I love arts and culture, so I want to write about them. This category covers light topics such as popular culture, social media, music, and travel and also heavy subjects such as literature, social justice, and politics.
Quitting social media in this generation: maybe a road less travelled by millennials, but I have. It is undoubtedly helpful for writers and independent creatives out there. It provides an instant audience for the projects one has been working on. However, when it already dampens creativity and productivity, it’s time to draw the line.
I quit social media—except for business purposes—two months ago, and it was the happiest decision I ever made in my life. Not only I became happier, but I was able to do important things and focus on myself as well. Quitting it is not a walk in the park as it seems. The first few days were really difficult for me. There were some instances wherein my fingers unconciously hover over Twitter’s icon on my phone. There’s also a bit of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). As an arts and culture writer, I feared that I won’t be able to keep up with the in’s and out’s of the industry. But eventually, those feelings and habits wore off and didn’t matter anymore.
As of the writing, it’s been 60 days since I took the road less travelled. I might post my articles on some sites to get traffic but that ends its influence on me. Social media isn’t a big part of my life anymore. Here’s what I learned when I left it all behind:
It Felt Quieter
Do you ever feel annoyed at how things are so loud sometimes? Let’s say you’re in a room with people talking loudly, and you’re straining to hear what’s happening outside. You’re starting to get annoyed because you can’t make out what’s going on there. You ran to the nearest door, opened it, and slammed it shut behind you. Now, everything became clearer. The environment felt quieter. No unnecessary chatter in your mind.
It Fostered My Creativity
With no feeds to scroll, my hands yearned to do something. I started to write about a lot of stuff. In fact, this blog wouldn’t be possible if I am still dilly-dallying on Twitter and Facebook. I wrote about things I wouldn’t have otherwise written.
I Became Independent
Social media can influence your mind. Every post you read will find its way into your brain. You will follow what’s trendy, and ignore what’s not. I’m not saying that’s not a good thing. You will probably do what others have been doing just because it’s “in.” Social media can dictate how to live your life according to some standards.
Quitting social media, there’s no one and nothing influencing my mind but news stories and books. I became confident of what I have to offer to the world. I don’t see unncessary posts that reek of questionable social standards, and I don’t have to necessarily follow the status quo. It allowed me to break the norms and understand social constructs. I became more confident of myself.
I Started to Appreciate Small Things
I started to feel grateful for the things I have today—the food that I eat every day, the house that I live in, the education I received, and the access to educational resources. Most of the people in the world don’t have these, and I feel a bit privileged. I started to notice these things that I wouldn’t have otherwise paid attention to.
It Made My Existing Network Stronger
Quitting social media, I did not yearn for superficial friendships anymore. The ones who really care, they noticed and reached out whether I am on a crisis. No. I am honestly not. Others at least asked me what I have been doing. These people took time to let me know they are there for me and not for the one they see on Facebook and Twitter.
Leaving it all behind without some kind of notice also filtered out those opportunistic people who only want something from me when it’s very comfortable for them. But that’s another story for another time.
I Focused on More Important Things
I have some causes I support, and quitting social media made me dedicate my time to them. Not only I became productive, but I became a helping hand to those in need.
I have been studying a lot about the world around me, too. If I am not reading literary fiction and poetry, I am delving into world history and politics. In that way, I am becoming culturally and politically aware.
It Gave Me More Reading Time
It’s not a surprise that I am a huge reader. I read books that have bigger themes and have more complex writing. I feel that I can’t live without reading books.
As much as possible, I separate work reading and leisure reading. But sometimes, things happen, schedules change, and routines get broken. With no Twitter and Facebook to think about, I get to read more.
I’ll be very honest. While it improved my life dramatically, going cold turkey was also the hardest decision I ever made. I developed a strong network for the past few years being there, and I still want to grow it. Not being there, it’s hard not knowing what my network is up to.
