Panes: A fundamental lesson

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, April 28, 2014

IN MELBOURNE, pronounced here as “mel-berne” some doors of acquaintanceship had opened through the kindness, effort and fabled Filipino hospitality of some kababayans. My batchmate in UP Diliman was unexpectedly one such person here. In the late 70s we pursued the same bachelor’s degree, had the same classmates, were pounded by the same professors and interestingly, we had been exposed to the rigid regimen of a varsity player.

Butch Aquino was a volleyball player who shared the wooden court with contemporaries Norie Uy, Mike Verano and Ramon Suzara, who is now entrenched in an international volleyball federation somewhere in the Middle East. Under coach Vip Isada in those days, UP Maroons’ volleyball reigned supreme over all the land and these tall young boys which made up the team had enough stock of brain and brawn to whip the national team.

Through Butch, I was introduced to one Pinoy whose family patriarch had witnessed the influx of Asians, particularly Filipinos to Australia. For the purposes of this article, we will call him Andrew, the athlete. In our conversation over a few mugs of freshly brewed Arabica coffee, he makes a candid observation of home grown Filipinos which had migrated to the land known “Down Under” which I could not easily dismiss.


To most of us dwelling in the labyrinth, the observation is an allegation of error and could be preposterous. The matter offered for introspection may not be immediately clear but I found something worth well-taking. In a matter of days after breathing Melbourne’s sweet sea breeze and eating plateful of meat pies, I had to quickly unlearn the foreign mindset I had acquired.

Ditto, my first lesson was fundamental - Australians, no matter how highly perched in political and management hierarchy abhor the sound of being called “sir” or “madam” and consider the address reserved to royalty and those knighted by the authority of monarchy. It insults their compunction.

Our adoration for McDonald’s quarter pounders and Levi’s 501 jeans makes the sounds of sir and madam in our ears like sweet music while the failure for proper address an social offense. Ditto, all are in the language of commonwealth’s fiefdom, commoners, non-royalty and non-knighted are worthy of mutual respect in the simple social exchange. It begins with the name.
Three centuries of Hispanization, 50 years of Americanization and decades of hell of being mis-managed by Filipinos in the Quezonian context which had been channelled through the loins of my ancestors into my bloodstream had birthed an identity difficult to break. However, if the make-up was not made with element of Captain America’s shield, it can be broken.

Apparently, there were some parts within which are feeble in its core that can be broken, refurbished or replaced. Isn’t the name into which one is baptized or initiated sufficient?

Why not?

To this proposition, Aussies would sincerely reply, “Oh yeah.”
To a certain extent, there is merit in the perception that we are trapped in a traditional and cultural labyrinth where truly there are too many sirs and madams in the organization wanting or demanding to be addressed as such in a spirit of respect and politeness.

The numbers in hierarchies are daunting. There is always a sir and a madam in every room and tradition, practice and education has indoctrinated us to crave, strive, sweat, bribe and even dismiss someone in between to acquire or preserve a lofty designation.

Sadly and even ironically, those titles suctioning the spirit of respect and politeness from sincere addressers fall short. In practice, most addressed and wallowing in the glory of the title do not reciprocate with the respect and politeness accorded. They are pools of still waters which gather stench over time.

Over time, their offices become ideal breeding grounds for the dengue mosquito, lethal agents imparting to its victim a chilling death. Being called a sir or a madam is truly an address fractionally short of being a blue blood and as such, a commensurate deed should follow. From such a man or woman, magnanimity must proceed from the title.

Sadly noble is absent in the title of the person addressed or the office occupied. It is as revolting as non-managing managers, non-directing directors or non-coaching coaches. The title and the office is an empty shell and persons transmogrify to be ego “vaniacs” on a noble throne. It can also be a golden crown on a misfit. I had come across such persons and in my recent memory le faux Français doctor Michael, the waterloo of the tribe of one “makata” Encarnacion was one.

True sportsmen in my opinion are never personally title obsessed. Their games speak for themselves. Lebron James is not called king for nothing. Of titles, I found a copy in a print advertisement worth citing: earned, not given. All earnest titles of sir and madam ought to be so.
Cheers! Oh yeah!

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 29, 2014.


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