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Pinoy Pop Culture
by Gilda Cordero-Fernando And M.G. Chavez
Bench/Suyen Corp., 2001

Even its soft-cover edition has a very un-masa price tag, but then Pinoy Pop Culture apparently is not meant for slipper-shod Pinoys who live and breathe the book’s contents. Rather, it’s target audience seems to be those who have more time (and money) in their hands to indulge in regular attacks of identity crisis, especially those among the youth (to whom the book is dedicated) who are enthralled with the West and barely notice what their own country and people have to offer.

And so acclaimed fictionist and essayist Gilda Cordero-Fernando takes them on a wild and merry tour of everyday ka-Pinoyan, giving her astute observations in a mishmash of English, Tagalog, and swardspeak in short, urban Pinoy lingo that ensures accessibility and little misunderstanding. The trip has five main stops: the Pinoy’s penchant for imitating whatever or whoever it is he admires, down to the last detail; his packrat and halo-halo tendencies; his ability to make over almost anything to suit his own needs; his pop icons; and his ingenuity that stems mainly from his perennial lack of resources. Each of these sections is made up of mini essays and anecdotes that reveal the Pinoy in a way so loving and so hilarious that even the most irritating of quirks becomes almost endearing. Indeed, the book is so successful in celebrating the Pinoy for everything that he is, warts and all, that the reader is almost tempted o break out singing Lupang Hinirang after finishing it. At the very least, it will leave one with a sudden hankering for Chocnut.

Fernando covers a lot of ground in Pinoy Pop Culture, discussing music and other art forms, food, modes of transportation, religion and even gender, among a great many other things. Ever wonder how the Santo Niño became everyone’s favorite little boy of worship? Or why the pinoy seems to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none? Or why Dolphy remains the country’s number one comedian? Tita Gilda explains it all to you, and then some. And while her lively text is already entertaining and interesting by itself, it is enhanced all the more by the works of some of the country’s best artists and photographers, along with the art direction and layout of M.G. Chavez. Still, even those with 20/20 vision may be seeing double after trying to read the parts in which the text is in white against a red or blue background. Very good lighting is also advised for those attempting to read the anecdotes in black text on red background (the upshot is that they will be rewarded for the effort).

Published by the local clothing chain Bench, the book admirably makes only very minimal references to its very commercial backer. It also makes no pretense on being scholarly, which is rather apt for something on pop culture. But perhaps there should have been more double checking done on some of details offered, such as Darna supposedly antedating Wonder Woman. According to the book, Darna was created by Mars Ravelo in 1947. Wonder Woman, however, first came out in 1941 (although some comics aficionados insist it was 1942) and was even well known for battling Nazis. There has also been some debate on whether a Filipino, Agapito Flores, was indeed the inventor of the fluorescent bulb, something that the book lists as fact. It would have been helpful to at least mention the debate, even if the author, who cites the Almanac of Pinoy-Indio Genius by Kidlat Tahimik as the source of that detail, was convinced it was indeed a Pinoy genius who invented the lighting fixture.

But these are mere quibbles. In all, Pinoy Pop Culture does the Pinoy proud while at the same time making him conscious of his faults Eand his ability to improve himself. As the book puts it, “For only in knowing our kapinoyan can we see the root of all our problems. But also that their solution can only spring from the same creative source.

Pass the butong pakwan, please. --

Source: Balgos, Cecille C.A. Investigative Magazine. (Jan-Mar 2002) Pinoy Pop 101.

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