I also feared that my career will suffer if I turn my back on social media. However, this blog/website is a testament that it did not. If prospective clients and hiring managers want to check me out, this website is a great place to know about me.
Some words of apology to everyone: I am on social media only to post articles such as this, but I am not there to interact further. If you mention me on this post or that tweet, I won’t be able to see them.
I may experience hiccups here and there. I may cheat and break my rules. But one’s thing for sure: I stand by my own decision and continue what I started. Social media was great. But the benefits of quitting outweigh what the platform gives.
It’s a Monday night at a friend’s house in Manila, a city which still has a strong Hispanic influence thanks to the three centuries of Spanish occupation. The night is warm and restless. And it’s one of those perfect nights to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a while. Over a hot meal of quintessential Filipino dishes and American pop ballads, a friend suddenly said in jest: “I remember that you are so into music and pop culture. What kinds of songs are you into now?”
To which I answered, with pride and ardor: “I’m into Latinx music now. I’m listening to a lot of songs in Spanish.”
It might have been the bitter tuyo she’s munching that made her grimace, but my frenzied reply prompted her to comment about how I do not give a damn about OPM. That since I’m a Filipino, I should be patronizing and glorifying music from my own country.
I was sitting there mortified with my own preference in music and arts. That my not listening to Filipino music makes me not proud of my identity. That by my listening to Spanish songs makes me unpatriotic. While there’s nothing wrong with her statement, I think that she was heavily alienated by a culture that is so much our own—Hispanic culture. That the only culture she wants to embrace is “purely” Filipino. Is there such a thing? Over the Filipino favorite adobo, I thought about it for a moment and my jaw dropped with a sudden realization. It occured to me that she might be a victim of miseducation. That she and most millennials are victims of miseducation about history and their heritage.
Despite the countless history lessons drilled into them at school, most millennials seem at disconnect with their own inherited culture. More than three hundred years of Spanish colonization and yet they are so much into everything American—music, TV series, books, films, language, and white culture. While the American way of life is also of our own, it can’t just wipe 333 years of influence with just over four decades of propaganda. However, it seems unfortunate that most millennials have already forgotten their Hispanic heritage. Needless to say, the Spaniards left imprints that even survived in the modern society. Think of the way we count (uno, dos, tres, etc.), the way we talk about months (Enero, Pebrero, Marso, etc.), the various loan words in our very own Filipino language and in regional ones (kutsara, tinidor, baso, kutsilyo, etc.), the various festivities and traditions we celebrate (fiesta, siesta, etc.), the localized names of countries (Estados Unidos, Hapon, Tsina, etc.), some names of MRT and LRT stations (Libertad and Buendia), our last names (Cruz, Diaz, Espejo, etc.), and the major religion in the country (Roman Catholic). Everything is very Hispanic.
Language is a reflection of culture, and they are very connected to each other. So why aren’t we, Filipinos, using the Spanish language today as much as English? Why didn’t Spanish survive up to this generation? What happened? Does it even matter now?
Learning about our Hispanic heritage does not mean relinquishing our nationality as Filipino. After all, part of our culture, customs, and traditions is based upon it. It does not mean that we have to abolish the Filipino language just because we have Hispanic roots. It’s just a way of us paying homage to a lost language and embracing our heritage. As I have written in my previous post, I have been religiously studying Spanish. The language that played a huge part in the independence of this country from colonizers. I dedicate roughly three hours of my time every day studying the grammar and conversing with our hermanos from the Latin America. But before I tell you why it means so much to me, let me walk you through a brief history of the Philippines under three colonizers.
A Walk Down the Memory Lane
Many historians claim that the Spaniards did not teach Filipinos the Spanish language. They insist that the Spaniards did not want Filipinos to learn it for the fear of retaliation. Various accounts, however, are in contrary to that statement. Despite their cruelty, the Spaniards made efforts to educate the Indios. One of their contributions is the introduction of the public education in the Philippines. They taught ordinary Filipinos the Spanish language with the help of the friars. It was even required by the Spanish Royal Decree to teach the language to the natives. In his speech for the Philippine Assembly at the US Congress in October 1914, former president Manuel L.Quezon acknowledged the influence of the Spaniards to the literacy of Filipinos. He even said that he was educated in one of the schools built by them.
