Kissing and Telling

The Philippines is a mass of inconsistencies and the most inconsistent place of all is romance.

“Romance” according to the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary is a noun meaning the process by which people exchange affection. It can also be an adjective. A romance novel, for instance, is about love gained and lost and gained again. And lost. And gained again. And lost.
You get the picture.

Romance does not necessarily mean sex. But it might encompass sex.
Occasionally it is used as a verb. “To romance the stone” for instance. That has nothing to do with sex, I think. But I don’t really know what it means as I have not read the book. What is it, King Arthur or Harry Potter, or another one of those ancient British mythologies? I think the film version starred Dick Van Dyck and the stiff upper lipped lady with the umbrella.
Romance does not appear to be big in the Philippines, but that is just appearances.
No one holds hands in the Philippines. I’m thinking of boy girl romance here, or even old people romance. You seldom see a couple walking down the mall or through the park or along the beach with the guy’s arm around the girl.
Those are perhaps the two most common expressions of romance on the planet, short of kissing. Holding hands and walking arm in arm. They don’t happen much in the Philippines.
Nor does kissing in public for that matter.
I gave my new mother-in-law a kiss on the cheek after her daughter and I were married and the whole wedding party fainted in shock. It was an awkward cross cultural moment I have taken care not to repeat. I was just happy to be in a family here.
Westerners are inclined to ask “why is that”? Why the lack of romantic expressions among Filipinos? Non-Filipino men have heard how sweet Filipinas are, and what excellent wives they are. But it becomes quickly apparent that you keep your hands to yourself in public.
Well, as in most things bizarre, I figure it can be traced back to the Catholic Church, the ultra-conservative, repressed, hyper-prudent values that suggest a kiss means sex is right around the corner, as if God forgot to give Man, or Woman, discipline.
And, indeed, the prude in prudent abounds. When we were building our house and my wife was seen on a motorbike with the electrician (going to town to buy electrical things), the rumor quickly circulated in our barangay that they were having an affair. From that, the Shirlylock Holmsies (the women sleuths of the barangay) quickly deduced that we only had one kid because my sexual motor had run out of gas. Nevermind that we had only one kid because it takes a lot of work to raise the demanding little beasts.
So clearly, this is a dangerous society in which even the APPEARANCE of romance destines you for the court of chekka opinion. This court, of course, emulates the objectivity of the real courts in the Philippines where the cases ride largely on factors other than facts.
It pays not to express romantic inclinations in public in the Philippines if you don’t want your reputation trashed. Even if the reputation trashing is a pack of lies. Never mind that lies are a bigger sin than kissing your wife, boy howdy. At least I think so, with my Western quirks of being a romantically expressive guy.
But the inconsistencies go way beyond that.
Filipinos are good at sex. They are potent, I suppose you could say. Babies come about a year apart. One’s out of the oven and the cooking starts again right quick like.
And lots of times the cooking is with the neighbor or the hubbie’s brother or the baker, the barber, or the candlestick maker. There are mistresses to the left and bf’s to the right. It is wild.
Totally undisciplined, it would seem.
So the public display is disciplined beyond perfection, projecting an angelic purity that simply does not exist in the human condition. And behind the scenes its one big whorehouse of flirtations and engagements and romping in the hay. (I’m not being disparaging here, I am just striving to paint a stark picture. The way it LOOKS to us outsiders.)
You can correct me if my artistic skills are missing the mark.
I don’t have a problem with sex, and if people want to cheat on their spouses, that is up to them. They will ultimately pay the emotional price. I don’t like that game, myself, as it seems to undermine the dignity and honor of one’s gift of love. It is a personal value thing to me, aspiring to be something other than an animal of base desires.
Where I have the problem is living the lie of the public representations of purity.
I’d rather be honest and hold my wife’s hand at the mall. I love her and like holding her hand. It is a beautiful emotion, is it not, enjoying another person so much? Well, out of respect for the conservative side of this different culture, I act with restraint. But I let her know in subtle ways that I enjoy being with her. I lean into her with my shoulder as we sit gobbling an overload at Greenwich. Touch her hands as we gad about. Smile at her a lot.
I’m sure most of the people at the mall say to themselves “she is a prostitute”. She is young and pretty and I am old and . . . um, smart. Ahahahahahaha!
That is another inconsistency, is it not? People going so easily to nasty thoughts? Wrong thoughts.
I doubt that Jesus did that.
It’s like the hyper-religious Philippines missed a lesson or two in Sunday school. So there is an inconsistency between what Jesus preached and what people do. Little things like kindness.
It is hard to get the simple idea of honorable thoughts across in a non-romantic culture that is thick with suspicion and cheating.  I’m guessing that most cheaters figure other people cheat because they would cheat if they had the opportunity.
The Shirlylock Holmsies in this town, if they could climb on the back of the motorbike with the (handsome, well-off) electrician, would likely ride that cycle directly to his home and bed if they had the chance. That’s why they so easily figure that’s what my wife is going to do.
Or I could be wrong, too. Maybe they just like telling stories. They are upset that my wife, who lived most of her life in a shack, is now rich and lives in a big, modern house while they are still poor. So “bring her down!” Show the little hussy. Spread nasty stories.
Now this is not a blog with a conclusion, because I don’t have any recommendations for anybody as to how to correctly align all the inconsistencies I observe here. I think maybe the Church does not believe in alignment or logic or even kindness. It is the ever-present judgmental uber-parent, whipping up the guilt and forgiveness as if ordained with the power of God.
Far be it from me to suggest people find a God who believes in honesty, discipline and love, with expressions to match.
You know, a God who appreciates romance.
18 Responses to “Kissing and Telling”
  1. Anonymous says:

