Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ukay-ukay culture
In a poignant commentary, The Philippine Graphic asks: Is the Philippines a tabula rasa or a palimpsest? What triggered the question was the writer’s observations that real estate bosses in the country, who are presumed to know the preferences of the Philippine rich and upper-middle-class, name and design properties in ritzy, foreign fashion: Westgrove Heights, White Plains, Bellagio, Eastwood, Canyon Woods, Greenbelt, Tuscany Apartments, etc.

I personally don't have a problem with this kind of borrowing from foreign sources, although I admit there's something seriously amiss when we name something Canyon Woods when there's neither canyon nor woods. This practice of borrowing mostly American references is troubling only when you begin to juxtapose it with the interminable queus in the US Embassy. And you reach this conclusion: The middle classes and the rich who for the meantime opt to stay in the Philippines are, however superficially, transforming the country into the foreign place they would have lived in had they left--like souls trapped in purgatory waiting for the beacon of the stars and stripes of heaven.

Setting aside the American neo-colonial aspect to it, the question remains: Are we so devoid of native culture that we must perforce borrow? I don't know.

I suspect we are being too hard on ourselves. In a globalized and Americanized world, it is inevitable that we adopt American characteristics. Culture, after all, follows the direction of power. Even the Americans, when they were not a major world power yet, were heavy cultural borrowers. Some would be inclined to think of the columns in the White House as Greek kitsch.

If we must perforce borrow, might as well be eclectic about it. Because if the Philippines is going to look, sound, and feel Stateside, then what is to stop Filipinos from getting a visa and leaving for the real McCoy?


aa said...

I agree with you on your observation. The piece is an attempt at linking village nomenclature with and to colonial mentality. Actually, it's just a 'branding strategy' and has nothing to do with it (col.men.). Look at our brands: Fast-food (Jollibee), Toothpaste (Colgate), Car (Jaguar,Toyota,BMW), Jeans (Levis, Gucci). There's nothing new to 'nomenclature' in the Phils. It's all in the dynamics of entrepreneurship. We still patronize 'pan-de-sal', 'puto bungbung', 'bukayo', 'ensaymada'. Hmm, we don't say buy French baker to mean 'ensaymada'. Well that gives hardcore entrepreneurs an idea :)

angelo a.

R. O. said...

Yuson actually asks a question. So, AA, your answer is clearly, B., a palimpsest. I tend to agree it's more of palimpsest. You cannot force the Filipino to like what he/she doesn't. To paraphrase someone, The Filipino will like and not like whatever he likes and not like. The Filipino can be very shallow but not that stupid as to allow himself/herself to be dictated upon by taste. His/her choices are an announcement of his/her preferences and that is that. (Haaay, I hate this sex-related slash thing. Is there another way of doing this?)

Ronnel said...

Some friends sometimes make me feel guilty of my fascination with McDonlads cheeseburgers and fries. I think they have a point, but I can't help it. Anyway, I eat siopao and suman so I think I'm still okay.

Ronnel said...

I use 'his' throughout. It's probably insensitive (and old-fashioned) of me, but I dont really think using 'his or her' would correct past injustices.

R. O. said...

At least, we're trying. At least we recognize there was/is an injustice.

Hey, Ronnel, sorry but I will continue the debate on Yuson's piece in my blog. Hehe.

R. O. said...

You're "still okay" huh? Apparently the ukay-ukay culture suits you fine. =)