Cheshire Cat appearing (detail)in the Philippines has the connotation of going beyond one’s rights. Do you know who I am? is known as a statement of having a right to something. Pro-Duterte commenters attacked Lourd de Veyra for his somewhat ironic wish list to the President, saying who is he? Junjun Binay said to security guards in Makati – do you know who I am? Philippine culture is high power distance. An article by a Bikolano (link) name Adrian V. Remodo (could be from Oas, Albay to judge by his family name) expresses very directly what I have felt to be Philippine reality for a long time:

From the philosophy of sadiring tawo flows the dialectics of the ideological dakulang tawo and sadit na tawo: as one is born inangkan nin darakulang tawo or the opposite of it. Dakulang tawo is the family of the wealthy, powerful, the landowner, and the educated; the sadit na tawo is the voiceless, the property-less, the descendant of the tumatawo of the landlords. Tumatawo speaks a lot for us here. The dakulang tawo, having amassed great wealth, plays as the real tawo of the society: she is the self, the sadiri, that has attained an identity in the society; the tumatawo  only who shares in the pagkatawo of the dakulang tawo. The sadit na tawo remains an Other, an ibang tawo, and can only speak of selfhood if she becomes a property (by employment or by other means) of the dakulang tawo.

In Germany, dogs get the family names of their owners on their certificates. The statement that you are only somebody if you have wealth and power, or if you are property of the entitled – WOW. Forget all ideas of human rights for those who aren’t defined as anybody anyway. Reminds me of an old detective story with Father Brown who is English. He asks everybody whether someone was there during the time of a murder. Finally he deduces that it was the postman, as the postman is not really seen as a person in the class society of England of those days – and gets his confession.

When the Beatles did not give a private concert to the Marcoses in 1966 (link), they had the worst experience ever and swore never to return to the Philippines: Moments later, a newspaper arrived with the headline “Beatles Snub President”.  After much ruckus, increasingly worried manager Epstein decided to issue a formal apology over Manila television.  As Brian’s apology was being broadcast on TV, the picture mysteriously went off and dead air was transmitted to the viewing public… the Beatles and their aides were kicked, punched, spit on and yelled at with angry epithets. “We treat you like ordinary passenger! Ordinary passenger!”, the airport personnel unsympathetically informed them.  (Strangely, the Beatles aides were all attacked more furiously than the Beatles themselves- the boys were to remember their hapless chauffeur, Alf, getting kicked, bloodied, and pushed down a flight of stairs.).

We treat you like ORDINARY passenger. Yeah sure. Ordinary people deserve to be treated badly. Something the ordinary people see every day when they go to government offices or banks in the Philippines. Now there is some sort of hierarchy everywhere in the world. Even the United States at first had equality only in theory and black slaves in the Southern States. But defining people as being human (tawo) only by virtue of their being property? Or by their being the supporter of this or that politician? Most religions have an idea of intrinsic human value. Do Filipinos have?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 30 June 2016