CULTURE IN SELECTED PHILIPPINE SHORT STORIES IN ENGLISH: AN INTERPRETATIVE STUDY

Adelia R. Roadilla, PhD, RGC POLYTECHNIC UNIVERISTY OF THE PHILIPPINES Republic of the Philippines The effect of a parade of sonorous phrases upon human conduct has never been adequately studied. (Arnold, 1948:82) Introduction This paper is anchored on three notions: 1) to achieve social relevance amidst the socio-political turmoil, fiction, particularly the short story should voice out not only the glory and triumphs but also the dreams, aspirations; frustrations and dilemmas of society; 2) there is a close link between the literature of a people and their cultures and therefore culture has to be analyzed, shared, preserved and revered; and 3) culture must be regarded as a matter of great importance if humanity in society is to survive.

As Samovar and Porter states: Culture needs to be studied because it is the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, meanings, beliefs, values, attitudes, religions, concepts of self, the universe and self-universe relationships, hierarchies of status, role expectations, special relations, and time concepts acquired by a large group of people in the course of generations through individual and group sharing. (Samovar and Porter, 1988:82) This paper aims to show how Filipino culture can be gleaned through

interpretation of the language employed by the authors of the short stories under study. This method place reading short stories in a different perspective thereby promoting cultural awareness not only in the classroom but also in day to day life. Language and Culture Connection For most of us, language is simply a phenomenon that is taken for granted. We seldom question or reflect on how we first acquired our language, how it is structured, or even why some terms are consistently used in place of other terms. However, in spite of the “naturalness” of language, it does not exist in a vacuum. It is a functioning aspect of culture (Dubbs and Whitney, 1980:49).

Speech customs are learned just as surely as other kinds of cultural traits and they are shared rather than solely individual. Language is a vehicle by which people

2 transmit and express most of their culture to those of their own and succeeding generations and therefore occupies a special place in culture (Dubbs and Whitney, 1980:50). According to Damen (1987), language and culture connection can be seen in terms of human systems of classification, cultural foci, and world view. Language serves to facilitate classification and order. Language enables those who use it to relate to their environments, to identify and classify natural and cultural objects, and to organize and coordinate their activities.

PHILOSOPHY OF CULTURE Culture refers to the social heritage of a people – those learned patterns for thinking, feeling and acting that are transmitted from one generation and the next,

including the embodiment of these patterns in material items. It includes both nonmaterial cultures – abstract creations like values, beliefs, symbols, norms, customs, and institutional arrangements – and material culture – physical artefacts or objects like stone aces, computers, loin clothes, tuxedos, automobiles, paintings, hammocks, and domed stadiums (Zanden, 1990:29-35).

Very simply, culture has to do with the customs of a people and society with the people who are practicing the customs. Culture therefore provides the fabric that enables human beings to interpret their experiences and guide their actions. Culture provides individuals with a set of common understandings that they employ in fashioning actions. In doing so, it provides the separated lines of individuals into a larger whole, making society possible by providing a common framework of meaning. Culture allows us to know in rather broad terms that we can expect of others and what they can expect of us. Simultaneously, culture affords a kind of map or a set of guideposts of finding our way about life. If we know a peoples’ culture – their design for living – we can understand and predict a good deal of behaviour.

Culture also provides us with guidelines for action (Bustus and Espiritu, 1990:29-35). Within the family circle, the child learns how to act and react in certain situation (socialization). He has to respect his parents and give respect to elders by certain set of ways.

What Culture Includes Culture includes physical geography – the land, the climate and the physical and natural resources. Filipino culture includes this plus the total way of life – what we think, say and do. Thus, customs, traditions, beliefs, attitudes, concepts of self, morals,

3 manners, languages and rituals are all under the umbrella of culture (Andres, 1990:25) . Dr. Rustica C. Carpio (1988) mentioned in her article Culture and

Education that culture consists not only of people, behaviour, emotions and things alone but also goes beyond all these for culture is not a material phenomenon, rather, it is an organization comprising things.

Social Structure Social structure provides an organized and focused quality to our group experiences. By virtue of social structure, we link certain of our experiences, terming them for example, the family, the church, the neighbourhood, and others. Social structures give us the feeling that life is characterized by organization and stability.

Statuses In our conversations, we use the word status to refer to a person’s ranking as determined by wealth, influence, and prestige. However, sociologist employs status somewhat differently to mean apposition within a group of society. It is by means of statuses that we locate one another in various social structures. Mother, mayor, priest, friend, supervisor, male, captain, child, professor are all statuses.

