Italian for Foreigners-part 2: Verbs

The Amalfi Coast: the Mediterranean at its Best

In this blog I am trying to cover topics that are somehow related to my role as an Italian man who is married to a Filipina.

I talk about mindset topics, because, in order to make an interracial relationship work, psychology is more important than learning a bunch of facts about the language and the culture of my foreign spouse.

Because I am suspended between 3 cultures (the Filipino culture, the Italian one and the American/English one, as English is the language my wife and I use the most in our deep conversations) I share facts about my country and my wife’s and I mostly do so in the language my wife and I use the most, namely English.

I talk about the Filipino mentality from the standpoint of a Westerner.

And, because I speak Tagalog, there are friends of mine who are married to Filipinas who ask me to teach them Tagalog, there are Filipino immigrants who ask me to teach their children Tagalog, there are Filipino parents who ask me to teach them the structure of the Tagalog language so that they can teach it to their kids and there are Filipinos who ask me to teach them Italian.

So, in my blogs (this one and http://www.filipitaly.com) I try to cover all of that (when I have time to do so).

In this post I am going to build on top of what I have already shared in my post entitled “Italian for Foreigners: a Brief Introduction” and I am going to (at least try) to kind of put myself in the shoes of a foreigner who is trying to learn Italian but struggles to figure out where to start.

In my previous post I have mentioned a very important feature of the Italian language, namely word gender and the fact that all the other related words in a sentence need to agree with the gender of a noun.

Today I am going to attempt to explain a few basic information about the trickiest part of the Italian language, namely verbs.

Italian verbs have a very high degree of inflection.

What is inflection? Inflection is a fancy word used to talk about how a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood and so on. The inflection of verbs is called conjugation.

In Italian there are 3 common patterns of conjugation and the infinitive (the basic form) ends in 3 possible ways:

Verbs ending in -are (example: “andare”=to go)

Verbs ending in -ere (example: “leggere”=to read)

Verbs ending in -ire (example: “dormire”=to sleep)

Before I talk about stuff like tenses, moods and so on, let me share a couple of fundamental differences between verbs in English and verbs in Italian.

Italian verbs change based on the person

In English the verb doesn’t really change based on the person [the word “person” refers to the distinction between the speaker (first person), the addressee (second person), and others (third person)].

In English, only at the simple present, the singular subject (he, she, it) requires an -s at the end of the word.

A typical example is the verb “to go”

I go

You go

He/she/it goes

We go

You go

They go

Not so in Italian: in Italian, the verb changes for each pronoun in all tenses!

Not only that: many Italian verbs also have crazy and absolutely unpredictable patterns.

Let’s take the Italian version of the verb “to go”.

“To go” in Italian is an “-are” verb and it’s basic form is “andare”.

Now, notice what happens when I conjugate it based on the person:

Io (I) vado (yes, you heard it right: “andare” turns into something completely different from the basic form and becomes “vado”

Tu (you) vai

Egli/lui/lei (he/she) va

Noi (we) andiamo

Voi (You) andate

Essi/loro/esse (they) vanno

Crazy irregular verbs in Italian

In English verbs definitely have more predictable patterns which make it a lot easier for a foreigner to study them.

Basically in English there are:

Regular Verbs

Regular verbs in English create the past simple and past participle by adding -ed to the base form.

For example:

I study

I studied

I have studied

Irregular verbs

Irregular verbs have endings that are other than ed and these are divided into 4 main categories:

Verbs which have the same base form, like the verb “to cost” (base form: cost/ past simple: cost/past participle:cost)

Verbs which have the same past simple and past participle (bring/brought/brought)

Verbs which have the same base form and past participle (come/came/come)

Verbs which have a different base form, past simple and past participle (be/was or were/been)

And these verbs can (relatively) easily be learned by becoming familiar with these 4 groups.

The funny thing about Italian is that the most common verbs, the ones used to talk about the most basic actions are mostly irregular and they are irregular to such an extent that studying them must be an headache for a foreigner.

Let’s say that Italians themselves (including highly educated people, sometimes even college professors) struggle with verbs.

And let’s also say that the irregularity occurs in the present indicative, as the inflection in other tenses and moods is not too far from the base form

For example, only in the present indicative the verb andare turns into something very different from the infinitive and becomes, as I said, vado, vai, va….

In other tenses and moods the various inflections of andare don’t deflect too much

I think that’s it for this post, otherwise things get too technical and I’d better reserve further information for future posts.

Particles in Tagalog (pa, na, muna, nga, lang, pala, naman, talaga)

In Tagalog there is a number of particles that can be divided into two categories:

Temporal particles

Modal particles

Here is a list of the various particles in Tagalog:

The Particle PA

It more or less translates as still, yet, else or more

Here are some examples:

uso pa ba ang harana? (Is singing a serenade still popular?) Marahil ikaw ay nagtataka, sino ba ‘to mukhang gago, nagkandarapa sa pagkanta at nasisintunado sa kaba

(Harana by Parokya ni Edgar)

Wala pa si Maria

Maria hasn’t arrived yet

Mamayang hapon pa siya darating

she will be here in the afternoon

Ano pa ang gusto mong kainin?

