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tec sanchez-tolosa
tec sanchez-tolosa MAYBE THE brawl that ensued at NAIA Terminal 3 on Sunday afternoon between the Santiagos and friend Mon Tulfo camps was the push I was waiting for, to finally plummet in the exhilarating freefall I find myself in just before I write. I had been attempting, for several times, in various manners, to get my thoughts written—to no avail. Well, I had a title: Voiceless and Ranting. A start, I guess, but that was all; it stayed a title for far too long, at times inviting some lines and words to follow it, only to be unfollowed, by a continuous press of the backspace button. Maybe it did not help that my Facebook account was open all those times, and I found it more appealing to read interesting, eyebrow-raising and thought-provoking posts rather than write—a state I find, curiously, more and more desirable at the present time.

Mesubi pa, iniang metung abak kagising ku, e ya bisang misindi ing PC. Aro! Angyang nanung timid ing gawan ku, e bisang misindi. Pasibayu. E pa mu rin. Plis, plis, plis, misindi na ka. Ala. Menorasyun na ku, mengadi, epa mu rin bisa. Relaks. E pa mapupupus ing yatu.

So I did what I knew was the best thing, acting on some instinct clawing out of its shallow grave. (No, I did not take my tablet nor my top-of-the-line mobile phone that does everything except cook dinner; I don't have backup toys like those. I am actually pleased to be unencumbered by that extreme of technological slavery.)

I took paper and pencil, my life's first allies, and clutched them tight in my eager hands. Pidala-dala ku la king bag ku nukarin ku man munta, folded neatly, ready for use. On the NLEX, between patient consultations, while waiting for nilaga to boil. I thought that I would scribble down my thoughts as they came and then edit them, copy and paste neatly, once typed on screen – nung kapilan na man asumpungan misindi ning computer mi.

At nung kapilan la man datang kanaku ring amanu. I had to wait, then wait some more, for the words would not come at all.

After a long and draining weekend, fresh from dreamless, quiet sleep, kilbit keng pasibayu ing PC kening kwarto, hoping to see it come to life. 'Nuko, misindi ya! Katula ko! Needless to say, I went online immediately, checking my notifications, opening my emails and replying to those I had failed to address during the time that I was out for the count.

Then I saw it. News of a fight—an ugly, dirty, solid-landing fistfight among known celebrities in Pinoyworld, as well as commentaries on it—was splattered on FB, on youtube, on friends' pages. That same evening, it was naturally all over the local news. And just like leftovers from our favorite restaurant, we had it over dinner pa, leading the way to another dynamic, excited conversation at the table.

Nanu waring pipaten da? Nukarin megumpisa ing kegana-gana?

I heard the story and the accounts from both sides, and I am left with many questions. I will not even go to the part of actual physical injury, just the undertones of the behavior that supposedly led to the melee.

*

What is the responsibility of known public figures to their public? I mean artists, politicians, media celebrities and their ilk. Is there a code of conduct that they should follow since they are "possessions" of the public? Is their private behavior, then, the "possession" too of the general populace? I am not a Claudine Barretto fan, though I must say I loved those ruffled blouses she wore on that teleserye where she pitted fangs with Angelika Panganiban’s Scarlet character. Oh "Iisa Pa Lamang", that's what it was, where I saw her last. If Claudine had been just any other Ms. or Mrs., would her complaints—or the recording of such—have been downplayed?

Put simply, Claudine was just another wife and mother who lost her patience with what was probably a series of unfortunate poor delivery of service. She was just another paying passenger, hopping on and off an island looking for a good time, but whose good time was spoiled because of unforeseen inconveniences. It is her right, much as it is yours and mine, to complain, to bring to the attention of whoever was concerned the plight they were in. Now, how she got around to doing that—in terms of manner, voice and language—we will never know. Anyone of us who has ever lodged in a service complaint would realize that sometimes, deng mituturan aliwa man ila ring mikikasalanan. Sometimes we complain to the top man, or to whoever is available, but our disgust and our impatience is not in any way diminished. Lalu pa neng panamdaman tamung alang milyari keng kekatang reklamo.

As responsible adults there is a certain socially acceptable degree of tolerance, civility and courtesy expected of us. Even if our private selves wanted to bang on the counter or throw glasses on the mirror, public conduct dictates otherwise. (These are the id and the ego at play, and we will return to talk about them some other time in the future.)

Should this burden be greater on public figures? Should they be expected to go the extra mile in being good-natured because they are famous, popular and hence, more answerable? E la malyaring mua, managkas, lumaban, gulisak—lalu neng atin manalbe or makalawe?

Let me share a story that happened to me some years back. I am not a Barretto-Santiago, nor a household name; at that time I was plainly a paying customer who felt maligned, insulted, if not outright cheated. And so I cannot blame, or at least I can say that I empathize with, a fellow woman whose temper is tested and her forbearance brought to the line.