A status has been likened to a ready-made suit of clothes (Brelin, 1993:209) . We have greater control over some of our statuses than others. Some statuses are assigned to us by our group or society and termed ascribed statuses (Brelin, 1993:289). Age and sex are common reference points for the ascription of statuses. Race, religion, family background, and socio-economic status are also bases for assigning statuses to individuals.

Roles A status carries with it a set of culturally defined rights and duties, what sociologists term a role. These expectations define the behavior people view as appropriate and inappropriate for the occupant of a status. Quite simply, the difference between a status and a role is that we occupy a status and play a role (Linton, 1982:427).

Roles allow us to formulate our behavior mentally so we can shape our actions in appropriate ways. In doing so, we collect the particulars of and unfolding situation and identify who does what, when, and where. Roles permit us to assume that in some respects we can ignore personal differences and say that for practical matters people are interchangeable. For example, every Filipino “knows” that a physician is a person

4 who treats sick people and a carpenter is a person who uses lumber to build houses. In sum, roles enable us to collapse or telescope a range of behavior into manageable bundles.

Values Values are broad ideas regarding what is desirable, correct, and good that most members of a society share. Values are so general and abstract that they do not explicitly specify which behaviour is acceptable and which is not. Instead, values provide us with the criteria and conceptions by which we evaluate people, objects, and events as to their relative worth, merit, beauty or morality (Linton, 1982:69).

Choice of Short Stories To know how Filipino culture is manifested, the following selected sixteen (16) Filipino short stories were carefully analysed: Kerima Polotan’s The Virgin (1951); Edith L. Tiempo’s The Dam (1954) Bienvenido N. Santos’ The Day the Dancers Came (1955); Estrella D. Alfon’s The Servant Girl (1960); Gilda Cordero- Fernando’s The Visitation of the Gods (1962); Nick Joaquin’s Dona Jeronima (1964); Amadis Ma. Guererro’s Children of the City (1970); Cristina P. Hidalgo’s Provinciana (1978);

Rowena Torevillas’ Fruit of the Vine (1980;) F. Sionil Jose’s The Platinum (1983); Conrado De Quiros’ The Hand of God (1985); Cesar Felipe R. Banaci’s The Judge (1987); Eric Gamalinda’s Peripheral Vision (1992); Antonio Enriquez’ Honor (1996); Carlos Cortes’ Close to the Bone (1998) and Emma M. Quizon – Homecoming (2000).

The choice of these sixteen (16) short stories has been deliberate not only because they are published in the contemporary period from 1950-2000 respectively but also because each of them manifests cultural features. Seven of these short stories are Palanca Award Winning pieces and are not yet well-explored while the other nine are written by well-acclaimed and award-winning writers whose expertise in writing have been tested by time. In this study, the writer considers the presence of culture as the primary basis of her choice.

To attain the purpose of this paper, it focuses on the manifestation of the following cultural features based on the language employed by the authors of the chosen stories: self, family; community; youth; status and role; religion; poverty; power and authority; and politics.

Methods of Research Utilized

5 The data of this paper are primarily the text of the 16 short stories wherein one story is taken from each author for analysis. The secondary sources are books, magazines, and other reading materials concerning Filipino culture. Descriptive method of research involving documentary analysis wherein

short stories serve as documents is employed. A grid is designed to register the dominant cultural features present in each of the short stories by rank. Ranking is determined by the occurrence of the cultural feature manifested.

Research Flow Chart The figure on the next page shows the research paradigm of this paper. The writer reads closely the short stories under study then proceeds to the linguistic analysis focusing on the lexicon where single words, phrases, sentences, idiomatic expressions, similes and signs are considered.

Having identified the linguistic features, she proceeds to record and interpret the cultural features present in the selection such as self, family; community; youth; status and role; religion; power and authority; poverty and politics.

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SHORT STORIES
1. Kerima Polotan’s The Virgin (1951) 2. Edith L. Tiempo’s The Dam (1954) 3. Bienvenido N. Santos’ The Day the Dancers Came (1955) 4. Estrella D. Alfon’s The Servant Girl (1960) 5. Gilda Cordero Fernando’s The Visitation of the Gods (1962) 6. Nick Joaquin’s Dona Jeronima (1964) 7. Amadis Ma. Guererro’s Children of the City (1970) 8. Cristina P. Hidalgo’s Provinciana (1978) 9. Rowena Torevillas’ Fruit of the Vine (1980) 10. Conrado De Quiros’ The Hand of God (1985) 11. F. Sionil Jose’s The Platinum (1983) 12. Cesar R. Banaci’s The Judge (198) 13.Eric Gamalinda PeripheralVision (1992)

CULTURAL FEATURES LEXICON A.Words B. Phrase C. Sentences A. B. C. D. E. F. Self Family Other Community Youth status and role G. religion H. power and authority I. politics J. poverty

Figure I. Research Flow Chart

14.

