Real talk: Si Maritess ka rin 2
Photos from ABS-CBN News File, King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo/File (Duterte), @maria.elena.adarna on Instagram (Derek and Ellen), Push (Rayver and Janine) and Pixabay (gossip art)

Real talk: There’s a Maritess in you and me

There’s a gossip in each one of us—whether you’re a labandera or sosyalera, a tambay or public servant
Evelyn O. Katigbak | Nov 19 2021

The love story of celebrity couple Derek Ramsey and Ellen Adarna was, right from the beginning, a magnet for public conversations. This public unabashedly give their opinion of the two on various social media platforms as if they are friends or family. 

With such level of public interest in the couple, Derek and Ellen’s wedding last week was, as expected, top entertainment news. But aside from the wedding ceremony itself, the public looked for and talked about who were the other celebrities present in the ceremony, what were they wearing, and what luxury resort was the event’s venue.

This urge to talk about other people’s lives is not only limited towards celebrities. We do this everyday towards people known to us.

Evidence-based studies have proven that gossiping is integral to human relationships. Gossiping is our way to communicate with those in our social community and gather information on matters that have value for us. Admit it or not, there’s a Maritess in everyone of us.

Maritess, they say, is a wordplay for “Mare, ano nang latest? (Friend, what’s the latest?)” that was birthed during the early months of 2021. At its surface – and perhaps as originally intended by those who “christened” this mare – Maritess is the face of the gossiper.

Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, known, among others, for his studies on social bonding, boldly claimed in a research that, “Without gossip, there would be no society.”

Albeit being integral to human relationships, gossiping is generally looked down upon in most cultures in the world. In the Philippines, the scorn for gossipers is represented in many hilarious memes. Perhaps, the meme showing women on the street, all-ears talking to one another while in their house clothes, has appeared several times on our social media feed to illustrate tsismisan or gossiping.

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines gossip as “informal talk or stories about other people’s private lives, which may be unkind or not true,” while defines it as “idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.”

Scholarly studies across disciplines define gossip as an evaluative social talk. In simple terms, gossips have a hint of judgement on the circumstances or actions of those being talked about.

Not all gossips are entirely untrue. Not all gossipers mean harm to the object of the gossip. But we all have judgment on issues concerning our social communities.

One of the very first social media content on Maritess that went viral was that of TikToker Justine Luzares. In February, he produced a content for fictional character, “Maritess of House Mimosa,” who was introduced as Queen of Gossips and mother of all tambays (idle) and usiseras (nosy). By March, Luzares’ “Afternoon with Maritess” became viral not only on Tiktok, but also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. It was also used as a “duet” material by many other TikTokers.

In that “Afternoon with Maritess,” Maritess was talking to a neighbor where she said:

“Gina just got herself eliminated from 4Ps… It’s quite a dangerous game she was playing. I saw her playing tong-its with Tita Baby and Sherly just a day after the money was released… Yet here we are, not qualified they say.”

To date, nothing has come quite close to this hilarious representation of the stereotype of a gossiper.


Social norms

The video was comic and yet, to many of its viewers, the message rings so true. Especially during the lockdown periods of 2020 and 2021, there were reports on the arbitrariness and selectiveness in many barangays of the recipients of the government’s cash assistance programs: the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) and the quarantine ayuda (assistance).

Maritess and the neighbor were talking about the personal life of Gina. The connotative reason for Gina’s removal from 4Ps may be true or not; but the lingering problem on the politics in 4Ps is definitely true.

The immense popularity of Maritess today is also rightly attributed to “showbiz news” delivered in all platforms – print, broadcast, and digital. Those who wait for and follow the latest juiciest showbiz updates are collectively called Maritess. These Maritess-es are interested and vocal of their opinion about the break up of Rayver Cruz and Janine Gutierrez; was there a third party? About KC Concepcion unfollowing her sister, Kakie Pangilinan, on Instagram; was there sibling rivalry?

Those concerns were indeed personal to the celebrities; but those were equally concerns valued by our society. Generally, we do not approve of unfaithfulness. Generally, we do not leave sibling rivalry unsettled.

Generally, gossiping is an unconscious identification of the ones who – we think or believe – break the norms we value in our society.

Maritess is interested in the love story of Derek and Ellen because both celebrities have controversial relationship histories and their engagement and eventual wedding were regarded as too soon and, perhaps, too good to be true.

There is a Maritess in everyone of us. Consider how many times a day we gossip about the loudness of a neighbor which we recently discovered, only because we were forced to stay at home during the lockdown. Or about someone’s splurging on online shopping.

Generally, we value peace and quiet in the neighborhood. Ideally, we temper expenses during a pandemic because times are hard.


Strong stereotype

The popularity of Maritess shows the prevailing strong stereotype on women and the poor being gossipers. Why do we have only Maritess as the face of gossipers? There is a Maritess in everyone of us – and that includes all gender identities and all social class.

The inner Maritess in all of us is currently being revealed as the gossip mill is now abuzz. When the President publicly spoke of the lingering gossip about a presidential candidate being a cocaine user, the public readily offered judgment (opinion) on the disturbing impunity of the rich and powerful.

Aminin, on a scale of 1 to Maritess, how much of a gossiper are you?


Evelyn O. Katigbak is a PhD in Communication-hopeful. Meantime, she writes and edits materials on Philippine culture and cultural diplomacy, as well as popular media on the side.