Dec 31, 2010

Do penile implants (bolitas) "work"?

Dear Filipino,

Are these penile implants -- called bolitas -- really effective (for ladies' sexual pleasure)?

Mang Dodong

Dear Mang,

You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar

Gentleman because you deigned to ask me this question not to seek pleasure for yourself but "for ladies"!  I mean, who else thinks like you nowadays?  I was moved -- and am almost teary-eyed [wipes eyes; blows nose] -- because of the selflessness that inhere in your question.

Scholar because an attitude so inquisitive, such as you have exhibited in your question, finds contentment only in the exhaustive and solitary pursuit of all types of knowledge: be it logical, semantic, systemic or empirical.  

Thus, I beg your indulgence in advance if, in the end, you find my attempt to answer your question feeble, lacking in both depth and data, and/or otherwise completely devoid of any epistemological significance. 

But if you shall be disappointed, please don't blame me -- please don't castigate me -- please don't censure me -- for your expression of dissatisfaction is sure to devastate my self-esteem.

Instead, blame The PENIS Team.

PENIS here, of course, stands for "Penile Circumcision, Implants and Sexual Gadgets," and the team referred to was headed by De La Salle University's Professor Romeo B. Lee, PhD, and Dr. Lloyd Brendan Norella, MD, who conducted a study in 2002 on these esoteric topics of inquiry, a study which was supported by the Ford Foundation through Australian National University in order to promote reproductive health.

Through semi-structured interviews, the research team examined the "adoption, provision, and outcomes and effects" of these firm spherical foreign objects, commonly referred to in the Philippines as bolitas but actually known elsewhere as fang muk, bulletus, chagan balls, tancho balls, and penis marbles, which are implanted in the subcutaneous tissue of the shaft of the penis proximal to the glans.

The research participants revealed that these bolitas are either made of plastic (formed out of melted spoons, ballpens, toothbrushes, chopsticks, deodorant rollers, necklace beads and, yes, even rosary beads!); metal pellets or steel ball bearing; or mineral-type stones (ivory, jade, porcelain or fiber-glass).  Most of the respondents, adroit and resourceful, made their own bolitas or got them for free from their illustrious friends in high places -- e.g., prisons.

Why did these men do it?  According to the implant-providers interviewed, the predisposing factor to implant adoption was the insertees' altruistic desire to make their partners "happy" and "content."  Other reasons given were: peer pressure and male adventurousness.  Still another reason given was -- and this is just a conjecture on their part I think -- that these men were probably feeling inadequate and wanted to increase their organ's size. 

This last reason is interesting because any Bicolana will tell you that siling labuyo is the spiciest of all chili peppers.  In fact, the rule of thumb is: the smaller the pepper, the hotter it is!

Following the insertion procedure, over 40% of the insertee-respondents had penile-centered complications, ranging from biting, deep and throbbing pain, to inflammation, to pus.  Some veins were apparently also punctured during the procedure, causing more than just mild itching, I'm sure.

But now comes the crux of your question: What about the women?

Of the 14 female respondents who had bolitas users as partners, 8 confirmed there was a "difference" during the act; 4 said there was "no difference"; and 2 were "uncommitted."  However, 7 of the 14 -- an even 50% -- also had rashes, wounds, pus or inflammation in their vagina after the act. 

I'm guessing -- and this is really just a guess -- those female respondents who experienced these complications did not find them "pleasurable," sexually or otherwise.  But you can choose to look at that last statistic -- the 50% -- as that proverbial glass: either it is half-full or half-empty.   

This makes me wonder:  What would be the gentlemanly and scholarly questioner's choice?

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 29, 2010

Feature Post: Is the Philippines really a Somalia in the making?

This will probably not endear me to some readers who've sent me some pointed questions and have been waiting for me to answer them, but since (1) I'm the "editor-in-chief" of this blog, (2) I'm not getting paid to do this anyway, and (3) I really want to do my own little bit of cheerleading for the Philippines before the year 2010 is up, I'm going to go ahead and ignore the questions waiting to be answered and write a little bit about why I think -- despite all the seemingly nonstop negative press the Philippines has been getting lately (thanks in no small measure to the Philippine Supreme Court!) -- things are actually looking up for the country.

I also want this post to serve as my counter-argument to prognostications that the Philippines is well on its way to becoming the "Somalia of Asia," as warned by University of California's Malcolm Potts and GlobalBalita's Perry Diaz.  The two, among others, have identified population explosion, environmental problems, warlordism and paramilitarism as their main causes of concern.  While these are certainly serious issues that need to be addressed and addressed soon and addressed seriously (along with other structural and systemic problems they did not even mention), I wish to point out here nonetheless that, these problems notwithstanding, the country appears on track for a better future ahead. 

The Philippines: A Somalia in the making or a good investment bet?

The ascendance of Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III (P-Noy) to the Philippine presidency after the last May elections ignited a lot of optimism among Filipinos in the Philippines and worldwide.  Finally, many people thought, here's clearly a decent guy from a nonpareil political couple who had given so much for the Filipino people.  His candidacy inspired hope; his election garnered widespread support; and his inauguration promised a major change from the unpopular administration of his predecessor. 

Over the course of six months following his inaugural speech, however, people witnessed the blunders, bad calls, and outright failures of leadership.  Many thereafter became disillusioned, even disgusted.  The coming final verdict, it seems, is that the country is poised to have another failure of a leader, another missed opportunity for the country to advance.  Or worse.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that, when the final tally is made years from now, he's going to prove many of the dire predictors wrong even if he ends up less popular among those Filipinos who were originally hoping for a messiah in him.

For me, the reason is simple:  The Philippines actually has several things going for it right now economically, which, along with its innate strengths, mean that it does not really require much from its leaders except an abundance of honesty -- and to get out of progress' way.  Put another way, if P-Noy, who comes across as an honest (albeit also flawed) politician turns out only half as effective a leader as former President Fidel Ramos (who ably led the country in the 1990s), the country is going to outrun many of its problems and be in a better shape down the road.

I.  Review of Economic Fundamentals

A short review of the country's economic statistics at the moment supports my thesis.  Consider: 

(1)  According to the latest Country Report Philippines produced by the Economic Intelligence Unit, the economy grew by a decent 7.5% year-on-year in the first three quarters of 2010, as measured by real GDP (or Gross Domestic Product, which means the total market value of goods and services produced locally);

If -- and it's a big IF but definitely doable --the country can maintain this rate, the Philippine economy will double in less than 10 years.  But if it grows at China's rate (approx. 10% p.a.), the economy will quadruple in about 14 years -- which translates to just a little over two presidential terms (at 6 years per).  When you think about it, this means the country only really needs P-Noy and his next two successors to do well enough in order to elevate the game of the Philippines and place it in a higher league.

(2) Interest rates -- specifically, lending rates -- are at single digits, hovering less than 8%.  This figure may appear high to folks in the West, but for a country whose people are used to borrowing even at annualized rates exceeding 60% through what are known as 5-6 loans, an 8% loan is a godsend.

(3) Official unemployment rate is also at single digits, averaging about 7.5%.  Note that this is actually lower than the US figure which is near 10% and substantially less than the figures from hard-hit states like California.

(4)  The peso-dollar exchange rate has been relatively stable, lately trading at a narrow range of PHP44 to 47 per USD.  This stability is going to be good for exporters and importers alike because it lessens transaction costs and currency exchange risks.

(5) Consumer prices are also stable.  The inflation rate has averaged about 4% this year and core inflation (which takes out the more volatile food and energy items in the calculation) is even lower.

