By By tataramon
Could it be that the pest of violence has arrived?
posted 10-Dec-2019  ·  
4,103 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

While many parts of the country were being rocked by strong earthquakes, the island of our affections has recently been shaken by another sort of temblor that sent seismic shocks to our collective sense of psychic balance. Two school teachers met their untimely and undeserved deaths through multiple hackings by cold-blooded murderers. As if that was not enough, the social media and all other conduits of exchange, electronic or face-to-face, became flooded with wild stories to the effect that the two incidents were not isolated: that our beloved Islang Catandungan is in fact being battered by a host of mysterious criminals lurking about and ready to inflict their evil deeds on unsuspecting, innocent and weak victims. 

Remarkably, such wild stories have certain patterns. One is that they are always allegations, puro sabi-sabi daa, and never backed up by the reliable sources such as authentic police reports. Secondly, the perpetrators take on two related characteristics, that they are both mysterious and foreign, mga dayo. In the current spate of rumors, the evil ones were allegedly seen masked, their identity unknowable.  Or encountered only as a voice from the dark.  Or a knock on doors during unholy hours of the night. As such, they are virtual aspects of the unknown, a community’s personifications of their collective fear of mysterious negative forces out there and quite beyond their control. Furthermore, they are always from outside the island, a dayo.  The notion is that these hideous elements are not of their own. They are an invasion from beyond their territory of comfort and familiarity.

These stories are not new. They are merely variations of a recurring theme. We have heard them in the allegations of such mythical beings as the aswang, or the hukluban or the barangan. Almost always, we assign their origins from beyond our shores. So the guy or lady in the neighborhood suspected of possessing evil powers is somebody’s spouse brought in from Samar or some place in the Visayas or Mindanao.  There are more variants of such accounts. Like there were stories before of a malevolent dayo who kidnapped kids, put them in a sack to be killed and their blood offered as sacrifice before starting a construction project like a bridge. Mostly, these tales are employed by elders to scare their children as a disciplinary strategy. But then, such scare devices get to be applied too by the adults on themselves as manifestations of their own worst fears. I vividly remember in the mid-seventies when a rumor circulated that an armada of moros riding on swift-sailing vintas were detected by the radar in Baras, and on their way to invade the island. It caused a general panic. The ROTC cadets were even mobilized to meet the invaders (with their wooden rifles?), and families along the seashores spent a sleepless night in frightful anticipation.

According to social scientists, such tales proliferate in times of social crisis as a way to objectify people’s anxiety of the bad times. It is not dissimilar to the traditional practice of scape-goating among the biblical Jews who would put their ire on a designated goat and blame it as cause of their woes and misfortunes. They would batter the hapless animal with stones and curses in order to shoo it away beyond the boundaries of the community. On a national scale, it is not quite different from the policies employed by populist/fundamentalist and ultra-nationalist governments to seal off their borders from migrants, such as Trump’s planned wall along the Mexican border, or European countries’ rejection of refugees. It operates on the same logic: one’s problems are not from within; they are caused by the foreigner, the dayo.  It can result to violence against the unwelcome new-comer in town. In the extreme form, it caused the Nazi’s banishment and genocide of the Jews.

 Catandunganons are an insular lot, courtesy of our natural geographical isolation. We have our share of suspicious attitude towards the dayo, human or otherwise (such as ideas, ways of life). Think of how the Batalay people who in late 16th century got rid of Fray Diego de Herrera and his group in a violent manner, out of fear that the intruders would change their cherished beliefs and way of life. Think of our old resentment of the Ibongnon, or our disdainful mockery of the “Tagalig.”  Or of our fear of the people of Samar or Capiz and yes the moros.  

To be sure, we Catanduangons have largely purged our aversion of the dayo and had in fact become quite hospitable. Now, minority populations such as the Bombay and Muslims are amidst us carving out niches in our community with apparent ease. But I believe that insularity is innate to the Catandunganon. We never lose it, albeit it can be sublimated and get buried deep into our psyche.  But it is bound to break lose to the surface during trying times.  When we come to panic levels, we wall up and lock in, but peep outside in terror trying to find something/someone to blame for our miseries. And then we see that the dayo or the “other” (the one not of our kind) is none but the very bearer of catastrophe. It is not us; it’s them. And we tell and warn each other about them: they are the masked, strange, hideous, even faceless apparitions, elusive but lurking everywhere. Having infiltrated our ranks they are ready to spring up in surprise from around the corner, or the dark, or behind one’s door and commit the evil deed on you.

   The recent spate of wild stories of alien perpetrators of evil descending upon our island is, I believe, indicative of the worsening conditions of our times. We are once more getting into panic mode, disposing us to spin scary yarns of the invasion of malevolent beings. It is a paranoia, but a strategy to cope.  Even so, it is a failure to come up with a truthful grasp of reality, of getting at the root causes of our sufferings, which leads to wrong and counterproductive measures to solve our problems. In previous times, the news of an aswang would send people to organize the nightly ronda of armed menfolk doing the rounds in search for the evil one. It can lead to violence inflicted on the innocent by an angry but unreasonable mob. In our “modern” era, the mob does its thing on social media. On a more benign note, I will not be surprised that if this on-going malady continues, the barangay folk in respective ermitas would organize perdon processions like they do during times of calamities.  

Bu there is one positive thing about the current paranoia. It is indicative that somehow we in the island have not been desensitized yet from a proliferating culture of violence like it is in other places. In Manila and many other parts of the country, tokhang had been normalized as a daily occurrence. Further on to the rest of the world, violence had become a way of life. We hear of mass shootings in American cities. We know of protracted brutal wars in the Middle East and ethnic cleansing in Africa. So far, such maladies are way out in the distance from our Islang Catandungan. Thankfully, we are still enjoying the peace and calm that multitudes out there have been deprived of. But then too, the recent evidence of a paranoia creeping into our collective mind, might indeed be a sign that the pest of licensed violence has arrived in our beloved island. If that is so, God have mercy on us all. Miserere nobis!    

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