The Pinoy Culture’s Coming Of Age
I suggest that before you read this, you read this first: The Unpinoy Filmmaker by Wincy Aquino Ong
While driving along Roxas Boulevard, my boyfriend asks me, “What is it that RA Rivera has that I don’t?”.
Is this another one of our usual stuck-in-traffic conversations? I ask myself. But I had a feeling that if I give my no-fuss, honest reply, this won’t be just a conversation - this will be something stuck in both of our heads. For quite a while.
“He’s probably more Pinoy than you.” Yes, that’s what I said.
I remember my 15 year-old self, suddenly. I was trying to come up with a concept for my entry for Converse’s Chuck Taylor design contest. Then it hit me - people wear shirts with pseudo-stenciled faces of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevarra and Communist Leader Mao Zedong, but I haven’t seen anyone wear the face of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio or Gabriela Silang. Of course this was around 2001, almost the same time as Team Manila launched its 1997 Swiss design inspired graphic shirts and bags. (Which probably made a significant shift in making Philippine History actually part of the Pinoy pop culture. This is a new, equally interesting topic, baby.) So I painted the faces of the Philippine heroes I knew on a pair of Chuck Taylors. Then on, I felt that I may have a tinge of nationalism in me. Well, maybe.
Then I went to UP Diliman three years later. I felt lucky (and proud) that I can take classes that seemed extra interesting: PanPil 17 (Philippine Pop Culture), PanPil19 (Sexuality in Philippine Literature) and Malikhaing Pagsulat 10. I remember writing this in my index card for Malikhaing Pagsulat 10:
Q: Ano ang layunin mo sa pagkuha ng klaseng ito?
My answer: Higit sa makapagsulat sa Filipino ng maganda, gusto kong makapag-isip sa wikang Filipino. Kapag nag-iisip kasi ako, nasa Ingles. Nakakatawa ‘di ba?
And more that getting the education, I got immersed in the culture. Justifying why I told Wincy, “The UP education does something to your brain. It turns you Pinoy.”
I realize, I may be using the term Pinoy too conveniently. What is Pinoy? What makes a film, a song, a TV series Pinoy? If I define it in face-value, I will retort to the flavors Tito, Vic and Joey, Lino Brocka (and Brillante Mendoza?), Mara Clara and The Eraserheads made us taste. But I’d like to believe that the term (and the identity it stands for) is beyond that. Call me optimistic, but yeah, it’s probably more than that.
Because I think that the Pinoy idea is a work-in-progress. It’s the more than a century old dilemma Ibarra and Elias had been arguing about - Are the Filipinos ready? And to make it more specific to what I am talking about, are the Filipinos ready to define themselves in terms of culture - taste and consumption?
We haven’t gone past our coming of age. How are we going to form ourselves and our taste? Definitely, I see the hope in the mavens of our current culture - the high brow and the low brow. We need responsible, tactful and thoughtful influential people to idolize and listen to.
And it’s never wrong to actually love the other cultures we expose ourselves into - through plane, through paper or through our screens (big screen, small screen, LCD screen). In fact, it could contribute into our own cultural growth. I admire Wes Anderson and Truffaut but I look up to Mike De Leon. The Beatles and Blur take my breath away, but Sugarfree and Gorgoro are also on top of my playlists. What I’m trying to say is that appreciation for art, for beauty, knows no nationality. If it is beautiful and impressive, whatever it is, it has every right to be acknowledged and celebrated.
Now I ask myself, why did I say “He’s (RA Rivera) probably more Pinoy than you.”
I said that because I see that the likes of RA Rivera, Ramon Bautista, Lourd De Veyra and Jun Sabayton knows the status quo of the “Filipino” pop culture really really really well. In fact, they know it so well they could draw us a map to its grimiest. I personally think that The Word of The Lourd: How to Make an Indie Film is attempting to make a criticism of what is currently happening. But it makes itself accessible to its target audience. Change can happen if the right people are listening your message, presented in the right way. Again, I go back to one of my principles: know the construct by heart before you deconstruct.
We are in puberty. We’re in our most vulnerable - too old to copy and imitate, but too young to come up with something solely our own. So I would suggest we expose ourselves to everything beautiful (and create, hopefully) - that way we would learn to discern and build our own taste.