From the Editor

P-tang ‘disente’ yan…

Michael David Tan: “Two weeks before the election and I am still undecided who to vote for. But please stop this ‘disente’ shit; it has become another word for elitism/social climbers/pretentious, and this is pushing me – and I am sure others, too – away from the self-righteous.”

SCREENSHOT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE HOSTED BY ABS-CBN

Let’s be clear: This is not an anti-Mar Roxas or a pro-Rodrigo Duterte write-up…

But this will touch on the two, since the issue has been highlighted by the two.

And that’s this seeming obsession of Roxas to use the word “disente (decent)” to describe what’s supposedly lacking in Duterte and his kind of leadership, and is supposedly present in Roxas and his kind of leadership.

This started because of Duterte’s loose mouth – e.g. the rape joke. This then became a weapon – if you may – of those who oppose Duterte’s candidacy to lead the country, though mainly by Roxas who claims that his kind of leadership is the complete opposite of Duterte’s.

But everytime he says the word “disente”, I squirm/cringe.

I squirm for various reasons.

First, because – growing up in Mindanao – I also speak Bisaya. I am not going to apologize for Duterte because yes, Duterte’s joke was not only crude, it was wrong. Rape IS a serious issue. But unless there’s a disclaimer of some sort, it’s as if Roxas is just broadly saying that we Bisaya-speaking people (particularly those who also have “crude” terminologies) are not “disente”.

I was in New York in the last quarter of 2014, and long-time friends I haven’t seen for a while – after hearing that I was in their area – told me: “Adto na diri, te, sagpaon ka namo.” Roughly and literally, this means: “Come over here, sister, we’ll slap you.”

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No, my friends didn’t slap me when we had lunch and had coffee afterwards. In fact, by saying “sagpaon ka namo (we’ll slap you)”, they were actually – ironically – being sweet to me. And so now, let me ask, are they not “disente”? All of them left the Philippines because there’s no DECENT job that can be had here. One of them (when she was still in Kidapawan City) had to work in the medical field and was getting paid P5,000 per month – hardly enough to feed herself, much more her family of four. She had to go to the Middle East, and when the war broke in the country where she worked, she then fled to the US, looking after old people (a job not even aligned with her degree) just so she can send some money back home. If she is not “disente” just because of the way she talks, then that word “disente” sure is shitty…

Yeah, this isn’t at the level of the rape joke, you’d say. But as I said, start putting that disclaimer at work. So that the next time a close friend calls me “iro (dog)!”, or “igat (coquette)” or “burikat (slut)”; or the next time I hear someone say as a greeting over the phone: “Makit-an tika, kulatahon jud tika (I’ll bash you when I see you)”, then I’ll know to start telling them to be more “disente”.

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Second, as part of the outreach programs of Outrage Magazine, I’ve been to treatment hubs and I have seen, FIRSTHAND, how people living with HIV fear asking about issues of importance to them because doing so could be mistaken as not “disente”. As the mother of a 14-year-old HIV-positive boy once said to me, she won’t ask the doctors questions because “nakakahiya – hindi disenteng magtanong ang katulad ko sa katulad nila (it’s shameful – it is not decent for someone like me to ask someone like him questions).”

May I ask if being “disente” has a social class? And if so, is it now a preferred tool to make people act in ways that are acceptable only to the ruling class, even if it is to the detriment of the others? Who gets to define “disente“? The problem for me is when, suddenly, it’s Mr. Roxas who gets to define who and what’s “disente” or not.

Related to being LGBT, being “disente” has long been used AGAINST us. I have been repeatedly told it’s okay if I’m gay, as long as I’m cisgender; that is, being transgender is not “disente” and is therefore a source of shame.

And third, people who are “disente” know when they’re wrong and when they’re right. And no, we’re not talking of blinders here. Noynoy’s reactions AFTER Yolanda, SAF44, Kidapawan massacre, Luneta hostage-taking, et cetera WERE NOT “DISENTE”. Because if your concept of being “disente” is to stay mum at these times, then we’re fucked (see, I spelled it out).

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Two weeks before the election and I am still undecided who to vote for. But please stop this “disente” shit; it has become another word for elitism/social climbers/pretentious, and this is pushing me – and I am sure others, too – away from the self-righteous…

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