Category: Other Stories

Manifestations of Filipino Machismo in Selected Philippine Contemporary Literary Works

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Years ago, the Filipino sitcom “Palibhasa Lalaki” brought the viewers to their own seats. The Pinoy audience was then exposed and introduced to the lighter side of Filipino machismo. The writers and cast of the sitcom only showed humor reflecting the real lives of the actors involved in the series such as Richard Gomez, Joey Marquez, Anjo Yllana, and Gloria Romero. But then, there were still images of sexy girls wearing shorts and fit shirts who were not entitled to speak more lines because they were only needed in the series to somehow show emphasis on the male actors’ masculinity. Indeed, there can be no theory of the subject that is not masculine.

Today’s Pinoy sitcoms are not making any difference at all to “Palibhasa Lalaki.” Even the Philippine Literature could not escape the visible trend of Filipino machismo, then followed its influence on Pop Literature. The music, the movies and even the Tagalog romance novels still could not go against the molecular influences of machismo, even in the contemporary times. Literature is indeed political.

Tracing back the manifestations of machismo in traditional literature, in the time of Estrella Alfon, Paz Latorena, and Ligaya Victorio Reyes, most of the unified depiction of their male characters was influenced by an ideology about Filipino men constantly asserting their masculinity and power over women. That was the early emergence of the Feminism movement. Such women writers were writing their literary works so as to present what were the society’s views on women during 1970’s and on. The presence of a female character so to understand the actions of machismo is a way to put the lack in the absent. The important thing to say is not that feminism is accusing individual men of being oppressors. Feminism is asking men to own up the ways that they have been privileged by those systems and structures.

Today, feminist writers created strong women characters in their literary works, even the men writers. Jessica Zafra, in most of her short stories showed the strong personalities of modern women in different situations. Lakambini Sitoy presents the conquests of women over men. And so, with the growth of feminism in its full bloom, machismo is at most overpowered, if not, buried in the fingertips of the writers. But then, it would be such a dangerous thing to conclude that our contemporary literary works are safe from the grounds of machismo. That is not always the case. In Ladlad: An Anthology of Filipino Gay Writing, there is a need to show machismo in the personalities of the male characters dominating the whole stories so to present the binary opposition of masculinity and homosexuality in the personalities of such characters. In a Structuralist way of thinking, the ideology that there is an existence of the subject and the other could be applied in the study. Among the selected texts to be discussed further are the works categorized as a form of gay writing, still following the concept of present and absent by the Structuralist Jacques Derrida so to discriminate the manifestations of machismo in the Filipino setting. And so, in order to grasp the object, it must be present.

Philippine Literature is indeed male. To read, listen and watch even those who don’t belong in the canon are poisoned by the forces of machismo. In a certain tribe featured in The National Geographic, men measure their manliness by jumping from a high building to the ground with no wounds at all, not even broken bones. And so, only by performing such a risky ritual that they could then call themselves as real men. In the Filipino setting, however, being a “macho” is to learn how to curse, to be an alcoholic and to talk about sex in the middle of an inuman session. One concrete example of this macho persona is Stan Kowalski in A Street Car Named Desire by Tennesse Williams in which the male character submits to the idea of beating his wife, continuing his drinking habits and the ironic thing is, he is physically a macho. This concept of machismo also perpetuated in early Filipino society.

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It is machismo’s relationship to alcohol, violence and homosexual desires that shape the male characters in Edzel Cardil’s story entitled “Par” taken from the compiled gay stories of Ladlad. Par is actually the short version of Pare. The central characters are the male figures, Andang being the gay character manipulating the story and the two other “macho” characters somehow giving a concrete binary opposition of personalities. Par is the name addressed by the gay lover to his so called “siga” live in partner in Caloocan.

“ Astig ‘no, dahil sa lugar namin, siga itong asawa ko, marami na siyang bodyguard, tipong Robin Padilla. Lalaking-lalake, Chang.”

He is the stereotyped figure of a Filipino macho who performs physical violence against his lover to assert his masculinity and sovereignty. He is experimental in terms of sexual conquests that he even tried homosexual affairs, somehow suggesting that his own definition of being a tunay na lalaki is achieving both gay and women. His own penis won’t mind giving pleasure to both anyway because men had always thought of their male organ as their pride of being a man.