Antonio

Enriquez–

The Son(1996) 15. Carlos Cortes –Close to the Bone (1998) 16. Emma M. Quizon – Homecoming (2000)

STEP 3 CULTURE ANALYSIS (dominant cultural features)

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STEP 2 TEXT ANALYSIS (the linguistic expression of culture – short stories)

STEP 1 LEXICON ANALYSIS (sentences, single word, phrases

Figure II - Three-step methodology of cultural studies using texts

To have a clearer picture of deducing cultural features, this paper adopted and modified Brogger’s (1992) steps in cultural studies.

These steps consist of lexical analysis followed by textual analysis. Cultural analysis is positioned in the upper part of the chart to show that culture can be identified by means of analyzing a text through language use.

In this paper, the writer serves as reader-critic as she applies Barnet’s textual analysis, explication, interpretation and evaluation.

Textual Analysis means looking for single words, phrases, sentences, or the whole paragraphs describing the events.

Explication is generally understood as close critical reading. In here, the readercritic as explicator proceeds chronologically in presenting each story, providing as far as possible an incident-by-incident commentary of what goes on in the story.

Interpretation necessitates the interpreter to bring out the work in his own convictions, values and particular perceptions.

Evaluation gives the full judgment of the author regarding the author’s work.

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Cultural Features Manifested After a thorough analysis and interpretation of the short stories under study, the following cultural features were reflected: • From The Virgin by Kerima Polotan Tuvera This story presents the author’s attempt to write about a woman who sacrifices herself for the sake of her family. Of the cultural features present in this story, the author’s description of self is the most dominant. Miss Mijares as the chief actant is portrayed as a woman with repressed sexuality, a typical woman dreaming of love. Another cultural feature is power and authority. Miss Mijares, being a woman who holds a position in the workplace is hooked into the state of haughtiness and weariness. The behavior of Miss Mijares is a result of her love for her family where she spends her youth sending her niece to college and caring for her bedridden mother for nine years.

From The Dam by Edith L. Tiempo The Dam is a story of self, community, power and authority, status and role. In this story, Mr. Rosales, the main character represents the many outworn

administrators in the educational system who exercise their power and authority. This is the most dominant cultural feature present in the story followed by his dealing with the community of some bull headed teachers. This story also tells of oneself that is encountering an internal conflict.

From The Day the Dancers Came by Bienvenido N. Santos The Day the Dancers Came is a story of Felimon Acayan, a Filipino who

resides in America. This story narrates of oneself, which is the most dominant cultural feature present in the story. Felimon, the main character is suffering from alienation as he performs his role according to his status. Next in the cultural features manifested is Fel’s dealing with his community, the community that seems to be so cruel for him. This story also reflects the reminiscence of his younger years when he is still in the Philippines.

From The Servant’s Girl by Estrella D. Alfon Servant Girl is a story of Rosa, the chief actant in the story who encounters

a lot of hostilities while serving her mistress.

9 Servant Girl is a story of self, the dominant cultural feature gleaned in the story. In here, Rosa is introduced as a hardworking housemaid. Rosa’s status in the society speaks well of her role, a servant girl serving her abusive mistress whose power and authority is being exercised excessively at the expense of the

poor servant girl. Manifested also in this story is the rampant poverty in the Philippines making a number of Filipinos to serve as maids here and abroad.

From The Visitation of the Gods by Gilda Cordero-Fernando The Visitation of the Gods manifests a story of self, community, power and authority as well as politics. Miss Noel, the main character is a picture of a principled woman and an ideal teacher. The most dominant cultural feature present in this story is valuing oneself followed by power and authority. In this story, the “gods” keep on visiting the schools at the expense of the rattled teachers. A school community is also clearly described in the story. Politics is also gleaned. In the educational system, the practice of political influences and connections is always present. Visitation of the Gods therefore is a glaring picture of the poor teachers who perform what is asked them to do without any objection, a manifestation that teachers are committed and dedicated to serve .

