The filipino psyche – rat stories

People talk sideways here. If Germany has the most precise and logical culture, i’m pretty sure the Philippines is at the other extreme.
The word ngayon, means both now and today. A nod of the head can indicate: acknowledgement, no or i don’t know.

But it is the hiyah concept that causes me the most confusion. Hiyah loosely translates to loss of face or embarassment. If someone invites you somewhere, you would never directly decline the invitation. An excuse -no matter how flimsy or unbelievable- must be made. The excuse or white lie will be accepted by both parties as gospel truth.

White lies or really unbelievable stories are also used to conceal true motives. When we first moved to the farm, we were told that we should burn down the undeveloped rainforest on our land. We directly declined this request, but the locals persisted.
“There are many rats in the gubat, they eat all our harvest of rice. On a bad year, they ate ALL of our rice.”
Yes, apparently the population of rats in a 70m square plot of jungle managed to eat all the grain from 11ha of rice paddy. We asked for the real reason why they wanted the forest gone. Did they want to plant fruit trees, more rice? Did they need the firewood? No, they stuck to the “rat story.

The truth seems to rarely take a priority in this culture, it is far more important for everyone to get along smoothly and to retain hiyah. I have no trouble admitting that this really gets to me sometimes.


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