(6) Meanwhile, exports grew by a whopping 38.5% in the first three quarters of 2010, the fastest pace since records began.  The main reason?  High-tech electronics, which accounted for over 60% of the $38.3 billion total.

(7)  The central bank's foreign exchange reserves has more than tripled in the past four years, successively hitting all-time highs this year and ending last month at over $61 billion.  This rise reflects the influx of foreign money coming in and gives investors the confidence that the country can meet its foreign obligations, which is a major statement to make considering the PIGS -- countries of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain -- have needed or will need help in this department in order to stay afloat and not default on their loans.

(8) The country's stock market also hit record territories this yeargrowing by over 45% year-on-year last month before correcting a bit this month.

Bottomline, ladies and gentlemen:  These are NOT the economic figures of a Somalia in the making! 

II.  The Country's Inherent Strengths

But I mentioned that the Philippines has innate strengths which, paired with a strong economic foundation, will pay dividends for the country.  What are they?

(1) Geography 

Fortunately for the country, it is located in the world's most commercially busy region nowadays.  No other region in the world even comes close.  Forget about Japan for now: China, India, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia, among others, make for a giant economic neighborhood whose rising prosperity is bound to spill over to the Philippines in a fashion much more tangible than if a similar prosperity boom is happening in the "far-flung" regions of United States and Europe. 

This rising prosperity will substantially impact intra-regional tourism, trade and investments.  That's why the Chinese and Koreans are increasingly becoming regular visitors to the country's golf courses and beach resorts; more Philippine companies like the SM Group and Jollibee have dared to expand in China and build shopping malls and fastfood restaurants; and Indian technology companies have expanded operations in Manila.  These types of activities are only bound to increase.

(2) Natural resources

If there's a time when the country can really take advantage of its natural resources, this is it.  The giants China and India are in a global struggle with the developed countries of the West for cheap sources of raw materials, and the Philippines has them.  Metals like nickel and copper are abundant.  And because the country has lots of arable lands and littoral towns and coastlines, harnessing agri- and aqua-cultural resources for healthier commercial profits should start happening soon. 

Investments in resource-related commercial projects would translate to more commercial activity and job growth in provincial cities and towns outside the National Capital Region.  This is more than just a welcome development, if ever -- it's actually badly needed because NCR is, to put it mildly, bursting already at the seams: one of its major cities, Manila, has the world's highest population density.

(3) Local population

While not as populous as India and China, most people overlook the fact that the Philippines is a potentially big market too.  Population-wise, it's the size of Germany and all Scandinavian countries -- Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and even Finland -- combined.

And because it's a former colony of the United States, a distinguishing characteristic of the population is its proficiency with the language of global business: English.  This is an asset that will redound to the country's benefit if paired sensibly with other advantages. 

One advantage was revealed to me during a conversation I had with a top executive of a company in the top 10 of Fortune 500 companies.  I found out that one major reason the Philippines has now overtaken India in the business process outsourcing (BPO) services is because of the fact that Filipinos not only speak English with an accent better understood by Americans, we also can chit-chat with ease with American customers about the latest on, say, Kobe Bryant's exploits on the hardcourt.  This cultural affinity is not negligible:  After all, we also sing the same songs, watch the same movies and TV shows, and patronize the same pop trends. 

And despite all the negativity which the global media fixates on especially if the news relates to Muslim Mindanao, because an overwhelming majority of the populace is Christian, the country is really not prone to toxic religious divisions, extremism, and violent riots which sporadically erupt in other countries.  Moreover, unlike China which is bound to soon feel the impact of its long-running one-child policy, and Korea and Japan with their graying populations, most of the country are also young and have decades of productive lives left to allow them to contribute immensely to the economy. 

(4) The global Filipino diaspora

The Philippine national football team, nicknamed The Azkals, just showed the country a formula for winning: by harnessing the strengths of the global Filipino diaspora and hiring the right people who can get the job done.

Recruiting high-caliber half-Filipino international players from the UK, US, Holland and Iceland, the football team played great team football, shocked the defending champion Vietnam in the ASEAN Football Federation's Suzuki Cup, and advanced for the first time to the tournament's Final Four.  While footballing nations may pooh-pooh it, the team's performance was really so incredible that Sports Illustrated rated it one of the "Top 10 soccer stories of 2010," right up there with the story about Spain's winning of this year's World Cup.

There is no reason why the country cannot replicate the Azkals feat in other fields.  With an estimated 10 million overseas Filipinos scattered all over the world regularly remitting about $2 billion each month, the country actually has produced experts in all sorts of fields and industries, many of whom are just waiting to be tapped and/or encouraged to come home and help in nation-building, as former President Bill Clinton himself suggested in a talk in Manila recently.  

China and India have both made this "reverse brain drain" a conscious policy and have actively sought to get their nationals who have achieved international acclaim and expertise to move back.  The Philippines has to do the same. 

In any case, ladies and gentlemen, these innate Philippine strengths, Somalia does NOT have! 

III.  Other Miscellaneous Considerations + A Movie Trailer

Largely due to its domestic orientation and limited exposure to international capital markets, the banking sector is sound and has generally escaped the withering impact of the global financial crisis.  According to the Bangko Sentral, the industry's non-performing loans (NPL) ratio is remarkably low: below 4%.  This should encourage local banks to increase lending and grow their balance sheets.  Moreover, according to CB Richard Ellis, the conditions in the real estate industry are also positive across ALL commercial sectors -- be it office, retail and hotel, or residential property.

If you need further proof that confidence in the future of the Philippines is high and getting higher, consider also (1) Asia's first Versace-branded condominium building is being planned to be built soon in Manila's Century City; and (2) a Maserati dealership in Makati, the country's premiere buisiness district, was just launched last June.  Now, I'm one of those who find these developments a bit on the obscene side given the still-pervasive poverty in the country, but objectively speaking, these still tell us something about investor and consumer sentiment.

But if there is one thing that convinces me that the Philippines is far from being a Somalia in the making, it is a movie.  Specifically, I am talking about a 3D animated film released just this month in time for the 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival: Metanoia.

Honestly, the film made my jaw drop.  It made me really realize that, with technology and knowhow, the world is indeed now flat!

I've read that the movie's character development leaves much to be desired, but humor me and watch the movie's trailer below. Then, tell me after watching it -- if you're one of those who subscribe to the alarmist prognostications about the Philippines, of course -- if you still believe the Philippines is on track towards becoming another Somalia.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 28, 2010

What did Pasig officials smoke to come up with their brilliant slogan?

Dear Filipino,

What do I need to smoke to come up with a slogan as brilliant and as imaginative as the one the executives of Pasig City came up with? (See

bobo the wiseman

Dear bobo,

Thank you for bringing this to my attention.  This slogan is indeed very impressive and officials from other Philippine cities would be well-advised to take note of its sheer brilliance. 

In order to come across even just half as methodical as the Pasig City executives who conceptualized and executed this phenomenal slogan, I will apply a two-step approach in answering your question. 

First, I will attempt to describe, despite my obvious limitations, why the slogan is perfection exemplified.  Second, I will reveal to you exactly what to "smoke."

