Portia Placino

teaching, blogging and researching on art and culture, viewing the world through the camera's eyes, continually contemplating on the world of aesthetics and art theory and expressing it in art criticism and discourse…

Remembering Childhood, Looking at Children

I realize that I have been neglecting my blog for a little bit. Sometimes, life just overruns us. Though we should not make a habit of letting this happen. There are simply too much to write about and we cannot afford any more slacking. The most touching, endearing and bothersome series of events is on children. There are days like today, where you would like to become a child again. You would love to just snuggle in bed and celebrate the cold days of Christmas. Then again, looking at the state children suffer from today, you would wonder how much is wrong in today’s society. It’s not always ice cream day for children.

I keep on getting inspired by Google Doodles a lot these days. The most recent one to inspire me is on Mark Twain’s 176th birthday. Again, it’s very nostalgic. Growing up in the 90s, I often went home to Tagalized cartoons, including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. As a child, the depth of these stories were lost to me. I only saw the fun and the jokes. Growing up, I realized that these stories say a lot more than children’s fun and games. It’s a fight about slavery and oppression. The most recent issue faced by these novels are on the sanitation. The early cartoons I have seen are already sanitized, we do not have the word nigger in Tagalog. But, if you take that word out, how can you teach the implication of that word? How would you feel what they suffered by sanitizing the bad things? Children, early on, should be made aware. That’s why these novels are so effective, the discourse is carried out by children, but the issues are not necessarily youthful. Children may be young and innocent, but they are not stupid. Removing the word nigger is not protecting them, it is making them unaware about sensitive issues that they are actually capable if handling, if they are taught well.

Read more on: Upcoming NewSouth ‘Huck Finn’ Eliminates the ‘N’ WordA Sanitized Huckleberry Finn, and Sanitized Edition Of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ Causes Uproar.

But then, there is the issue of teaching our children well. Mark Twain’s birthday coincided with Andres Bonifacio’s birthday. Sadly, his birthday is not as well celebrated or talked about as Jose Rizal’s. Yes, November 30 is a holiday. But, really, it did not trend on Twitter, there aren’t that much on Facebook and I’m the only one who brought it up in my Google+ network. Barely any of our children are taught our revolutionary leader’s true story. True, his life is taught, yet, it is an incomplete and sanitized story. Jose Rizal is a hero, I am not saying otherwise. But Andres Bonifacio is just as great, if not greater.    He also deserves our attention. The fact that the his heroic life is ended in murder is heart-breaking. Then, for this story to remain untold is painful.

I cannot claim to own these accounts, but here is a video posted in Youtube about The Story of Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo as well as the written accounts on The Assassination of Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna. Power corrupts. Then and now. A colleague tried teaching this topic in an international school and she got into trouble because this side of the story is not published in official textbooks. Again, our children’s education should not be sanitized, instead, they should be more aware in a level that they would understand.

This reminds me of a play that I recently saw at PETA. They re-staged Rated: PG from their 42nd Season. On the way, Cy and I were already talking about the world children live in today. There is something very wrong when you here a little girl voice saying rather loudly, “Putang ina mo, para kang tanga! Punta ka nga dito!” It has been bothering me for quite some time, it’s an innocent little girl voice. Then, again, we talked about education (Cy, taking an MA in Math Education). He says that there are circumstances when teachers swear inside classrooms, and there are circumstances when those things are necessary. A few years ago, I would be vehemently against that, until I saw and heard children in informal settlements.

What can we do for them? I, for one, have lived in a very sheltered environment. Of course, my mother brought me up to be independent, thus for most of my adult life (even college), I have been living outside of the family home. There were times that I needed financial assistance, but it never stopped me from living on my own. My mother is very supportive of that. But that is not necessarily the case for most children. Some, though raised, lacked independence. While others, are not even taken cared of well. Can we ever create a “safety zone” for them? This conversation is almost the perfect set-up as we, once again, took a tricycle to PETA.

Children should feel safest in their own homes. But that is not the case for a lot of them. These issues were hashed out in numerous levels in Rated: PG. It is a particular conflict in the Philippines. Our parents were mostly brought up by the stick. In our society, it was normal to hit, slap and beat children. It has been accepted as a routine form of discipline. It is an incredibly violent concept and for the first act of the play, they hashed out all these issues. For a while, I was actually wondering how they would resolve all the issues that they brought forward (not exactly, but they tied it well, eventually). These are sensitive issues, and though most of the youth are open to the concept, a lot of adult in the audience are still firm believers of punishment.

