I did work for slamonline philippines.. Hope you could check it out here:
Hope you enjoy it.
I did work for slamonline philippines.. Hope you could check it out here:
Hope you enjoy it.
First, an explanation.
Some weeks ago, it popped up on my Facebook feed: a questionable, if not horrific list of what someone deemed to be the Top 102 Disney Songs of all time. (the questionable, if not horrific link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/azafar/the-definitive-ranking-of-the-102-best-animated-disney-songs)
The research was passable. There were songs from generations past. However, the criteria was shaky, at best. There were rules –what’s included, what can’t be included, etc. but it set the scope more than it justified the selection. And if you’re from my generation, you don’t take Disney Top lists lightly. Or at the very least, you shouldn’t. (Even the most masculine among us, for example, will be able to mutter, despite grudgingly, the opening lines of A Whole New World. ) Disney spoiled my generation with one epic animated motion picture after another. We were practically raised on this stuff, and so we were able to naturally look for the older ones from the past generations and grow up with appreciation for the newer ones. Imagine my indignation, therefore, when Frozen’s Let It Go made it to the Top 10. The Top 10! Let It Go! In the Top 10! Of what someone calls the best Disney Songs. Ever.
The buzzfeed piece also proclaimed itself to be the ‘definitive ranking” of the 102 best Disney songs. Definitive my foot. Not even the NBA highlight reel countdown calls itself “definitive.”
To be clear, I have nothing against Frozen or Let It Go for that matter. But I don’t think it belongs in the Top 10. Or, more importantly, if you were going to start a debate, then you should at least have the criteria for judging.
Good Lord. Even Eat Bulaga’s Super Sireyna has a criteria for judging.
Somebody has to do for Disney what Bill Simmons did for basketball: Organize the debate. The Top 10 What-Have-You will differ from person-to-person, but whatever list needs a certain criteria, so we at least know what you’re judging this against. For example, in the case of Let It Go — if your criteria prioritizes the famous (or infamous) LSS factor, then by all means, it should even be in the Top 5.
So instead of dissing that list some more, here I go. I’m going to make my own lists. Note: ListS. The first one: My Top Disney Villains of All Time. Note: This is definitely NOT the first one of its kind, but it might be the one of the first done in this fashion – for better or worse.
(Insert Thunder and Lightning and Evil Laughter and Organ Music)
Who are the most bad-ass of the baddies? Here’s a set of criteria that my girlfriend helped me out with (She’s a confirmed Disney Junkie too):
1. Degree of Evilness
How do you determine if this villain is villainous enough to reach the pantheon of anyone’s list of the most dastardly? Check the crime. If the crime has an equivalent in the so-called real world, and the penalty is death in some governments, then that should tell you something. For example, killing a brother while he pleads for help from you trumps attempted murder with an apple.
However, this must be balanced by the story, the motivation, and the memorability of the deed. In the case of the butler stealing the cats, that might not sound as big as taking over the world. But remember – the cats were the story. And the butler was trusted by the cats’ owner! And the butler did it because of money! Stealing cats for money?! A lot of cat owners would say that’s more evil than rampaging through China without a clear motivation except conquering stuff.
2. Deviousness of the Plan
Is s/he mastermind material? Now, keep things in context, though. One villain might have all the tech in the world amassed through years of trying to implement the plan. Another might have relied on just the spindle of a spinning wheel. However, those two are actually at par: the deviousness to plan, the patience to hatch the plan (we did have to wait for her 16thbirthday, right?) and the clockwork that had to happen to achieve the plan were evidence of a diabolical mind.
3. Contribution to Story
Did the villain move the story forward? Was his personality, idiosyncrasies — his very presence! – necessary to the story? For example, the villain might have been threatening to burn the entire city down, but could you have replaced him/her with an alien? Or, was the villain written in such a way that he makes the qualities of the hero come out even more?
4. The X Factor
Or was there just something so hate-able in the villain? His accent, perhaps? His laugh? Did he have a laugh that you still heard even when you were already alone in your bed at night, staring at the ceiling? Did s/he have an interesting hideout? Were his/her henchmen funny/adorable/memorable? Was s/he just different? All villains want to rule the world, or some part of it. Did this villain have a different angle? Or — sure, he could have blown up half of the city, but was there a song dedicated to her? Or did s/he sing what would become one of the iconic songs that could characterize a generation?
These are the four criteria I used. Now, there aren’t any percentages here. Just so we don’t go insane. Yet.
