Loving the Laguna landscape. #majayjay
Road trip to I have no idea where. #south
IT’S THE HACIENDA WORLD AS WE KNOW IT:THE DECLINE OF THE FILIPINO SPANISH MESTIZO IN THE NEW MILLENIUM
Overheard in Alabang Town Center: “Shet, dude. I’m a cono kid daw. But that’s ok.”
Inaki Ibaturralde seemed like he had it all. Young, tall, fair, and good-looking, he was a Makati born, Alabang bred, English speaking, Spanish swearing, mestizo of Basque descent. After his secondary education in Manila’s premier Opus Dei school, he spent his college years in California, before taking the position of Senior Vice President at his father’s Ayala Avenue trading firm at the tender age of twenty eight. In 2003, he married Chavelli Lazarriaga, another fair skinned mestiza with an equally fair family name who worked in Manila’s fashion industry. They were wed in a highly publicized ceremony at the San Antonio in Forbes Park and were expecting their second child by the end of last year. Life couldn’t seem any more charmed. They were the “IT” couple of the Polo Club and Punta Fuego set; golden examples of Manila’s young “alta” society and the touchstone for couples in Manila’s millenium generation of de buena familia Spanish mestizos in Dasmarinas Village and Ayala Alabang.
But underneath this espadrille-wearing, tanned-while-jet-skiing-at-Tali facade, something was amiss over at the hacienda, so to speak. Apparently, Inaki had developed a taste for inhaling copious amounts of cocaine. Not an easy habit to cultivate, mind you, as such imported indulgences are mainly available through clandestine deals done in five star hotel rooms at U$350.00 a pop as opposed to the Php1500.00 per-bag-on-the-street-corner deals for it’s local “masa” counterpart, “shabu” (Crystal Metamphetamine). And for the past few years, Inaki miraculously managed to keep this sordid detail under wraps - from both wife and family - until things started unravelling - and quite messily at that - at home.
It was only a year after his third wedding anniversary that Inaki started acting out of sorts. Due to limited access to family bank accounts, Inaki had resorted to “shabu” and the addiction had taken it’s toll. Inaki looked bloated and sweaty at business meetings and his habit of locking himself into the downstairs den (sometimes for up to two days) was something which began to concern his young wife. Nevertheless, his habit remained overlooked - perhaps subconsciously - by those around him until last Christmas eve when his mother’s maid found drug paraphernalia (crystal pipe and a roll of tinfoil) in the front seat of his car while transferring Christmas presents to the tree. So after a rather audible confrontation, Inaki was banished from his wife, family and their digs above his mother’s garage to fend for himself. Nothing was heard of him until a month ago, when a segment on the evening news revealed that Inaki had knifed a tricycle driver in United Paranaque while in a frantic state of paranoia. Today, he sits in a rehabilitation center in Bicutan, his wife now settled in the United States with both children, far away from the scandal and shame. The golden boy now tarnished in the eyes of the upper crust - an outcast from the walls of his city.
Now although the aforementioned is merely an extreme composite of characters I personally know, sadly, Inaki’s story is not a rare one one among the families of Manila’s todo insular, Royal Ambre scented crowd. His story is that of a promise unfulfilled; a morality tale about the importance of restraint and self-confidence and an image symbolic of the state of Hispanic Filipinos the 21st century. It’s a metaphor about his ancestry, that of Spanish mestizos, also known as “tisoys” or “cono kids” - a monicker derived from their habit of peppering conversations with the aforementioned “c” word. They are a people that have lost their footing in this world, and have no idea how to go about standing up and finding it once again.
