Monday, July 20, 2009

Rejoice for the Return of Civil Discourse

Dear readers,
"Anonymous" has graciously posted an apology and a justification, both of which by his/her own prerogative. In my mind it is heartfelt and sincere and I cannot express how greatly I appreciate it. It is a genuine apology for the tone his/her former posts had taken and also a defense of the ideas Anonymous wished to address in a far more respectful tone. As I expressed, I appreciate criticism as long as it is constructive. Anonymous' second posting is just that; if given the opportunity to sit down with anonymous, I am sure I could learn a lot as his/her perspective appears to be far reaching and that of a bird's eye.
I am pleased to post the reply below and would again like to sincerely thank Anonymous for the clarification that is both articulate and respectful.
The purpose of this blog has always been to serve as a way to educate people back home about my perspective on my experiences here. I am humbled to say that this is an opportunity where both myself and my audience have something to learn together.
Thank you,

Dear Mr. Sean Stanhill, [posted July 19th]

I am deeply grieved that I have caused you such turmoil, Mr. Stanhill. It is not my intention to criticize your service to the Filipino community. In fact, I do not even mention your service to Cabalian in any of my comments. I will, however, admit that my comments were harsh, impolite and unkind, mainly because I have set it in a very disparaging tone. Judging by the sarcastic tone of your open letter, I understand your disgust over my remarks. For these and all insults thereof that I have pinned on your being, I am sorry.

I reiterate that none of my comments condemn your service. All were directed at the perspective you have taken to interpret your experiences. True, you are entitled to your Western perspective, and it is likewise true that there are no vocal criticisms regarding this perspective in Cabalian. This is partly because foreigners are looked up at as figures of authority in Cabalian. This is a status quo that most of us Cabalianons fail to resist. My reaction to your blogs mainly expresses my vehement opposition to this status quo.

Language in the Philippines is a volatile issue. Visayans have an aversion to the largely-Tagalog-centric national language. As you, Mr. Stanhill, must have noticed, Cabalianons are delighted in your presence and your service. In the Visayas, there is a longstanding preference for English over Filipino. When Visayan and Tagalog are mixed, a distortion of the integrity of both languages occurs. It will be seen as an encroachment on one another’s cultural dominion. Mr. Stanhill, Cabalianon (the language we speak in Cabalian) remains to be one of the least unadulterated Visayan languages. Many have entered the mainstream linguistic distortions inspired by the cognoscenti subculture. I do not want this to happen to the language that I have kept even amidst persecutions of being retrograde.

Pardon me for the technical description above. I understand that it is not your intention to introduce distortions to Visayan. After all, you are still in the process of learning the language. What I only ask of you is that, during the course of experiencing the language, please refrain from attaching certain elements which are not endemic to the language. You can always ask the teachers and students around you for advice. My warning about you becoming a laughingstock does not intend to sever you from the community. In Cabalian, joking about the linguistic blunders of others is fairly normal (you can ask some teachers for extant anecdotes about American priests and the funny words they deliver even on the pulpit), even considered a pastime, but I am not sure whether this will be acceptable to you. What would you have thought if you caught them snickering about the added ‘po’? Again, I am sorry for my rude tone in pointing this out to you.

I first commented on your San-Pedro-San-Pablo post because it literally caught my attention. These statements greatly bothered me: “All of the students left to go home for lunch and then, one would assume, to church. But no, St. Peter’s Day is a day in which everyone goes to the beach. That’s right, St. Peter’s Day is a day in which the whole town shuts down in the afternoon to swim.” It sounded as if, by default, Cabalianons prefer excursions over piety on a Catholic feast day. To me this was unfair. I thought of your adopted mother, whom I know as a devout woman. But if she did join the whole town in its preference for the afternoon swim without even considering hearing Mass first, then I will be happy to stand corrected.

Pointing out that your perspective is Western does not at all lead to the conclusion that I detest your presence in the Philippines. Even my advice to you only asks you to shape your judgment accordingly based on all dimensions of your experiences. And again, if I delivered this so insensitively, I am sorry.