Oh. A few additional information you might want to know: Pixar villains included. So yes, Mordu, Syndrome, and Hopper are some villains we might want to consider. Also, only villain with flesh and blood count. Meaning, they have to be actual characters. Meaning, they can’t be “Man” as in the case of Bambi. What human beings – or at least our representatives in that story – did was evil. But it’s tough to compare that with, let’s say, Sid, from Toy Story 1. Also, you can’t say, like in the case of Finding Nemo, that the real antagonist was Loss. We’ll never finish anything that way. Also, only movies released on the big screen are counted. Sequels released only on Home Video can’t have their villains nominated. Ie Toy Story 2 and 3 are counted, Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, nope. Animated spin-offs also don’t count ie Talespin.
So based on these, a scan of the villains in my memory, and counter-checking it with the available villains in DisneyWiki, here are my Top Ten Disney Villains of All Time, and some honourable mentions. Next list might be the Worst Villains? Or maybe the best henchmen?
Until then, THE TOP TIER of EVIL:
Gothel from Tangled
Her motivation is familiar: to be eternally young (For many of us, that’s the same story when we use our beauty products, come to think of it). However, what she did to get it is what makes her evil.
Degree of Evilness: Very High. If not the highest. She steals the princess, locks her up in a tower for her entire known life. Poses as her mother. And even tells her “I love you most.” Then she plots murder and mayhem. All for what? To be young.
Can you imagine what she would do for power? For riches? Or for love?
Deviousness: Diabolical. The locking up in the tower is genius. The original Truman Show. But what makes it even more diabolical is that she “loved” Rapunzel.
Contribution to Story: Okay. Just okay.
Her misdeeds and misguided quest for youth is what brings conflict to the story. Yet, she doesn’t do much in terms of bringing out Rapunzel’s character. Her main quest isn’t necessarily the main quest of the movie.
She does sing, after all. She’s okay. But a wicked with who wants to be young isn’t necessarily a new trick. Let’s just say she’s not as unique and memorable as a huge octopus witch who puts on make-up using sea creatures and takes your voice.
Which brings us to….
URSULA from The Little Mermaid
She might just win based on sheer X-factor alone. First, she’s an octopus. The concept, the art, and execution of her animation are outstanding. Then, she sings one of the most memorable songs in all of Disneydom: Poor Unfortunate Souls. Then, she’s got two memorable hench-eels: the precursors of Pain and Panic, Flotsam and Jetsam.
Then, she takes on the princess not in the usual way: she gives what she wants. Or so the princess thinks. The princess gambles based on love and because she’s angry at her father. So she bites at the lure. Ursula plays and preys on the poor princess’ wild emotions, making the princess think all Ursula is doing is helping out another “poor unfortunate soul.”
Then, she herself uses the voice she stole to lure the prince away — and wait — this is all because she will use the girl as hostage! So Triton surrenders the kingdom! Woah! Now that I’m older, I get to see the deviousness of this! So she’s up on the diabolical charts. Degree of evilness is also exceptional.
Story-wise, yes, she drives the story. But I’m looking for a bit more of a WHY from her. I certainly wasn’t thinking about her fit for the story when I was busy being afraid of her as a kid, but now that I can think of how villains drive stories, this might be something she didn’t have at a very high level.
Which is something this next one does:
Best story-driver. Best backstory: I can see why he did what he did. I would have done the same thing given the situation which makes me relate to the guy. His scheme and driving force totally drive the movie theme forward (What is Super?) And from someone Mr. Incredible rejected as his sidekick to Mr. Incredible’s worst enemy who killed most of the known superhero force. Nothing short of super.
Degree of evilness: He killed Supers!
Diabolical Scheme: He killed Supers! He built a massive anti-hero threat by using all the knowledge of Supers against themselves. Built over years and years. Then he will be the Hero of the city when he “saves” it against the own destruction machine he created. Just to get what Mr. Incredible denied him years back. Super.
X-Factor: Sure, he didn’t sing. But the guy is so memorable. The weird Troll hair. The big S on his fat belly. He really looked like a kid gone amok. A kid who was told he couldn’t play that day so he rebelled and built his big lab. For a fictitious world, he was so…. Real.
He sings. He plots. He broods. He kills his brother.
In this Hamletesque storyline set in the African Wilderness, Scar seeks power in a world that once thrust him into the shadows. And from the shadows of an elephant graveyard where not even the king treads, he hatches his plan with the aid of three helpless hyenas.
