Monday, October 31, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shato, Shatong, Pitiw or Gutalaguti


As everybody knows by now the Crown Prince of this kingdom passed away. To honor the prince and pay their respect, MBC group didn’t show any of its usual programs on air except documentaries of His Excellency’s biography along with the history and culture of the Middle East.

But what caught my interest was a segment featuring traditional games played by Middle Eastern children. I started “googling” and I found this article from a fellow blogger. A snippet of it explained: 

“Gutalaguti [gut-ta-la-gut-ti]
This involves two teams of children, two sticks made from dried palm leaves and a small stone. One stick needs to be about 1 ½ to 2 feet and the other needs to be about 6 inches long.

The smaller stick is put on the ground, with one end resting on the stone – one end touches the floor and the other end is in the air. The idea is to hit the small stick with the big stick and curl it into the air. As the stick flies up you then hit it again to see how far you can hit it.

The person who has hit the stick has to run around an area marked out like a baseball or cricket pitch. Whilst this is happening the other team has to catch the stick.

Whilst the person is running they must repeat the name of the game, “gut-ta-la-gut-ti, gut-ta-la-gut-ti, gut-ta-la-gut-ti”. It is impossible to score a run if you don’t repeat the name of the game whilst running.”

Does it sound familiar? It is similar to our traditional children’s game which we call “Shato” in Luzon, “Shatong” in Cebu or “Pitiw” in my hometown. It’s amazing to think that children, continent apart, played an old yet very similar game!

image was taken from immortal undead.

The question that comes to mind was – who did the importing? Tongue in cheek; it’s a possibility an OFW might have introduced it to their "sponsor’s" children (I know of some Saudi families who loves to eat “adobo” and “sinigang”). But a likely explanation might be that it came along, together with the Arabic words like “hukom” and “salamat”, when Arabs were once sea-faring traders and spreading the words of Islam on our shores.

Neither the less, who ever adapted, is not important. This was one of my favorite games when I was young. Not only was it a good exercise to both limbs and lungs, it also hones your counting skill.

But sadly, like any tradition, it died as time and technology changes. It’s no longer played by children, both here and in the Philippines.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

In Memoriam: Dennis Ritchie (1941 – 2011)


Unlike Steve Jobs, his was not a household name except among Computer scientists, C programmers and maybe UNIX users. But his influence is at par or perhaps surpasses that of Steve Jobs.

Dennis Ritchie touches each one of us one way or another. Every time you turn on your desktop, laptop or tablet, you benefited in his genius. Every time you use an application in your IPhone or Android, he helps make your life a little bit easier.

Thank you and farewell, Sir. Rest In Peace.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Culturally Challenge Pinoys


A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. – Marcus Garvey

Why is it, to some foreign observers, we are a people with an identity crises? I think they are not far from the truth. We deemed inferior any locally made goods even when it is at par or superior than the same product abroad. We’re awed when some Filipinos speaks English with an American twang but amused when someone interchange “F” and “P” or “V” and “B”. We readily “accept” strangers who are fair-skinned and mestizo-looking in contrast to how we treat the same person if his dark-skinned. We dress and act like liberal westerners yet we do the sign of the cross or utter “Susmaryosep” on anything we see or feel is in conflict with our catholic upbringing (as if these symbolic gesture and incantation shields us from what we perceived as sin). If you think the last statement is false or exaggerated, try to imagine a woman in “spaghetti tops” and mini-skirt kneeling in deep supplication. Now, go to your local church and see if she’s there.

I’m no social psychologist or historian but, I believed, colonization is one factor. It also depends on the colonizer. The “business oriented” Dutch who once ruled Indonesia or the “pedigree obsessed” British in India are only interested in their colony’s resources. They leave the “natives” alone to practice what they want. They don’t mingle with them, thus the local inhabitant’s culture is intact. We, on the other hand, are unfortunate of being colonized by countries that not only want our resources but wants to mess-up our psyche as well.

Our first “master”, who happens to produce the likes of Torquemada, destroyed our heritage by burning artifacts that linked us to our past and brainwashed us into accepting their belief. The second was even worst. It implemented “scourge earth” warfare against what they call “fierce savages”, wiping entire towns and killing anything that move. And after the dust settled, they made us believed they're our “Big Brother”, going out of there way to help their “little brown brother”. Giving us the semblance they are better than the Spaniards but making sure we are subservient to their wants. They saturate us with their “ways” and material things with the intention of developing the perception - there is no difference between them and us. They made “coconuts” out of us (brown outside, white inside).

Have you heard the phrase “White man’s burden”? It’s the title of a movie about America's white man’s treatment of blacks. It drives home the message by putting the former's shoe on the latter’s foot. But its origin is Kipling’s poem criticizing America’s policy towards the Philippines. This poem, together with Samuel Clemens warning regarding consequences, did not deter America’s imperialistic ambition, even if it means destroying the identity of a people. Perhaps, they think, it is a small price to pay for the greater good of US of A.

I don’t know if losing one’s identity is good or bad. If the Spaniards weren’t so zealous, my parents may have named me “Ahmed” or “Sulaiman”. Being immersed in a muddled cultural soup made us xenocentric but enabled us to also assimilate easily in foreign environment with minimal culture-shock or none at all. It also created “conyos” the likes of Malou Fernandez and James Soriano.

I hate to say it but it’s true. Culture-wise... we're mongrels.