Sunday, November 21, 2010

It’s two-way street: look both ways

*a repost of my Nov. 14 column in the Cordillera Today

In one of our performances of a play here in Baguio years ago at a school gymnasium, there was a group of students who obviously did not come to watch a show but to be the show instead. While the show was going on, they kept on heckling, making unnecessary noises, doing all they can to disrupt the performance and catch attention. After some time, I stopped in the middle of a line, dropped the character, and addressed the audience directly. I apologized for the disruption, and for not being able to go on with the performance anymore due to the aforementioned group’s behavior. I then turned my attention to the attention-seekers and reminded them that for P50.00, the price of the ticket to the show, they only earned the privilege to experience a theatrical presentation, and not the right to disrespect both the artists and the rest of the members of the audience.  That’s what our posters and other advertising materials promised: buy the ticket, and you can come in and watch the performance, and for our part, we commit to professionally perform with all our hearts and minds. While we do remind our audiences during performances that they cannot eat, drink nor smoke during the show, we did not have a dress-code written at the back of those tickets, neither did we need to specify that they should not disrupt the show. Common sense dictated those.

I am reminded of this incident now as I read about the incident at the Manila Hotel where one Moshe Dacmeg was prevented from entering the premises because he was not wearing the appropriate attire for the occasion. That occasion, dubbed “Embracing Our Common Humanity, had the former U.S. President Bill Clinton as speaker. First arriving at the venue wearing more conventional clothing, after breezing through the entrance to the hotel, Dacmeg later changed into a traditional Cordillera g-sting which prompted the event’s coordinators, as well as the U.S. Secret Service assigned to Clinton, to deny him entry. Tickets to the event did not come cheap, with most expensive pegged at P25,000.00 and general admission at P2,000.00.

The online community is expectedly again filling up with outrage and hate messages, most decrying the perceived “discrimination” that Dacmeg suffered, particularly atthe hands of white men that were members of Clinton’s security detail. Ifugao representative Teodoro Baguilat reportedly said “a man in a g-string is not a terrorist but an honorable man,” and asked, “Why? Does wearing G-string constitute a threat to Clinton?”  Mr. Vladimir Cayabas, administrator of the National Institute of Information Technology (NIIT) and to whom Mr. Dacmeg was reported to be an aide, also said, “We went there using our tribal gear to represent our region. We went there to participate and learn, and not to be labeled as terrorists or suspects.”

I don’t think that Dacmeg was prevented from entering because he was perceived as a threat to Mr. Clinton, or suspected of being a terrorist. I simply think that they (the organizers and the Secret Service) never expected to encounter a half-naked man at the event. Nope, they were not being disrespectful towards indigenous cultures and traditions, they most probably had no idea that what he was a wearing was a traditional Kankanaey attire. To them, he was simply dressed inappropriately for an event where people were expected to attend dressed in more conventional attire. Mr. Dacmeg was asked if he could at least put on a shirt, to which the reply was that putting on a shirt would dishonor g-string, and that the g-string “must never be mixed with other attire”, according to Mr. Cayabas. But he did later say, reportedly, that “it was cold so I allowed Moshe to finally wear the shirt.” Among my memories of Sagada are old men in g-strings and coats walking around town.

Bottom line is, it was Clinton’s, their, show - their show, their rules. In the same way as when they come to yours – your show, your place, your rules. While we must respect all cultures and traditions, indigenous or otherwise, we must also not impose our own on others. A lot of establishments here in Baguio would not allow a person wearing only a g-string to enter their premises too, you know. 

Respect is a two-way street. We must always look both ways before holding up a placard and shouting, “Damaso.”

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