I. Why the slogan is just absolutely perfect

Any marketing and advertising executive worth his salt will tell you that for you to come up with a great slogan, you have to do your homework, define your niche, define your goals, be creative, and think "memorable"

Pasig officials obviously did their homework here.  It is manifestly clear that they were fully aware that while Pasig used to be a residential and industrial city, it is increasingly becoming a growing commercial area and is now the country's eighth largest city in terms of population.  Further, it is impossible to think that they were oblivious to the fact that Pasig is home to prominent institutions like the Philippine Stock Exchange, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, The Medical City, University of Asia and the Pacific, ULTRA (now the PhilSports Arena), and the Ortigas Center; additionally, it is also the headquarters of top corporations like San Miguel and Meralco.

Because Pasig has these aforementioned institutions and companies as residents, the city obviously needed to convey a slogan that screams "cutting-edge," "international," "global," and "open for business," right?  You betcha!

"Sige" is THE action word that is exactly calibrated for this goal.  While it is a Tagalog word which means "to continue" (whatever it is that Pasig does), nobody can miss the double entendre here.  After all, everybody knows that "sige" also means "to act, play, or perform" in Yipunu, which is a Bantu language spoken by 50,000 people in Congo and the Tchibanga region of Gabon.  Repeat the word twice in one line, "SIGe...SIGe PA," and -- voila! -- you have a major, major slogan that is super, super memorable!

But, of course, in any great slogan, "the art is in the details."

Notice: "SIGe...PASIG...SIGe PA" has a pallindromic ring to it -- which, if you've read the latest copy of The Economist, should complement 2011.  And lest there be any doubt that "SIGe...PASIG...SIGe PA" is a slogan, Pasig officials made sure it is surrounded by quotation marks.  Exquisite, don't you think?

The two ellipses surrounding PASIG, meanwhile, adds a never-ending effect to the phrase ("SIGe...PASIG...SIGe PA...SIGe...PASIG...SIGe PA...SIG?") -- definitely not unlike the mathematical constant π (sometimes written pi), which, as an irrational number, cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction.  The rationale behind the triple-dot glyph was not lost, I'm sure, on the Pasig executives.

Of course, one could also be tempted to think that the SIGe in the slogan refers to silicon-germanium (SiGe), which is an alloy commonly used as a semiconductor material in integrated circuits for heterojunction bipolar transistors, and he/she would not be far off.  After all, the slogan exudes high-tech -- think eCommerce, eBusiness, et cetera.  Except of course that the e in SIGe, unlike the three letters preceding it, is not just in lowercase but is also -- note closely -- encircled!

Now this, my friend, is simply genius at work! 

You see, the encircling of e differentiates the letter completely from the three letters preceding it in a way which lowercasing alone cannot.  In the process, the folks who designed the logo were able to invoke another mathematical abstraction: the Euler's constant, which is the unique real number such that the value of the derivative (slope of the tangent line) of the function f(x) = ex at the point x = 0 is equal to 1.  As any Pasig official will tell you, this e is expressed by the following formula:

Now, tell me: Do you know of any government officials in the world, aside from those who run Pasig, who ever put this much mathematical thought and creative effort into a city slogan?

II.  What to "smoke" to achieve an ultra-altered state of consciousness

In order to achieve the elevated state of consciousness achieved by the Pasig City officials which allowed them to devise this slogan, I consulted my albularyo and he recommended the following steps:

(1) Take a small bucket, preferably a tabo;

(2) Go to Pasig River and fill up the tabo with water (etc.) from the river;

(3) Boil the water; and

(4) Inhale the steam coming from the boiling Pasig water.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 27, 2010

Why is "Milk!" a Filipino expletive?

Dear Filipino,

How did the Spanish word "leche" become a Filipino cuss word?

Tony S.
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Tony,

You have to understand that when the noble Spaniards decided to colonize and Christianize us, they didn't really bother educating us about the finer distinctions between the eschatological and the scatological.

If you're confused as to which is which because they are almost homophonic and homonymous, here's a short guide: The former deals with the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, the Last Judgment, heaven and hell; the latter, on the other hand, is about giving someone hell.  One is obsessed with fatal matters, the other with fecal matters.

This is an important starting point because it appears the Spaniards have mastered both.  That's why they are credited with having brought many to the Christian fold and having formulated one of the world's most devastating invectives ever hurled, as compiled by  And the Spanish insult in the compilation provides the clue to the riddle behind the Filipino expletive.

So, why "milk"?

(Source: Jane Heller.) 
Some people who have some familiarity in this area think that milk, when used as a profanity in Spanish, refers to male sperm, presumably because of the similarity in color between the two liquidy substances, and that somehow because of this reference, the phrase in and of itself becomes offensive. 

I urge you not to buy into that line of thinking.

The etymological theory to which I subscribe is the one which is reasonably related to the eschatological-scatological conundrum I mentioned above, and it is this: that "leche" is derived from "Me cago en la leche," which literally translates to "I defecate in the milk."

Now, this phrase is meant to be not just irreverent and profane but outrightly blasphemous of the Catholic rite of Communion.  Why?  Because leche is used interchangeably with the word hostia ("host") -- as in "Me cago en la hostia," among many other colorful usages, especially in Spain and Puerto Rico

For Catholics, the "host," of course, is the religious symbolism for the "Body of Christ," or the transubstantiated Host of the Eucharist.  So how more offensive can you get to Catholics than by uttering that deplorably hideous phrase?

Whether the Filipinos who first used leche as an obscenity knew of its etymology, nobody really knows, I think.  We do know that the Spaniards did not really want Filipinos to learn Spanish, but the natives caught on to their overlords' language anyway, albeit incompletely and inaccurately. 

In this case, they probably got the "milk" part and that part only -- but appropriated it nonetheless for their own use.  (It's also entirely possible, of course, that some just purposefully shortened the phrase to make it more emphatic and more punchy while at the same time avoiding the use of the potty word cago.) 

Hence, many Filipinos now commonly say "Leche!" (pronounced and spelled sometimes as "Letse!") when they swear.  And when they want to direct their ire to a specific person or persons, they say, quite nonsensically, "Leche ka!" ("You're milk!") or "Mga leche kayo lahat!" ("You are all milk!"), without really comprehending what they are in fact saying and without knowing they may be "attacking" their very own religion.

They do know one thing:  That when they're yelling these intended obscenities, they want to give the recipients some measure of hell.  As to the recipients, they can only wish, quite understandably, that the Second Coming is indeed nigh.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 24, 2010

How many ways can you say "Merry Christmas" using Filipino languages?

Dear Filipino,

How many languages are spoken in the Philippines. I understand not everyone speaks Tagalog?

Colleen Butler

Dear Colleen,

People who have tried to answer your question in the past have come up with wildly different answers.  The reason is simple: As always, it boils down to the definition of terms; even better put, it boils down to the difference between what is considered a "language" and what is considered a "dialect." 

The thing is, there are no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing them, and the difference is often a matter of degree rather than of kind.  According to Dr. Tucker Childs, professor of Linguistics at Portland State University, it's because:
[T]hey're not objective, scientific terms.  People use the words "dialect" and "language" to mean different things. "Language" can often refer to your own linguistic variety and "dialect" to the variety spoken by someone else, usually someone thought of as inferior. Or "language" can mean the generally accepted "standard" or radio-talk language of a country, while dialects are homely versions of it that vary from region to region and may not be pronounced the way the so-called "language" is. Language varieties are called "dialects" rather than "languages" because they're not written, or because speakers of that variety don't run the country, or because their language lacks prestige. In short, the distinction is subjective...

