Today’s View:  Imitation Culture

Feb. 19, 2014

Prints & Traces
By Don Pagusara

 Imitation Culture

Oh my God, it tastes like real butter!

            How could they make it smell like real Victoria’s Secret!

            Oh, this Marikina made footgear looks exactly like imported orig!

            I love the way she imitates Rihanna!

Congrats Dadoy! We can mistake you for Michael Jackson! 

            Wow, her accent is unmistakably British!

            Bilib ko!  Nakahimo sila’g noodles nga karneng-karne ang lasa!

            Let’s make it like Broadway, okay?! 

Yes, the  American Idol  fashion, baby! 

 Ang tibuok natong balatian naapektohan na sa langyawng panimpla.  Walay maanindot para kanato kundili ang kalidad nga mugna sa langyaw.  Ug sa paninguha nga mabatyag nato ang mga butang nga iyaha sa mga langyaw, o ‘imported’,  himaya na para kanato ang makahimog  susamag kalidad sa langyawang gama. 

[It’s a whole range of our sensibilities  that has been affected.  Nothing is good enough for us without the quality of the foreign stuff.  And in our effort to experience the sense of the foreign, or the ‘imported’ so called,  we exult in the thought that we are able to have imitated the alien thing.]

And it manifests abundant in the realm of the arts.  Take the phenomena in the field of entertainment, especially in the performing arts.  He who apes Michael Jackson best  is rated the most excellent of all.  Or she who excels in mimicking Lady Gaga is hailed the best performer.  Between and among Filipino performers, the one who croons an American ballad is always taken as most delightful than the other who sings a kundiman or a local composition.  Unless, of course, a clever composer comes up with a local version of a foreign song.  In which case,  the imitation  becomes doubly bastardized  – the singer dishing out an imitation song with his  imitation voice.

Take the art of Dance.  Oh, no Pinoy boy or girl would care or love to learn a native Filipino dance, much less a Filipino folkdance.  Unless it is a mandatory lesson in a Physical Education class in school.  Nope.  Never can a young Pinoy be made to readily demonstrate or engage in the bodily movements of the tudak or  the pandango.  At most, he smirks as a gesture dismissing the idea or she  giggles as an expression  of masked disdain.  Unsa man na oy!  He/she would say.

But let them do the prattle and  tweedle and wiggle of the American idol, and you would surely mistake them individually for the foreign artist.  Excellent imitators are we!  So much so that we flatter and glory ourselves to high heavens when we are proclaimed as “Elvis Presley of the Philippines”  or “Frank Sinatra of the Philippines,” or  “Celine Dione of the Philippines”  or “Justin Beiber of the Philippines”. . .or  “Etcetera of the Philippines”.  Ad infinitum.

This dream and rage to imitate the Americans could be a symptom of a “collective inferiority complex”.  We feel inferior to the Americans and so we try as much as possible to become like Americans in every conceivable way.  What better way to achieve this similitude than to swallow the American culture “hook, line and sinker”. Yes! Their language, their nasal twang, their laughter, their mannerisms, their body antics, their gait, their heartbeats, their romancing, their morality and immorality – the totality of how the American outwardly expresses the American soul.  The native American is of course spontaneous in demonstrating his own subjectivity.  But the Filipino suffers awkwardness at the start, until through religious practice he perfects the imitative act.

The cultural metamorphosis of the Filipino, as much as possible,  must of necessity be complete or nearly complete.  But sadly, he cannot alter his racial hue and anatomical mold, and so he remains non-White or “colored” (as Caucasians love to call non-Whites),  and a diminutive American.  At most, he can only be a little brown American  —  bisag unsaon pa niyag pangkamot nga mahimong murag Amerkano!

Colonial mentality is the name of this “imitation game”.  Our  individual and collective psyche has been shaped in large measure to the quality and standard of the American culture.  So pervasive has been the disastrous consequences of  the colonization of  our country by the Americans.  In its entirety, we Filipinos did not only lose our cultural identity which is equivalent  to our very soul as a race and a people, but in losing our soul, we have succumbed to the infusion of the  American soul.  In other words, we are a people  possessed by an alien spirit.  Sama ra sa gisaop ta o gisaniban sa ispiritu o kultura sa Amerikano.

Being deeply rooted in our national consciousness, our colonial mentality has made of us a race of bastard culture. And we are not conscious of this catastrophic legacy of colonialism.  We wrongly believe that we are a people blest with a peculiar cultural wealth.   We pride ourselves as the only English-speaking nation in Southeast Asia.  And we flaunt our colonial history as a rare fortune! In fact, we sincerely believe we are indebted to the Americans for having colonized us and has bequeathed to us this despicable consequence of having become alienated to our own cultural roots and identity.

We are unaware – nay, ignorant — of the most precious possession a race or a people can have – being ourselves .  Which means:  not wanting to become like Americans,  not speaking the language of the Americans,   not relying on the Americans for our development, but standing on our own seves and for our own selves  while striving independently to advance our own national interest.  Above all, it means upholding our honor and dignity as a people unique among others in the community of nations.

Once and for all, we must strive to liberate ourselves from this colonial mentality  deeply rooted to our colonial history and become ourselves – beholden to no foreign power – no longer possessed by an alien  spirit, no longer stylizing ourselves with the trappings of an imitation culture.   

But, of course, this liberative injunction entails nothing less than a wholesale  harness and mobilization of our human and material resources under a steadfast commitment to struggle and dearly fight against the forces that allow for a continued sustenance of colonial mentality.  In short, a thorough overhaul of the present societal set up –  that is, economically, politically, culturally.

Don Pagusara is a a multi-awarded author and a Palanca-awardee.

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