What else do you want to eat?

Sige pa

more

Kumain ka pa

eat some more

Kanina ka pa?

Have you been waiting for a long time?

The Particle NA

It basically means “already” or “now”

examples:

Nandito na si Chito (Chito is already here)
Si Chito Miranda
Nandito na si Kiko (Kiko is already here)
Si Francis Magalona
Nandito na si Gloc 9
Wala s’yang apelyido
Magbabagsakan dito in 5, 4, 3, 2 (Bagsakan by Parokya ni Edgar)

Hay naku! Ubos na ang wine (my goodness! I have already run out of wine)

Hay naku, ubos na ang beer!

My goodness, beer is now finished

Aalis na ako

I’m leaving now.

Halika na

Let’s go now

Mamaya na

Later

Sige na

Come on, give a break now

Kumain ka na?
Have you eaten (already)?

The particle MUNA

Teka muna (wait a minute), teka lang, painom muna (let me have some water first) ng tubig
Shift sa segunda bago mapatumba
Dapat makaisip ka ng rhyme na maganda
At madulas ang pagbigkas….(Bagsakan by Parokya ni Edgar)

MUNA generally means first.

Here are some of the most common examples:

Teka muna

Wait a minute

Maupo ka muna

Have a sit first

Particle NGA

Can be used to give extra emphasis to a statement or show agreement and confirmation.

Grabe talaga itong pangglobong pandemyang ito, ano. Oo nga, grabe talaga

this pandemic is really serious. Yes, indeed, it’s serious

Sige na, sumama ka sa amin. Sige na nga.

Come on, join us. Oh, come on

NGA can also be used to pose a challenge to someone who is making a bold claim.

Kaya kong ubusin ang isang bote ng Fundador.
Sige nga, gawin mo nga

I can drink an entire bottle of Fundador. Let’s see you do it.

It also express politeness in making requests.

Pakiabot mo nga ang asin

Would you please pass me the salt?

Uminom ka nga ng gamot. Why don’t you take the medicine?

The Particle LANG (shortened form of LAMANG)

It means “only” or “just”

Examples:

Isang baso lang (just a glass), dalawang bote lang: kaunti-container lang (just two bottles)

It may also mean just.

Kararating ko lang.

I just arrived.

The Particle PALA

It expresses surprise.

Akala ko Pilipino ka dahil fluent ka sa Tagalog: Italyano ka pala

I thought you were Filipino because you can speak Tagalog but you are Italian: I am surprised

The Particle NAMAN

Like nga it is used to make polite requests

Pakiabot naman ng asukal

Would you please pass the sugar?

It indicates that something is true even if it sounds strange or difficult to believe
Mukhang tamad siya pero masipag naman siya

he looks lazy but in reality he is hardworking

It may also mean “really”

Example:

Ang ganda naman ni Catriona Catriona is really beautiful

When used in conjunction with na it means again or once more.

Nandito na naman si Chito.

Here is Chito again.

The Particle TALAGA

It generally means really.

Example:
Marunong akong magsalita ng Tagalog.

Talaga?

I can speak Tagalog.
Really?

Kung Bakit Mabuting Asawa ang mga Italyano

Ako ay Italyano, marunong akong mag-Tagalog at Pilipina ang asawa ko.

Maganda ang Italya at masarap ang buhay ng mga Pilipina na may asawang Italyano at bihirang nagiging sawa sa isang Italyano ang asawang Pilipina ng isang Italyano.

Bakit? Dahil tapat na tao kami.

Ang dahilan kung bakit ang bansa namin ay tinatawag na Italy ay na dito kami ay may tali upang itali ang mga asawa namin sa aming puso at kapag nakatali na hindi na iiwanan.

Iinatali ng mga Italiyano ang kanilang mga asawa sa kanilang puso sa pamamagitan ng mahabang tali

Bweno, medyo nagbibiro ako…pero may punto at may kaunting katotohanan sa likod ng biro.

Itali ninyo ang inyong sarili sa isang Italyano at makakarating kayo sa pinakamagandang bansa sa mundo kung saan lagi (o halos lagi) sumisikat ang araw, masarap ang pagkain at…. maraming tao ay may kaunting….mana.

Magandang tanawin sa Italy
Magandang tanawin sa Italy
Magandang tanawin pa more sa Italy

Italian for Foreigners: a Brief Introduction

Here in Italy there is a population of over 300,000 Filipino immigrants and over 4,000,000 immigrants from various parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Most Asian and African immigrants are rather fluent in English but their ability to communicate in English doesn’t help very much when they try to talk to Italian public officials or their employers.

