The symbol for the Filipino everyman is called Juan de la Cruz. In that essence, it is similar to the way Americans use John Doe to refer to people whose identity is unknown. Juan de la Cruz is also particularly used in the sense that it a very common name here in the Philippines. He is usually depicted wearing a salakot, a Barong Tagalog, long pants, and native slippers.
There is also yet another personification for the Pinoy. This one is less flattering. Juan Tamad (John the Lazy) is depicted as a guy who is waiting for the fruit to fall from the tree instead of climbing up to get it. This is analogous in the way that Pinoys are stereotyped as being too lazy to get off their bums and start working. In fact, if you remember the Noynoying fad, that itself is an extension of Juan Tamad. Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) has been described as a do-nothing president. Juan Tamad plus Noynoy Aquino equals Noynoying!
If you look at recent events, though, you may be able to find yet another aspect of the Filipino psyche that is equally disconcerting and even more disturbing. We may not realize it, but we may have all acted like one of these at one time or another. Definitely we can see that many of our politicians and the showbiz celebrities we watch on television exhibit the behavior of one of these.
The term itself is not particularly difficult nor is it technical psychological mumbo-jumbo. The behavior I’m highlighting here is that of the spoiled brat.
A spoiled brat is someone, usually a child, who exhibits behavioral problems due to overindulgence by parental or role model figures. They are usually described as “overindulged”, “narcissistic”, or “egocentric”. The “spoiled brat syndrome” is characterized by “excessive, self-centered, and immature behavior”. It includes lack of consideration for other people, recurrent temper tantrums, an inability to handle the delay of gratification, demands for having one’s own way, obstructive behavior, and manipulation.
Possible causes of “spoiled brat syndrome” include:
1) The failure of parents to enforce consistent, age-appropriate limits;
2) The shielding of children by the parents from normal everyday frustrations;
3) The provision of excessive material gifts even when the child has not behaved properly;
4) Improper role models provided by parents
There are even a few local terms that are rough equivalents to this. The more familiar one to us can be found in the lyrics of Mike Hanopol’s song:
Laki sa layaw, laki sa layaw, jeproks!
The other one that may be less familiar is the idiomatic expression “mahaba ang buntot”, literally someone who possesses a long tail.
Now that we’ve defined what a spoiled brat is, and what it does, let’s provide a few examples, particularly those in our local setting. Recent news easily provides us with two (2).
The first instance in recent news comes from none other than Ruffa Gutierrez. For those following TV5, Ms. Gutierrez has formally left the cast of the show “Paparazzi” after an incident occurred during her birthday celebration with the show. In this show, there is a section called “Bulong ng Palad” where the hosts take turns whispering a question, usually naughty, to the guest, who afterwards answers it out loud. Since it was her birthday celebration, Ruffa was the guest, and the hosts were Cristy Fermin, Zoren Legaspi, Mr. Fu, and guest co-host Mariel Rodriguez.
Ruffa received a set of questions the answers to which were all men previously linked to her: Aga Muhlach, Zoren Legaspi, and Mariel’s husband Robin Padilla. Of course, Ruffa appeared uncomfortable with it. She even had the following things to say on Twitter after the whole thing was over:
”Binastos ako ng #Paparazzi on my birthday. I’m so sorry but THE BUZZ would never do this to me. EVER!”
“From this day on, I will no longer be part of Paparazzi. I will never tolerate DISRESPECT in any form done to me, to my children or to my beloved viewers.”
“I refuse to be part of trashy reporting that degrades people or shames others. #Paparazzi”
Call me naive, but if you’re a showbiz personality, you should expect to be the subject of intrigue, all the time. This is true, especially in a place like the Philippines where tsismis is the national pastime. While I don’t condone what the show does, nor do I take its side, Ruffa’s tirade has spoiled brat written all over it. Having a palengkera mother certainly didn’t help to curb that behavior, either. How does it feel like being on the other side of the hosts’ table? Ruffa certainly had no qualms about doing such “degrading reportage” to other celebrities, but she felt entitled to be immune from it? Seriously, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.
The second instance comes from local politics, naturally. Koko Pimentel’s huffing and puffing about Juan Miguel Zubiri being in the United Nationalist Alliance ultimately led to his departure from that political coalition. According to him, he couldn’t stand to be in the same party with the man whom he blames for “denying him of his rightful place in the Senate”. Never mind that the allegations against Zubiri, also initiated by Pimentel, were never proven; Koko put his pride first before everything else, especially serving the country. Not surprising, though; nobody loses fair-and-square in the Philippines, they just get cheated. In addition, they whine and cry about it like spoiled brats, but never do anything to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The aftermath was even more dramatic. Count on the ever pakialamero men in cloth to issue statements about Pimentel’s move “being principled” and “a sign of protest against cheats”. I mean, whatever. It’s hard to believe such a statement coming from an irrelevant and antiquated institution that refuses to be progressive in their ideas. RH Bill, anyone?
Then finally, look who is coming to the rescue of the drowning partyless Koko? This person is none other than the most prominent spoiled brat in the country, who happens to be the highest ranking government official, Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino III. Presidential spokeperson Ronald Llamas announced that the LP would “graciously welcome” him. Even the Philippine Daily Inquirer termed the potential alliance as the coming together of a man who has declared war on corruption and a man who cannot stand alongside an “election cheater”. Yes, you know what they say about birds of the same feather. Again, the cheating was never proven, only alleged. Of course, it has remained vague as to whether Koko Pimentel was really against the cheating, or against Zubiri, who happens to be associated with the Arroyos?
That’s the thing here in the Philippines: people have not graduated from wrapping their discussions around people and have not proceeded to making people believe in ideas.
The Philippines itself is a spoiled-brat nation. We were under the care of our surrogate father Uncle Sam for more than 40 years, and he laid the groundwork for what amounts to infrastructure here in the Philippines. From him came our national obsession, basketball, as well as the exposure to and obsession with all things Western. Yet how do we act towards him now? We blame him for everything gone wrong with our country but refuse to accept that we copied poorly and without thinking. We throw temper tantrums at our surrogate father in the name of nationalism, but come crying to him as soon as any neighborhood power flexes her muscle. In the most recent case, it happened to be China. PNoy has never been good at diplomacy, and the whole nation suffers because of it. This whole incident with the Scarborough Shoal could have been resolved sooner had the Philippines not come out playing the victim card.
Underneath it all, the Pinoy ego has come to the forefront yet again. We have been repeating here ad nauseam about the warped, distorted, and bloated self-centered behavior of the Pinoys. Our sense of entitlement and tendency towards victim mentality has graduated from ridiculous to irritating. We refuse to accept that the world does not revolve around us; that we are not the greatest people in the world. We do not take rejection very well; we have a bloated ego but a very hypersensitive one.
Name at least one collective achievement of the Filipino people; no, Manny Pacquiao, Charice, Arnel Pineda don’t count. And hell no, Cory Aquino and her two bratty offspring don’t either.
If there is any hope left for the Philippines to progress, the attitude of its people has to change first. First and foremost, we need to let go of being a spoiled brat and adapt to the rest of the world. We need to let go of our pettiness and focus on the bigger picture. Then we must prove to the world that we can come up with a collective accomplishment. Only then can we ascend to a higher place in the global arena than the one we currently occupy now.
It’s not too late; it’s never too late, but it’s not painless.