This explains so much.

"One of the major controlling elements in Filipino society--undetected by most visitors--is hiya, a difficult word to define, though essentially it means a sense of shame. Hiya is a factor in almost all social situations. It is a sense of hiya that prevents someone asking a question, for fear he may look foolish. It is hiya that sees many Filipinos refuse to disagree openly, for fear they may cause offence. To not have hiya is a grave social sin. To be accused of being walang-hiya (to be shameless) is the ultimate insult. Hiya goes hand in hand with the preservation of amor-propio (the term literally means "love of self"), ie to avoid losing face. Filipinos feel uneasy if they are instrumental in making waves and exposing another person's fragile amor-propio to injury. If you ever wonder why a Filipino fails to broach awkward subjects with you, or to point out that your flies are undone, it is because hiya and amor-propio are at work."
--From "The Rough Guide to The Philippines", First Edition, Rough Guides September 2004, p. 57

I can't begin to tell you how often I've found myself in situations where I'm inexplicably, extremely uncomfortable in large groups of people, especially those which loudly or needlessly call attention to themselves. I have this archaic, strange, notional sense of due respect, like I'm constantly negotiating procedural and substantive due process, if you will--things have to be done just so, cutting corners is inherently sloppy, rigorous standards are the only guarantees of quality work, etc. etc.--and here I thought I was just weird.

Certainly, I'm weird. It just never ocurred to me that I might have been raised that way.

Why do I have to learn the crucial details of my indigenous culture through the Rough Guide to the Philippines? Understand that for me--someone who works in the Library, who prides himself on his talents of inventive, eclectic, tenacious autodidacticism--learning something so essential from a travel guide is roughly analagous to actually discovering the meaning of life through a fortune cookie.

"It is a sense of hiya that prevents someone asking a question, for fear he may look foolish."--I DO THAT!!! That's what I do! That's why I know the random crazy shit I know, because I never like asking questions and I've always made a point of eventually acquiring an authoritative grasp over that which may have at one point humiliated me. And trust me when I say I've experienced quite a good deal of humiliations. (I would say that in my case not having the answers felt like signs of weakness, not necessarily foolishness, but that's me parsing quibblings.)

T-19 Days to Philippines Expedition.



1 comment:

The Lioness said...

So your amor próprio suffered a blow upon discovering it, I see how that'd be - and BTW, "amor próprio" is Portuguese (maybe Spanish also but I think not), that should give you a glimpse into OUR souls. It's still very much in use and God forbid we should say of someone "He doesn't have AN OUNCE of amor próprio!" HA! Go straight to hell, boy. Porties obsessively worry abt what others will think and say abt them, Porties will go to great lengths to keep their faces, yes. I have often enough felt mortified in the past to fully relate to what you wrote, except for the asking questions bit, I do ask them. And, considering Portie presence in the Philippines, WE COULD BE COUSINS!!! Removed, granted, but who knows, it's not all THAT inconceivable is it. Genes travel. I'd love to have PaulMonster in the family tree. A cat can dream right? I am, as of now, adopting you, whether you want it or not. DONE.

Maybe you'll find this interesting: http://www.inq7.net/opi/2003/oct/21/opi_blharper-1.htm

And, er, so sorry.