Degree of evilness: He kills the king. Who is his brother. Takes over everything by force. Even attempts to kill his own nephew. For what? Because of good old lust for power, and a sibling rivalry for the lion’s share of everything.
Diabolical plot: Taking into account that it was practically Scar against the world (the hyenas weren’t exactly the brains of the operation), and the precision with which the plan had to work (the wildebeest murder was genius. Simba had to be down there in the valley, Scar had to act genuinely concerned, Mufasa had to swoop in at the moment when the wildebeests were uncontrollable. Then, because the king survives the onslaught, Scar finishes the job himself. And then he pins the blame on Simba, who is chased into oblivion.) Too bad for him though that the hyenas never got to finish the job of killing Simba. And worse for him that Rafiki went out of his way to get Simba back.
X-Factor : Tops. Again, a singing evil lion. Right up there with singing evil octopus. Plus, he’s excellently voiced by Jeremy Irons, who just brings the excellent writing to life (actually, the whole movie is superbly voiced). His delivery of “Long live the king” is stuck in my head to this day.
Contribution to story: It’s difficult not to be an excellent villain woven in well into the story when the plot is written by Shakespeare. Disney does a good job here of using the Claudius villain as base, and building on it beautifully. Not diluting, but making it even more memorable. Because of this, Scar can be a subject even of academic discourse (Lit majors looking for topics, thank me later): Scar vs. Claudius, Scar as the antithesis of Mufasa (or Simba), Sibling Rivalry and the Game of Thrones, etc. This is a strong case for learning your Shakespeare so you can use him when you need him.
And that was Tier 1.
If you force me to rank it, though, I think I’ll end up with
1) Scar, 2) Syndrome 3) Ursula and 4) Gothel
Here’s the second tier. Actually, what you may find here are rationalizations of why they didn’t make it to my first tier.
Remember my criteria: Degree of Evilness, Diabolical Scheme, Contribution to Story, and the X-Factor.
Gaston from Beauty and the Beast makes it to the second tier. His motivation is clear, but he’s really just a misguided, vain man. If he were alive today, he could actually be posting selfies of himself at the gym or eating those dozens of eggs. He doesn’t drive the story. It doesn’t help Gaston that the real villain of Beauty and the Beast, is actually the Beast within the Beast himself. Gaston just stands as a mirror, a foil, to be academic about it (So it was very ingenious that Gaston holds the mirror in the final scenes near the climax. He holds it for himself and sees the Beast – poetic for him being the beast, too. Also, he himself is a mirror, a foil, the opposite of the Beast – beautiful outside but rotten inside.
Cruella De Vil also makes it to the second tier. If you’re an animal lover, you know why. She is greedy to the point that she will kill harm any life force just to look pretty (a different kind of Gothel, actually). She’s memorable (the song with her name as the title is a Disney classic). I guess she’s not just as evil and diabolical for me. And no clear motivation, either.
Hades also makes it to Tier 2. Also Maleficent. But let me tell you why they’re just on Tier 2 and not on Tier 1. Maleficent and Hades are diabolical – both waited for YEARS to execute their plan (Hades waited for planetary alignment, Maleficent for Aurora’s 16th birthday). Both are memorable. Both have X-factors. Both tried to murder. However, they’re evil supernatural beings. They have to be evil. It’s like having the Devil as your antagonist: there’s no other motivation but to be evil. It’s a dragon-lady in a literal sense (I’m not taking the Maleficent movie into account, mind you. It’s a post-rationalization. I’m just looking at the original Sleeping Beauty), and the god of the Underworld. Why wouldn’t they be evil?
Jafar and Captain Hook -
I love Jafar. But I had to stick to my criteria. Jafar drops in the Contribution to Story, because his motivation, except power is unclear. He is not a new twist, there’s no love angle here, no clear why. He just fills in as the traditional power-hungry villain. A villain just because we needed one. BUT a MEMORABLE and fun one. Though Iago and the singing might have had to do a lot with that.
Captain Hook, I just really had to evaluate based on the Disney version – where his being an antithesis of Peter Pan was downplayed a bit.
So there you have it.
My top Disney villains. For now.
Let’s see if new ones come up, if I understand some other old villains in new ways, if you convince me to reconsider some, or if I change my criteria entirely.
Until then, Frollo, Shere Khan, Ratcliffe, Shan Yu and the Butler from Aristocats will have to wait… They might make it to some other list (like worst villains?) or their henchmen could.