But how did the “tisoy”, once a proud, plentiful, and productive breed found freely grazing and settling in the open districts of Ermita, Malate, Pasay, and San Miguel, fall so far from the status that they enjoyed in the Philippines for hundreds of years? From the 19th century until the mid-seventies, the “tisoy” and his culture were ubiquitous to the Philippine landscape. From the hallways of the country’s corporations to the billboards which trimmed our highways, the images of Spanish mestizeria could be found managing multinational corporations or modelling the latest fashions. Manning shop counters at the Escolta, counting cash behind bank windows, or serving coffee in the sky, mestizos and mestizas were everywhere. But in an amazingly ironic turn of events, from being the dominant culture which the populace yearned to emulate, they now find themselves marginalized and struggling to find their position in a Filipinas that has decided to fully embrace it’s Asian roots in the twenty-first century. Just turn on the television or watch a movie and the glaring irrelevance of the mestizo will immediately stare back at you. Gone are the days of the artista male romantic lead in the mold of Rogelio dela Rosa, Edu Manzano, or Gabby Concepcion. Even mestizos de entresuelos (mestizong bangus or quasi-mestizo mestizos) like Kuya Germs Moreno or Redford White are also fast disappearing from the showbiz firmament. It’s obvious that the white skinned, aqualine nosed template has ceased to be the pinnacle of male physical aspiration and in it’s place we now find the chinky charm of the late Rico Yan or the moreno mein of Piolo Pascual. And instead of living near to their forefather’s ancestral lands near the walled city of Intramuros, Spanish mestizos now find themselves commuting back and forth from the newer gated districts of Makati, Paranaque, and Alabang. The displacement of their home and their culture was a cruel fate that had crept up without warning. But how did this come to be? Nobody can say for sure. One can only hypothesize.
Perhaps it’s because they lost their home? Overheard at a tour from a guest: “These mestizos really liked their walled cities..”
It was only when I heard this statement that I realized the concept of the “gated community” is something that has always been integral to the personality of Manila. The notion of a society that is “within” and one that is “without” is still as prelevant today as it was in the times of Jose Rizal. Just replace the subdivision security guards with the guardia civil and the Household helpers ID/Community Tax Certificate with the cedula and it’s Noli Me Tangere with a cheaper wardrobe budget. But although the system still remains, Intramuros - the city where this system originated has been gone for over 67 years now, destroyed in February of 1945. In a battle between the Japanese Imperial army and the US Armed Forces at the close of World War II, this 400-year old Spanish designed walled city, and the most overt physical manifestation of Spain’s influence in the Orient became the central war theatre within the capital. After a month of heavy fighting, this city made of coral, volcanic ash, and wood, inspired by designs from France, Madrid, and England, was pummeled to dust; the largest and only specimen of Spain’s presence in Asia wiped off the face of the earth. Most everything we see today, with the excepton of San Agustin Church; is a post-war reconstruction. And not only was the walled city obliterated; but the Spanish mestizo residential enclaves of Ermita, Malate, Sampaloc, and Pasay were left in ashes, their fair skinned residents massacred and buried in mass graves. Even the “tisoy” commercial playground that was Escolta in Santa Cruz - a place so patrician that salesgirls even had to speak Spanish - was reduced to rubble. It was really after this period that slow migration of the surviving mestizos began. Perhaps driven away by the bitter memories of the war or by the encroaching displaced rural poor, they first wandered off into the promised - and gated - land of Makati suburbia in the 1950’s, then into newer, flashier digs in Ayala Alabang in the 1980’s. But for those mestizos who ended up in the more middle class spectrum of the social ladder by the 1970’s, there were the gates of Merville and BF Homes to keep the sweaty toiling extramuros communities at bay.
Eventually, with the coming of President Marcos, things would come to a head for the mestizo. Although the martial law era can be perceived as oppressive on one hand, it was also a period when a cohesive Malay identity was established for the Filipino through the cultural efforts of Marcos’ New Society Movement. It the first times in Philippine history that the Malay Identity was truly celebrated in all aspects of Filipino life. Government programs, cultural events, and even public architecture all had to celebrate this newfound yet ancient identity promoted by the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan or The New Society Movement. Ako ay Pilipino. We’re here, we’re brown, get used to it. And it didn’t only show in the architecture, it showed in media as well. The mestiza look of Rosa Rosal and Gloria Romero was out, and it was the morena template of Alma Moreno and Gloria Diaz that became the “wet look” of the moment. It was at this period that many “tisoys” ended up leaving altogether, moving away and settling into happy white-collared/white-colored existences in Australia or the United States, the promise of a new start and identity beckoning them away from their Philippine past.
Perhaps they lost their entitlement? Overheard at a couturier: “Mestizos were never taught how to work.”