Digging deeper, the use of the Spanish language by the Filipinos goes further than the 19th century. In 1610, Filipino printer, writer, and publisher Tomas Pinpin wrote his famous book Librong Pagaaralan nang manga Tagalog nang Uicang Castilla, that was meant to help Filipinos learn the Spanish language. I have a digital copy of the said book but the Tagalog used was very challenging.
Tomas Pinpin’s efforts must have been worth it. When the Filipinos were made aware of the atrocities of the Spaniards with the help of the Illustrados, it seems that they were already speaking Spanish. Freed from the clutch of the Spaniards, the revolutionists and Illustrados wrote ¡Viva la Republica Filipina, Viva! on our flag to finally proclaim the independence in 1898. Then, they penned the short-lived Constitución Política de Malolos (Malolos Constitution), the basic law of the First Philippine Republic, in Spanish.
Even when the Americans came in the early 1900s, the use of Spanish language even became more prevalent.
The infamous betrayal from both Spain and America made the usage of Spanish fluctuate in the early 20th century. The massive propaganda of America to wipe out the Spanish influence in us became successful. They exceeded what the Spaniards did in terms of education by bringing native English speakers to teach us a new language. The extent of the American influence was almost genocidal as it painted a bad image of the Spain. Eventually, the use of Spanish diminished over the years. Add that to the Philippine-American war that killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos. In the end, the Americans were very successful in bastardization of our inherited culture.
Ironically, Filipino literature during the American occupation flourished. Writers like Teodoro Kalaw, Claro M. Recto, and Francisco Liongson wrote heavily in Spanish. Newspapers such as the Philippine Free Press were also written in both English and Spanish.
However, there came a movement in the late 1930s. To foster identity among the Filipinos and to unite the country, Filipino was declared the official language in 1937. Local languages such as Cebuano and Tagalog were also strengthened. Then-president Manuel L. Quezon didn’t want either Spanish or English to be the national language. This was yet another major blow for Spanish.
Nearing the middle of the century, the Philippines suffered a huge loss of its peoples. Imperial Japan came in the 1940s and slaughtered a million Filipinos including the remaining Spanish speakers in Manila. The survivors then migrated to the US or Latin American countries.
After the three periods of colonization, the Spanish language became irrelevant over the next few decades. As a matter of fact, the 1987 Constitution put the final nail in the coffin by dropping Spanish as one of the country’s official languages.
Resurgence of Spanish
The turn of the century brought a lot of changes in the way of Filipino life. One of them is the cultural awareness. The next 20 years made some Filipinos interested in their lost language—there was an interest to revive Spanish. Language schools such as the Instituto Cervantes de Manila and Berlitz were established. The Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day is also being celebrated every 30th of June to commemorate the cultural and historical ties between the Philippines and Spain.
In terms of arts and culture, various Latin American telenovelas also captured the hearts of Filipinos. Shows like Marimar, Betty La Fea, and Rosalinda were such massive hits in the Philippines that local TV networks even franchised them. Now, you’re wondering why Filipinos are so into them? That’s because Philippines and the Hispanic countries share the same culture being all children of Spain.
Don’t forget the anthem of the traditional Filipino line dance during fiestas in the barrio: Todo todo todo by Mexican singer Daniela Romo. “Esos bellos momentos, todo todo. Tus lindos ojos verdes, todo todo. El fuego de tu cuerpo, todo todo todo todo . . .” Filipinos in this generation don’t understand the lyrics but they still love the tune of the song.
In spite of these initiatives, activities, and traditions, most are still not aware of their own heritage.