If you have any other villain I might have skipped, or any other criterion I should add, or if you just have anything to say about this, please do so. After all, I am, by no way, calling this “definitive.”
There are many ways to celebrate Independence Day. Trips to Luneta. Museums. Parades. Listening to platitudes. Reading the papers. Getting depressed about our country. Waving flags.
And then you could also choose to see the good in our country. You could choose that that day will be the day when you said goodbye to our old crooked ways. As Chino Trinidad, the main proponent of the tribute exhibit and event, said, he hoped that that day would be the start of our choosing to remember and do what makes the Filipino so great: that the Filipino remembers, the Filipino can sacrifice, the Filipino can aspire for excellence and greatness, that the Filipino can inspire.
Such was the case last June 12 during the awaring ceremonies of Pagpupugay. Pagpupugay is sport artifact and art exhibit situated in the ground floor of Resorts World Manila (You can’t miss it). It started this June and will end on June 15 (which I Father’s Day. You might want to take your dad there and he might be more than happy to do a live annotation of the exhibit for you.) The highlight was the Gabi ng Pagpupugay held right on Independence Night. The event gave honor, tribute and symbolic trophies to the different awardees: the different greates in Philippine sports who might not have even been given the right recognition during their time.
The list includes a pantheon of Pinoy demigods: Pancho Villa,Paulino Alcantara, Teofilo Yldefonzo, Simeon Torribeo, Miguel White, Ceferino Garcia, Felicisimo Ampon, Ben Arda, Anthony Villanueva, Flash Elorde, Eugene Torre, Paeng Nepomuceno, Bong Coo, Efren Reyes, Arianne Cerdena, Onyok Velasco, Lita Dela Rosa, and Caloy Loyzaga. For the deceased, their families accepted their trophies, shared stories, and some even shed tears.
Poignant points of the night were when the younger greats were the ones who paid tribute their lolos, to the ones who first blazed the trails (such as Chieffy Caligdong paying Tribute to Paulino Alcantara, “The Net Breaker”). And when friends introduced friends a la NBA Hall of Fame (It kind of chokes you up when jokers like Django Bustamante and Efren Bata Reyes suddenly choked up).
Also, there were very significant moments when the current Philippine athletes were called to the stage to be honored and joined their titos and titas, lolos and lolas. The current young boxers, Chris Tiu and Marc Pingris, and even kids who were given better lives because of Sports Foundations.
We might not have all been varsity players. But we must have taken up some sport or two. Joined some MILO camp growing up. Or was taught how to swing a tennis racket or how to run. Or we would cheer and jeer and coach from the couch when we watch any sporting event. We might not have been “athletes,” but we applaud greatness when we see it. We might not have represented the flag on another land, but we rise to the same anthem they fight for. We might not play their same game, but they paved the very roads we tread on today. We might not wear the same jacket, but we are all Team Pilipinas.
And the very least we can do, when someone fights on our behalf, is say thanks. And remember.
Because one day, we will need to call upon their greatness, and like they would want us to do so, believe that that greatness is in us, too. Not just in sports, but in the many fights our country needs to fight.
Holidays like yesterday reminded me of my college days, when I was also taking up my Minor Degree in History. I have forgotten many of the research techniques, names and dates, but I don’t think I can forget the different way with which my teachers made me see our history and our people.
We used to celebrate June 12 with parades. Then flags were made more available even through Takatak Boys. Then today, social media affords us a chance to declare our affection for our country, remind us of our duty, and even display cute pictures of how we celebrated Independence Day by celebrating freedom from our diets.
If, however, you felt pressured and obligated to celebrate Independence Day with the same fervor as your Facebook Friends, take heart. Here are some sobering thoughts to help us put June 12 in a bit of a more level-headed context, but also inspire us to act concretely and daily.
Some well-meaning statesman or politician must have translated it as thus. The US, for example, has no problem with loss in translation, since they know what they celebrate: independence on independence day. For us, however, we run into all sorts of expectations from just one day.
I remember, in Grade School and High School, a favorite essay questions (worth 10-15 points, mind you), is “Ngayong araw ng kalayaan, tunay nga ba tayong Malaya?”
I don’t know about you, but that formed me to expect too much from the celebration, and it expected a greater deal of patriotism for me than what I was ready to give. The reality is – we are INDEPENDENT.
