Exploring what makes a Filipino tick (Part 4)

Ian Gill
Two artists are exploring the national psyche in fresh and different ways. Carlos Celdran is a performance artist who leads walking tours around Manila’s historic areas. Dante Mendoza is an independent filmmaker who uses ‘ultra-realistic’ docudramas to portray social issues.

SOCIAL MEDIA-SAVVY. Technology will help today's generation of Pinoys evolve their own identity. All photos by Andy Maluche

[Continued from part 3 published on January 25]

MANILA, Philippines – Quasi-anthropologists can have fun assembling an amalgam of supposedly “national” characteristics: 

  • The native Filipino’s sense of kapwa (pulling together), barrio-evolved social sensibilities and obligations, earthy humor and resilience
  • Spanish religiosity and artistic elegance
  • Chinese industry and commercial instincts
  • American tolerance and consumerism

The Filipino identity is as colorful as the vegetables sold in Quiapo, Manila

To be sure, amid the dysfunctional effects of politics and poverty, family values still lie at the heart of today’s Filipino. Perhaps Mendoza has come close to capturing the quest for spiritual fulfillment in his latest movie, “Sinapupunan” (Thy Womb), which won 3 prizes at the Venice Film Festival in September 2012.

READ: Nora Aunor wins 8th MMFF Best Actress award for ‘Thy Womb’

Mendoza took his cameras to the island of Tawi-Tawi in Muslim Mindanao where he tells a story of a barren woman who, out of love for her husband, goes in search of a second wife who can give him the child he craves. “It’s a story of love and sacrifice in this beautiful, peaceful island,” says Mendoza.

The Filipino woman is a strong and steadfast breadwinner

Sadly, however, his message is also that “the purity of this couple cannot survive because they are surrounded by violence,” he says.

Watch the trailer of ‘Thy Womb’ here:

This sacrificial love for family can be seen every day at airports where Filipino women are tragically forced to leave their families behind in order to earn money abroad to support them. These sacrifices, alas, also end too often with the consequences of prolonged separation — miseries wrought by faithless husbands and estranged children.

THERE IS HOPE. 'A new generation is emerging to analyze and reassess our history'

Whatever the future holds for Filipinos, Celdran says they are better enabled — by technology as well as psychologically and socially — to shake off their colonial legacy and evolve their own identity — and destiny. 

In the past, information flowed only one way and Filipinos had little choice but to absorb it without question, he notes.  With the Internet, Filipinos are getting much better at communicating with each other and finding other channels of information. 

WALK HIS WAY. Take a tour of Manila with this jolly fellow. Visit celdrantours.blogspot.com 

More importantly, Filipinos were subjected to a “chronic reinvention of our culture that was beyond our control,” he says.

“Only now are we getting handles on our history and reflecting upon everything we have been through. Almost all the history of the Philippines has been written with an agenda, through the eyes of a Spaniard, an American, or a Ferdinand Marcos. A new generation is emerging to analyze and reassess our history.” – Rappler.com


(Ian Gill is a freelance journalist who has lived in the Philippines for over 25 years. He is a former staffer of the Asian Development Bank’s Department of External Relations, Oil and Gas News, the Asian Wall Street Journal and Asiaweek. He is writing a book and plays golf, struggling with both.)

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