I’ve written before that I am embracing my cultural identity as a Hispanic-influenced Filipino. I am studying the Spanish language because my cultural identity is very important for me. I don’t know about you but hearing Spanish being spoken by anyone makes my ears prick up. It feels natural to hear the words. I felt connected whenever I hear a Spanish song or hear someone speak it.
I’m also studying Spanish to get to know more about the rich history of the Philippines. You may be wondering why learning a foreign language makes me know more about the country. If you’ve been doing a lot of reading, Spanish was the official language in the Philipines during the Spanish régime. Our ancestors spoke it along with their native tongue. Filipino, as we speak it in this generation, was only spoken by inhabitants of Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan, and Batangas. Parts of the archipelago didn’t know Filipino/Tagalog yet, and Spanish served as a link to communicate with one another.
The Hispanic influence is both apparent and underlying. Despite hating the Spaniards, Illustrados such as Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, and Graciano Lopez Jaena spoke and wrote in Spanish. In fact, Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were written in Spanish. Our national anthem was originally written in Spanish—Marcha Nacional Filipina/Tierra Adorada.
These are all very fascinating. These are the things I want to delve myself into: the lost connections to our Hispanic culture.
Knowing the country’s rich Hispanic history, it made me appreciate the beauty of the Spanish language. However, the same cannot be said for most Filipinos who would rather not go overboard. Learning Spanish for most Filipinos is not practical and is only a waste of time in this English-speaking country. Let’s face the reality. Most will not study for historical and cultural purposes.
Good thing that Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry acts as a bait for Filipinos. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. No wonder BPO companies are answering the demand to employ Spanish-speaking agents. Few key strokes and Google searches show that BPO companies in the Philippines pay PHP60,000 to PHP90,000 for foreign language accounts. That’s twice or even thrice the amount English-speaking call center agents earn in a month. Learning a foreign language such as Spanish won’t be a waste of time for Filipinos after all.
The Future of Spanish in the Philippines
Despite the movement to reintroduce Spanish in the Philippines, its future to be one of the national languages seems far-fetched. The loss was so deep that it will require reworking of an entire nation.
First of all, a widespdead cultural awakening among Filipinos is needed for them to be interested in it. It would be a great deal of an education reform for this to happen. Moreover, this can only be possible if the 1987 Philippine Constitution will be ammended to reinclude Spanish as one of the official languages.
In this day and age, it’s very important to know and embrace our cultural identity and heritage. Looking back and delving deeper into our rich history and inherited culture makes us feel secure of our own place in the world.
Learning Spanish and the Hispanic culture does not make us less Filipino. In fact, it makes us otherwise. It enables us to feel connected to our ancestors who fought for our freedom. It makes us appreciate what we are and what we have become. It gives us a sense of interconnectedness of all things. Lastly, knowing our history makes us prepared for the worse things we might still face in the future.
Kumusta ka ey? Kumusta? Hello, how are you? ¡Hola! ¿Qué tal?
The world is getting smaller thanks to the advent of modern technology. Definitely, one of its advantages is bringing different world cultures closer than ever before. Learning different languages has never been easier. Culture mixing has never been more prevalent. But, at what expense?
Throughout my teenage years, I struggled a lot with my cultural and regional identity. I didn’t know where to belong and how to belong. Growing up with a Pangasinan-speaking family, I experienced a major culture clash within me. Growing up learning and speaking Filipino at school, I became confused even more. Growing up consuming media in the English language—books, music, and movies—I became a different person altogether. Growing up in a society and a community with a strong colonial mentality wherein everything American or white is venerated, it made my situation even worse. I didn’t know how to identify myself.
Learning all these languages at a young age, I became trilingual. This however, came with some underlying effects that will scar me later in life. Back then, I was young and naïve. I didn’t know how to respond to the “bastardization” of my cultural and regional identity. I was unfortunate for not having someone to explain the cultures and histories of these languages before learning them.