A rather shocking statement but one that cannot be dismissed because it really is a peek into the preconceived notions many Filipinos have about their Hispanic counterparts. Myth number one. Spanish mestizos are lazy. Myth number two. Spanish mestizos are all heirs with endowments and assets. Both not necessarily true. Mestizos dicks have never been bigger, they’ve only been whiter. Just as Spanish mestizos have never been richer, they only seemed like they were. Perhaps this sense of entitlement came about because historically, Spanish mestizos have never really been part of the manual labor force. Occupations for tisoys were pretty much white-collared and handed down to them as a birthright; some careers even assured way before they were out of diapers. For the rural mestizo, all he had to do was wait for harvest season to come round and the income would almost generate itself. And at the end of it all, when daddy died, the land - and workers on it - were all his to possess. And for the urban mestizo, all he had to do was depend upon Manila’s old boy’s club run by The Ateneo/La Salle/et al alumnus association to assure them of the exact same jobs that their fathers also toiled. But now, Spanish mestizo founded corporations like Philippine Airlines, and San Miguel Corporation are out of their original owners hands (The Todas for PAL, the Sorianos for SMC); and now have to restructure themselves away to be competitive in the modern world. Some tisoys found it harder to compete for that same job in a system now based on merit than on who was their dad’s fraternity brother. And due to this, quite a few them decided to forego the hassle of asserting himself and finding a new identity within this revamped society, and instead take the alternate route of migrating into the promise of a tabula rasa in cities like San Francisco or Sydney (See the last part of previous paragraph).
Or maybe they just never wanted to be here in the first place: Once told to my face: “Ay, Carlos. Mestizos. They’re all liars.”
The most freaky of all the statements I’ve heard, but once again, perhaps it rings true. Could it be that the Spanish mestizo, who never felt neither at home in the Philippine archipelago nor in the Iberian peninsula, could be cursed to roam the world never to find his stead? Cursed to forever live in gated communities with all the insularities it brings? After all, Inaki’s family was so detached from the fact that their family lived in a Southeast Asian country in the Pacific that they even maintained their Spanish passports and spoke Spanish at the dining table. His own mother would go out of her way to let everyone now that their family was NOT to be considered part of the brown-ness which surrounded them. She once commented about her other, darker daughter-in-law: “Oye, Es guapa. Por una Filipina.” (“She is pretty. For a Filipina.”) Aesthetically, The Ibaturraldes were known for their fondness of bullfighting posters, ashtrays which said: “Fuma menos, cono” (Smoke less, expletive meaning vagina), and for the blue and white porcelain tile emblazoned with the words: “Dios Bendiga Cada Rincon en Esta Casa” (Lord Bless Every Corner of This House) hanging above their front door; mandatory household items for the aspirationally Iberian. And with this lack of desire to integrate - both culturally and aesthetically - perhaps we can say that the Spanish mestizo doesn’t want to be at home in the Philippines at all. He would rather embrace the romantic notion of an Occidental Philippines that cannot be, than to become part of the Oriental Philippines which exists before him right now. And with this decision to deny the context which surrounds oneself, comes the corresponding consequences: The insecurity of never being accepted and the paranoia that someone out there is always trying to get you. Time to build those walls again.
Today’s Random Act of Beauty. #itsbeenawhile
Anonymous asked: Different anon here. But ain't positivity always better? I love your causes but I hate your medium and the way you RANT about everything. I see that now. The world needs more love and positivity than hate. You should know that. And for that, I am unfollowing you. There's too much hate in the world for me to follow you.
To each their own. You would have had less drama if you just unfollowed without having to rant about it too. We’re more alike than not. Cheers.
notyeraveragenerd asked: I've been educated in Catholic schools my whole life, thereby making me witness in the Catholic Church's (esp. the Philippines')obstinacy in tradition and dogmas which should have long been made obsolete, and after reading your piece, all I can say is A-FREAKING-MEN, brother! Congratulations on you win! :D
Thanks so much. As I said before, this world needs more spirituality and less religion.
Anonymous asked: I think you're wonderful! :) Not all of us have the balls to question religion - its such an imposing institution that we have to follow day in and day out because our parents said so and the previous generations before. It's the fear of not conforming to the norm and not being socially accepted and be branded as "infidel" that is why most of us just go with the flow and keep our mouth shut. Thank you for voicing out the things that we "not so brave ones" have the courage to say.