    My best friend from Redmond, Washington, a pot smoking white dude and a programming genius made a fortune during the dotcom boom but was taken to the cleaners by his Swedish-American wife. They divorced and he married a Filipina and started a new life. He realized the greatest second act in his life because he was so madly in love. He has 3 children with his Filipina wife and they plan to add another one but the wife got scared when she read a UN Commission on Population report that every fourth baby born in the world is Chinese and so they stopped! -Sleepless in Seattle

  2. Ahahahaha, thank's Sleepless. Made my day. Beautiful!

  3. Edgar Lores says:

    On a scale of 1 – 10, Filipinos are right in the middle at 6. I believe prudery is more an Asian trait rather than a particularly Filipino one. I agree we tend to jump to conclusions.I have it on good authority, since I am not a fan, that kissing scenes are common on Filipino screens, but still a no-no in Bollywood movies. Filipinos may not openly display affection in public, but husbands and wives do walk side-by-side, unlike Middle Easterners where a woman either walks two paces behind or, lately, two paces in front – to protect her man from IEDs.

  4. Ouch, two in front.You raise an interesting point. The Philippines is very gender equal, it seems, in government and society as a whole. In business, maybe still be a bit of a male bastion (the oligarchs), but there is no gender inequity here, other than what laws impose (like, no divorce for abused women). There is no subservience in the home. There are a lot of intelligent, educated Filipinas. Thanks for raising this for my enlightenment.

  5. chohalili says:

    Filipino men are not romantic! period, they take women for granted. Single or married they don't want to be seen affectionate in public, because they have #1 #2 #3 and when they get caught it's going to be big trouble. Outside the kulambo! That's why no kissing in public, men are always on the prowl…o_*

  6. Attila says:

    Yes, they sure have, according to my Filipina wife. ( married my Filipina fiance) She told me that in her town the average rate to support a kerida is about 2000php o month. They are usually the tricycle drivers and mainly with a wife who has a better job (teachers usually). Have more than 1 kerida is out of the reach for most. Interestingly the keridas are often single mothers. Someone should make a documentary movie about the kerida tradition in the Philippines. I think it would be a fascinating subject.

  7. Aha! That is a perspective I had not thought of. It solves some of the inconsistencies, like good presentation, bad behind the scenes.

  8. Attila, congratulations and best wishes on your cross-cultural family adventure! Good idea about the kerida tradition.

  9. Edgar Lores says:

    I emailed a friend in Taiwan with this question: "A sociological question. Do the Chinese in Taiwan, like Filipinos, refrain from displaying affection in public, such as holding hands, cuddling and kissing? What about in HongKong?"Her reply: "Ay naku, the young ones are kissing and hugging in public nowadays that I felt like saying, “get a room”. I think it’s the same in HK. Times have changed!"

