pop goes the world: a nation of palengkeras

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 20 January 2011, Thursday

A Nation of Palengkeras

We are a nation of gossips and scandal-mongers.

We have the chismis gene embedded in our DNA. Nothing pleases our collective temperament more than hearing the latest rumors about celebrities – the dirtier and nastier and more likely to result in a bad outcome, the better.

This tendency is also linked to our talangka mentality – crabs in a pot pulling each other down, afraid one will reach the top before they do.

One of the vernacular terms for a gossip is palengkera, referring to the strident tones of market vendors as they fight for customers’ attention. The term further connotes ill-breeding and vulgarity. I’d say real-life palengkeras are getting a raw deal here, though certainly gossip is denigration and is a pastime of the vulgar, bad-mannered, and ill-bred.

Perennial headline-hoggers are President Noynoy Aquino’s lovelife and hobbies. There are people who spend much time and effort gathering information on his romantic life. Is that any of our business? Why should we care who he’s dating?

Several ladies have been linked to him so far, and none of the dates seem to have blossomed into full-blown relationships – and why? Has anyone figured it’s because the President and his ladies aren’t getting any privacy, with the entire country peeping in on their private lives? How will our bachelor President ever find a wife, at that rate? Come on. Give the man a break. Yes, he is the elected president. But he is also a human being looking for love. Can’t we give him some space?

Not only that, his purchase of a third-hand Porsche sportscar has got critics in a tizzy over alleged ethical violations at the worst and insensitivity to the country’s teeming poor at the least. First, everyone agrees he has not broken any laws. It’s not even a new car. Did anyone raise the issue during the terms of former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo, who by all accounts owned fleets of brand-new vehicles? There should be consistency; we shouldn’t pick and choose who to pick on.

The problem is not only that gossip is a favorite pastime but that societal standards of manners in general have declined. Gossip is just one aspect of this. We are treating each other like crap. Whatever happened to “good manners and right conduct”, the credo many of us of a certain age grew up with? Delicadeza? Common sense and logical thinking, for that matter?

Take the case of Alliance of Volunteer Educators partylist representative Eulogio Magsaysay. I wrote in my column last week about his churlish and ill-mannered hurling of invectives – “Menopausal bitch!” – at Philippine Airlines ground attendant Sara Bonnin Ocampo.

Calling someone a bitch in public just because you didn’t get your way? That is bastos. Spoiled. That is not the way an elected lawmaker should behave. If he does, he no longer deserves respect.

Ocampo has since filed a complaint against him with the House of Representatives committee on ethics. Rep. Magsaysay has apologized, but to the media, not to Ocampo – he claimed he does not know where to reach her.

The plot took a disgusting twist when PAL recently wrote a letter to Rep. Magsaysay’s wife, distancing themselves from Ocampo, who is now on leave from PAL, apologizing for Ocampo’s handling of the situation. When the contents of the letter leaked to the media, PAL later backtracked, calling it a letter of “regret” rather than an apology.

PAL is clearly showing its anti-worker stance, allowing its employees to be verbally abused, and siding with the ill-mannered customer. Rep.Magsaysay could have kept his cool and come out of the fracas on top. Instead, he lost it; his wife even said she would have Ocampo fired. The verbal abuse and ill-temper was compounded with threats and intimidation.

And PAL kowtowed to him and his wife. Why, just because he is a congressman? Such is the arrogance of entitlement. Rep. Magsaysay and PAL’s management must think we are still living in the feudal ages. Oh, wait, apparently, in the Philippines we are.

What a contrast to the way Southwest Airlines defended one of its pilots that delayed a plane’s departure for one man. The story hit the Internet a few days ago. A man’s three-year old grandson had been assaulted by his daughter’s live-in boyfriend. The child was to be taken off life support, and Grandpa was racing to see his apo in Nevada one more time before the plug was pulled.

Reaching the Tucson airport in plenty of time, the man was delayed by security procedures. He swept up his shoes and bag and ran to the terminal in sock-feet, almost in tears, certain the flight had left without him.