Italians have a hard time learning English, and, those who try to study it, struggle to speak it properly and what comes out of their mouths, when they attempt to speak English, is what we call “inglese maccheronico” or “macaroni English” (basically meaning “broken English”).

For example, Italians have a hard time pronouncing pairs of vowels like “oo” and, for example, the way they would pronounce a word like “cool” is “col”.

Italians don’t aspirate the letter “h”, so the way they would pronounce a word like “hill” is “ill”.

We don’t use “to do” as an auxiliary verb, so many Italians would say things like “I no speak English”, “you speak Italian?” or “what you like?”.

Also, Italians have a very hard time understanding the difference between a past simple and a present perfect in English, so they make such mistakes as “I have been to London in December 2006” or “I have studied while I was on the train”.

Another thing Italians fail to grasp is the proper use of will or shall in sentences like “when I graduate I’ll be able to find a job” and they would say something like “when I will graduate I will be able to find a job”, so they would use “will” in both clauses.

These are just few examples that show how hard it can be for an immigrant (an even for a tourist) who can’t speak Italian to communicate with an Italian, as Italians definitely struggle with English.

So an immigrant who wants to live here long-term definitely needs to learn Italian if he or she doesn’t want to constantly rely on somebody else’s help (I have personally spent hundreds of hours helping Filipinos to communicate with doctors, government officials, the immigration office etc., maybe I could turn this thing into a business….).

But how the heck can a foreigner learn Italian?

Italian is rather tricky and most people in this country, including highly educated people, never get to the point where they can confidently say that they have completely mastered this language.

Let me share a few basic things that an Italian learner needs to become familiar with when approaching Italian:

Masculine and Feminine

In Italian nouns, pronouns, adjectives and articles can be masculine or feminine and if you are using a masculine noun you can’t use a feminine article, adjective or pronoun.

For example the noun professore, meaning professor, is masculine.

Professore has a feminine equivalent being professoressa.

Teacher in Italian is maestro, if you are talking about a man, or maestra, if you are talking about a woman.

Here are few examples of how articles (both definite and indefinite), pronouns and adjectives change when using a different gender.

Masculine

Mario is a teacher and he is a good teacher

Mario è un maestro e lui (or egli) è un bravo maestro

The ball (masculine….we generally use masculine to talk about a foot ball while, for example, we use the feminine gender to talk about a basket ball) is round

Il pallone è rotondo

Feminine

Maria is a teacher and she is a good teacher

Maria è una maestra e lei è una buona maestra

La palla è rotonda

Definite Articles:

In English the definite article is the.

In Italian things are a little trickier as articles can vary according to gender (masculine or feminine) or number (singular or plural).

Here is the list:

Il, lo (masculine/singular), la (feminine/singular)

I, gli (masculine/plural), le (feminine/plural)

Indefinite articles

Un, uno (a/an)-masculine

Un’, una (a/an)-feminine

Verbs

Verbs in Italian are very tricky.

To get started with Italian verbs I’d suggest that you do what Filipino immigrants do: just learn the infinitive and few months later start learning the various tenses.

Italian verbs in the infinitive form end in

are

ere

ire

Here are few common verbs:

To go andare

To do fare

To eat mangiare

To drink bere

To buy comprare

To sell vendere

To travel viaggiare

To work lavorare

To lift alzare

To lower abbassare

To speak parlare

To understand capire

……

And the list goes on (just Google….)

You can get started the Filipino way: “io non parlare italiano”, “io non capire”….sounds bad but it works

This is just a brief introduction to Italian and there are miles and miles more to go.

It would take years to make an in-depth discussion about Italian.

If someone is interested I might consider posting more articles on this topic for Filipinos in Italy or anyone else who wishes to learn this language from an Italian himself….

Italy is beautiful!!!!

L’Italia (feminine) è bella!!!!

Il vino italiano è buono

La pizza italiana è la migliore al mondo

La mia moglie filippina fa delle lasagne che sono la fine del mondo: venite qui che ve le faccio assaggiare

How to Deal with Jealousy (and Part with it for Good)

In this post I am using the terms jealousy and anxiety or fear interchangeably, because jealousy is anxiety created by not getting something others have and fear that, by not getting that person or thing, our value will somehow diminish and we won’t be happy.

This emotion causes us to live in a constant state of fear and defensiveness and it can cause us to behave in a petty way and criticize, attack, gossip or resort to other sneaky ways to get what we want.

As I said in my post about crab mentality in the Philippines, because my wife is Filipina, I get to interact with Filipinos quite a lot, and, by observing how rampant and widespread jealousy is in the Philippines, I have gained some insights about what creates jealousy.

Today I want to talk about how to cure it, because jealousy is not just a Filipino problem, rather it is very widespread and I myself struggle with it.

Curing jealousy and parting with the fear of not getting a particular person, because this person likes someone else, and the fear of not getting a particular thing, because someone else has it, requires a radical paradigm shift.

By reading books and blogs on this topic I have been able to write down some of these reframes and in this post I’d like to share some of them with you and, in so doing, I get to remind myself of these paradigm shifts that I myself need to make (you teach best what you most need to learn….).

