KINUTIL

Tourists

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The tourists, they come with their cameras, their wide brimmed hats and their quaint manners of dress. They come spending their money on hotels, restaurants, bus drivers and hawkers. They come to view the local wild life and sample the culture, which might cover a wild field from cuisine to religion.

They are polite enough to wait until Sunday service is almost done before coming in to watch how the locals pray. They gawk at the quaint reverence, the peculiar manners of faith. They take photos of the saints, the paintings on the ceilings. These make for a good counterpoint to the wet market where they might see what’s available to eat. In due time, they will ride to the outskirts to see the wilds in captivity, take the river cruise, and eat lunch at a floating retaurant where they will be sang to or otherwise entertained.

Before dusk they will be returned to their beachside hotels where they might end their day swimming in a pool with cold cocktail in hand. Here, they might watch the sunset and marvel at how beautiful the country is despite the poverty, the lack of what they take for granted at home.

And then, they might think to themselves that this is really how things are in places not so much affected yet by the advancement of progress. This is really how things are in paradise.

The tourists, they do not venture beyond what is readily apparent. They see only edifices of stone and concrete left behind by a long history of incursions. They see only the limits of what these have done to us. And so they might mourn the loss of the truly exotic. We are too Westernized despite everything. It is hard for them to see how much we have preserved for and of ourselves after all these years.

They seldom see how we truly eat, and sleep and go about life in a certain nuanced way. They do not see that it is impossible to find us anywhere else but here. In a different country we would be different.

But here, we go about life inside a unique culture, a peculiar way of going about things and looking at ourselves and the rest of the world. We cook our food a certain way not often seen in some tourist restaurant. We have fare they will not find up to their taste but are for us irresistable. If they saw us the way we truly are they will find us too strange to fully countenance.

The tourists will not know we are mysterious even to ourselves. They do not realize we are as many peoples and cultures as there are islands and nooks and crannies. We are communities not dissimilar and yet certainly not equal to each other. We work to free ourselves and find progress in our own way. We make art. We write literature. But they will find it hard to understand.

The rich and powerful, they do not go about life the same way as the ordinary folk. The ordinary folk do not live the same way as the poor and destitute. The rich and powerful, especially come election time, pretend they are ordinary folk. Only a few succeed.

It is a difficult role to play, which might be the reason actors and actresses succeed here in politics. They go to campaign sorties where they try to hide from view the comforts they are well used to. And so they come out of their climate-controlled lives and for hours at a time bask under the hot sun in open trucks.

From here, they view their own country. They can view only what is readilly apparent, the vestiges resultant of a dynamics between the local and the capital, the long history of seasonal incursions and interventions, which they cannot fully understand. They’ve spent their days in the big city where life is so different it might as well be another country.

And they might as well come here, with their cameras and their wide brimmed hats and their quaint manners of dress. They might as well come spending their money on hotels, restaurants, bus drivers and hawkers. They might as well come to view the local wild life and sample the culture, which might cover a wild field from cuisine to religion.

Come election day we will have a good choice of tourists to vote for. Thenceforth, tourists will govern us as they have done for centuries. Nothing really changes in the field of politics. Nothing much is really changed by it.

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