Post Independence Day thoughts

A couple of months ago, I was taking photos of the sunrise at the breakwater behind the Sampaguita Gardens Resort in Aklan when a small group of maya birds alighted on the ground. I was several feet away and I was able to photograph them using a telephoto lens. A few days ago, I was about to post the best maya bird photo in my photo Web log when I decided to do a little research to find out what its English name is. One thing led to another and I was hooked in the controversy over replacing the maya with the monkey-eating eagle as the national bird of the Philippines.

(Note: I finally posted the photo of the maya birds last night.)

The maya was the country’s national bird until then Pres. Fidel Ramos issued Proclamation No. 615 on July 4, 1995 naming the monkey-eating eagle as the national bird and thereby officially changing its name to the Philippine eagle. Some lament the change while others feel that since the eagle is more endemic to the Philippines, it is more apt to call it our national bird.

I found a reference to a legend, however, in a Web log I had never seen until a few days ago, that says putting the maya in the cage shortens its life: “These freedom loving birds was compared to the freedom loving spirit of Filipinos who, even though weak and small in size, were able to gain and sustain their freedom though their history.”

The legend, like the maya, is not unique to the Philippines. It is a legend attached to sparrows in general.

Now, that makes me think. In terms of psychology and culture, is the Philippine eagle, proud and beautiful and unique as it may be, a better symbol for the country and its people considering that it is almost extinct? Or is it the effort of saving the eagle from extinction that makes the symbolism more meaningful?

Does the commonness of the humble maya, or the house sparrow, make it less appealing as a national symbol? It may be common but it is a resilient specie and is able to make a home wherever food and shelter are available.

Asians love symbols and symbolisms and Filipinos are no exception. I thought about our national symbols and I became less and less enamored with the idea that they are as important as many people make them out to be.

Think of the Philippine eagle — kingly and ferocious. Wikipedia describes its morphology as follows: “The Philippine Eagle’s head is adorned with long brown feathers. These feathers give it the appearance of a lion’s mane, which in turn resembles the mythical gryphon.”

Clearly, there is an element of machismo involved in the choice of the Philippine eagle as the national bird. This becomes even more evident when we consider the characteristics of the sampaguita, our national flower — small, pure, white, fragrant and delicate. I don’t think I need to spell out the obvious associations. In most cultures, including ours, the flower is considered a feminine symbol while the bird is a masculine symbol.

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