Part with the idea that your worth depends upon having that thing or person

All of us like people or things that others don’t like.

For example I like Tommy Emmanuel, an Australian acoustic guitarist and other similar artists and bands. Yet there are people who hate them.

The music of Tommy Emmanuel is what it is and the fact that some dislike it doesn’alter its intrinsic value nor does the fact that I like it add something to it.

Mr Emmanuel excels at making acoustic music that some people like but he likely sucks at other things other people like.

He is not excellent across the board, like everyone else: there is no such thing as a human being who has it all and excels at everything and, because people have different genetics, different preferences, different backgrounds, they like certain things or people and they dislike other things or people but this doesn’t have anything to do with the intrinsic value of that person or thing.

So it is absolutely normal that during the course of our lives we stumble upon people who possess certain characteristics we like and we would like to enter into their lives or get their approval or some position or advantage from them, but they don’t see us as their match because they have a different perception.

Does the fact that they don’t like us or that they don’t consider us deserving of a certain thing or position make us less valuable? Of course not.

People who don’t like us are just like those who don’t like Tommi Emmanuel.

In much the same way as what Mr. Emmanuel does doesn’t resonate with a lot of people what we do does not resonate with a lot of people, even people we think we like and can give us something we believe we deserve.

Our value depends exclusively on how focused we are on running our own race in our own lane and on amplifying whatever good traits (genetic, intellectual or otherwise) we have and on detaching our sense of worth from the feedback of the environment.

If you do get that person or thing that someone else has will that make you happy?

Other people, a car, a house, a position etc can give us some fun and some excitement but can they give us inner bliss and peace?

As I mentioned in one of my posts, my father acquired pretty much everything he wanted and yet he lived in a constant state of restlesness that caused him to smoke too much.

The reason my father started smoking in his early “20’s is because he was probably frustrated for being poor.

By working hard he became rather wealthy: did he quit smoking? No, he kept smoking even more and he justifyied it by saying that he was frustrated that my brother and I were not following in his footsteps.

But my question is: what if we did follow in his footsteps? Would he have quit smoking? I doubt it very seriously.

Did getting the woman I wanted give me inner bliss and peace?

Well, by getting the person I am in a relationship with I haven’t become more capable of controlling my emotions or my health. My emotions and my health only improve if i do something about them. My wife doesn’t do it for me, she cannot slow down my breathing and get me to relax and find inner peace or sleep better.

Inner calm and inner peace are exclusively the product of how we process our thoughts, how we control our breathing, what we eat and so on.

It boils down to personal development and, because personal development is “personal”, other people or situations have no power over our states.

So even if we get everything other people have we still have to do the hard work that is necessary to master our emotions and others or other things won’t do it for us.

Do I really know that getting that person or that thing will lead to the best outcome?

Apart from the idea that getting that thing or that person will give us happy feelings we also convince ourselves that these things will lead to the outcomes we want.

But do we really know that?

My father achieved everything he wanted (or rather he taught that he wanted): he got the houses and things that other people had, but he obtained those things at the cost of ruining his health and of getting even more stressed out, which caused him to die earlier than he probably would had he not got what he wanted.

Had I not got married I would probably have more money and would likely have travelled more.

We don’t really know how things will eventually play out and if our life will indeed improve once we get the things other people have or the person we think we want

Maybe we get the private jet that someone else has and we crash and die….or we get that position that someone else has just to realize that we are sacrificing our family life because we work too much….or perhaps we marry that amazing person and maybe that person gets paralized for life and we have to assist him or her for life….How can we possibly know how things will eventually turn out?

So this is another reason to part with anxiety over not getting the people or the things we want and that someone else has.

What if we get what we want and then lose it?

Another price that we pay if we have a neurotic fear of not getting the love of a particular person or not getting what someone else has, is that, if we do get that thing or that person, we are simply going to replace the fear of not getting them with the fear of losing them.

If we have a neurotic attachement to that thing or that person, and we stake our happiness or sense of worth on them, fear won’t go away because a spouse can die or leave us and a material thing can be stolen, a position will eventually be taken by someone else because nothing sticks forever.

If getting what you want doesn’t inherently make you happy what about getting what you want using the jealousy strategy?

On top of the fact that it doesn’t inherently make you happy, getting that thing by resorting to jealousy-driven methods will sour your entire life: your relationships as well as your self-worth

As I said in my post about crab mentality in the Philippines, Filipinos resort to gossip and other sneaky methods to tear down those who succeed.

For example Filipinos who want to set up a store or a restaurant here in Rome don’t get much support from their fellow countrymen.

Does anybody win here?

Not at all. If those Filipinos who try to set up shop received support rather than criticism they could perhaps hire other Filipinos and the whole community would benefit from it.

So tearing other people down and using other jealousy strategies only causes broken relationships and backfires in many other ways and nobody wins.

