By Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--The last shingle’s in place, the dotted line has been signed and the lights are working. Time to move in! But before you do, here are a few reminders from the old folks on how to bring in good vibes into your threshold. Some might sound downright silly or absurd, but as the pragmatic might shrug, better safe… 1. Time your moving-in day on a new moon when it is waxing towards fullness. That’s supposed to bring in burgeoning luck and wealth. 2. Be sure to be in your new home before the sun rises as this signifies a bright new beginning. 3. Before bringing in your furniture and other stuff, march into your new household with the requisite symbols of plenty: rice, sugar, salt, water, oil and the Holy Family. Others say that any religious image would do as well. Some also suggest taping red envelopes with cash on the rice containers to further attract good fortune. 4. To establish ownership of the place, some feng shui experts suggest placing nine orange, lemon or lime skins in a bowl or pail. Fill the container with water and splash the citrus water on all floors, cleansing the place of bad chi and evil spirts. 5. For the same reason, some folk suggest turning up the radio full blast on the first day to let the spirits know that you are now the owner of the place. Walk through each room to establish your presence. 6. Another way to claim ownership is to shine a flashlight on all corners of your closets. This, according to some people, should guide the good spirits from your old place into your new abode. 7. After moving into a new house, avoid sleeping on an old bed, goes another belief. If a new bed sounds like an unnecessary expense, you can just buy new sheets and a bedspread to simulate the feeling of freshness. Anxious homeowners sometimes brush each bed with a new broom just to make sure that bad spirits are driven off. 8. A similar ritual of cleansing the house of bad spirits involves a Japanese ritual of burning incense and going around the house while waving the now smoke-filled incense burner. 9. To bring continued prosperity to homeowners, coins are usually placed on top of house posts and cabinets. 10. Feasting on a whole chicken as a first meal in the new home is supposed to bring luck, prosperity and family togetherness. Chuchie Quevedo-See
Recently in Culture Category
By Eric S. Caruncho Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Let's face it, kitsch ’R’ us. We might pay lip service to Bauhaus style, or minimalism, or the Miami style, or whatever new wrinkle in interior design happens to be trendy at the moment, but deep down, we’re all the same. Face a Pinoy with a bare wall or an empty shelf and that old horror vacui just wells up inside him. And chances are, he’ll pick the cheesiest possible piece to put there. For instance: • The Sto. Niño theme. Much has been made of the Filipino devotion to the Christ Child. What most commentators fail to mention is the fact that for many of us, the Sto. Niño also fills the role played by Ken and Barbie for young girls, an opportunity to play “dress up.” And age—or gender, for that matter -- is no barrier. I once interviewed a high-ranking police official on some long-forgotten story, but I’ll never forget the foot-tall Sto. Niño on his desk, dressed from head to toe in full khaki uniform, complete with insignia matching the rank of the owner (this was before the PNP switched to dress blues). I’ve also been to some local government offices where the Sto. Niño is dressed up like some minor government functionary, in polyester barong and double-knit pants, and some clinics where he’s dressed in scrubs and is carrying a toy stethoscope. And of course, there’s the “farmer” Sto. Niño, with his little salakot, red pajamas and neckerchief. • Religious décor: While we’re on the subject of Jesus, whatever happened to those 3-D pictures of Christ -- you know, the one where his eyes seemed to be looking at you no matter where you were? Holy paranoia, Batman! There used to be one in every home, laminated on a wood plaque, very likely hung next to a similar plaque containing the story of “Footprints in the Sand” or some such “uplifting” sentiment. They seem to have been replaced by “disco Jesus,” where in lieu of a halo, Jesus’ head is surrounded by flashing colored lights. This is a Vietnamese import, but it could just as well have been Pinoy. • Baguio : Apart from being the country’s produce market, the City of Pines is also the source for much kitschiniana, and just about every lowlander who pays it a visit goes home with a bottle of strawberry jam, a month’s worth of veggies and a “barrel man.” There seems to be a city ordinance that says you can’t visit Baguio and not buy one of these “conversation pieces.” Me, I prefer the giant Igorot warriors brandishing the freshly-severed heads of their enemies, or carrying a deer or wild boar across their shoulders. If only I had the space! • Dining room décor: Baguio is also where you get those giant wooden spoons and forks that Pinoys like to hang on their dining room wall, together with the de rigueur Last Supper. Our family was considered avant garde in our neighborhood because we had Dali’s “Last Supper” in our dining room, instead of Da Vinci’s. • Weapons of Moroland: The origins of this artifact are lost in the mists of time. Probably some enterprising craftsman thought it might make a good souvenir for Yanks coming home from the Jolo campaign of 1915. In any case, this wooden plaque with miniature replicas of the kris, the barong, the kampilan and other blades from the far South used to hang in every Filipino home to remind the inhabitants of their proud warrior heritage. Now, of course, they’re hot sellers on eBay, billed as a genuine “cultural, ethnological artifact,” which is probably why you don’t see them as often. Among other things, Weapons of Moroland would be a cool name for a hardcore band -- somebody start one! • Art: This is where good taste and good sense fail the Pinoy utterly, because as long as he gets a kick out of a picture, he’ll put it up a wall, whether it’s an Amorsolo, a black velvet painting of a bare-breasted Igorot maiden, an on-the-spot charcoal portrait of the owner, or a tapestry of dogs playing poker or shooting pool. More than likely, he’ll have all of them on a wall somewhere in his house, maybe even in the same room. • Plastic: Pinoys like to keep their furniture in mint condition, the same way that comic book collectors do, by wrapping them in plastic. Many’s the home in which my ass has sweated on a plastic-covered sofa or armchair. And since for many Pinoys the car is simply an extension of their home, they also like to preserve that new car smell by not removing the factory plastic wrap on the upholstery. While we’re on the subject of coverings, Pinoys abhor a bare surface just as much as they do a bare wall, and in almost every Pinoy home you’ll find carpets, mantelpieces, table runners, doilies, antimacassars, coasters, placemats—sometimes several layers of covering between you and bare wood. On the bright side, bad taste is the great equalizer. You might think that Pinoys have all this horrible shit in their homes because they can’t afford better, but you’d only be half right. When Pinoys start making money, they just buy more expensive kitsch. They might make a show of sophistication and purchase a Bencab, but they won’t take down the Ermita paintings they already have hanging. They might trade up from a Tamaraw to a Toyota Corolla but they’ll keep the nodding dog and the stuffed Garfield and the seven dwarfs and their other dashboard ornaments. They might start serving pasta al dente and leave the sugar out of the sauce, but that wooden couple will still be dancing the tinikling on their wall.
