Sunday, August 15, 2004

The Value of Face

Stormcrow and I had dinner today at McDonald's, where he scared a cashier into giving us a big chicken part (but that's another story). While we were eating, this dude approached us and left on our table a laminated card saying that he's a "self-employed" student from Cebu, and it would help him if we'd buy packed dried mangoes from him. If we hadn't bought our dinner yet, and if the mangoes weren't grossly overpriced, we might have been interested. But his mangoes sell at php50 a pack! SM sells the same product for only php35.

This event got us to thinking, what makes gigs like this work? We call it the value of "face". Have you ever had the experience of going to a new restaurant to try it out, finding out that the menu sucks, but still feeling forced to stay and eat there anyway? This is the value of "face" working against you. Many Filipinos tend to inconvenience or even (magpapalugi) themselves just to save face, and that unspoken fact is used by people to their own benefit.

For example, we know that there are a lot of religious people who go out and ask passersby for donations for various holy causes. Before I developed my world view into what it is now, I used to fall for these tactics. A poor and downtrodden looking man would diffidently approach me and hand me a card or a sheet of paper outlining his cause, and would I be so kind enough to donate even a small amount to help? I would either generally mutter confusedly and hand over some coins, or if I tried refusing he wouldn't take back the paper unless I give him anything.

Part of it might be due to the naivette of my youth and my being overly insecure, but most of it was because I didn't want to lose face. This is even more acute when ordering at restaurants. The dinner at McDo, for instance. Stormcrow ordered a two-piece chicken meal. The counter guy said that only wing and leg pieces were available, even for a two-piece meal (even though we could see some big pieces on their rack). Had it been me ordering, I would just have nodded my head and accepted two puny pieces for my meal. I didn't want to lose face by refusing or changing my order. It would definitely not have occurred to me to consider leaving altogether.

Unfortunately many people are taking advantage of this peculiar tendency of Filipinos. Most are solicitors, but we have also seen many eating establishments that ride purely on the value of face. They count on the occasional curious first-time customer, who might or might not have been satisfied, and they make their profits out of that.


Thursday, August 12, 2004


As the semester passes by, it's more and more pounded unto me the hidden (and hence unpaid) part of teaching: the paper checking. I discover that every week, I add another pile on to my already gigantic heap of paperwork, 250-students strong every pile. It gives me that creepy feeling of impending doom, as I know that at the end of the sem I'll be rushing to finish all that I have to within a strict time period.

Now one might ask, so why not check right after each pile comes in? Good question. And for a person who's been too deep in the habit of procastination, I really have no straight answer for that.

I know that Stormcrow is probably having the same problems as I am. We are even considering a "paperwork date". Nothing like reinforcing each other while fighting off procastination's charms. And, as our favorite saying goes, all it needs is the first step (which is actually harder than it sounds).


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