And on my last comment, I have roughly dichotomized the distinct construction of Western and Eastern sexuality. In that post, I was merely asking you, albeit in the haughtiest tone I can muster on print, to “expand your database of information” regarding this matter. I can guess that you have discussed this matter with your colleagues during the tilt, maybe even with the contestants and some of the actual bayots themselves who are close to you. But with that second-hand information, none of us is assured of correctness. You see, bayots themselves are conditioned by the society that seemingly looks down upon them. Bayots are either condemned because of their behavior or celebrated because of their creativity. They would think that by joining pageants and tilts they are proclaiming their liberty from the constrictive, rather conventual, society. As an observer in these kinds of social vignettes, I have seen that quite the opposite occurs: They are capitulating to the demands of a society that needs an outlet of their frustrations (under the name of “entertainment”) amidst political turmoil.

My point is that we cannot add more damage to injury, even if the object of injury knows not or even cares less about this.

If you felt you have been beaten to a pulp by these unkind words, I am sorry. I must admit that some of these words were intentional but were invoked only to nail the point. The sarcasm in your words is very biting, but I will try to ignore it. Your friends and family, who thinks very highly of you, have rushed to your aid, to your defense, and this stoked my compunction. I am sorry for causing them to spew undesirable remarks, which I think is contrary to their being. I will try to overlook these condemnations in order to free emotional space.

I am not under the impression that I can undo the damage I have done on your being. I post this response in order to dilute whatever evil I have committed in reacting to your blogs. I will not ask for your forgiveness for these deeds because it only hurts when forgiveness is denied. I will try to move on from this point and close this dreadful chapter.

“Spineless” Anonymous

P.S. I prefer to stay anonymous. If you still think that my arguments only amount to the blabbering of a 13-year-old, it is not my issue anymore. I have wrought enough havoc under the cloak of anonymity to bug me for the rest of the month. I understand that this is unfair to your person, but I have to choose something in which catharsis can unfold freely. After all, who would wish to acquaint an outspoken, miscalculating faultfinder?

To others who follow this blog: Cudgel me if you like for sounding like GMA in my ubiquitous “I am sorry” tosh. I will perfectly understand your reaction to these circumstances. I know what some of you may think about this: “Thank God, the stuck-up piece of shit has choked in his ignorance and pride!” Do some jumping-jacks and flag me if it pleases your souls. Just think for a second and pose this question: “Is this person’s remorse sincere?” I hope by this you find the victorious relief you are seeking.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Open Letter to 'Anonymous'

Dear Anonymous,
Attn: Over 350 unique readers of my blog
I always welcome comments and criticism, both positive and negative, as long as they're constructive. For those of you who have not seen the posts by 'anonymous', I thought I should put them front center and highlight them on the main page as they certainly put me, the ignorant, ill-intentioned and bumbling idiot of a Westerner, in my place. I thought it important to bring your wit, brilliance and compassion to the masses the best way I know how, via blogpost (please refer to the comments at the bottom of this letter). The world would be a much better place, where every single person out of the 6.5 billion on this planet, would have a complete, holistic and agreeable understanding of Filipino culture if you could post on all of our blogs.
I publicly repent my egregious sins against your culture, dialect/language and overall sensibilities. The time, thought and effort you put in to trying to protect me from those you assure me tear me to shreds when I am not around is thoughtful and far surpasses any responsibilities you may have in your day-to-day life. You're a saint akin to Annie Sullivan, never giving up on the deaf, dumb and blind of the world. I assure you I will become the perfect Bisaya first, Filipino second, with a complete and absolute understanding of the culture, aspects which are both implicit and explicit. Unless of course you think I have no business being here, in which case please write your senators as your government requested us to be here.
I am delighted that I can be to you a proverbial punching bag for your heavy handed, elitist and generally pejorative compassion. Your superiority complex is charming and is the honey of which the adage contrasts to vinegar. If it were not for your palling savior complex to rescue me from the depths of ignorance and the community members I thought were my friends, I would certainly regret giving up two years of my young life to try to do something good and decent, all at the hands of my friends and adopted family! It must be so difficult for you to see me, floundering in a culture I still don't understand, giving up chances for a well-paying job, leaving my friends and family for two years, suffering typhoid, ringworm, bacterial infections and severe sinus infections, learning another language I will never be able to use again after my service and still make such an ass of myself; so much so in fact that you have chosen to go out of your way to enlighten me. God bless you.
I mean it all most sincerely,
P.S. Next time don't be so God damn spineless and post with a real name. Posting anonymous is embarrassing and diminishes most anything you can say to that of a shitless 13 year old. I resent the fact that you're a Cabalianon and your attitude tarnishes the reputation of the kind, understanding and grateful people here that have accepted me so warmly. Ask them yourself if you really have your fingers on the pulse of this community. But be sure to introduce yourself when asking the community as remaining anonymous may work out unfavorably.
Anonymous is an apt nom de plume as you certainly have become enstranged from the disposition of this community.