Sure, Independence can lead to freedom. It is a necessity toward freedom. However, the word FREEDOM just puts a lot more pressure on us than there actually is. FREEDOM is a very loaded word: it belongs to discussions that have to do more with God, Love and Justice, than it does to government-mandated holidays.
I am NOT SAYING that we shouldn’t put pressure on ourselves to work for freedom. All I’m saying is that FREEDOM is our goal. Freedom is what we work for – daily. All I’m saying is – don’t get disillusioned and angry at our country just because you can’t find it.Don’t call the holiday meaningless just because you don’t feel “free” as a Filipino. It’s not meaningless to celebrate Independence Day, because it should remind us that our Independence was already won for us, and now we must work for our Freedom.
When the scene on the 5 PESO bill (the newer generation might not be able to relate. Gosh.), was first played out, we were in the middle of a war. In fact, Emilio Aguinaldo had just come off declaring one of the first Martial Laws our country will experience. Mabini, for one, didn’t think we were ready to hoist flags and declare anything. Yet, we did.
The trials of our country wasn’t ending at that time. Sure, there were bright spots in the military campaign, but it was probably due more to the fact that Spain itself was weakening as a world power. In December of the same year we declared our independence, (Dec 12,1898), we were sold to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. The following year, the Fil-Am war was going to be played out. So by no means were we independent yet. Yet, we declared that we were going to be.
So don’t be disheartened if you feel that the country is not in the shape you want it to be yet. I agree, we must be incensed by evil and cry out against it and combat it everyday, but don’t throw in the towel just because it’s been tough.
Simply because independence, while not perfect, or achieved in its fullness, is something we declare. It is something we shout to the world: that though we are not perfect, we desire to be better. Though we are crippled by malaise our own hands have wrought, we will heal. That though we have courted darkness, we will struggle to turn our faces to the light. We declare.
Just as in 1898, our Republic was not perfect. But Aguinaldo and our heroes believed and declared who we could be. So heroism in our context today is, when you think about it, that same declaration done daily.
So when you’re asked the question, “Why celebrate June 12 when we’re still in the middle of our fights against corruption?” The answer is, we declared it in the middle of a fight way back in 1898. And today, we resolve to continue to declare it in the midst of whatever fight we find ourselves in.
It’s a lot like Christmas. Jesus wasn’t born on December 25. Scholars say he was born sometime during the summer months. So when was Jesus’ real birthday? And if his real birthday wasn’t really on December 25, then why are we kind and compassionate only during that season? Which gives more reason for us to say that every day should be Christmas day, that every day should be a day of love, giving, and charity.
So it is with June 12. It could have been July 4 – when we were freed by the Americans after their occupation and the Commonwealth government ended. It could be that date when Lapu-Lapu’s troops stopped Magellan’s. It could even be February 25, that date when the power of the people stopped the mayhem and madness of evil. But for some reason, we chose June 12. The load of celebrating who we are fell on the shoulders of this one date.
Which leads us now to this: Declaring our Independence and our love for our country shouldn’t be on just one date. It is something we should live out everyday. The flying of the flags is necessary, I guess. And it’s cute, too. However, the very arbitrariness with which we selected the date tells me that the date itself is not what’s special. It’s what we celebrate. And that it should inspire us, whatever the date on the calendar may be.
This Independence Day gives me hope. It tells me to steady myself, that this seeming onslaught of corruption is happening in just the first quarter of what’s going to be a long basketball game that we can still win. The celebration this year allows me to think of patriotism and freedom as a scale. That though we are not yet there, we desire to be fully free. And we will declare that with our deeds. Daily.
Sport is not immortal.
It is the demigodlike deeds of the ordinary folk, the heroic feats of those who give their heart for a people that might have no place for them in theirs, the passion that thunders beyond the halls of arenas – those are what transcend generations. It is when we remember greatness, and reflect on how we could be, too, are these deeds catapulted into eternity.
And that is what Pagpupugay – an exhibit of art and artifacts of Filipino heroes at the Resorts World Manila from now until June 15, 2014 (with a special recognition day on June 12) – is all about. Pagpupugay honors those who blazed new trails from the pre-war age in the 1920s, to the Twitter age. From Dr. Regino Ylanan (The Father of Philippine Sports. I knew about him only today!), to Lydia de Vega, Eugene Torre, Flash Elorde, Onyok Velasco, and of course, Manny Pacquiao.
(Again, it’s in Resorts World. It’s an entire strip on the ground floor. You won’t miss it!)
