Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tundo Man May Langit Din

"The prejudices of ignorance are more easily removed than the prejudices of interest; the first one are blindly accepted, the second willfully preferred."

What idiot would hear the word “Tondo” and still associate it with “panaan” and “tagaan”? Does he live in some sort of parallel universe where it is still the 70’s and the people of Tondo sport numerous tattoos, carry weapons and act like warriors for warring tribes? (This piece of information should be treated as an urban legend – even my parents wouldn’t verify my claim.)

Haven’t he watched TV lately? I mean, duh. Sumpak is now the weapon of choice for your regular Tondo gangster. (What can you expect from someone who, upon hearing what my name is, said that it sounded like Jolina. Like Jolina is still relevant these days.)

Okay, seriously, what’s with all this ill preconceived notion about Tondo? You can actually see in their faces the unease and derision most people feel by the mention of the word “Tondo”. Whenever these people comment “Talaga? Taga Tundo ka? Hindi ba magulo dun?” I’m always tempted to reply sarcastically: “Naku hindi na ngayon no, tinaga ko na yung mga siga dun eh. Gusto mong makita yung mga tattoo nung napatay ko? Naka-drowing lahat sa likod ko”.

Okay, again, seriously, I know that Tondo is a dangerous place to live in. But I can say the same thing for other parts of our country. If I may be permitted to be the cynic here, the world is a dangerous place to live in. And yet people still choose to believe that Tondo is the ultimate, the one to rule them all, notoriety-wise. So by extension (to these people), me, being a resident of Tondo, is just as coarse and underhanded as the rest of the “siga ng Tundo”. And I hate that stereotype.

It’s not that I am being blind to the faults and ails of our place. I am not. I know the place is filthy and reeking with inhabitants of questionable hygiene. I know that Tondo is the place politicians go to when they want hakot crowd, the place where those public service shows go to when they want to produce a segment meant to tug at your hearts what with all the wailing and bawling about poverty, lost loved ones or dreams of one day meeting their idols. I know that most of the jologs crowd live here, I know the places where the gangs hang out, I know that most residents are just as glad to play the stereotypical “taga Tundo” for a sum or even for just a 15-second TV appearance.

And, to be completely honest about it, I really do understand how most people feel about Tondo. Until now, I’m still not bound to invite people to visit me at home. But that’s not to say that I don’t feel slighted by comments against our place. In fact, I am always defensive about the fact that I grow up in Tondo.

But I can’t hate our place. Sure, there are moments when I want to go on a shooting spree at patayin ang mga tambay, manginginom, nagvi-videoke at mga nagpapatugtog ng malakas. I don’t like the smell, I hate the reckless jeepney and pedicab drivers, I want to slap those little girls who seem to think it’s a great idea to dress sluttily and dance in the streets like the EB babes. But I can’t imagine a life away from it. I can’t imagine how I would turn out if I grew up in another place.

Life is never boring in Tondo. The people are loud but they are colorful and lead interesting lives. When worse comes to worst, I can expect our neighbors to help in any way they can. Life there is harsh and others would try to take advantage of you, but I learned to be tough and to not let others get the better of me. There are stories of destitution and struggles to live comfortably and with dignity, tales of broken youth and wasted lives. Each story saddens and scares me, but with each story of failure, I know there is also another story of another person striving to rise above it all, and it’s enough to inspire me.

I don’t know what else to say to sway people’s belief about Tondo. Frankly, I may not even be the perfect person to disprove these biases. I’m as siga as you can get! So let them have their stereotypes. I still like where I live. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

(Well, except for the videoke all-nighters and the little EB babes-wannabes and the loud drunks…)

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