One of the tests people use to differentiate "language" from "dialect" is mutual intelligibility. You can say that people speak the same language -- or a dialect of the same language -- if they understand each other. If they don't understand one another, they must be speaking different languages. That seems like a good rule. So why, in a case like the Cologne and Bavarian dialects, which aren't mutually intelligible, don't the Germans call them separate languages? Or why are Swedish and Norwegian separate languages, when Swedes and Norwegians have no trouble understanding one another? It's really pretty confusing.
Further, according to John R. Rickford, professor of Linguistics at Stanford University:

The most significant variations or differences within languages occur at the level of the lexicon (vocabulary), phonology (pronunciation), grammar (morphology and syntax), and usage.  Moreover, they are not just qualitative, in the sense that dialect A uses one feature and dialect B another, but they may also be quantitative, in the sense that dialect A uses one feature more often than dialect B does....Finally, variation may be regional, social or stylistic in its origins, and the methods that linguists have used to study each type differ slightly.
Thus, in order to answer your question, I turned to Ethnologue: Languages of the WorldEthnologue is a web and print publication of SIL International (SIL stands for Summer Institute of Linguistics), which trains Christian missionaries to be linguists, sending them to learn local languages, design alphabets for unwritten languages and introduce literacy -- primarily to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language.  Thus, Ethnologue's history has drawn some criticism from secular linguists, but it has grown so comprehensive since its start in 1951 that it is now THE leading authority on languages and an indispensable resource for academics and governments.

According to Ethnologue, Philippines has a total of 175 languages,171 of which are living languages and 4  are considered extinct, i.e., no known speakers.  Yours truly fluently speak and write only 2 of these 175 languages, but can probably survive in a few more.  Note that Tagalog, while officially considered the national language, is only spoken as a native language by 28.15% of the total Philippine population (based on the 2000 census).

Today being the eve of Christmas, I decided to do just a little bit of scouring on the Web for Filipino translations of the season's greeting: "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!" 

I came up with only the ones below, but the variety floored me nonetheless.  I hope other Filipinos who get to read this post can send their version to me so I can keep updating the compilation for the next years to come.

Bicolano - Maugmang Kapaskuhan asin Masaganang Ba-gong Taon
Cebuano - Malipayong Pasko ug Bulahang Bag-ong Tuig
Chavacano - Felices Pascua y Prospero Anyo
Dibabawon - Marayaw na Pasko aw Bag-ong Tuig
Hiligaynon - Malipayon nga Pascua kag Mahamungaya-on nga Bag-ong Tuig
Ilocano - Naimbag a Pascua ken Naragsac nga Baro nga Tawen
Inakeanon - Malipayon nga Paskwa ag Mahigugmaon nga Bag-ong Dag-on
Inonhan - Malipayon nga Paskwa kag Masadya nga Bag-ong Tuig
Manobo - Mepiya Pagasaulog aw maontong kaling Omay
Mansaka - Madyaw na Pasko aw malipayong Bag-ong Tuig
Pampangan - Malugud Pascu at saca Masayang Bayung Banua
Pangasinan - Maabig ya pasko Maliket ya Balon Taon
Sambal - Maligayang Pasko at Masayang Ba-yon Taon
Tagalog - Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
Waray-Waray - Maupay nga Pasko ngan Mainuswagon nga Bag-o nga Tuig
Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 23, 2010

Guess what blog just got featured on this Christmas?

Dear readers, occasional followers and most loyal supporters:

Guess what?  AAF! just got featured in the Global Networking column (by Telltale Signs of Filipinos in America author Rodel E. Rodis) found in the Global Nation section of, the online version of the country's leading newspaper, the Philippine Daily Inquirer.  Check it out!

While I'm really very flattered by the article, I am also a bit concerned.  When I decided to start this blog, I just intended it as another "moodly" Q&A thing -- i.e., whenever I'm in the mood to write, as opposed to a "weekly" or a "daily" thing -- to help answer questions bugging everyone about the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora.  And now this article comes out, which is sure to only add to more pressure for me to write more.  Already, the inbox is filling up, adding to the backlog of questions still left to be answered.  What to do?

Well, what else but to do it the Filipino way: Just keep plowing ahead, make changes along the way if necessary, and hope that with the grace of The Big Guy Above, things will just turn out fine. ;-)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Warm regards,
The Filipino

P.S.  Special shout-out to the first folks who asked me questions, as well as to The Mexican, The Korean, and The Frenchman -- all of whom have been especially supportive.  Most of all, of course, my biggest thanks to the love of my life, The Filipina.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

When was male circumcision first practised in the Philippines?

Dear Filipino,

My question: When was circumcision of males first practised in the Philippines?

This question is asked in connection with news that a man in San Francisco is proposing a ban on circumcision

Carlos Borromeo,
San Francisco

Dear Carlos,

When I talked to a good friend about your question, he suggested maybe it was first practised when, in 2008, then-Florida Gators' star quarterback, Tim Tebow, who now plays for the Denver Broncos in the National Football League, decided to go back to the Philippines (where he was bornfor his spring break that year in order to play "quarter-hack" instead. 

Imagine: The future of some Filipino boys
actually depends on the quality of the
'workmanship' of this NFL dude.
So take a bow, Tim Tebow! :-)

Kidding aside, of course, the answer to your question, Carlos, necessitated a bit more research.  So I did.

One Filipino writer, Rommel G. Rebollido, in an article for Sun Star which was reposted by CIRP (which stands for Circumcision Information and Resource Pages), claims that "in the Philippines, where it has been a tradition for over a century now, there is nothing definite as to how and when it really began."

Fair enough, even though there's no mention of his sources.  But then he adds, "common belief has it that the practice was introduced by western colonizers."

By "western colonizers" and his dating of the "tradition" as being "over a century now," was Rebollido referring to Americans who occupied the Philippines after the official end of the Philippine-American War in 1902 and who are believed to be the ones to have popularized the practice among Koreans?

Since Rebollido wrote his article in 2005 and Filipinos could not have adopted American traditions immediately right after the war to allow for traditions to be "over a century now," was he in fact referring to Spaniards as the "westerners" who "introduced" the practice?

Actually, whether Rebollido was referring to Americans or Spaniards is irrelevant because his claim has no historical foundation.

In other words, he and those who espouse this "common belief" are wrong.  For in fact, according to the accounts of Antonio de Morga, a Spanish lawyer, high-ranking colonial official in the Philippines, and the historian who published the book Sucesos de las islas Filipinas (Events in the Philippine Isles) in 1609, which  is considered the best and perhaps most important work on the early history of Spanish colonialism in the country:
A few years before the Spaniards subdued the island of Luzon, certain natives of the island of Borneo began to go thither to trade, especially to the settlement of Manila and Tondo; and the inhabitants of the one island intermarried with those of the other. These Borneans are Mahometans, and were already introducing their religion among the natives of Luzon, and were giving them instructions, ceremonies, and the form of observing their religion, by means of certain gazizes whom they brought with them. Already a considerable number, and those the chiefest men, were commencing, although by piecemeal, to become Moros, and were being circumcised* and taking the names of Moros. Had the Spaniards' coming been delayed longer, that religion would have spread throughout the island, and even through the others, and it would have been difficult to extirpate it.
Morga was explicit -- was he not? -- that the practise of circumcision in the Philippines predates the Spaniards.  He also implied quite clearly that it was introduced by Mohametans -- i.e., Muslims!

Now, did you notice the word which I emboldened and italicised?  Did you notice the asterisk? 

Yes?  Good -- because I want to add the following annotation:

"This custom has not fallen into disuse among the Filipinos, even among the Catholics."

Now, guess who made that annotation?