Come from a place of abundance

The Bible says “rejoice with those who rejoice”.

Rejoicing with people who get something we wish we had is tricky but it’s the best strategy to boost our self-worth, our inner peace and improve our relationships.

Criticizing those who rejoice makes us small and petty while by rejoicing with someone who gets what we think we deserve we actually become bigger. Why?

Well, because in so doing we say to ourselves that our life is big enough to allow other people to succeed and that we are so grateful for what we already have that we don’t really need to take away a certain thing or position from another person to make our life bigger. Let them have what they have and even give ourselves the luxury to actually go up to them and congratulate them for having that thing.

It sounds tricky and counterintuitive but doing that will actually kill our pettiness and massively boost our self-worth.

Will getting that person or thing fix your deepest fears?

One of the fears that those who can’t get the person they want or the feedback and the approval they want is the fear of being alone.

I am married and I have a decent level of love and approval in my life.

But all of that does nothing to cure my loneliness.

I have realized that fundamentally, at the deepest existential level we are alone, independent of whether we have a relationship, love, a position, approval or whatever else.

This applies to intimate relationships but it also applies to other domains of life: getting the car that someone else has, getting the status that others have, getting that position or feedback that others have won’t scratch that itch caused by the fact that we are fundamentally left alone in dealing with the dilemmas of life and the only way we can deal with those is by embarking on a personal spiritual journey that is not and could never be the result of getting some external.

A car, a career, a position or even an intimate relationship won’t answer such questions as “why are we here?”, “what happens when we die?” and so on.
Nothing, apart from a deep spiritual journey can scratch those itches.

So, yes, there are several reflections and reframes we can make to get rid of jealousy and to really part with this nasty thing that doesn’t serve us in any way and do it once and for all.

Hope it helps….

“Selective Assimilation” of Christian Values in the Philippines – Part 2

In my first post about this topic (https://italpinoy1967.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/selective-assimilation-of-christian-values-in-the-philippines/) I quoted the following from the “Culture Shock Philippines” book by Alfredo and Grace Roces:

“Lenten rites have also been adopted in non-Christian folk rituals, borrowing the exotic features of the elaborate Spanish Catholic ceremonies to perpetuate occult beliefs”.

On page 209 the book adds: “as Lenten rites demonstrate, folk Catholicism among Filipinos….reveals….a deep persistence of pre-Christian values and the ability to selectively borrow outward motifs of Christian beliefs for their own sets of beliefs and values”.

My question was: can Christian values be selectively borrowed? This actually leads to asking a more fundamental question which is: can the truth in general be selectively assimilated?

The truth is neutral, it is the way it is and it doesn’t care what you believe. It does not accomodate itself to people but rather people have to accomodate themselves to it.

For example if you want to lose weight the truth is that you have to work out and eat certain foods, like plenty of vegetables for example.

That’s the truth about losing weight the way it is and not the way you wish it to be or the way that suits you, and if it doesn’t suit you, because perhaps you love drinking plenty of alcohol or love eating plenty of rice and pork, the truth about losing weight won’t adjust itself to your eating preferences.

The truth about raising a successful family is that you need to be physically present. You can convince yourself that you can do it through Skype while working abroad but the truth that you’d better be physically present remains the truth and doesn’t change to suit you.

If the truth about your finances is that you have zero money in the bank and have much utang, fooling yourself and convincing yourself that you are rich because you have the latest Samsung Galaxy or drive a S.U.V. (when, in fact you have maraming utang) won’t change reality.

So the truth is the truth, and speaking of religion (if you are religious, if you are not there are still truths you have to face up to whether you like them or not) the truth is simply the way God is, not the way you wish God to be or the way that suits a particular culture.

So, selective assimilation of Christian values doesn’t make any sense. Universal truths cannot be suited to a particular culture and mentality.

In every domain of life, not just religion, if we want to have a happy life we are the ones who need to find out what truth is and accept that, because it is the way it is and not the way we wish it to be or the way our culture has taught us, we need to be the ones to adjust to it.

Yes, the truth does not and never will accomodate itself to anybody, so selective assimilation of religious truths, or even truths relative to other domains of life, which are by the way always somehow interconnected with the universal truth, is completely pointless and surely doesn’t lead to any freedom.

Jesus of Nazareth said that the truth can set people free but that freedom comes with a cost and the price to pay is being willing to let go of the self-agenda and the self-bias that causes most people on this planet (not only Pinoy) to selectively borrow only the truths that fit into their bias or self-agenda.

And sometimes our self-agenda can be a very difficult beast to tame.

For example a person could be the C.E.O. of a company that produces weapons or, let’s say tobacco. How easy would it be for such person to let go of his or her bias and self-agenda and let go of that position when supporting their family depends upon denying the truth that weapons are bad or that cigarettes kill?

It would be extremely difficult. So people prefer to sweep the uncomfortable truths under the rug and selectively borrow what they like or what suits them.