Instead, he found the gate agent and the pilot waiting for him. “We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson,” the pilot reportedly said. “They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.” The 12-minute delay was an eternity in airport operations; Southwest can turn around a plane in 20 minutes.

And Southwest Airlines’ response to their pilot’s compassionate act? “We are proud of him.” What a contrast to PAL’s lack of support for Ocampo, their employee.

Gossip and bad manners? We’re just scratching the surface here. How badly are we treating each other? The increase in heinous crimes are indicators that things are going very wrong. The recent spate of kidnappings, rapes, and murders point to an escalation of evil. Emerson Lozano and Venson Evangelista’s cars were recently stolen in separate incidents; they were tortured, murdered, and their bodies set on fire. The corpses are charred beyond recognition; the families of both men had closed-casket wakes as a consequence.

What about the case of the young woman who was found the other day not only brutally raped but also beheaded? What is this, America? Mexico? In those countries, heinous crimes such as these are almost common-place. But this is the Philippines. Why has peace and order deteriorated so much?

There are other pressing concerns that deserve our attention. Take the poverty issue. One-third of the nation’s over 90 million population lives below the poverty line. Apart from stop-gap measures such as the conditional cash out program and other similar “hand-out” programs of the government, why not address the roots of the problem, starting with economic issues, food security, jobs generation, a favorable investor climate, and so on?

Instead of focusing on what’s important – the economy, peace and order, social justice – why are we sticking our noses into the President’s private life and calling each other bitches?

Because we’re a nation of palengkeras, that’s why.   ***

Pnoy Porsche image here. Screenshots of Magsaysay and Ocampo from here.

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7 Comments on pop goes the world: a nation of palengkeras

  1. Bea
    21 January 2011 at 1:57 pm (2320 days ago)

    There are actually two sides in this story. One probable reason why PAL wouldn’t side with Ms. Ocampo is that she has history of bullying her co-workers. Plus a few former flight attendants have already told stories of how horribly they were treated by Ms. Ocampo. (I’m not so sure about one account where Ms. Ocampo poured liquid onto another attendant’s dress because she was jealous of the attendant’s boyfriend.) Either way, I’m not siding with Gabriela on this one.

    Apparently, the congressman’s son was really really sick and he wanted to be seated with that son (they thought it was just gas but when they got to the US, the son had to undergo surgery for acute appendicitis). When she challenged him with, “Do you have a problem with me?” He replied with, “Why are you so cranky, you menopausal bitch?” Although I don’t condone the man’s choice of words, I also think he was in distress.

    In any case, I believe both of them are at fault.

  2. JennyO
    22 January 2011 at 8:18 pm (2319 days ago)

    Oho, that’s new information! So could this be the reason she got no support from PAL? Kung may ugali pala siyang ganyan, then both of them are indeed at fault.

  3. JoniB
    23 January 2011 at 11:39 pm (2318 days ago)

    “What is this, America? Mexico? In those countries, heinous crimes such as these are almost common-place.”

    Being an American, this one hit me hard between the eyes. We really do have this reputation out in the world? No, they aren’t really “common place” as I define it, but yes we have a fair amount of it. We are BIG and we have densely populated cities, but more importantly we have freedom of the press. And we show the world our dirty laundry with it.

    I cannot speak for Mexico – I’ve heard of all the violence, too. But I know this: my niece married a young Palistinian man who said that what we view on the evening news is a gross exaggeration of what life is truly like back there. I take his word for it. He lives there. So now I doubt quite a bit of what I read in the news.

  4. JennyO
    23 January 2011 at 11:58 pm (2318 days ago)

    JoniB, thanks for your comment. I meant no offense by my statement. The USA is indeed bigger with a more diverse population, and with freedom of the press, a lot gets exaggerated.

  5. JoniB
    26 January 2011 at 8:30 am (2316 days ago)

    Thanks Jenny! No offense taken. I’ve stopped watching the TV news and reading our newspapers because only the bad stuff gets reported. The good stuff gets pushed back by the obituaries. Sheesh!

    I despair of our image in the world. I feel like the USA is a big bully sometimes. It helps me, actually, to read what people truly think of us. And I value your opinion. Keep speaking up! We need more people like you.

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