Well, who else but our very own national hero, Jose P. Rizal?

Yes, sir!  Morga's  work apparently impressed Rizal so much that the latter decided to annotate it and publish a new edition.

But why would Rizal add that phrase -- "even among the Catholics"?

My theory is this: Because Rizal knew that religious male circumcision is more closely followed by Muslims and is also universally observed by followers of Judaismeven though the practice is, for some mistaken reason, being generally associated nowadays with members of the country's predominant religion (i.e., Catholicism).  In fact, I was surprised to learn that, historically, the Roman Catholic Church has actually denounced religious circumcision for its members in the Cantate Domino, which was written during the 11th Council of Florence in 1442.

In any case, I would be interested to find out if that San Fran man succeeds with the ban.  So would Tim Tebow, I'm sure.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 21, 2010

Why is karaoke so popular in the Philippines?

Dear Filipino,

Why is karaoke so popular around here [Philippines]? I can't sleep at night without hearing sintunado [out of tune] singing and it's starting to be a little annoying.

Chloe S.

Dear Chloe,

When I saw the word "karaoke" in your question, the first words that came to my mind were:

Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby
Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around
And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby
When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still
I need you (I need you) more than anyone, darlin'
You know that I have from the start
So build me up (build me up) Buttercup, don't break my heart! 
Sorry, I couldn't help it!  As if on cue, the music by The Foundations just flooded my brain.  You're lucky actually -- if we were face to face, you'd have seen me dance and snap my fingers to the tune too!

So yes -- I feel for you.  It would be torture for anyone to see and hear someone like me sing (and dance!) to karaoke non-stop, which I'm capable of doing!  Honestly, I just hope you're not the type who goes postal and murderous just because someone is belting Frank Sinatra's My Way -- truly a disturbing and bizarre trend

But why do Filipinos love to sing karaoke?

The easy, short, obvious and very much correct answer is: Because we love music.

But there's an even better explanation: Because we actually invented karaoke singing.  Literally.

While the Japanese are the ones credited for coining the term "karaoke" (from "kara" meaning empty and "ōkesutora" meaning orchestra), it was actually a Filipino, Roberto del Rosarioa gifted musician and music teacher, who developed in 1975 (and later patented) an advanced sing-along-system known as OMB (one-man-band) which was the combination of a music player, voice taping mechanism, tuner and mixer -- a sing-along-system (SAS) which allowed his students to sing with the recorded music using a microphone and an amplified speaker.

I must point out though that there are disputes as to who really invented karaoke.  One version says it is actually Daisuke Inoue who invented karaoke in 1971 even if he failed to patent it.

But I don't completely buy it.  Here's why:

Tracing the history of Filipino workers through the centuries in Japan, Prof. Lydia N. Yu-Jose of Ateneo de Manila noted that "[w]hile most [of the original] Filipino migrant workers in the United States were plantation laborers, most of the workers in Japan...were musicians."  Their earliest recorded presence was in 1886, but the entry of Filipinos in Japan became more regular in the 1920s and onwards, mostly as members of "real" American jazz bands.  After World War II, their presence only increased, initially due to the fact that American managers and promoters were recruiting them to perform in American bases in Okinawa.  But then, Prof. Yu-Jose noted, these same recruited Filipinos would later find themselves performing in fashionable night clubs of Tokyo, outside the oversight of course of their American overlords.  

Needing to improvise, Filipinos came up with low-tech but clever solutions that would generate greater revenue for them at a cost lower than having a full-scale musical band (like the American-owned and American-managed ones from which they started).  These improvisations eventually led to the development of 'minus-one music' - a sing-along musical accompaniment recorded on cassette tapes which also became prevalent in the Philippines from the late 1960s to the early 1980s

In other words, even assuming for the sake of argument that Daisuke -- who did not patent his invention -- did indeed beat del Rosario -- who patented his (leading to his later being awarded a Gold Medal for Best Inventor in 1985 by the United Nations World Intellectual Property Association) -- to the "race," one can legitimately argue that Filipinos, collectively as hired musicians in Japan, were actually the ones who really came up with the first beginnings of the karaoke system.

In any case, back to your question.

You said it's getting to be annoying, so I came up with a matrix which you can distribute to your family, friends, and officemates, and/or post in karaoke parlors to help guide people on the proper etiquette for karaoke singing:

Personally, I'm a 2: I'm kinda sintunado and I know it for a fact.  But I sing karaoke because I really just wanna have fun.  The tricky part for me, of course, is not knowing whether I'm overdoing it or not.  That's where my true friends come in, who always forcibly yank away the microphone from me.

Anyway, if we chance to meet each other one day at a karaoke parlor and you want to strangle me already about my karaoke singing, will you please wait until you hear my dear friend sing ABBA's "Dancing Queen." ;-)

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 18, 2010

Who's hotter: Shalani Soledad or Liz Uy?

Dear Filipino,

I know P-Noy has moved on, but who would have made a better Philippine First Lady: Shalani Soledad or Liz Uy?  Heck, let's be blunt about it: who is hotter? ;-)

Mr. GreenGH

Dear Mr. GreenGH,

You're a vile one, Mr. GreenGH -- you have termites in your smile!  :-)

But in order to answer your question, I turned to experts.

According to Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist from London School of Economics, the aphorism that "beauty [or hotness to use your term] is in the eye of the beholder" has already been scientifically proven wrong.  Kanazawa points out that there are in fact three main features that characterize beautiful faces:

(1) the geometric feature of bilateral symmetry -- i.e., the more symmetrical faces are more attractive;

(2) the mathematical feature of averageness -- i.e., faces with features closer to the population average are more attractive than those with extreme ones; 

(3) and the biological concept of secondary sexual characteristics -- which, unlike the first two, differ for the sexes.  In the case of women, features considered to be attractive are indicators of high levels of estrogen (e.g., large eyes, fuller lips, larger foreheads, and smaller chins).

Kanazawa further contends that beauty is in fact like height or weight: It is quantifiable and objective, and therefore culturally universal and innate -- i.e., "we are born with it" -- as shown by studies in the mid-1980s involving babies, and its recent version involving newborns less than one week old who've shown significantly greater preference for faces that adults judge to be attractive (see also Rubenstein et al.'s 1999 APA study, "Infant Preferences for Attractive Faces: A Cognitive Explanation).

Having access to three small children, The Filipino decided to conduct his own small homespun experiment. 

The Experiment

The subjects are H, C and J.  H is 3, C is 5 and J is 7 years old.  H and J are males; C is female.  They are of Filipino descent and close relatives.

To control for peer pressure, the subjects, over three rounds of voting, were individually and successively (from youngest to oldest) shown three sets of pictures of Shalani and Liz, as follows:

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

To control for the impact of smiles, for the first round of voting, the pictures shown on Figure 1 were chosen because the two ladies are both seen smiling. 

To control for the impact of the color yellow dominant in Shalani's picture in the first round, the pictures in Figure 2 were then chosen for the second round because this time, it's Liz who's wearing yellow.  For this round, the presentation of the ladies' pictures were also reversed to control for "order of presentation" bias.  While, admittedly, there are some differences in focus and background which can affect choice, the pictures were deemed comparable enough because the two ladies this time are seen not smiling.

Note that the two sets of pictures seen on Figures 1 and 2 were placed side by side after the fact; the subjects were not shown the pictures this way but one at a time.  However, for the last round of voting, The Filipino lucked out and found online what's shown on Figure 3, in which both ladies' pictures have been previously placed side by side by someone else.  Figure 3 is also interesting because the ladies are both shown glamorously, fully made up, almost flawless, and to The Filipino at least, look totally different (as they have been Photoshopped to the max -- to everyone's detriment, one might add).