Thanks! So much negativity today. I am grateful for your kind words.
Anonymous asked: Why are you such an asshole?
Someone’s got to do it. :o)
Anonymous asked: I can't judge you as a person. Nevertheless, you are the personification of evil in this imperfect, cruel world. I am sure you think that this is your world and ultimate life. I'd commit suicide if that was true, just like many persons who denied the reality and existence of a pure and infinitely perfect spirit. As for your statements in your award winning debate, they're all based from wrong premises and utter lack of knowledge of human western and eastern civilization. Dude give me a nation, t
You say you can’t judge me then you say that I am the personification of evil, you ignorant fuck?? After the bombings today, you dare judge someone (who is Catholic, mind you) as being the personification of evil for coming up with an argument that made you question your faith??? CHECK your faith before judging me and anyone. Then go fuck yourself. Cheers.
My opening position at the Intelligence Squared Debate: “Religion Is Good For Us” I was in the OPPOSITION. This debate was held on April 11, 2013, 630pm at the HongKong Convention Center.
“Jesus Christ. I wish the question was a little easier.
And why do I say that? I say that because the subject given is rather broad. I truly wish that you asked if a SPECIFIC religion was good for us or not. Because specific religions have immediate connotations when you mention them. Both positive and of course – negative.
But unfortunately for me, this Intelligence Squared debate decided to use the word RELIGION itself.
So I’m now supposed to prove that religion – through a definition we can all agree upon with the Oxford Dictionary as our source – I’m supposed to prove that the “the systematic belief and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially that of a personal God or gods – is bad for us.” Let me say this one more time - that the “the systematic belief and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially that of a personal God or gods – is bad for us.” Us – being the human race as a whole.
Well, the answer is quite clear. Religion is bad for us. Philosophy is not bad for us. Spirituality is not bad for us. But RELIGION. Well, Religion is indeed detrimental to the development of progressive human societies and historically proven to cause terror, fear, guilt, war, genocide, and misogyny. Full stop.
One just has to look as far back as Pope Urban II and the horror of his crusades or as recently as Malala , a young Pakistani woman shot in the face just because she wanted to learn how to read – It’s easy to see the damage that religion has caused and the extremism that it has inspired. Religion is as whole perhaps one of the most damaging inventions of the human mind. And I say this in no small terms.
And I can prove this point by just by simply breaking down the terms of its definition. I question its SYSTEMS and I question BELIEF in the existence of that SUPERHUMAN invisible sky dude.
And I say dude. Because as we all know, women are the first ones excluded in this thing that we call religion. Half of us here today, in the eyes of most – if not – ALL – religions are considered to be lesser than a dork like me and perfectly incapable of being it’s priest/pastor/preacher/rabbi simply because you guys have a vagina. Most leaders of religions are men, yes?
Religion is about the penis, more evidentially than metaphorically and ironically, I do believe it should be treated as such. Like a penis, religion should be kept to oneself in public and never forcefully rammed down anyone’s throat much less that of a child’s.
First point: THE SYSTEM:
A religion is a system and a hierarchy. And at the top of this heirarchy is – of course, the invisible sky Dude.
Being so and dependent upon the rules of this supreme know it all Sky Dude, religions become a dictatorship – a system where the rules are immovable and absolute. In the words of secularism’s patron saint Christopher Hitchens – religion is a celestial North Korea.
And if you wrong this invisible Kim Jong Eun in the sky - You are immediately found guilty – without trial – and punished either to death or into a life of eternal suffering after you die: An afterlife double whammy.
And just as in any dictatorship, the first thing that is compromised is freedom. And this is the part where this system becomes most sinister. In order to avoid that imagined eternal damnation I mentioned earlier, freedom is given up – sometimes willingly and many times not. Human rights, women’s rights, the right of free speech and THOUGHT – especially thought – are the first to lose in this equation. Religion is authoritarian by design and they discourage independent thinking, EVEN when they encourage good behavior.
Another flawed perception of religion and its systems is that it creates communities. This is untrue. Religions do not create communities; they create cliques. Religion is in it’s essence: insular, in it’s organization, in it’s morals and it does this even as it claims to be all accepting and inclusive. It really just creates little groups that end up fighting over petty matters with other little groups even if they are more or less trying to achieve the same goals and graduation. I see Religious systems as the theosophical version of the movie “Mean Girls”.