“ Marami na raw siyang nakaka-do, pero ako lang talaga ang nakukursunadahan niya.”

And so, when the macho character died because of a fight with another guy to show that he is still the bandido ng Caloocan , Andang, the gay speaker, then spoke to his lover in silence:

Par, mali kasi ang pagkakaalam mo sa salitang macho. Di komo marami kang chicks at may mga bakla pa, basagulero’t siga, ay macho ka na. Ang tunay na macho ay ‘yung marunong gumalang sa bawat tao.”

Other male characters also exhibit typical manifestations of machismo. One concrete example is Panchang, the gay lover’s best friend who happens to belong in an army. He accepts the invitation of Andang to have a one time homosexual affair with him and is even proud, in silence, that he had shared the same lover with his own best friend. It is somehow a conquest for him to prove his manliness. When his best friend, Chris, found out, they both agreed to have a one on one basketball game, somehow a duel, to determine who will own Andang to save one’s male ego so to speak. Both characters are portrayed as men who have very heavy drinking habits. Their nightly drinking sessions were de rigueur among men and husbands.

Another character is Rey, who killed Chris to get his revenge after Chris humiliated him in public by breaking shells of balut on his head. Male ego is really an issue to men that they would even kill only to save his face after humiliating his male pride. It still follows to a male ideology stating that to be male one had to be tough and even behave like a brute.

The work of Cardil could also be a fact to prove that machismo is often observed and practiced by those men who belong in rural communities, especially in slum areas.

Men dominate in the world, women dominate in the bedroom. Alfred Yuson has another specific concept of manliness. In his “A Hill of Samuel,” he focused on how men applied the influences of machismo against the female species. Dignos, the central male character in the story, could be seen as the seducer of women and is the sole reason of their madness. He would rape every woman, married or not and they would then worship him in the hill. He asserts his personality being a macho man by his conquests over women. Based on the responses of the male respondents on the study of Bob Pease on Postmodern Masculinity Politics, among the other manly things to do so as to redeem manhood is to have an active sex life. That is another test of manliness according to them. Men tend to rape women as an act of punishment for arousing them. In the case of the story, Dignos used his sexuality as a weapon to conquer women.

“….He was mad and he made our women mad…”

“….as the man with the black locks and the terrible eyes pressed hard against her. And the laughter came strongly and savagely upon her…”

“…Lumen gasped, and dug her nails into his nape. Then she felt the fever departing, but now the coldness turned severely into iciness in her womb. And slowly Dignos slid away from her and stood erect, surveying his prey naked and prostrate. And the laughter mounted, as the hill echoed its approval..”

Men “require” women’s sexual power to remind them of their heterosexuality and to reaffirm their own masculinity, although they are likely to experience women’s sexual power and their own response as “natural.” Men need women to define their manhood. The more women he gets and conquers, the more macho he becomes to his other male friends. This is visible in our own culture, considering the fact that men metamorphosed themselves into strutting cocks, macho in language and behavior.

Machismo is exhibited differently according to socioeconomic class. Angelo Lacuesta’s “Stigmata” has its lighter exposition. The main character in the story is a rich married banker who is having an affair with a steward in one of his flights. He has sexual affairs with Lene and is never guilty about it. He justified his actions by believing that every rich banker has them, a woman is a part of a lusty weekend and on Monday she will only be a part of the history. He is an epitome of a typical macho who would not submit himself to romantic relationships because it would make them less a man. Being labeled as a womanizer would not even make them less human. In the Filipino setting, married men who have mistresses are not such a disgrace to the eyes of the society, in fact, other men take pride of it. Well, each element of the male gender stereotype is revealed, as in fact, sexual.

Obedient and devoted husbands in Philippine Society are often regarded as “under the saya” by most unenlightened folks especially in rural societies. When the former president Joseph Estrada exposed his lifestyle of having a wife coexisting with three other mistresses, people never questioned such action. As they put it“lalaki naman siya e”. Therefore, he is a true Filipino male, tunay na lalaki. Machismo and all that went with it.