It is worth mentioning also that last night was the very first time the subjects were seeing the two ex-potential First Ladies because the subjects' parents do not subscribe to any Filipino TV cable channels or watch Filipino news on TV with them.  This means that the subjects have no information or prior interaction or experience relating to the ladies' "personality", talent, work, voice or other appealing characteristic outside the pictures shown them, any single one of which can influence their choice.

The Results

For the first round of voting, all three subjects unanimously voted for Liz.

For the second round of voting, again, all three subjects unanimously voted for Liz.

For the third round of voting, however, the female subject, C, went with Shalani, but the male subjects stuck with Liz.

Summarizing the results, 8 of 9 votes cast by the subjects were for Liz and only 1 of 9 was for Shalani.

But why Liz? 

The mother of one of the subjects posits a theory: The subjects chose Liz because their mothers bear a closer resemblance to her rounder face.

The Contradiction

In an online poll conducted by, 70% of 1,642 votes were cast in favor of Shalani.  What does this mean? 

If Kanazawa is to be believed (his theories and studies are actually very controversial), the subjects' choice should have been more aligned with the online poll.  They are not.  Of course, one can argue, among others, that the experiment's subject pool is very limited while the online poll participants were influenced by other factors which have a bearing on one's definition of beauty or "hotness."  But still!

Who does The Filipino like better?

Cue the drum roll...

Okay, okay, before I reveal my choice, one caveat.

First, I must admit that while Kanazawa may be on to something with his theory, "beauty" is still a mental or intellectual thing for most, including me.  By mental, I mean that in cases where I have two almost comparably beautiful choices, I go for the smarter one or the one I think I can spend years and years talking to, even if this is strictly not about "hotness."  (That's why I would have loved to see Jill Biden as the US First Lady -- she is very beautiful and has a PhD to boot -- even though I did not really support Joe.)

In the Liz v. Shalani debate, both are beautiful but I don't know who is smarter or more "interesting" as a person.  If pure beauty is the test, maybe (just maybe) Shalani has the edge...


I know I can't live with somebody like Shalani and I would have hated seeing her as Philippines' First Lady. 


Because she actually agreed to be the TV co-host of a cockroach -- that's why! 

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 13, 2010

Why do Filipinos make sitsit? Part 3 of 3

Dear Filipino,

First question: don't you notice that when you are in the men's restroom with fellow Pinoys, we usually spit before making weewee? Hahaha!  Or how we use our lips for pointing things and making sitsit (psst psst) to others, esp. kids?  More serious qs to come -- hope Mark Zuckerberg buys this great site for $ 1 billion!

Sweaty in Singapore

[Part 1 -- "Spitting before pissing" has been answered here.  Part 2 -- "Pointing by lips" is here.  This is Part 3 -- "Making sitsit."]

Dear Sweaty,

Sorry for the long delay with my third installment.  Over the last few days, I was very busy and traveling -- from the Old to the New World -- and had kids in tow to babysit to boot.  Right now, I'm in bed with my laptop, awake in the wee hours of the morning because of jet lag, and so have some time to devote to the task of trying to decipher mind-blowing riddles of cosmic importance -- like your question, for instance.

But it's a good thing you parenthetically qualified your question because sitsit actually has two meanings/usages. 

One usage of sitsit in Tagalog is to engage in tsismis or gossip.  Now, many Filipinos do engage in a lot of tsismis, but this is not your question so I will not talk about it.  Besides, it's also really a minefield of a topic I'd rather avoid for now.

The other usage, the one enclosed in your parenthesis, is the onomatopoeic Filipino word for calling or attracting someone's attention in a surreptitous, inconspicuous or unobstrusive way.  

It is onomatopoeic because the word is derived from the sound associated with the act of calling itself.  But since Tagalog is a language based originally on a syllabary system of writing which does not really allow for syllables to not have a vowel, we drop the "p," add the "i" and use "sit" twice (another interesting habit: our act of repeating words), even though we really produce the sound "psst," which is a fairly common "interjection" -- i.e., "a sudden short utterance; an ejaculation."

But why do we sitsit?

For this, I think we need to go back to the definition above to divine an answer.  Notice the adjectives "surreptitous," "inconspicuous," and "unobtrusive" preceding the word "way"?

My guess is that its usage became popular among Filipinos for similar reasons that made pointing with lips popular.  And maybe because we've been colonized by foreigners for hundreds of years, we needed to adopt or invent other ways to communicate for situations that require more finesse, subtlety and/or secretiveness. 

Thus, we make sitsit to genericize a call out (akin to a whistle really when, say, a sexy lady is passing) or to call the attention of another when it would be advantageous not to use his/her name.

And because we are not an in-your-face culture, calling by sitsit is also the closest you can get to a whispery shout, if such an oxymoron is even possible.  (Thus, quite understandably, in some cases, it can be quite annoying or downright insulting.) 

Now, the use of sitsit with kids is generally the same as its use with adults, except of course it also functions as a stronger form of "shhhh" to hush them into silence.  That "t" in the "psst" impressively gives it the force of a command and really functions as an authoritative exclamatory ending necessary to compel obedience. 

Take it from someone who has to babysit lovable but overeager and quarreling kids from time to time.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 9, 2010

Why do Filipinos point with their lips? (Part 2 of 3)

Dear Filipino,
First question: don't you notice that when you are in the men's restroom with fellow Pinoys, we usually spit before making weewee? Hahaha!  Or how we use our lips for pointing things and making sitsit (psst psst) to others, esp. kids?  More serious qs to come -- hope Mark Zuckerberg buys this great site for $ 1 billion!

Sweaty in Singapore

[Part 1 -- "Spitting before pissing" has been answered here.  This is Part 2 -- "Pointing by lips."  Part 3 -- "Making sitsit" -- to follow soon.]

Dear Sweaty,

Yes, we do use pursed lips to point to a specific direction, with minimal (if at all) movement of the neck.

But we are actually not the only people who do so. 

According to Ms. Corina Roberts, founder of the nonprofit Redbird, Native American Indians do the same thing -- and for them, "it isn’t just people that you shouldn’t point [your fingers] at, but also trees and animals, homes, graves, regalia and medicine items."  She enumerated several reasons:
Pointing to an object or person is unnecessary when you can describe it with a name or word, and when the person you are conversing with knows the name or description of the subject intimately.  There were few things that were unfamiliar.  You wouldn’t need to point out a stranger; their unfamiliarity would be quite obvious.
Pointing would also have been confusing in communicating, since there was a system of sign language that often bridged the gap between native peoples who spoke different languages.  The sign made to ask someone their name is about as close to pointing as this language comes, and it is done with the palm toward the person making the sign, and the index finger pointing upward as much as toward the person in question.

Pointing is perceived, with somewhat universal agreement among tribal people, to be accusatory.  As one Hupa grandmother told her grand daughter, “finger pointing was an accusation of someone doing something bad and that was a way of telling on that person”. She said “there was always a silent agreement among our people to never tell on one another”.

There is another all-important factor that is often not expressed with regard to pointing, whether it is at a person or an object.  There is energy, or medicine, relating to all living things.  To point at someone could be perceived as affecting them with your energy, or taking theirs.  When you live with a conscious awareness of the physical, spiritual and energetic presence of those around you, pointing takes on additional gravity. 