Chino Trinidad, the main proponent of this celebration of sorts, was quoted by my father (who is his friend), as saying, “Hindi naman nakakalimot ang Pinoy. Kailangan lang paalalahanan.”
That is the spirit running across the 500 meters or so of the exhibit placed in a very high traffic area of Resorts World. The pictures and pieces of information are more than enough to inspire this sport-struck country. Families who are about to enjoy lunch, a movie, a play, and even adults who are about to go the casino, can take 5 minutes or so to check out the exhibit. There are pictures from past Philippine Basketball teams (the seal on the heart area is the same until today!), Lydia de Vega’s shoes, and even the silver medal of the late Villanueva, and very interesting artistic takes on the sports greats Efren Reyes, Paeng Nepomuceno, and Manny Pacquiao. You could see the families look at these artifacts, and some of the fathers would narrate some of the stories to their kids. I saw some senior citizens look at the pictures, probably recalling the time they followed and cheered for these teams, or even fact-checking the exhibit. Or he might have actually played for some of those teams, and he was having a moment recalling comrades.
Lydia de Vega’s shoes!
I was blessed because I had my dad, the sportsman he is, as a tour guide through this exhibit. He educated me on whose the medals were, their histories and significance, and introduce me to some names every Filipino should probably know.
The greatness that transcended generations and the stories that transcend time and space are probably what make the heroism of these sports greats most potent.
Some of these athletes reportedly just disappeared into obscurity. Some of them did not even get the recognition due them. Through this, however, our collective recognition of their sacrifice will not just be for them, but for generations to come. Generations that will want to remember the blood of heroism running through their veins.
Thanks to Chino Trinidad and all those who helped him in this cause, in a time when Filipinos need to recall that they are great, they need only to go to Resorts World and remind themselves that they are. That they always have been.They only need to take the time para magbigay-pugay and remember.
I think I broke a big rule in maintaining a blog: always feed content.
But I’ve been busy! Really, I have…
There have been projects that I’ve been engaged in, I’ve been resting (which we need! Promise!) —- but here I am! Re-committing to this practice!
So, I promise some new material coming out, and also, here are some inspirations I’ve been discovering today, courtesy of this great site I discovered because of a friend.
This first one leads you to books that you might want to consider reading if you are a writer – at any stage of your career. Actually, if you’ve been writing for a while now, you will surely have some of these on your shelf, bedside table, or writing area.
These next two are really more to the creative’s heart, and explores the spirit of creativity. Fear, vulnerability — what role do they play?
This link was actually what started this whole inspiration exploration:
Aaaand, finally, if you’re learning. If you’re a student in school, or if you honestly believe that we never stop learning ever, then take heart and enjoy.
So have fun going through brainpickings. I do promise I’ll be here more often now. I realize that I’m making that promise to myself.
I entered Tsukiji as a tourist. I came out of the fish market, a believer in the Japanese race.
The Tsukiji Market is one of Japan’s tourist attractions. For Sushi lovers, they get to see where the raw material comes from, and the effort it takes even at the raw material stage.
I came at lunchtime. No way I could make it to the 4/5am Fish Auction. But the tour guide said, “Tsukiji is still great to visit.” So I did. I was looking for a place to eat sushi. I assumed that if all the fish and their corresponding stalls and vendors had gone home, then the fish would all be in the nearby restaurants. I guessed right. For someone raised to love this kind of food, it was glorious to smell the scent of a thousand gorgeous fish waiting to be eaten. The market itself was very interesting – octopus stalls, scallop vendors, uni and scallop vendors, and the hundred and one kinds of sushi restaurants.
One problem: The lines.
It was half past 12. I had just come from Odaiba Island to see the Giant Gundam and was properly amazed to forget my hunger at noon.
Probably because the place had terrific sushi restaurants, or because it was the heat of lunchtime, every restaurant had at least 5-10 groups of waiting customers. There were actually only a few tourists. The locals dominated the queues.
The Pinoy in me didn’t want to wait another minute to get food into my stomach. After all, I come from a culture that considers shaving ten minutes off a traffic-infested road a victory.
But I looked at the Japanese. They just lined up.
Like it was the most normal thing for any human being to do.
So I did, too.
Of course I’m glad I did because I got to eat in this really interesting sushi place and got to eat sushi in Tsukiji. But I’m glad I lined up, too. Because I got to see – and experience – something that makes humanity the amazing thing it was probably meant to be.
