The Commercialization of Traditions
By Apolinario Villalobos
Shrewd people see money in everything that man does and needs to do. From birth to death, practically, the life of man is manipulated by these people who created “necessities” without which they made life some sort of miserable to live.
When a mother gives birth, today in the Philippines, it has to done in the designated “birthing center” (Paanakan) in every barangay, or clinic or any hospital if available. If the couple lives kilometres away from such center, a vehicle must be hired to reach it. Resourceful husbands may make use of a cart pulled by a carabao, otherwise, it must be a contracted tricycle or a jeepney. Somehow, though, the use of the birthing center is free as mandated by the law. But for goodwill’s sake, the couple must shell out some cash for the midwife whose services come cheaper compared to giving birth in a clinic or hospital. Even if birthing is done at home, the attending “kumadrona” must still be paid for her services.
Basic needs of babies have flooded the market, from feeding bottles to diapers and cribs. Registration in the local government’s Registrar’s Office requires money for the processing of documents and so is the baptismal ceremony in the local Church, and more cash is needed for the thanksgiving celebration at home, a social venue, or a restaurant. A year after birth and every year thereafter, there is a need to celebrate the “birthday” so the baby needs new clothes and a celebration has to be made either at home or restaurant or burger outlet, at least. (I found out that many of those from the impoverished provinces who found their way to Manila to look for a job have no birth certificate, as they told me that they were not registered in their locality’s Civil Registrar’s office due to their poverty).
Then, of course, the parents have to be given recognition for their sacrifices, so today we have the “Father’s Day” and “Mother’s Day”. Gifts must be bought for them, at least flowers for the loving mother or a new shirt for the hardworking father. When the grown up children decide to get married and have families of their own, their parents become “grandparents”, so there’s also, the “Grandfather’s Day” and the “Grandmother’s Day” to celebrate….presents are needed to be given to show the love of the family. Dine out for bonding needs to be earmarked in the budget. Why the need for such “special” days when it is the obligation of children and grandchildren to show love to them “every day”?
Today, schools require that at least parents of their students must attend the “Family Day”, which personally, I just cannot understand because every second, minute, hour, day, week, month and year, the students are with their family or at least with their parents. So why must they spend precious time and money for food and other “contributions” just to be part of this foolish day, either in school campus or in expensive resorts or any other “educational” venue? I assume that this kind of “tradition” which the Department of Education allows is just an invention of some private schools and which later were imitated by other private schools that see the sparkle of cash in the activity. So, there you have the “Family Day” which many parents view as some kind of a racketeering effort. For, how can it be called a “family” bonding day when only the students and their parents are present while the rest of the members are not…as perhaps, brothers and sisters may be busy in the internet café or having fun with their buddies?
Another school “tradition” is the so-called “Educational Tour” a familiarization of something or someplace, most often, a mall or a resort. Poor students who cannot afford the fee are slapped with research requirements that will see them a whole day or two at the internet shop if they do not have a computer at home. Just imagine the expense to be incurred if the internet cafe would charge almost Php50 per hour plus printing of several pages of researched materials…everything amounting to almost a thousand pesos or more! Such required research comes out as a punishment for not joining the tour. In other words, joining the junket tour or making research will amount to the same expense, although, the former is purely a leisurely activity while the latter is accomplished with much difficulty. This academic insanity is such that many parents cannot understand how a trip to a mall or resort can be compared to a researched thesis that can be graded. To justify the tour, schools include in the itinerary a trip or two to some facilities like hotel or restaurant if the course is related to tourism. But, can’t teachers show footages of these facilities as a module in the school room?
Of course, as regards recognition, teachers must not be left out because there is now what is celebrated as “Teacher’s Day”, even if some or many of them cannot pronounce the letter “R” properly when speaking in Filipino or any dialect, a mistake that their students perceive as “correct” or “just right”, because their teachers do it.
When graduation comes, the “traditional” march and ceremonies require toga, photo taking, and new clothes for mama and papa. No amount of warnings from the seemingly helpless Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Education and Culture can stop schools from holding their graduation ceremonies in expensive venues.
And, here’s for the “traditional” marriage for the couples in love. Registration in the Municipal or City Hall requires money. Nuptial ceremonies in the church require money, especially, the outfit for the whole entourage. Then, most especially, the feast for the godparents and well- wishers must be impressive as such occasion happens once in one’s lifetime that can even bring parents to tears. For the unlucky ones who call it quits after just a few years of companionship, filing of legal separation or divorce requires money. Those who persist for years till death, have to celebrate “wedding anniversaries”, very important traditions that require symbolic gifts. The “anniversary” tradition dates back to the pagan days and today, it is being observed by Christians and made more colourful with symbolic gifts, mostly made in China!
But the most outstanding “tradition” that has made many people filthy rich or woefully poor, is the “Christmas” which was not even celebrated by the original Christians, although, it is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus Christ, as what were celebrated then, were his circumcision and baptism. I need not elaborate on this, as we already know stories of how, impoverished families would squander hard-earned money during this occasion, while wise businessmen laugh their way to the bank!
Finally, when death occurs, the funerary tradition requires money, too. The need to be buried or cremated has given life to the “funeral” and “memorial parks” industries. A lot for two remains could amount to not less than Php200K and some coffins could cost more than a million pesos!