And of course it is not easy for a Filipina or a Filipino to stick 100% to everything that the Bible teaches because the pressures to conform to the Pinoy values and the kin-group culture are very strong.

Yet the Bible teaches that husband and wife will set up their own family and become one flesh, it teaches that kaunting alak not kaunti-container is good for you hindi yun sobra.

It also teaches that parents should inculcate godly values and speak of them “when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up” not through Skype from another country.

It also teaches that God hates violence therefore it is not consistent with Christianity to rejoice while watching Manny Paquiao on TV and drinking gin or being involved in awayan, suntukan, barilan.

It teaches that the man is the head of the family and not the macho-machunuring under the saya at tigasin, tiga-salok ng tubig, tiga-saing, tiga-laba etc.

Yes, in all cultures there is a tendency to selectively borrow truths that suit that culture and dismiss anything that feels uncomfortable.

The Philippines is one of those cultures but the truth is the way it is and cannot suit anybody.

Selective Assimilation of Christian Values in the Philippines

In my study and observation of my Filipino wife’s culture I cannot help but also touch on this topic of religion and spirituality which I think is a very important metric to understand why a certain culture behaves the way it does.

I want to clarify that I am not using my blog posts to promote a particular kind of doctrine or ideology, I am simply touching on this topic as part of my analysis of the Pinoy culture.

The very first thing that needs to be said about Christianity in the Philippines is that the Philippines didn’t become a quote-unquote “Christian nation” because all of a sudden Filipinos decided to study the Bible and, as a result, they chose to believe in Jesus Christ based on some proof.

Christianity was heavy handedly introduced by the Spanish and, although there are Filipinos who study the Bible and feel that they have a strong conviction that the Christian religion is the right one, the vast majority buys into Christianity merely because, by sheer accident, they were born in the Philippines.

And, of course, being born in a particular culture is just an accident: each one of us could easily have been born in the Philippines, in China, in a Muslim culture or anywhere else. So being born in a particular culture and settling for the particular religion that’s there is not a guarantee of any kind of truth.

But relatively few Filipinos (and not just Filipinos, this is actually a very cross-cultural thing) make these kinds of reflections and simply go with the flow and accept what society tells them thereby following mainstream religion.

So, what kind of Christianity did the Spanish introduce in the Philippines?

Well, the religion they introduced was not the original kernel of Christianity that Christ taught but rather all the layers upon layers of tradition that were added on top of the original teachings.

On top of that, the Culture Shock Philippines book by Alfredo and Grace Roces says on page 208 that “Lenten rites have also been adopted in non-Christian folk rituals, borrowing the exotic features of the elaborate Spanish Catholic ceremonies to perpetuate occult beliefs”.

On page 209 it adds: “as Lenten rites demonstrate, folk Catholicism among Filipinos….reveals….a deep persistence of pre-Christian values and the ability to selectively borrow outward motifs of Christian beliefs for their own sets of beliefs and values”.

So, basically, in order to make the Catholic tradition more “palatable” for Filipinos they allowed the local population to do some sort of halo-halo of Catholic tradition and the already existing pre-Christian beliefs.

My question is: can Christian values be selectively borrowed?

Well, Filipinos who live in my country usually work as domestic helpers for some rich employer, and, as far as I know, they don’t “selectively cherry pick” the orders of their employers. Because they serve their masters they do what their master tells them to do without being “selective” about it.

Most Filipinos claim that they serve God but they don’t seem to apply the same criterion that they use for their human employers, instead of they being to ones to adjust to the “Master” they expect the “Master” to adjust to their culture.

For example it says somewhere in the Bible that “man will leave mother and father and stick to his wife and they will become one flesh”. Yet, most Filipinos don’t like this idea, even if it comes from the God that they believe in, and prefer to continue to be stuck to their father, mother, ate, kuya, pinsan etc. while, at the same time, trying to stick to their wife.

This is the easy approach to religion, a religion that doesn’t require any effort because most Filipinos only borrow the parts that don’t contradict their culture.

In his book “The Power of Myth”, the American mythologist Joseph Campbell had this to say (as part of his conversation with Mr. Moyers):

“MOYERS: In this culture of easy religion,
cheaply achieved, it seems to me we’ve forgotten that
all three of the great religions teach that the trials of the
hero journey are a significant part of life, that there’s no reward without renunciation, without paying the price.
The Koran says, “Do you think that you shall enter the
Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those
who passed before you? “And Jesus said in the gospel
of Matthew, “Great is the gate and narrow is the way
which leadeth to life, and few there be who find it.”

And the heroes of the Jewish tradition undergo great tests
before they arrive at their redemption.

CAMPBELL: If you realize what the real
problem is — losing yourself, giving yourself to some
higher end, or to another — you realize that this itself is
the ultimate trial. When we quit thinking primarily about
ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a
truly heroic transformation of consciousness.
And what all the myths have to deal with is
transformations of consciousness of one kind or
another. You have been thinking one way, you now
have to think a different way”.