By Michael Tan Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--“Namamahay” is the term we use when, while on travel -- it can be Baguio or Bahrain -- we are unable to sleep at night, or are dogged by a feeling of malaise and disease, including unproductive sitting in the morning. “Namamahay” is a graphic description of how the psyche, the spirit craves for home so that the Filipino, even as he boards the plane to leave the country, already wants to go back home. Home is where the heart is, the cliché goes, and it doesn’t matter how humble the house might be. The last national census had a startling finding: the median floor area for Filipino households was 29.6 square meters. We’re not just talking about several informal settler families (read: squatters) cramped into a tiny shack; look through the classified ads and you’ll find condos with 16 square meters of space. The Filipino adjusts to whatever’s available. I’ve seen air conditioners even in squatter areas, part of a massive recycling economy which allows Filipino households to constantly upgrade their homes. The poor have been particularly resourceful at tapping into the many junk shops for materials they can reuse, from plywood to discarded advertising tarpaulins, from sinks to commodes (kubeta). The remittances from 8 million Filipinos working overseas have created a boom for housing construction and interior furnishings. It’s helped, too, that in recent years, low-cost housing fixtures have been made available from China, Thailand and Indonesia. The Filipino home is like our telenovelas, with numerous installments, complete with stories of triumphs and victories, of blood, sweat and tears. I’ve found homes with half a wall, or holes in the walls meant to be windows, owners apologizing about a delay in money from Saudi (or, if I’m in some remote province, from Manila). The Filipino home is Philippine society in miniature. No matter how tiny, the house has socially demarcated spaces and corresponding furnishings. Visitors from a lower class usually make it only to the gate or the garage. Honored guests are ushered into the living room (or for richer households, the den), which is kept neat and clean, the sofa and the TV still wrapped in plastic, sometimes with their price tags still attached. Our fear of empty space, and love of the borloloy (frills), is reflected in the living room, often a museum for all the photographs, abubut (knick-knacks) and souvenirs from weddings, baptisms and overseas trips. Intimate friends make it all the way to the bedrooms, where we dump all our junk when unexpected visitors arrive. But amid the junk are the treasures as well, saved for the eyes of closest friends, like that 36-inch television set, and the Magic Mike karaoke set for friends to sing along. There is one place in Filipino homes that is often neglected: the “comfort room.” Despite that unique Filipino-English word, we seem to associate the toilet with “profane” activities like bathing and evacuating (the Taglish slang) and therefore allow toilets to fall apart: cracked or missing tiles, leaky faucets, commodes that no longer flush, even heaters that have long burnt out. Gardens are better cared for than the comfort room. Even urban poor shanties will have a few plants growing out of recycled infant formula cans, precariously hanging from window sills that threaten to come crashing down on hapless Bantay, the family dog, miserably tied on a short leash. A paradox in the Philippines is that while we treasure our homes, our surroundings are often filthy. To some extent, it’s because of the way we define spaces: The home is private space, for which we take responsibility while everything else, even the street in front of the house, is public, which we perceive to be the government’s responsibility. I do think it is possible to combine both individualism with a sense of community. Look at how the upper classes have built their own little worlds within their subdivisions or even condominium buildings, with their own shared spaces such as the playground, sports facilities and the clubhouse, with the community of residents sharing in the upkeep. This can happen with the poor as well. Hernando de Soto, a Peruvian economist who wrote “The Mystery of Capital” some years back, has pointed out that the key to development is giving the poor legal rights, even ownership, of the land on which they live. This gives them collateral so they can borrow money from banks to build a small business, while caring for the land and house on it. People will build on, and care for something they own. Visit the areas in Tondo where people were organized by ZOTO (Zone One Tondo Organization) and are paying to own their land—the homes and streets are well kept in sharp contrast to the misery and squalor of neighboring unorganized slums. Even when condemned to squat, or to pay outrageous rents on substandard housing, Filipinos find ways to make a home. Think of the possibilities if they see some hope of security of tenure, or of ownership. As people are assured of a private space, even a few square meters, they will expand their sense of home, of bahay, to shared public spaces and care for them accordingly. Uwian na, going home, then takes on a new meaning. • Home truths about Pinoy housing Long before condominiums made compact homes fashionable, majority of Filipinos have had to make do with limited living space. According to the 2000 national census, occupied housing units in the Philippines had a median floor area of 29.63 square meters. This means that more than half (or 59.75 percent) of the country’s occupied homes had a floor area below 29.63 square meters as of the year 2000. The figures are broken down as follows: • 23.45 percent of occupied housing units had a floor area of 10 to 19 sqm • 18.78 percent had 20 to 29 sqm of space • 17.52 percent had less than 10 sqm • 16.56 percent had 30 to 49 sqm • 3.21 percent had 90 to 119 sqm Source: National Statistics Office, 2000 national census: http://www.census.gov.ph/ data/pressrelease/2002/pr02178tx.html