Pinoy cultural symbols, expression, brands | Inquirer Opinion
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Pinoy cultural symbols, expression, brands

Centuries from now, if the book is discovered intact in the aftermath of a planetary cataclysm, its readers, if they are Filipinos, would be amazed at how their forebears lived and expressed themselves, what values they upheld, and what personalities they turned into icons.

But even now, readers of Visitacion de la Torre’s new book, “Filipino Cultural Symbols, Expressions and Brands,” would be able to identify with the subject matter she tackles, be pleased with themselves that they continue to use and practice many of these, and recognize or experience them. Filipinos living abroad (the hyphenated ones, especially) who still value their roots would find in the book a home, something they can consider part of their lives and use to explain to their obdurate young: This is why we are what we are.


For us who remain in the homeland, this book is also a reminder. It cannot explain everything exhaustively, but it can make us think that there are elements and influences at work in our lives that make us what we are, collectively or individually. And be proud of them.

As the author explains, “the book provides another texture of the Filipino identity—the images that point to or reveal diverse facets of the Filipino, the expressions he/she reveals himself/herself in and the brands that have engaged the popular imagination of the Filipino then and now.” The book attempts to contribute to the written, printed materials that have similarly explored the subject matter.


De la Torre classifies the cultural symbols into five: built structures, natural wonders, material objects, travel destinations, and rituals/traditions and personalities.

Built structures: Ifugao rice terraces, Vigan, etc. Natural wonders: Boracay, Taal, Mayon, etc. Material objects: jeepney, sarimanok, etc. Food: adobo, pan de sal, balut, halo-halo, Jollibee, etc.

The concepts/expressions she discusses are kapwa, kagandahang loob, barkada, jeproks, diskarte, pusong mamon, bayanihan, etc., to name a few. These expressions that describe values, traits and practices are used in the Tagalog-speaking areas of the Philippines. What a pity that their equivalent in non-Tagalog-speaking provinces—differently nuanced, perhaps—are not mentioned. And surely, there are cultural traits and values—among indigenous communities, for example—that are outside of what we are familiar with and also differently named, like the pagta ti bodong in the Cordillera. Perhaps these can be tackled in another book?

Some of the personalities: Jose Rizal, the Santo Niño, Lola Basyang, Ninoy and Cory Aquino,

Dolphy, FPJ, Lea Salonga, Pacquiao. De la Torre does not say how she picked them, whether from a survey or the research results used in a TV game show. Conspicuously absent on the long list are Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. It is because De la Torre prefers to tackle the positive that the icons she chose embody.

Speaking of Marcos who ruled as dictator for 14 years, he is included in a children’s book (in Spanish) on tyrants and despots that was exhibited at a European book fair. The Philippines’ Marcos, with his prominent coiffure in the caricature, is on the same spread as Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Idi Amin, et al., and on the same line as Hitler. There is no book of this sort here in the Philippines. No wonder many who belong to the younger generation are clueless, stunned witless when they learn for the first time that an uncle was tortured to death during the Marcos dictatorship, or why their grandfather’s body has never been found.

Filipino expressions come and go; many survive generations and many still get invented with every new technology (e.g., unli). De la Torre explains away many, among them Mabuhay, hulog ng langit, siksik liglig, kayod marino, peks man, lukso ng dugo, hindi ka nag-iisa, bahala na, diskarte, Filipino time, utang na loob. Again, these are all Tagalog expressions, some ancient, but withstood the test of time.


As to the Filipino brands, there is the iconic San Miguel, Max’s, Jollibee, Mercury Drug, Original Pilipino Music (OPM), Ginebra, Goldilocks, National Book Store, Philippine Airlines, etc.  Ang Tibay, a shoe brand of yore, is still mentioned. SM is on the list, of course, but so are some not-so-familiar brands. OFW and Gawad Kalinga are listed as brands.

De la Torre is a prolific book writer-publisher, a keen observer of the Philippine scene. Most of her books deal with our Filipino-ness and are heavyweights (being coffee-table books), but easy and enjoyable to read. “Filipino Cultural Symbols, Expressions and Brands” is her 39th book.

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The Carl Jung Circle Center, with the participation of Pacifica Graduate Institute, will hold a conference, “Salubungan On Depth Psychology: Our Psyche, Our Earth” (Ang Kwentuhan sa Ilalim ng Punongkahoy) on July 6 and 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan.

The conference aims to bring to a wider public the understanding of depth psychology, an approach to therapy that explores the subtle and unconscious aspects of the human experience. It is a multidisciplinary approach that draws on literature, philosophy, mythology and the arts. Moving toward wholeness is seen as the process of bringing to light what has been unknown in one’s personality—thoughts, feelings, memories, archetypal projections—so that the person can understand and integrate them, allowing for a transformation in consciousness. Depth psychology also looks at the ways the unconscious expresses itself in society and culture, and how culture affects the psyche. For inquiries, call Tin at 0926-6341755.

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