Easy religion cheaply achieved amounts to going through the large gate, not the narrow one that Jesus mentioned. It requires no effort and, therefore, as Campbell points out, it brings about no transformation of consciousness.

The “hero” that Campbell talks about is one who escapes the gravitational pull of group-thinking and conformity, not one who is part of the masses and does what everyone else is doing.

Most religious Filipinos just conform, this is why in the Philippines, despite the huge amount of churches and fiestas, most people remain stuck in low-quality consciousness and things like violence, corruption, easy entertainment, gossip, wanton consumption, clannish love, the ako muna attitude and many other hallmark characteristics of a low-quality consciousness are so widespread.

Religion in the Philippines amounts, for the most part, to nothing more than rituals and traditions that have no power to bring about a shift in consciousness.

The same thing also applies to any other country but my blog is about the Philippines.

My idea is that if one believes in God it does not make much sense to try to adjust him to one’s personal preferences or to his own culture. I think that, because life is way too short, our precious time cannot be wasted practicing a religion that doesn’t have any positive impact in our lives.

Either you practice it seriously or you just stay away from it. This is my idea at least.

Crab Mentality, Jealousy and Envy in the Philippines

Here in Rome there are some 50000 Filipinos. They constitute one of the largest groups of immigrants in the city and the Filipino community has been existing here for about 40 years.

Yet, almost all Filipinos here started out working as katulong or domestic helpers (many work live-in, meaning that they are only free on Sundays and on Thursday afternoons) and to this day the vast majority still works as katulong.

Apart from few Pinoy sari-sari store and a few restaurants (plus one Jollibee restaurant), here in Rome Filipinos seem to be one of the communities of immigrants who run the least amount of sariling negosyo (Filipinos who run some kind of business), compared to other ethnic groups.

Many other immigrants, like the Romanian for example, run their own businesses in such fields as construction, plumbing, electrical installations etc. The Punjabi run dozens of bakeries in town. The Chinese have hundreds of eat all you can restaurants and shops and recently they’ve also started running cafeterias and, in many cases, they even hire Italians.

And yet Filipinos, who have been here much longer than other groups, hardly attempt going into business or getting a job that is other than katulong. Even their sons and daughters who graduate from high school, in most cases, follow in the footsteps of their parents and become katulong themselves.

I am not encouraging setting up negosyo, I am just using this as an example to talk about crab mentality and, obviously, there is nothing wrong in being a katulong, and all the more so because a lot of Pinoy here work for rich people and some earn more than the average Italian worker, but, nevertheless, it is an actual fact that, by and large, Filipinos here tend to hold back from trying to start a business of their own or to, at least, do something different than katulong.

As Italian husband of a Filipina this phenomenon has aroused my curiosity and, since I started courting my wife over 20 years ago, I have been looking into it.

Back then my wife gave me a clue:  around 20 years ago there was a Filipina who used to run a sari-sari or grocery store. After a while she tried to set up a Filipino restaurant but, much to my surprise, very few would support her and, based on what my wife told me, it seems like the reason was that other Filipinos were telling one another not to eat in her restaurant. Whether these rumors or tsismis are true or not, the fact is that the restaurant did not stick around likely due to what my wife referred to as the so-called crab mentality, which seems to be one of the hallmark traits of Filipinos.

Basically the crab mentality works like this: if one crab tries to emerge from the bottom, others will try to pull it down, insead of trying to emerge themselves.Why does this happen so much in the Filipino culture?

The Filipino Concept of Happiness: masaya vs maligaya

I personally believe that what most Filipino think happiness is is at the root of many of the cultural traits of Filipinos, including the crab mentality.

As I have pointed out many times Filipinos use two words to describe happiness: they use the word masaya to basically talk about happiness induced by external stimulation and maligaya, which is namamalaging kapanatagan (inner peace) that does not depend on having a nice house, car, comfort food at Jollibee, alak or alcohol or any other external things that create a temporary state of being masaya or on a high.

The Filipino media and society, the huge karatula or billboards, TV, the internet and so on have programmed into most Filipinos the idea that they need to consume, consume, consume.

And so many Filipinos are more concerned with finding the happiness without than with looking for ways to find the happiness within.

A person who is maligaya and has the inner kapanatagan, a person who chases true spirituality (vs fake religious tradition and rituals) doesn’t need to tear others down.

Interestingly most Pinoy are Christians and one of the most important things that Christ taught is “maligaya ang mga palaisip sa espirituwal na pangangailangan nila.” Lit., “mga namamalimos ng espiritu.” or “happy are those who are conscious of their spiritual needs”.

So, even Jesus stressed the importance of finding the happiness within, not in some external tradition or ritual (that abound in the Philippines) but in the right kind of spirituality that produces inner transformation, and yet for most Filipinos religion is nothing more than rituals that have no power to create kaligayahan.