It’s a good thing that I saw the play with an education major. He educated me about the progressive school. I can’t be sure if the writers and producers of the play are informed about it, but they echo it throughout the play. They talked bout the issue of rewards and punishment, as it applies in the Filipino setting. How will lessons take? Through rewards? punishments? beatings? Or as they settled on–through talking, lots and lots of talking, and on education. Having a progressive school is nice, but of course, it would be difficult to achieve in reality.

Read more on Progressive School: Progressive Education:Why It’s Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find

The Filipino family set-up is also explored. Often, children are left with their grandparents while the parents are working. The treatment, though, is problematic, as the grandparent is given a negative light. Yet, there is truth in the narrative. Using myths and lore to discipline children is quite unique in the Philippines. But, it is not just the grandparents who does that. As Filipino parents are displaced through diaspora, they become increasingly dependent on the extended family. Thus, the treatment of the grandparent rubs the wrong way.

There is also the issue of the dynamics between mothers and fathers and their roles for the family. Though it was not entirely resolved, there is the solid attempt. The Filipino family is still balancing the fluid and changing roles in contemporary life. Again, the progressive school is strong. Hopefully, children, when they grow up may attempt such philosophy and move away from the reward/punishment model that the Philippines have. They encourage the voice of the children to be heard and in the end, that is one of the most important things.

One of the really unique aspects of the play that I enjoyed is the debriefing at the end. They made sure that they got the message across, especially as the majority of the audience are minors. As I said earlier, children are more open to adult concepts, and many adults are not. Several adults insist on pamamalo, still, which is incredibly sad, especially after watching a play like Rated PG. And still on a sadder note is a child that was made to stand up and say that “it depends” on the situation. Then, his mother, claiming to be a teacher, monopolized the session, saying that beating is justified given certain circumstances. Of her monologue, the worst aspect is her justification of violence as punishment–that because the child committed the “wrong” repeatedly, that they did it in the bedroom, that they prayed after and the child understood that it is right by Jesus, and that her child still enjoys her company more than his friends. Unwittingly, she taught her child that violence is good, that Jesus justifies violence and that parents are better than friends. Making her child compare the love of parents between the love of friends is very wrong, given that in the future, the child will need his friends more than his parents (in certain circumstances). That the love should not be compared, that it should be given. Unfortunately, we cannot change everyone, but certainly, we can be the change that we want to see.

I saw this image in the list of the Most Powerful Images of 2011:

A U.S. Army soldier takes five with an Afghan boy during a patrol in Pul-e Alam, a town in Logar province, eastern Afghanistan. (Reuters / Umit Bektas)

This may be taken as a propaganda photo, yet I still like it. Cliche, yes, but children are still our future. We should simply treat them and educate them well. It may be through Mark Twain, Andres Bonifacio or theatre that we educate them, but what we do, for the most part, educates them. Being a child does not necessarily mean eating ice cream, playing and waiting for Santa Claus. Many children are deprived on the childhood we often get nostalgic about. I am no expert, I don’t even have a child. But I was a child once, and my childhood is one of the very fortunate childhoods. I had my own sufferings, but my environment and my loved ones helped me get through it. I healed and I had fun. Not every child can say that. I was very lucky. In my own way, as I write, I hope I can spread the luck some more.

I remember Cyrus’ piece Jackpot.

**I hope to write a series about this issue. I was among the netizens fighting agains WW on the issue of child abuse. This now evolved into Para sa mga Bata group and movement. Then, I am also a believer in fairy tales, no matter how gruesome their sources. Hopefully, I’ll be able to write another part in this story.

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3 comments on “Remembering Childhood, Looking at Children

  1. Cyrus Alvarez
    December 5, 2011

    Hmmm… I see the comment about the unreasonably annoying woman who wouldn’t shut up about her misguided archaic beliefs in classical conditioning as an acceptable method of child-rearing… but I don’t see the comment about the rude lady at the ticket section that you swore you would say something about… Hehehehehe!

    • Portia Placino
      December 5, 2011

      Well, it didn’t go with the theme that I eventually worked on. Childhood and the childhood experiences. It would ruin the flow… I’d write about it when I write about theatrical experiences. I just didn’t see how the rude ladies at the ticket section would fit in. Or the rude guard. Or all the rudeness that I had to undergo in order to watch and photograph the play. At least the play was good. That’s a story for another time.

  2. Pingback: Art Conversations: Critical Art Practices in the Philippines « Portia Placino

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Real and Theoretical: Portia’s Art Blog

This blog is the extension of my classroom and of myself. I teach art, aesthetics and art history. I study, research, write and blog various aspects of the art world--real or theoretical. I look at the world through my camera's eyes and share such views to those who care to look. I hope you, who stumbled into this blog, would stop being a passive voyeur and engage in art criticism and discourse with me and the public...

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