Our Habits Need A Change

Plain View
January 2, 2013, 6:31pm
Published in The Manila Bulletin News Online
(Editor’s note: Our wasteful habits can cause a material dip in our GDP, as noted by the author.)
SAN JOSE, Antique — We have an incurable custom of giving a fiesta, festival, or religious holiday materially more time to prepare a family budget deficit – selling farm animals, borrowing from 5/6 or Bombay bankers, salary loans from GSIS or SSS, small loans from relatives, etc. If all the important holidays in one year need some celebration, our custom requires that we give a mabongga blow-out and a big deduction from meager income.
Non-working days
From New Year to Rizal Day, we have countless holidays without counting the long weekend of three to four non-working days. For December, 2012, four days were wasted on Christmas plus another four days for New Year, added to a four-day Holy Week. In the US, they have only three important holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. On Holy Thursday and Good Friday, Americans go to work. December has the biggest number of holidays, including Rizal Day on December 30.
No fish on January 1
I went to market on January 1, hoping to buy fresh fish – tulingan, hasa-hasa, a few slices of tanguingue and tuna, or talakitok. In the meat section of 10 stalls, I saw only one short fellow slicing pork. There were less than five buyers. In the fish section of 10, stalls not a soul was moving. It means not a single boat – of the hundreds – went fishing on the night of December 31. All stores, big and small, coffee shops (including my suki), and bakeries (of all things) declared a non-working holiday. For my coffee at home I added a two-day-old bibingka.
Cost of merrymaking
We ignore commerce in favor of merrymaking, joyful celebrations, or gaiety coming our way more than 10 times in one year. I asked two daughters of a master fisherman if a few purse seiners left their docks on the night of December 31. Their quick answer: “Fishermen don’t sail to go fishing on New Year’s Eve.” They’re too busy preparing for an all-night celebration, which includes buying/lighting paputok of various sizes, including those declared illegal such as: Bin Laden, Super Lolo, Ampatuan, Atom Bomb, Piccolo, etc.
Spending for nothing
The whole day of January 1, 2013, they slept and a few fishing boats would venture out to partly recover what they spent “for nothing.” If they’re unlucky they would borrow money to take care of food and Emperador Light for five days or one week.
Farmers who have houses in the middle of ricefields celebrate with chicken-pork adobo, suman, puto, etc. but the paputok has a budget of its own to buy only the small triangulo selling by the tumpok near the town square and at the public market.
Small firecrackers
When I was in Grade V, small Chinese firecrackers were not a hazard to life and limb. Most show-offs would pinch the bottom, and light the firecrackers and hold them above the head. I did follow others and my worst injury was a nip of my thumb’s finger nail.
The Filipino habit of celebrating for “nothing” is one detrimental factor to progress and prosperity. In fact, in most festivals, most of us see a clear waste of food and drinks on a long table with dogs and cats hungrily waiting nearby. Such a clear waste means depleting meager family resources for a small reason. This is one explanation we are known for hospitality and merrymaking.
‘We eat more rice?’
Years ago, a professor/expert in agriculture declared that “we import rice because Filipinos eat a lot of rice per capita.” This is only half true, the other factor being we tend to enjoy wasting resources at the drop of a hat.
Village, town, city festivals
For example, our dominant religion has dozens of saints to honor with a fiesta. We have fiestas in villages, towns, and cities and we make it a yearly pledge to spend all we can to make one fiesta more memorable than the previous years. One 60-kg pig sells for  R100 per kg live weight or R6,000. If one family home has 30 to 60 visitors the homeowner can expect a wasteful expense of more than R20,000 or equivalent to a month’s pay of a senior teacher in the public school.
If we multiply R20,000 plus by a few million homes it would cause a material dip in our GDP. (Comments are welcome at roming@pefianco.com).

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