From Dona Jeronima by Nick Joaquin Most dominant among the cultural features gleaned in this story is religion. Valuing oneself follows. Also reflected in this story is the exercise of power and authority. The story begins with a detailed description of a certain archbishop of Manila. Dona Jeronima is a story of an ambitious man who falls in love with a woman whose name is Jeronima. His call of serving God makes him forgets her. In this story, Nick Joaquin, the author describes a man who is powerful and authoritative but cannot live peacefully because he is haunted by the memories of Dona Jeronima.

From the Children of the City by Amadis Ma. Guerrero Ma. Guerrero’s Children of the City is replete with the following cultural features: youth, power and authority and poverty. Youth is the most dominant

10 since the story deals with the plight of the children whose shelter is the street. Next is power and authority where the rich and the powerful always dominate the society while poverty follows the line which proves to be the root cause of the conflicts in the story. A clear picture of a broken family is also depicted in the story. Victor, the main character is so unfortunate to be a child of a poor couple making him roam in the street after the death of his father. In him is a life without any direction.

From Provinciana by Cristina Hidalgo The most dominant cultural feature that is present in the story is valuing oneself. In this story, Julie Patag, the main character tries hard to improve herself. She does not want to be looked down as a typical provinciana. Her family and her husband both show their status in the society as families belonging to the upper bracket. In the end, Julie succeeded in improving herself. Having

pleased her husband to like and accept her, she also enjoys exercising her power and authority as a wife of a man who is known in their society.

For the Fruit of the Vine by Rowena Torrevillas Fruit of the Vine clearly manifests a story of family, self, power and authority. The most dominant among the cultural features present is valuing ones family. This is followed by valuing oneself. In this story, the father who is culturally considered as head of the family exercises his power and authority in shaping the lives of his children.

From F. Sionil Jose’s The Platinum The Platinum is a story reflecting a Filipino self, family, power and authority and politics. Malou, the main character in the story sacrifices herself for the principles that she wants to live with. Plat, her husband wants to have a family after their marriage but Malou just disappeared for the ideals she is fighting for. During that time, power and authority is the language of the people occupying the seat of power. Everyone in the position seems to be the mighty and the powerful. People in the political arena seemingly act like fierce lions exhibiting hunger for power. Malou, being idealistic and principled waged war against the ills of the society. Unfortunately, she lost her life.

11 • From the Hand of God by Conrado De Quiros Conrado De Quiros ‘The Hand of God manifests a story of religion, the most dominant cultural feature present in the story. This is followed by valuing oneself and one’s family. The problem of poverty is also reflected in the story.

From The Judge by Cesar Felipe R. Banaci The Judge tells a story of self, family and religion. This is a story of a man who considers himself charged, judged, and convicted to reclusion perpetua after an insidious stroke that had left him paralyzed. In his solitary flight to fight his life’s paralyses, his family is always with him to cheer him up. With a deep faith in God, having religion as the center of their daily living, the judge sleeps with unending peace of mind.

From Peripheral Vision by Eric Gamalinda Peripheral Vision manifests a story of self, family and status and role. The author narrates a story of an old family tradition. Superstitious beliefs are still part of the family’s custom. The author creates confusion within himself of what to believe in. Though confused, he has to act his role as an obedient son. He has to follow their olds who are very conscious of their status in the society where they belong.

From Honor by Antonio Enriquez Honor is reflective of a Filipino self, status and role, power and authority. Honor is a simple presentation of an inordinate desire for wealth. The main character, the barangay captain is a man of good reputation. In him is a self that is clean. He knows that he will be rich with the money he received from the American officer but he cannot spend the money he thinks is not for him. Though he has power and authority over his subordinates, he remains humble and simple.

From Close to the Bone by Carlos Cortes Close to the Bone is a story of self, poverty and community. Poverty is the most dominant cultural feature manifested in this story.

The main character, a farmer is living simply despite the difficulties he and his

12 family is encountering. In him is a self that is enduring and determined. He has to prove to the community he belongs that though challenges to life are closed to the bone, he will survive.

From Homecoming by Emma M. Quizon Homecoming manifests a picture of a typical Filipino family. It also reflects a story of oneself, status and role.

Conclusion Selected contemporary short stories under study mirror the culture of the Filipinos through the language employed by the authors. Specifically, the sixteen short stories studied evidently project the Filipino’s self, family, community, youth, status and role, religion, poverty, power and authority and politics. Being a new field of study and being cultural and linguistics in leanings or tendencies, this paper significantly helps treating or reading short stories in another perspective.

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