One of the many “karatula” in Manila


Tsismis and Criticism

One of the ways crab mentality often masquerades is that it masquerades as tsismis.

Tsismis or gossip is very widespread in the Philippines as well as among Filipinos abroad.

Filipinos spend long hours sitting idly and engaging in kwentuan or chit-chatting and often kwentuan veers toward gossip and criticism directed at someone who has achieved more, maybe someone who has a business, or perhaps some relative who has made good money abroad who gets criticized for not having enough utang-na-loob or debt of gratitude and for not sending enough money home.Entertainment is huge in the Philippines

Lack of Goals and Personal Improvement

All this time that Filipinos spend gossiping could be used to set goals, attend online courses, read, meditate and do whatever else that would shift the attention away from what others are doing or accomplishing and direct it toward advancing one’s own agenda and goals, because when someone is too busy working on him or herself he or she doesn’t have the time to gossip or criticize.

So, yes, envy, criticism and crab mentality are very widespread in the Philippines because the Filipino culture, although Christian on the surface, is very materialistic and very directed toward achieving external things.

But, because it also promotes a lot of TV, social media, easy entertainment, gossip and other activities that don’t get people to work on themselves and set powerful goals, rather than working on achieving things many Filipinos prefer to criticize others and pull them down.

This is more or less my analysis about this phenomenon called crab mentality.

As a non-Filipino I think I have an objective and unbiased perspective so I am not judging, I am just reporting, and I am interested in lifting up my fellow kababayan.

Simuno at Panaguri sa Wikang Tagalog

Ako ay Pinoy sa puso, sa diwa at….sa buhay pampamilya

Maraming mga Pilipino ay nagugulat dahil, bagaman foreigner ako, interesado ako sa balarilang Tagalog.

Ako ay ang uri ng tao na either ginagawa ko ang isang bagay nang maayos o hindi ko itong ginagawa….totally.

Bilang asawa ng isang Pilipina, ako ay nagpasya na mag-aral ng wikang Tagalog at para sa akin pag-aaral ay nangangahulugang pag-aaral, ibig kong sabihin malalim na pag-aaral, yun talagang pag-aaral pag-aaral.

At kung hindi ko kayang pag-aralan ang isang paksa nang maayos, pinababayaan ko iyon at itinutuon ko ang aking pansin (hindi pancit…) sa ibang proyekto (gaya ng pag-iinom ng isang bote ng masarap na red wine).

At yamang pinag-aralan ko ang gusto kong pag-aralan nang medyo maayos, halos umaabot ako sa punto na kaya kong magturo ng pinag-aaralan ko.

At, kapag kaya kong magturo ng isang paksa, ang aking pangalan ay hindi na Eduardo kundi Arturo: ang isa na nagtuturo ng kung ano ang dapat ituro sa mga nangangailangang magpaturo sa mga taong marunong magturo….

At, syempre, kapag balarilang Tagalog ang pinag-uusapan, hindi pwede hindi banggitin ang simuno at ang panaguri.

Ano ba ang simuno sa isang pangungusap at ano ang panaguri?

Mga bagay na kinakain?

Hindi.

Ang simuno ang siyang nagsasabi kung ano o sino ang pinag-uusapan sa pangungusap. Ito ang paksa ng pangungusap.

Ang panaguri naman ay nagsasabi tungkol sa simuno o paksa ang panaguri.

Halimbawa:

Si Juan ay mahilig sa alak

Sino ang pinag-uusapan dito?

Si Juan ang pinag-uusapan, kaya ang simuno ay walang iba kundi si kuwan, ano, si Juan, ano….’di ba?

At ano naman ang masasabi tungkol kay kuwan, ano, si Juan, ano?

Ang sinasabi sa pangungusap ay na si Juan ay mahilig sa alak. Kaya ang pananalitang mahilig sa alak ay ang panaguri.

Ibang halimbawa:

Maraming Pilipino na nagsasalita ay mahilig sa paggamit ng maraming “kuwan” at “ano” (gaya ng nakikita sa ano, sa kuwan, ano, sa halimbawa na nasa itaas, ano….)

Ano kaya ang simuno dito?

Maraming Pilipino na nagsasalita

At ano naman ang panaguri?

ay mahilig sa paggamit ng maraming kuwan at ano

Ibang halimbawa:

Ang Pilipinas ay ang perlas ng Silangan (lalo na sa parteng Quiapo…)

Ano sa palagay ninyo ang simuno dito? At ano ang panaguri?

Kaunting pagsasanay sa balarila para sa inyo….bilang pampatunaw…..

Two Things Filipinos Don’t Like

Low batt: Social Media, cellphones and tablets are huge in the Philippines so when an electronic gadget has low batt this is a big problem for Filipinos

Low “bot…”: Binge drinking is also huge in the Philippines so when the “BOTtle” is low or empty this is also a problem for many Pinoy

The solution? Finding the happiness within such that neither “low batt” nor “low bot…” become a problem….

A little morning reflection… bilang pampatunaw….