Onion-skinned and irritably short-fused equals Pinoy?

By Buddy Gomez

Posted at May 14 2015 04:35 AM | Updated as of May 14 2015 12:35 PM

Let us recall that good old saw: “Ang pikon talo!” (Soreheads are losers!)

Have we become a nation of sore losers? Much of it has been in evidence fairly recently and when you come to really mull it over, it appears to have become a national emblem.

Is there, therefore, a “loser” in the Filipino psyche masking a latent inferiority complex with breast-beating disbelief, copious tears and hair-tearing? Wait, wait--who do we blame? Well, “mirror, mirror on the wall…….,” who is the sorehead, after all?

Failing to win is being cheated!

No, No, No…Manny Pacquiao did not really lose to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Incredulous? The referees cheated, etc, etc. Gayweather simply danced around and clinched to an embrace, then running away from every jab! Rematch, rematch!

That such sentiment is near universal especially among Manny’s adulating hordes is an example of innate Filipino refusal to accept undesirable reality. The reality of defeat. Facile access to excuses and cop-outs seem to have become second nature.

Oh, that smell!

Remember the Philippine quintet losing to Iran in the Asia Cup series of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) two years ago? The irrational cop-out of the event was that the Iranians exuded strange, diet-induced body odor from their sweaty pores! The cause of the loss was ineffective smell defense! There was much laughter about that, as though it were just a nasty joke but legions of fans were unabashedly serious. Seriously!

The African-American Cager

Not too long ago, in late February this year, a Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) import (African-American, Oklahoman Daniel Orton, once an NBA rookie for the Orlando Magic) playing for Purefoods was booted out of his team, out of the League, out of the Philippines, and fined Ph Pesos 250,000.00. All because his inquisitors found unpalatably insulting Orton’s criticism of game officiating following a loss to a low-seeded team headed by playing coach Manny Pacquiao.

(Lest we forget, Manny also has hardcourt pretentions, apart from politics, preaching and pitching for a myriad of consumer products.)

The PBA citation decrying Orton’s behavior went like this--“issuing comments that are disparaging, disrespectful of and offensive to game officials and a fellow player……” After calling the officiating a mockery, Orton refers to Pacquiao as: “professional boxer, yeah OK….Congressman, alright…..but a professional basketball player….he is a joke!”

And for that, a severe censure. Banished for sneering at Pacquiao’s basketball skills! That Philippine basketballdom lost its aplomb over what is misperceived as a national slur seems to be the bigger joke.

Yet we take great pride in our sense of humor!

The Thai

Then, just a few days ago, a Thai expatriate working in a Metro Manila-based business process outsourcing establishment candidly thought he was one of us and behaved like a local boy. Via the InterNet, he called some of his co-workers “pignoy,” a short cut for Pinoy baboy.

He must have observed (what most Pinoys still ignore) our obvious slovenly pigsty ways. Many of our brethren still exhibit a disregard for basic daily sanitation and healthful habits. Truly, it is out on flagrant display in most any metropolitan space.

Of course, Kosin Prasertsri, that’s his name, is guilty of an ethnic slur. More so, especially, because he is someone who is not one amongst us! How dare he! Unfortunately, his observation is not undeserved. We do have unsanitary habits. Nonetheless, the Thai boy has been fired from his job and has been deported for being an undesirable alien.

Whatever happened to Filipino-style democracy’s avowed freedom of speech?

El Indio

Filipinos, mainly the Tagalogs, are probably this planet’s most onion-skinned and overly sensitive denizens. In essence, guilty of intolerance and yet have the ready propensity for racist, pejorative and consciously insulting epithets and name-calling, more than, over and above, the other varied Filipino ethnicities.

I still cringe recalling expressions used to describe our brother and sister Chinese-Filipinos, East-Indians (Bombays, collectively,) black-skinned Americans, Spanish mestizos. Such terms are no longer acceptable in polite company but are still commonly bandied about. And with condescension, too.

More often than not, these Pinoys are the self-absorbed nationalists, unaware that their display of misplaced patriotic fervor is stunted and incomplete for the simple and frivolous reason that they cannot even curse in the national language, the Tagalog-based ‘pambansang wika!’ (The term ‘puta’ is a borrowed Spanish term!)

It seems to me that the epitome of erratic paranoid sensitivity, that the Tagalog Filipino is heir to, is the misappreciation and thus, misapprehension of the historically resented term “Indio.”

Indio actually means native. Indio is after all derived from the Spanish ‘indigena,’ which in English is ‘indigenous,’ meaning native. The root word has become universal in its application to indigenous peoples such as the Indians, be they the Redskins of North America or East Indians of South Asia or West Indians of the American Indies.

To be persnickety about it, the precise Tagalog translation of indio is “katutubo.” Had the ‘frailes’ and ‘conquistadores’ known of the word, our ancestors may have been called katutubos instead of indios.

Funny that today, many of us indios, tsinoys and tisoys, alike, use katutubo to describe aetas or atis! A nuanced use of katutubo today no longer refers to a native but to an aborigine.

The Tagalogs have nursed a long enduring resentment over the use of indio by the colonizing Spaniards to describe them, the brown-skinned locals. In fact, it has taken the shape and shade of meaningless nationalistic rhetoric. I am unaware of Visayans, Ilocanos, Bicolanos, Pampangos, Pangasinenses, etc. to have been recorded in history as bitching and bemoaning at being referred to as “Indio.”

It was the Tagalog that considered the term defamatory and derogatory. To them, because of ‘balat-sibuyas’ (onion-skinned) misperception, the term meant a slave, primitive, barbarian, savage. To the Tagalogs, there was always an unwelcome second-classness to that reference! Did I mention paranoia?

In truth and in its fact of usage, however, the term ‘Indio’ was never derogatory much less pejorative but simply, truly and merely a descriptive distinction, contrary to claims many local historians still assert to this day. This is evidenced by its use in olden legal documents as well as in literature.

Just as the Chinese were referred to as Sangley in documented transactions and judicial records, so were the natives referred to as Indios. Also, then Spaniards born in the Philippine Islands were described as Filipinos Insulares, to distinguish them from those who came from the Iberian Peninsula, the ‘Peninsulares.’ In general, foreigners were ‘extranjeros.’ In all, no ill intent. No malice.

Evidently, our early Luzon compatriots only grudgingly accepted being referred to as Indios with much umbrage. But Jose Rizal had it right. He redeemed the word, turned it around, hoping it to stay righted. Our boys in the mother metropolis--Madrid--during the last quarter of the 1800s formed themselves into an outstanding group of expat scholar-achievers, calling themselves “Indios Bravos.”

The word Indio should have become the Pinoy badge of ethnic pride and honor as it was then with Rizal and his confreres. Unfortunately, it does seem that there is yet much to learn and to live for with proud propriety.

If the process of learning and of catching up with the norms of a liberal, democratic world seem obstructed, there is nobody else to blame, but ourselves. We have got to grow up! Our brothers and sisters in diaspora are striving, thriving and gaining respect and renown. The challenges of the 21st century continue to beckon.

With good sense and perseverance, we too can make it here at home. If in our exuberance, we are able to dish it out, tit for tat, we ought to be able to gallantly take it, too!

Sticks and stones may break our bones but words will not hurt us. Perhaps, there are lessons, after all to be learned from the Daniel Orton and Kosin Prasertsri tempests in the teapot. And, oh, let us not forget the Iranians! 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.