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In the story of “I Hope It Won’t Scar,” a college male student nearly killed someone in a boy’s fight when the gang decided to get their revenge for a friend who is in the hospital. The central character conforms to such actions so as to belong to the world of men whose definition of being a true macho is to be able to fight and get even. That’s what will then label them as basagulero’t siga- the stereotyped standard of masculinity.

The other male character’s sister is a complete opposite to the manly personality of his brother so as to characterize his maleness and his sister’s femininity. In a male dominated society such as ours, men are not entitled to be gentle and soft because ever since Adam, men should be then ones who are not ruled by emotion, rather than reason.

A male member of Philippine society is always told by the same distorted version of the concept of machismo. But then, is there such a right word to defend machismo? The selected texts have unmasked the prevalent machismo which underlies Philippine culture. The social model predicated on machismo has been revealed, considering the fact in the case of our society, our political and historical traditions could also be one of its major factors.

Consciousness is power. To create a new understanding of our literature is to make possible a new effect of that literature on us. And to make possible a new effect is in turn to provide the conditions for changing the culture that the literature reflects.

Machismo is defined and based upon the Philippine context. Macho men are everywhere. He could be loitering in the streets, in slum areas, in heavy drinking sessions until the wee hours of the morning, in gang wars,  sleeping in someone else’s bed or he could be sitting on a comfortable couch after beating his own wife. They identify their identities as men by their actions influenced by our own male society.

Contextualization is one way of studying the condition of machismo in Philippine society. Men are merely victims. Ernest Hemingway had always been studied by scholars as to how masculinity operates in Hemingway’s life and works, replacing the celebrated macho persona motivated by various psychosexual desires. It is only apparent that in all kinds of literature, such manifestations of machismo only reflect the society each has.

It as if machismo had infected the entire society that we see in literature and in our own society as well.

Filipino machismo has infected literature in one way or another. As the song says:..”macho, macho man! I want to be a macho man….”

List of Works Cited

Garcia, Danton Remoto. Laldlad 2: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Literature. Manila; Anvil Publishing, 1996.

Lacuesta. Life Before X and Other Stories. Manila; Anvil Publishing, 1997.

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Hymn of the Thoughts of Men

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Food for the spirit rather than the yearning of the flesh or an act of spirituality, strengthening the ethics of morality and texts integrating religion and daily life and literature-such elements covered the features of the Indian literature. And the Hymn of the Thoughts of Men is definitely not an exemption. It involves discussions about the moral development of an individual and the realities of life.

The lines from the poem are suggesting an idea that the poet is setting his own parameters between the essences of the spirit than that of the mind. This fact is visible in the role of the kavirao [poet] in sustaining order in the world, thus, his poems should be the creations of what is right and moral. It actually follows the statement that “life imitates art”.

The poem is the translated version taken from the Rig Veda, which was the oldest section of the Vedas and the most sacred texts of the Hindu religion. Notice the influence of Hinduism in the development of Indian literature. This perception is evident in their poems [actually hymns], which directly concentrate in the essence of human nature. At the same time, such works subordinated the realms of human experience to the ethical ideals of dharma and the Hindu religious goal of moksha, liberation from karma and rebirth. Dharma is basically the Sanskrit for “duty” or “the right way to live.

The Indian philosophy could be related also to their own literature. It has broad philosophic questions—such as, “Why is the Veda sacred?”— which came to be addressed, and, in general, a realist view of nature (the belief that a world exists independent of the mind) and a common-sense view of knowledge (human beings know things by directly perceiving them or by deducing from other known things) become part of the basis of the philosophic system. Even to literature.

Chinese

Tao-te Chi

The right over left, God over Lucipher, male and female- these are the building blocks that structured the verbal communication of the Chinese which aids for the normalization of the society since it seeks to set things in place and to decipher the distinction that separates the line between good and bad. This is visible in the Taoist philosophy, the order and wisdom of individual life, and the way that this harmonizes with the universe as a whole. Chinese poets, in some point, adopted this philosophy and applied it in some of their poems. One poet, Lun Wen, suggested that your poem should emerge from your Qi because that would be the reflection of your cosmos, this is relative in the Taoist philosophy, the universal energy that makes and maintains everything that exists. Tao Te Ching expresses the basic beliefs of Daoist philosophy. It teaches the fundamental oneness of all things. It operates in terms of the opposing principles of yin and yang. These two principles or forces have combined in varying proportions to produce everything in the universe.