And this is no laughing matter. My case in point: The center of monotheism: Jerusalem – a prime example of how these divisions have plagued us for millennia. Jerusalem is the home of three of the world’s most influential religions yet it has become the embodiment of how this belief in God (and all of them believing in a very similar God) can bring about tyranny, persecution, and murder.
And the tragedy of this all is that this system is just mere branding. The labeling of something that should come naturally to people like me and all of you in this room. Religion gives us misguided reasoning to do good things when there are perfectly good non-religious reasons to be good. Religion does not have the copyright for goodness, kindness, nor morality. Nobody has the trademark for doing unto others what you want others to do unto you. And it is in this creating of institutionalized branded beliefs where divisions arise and the damage can be done.
And what I consider to be it’s biggest flaw. Religion is obstinate. It has always depended upon stubbornness and immobility to exist. It thrives in being strict in its demands, defiant in conforming to rules not of their own making, and dismissive to those not transcribing to their rules. And it’s this is what makes religion static and obsolete in this day and age. It’s what makes religions deny evolution of the human species, and like in my country - oppress women, most especially their reproductive rights, and persecute people by throwing them into jail for speaking up in a Cathedral using protest action performance art.
As an example of showing how the religion can be static, compare religion to another counterpart in human existence: Science. We can see that the former has moved forward while religion has not. In many moments, religion has even moved backward bringing societies like Afghanistan back to the days of ignorance and darkness (literal and metaphorical) - The degradation of that society under the Taliban clearly shows a religion can arrogantly stay steadfast in its outdated beliefs, its punishments, its rules, and traditions while science has moved on and physically proven many truths which surround us. The same science we used in the 15th centruryis not the same science we believe in today. Rain is condensation. It’s not the folly of celestial Sky Dude. And it’s this Dude’s cantankerous and inflexibility to move into our time; to move into today; which makes religion irrelevant.
Second point: THE BELIEF IN THE SUPERHUMAN SKY DUDE
Allow me to use the F word. Faith: A provider of comfort for few and validation of ignorance for many. Religion is based on myths and stories written hundreds of years ago by barely literate peasants who couldn’t understand why people got pregnant nor why the sun set when it did.
Faith is faith.
Religion requires faith to be the highest standard to attain and it flies in the face of reason. You truly have to give up your critical faculties if you think the parting oceans, virgin births, half elephant people, and the movement of mountains by hand are possible. And when you give up skepticism and doubt and base your life on things that are aren’t real, on things that refuse to be explained in real time, you are bound to do something irrational – and irrationality is the very basis of extremism.
Seriously, It’s this preference of believing in these illusions which drive wars to happen, lives to be lost, widows to be burned, genitals to be mutilated, tourists to be beheaded, viruses to be spread and the irrational fear of death and what happens afterward struck into the hearts of men – and children.
And let’s talk now about this fear of death. This religious obsession with making promises of eternal joy after death. It’s absolutely macabre. It’s like hedging all your bets, giving your all for a prize that you aren’t sure is there and isn’t scientifically proven to exist. And once the time comes to collect on that bet and in the off case you find that prize of eternal joy doesn’t exist, you can’t ask for your money back because guess what – you’re dead. It’s more than apparent that this Sky God manipulates and plays on these vulnerabilities and fears in order to blackmail you into doing “the right thing”. A bad method to make you do good.
And ultimately, it is religion’s capacity to only listen to itself, it’s capacity to deny the realities which surround it, and it’s cruel way of making promises that they cannot scientifically prove that they can keep - which turns people, human beings – people like you and me – gifted with a brain, and it’s functions of reason, understanding, and love; It turns us into Pavlovian dogs enslaved to a system of reward and punishment obsessed with a cult of death.
And how, my brothers and sisters, can that be possibly good for us?
Religion is bad for us. Next question please and thank you for your vote.”
By the end of the night, our side, the opposition - with my partner Suthel Seth won by 63% says BAD to 34% says GOOD and 3% DON’T KNOW.
I thank the Black Nazarene and St. John of Bosco for this win. :o)