The first I would like to share comes from my back to school post:
Do remove the 'po' in the 'daghan salamat' phrase. While it has become more acceptable in the past decades to speak in Filipino or sugarcoated Tagalog, combining linguistic elements of Tagalog and Bisaya makes you a laughingstock. People around you are just polite not to bare their palates in laughter while you are around. Once you're out of the scene, you're shredded to pieces. Trust me, I'm Cabalianon. And I am not doing some sort of smear campaign; I just want to keep my kababayans from doing their nefarious deeds.
The second comes from San Pedro, San Pablo:
Correction: The day is completely marked as the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. These is marked as a First Class Feast and as a Holy Day of Obligation in the Philippines. Your observation mainly centers on what you see at school where students join the throng of the majority trooping to the oil-soaked beaches. The matured generations of Cabalian first hears Mass before going to the beach. I am not surprised at this observation taken from the point of view of a Westerner. A piece of advice: Do not think that setting your foot at the edge of the forest vests you with the capability of fathoming the mystery of the forest.

And to Jeffrey: It is sad you call your own culture laid-back. You almost singlehandedly demolish Rizal's arguments on the 'non'-indolence of the Filipinos. Cabalianons pure at heart are sparse and few. Unfortunately, they do not advertise themselves unless provoked.
Post the third comes from Judging Miss Gay:
Again, another blunder. Before you speak of sexuality in the Philippines, try to get in contact with Dr. Michael L. Tan of the University of the Philippines in Diliman. I express my vehement condemnation on this: "As I said, bayot translates to gay." I think you got this from even the most brilliant teacher in SJNHS. But mind you, this is wrong. "Bayot" can never be translated as gay. For one, "bayot" is related to behavioral effeminacy, which when ingrained before and beyond age 7 (if my psychological musings are right), becomes quite irreversible. Try to expand your database of information even if you post a disclaimer at the end of your entry.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Book Donation Turnover

Last Sunday, June 28th, there was a Parent, Teacher, Community Association (PTCA) meeting to address quite a few topics pertaining to the beginning of school. One such topic was the official turnover of the books donated by my grandmother and members of her community.
As per Philippine tradition, when something is donated, there is an official ceremony wherein the donor symbolically turns over that which is being donated to the recipient. Because my Gram and the other participants could not be present, I stood in for them, passing on ownership of the books to the school before the entire PCTA.
The most haunting fear of doing development work is in the form of a question and is two-fold: is what I am doing sustainable and will this actually make a difference?
This morning I received a text from the head of the English department, Ma'am Alming Montonez, that said the following:
"Am now using your books; the activity is 'Response to Literature' for all 4th year. They will stay in the library every Friday the entire 1st quarter."
That simple text validates the efforts I have put into the project as well as those put in by my Gram and her community members. Being a long-term volunteer has its ups and downs and small acknowledgments like that text message really put me on a cloud like nothing else I have ever experienced.
Ma'am Rachel Cuevas Introducing Me
Me Addressing the PCTA on Behalf of my Gram and her Community
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