During the 4th century bc, naturalism offered an analysis of the workings of the universe based upon certain cosmic principles. The best known of these principles were yin and yang, which represented the interacting dualities of nature, such as female and male, shadow and light, and winter and summer.

The language of Tao Te Ching sets it apart from other works of Chinese poetry; it frequently employs poetic devices such as rhyme and parallel sentences.

Gender and Literature

Attics do not house humans. They are wasted space. Women are considered half monsters — and they are wasted. A woman inhabits the attic; literally and metaphorically, she becomes a madwoman, both as a writer and a character.

The fact is, Nathaniel Hawthorne is male; and men don’t glorify women.

Nathaniel Hawthorne did not directly say that Georgina is a monster. Only by the way she is presented in the story will it then become clear that literature had always been confined to male writers and male characters. Georgina’s birthmark embodies the unforgivable flaws of the female body and her position as a woman. She is not any different from Dr. Frankenstein’s monster; and the only way to kill the female monster is to destroy male literature.

Kate Chopin The Awakening

Georgina is portrayed as a passive character overpowered by her own husband, while Aylmer is a man of science who represents knowledge and invention. Georgina is depicted as a woman who will do anything to earn her husband’s love and fulfill her responsibility as a wife. Since a woman’s intellect is not for invention, she is merely placed in the house to practice domesticity. She even told Aylmer, “I know not what may be the cost to both of us to get rid of this fatal birthmark. Perhaps its removal may cause cureless deformity; or it may be the stain goes as deep as life itself.”

The reader is, thus, introduced to the fact that women are trained by the patriarchal society to become submissive wives and submit to the idea that men are in control — not the ones being controlled. Thus, there is this concept of mastering the “art of pleasing men”. Even when she was about to die, Georgina tried to be the sweet angel that she was expected be. “My poor Aylmer,” she repeated, with a more human tenderness, “you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer. Aylmer, dearest Aylmer, I am dying!”

Given this, the idea of women being selfless, a rather Christian concept, is then highlighted in the story. In literature, it appears to be a norm that the women characters are always the ones who must die and the protagonists must be the males.

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Georgina’s birthmark signifies Aylmer’s insecurities. This reminds us of Freud’s castration complex in which the birthmark becomes the figure of a penis in the eyes of Aylmer – and, thus, he wants to remove the birthmark and have the power all to himself. Most male writers never consider writing as an act of women. This is, perhaps, because female authorship would mean female authority. Women, on the other hand, cannot get out of their shell being domesticated beings who, supposedly, have no right to invent and create another world. If a woman shows resistance, she becomes a madwoman in her society. It appears that only the men have the right to be creators.

Georgina becomes Aylmer’s failure because of the birthmark and her death, even when he was confident of his success.

Male writers write only for themselves. Therefore, women writers are the only ones who can write for women. To restate poet and activist Audre Lorde, only the oppressed could understand oppression, not the oppressors. A female writer must get out of the glass coffin or sleep for a thousand years and wait for the prince to kiss her. We’ve been sleeping for more than a thousand years. Perhaps it’s about to time that more women wake up and shake masculine literature.

An Interview with Sleeping Beauty’s Godmother

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(Remember the story of Sleeping Beauty and how she slept for a hundred years because of the alleged evil spell of her godmother? If you still do, then it’s time to hear the other side of the story and offer sympathy (or remain remain unsympathetic) to Sleeping Beauty’s godmother).

Once upon a time, the foolish Sleeping Beauty was born. Well yes, she was a beautiful princess of course, as what princesses should be. Don’t blame your mom for all those sweet little lies she happened to read to you when you were just a little girl. All mothers should not be blamed for telling their kids that the stepmother of Snow White was an evil witch, the stepsisters of Cinderella were ugly (therefore you all had a conclusion that they were evil) and Sleeping Beauty’s godmother put her on a curse that made her sleep for a hundred years. But believe me, all those terrible accusations about Sleeping Beauty’s godmother were not true. Well, for the public’s information, I was the godmother whom every parent, teacher and grandparent called “evil” and “wicked”. Now, after reading all those books about writers blaming me, I believe that I have the right to explain myself to all the little girls (and the not so little girls anymore) who are made to believe that I was the villain in Sleeping Beauty’s life.