Cultural identity, as defined by this paper by Nina Martin, is “the extent to which each individual person attributes certain views and beliefs to him or herself, and to the feeling of affinity this person has towards a distinct cultural group of people.” The paper also discusses how “bilingualism consequently affect a child’s cultural identity development.”
When I was in my primary and secondary years, my classmates used to ask me where I was born. I have always answered Manila to some and San Carlos to others. I was afraid to identify myself as a native Pangasinense for the fear of being frowned upon. That being a native is inferior compared to being born in urban places like imperialist Metro Manila. Some also mistook me for a “foreigner,” a dialectal term, because of my Caucasian features. What’s so unacceptable is that I didn’t let them know what I really am. Remember, this is in the early 2000’s wherein colonial mentality is strong among the provinces. During those years, I was responding in a way that I can and I know. This led me to be confused of my own cultural and regional identity. Who am I and where do I belong? What language should I speak? Am I a true-blue native? Does it even matter?
My cultural turmoil followed me even in my 20’s. Recently, when I was speaking to a friend in my native tongue, I was horrified that I have already forgotten some of the words. I was floored. I wanted to pull my hair out to puke out the words. I was experiencing what linguists call a language attrition. Wikipedia defines language attrition as “the process of losing a native, or first language.” I think that this was brought by my moving to Metro Manila after graduating from college. Because I didn’t know someone who speaks in my native tongue, I learned to survive with speaking in Filipino/Tagalog or English. I also patronized consuming media in a foreign language that is English. My situation became even worse than before. I was becoming a lost cause.
A Wake-up Call
Due to my mission to improve every aspect of myself, I started learning Spanish this year. A month passed and I started noticing something incredible. It felt a bit of a cultural awakening in me. Like a veil is being lifted. Learning a foreign language makes me appreciate more my native tongue and my culture. I was not afraid to identify myself anymore. Since then, when I’m elsewhere but Pangasinan, I often steal opportunities to speak to my family members and relatives in the native tongue. Since I’ve read in the news that Pangasinan as a language is dying, I felt committed to save and preserve it.
You wonder why I’m writing about owning my identity but I am learning a Spanish. I have always known that my family is of Spanish descent by genealogy—that we have a pint of Spanish blood running in our veins. And what a shame it would be if no one stands up to own that culture? If no one in this lifetime embraces our “otherness”? This is my way of paying homage to my roots. I am owning everything that I am made of. Besides, Spanish is part of our culture as Filipinos.
The Importance of Cultural Identity
The importance of cultural identity has never been stressed enough. Simply put, it makes one feel belonged. It makes him know his place in the world. That’s why it’s very important that we push diversity in various forms of media—books, TV series, movies, songs, etc. When a person sees or reads about a character who looks like him, he may not feel alone in the world. He will feel represented and included. There will be a sense of belongingness and security. More importantly, it will break toxic social norms that bound individuals in the society.
My upbringing, education, and experiences led me to question and embrace what I really am. Now that I am acknowledging my Hispanic influence and learning a language that colonized my ancestors, I won’t let it shroud my true identity. No matter where I go or no matter what language I speak, I will always identify myself as a Hispanic-influenced Filipino—specifically Pangasinense. I will always bring with me the native language, tradition, and customs my ancestors fought to survive. I won’t deny myself anymore.
The last few months of 2018 have been very life-changing and important in my development as a person. A lot of things happened that will prepare me for the next chapter of my life. I’m not one to air my dirty laundry on the Internet but this is basically it—I hoped. I dreamed. I failed. I survived. I shrugged it off.
It was much a rite-of-passage on becoming an adult.
One of the things I did during my rite-of-passage was to finally quit social media. This idea is something that I have been entertaining for a while. I felt that this moment is crucial and is the right time for me to finally do it.
In September 2018, I deactivated my Facebook account. I don’t know about you but the platform was getting toxic for me. It’s very unsufferable. I felt that it was not a safe place for me anymore. I tend to be liberal and radical in my posts, and some people don’t usually understand where I am coming from.