As one Creek woman from Green Country, Oklahoma put it, “We don’t point with our fingers or hands. I think that it is not just rude, but also because some people use their hands for medicine, and so it creeps people out. It’s rude to make people feel like you might be doing something when you are not. It’s also bad to touch people you aren't close to unless you are shaking hands at certain times. Even then, many people are still uncomfortable about touching and no pointing...may be someone puttin’ their bad on you”.
Now, this explanation is interesting because we do have a historic link with Native Americans
With the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, two new groups of people were introduced to the country.  These are the Spaniards and the American Indians....The American Indians that were brought here, according to author Austin Craig, nearly numbered similar to the native population. Most of them are of Nahuatl (Aztec) or Yaqui descent, or are Mexican mestizos themselves. Many of them intermarried with the indigenous population, particularly in Luzon.  (Source:
Now, maybe we did acquire the habit from our Native American forebears, and generally for the same uses and reasons given above by Ms. Roberts -- i.e., pointing is too rude, too open, too blatant, too accusatory.  But most of my experiences with Filipinos' lips-pointing suggest, well, other uses not touched on by her explanation. 

Let's talk about men first.  There are numerous uses, but I will only highlight two:

One: What does a typical Filipino guy do to alert his buddies that a chick is coming?  Answer: Purse his lips, point it slightly to the direction of the chick, and let the black of his eyes follow the same direction WITHOUT any neck movement.  Note: For this signal, the size of the dilation of the guy's pupils is directly proportional to the gorgeousness of the chick.

Two: Seeing his friend busy flirting with a new girl, what does a loyal wingman do once he sees that his friend's girlfriend -- known to have Talibanic tendencies when wronged --  is unexpectedly arriving?  The answer is the same: Purse his lips, point it slightly to the direction of the girlfriend, and let the black of his black eyes follow the same direction -- again WITHOUT any discernible neck movement.  Note though that the most important facial feature accompanying this signal is the furrowed brow which should unmistakably warn of a clear and present danger.

But what about for Filipino women?  Well, the sexual inverse of the two uses I outlined above applies as well.  However, my experience also taught me that they use lips-pointing much more often and much more creatively.  They'll use it when gossiping talking about others, each other, or you.  Sometimes, because they're too shy to put wants and needs into words, they'll use the signal if they want something -- "this thing" or "that thing" -- and where they want it -- "here" or "there."

So how do you figure out what exactly they mean?  Well, you have to pay attention to the eyes -- because indeed, the Filipina's eyes are the windows to her soul. 

And let me end with a warning: Misread the signal at your peril -- or your loss, as the case may be. ;-)

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 7, 2010

Why do Filipinos spit before making weewee? (Part 1 of 3)

Dear Filipino,

First question: don't you notice that when you are in the men's restroom with fellow Pinoys, we usually spit before making weewee? Hahaha!  Or how we use our lips for pointing things and making sitsit (psst psst) to others, esp. kids?  More serious qs to come -- hope Mark Zuckerberg buys this great site for $ 1 billion!

Sweaty in Singapore

Dear Sweaty,

Mark Zuckerberg can kiss my bagoong-flavored b--t if he thinks he can buy this site for a measly $1B. ;-)

In any case, thanks for what -- I'm sure -- you meant as a complimentary ending.  But you have three different questions preceding it, each actually entitled to a separate post.  So I've decided to divide my answer into three different parts: Part 1 is "Spitting before pissing"; Part 2 is "Pointing by lips" and Part 3 is "Making sitsit."  This first post is ONLY going to discuss Part 1 because I have limited time.  You'll have to wait a little bit for the next two parts.
Part 1:  Spitting before pissing

I don't know about you, but I find most public restrooms or toilets not exactly the place where you want to do your breathing exercises to cleanse the lungs.  So, is it possible that, like me, most just really want to counteract their gag reflexes by spitting? 

Maybe -- but that's the boring explanation.  And we hate boring.  In fact, we invent games so things are not boring.

So my personal theory is this: Filipinos are a playful bunch, so we spit at the urinal because the sputum is perfect for "target practice" -- which is defined by Wikipedia as "any exercise in which projectiles are fired at a specified target, usually to improve the aim of the person or persons firing the weapon." (Italics added.) 

Among Filipinos in a public toilet, there may or may not be an unspoken "contest" going on, the typical mechanics of which are as follows:

(1) We look each other in the eye -- but only in split seconds out of concern for any unwelcome suspicions -- to issue the "challenge" all-too-familiar to fans of Western flicks;

(2) We hurl the mucousy "target" at the bottom of the urinal;

(3) We unsheath or take out our "weapons";

(4) Then -- the fun part -- we try to "flush" the sputum as fast as we can using only the strength of the liquid pressure coming from our respective "pipes."  (Note: This is one department where size of the "pipe" is clearly secondary to the owner's accuracy and intensity to achieve the desired goal.)

The contest's winner is whoever is first to: (a) get rid of the "target" and any evidence thereof; (b) press the real mechanical flushing implement attached to the urinal; and (c) return his "weapon" back to its holster.  And like golf, it's an honesty-based gentleman's game, so winning is savored internally, not bragged about with unnecessary chest-thumping and fist-pumping (unless you're Tiger Woods).

But again, that's my theory, my explanation. 

Another theory may be based on the one articulated by an expert in sociology, Prof. Robert S. McCarl of Boise State, who explained that spitting is really a way for men to "establish their territories."  According to him:  "It's basically them throwing down a challenge. It's a way of saying, 'this is my space and I'm marking it.'" 

Of course, Prof. McCarl did not single out Filipinos in his explanation and he did not apply his theory within the context of toilet dynamics.  And so this is where I, again, come in.

Do you remember what they say about the main difference between men and women?  Well, as history's wise men (for they surely were men!) pointed out: Women can only use a toilet ONE at a time but men can do so TEN at a time!

But obviously those wise men didn't have Filipino men in mind when they made that observation.  Because the truth is, real Filipino men can't!

Applying Prof. McCarl's theory, I think this is why we spit before, as you put it, we "mak[e] weewee."  Essentially, we're telling fellow Pinoys and other users of the restroom: "Hey, this is MY urinal so go get yours!  And by the grace of Bathala, if you care about your life, don't even think of sharing it with me!"

(Disclaimer:  The implications underpinning the second theory is NOT unique to Filipino men.  That's why there are strict rules of etiquette to be followed in the use of urinals [see the video below] and risks abound, across many cultures, in cases of violations of "buffer zones" [see this other video].  To test your urinal IQ, download the iPhone app "Urinal test" now; the app may just save your life.)

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

Dec 4, 2010

Are Filipinos always inclined to fight one another?

Dear Filipino,

I noticed, from my experience, Filipinos are always inclined to fight one another. Almost every Filipino family I know has at least two brothers that duke it every now and then. And the Filipino guys I know either see their fellow countrymen as good friends or rivals. Or am I just over analyzing?


Dear Snaffu,

Yes, you are over-analyzing if you think Filipinos are unique in fighting each other as siblings!

No, Sir: We did NOT invent "sibling rivalry."  We don't have a trademark or a patent on it.  In fact, if you will recall from your Sunday school teachers, Old Testament dudes named Cain and Abel popularized the trend, then was copied by Jacob and Esau, and then by Joseph and his brothers.  More modernly, we also know now that American tennis doubles champs Bob and Mike Bryan fought while growing up, MMA fighters Marvin and Melvin Blumer (a.k.a. the Bash Brothers) fought while growing up, and Indian billionaires Mukesh and Anil Ambani fought as grownups! 

