Saturday, September 03, 2005

'Separate but equal' Mangyans of Mindoro

At the Oriental Mindoro Provincial Hospital, Mangyan patients are maintained in a separtate ward because other patients complain of their presence (and their allegedly foul smell).

Upon first hearing this, we, of course, thought this was an unforgivable instance of racial discrimination, reeking of American "separate but equal" maintainance of exclusive facilities for blacks. But the doctor assured us that this arrangement worked for the advantage of the Mangyans: They ended up getting better service. True enough, the Mangyan ward, which sits on top of a hill, is more airy, more spacious, and better maintained than the regular wards which are cramped, dank and altogether not that well-ventilated. The Mangyan ward even has its own kitchen!

I still don't know what to think of this arrangement. Is this patronizing for indigenous peoples? Or are we just over-politicizing an arrangement that people of Mindoro otherwise find natural? In any case, Mangyans in that hospital seem to be enjoying quite a preferential treatment that people of lighter color should probaly complain.

14 comments:

slim whale said...

i guess life has a way of equalizing things. :)

gari said...

what's true in hospitals, is also true in--

jeepneys, where drivers often pass them by and some lowland passengers makes a point of distancing themselves from them. its not unusual to see the mangyans taking the jeepney roof instead.

schools, where parents tell their children not to have a mangyan for a seatmate.

relationships, where a lowlander must justify himself/herself for taking a mangyan for a friend/gf/bf/partner.

and so on and so forth, until the hospital scene you described becomes one pix in a collage of malignant philantrophies and benign prejudices in our islands.

the manifestations are many, and their incidents may vary, but the source and its essential nature is one.

this is the first time i went blogging. thanks for web links. they're most helpful.

gari said...

what's true in hospitals, is also true in--

jeepneys, where drivers often pass them by and some lowland passengers makes a point of distancing themselves from them. its not unusual to see the mangyans taking the jeepney roof instead.

schools, where parents tell their children not to have a mangyan for a seatmate.

relationships, where a lowlander must justify himself/herself for taking a mangyan for a friend/gf/bf/partner.

and so on and so forth, until the hospital scene you described becomes one pix in a collage of malignant philantrophies and benign prejudices in our islands.

the manifestations are many, and their incidents may vary, but the source and its essential nature is one.

this is the first time i went blogging. thanks for web links. they're most helpful.

R. O. said...

Let's teach the mangyan good hygiene and there'd be no discrimination issues. Let's not be too rush in mistaking discrimination where there is none. Resty O.

Ronnel said...

Speaking of body odor, I heard it said that people smell even if they're truly hygienic and clean. One African graduate student at UP was hurt because the students were talking about his odor not knowing he understands Tagalog. He protested that he washes sometimes even twice a day. One professor said that abroad we Filipinos smell like fish.

Ronnel said...

Gari,

Mas malala pag mataba ka kesa mangyan ka pag sasakay ka sa jeep. Iiwasan ka talaga tapos pag nakasakay ka parirnggan ka talaga ng driver lalo pag rush hour. Minsan me malaki kaming nakasabay. nang sumakay sya napuno ang jeep dahil 2 ang naoocupy nong mataba. Etong driver naman tigil ng tigil sa bawat pasahero sa daan pretending he doesnt know the jeep is already full, each time saying quite loudly, "ah puno na pala." Talagang na self-conscious yong mataba. I don't even know where to look to avoid seeing how embarrassed the guy was.

One time at UP Philcoa jeep, one American horizontally-challenged guy screamed, "There is no more fucking space!" as the driver was trying to squeeze another ass. I thanked God that time that I was thin.

Ronnel said...

I don't think once hygiene has been taken care of, discrimination will disappear. Oprah, it is reasonable to assume, washes everyday, but that didn't prevent her from being turned away from Hermes.

R. O. said...

Talaga? Must be the diet. Is it true that Mangyans deliberately slather their bodies with sardines because the smell of sardines is a status symbol (sardines = pricey lowland food = upper crust)? No, seriously, I heard this one as a fact, not a joke.

gari said...

just two points.

1st, on the issue of discrimination. to say that teaching hygiene to mangyans would solve the discrimination issue (which i did not mention) is to prove the point of discimination and to make unwarranted assumptions.

if the problem is foul smell, then let all foul smelling patients be treated alike and placed in a separate ward. to replace "foul smell" with mangyans, so that a mangyan no matter how s/he smells, is assigned by hospital to that elevated ward, and a lowlander no matter how foul smelling is retained among lowlanders, is to erase the individual by burying him under an ethnic category defined only by that incidental character of foul smelling.

to advise, as u do, hygenic practice not to the unhygenics but to the mangyans is to conclusively assume that unhygenic or foul smell is an essential characteristic of a mangyan (it is not) and not an accidental characteristic too on others.

a refusal to go beyond the ethnic facade (due to mental laziness or an exalted view of one's self on the basis of group affiliation or both) by investigating and acting individually on the absence or presence of foul smell is to stereotype.

on stereotypes are built discriminatory acts.

2nd, as ronnel pointed out, what constitute foul smell is subjective. the "foreigness" of the carrier has got a lot do with it. filipinos in india and the middle east would bitch for months on their foul smelling colleagues, but in the end, after constant exposure over time, learn to live with the smell.

the malignancy in the hospital situation is that the situation came about not because mangyans asked for it, but because the lowlanders did and the mangyans were just borne by that decision on which they had no part. extend that to other relations (property, land, ancestral domain) and one could not mistake how this is about powerlessness too: who sets the standards, who defines the problem, who prescribes the remedy. and as is usually the case, the group calling the shots sees the remedy as resting on the other group, hardly on itself.

rooting out the "mangyan smell" is to make our islands less diverse.

R. O. said...

stereotypes are stereotypes because they are partly true.

gari said...

i suppose herr fuhrer would nod in agreement in ur one-liner while jesse owens would make an inspired run to prove it wrong.

i suppose one must be a jew first to understand that old yiddish proverb, a half truth is a whole lie.

i suppose that to comprehend the meaning of blind prejudice, one must be like that lady doctor aboard a european train who, after she showed her philippine
passport, was thereafter (sub)treated like a domestic
helper.

i suppose the world would only look different once one
has taken his/her turn at the receiving end of the
barrel of the gun.

gari said...

ronnel,

me ganyan ding akong karanasan, sakay ng fx, parinig
ng parinig ng drayber sa dalawang pasahero, kung pwedeng doblehin ang bayadng bawat isa. me kaya at dating ang dalawang taba, nagbigay
pero inalipusta naman ang pagiging sangkahig sang tuka
nong drayber.

sa cagayan de oro nanam, me sumikat na kantang bisaya
ngayong taon, hubagang ate oi, nangungutya sa mga dalagang tabain.

isipin na lang natin kung mangyang tabain yun, dobleng
pakikibaka.

di naman kasi eklusibo yan e, mga kategoryang gawa gawa para makapang alipusta.

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