The stories about me being the villain started when I got drunk and cursed Sleeping Beauty. I was drunk and that’s my only valid excuse. I didn’t mean to do it, you can’t blame me. At that time, I was sober and disappointed because I was not invited to attend the party. And when they found out Sleeping Beauty lying on the floor, unconscious, they threatened to kill me. I was the only suspect they could think of.  Now, can you think of anything awful as that? They didn’t even have any idea who the real Sleeping Beauty was behind that innocent image, the losers! She was no longer a virgin for God’s sake and the princes were stupid enough to believe that she never had sex all her life. Well, she was a big liar. And the writers about Sleeping Beauty’s fairy tale are all a bunch of liars. Sleeping Beauty slept for a hundred years because she was dead drunk that she couldn’t even get up after ninety nine years when she was laid to bed. She was too addicted to drinking that an alcohol detox was hopeless. So stop blaming me and if you got a kid, don’t read her fairy tales.  Fairy tales are for idiots, read her Catcher in the Rye and some Ernest Hemingway stories instead.

PS. Sleeping Beauty bought lots of alcoholic bottles, in her desperate hope to find a genie in the bottle. What a loser.

The propagandist (50% sympathetic and 50% unsympathetic) :  Alcoholic drinks that can make you sleep for ninety nine years? That’s just awesome. If Professor was drunk when he accidentally created the perfect little girls of Townsville, then thanks to alcohol. I love the Powerpuff Girls.

Sabbath Witches

There was a popular notion that poetic language is the language of “images” and this conception was accepted by the theorists of Symbolism. “The Summer Solstice” is considered to be a sort of revelation of women empowerment through the use of gothic and barbaric images. In the last part of the story, a reader is introduced to the idea of man’s submission to woman by the image of a “man crawling on the floor like an agonized lizard, his face flat on the floor, as his lips touched her toes.” This act could be considered as a form of worship to a god or to someone whom you see as a powerful and superior being.

The woman, on the other hand, portrays the image of a woman under the power of the Tatarin being a form of witchcraft, as depicted in the story. A reader is then given a hint by a rich description of the ritual of the Tatarin.

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“…they covered their heads with their black shawls and began wailing softly, unhumanly-a hushed, animal keening…”

The description of Amada’s husband and lord being silent all along while she was naked and screaming in bed is also a powerful scene in the story.

The writer never mentioned about sexual submission, whipping and women dominating in the bedroom, the reader is only being provided with images.

The emphasis of the independent value of words extended to the creation of “nonsense” language into a new form of creation. The story is able to submit itself as to what Roman Jakobson called “organized violence” in which a writer is able to roughen up an ordinary language into “formed speech.” Instead of merely narrating the events in the story, Joaquin was able to capture the finest and important moments because of his careful use of his language.

“…her hair flung back and her loose hair streaming out of the window-streaming fluid and black in the white night where the huge moon glowed like a sun and the dry air flamed into lightning and the pure heat burned with the immense intense fever of noon…”

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And so, somehow, a reader is introduced to such words which deliberately suggest enchantment and a sense of magical realism. The tone of the story is veiled with sexual desires, superiority and fear.

Then came the idea of foregrounding. Dona Lupeng’s characterization in the end becomes a strong central figure in the story so as to draw out the repressed desires of women and they are being released from such repression through men’s ultimate submission.

The transcendental effect, therefore, is achieved following the idea that literature is always metaphorical and symbolic. Though its goal is not to deliberately reveal issues such as feminism, etc, the content is able to stand with the effective elements of the form. After all, the form s always the main focus of Russian Formalism.

Note:

Tatarin- a pagan ritual to the moon led by female priestesses

Eating Poetry

A poet eats poetically. She eats pages of poems. She chews pages of poems. She burps poetically. Before she becomes a hardcore poet, she must purge her wastes and forget everything but poetry. Her body is scarred with words and signs and texts. She cannot buy poems in a convenience store so she cooks poems and have them for dinner. Sometimes, she eats them at breakfast. She is a hungry, fat poet. And poetry is poisoning her until she romantically vomits poems on the dining table.