This habit of lining up echoed throughout Tokyo. Or at least wherever I went throughout my stay there. No matter how busy the city got, no matter what time of day, whether there was an old lady trying to count her coins, or a cash register took too much time computing, the discipline in lining up, as well as the disposition of the people in the lines – never changed.
Of course, as a tourist, I couldn’t help but contrast this with my own culture.
Right when our group landed at NAIA Terminal 1, I let out a sigh that said: “Toto, We’re not in Tokyo anymore…” The NAIA 1 immigration lines zigged and zagged without heads nor tails easily visible. People were criss-crossing, cutting, and shoving. Upon commuting the next day, there was the usual rumble to get up a bus. When I tried entering a mall, I was shoved from behind for no apparent reason.
And this would echo throughout Manila. Or at least wherever we ought to see lines. In government offices. In Bus Stops. In Malls. Sure. There are bright spots here and there, but who are we kidding? We’re a culture not known for lining up.
Is the difference patience? Or discipline? Or a need to get ahead someone? Maybe these, too, are merely symptoms. Perhaps we can get to see a clearer picture during the times these two contrasting cultures were pushed to the extremes. For isn’t it true that the worst of crises pushes human beings to show who they are?
The Japanese’s recent crisis was the Tsunami. Sheer terror gripped not just the Japanese, but the whole world, as we all watched the wall of water move from the Pacific and slam into the Japanese coast. Devastation. Decimation. Even a Nuclear Disaster.
But the whole world dropped their jaws, too, when we saw the pictures of the Japanese people lining up to receive their relief goods. When they lined up to help one another. Lining up here wasn’t a simple cultural quirk. It had become so ingrained that it became a way to help save themselves.
The Filipino’s recent crisis was Yolanda. The whole world warned the Philippines that no storm in the recent history of humanity was this huge. And we watched in anguish, together with the world, at how the storm claimed entire cities, buildings, houses and lives.
Now I want to make a clear point here: We are a resilient people, yes. Yes that is one of our positive cultural traits. We know how to help one another, yes. I am not dissing us as a people. All I’m saying is we can learn something from the Japanese.
Our relief efforts were crippled by a lack of clarity in logistics. Even corruption. And when relief goods did come to the places that needed them, people would come in swarms. Rarer are the sights of lining up to get relief, and perhaps the lines came only after much shouting and fighting. Isn’t it true, too, that we are told to be very wary when we come to devastated areas with relief goods because “dudumugin kayo”?
You can tell me, of course, that disorganization is a natural reaction to devastation. And I would agree with you. And no, I don’t expect anyone to actually line up properly even in the face of death.
But the Japanese do. And they did. And when their humanity was stretched, they did one of the things they do best – they lined up.
Is it because they have a bigger capacity for discipline? But even discipline can be a symptom, rooted in a more fundamental cultural element. Why are you disciplined?
I look at our utter disrespect for lines in the Philippines – for LTO, for NBI clearances, for elections, name it – and perhaps it is rooted in a lack of faith in one another. We cut lines because we don’t think our government is competent enough and compassionate enough to provide help for all. That because resources are not enough, my kapitbahay will get some while I won’t. Even if we ourselves are patient and disciplined enough to stand in line, we don’t believe that the person behind us or in front of us is the same. Here in these islands, patience is not a virtue anymore, but merely for the weak and those who won’t take life into his own hands.
So we make do. Every Juan, Pedro and Diego for himself. Suit yourself if you choose to stay in your line. Those who have faith in the system usually find themselves disappointed. So we take matters into our own hands – or into fixers’, or other corrupt means. We do not line up because of our poverty. Not just materially, but because of our poverty of faith – in one another.
Could it be that the Japanese can line up in the best and worst of times and all times in between, simply because they believe that their system works? Because they believe that there is enough for all? Because they believe that their government does take care of them? Could it be that they could wait properly in line, because they have faith that the guy behind them and the girl in front of them will do the same?
Maybe we can learn this from the Japanese. Just as we have recently imbibed a taste for ramen, a love of robots, and a predisposition for their cars, maybe we can also import this character trait from them.
I guess that’s easier said than done. The web is thicker and and spun a thousand times in ways more twisted than we can believe. I guess that’s what happens when the your own government steals from you and this thievery has become commonplace. I guess we’ve just waited too long for change, and have refused to believe that waiting yields results: whether it be change in government, change in culture, relief goods, your license, or even good sushi.