See the pattern?  There's none!  Why?  Because sibling rivalry is normal and universal.

But the other half of your question -- whether Filipinos see their fellow countrymen as good friends or rivals -- deserve a longer discussion because this observation is extraordinarily prescient of you (yes, we do fight among each other, though not as often as others would think!).  It also deserves a more in-depth treatment because it touches on two "theories" also often ascribed to Filipinos by some foreign observers and moreso by Filipinos themselves -- i.e., what I call the  (1) "regionalistic Filipinos theory," and (2) the "crab mentality theory."  To conserve on bytes and typing energy, I'll refer to them as RFT and CMT.

But let's tackle the CMT theory first because The Filipino absolutely HATES this theory.

I.  The CMT: Why it is complete B.S.

The "theory" is based on a story that goes something like this: 

There was this crab salesman who was selling live crabs, and he had many different baskets all somewhat filled with different types of crabs.  All the baskets, except one, had covers so the crabs could not escape.  When one customer asked why that was so, the crab salesman supposedly replied: "Ma'am, that uncovered basket is the basket of Filipino crabs.  I'm not worried about anyone of them escaping because as soon as one of them is about to escape, the other crabs will pull him right back down.  So there is really no need to cover them."


A prominent Fil-Am community leader, lawyer and columnist, Mr. Rodel Rodis, is believed to have first written about this story, but he was using this theory then as his personal, and arguable, conjecture as to why no Filipino had yet been elected to high public office in California despite the community's considerable presence in the state (this is no longer true, by the way, with the election of a Filipina Chief Justice of the Supreme Court last month). 

Now, it would have been harmless, except that many other prominent Filipinos, writers and others, actually latched onto the story and arrogated it to be the all-encompassing explanation for any shortcoming of Filipinos, real or imagined, as a group! 

Why is some Filipino not getting recognized as the best in this or that?  "Because of crab mentality!"

Why did the group splinter and what was behind all the in-fighting?  "Because of crab mentality!"

Why do we have differences in opinion?  "Because of crab mentality!"

Why is the Philippines not progressing?  "Because of crab mentality!"

Why are we eating left-over adobo again for dinner? "Because of crab mentality!"

I have to stop before I puke because I'm truly, truly SICK of hearing it! 

Why?  Because the truth of the matter is, the story is not even original nor originally about Filipinos.  As Mr. Rodis himself admitted, he first heard it from his La Raza professor.  But in his professor's version, the crabs in that uncovered basket were Mexican crabs!  And I'm willing to bet that the original version of the story is about a basket of crabs of another nationality!

But what does this really tell you?  What else -- but that the CMT is also universal! 

In fact, as written by one Liberian woman, it's really the same as the “If I cannot get there or be there, then no one will get there” syndrome.  Another variant is the German concept called "schadenfreude" -- that sadistic pleasure derived from seeing others encounter some form of misfortune.  In sociological terms, it can also be partly explained by the Social Comparison Theory as propounded by Dr. Leon Festinger -- the idea being that if others around us have bad luck, we feel better about ourselves because we compare ourselves to others regularly.

In fact, you can even say CMT is as American as apple pie because Americans seem to take perverse delight in the downfall of our modern figures like Tiger Woods, Martha Stewart or Bill Clinton -- all of whom fell from their pedestal because of personal transgressions.  Except it would be unfair to Americans!  Because as Prof. Richard Smith pointed out in a NY Times article:  "However contemptible schadenfreude may seem...we are programmed to feel it" because "[i]t's human nature."

So Filipinos reading this blog post: STOP using CMT already as if it's a Filipino thing!  It's NOT!

II.  The RFT: Why it is THE culprit and why it is ALMOST understandable

Snaffu:  I said earlier that you made a prescient observation about Filipino in-fighting because we do seem to have that tendency to divide Filipinos outside our immediate family under two columns: "with us" or "against us" -- which is very cowboy-ish, very George W. Bush-like.  (Actually, there's really a third column: the "I couldn't care less about them" column, but it's boring to talk about that, so I won't.) 

I don't have data to compare incidences of in-fighting among various groups, but I can attest to the fact that, generally speaking, we are group-oriented (as opposed to person-oriented) and collectivistic (as opposed to individualistic).  We abhor being alone.  Older people we are close to, we call "Kuya/Ate" (older brother/older sister), or "Tito/Tita" (uncle/aunt), even if we're not related to them by either affinity or consanguinity.  If you're a friend, you are family.  We want loud and big parties.  And if you've been to a Filipino party celebrating even the most minor of occasions and you see overflowing food and people talking all at the same time, you know what I'm talking about and don't need me to elaborate further.

And because we are group-oriented, for companionship and sense of kinship and camaraderie, we naturally tend to look to people who speak the same language/dialect, come from the same place/hometown, enjoy the same cuisine, and/or have the same customs and religious traditions.  We devote substantial time, energy and even hard-earned money to earn the respect, loyalty and love of the people within our respective groups (in ancient times, we even entered into blood compacts to show, ceremonially, our commitment to true friendships). 

So I think regionalism and/or clannishness -- or RFT -- is really the culprit for the occasional "fights," not CMT. If someone in our group is wronged by someone from another group, we naturally are affected too and show it (or we fake it at least).  If someone in our group has done something to another and we fear of repercussions, we close ranks.

Among the young -- which, gleaning from your question, seems to be your perspective -- this regionalism and clannishness typically manifest itself in region-based fraternities and/or gangs (the malevolent type) and one's choice of barkada (gang-like group of friends but of the benign type).  And as gangs and frats and barkadas go, you make an enemy of one, you make an enemy of all.  (Sadly, this dynamic is taken to extremes in Philippine politics and especially in some areas in Mindanao, with clans literally killing each other, sometimes for generations, in Mafia-like feuds called rido.) 

Now, this may not be of concern to you, but in the US where Filipinos have a considerable presence, this sense of regionalism and clannishness which lead to divisions is considered by many outspoken leaders of the community as the reason why we are not seen as a potent voting bloc, why we don't have real political power.  I have something to confess: I used to buy into that line of thinking, but not anymore. 

I now think that our being non-monolithic as a group in the US is in fact a sign of progress and maturity.  Why?  Because if "misery loves company," then the fact that we are not monolithic and seem more divided shows we are not miserable anymore, right? 

Now, one might think that I'm being facetious here, but I'm actually not.  For I've observed it with my own eyes: Where overseas Filipinos are poorer and looked down upon (e.g., in Europe and in Asian countries where most OFWs are imported for low-skilled jobs), the unity of cross-cultural, inter-regional Filipino groups is impressive.  But in the US where the typical Filipino family is actually richer than the typical American family, Filipinos look to smaller family-based groups or region-based groups for a sense of belonging and support. 

And we avoid big groups because we don't want to be told by some stranger Filipino what to do!  Yes, in the US, we don't want power to be concentrated in a single organization or a few people who may have interests that do not necessarily align to ours individually, or because they espouse causes we couldn't care less about.  Besides, the fact that we don't vote for someone just because he's Filipino is a good thing.  Why?  Because we should vote for the best candidate, regardless of his race!  That's our civic duty!

That does not mean I'm advocating for further divisions within our community.  In the US, I'm still in favor of an umbrella organization for Filipinos to fight for causes that uniquely pertain to us.  But I've learned not to force the issue anymore.

If it happens, it happens.  Because I believe we can make it happen if we really need to, even if we have to keep fighting each other to make it happen.

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