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Jealousies and Rivalries: the prerogative of Filipinas through the ages (18/01/2005)

What is a Filipina? She is kind, generous, modest, caring, desirable, ambitious and courageous (Maria Clara!) But unfortunately in many cases this definition has long gone. It has often been replaced by scorn, envy and jealousy.

I remember when I was a little girl, our neighbours had a little daughter who was a similar age to me. One day, we were happily playing on the beach, and she suddenly told me: `My mum doesn't want me to make friends with you, because you are poor'. At the time I was very upset, but it did make me aware of the difference, and make me think. Why should being poor or rich affect anyone's relationship with friends? And why should people judge others by their social status? I started noticing peoples' relationships more closely. Though many people are very kind and unaffected, I saw too many examples of behaviour which I find very sad.

I have seen people treat maids as though they were just a piece of dirt, making them lose their self-respect. It is hard to see what they gain. Maybe there is a vicious pleasure to some unfortunate people in exercising dominance over others. Evidently, the feelings of others are of no consequence to such people. So as well as causing unhappiness, they miss the chance to enrich their lives through the positive aspects of contact with others.

Even quite minor things can have a psychologically dulling effect. I remember when I was still in the Philippines seeing some rich families attending church services with their maids, who were still wearing their uniforms. I found it bizarre to see this kind of situation, Maids wear uniforms at work all day: why can't they wear their best Sunday clothes to Church? It is often the woman employers who do this to their maids, especially if they think the maid might be more attractive than they are.

Some people judge others by their social status. Sometimes they pull people down in an attempt to make themselves seem better. Other times they look at someone who has suffered misfortune, and snub them as though doing so could somehow make the snob seem better. It is odd that people don't see through this more quickly. `I am better than you' or `I am more beautiful than she is' can be disguised in many unguarded phrases. `She is wearing a cheap dress'. `Oh, she wore that at the last party'. `Why does she need such heavy makeup?'. Does it matter?

It is true that sometimes people judge others by their looks. Someone I know had a bad experience. She was cleft lipped. Nobody wanted to play with her because she was ugly. A rich doctor felt pity for her and did the surgery. She is now a fine beautiful woman. She was astonished how people suddenly changed towards her, though she herself had not changed except in this one aspect of appearance.

It is easier to spot someone else's fault or disability than our own. Some people seem to have a need to make other peoples' lives miserable in order for the others not to notice their weaknesses. It is very unfortunate that these kind of attitudes exist, not only in the Philippines but in every corner of the globe.

Rivalries can also arise through belonging to different cliques. When a friend and I stood for presidential election for a student organisation at university, it was very noticeable how peoples' attitudes to us changed, despite the fact that we were still the same people. Indeed, by supporting one or the other of us, people divided into factions which spawned some really serious rivalries.

This article was written based on my own experiences and observations. It seems a sad but unavoidable reality that wherever you are in the world, jealousies and rivalries cannot be escaped.