I grew up as a kid in a squatters area by a creek in Mandaluyong and along
a busy road named Nueve de Febrero. Yes, the same road where you can find the notorious Mental Institution. Aside from visiting the said asylum to watch and laugh with (and at) the patients, playtime was mostly tumbang-preso (“toppled-prisoner”), a game using an empty tin-can, inside a prison-circle drawn on the ground, which we tried to free using our rubber slippers as projectiles. (Which means we played barefoot, the other slipper thrown by the side.) A guard who was “it” freed himself by touching any one of the milk-can saviors but only when the can was standing. The more dangerous tactic was to kick the can while the guard was busy chasing other players.
Looking back, I can’t say which I would prefer to be – to be “it” or not – for both had its unique dynamics which made the game worth playing from morning till dusk. The can, of course, ended up battered, crumpled and demolished. But as long as it could stand on one end, we still used it. It was one mentally and physically challenging diversion which gave us as much fun and sweat as basketball.
Another past-time was wading in the adobe-lined creek behind the houses where yellow-and-brown baby ducklings scrounged for food and floated gracefully in the once-clean water. But that did not last for long for very soon shanties and even permanent houses rose up along the banks and over the creek itself. The few trees that once shaded the banks eventually disappeared with the ducks. Our playground had become a blighted neighborhood.
In such a space-hungry neighborhood, the recreation we had we made for ourselves and gave ourselves, seemingly without anyone’s help or coaching. Yes, for the children of my generation grew up thinking up their own games and making their own toys (with help from parents and older siblings, of course, who had had their own fun) – paper planes, slingshots, spinning tops, bows and arrows, papaya-tube flutes, shoe-box boats, bamboo guns with paper-mache bullets, wooden swords, shatong (long stick to catapult a baton), saranggola (kite) and tin-can phones. Imagination had no limits and any usable material turned into various gadgets and contraptions. In fact, we also had this game where we counted Volkswagen beetles that passed by, the winner being the one who counted the most cars of a certain color. More than playing, we spent those times building up real friendship.
Then came Television.
We turned to TV as naturally as we turned from tumbang-preso at home to calisthenics in school. From toy-sword-fights to PE Karate lessons. From spider gladiatorial-bouts to chess. Growing up was fun, too. But innocence had to be sacrificed to some degree for the sake of organization and sophistication. Much curiosity and a little innovation remained though until lethargy and indifference finally took over.
From a culture of youthful inquisitiveness and unfettered imagination, we were suddenly fed with canned popular entertainment which unknowingly made us physical and intellectual weaklings. For quite a while, that is. Sure, we learned about Western culture – the history, the language and the music – but we soon forgot our own. We had listened gleefully to Sylvia la Torre’s “Sa Kabukiran” and had sung Filipino folk songs as kids; but as adolescents, we turned to the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Monkees. The revolution in media and entertainment which began in the late ‘60’s would lead our generation to react and to cry for a return to our senses and caused a political and social revolution in the ‘70’s. After the smoke had cleared, many had died mortally and morally. Others regained a new life.
The birth of OPM (Original Pilipino Music) was a small triumph. But the damage could not be undone. MTV would win over more young people than ever before. Thanks to Francis M, rap would be Filipinized to a certain degree.
But nationalism is but a small aspect of our larger human identity as children of God. Anyone can love one’s country. Some more fervently than others can. And to love our country even more now may just be the only solution to our economic woes.
Yes, that is precisely what we utterly miss in these times of uncertainty – love for God’s people. We love people not because we must or we need to but because it is the only proper and right thing to do. We love because we are loved, as simple as that. Otherwise, we end up only loving ourselves. Looking for this kind of love among those who purvey information and entertainment is a difficult task but we must try.
Here are a few criteria we can use to determine if the recreation we provide the people, especially the young, passes the requirements of selfless love:
1. Do they portray and uphold the values that we deem to be sacred, such as innocence, respect, integrity, honor, friendship and fidelity?
2. Do they eschew or condemn deeds and behaviors which exhibit human depravity and corruption, such as hatred, envy, debauchery, lascivious-ness, stealing, murder, homosexuality, bestiality, deceit, adultery and rebellion?
3. Do they favor or give preference to certain persons or class of people who may be respectable externally but are in reality corrupt and self-oriented?
4. Do they exploit women, children, the poor and the disadvantaged in ways that undermine our laws and the laws of God?
5. Do they deceptively make use of legal means or moral virtues to portray their products or themselves as respectable so that people may patronize them?
Many more can be added but these suffice to help us check individually what media are catering to our nation. To give a few examples and to clarify the above list, let us mention these infringements:
1. Bravery and honor are common themes of action stories in movies and TV. Talk about FPJ’s legendary movies and Gibson’s Braveheart. But behind these good stories are subliminal messages which lead men, especially drunk ones, to fits of anger. It is no secret that the latter himself showed such kind of behavior. Violence in shows makes good visual impact but it can easily distort values.
2. Human depravity has, perhaps, inspired more novels and movies than any other of the virtues, except love. It is, after all, the other mask (that of tears) that decorates theaters, the other being the mask of happiness. But the handling of this matter by so-called artists who hide behind “artistic license” has led to public controversies over censorship. Gradually, the battle has led many nations doing away with censorship altogether. If this is not a sign of decay, then there is no such thing as garbage stink.
3. Media and the entertainment industry have long been tools of the powerful and the rulers. With Internet, however, that power has shifted. Yet, even that has not escaped corruption. Rich or poor, we are all subject to our selfish motives. With legal controls too feeble to come to our aid, conscience is the only reliable defense we have against filthy profiteers.
4. Writers do not write for God or country exclusively. They write for themselves and their beliefs. But a person who writes about the things of the spirit and for the nation’s welfare will not destroy himself and others. Hence, beware of those who have lost themselves and are out to lead others to where they are. Many think Harry Potter is cute but behind his “innocence” is dark spiritual wickedness that would make us shudder if we only see clearly. Unfortunately, kids have been paraded behind the Devil. Sheep are not as endearing as young British kids.
5. Even ads get into the act of seducing people to buy. Beauty, youth and glamour have always been tools of the Deceiver to awaken the lust of the eyes and the pride of life in people. He leads producers to parade women before the public in skimpy clothes just to sell a few bars of soap or some snake medicine. Or maybe a few laughs.
And so, aside from TV and DVD, the kids have Internet now. And Play Station. And iPod. With school vacation here, guess what they are doing and where you would find them from morning to dusk? (That is exactly what my 5-year-old Nursery student said when I asked her what she will do this vacation: “Play with the PS.”) That is, when they are not inside the movie-house in the mall.
This may be a cynical way of looking at progress and at modern lifestyles but when we see the young “turn in” (into the unreal cyberspace and video-games and into the hypnotizing world of music-scape) instead of turning out and reaching out to others, we would gradually lose them to the virtual world of artificiality and decadence. When we see them killing and cursing make-believe enemies onscreen for no reason but to play a game (“kill as many as you can”) instead of merely watching them and understanding their character through the plot of a story, we would surrender them to a life of unthinking de-creation.
From Television to Devilision, we are pushing the next generation to oblivion. Either we wake up and wake them up or we all sleep soundly together in shame and into perdition.
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