Last month, I came back to it to finally finish what I started. I kept under lock and key most of my posts and deleted the rest. It was a long process since I have been on Facebook for 10 years now. While most of my peers are just getting the hang of it, I have already outgrown it. I already aired my fair share of embarrassment, and I’m glad to have already wiped them off the Internet forever. While deleting my posts, they took me down the memory lane. But most of the time, I cringed because of the racist and imperialist views I upheld during my teenage years.
Scrolling through my feed one last time, I was reminded of the number one reason why I am leaving the platform: superficiality. I honestly cringe at how shallow some Facebook friends have become. From their family drama, their juicy break-up stories, exaggerated travel photos, to fake news stories, to stuff that should have been sent privately, and to narcissistic posts, it was overwhelming—to say the least. This kind of content is severely affecting my mental health, and I needed to cut it from my life.
Mind you, I’m not cynical. I don’t hate these people. It’s just that I don’t care about trivial things anymore. These days, I worry more about global issues such as the conflict in the Middle East, the “genocide” in North Korea, politics, and social justice.
Since deleting thousands of posts is time-consuming, I used Social Book Post Manager, a Chrome extension. It’s a script that deletes all posts, photos, comments, and likes from the Activity Log. It took some time to delete my history but it was really worth it. After running the script, I kept my Facebook account inactive but not deactivated. If someone looks me up, they will see a blank wall and nothing more.
After leaving Facebook, I turned to Twitter. I have been on Twitter since 2009 and I am familiar with its culture. I was just not very active in its communities then. Most of the people on Twitter are intellectuals (depends on who you follow) and I felt safe being there. Global issues and current events are always being discussed, so I always learn something new. It was my refuge and my tether back to the civilized world.
Unfortunately, my love for Twitter birthed an addiction. Instead of doing more productive things, I always find myself mindlessly scrolling through my feed and perusing threads after threads. I needed to stop eventually. Even though I have no problem with the platform at all, I needed to cut my usage or leave it altogether.
This month, I took my reclusive stance to the next level as I deleted all of my tweets from 2009–2019. While deleting them, I was also reminded by my cringe-worthy tweets. Imagine, these tweets were public all along! They could have been used against me. To haunt me. It was a long process since I have been tweeting for 10 years now. I used tweetdelete.net and tweeteraser.com for the much needed purge. Using tweetdelete.net will only delete the recent 3,200 tweets, so I had to use tweeteraser.com to upload my Twitter data. Just do a Google search about requesting your Twitter archive.
I don’t plan on tweeting/retweeting anymore, but I will still keep my Twitter handle.
Instagram is a different story. I joined in 2016 to only share the books I read. I am not really into taking photographs so I did not find any use for it. This month, I archived all of my photos and left my handle hanging.
My blog, LinkedIn, Last.fm, and my GoodReads profiles are the only ones I use now. I keep track of my reading progress on GoodReads, and I track what I listen to on Spotify in real time via Last.fm. Thus, that’s basically what you will only see from me. Will I be back? Facebook and Instagram, definitely not. Twitter, I will only probably use it for business purposes.
I don’t plan on erasing myself from the Internet because that is very impossible. I only plan on keeping things as professional as possible and my privacy intact. Now, I live my life in “reclusion.” When I’m not working, I read literary fiction, classics, and poetry. I am also religiously studying Spanish. To stay informed and updated with local and international news, I use an app called Feedly. It allows me to aggregate all the websites I often visit and pull feed from them via RSS. It also lets me curate my own list per industry or topic. In this way, I still remain informed about the things I care about. I don’t get ignorant of the things around me just because I’m not on social media.
You won’t see my travel photos while I’m sailing around the Caribbean. You won’t see tweets raving much of the books I read. You won’t see tweets of me using buzzwords from the social justice parlance. And you won’t definitely see my day-to-day activities. But I assure you, it is still a happy and contented life.
Copyright 2019 by Arvyn Cerezo
All Rights Reserved.