I drove through my favorite burger fastfood chain, the one that is located on the right side of the Olongapo-Gapan road in San Fernando when you are NLEX-bound. I ordered a cheeseburger meal and opted to go large for an additional twenty pesos. It was my fault that I did not check if the items they gave me were correct; as a matter of trust and convenience, I simply accepted that they knew how to do their job and placed the right burger, large fries and a large coke. For some reason, after driving a few meters, I decided to peek inside the paper bag. To my disappointment, there was only the burger and small fries. I realized too that the plastic glass for Coke was actually just a medium one. Haaay, what to do? Paburen ku na mu ita, sori, kasalanan ku, eku kasi linawe bayu ku meko. Beinte pesus mu naman. Or should I make a U-turn, ask them to rectify their mistake, make some comments so that they can improve their service?

Sucker that I am, I U-turned and found my way back. In my mind, I was thinking they would apologize lightly, rectify the mistake, listen to what I had to say, and we'd all go on with our peaceful lives.

Wrong.

At the drive-thru counter, the staff looked like they could not decide which was less difficult: return my twenty pesos extra or change the items. I could not see what the problem was. I felt that everything was taking longer than necessary. I was talking with the counter attendants, asking what the problem was, suggesting that if they could please check carefully next time so that clients—especially suki, which I was—would not be inconvenienced. I remember speaking in Tagalog, since the person addressing me talked in Tagalog, and I took no chances that she would not comprehend what I was saying. In the next few seconds, I heard a side comment that utterly surprised me, opening the gates of my wrath—not at her, but at the girl beside her (no more than twenty-five years of age, I guess), who spoke in Kapampangan, thinking that I would neither hear nor understand.

"Dinan mu neng limang pesus yan ban neng tuknang."

Kanita ku pamu yata penamdaman nung makananung magdalumdum panimanman, nung makananung bisa kang sigpo ban kang makapanasakit nung makananu kang menasakit. It was a new thing to me, losing cool like that. My concern had not even been addressed yet, and already I was talking insult back at someone young enough to be my child. And I saw how mean, nasty and equally insulting I could be, deliberately hurting verbally a person who did not quite realize the anger she had unleashed. She got it from me, and her manager did as well. But because I bear no ill will, I still drive through there every so often and still enjoy their cheeseburgers.

My main point is this: Much as we all know how we should behave, sometimes we are pushed to the edge, or stretched to breaking point. Corollary to that, I say let us try our best not to provoke or inflame the individuals we encounter—uling e ta balu nu la menibat, o nanung sitwasyun ing penibatan da. Tolerance, empathy, patience.

It could be us, or the other party, who has had a bad hair day. E pa mengan. Alang pera. Atin makaospital. Kematen. Maproblema. The list is long, the permutations of possible conflicts unceasing. We push or pull each other with our words and our actions, which eventually become our accountability.

Maybe Mon Tulfo was sympathizing with the airline personnel when he took a photograph of Ms. Baretto chastising them. He may have felt they should not have been spoken to or treated like that. Personally, I wondered what made him feel like he was their protector. Yet it seemed to me he simply found a newsworthy item and pursued it, which was entirely his prerogative—uling media ya.

Which makes me ask: Where does media's prerogative end, and where does our privacy begin? Not only do I talk of actors and the glitterati, I talk of everyday you and me.

(I remember Diana, the paparazzi, and the accident that claimed her life and that of Dodi Al-Fayed.)

Is it alright for media to shove their cameras in our faces, to invade our private moments, our instances of rage, our unguarded-later-regretted furies? Is it right, and is it fair?

Stories are stories, and no matter how hard we try to be objective, we judge the subjects nonetheless. It is in the telling—by media and other outlets that hold the power of language and imagery—that the verdict is veered this way or that.

It is unfortunate that one thing led to another that Sunday afternoon at the NAIA. Individual occurrences, as they were: a misplaced baggage, a disgruntled female passenger, a newsman smelling a good story, a husband coming to his wife's rescue—all these ingredients came together, like atoms in collision, cascading in a reaction that exploded in frenzied, hysterical physical combat. When the heart rates go down and the muscles rest, when the swelling subsides and the bruises recede, perhaps the sense of quiet can make sense of the conflict. Lessons learned, perhaps, not only for the celebrity protagonists in this unexpected drama, but for each of us who watched them as fellow human beings.


[About the author. Tec Sanchez-Tolosa, MD is a full-blooded Kapampangan and a mother of three. A member of Pinoypoets since 2006, she is the author of the Kapampangan poetry collection "Ing Bie Kung Delanan, Ing Bie Kung Balikan (2006)." Some of her poems have been published in emanilapoetry and the online poetry journal Makata. While enrolled in her M.A. Creative Writing program, she was included in the anthology Sleepless in Manila. Tec is also a seasoned medical writer, with printed works in health publications and major dailies. She worked briefly with the ABS-CBN Foundation as a scriptwriter/researcher in the early stages of Sine'skwela. Raised in Manila and educated in St. Theresa's College during her formative years, she is a product of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, where she graduated with a B.S. in Biology. She later became a Doctor of Medicine and trained in diseases of the skin, hair and nails. She is now a Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS) Board-certified Dermatology specialist with an active practice in San Fernando, Pampanga and Quezon City.]

-Posted: 2:59 AM 5/10/12 | More of this author on eK!
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