  10. Yes, I think very different. I wonder about Singapore. It is more conservative and orderly that wild Hong Kong.Actually, in truth, I like the Philippine conservative public mode. I always wear long pants and shoes in the mall because I don't like the sloppy American look. And I would not want smooching young people all over the place teaching kids to be sexually aggressive. What is awry in the Philippines is the behind-the-scenes playing around.

  11. Cha says:

    The poor and uneducated gossip, spread rumors and speculations on the lives of their richer and better educated neighbors.Those who are better off and quite learned, on the other hand, make "commentaries" on the internet.

  12. Anonymous says:

    From: Island Jim-e (aka: The Cricket) 8/8/12 wed/am.1. I have to bear witness that I have no problems with any society and culture "romance" demonstrations asapplies to the subject of the "love-bug" passions–just another example of "good living through chemistry"!(better living thru hormones vs. horror stories sponsoredby your gene-pool!)But I would take issue with the fruits, results,and conditions it creates/produces–to wit the PH-apparent lack of responsibility and disclipine!2. Witness: During the last 24 hours I have been dealing with oneof the negatives that can come from over-birthingand lack of adequate prenaital- maternal-parentalcare–one of my underfed, undernurished nephews wokeup DEAD from a apparent stroke (I had told him andmany other members of my island family to vacatethe low lands around Manila (as I believe the metro areais a death trap/disaster just waiting to happen) andstop smoking, eat better choice of foods, etc..). So thebottom line is that his parents were not good role models,and we get to foot the bill for the "going away party"!3. His parents, like many, decided that having more children would insure that they had a income and would becared for in their old age, ergo more children equals more income for them. The only problem is that most parentslocked into proverty and the so-called white collar bunchjust don't take into account the need for feeding and training the children properly…the results are birth-defects (two children in our PH family, disease-prone, andworst of all, proverty bound as they cannot get off the island or find productive incomes to support themselves!5. As I have no faith and trust left in this government,educators, churches and parantage to remedy the problemthe only solution left besides total distruction of thepopulation would be to address/target the children andforthcoming generations with the "right stuff"! Evenif the RH bill passes (in any form) it still needs to befunded and implemented with tanacity–I have my hopesbut doubt that the congress/government/church/educatorsand current living parants will be able to support theintention behind the RH bill 100%…but anything else isjust not acceptable!Sidebar: Ever since I can recall I have invited the immediate male members of child production age to getvasectomies–none volunterd to date. I have invited thefemales to purchase familiy planning materials (alongwith the maids) and no one has volunteerd to date!What this tells me is that we have a lot of hard workto re-direct the emotions, attitudes, mind-set of thepopulation at large! I now look forward to "the restof the story"–page #2!Note: The book/movies "romancing the stone" was atreasure hunting theme which was just another "t=Tarzanmeets Jane" type send-up! As regards the use of sex,romance, love to sell anything in the PH marketplacefrom cream that makes your skin white to soap-ups/operas I can observe that the PH population is focusedon what is between their legs and not their what is between their ears!Chirp!

  13. Blunt. Wise.I would imagine the number of vasectomies yearly in the Philippines to be countable on one hand, given the "macho" tenor that underlies so many things male.Poverty indeed assures poverty. The rope-ladders allowing extraction need to be strong. The RH bill is merely the tossing down of the ladder . . . if it passes.Thanks for the explanation of "romancing the stone". And you last line is what I would call a zinger, not applicable to some, but applicable to way too many.

  14. Ah, I'm writing with the elitism of having money now, in a blog for later this week. Yes, we all are limited to the best media available in which to disperse rumor and opinion.

  15. erratum: writing "about" the elitism. . . I ain't no stinking elitist (on most days).

  16. Anonymous says:

    Politics, religion, education, romance. Lot of shit beneath the facade.- patrioticflip

  17. Ah, lunatics are in charge of the asylum perhaps.I also read that in Texas, USA, a taco maker turned out a taco shell yesterday that had a perfect representation of Jesus burned into the crust by the oven. He said "God works in mysterious ways." Not too mysterious to me. Jesus obviously was in Texas doing tacos and left Manila in the lurch.

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