PGTW: On subcultures

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 27 November 2014, Thursday

On subcultures                                            

There are worlds that exist beneath the radar of people in the mainstream, worlds that have their own norms, values, even language, the meanings of which are impenetrable to the outsiders – “subcultures.”

While a culture implies a national scope, the term subculture refers to a group of people with a way of life that bears slight to major differences from the mainstream culture they are a part of.

This culture may be either open or hidden, and may be distinguished from the larger culture by a distinctive fashion, jargon, or set of mannerisms. Sarah Thornton, a sociologist of culture, says there are “groups of people that have something common with each other (i.e. they share a problem, an interest, a practice) which distinguishes them in a significant way from the members of other social groups.”

Some examples of these subcultures are those in music and fashion – Jpop (Japanese pop music), Kpop (Korean pop), and their various permutations – and in gaming and sports – casino gamers, cockfighting enthusiasts, and horseracing aficionados.

It is the last group that is my personal interest.

Few readers of this column know that I also write another column about an entirely different topic for this paper. It’s a racing column, “The Hoarse Whisperer,” that comes out every Wednesday in the sports section of editor Riera Mallari.

I’ve been involved with the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry in various capacities since 1990, and what interests me about it until now is the fact is that it is practically unexplored by others in the mainstream. Hardly anyone on the street knows about it; those who have say they’ve come across the live cable television racing coverage by accident it from their occasional channel-switching, or have heard stories about it from officemates or friends.

Yet it is an industry that earns gross revenues of almost P10 billion each year, remits over P1 billion in direct taxes to the national treasury, employs an estimated 5,000 people, and is built on around P5 billion of capital investments.

As members of a tightly-knit community working in a highly-specialized field over a long period of time, and because of its growth and expansion in relative isolation as an activity, the racing community has developed its own particular culture – kulturang karera – which differs in two ways: externally, as opposed to mainstream Filipino culture while still being a part of it; and internally, between taga-karera and karerista (the racing audience), and between taga-San Lazaro, taga-Santa Ana, and taga-Malvar (the racetracks) and taga-rancho (the breeding farms).

While face-to-face communication and daily interaction among the taga-karera have bonded them as a community, it is mass media and computer-mediated communication that has contributed to spreading a sense of community among karerista, creating among them what political scientist Benedict Anderson calls an “imagined community,” with the concept of a bond between its members largely a construct of and held in their minds.

There is much more to discuss about subcultures in general and the racing community in particular, but that’ll have to be for another day.

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There are few artists within the horseracing community, and the only visual artist I know who is also taga-karera is lawyer Jose Ferdinand “Joy” M. Rojas II, who used to own horses before he entered public service (he served as Philippine Racing Commission chairman and is now acting chairman and general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office).

Most of Rojas’s works feature images of jockeys, silks, and racing programs, while other pieces have actual aluminum horseshoes nailed to them. The themes he employs are deeply rooted in the context of Philippine racing, and the works, embellished with earthy and vibrant colors evocative of the sport and its environment, are glimpses into the meanings and symbols of this subculture.

Rojas will be showing four of his recent 12” by 12” works in a group exhibit entitled “Petits Fours” that begins tomorrow, Nov. 27, and runs until Dec. 7 at Galerie Francesca, SM Megamall.

This is Rojas’s second show. His first was also a group show, “Horse Power,” held last September.

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An artist who specializes in equine and gamefowl art is Salvador “Dodong” Arellano, who immortalizes famous racehorses and fighting cocks on canvas.

Now based in California, he flew in a few days ago to mount an exhibit of his works at the MARHO Ruby racing festival this weekend (Nov. 29-30) at the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite.

Arellano has executed commissions for Filipino horseowners and breeders Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr., Aristeo G. Puyat, and Herminio S. Esguerra, among others.

His other clients include the Sultan of Brunei, US trainers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas, actor Sylvester Stallone, and other celebrities and horse lovers.

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