Thursday, March 2, 2017
*424. LOOKING FOR MISS PHATUPHATS
AMERICAPAMPANGAN GIRL. A young Pampanga miss in a strikes a pose in her modern Western-style outfit, complete with a hat, white gloves, high heel shoes--all fashionably Americana!
“Ang mga babae’y nagputol ng buhok, nag-alis ng medyas
Nag-ahit ng kilay at ang puting dibdib ay halos ilabas
Ang mga lalaki ay libang na libang sa lahat ng oras
Saan patungo ang ganitong bayan kung hindi ang maghirap…
- Miguel M. Cristobal, poet
Juan Crisostomo Sotto showed us a caricature of what we had become under the Americans through his story character—Miss Phatuphats. Formerly known as Yeyeng, she had developed an abnormal preoccupation with things American, and sought to erase her Kapampangan-ness by speaking only in English and affecting an air of Yankee superiority. As a result, she became a pitiful, laughing stock of the town, leading many to question whether the white ‘saxon” culture is truly fit to be assimilated by brown-skinned Filipinos.
The turning point in our history, historians say, began with the inauguration of the Philippine Assembly in 1907, and which saw Filipino participation in self-governance for the first time. Fear and distrust for white masters slowly gave way to awe and admiration. Filipinos took to adapting the great American lifestyle and the term “Sajonista” (Saxonist) was used to describe with a sneer, these Americanized natives, the new “modernistas”. They were “young ladies and gentlemen”, products of the public schools, who have taken to addressing each other with “Mister” or “Miss”, and who sought out to differentiate themselves from the common provincianos.
Names were the first to updated to give them a cosmopolitan sound—so Francisco became “Frank”, Jose “Joe” and Lucia, “Lucy”. Kapampangan parents had a heyday naming their babies with American appellations—Henry, Mary Rose, Helen, Charles. The young lads and lasses who went to Manila for their schooling returned home to their towns in their smart drill suits, stylish frocks copied from American fashion magazines and thigh-high stockings.
For the best in Western-style dresses, the taller de modas of Florencia Salgado, Maria Castro’s “National Fashion”, Sotera Valencia’s “Valencia’s Fashion”, and Marta Tioleco Espinosa’s “La Creacion” were the go-to places in San Fernando.
Bathing suits were an offshoot of the sporting events introduced by Americans, who were avid sports enthusiasts. Two of the first to wear them in public were Kapampangan sisters Amanda and Luz Abad Santos—daughters of Jose Abad Santos, who were members of the 1934 Far Eastern Games national swim team.
Meanwhile, American sartorial elegance was the promise of C. Hugo (Gentleman’s Tailor Modernist), Hilario Lapid’s Fashion (Cabildo), I.D. Cura (along Rizal Ave.) and De Leon Bros. tailors (Herran)—all Kapampangan suitmakers.
Young, independent colegialas had their eyebrows shaved, hair cut short, bobbed, curled and Marcel-waved in modern salons such as the one owned by Rosa Soliman. Their handsome boyfriends in their City Slick, Valentino or Executive hair styles and flared London pants took them out to soda parlors to have ice cream or watch vaudevilles (the “zarzuela” was considered passé) , and basketball games.
By the 1930s, the Philippines was completely under the American spell. It is said that the boogie-woogie, jitterbugging kids of the Swing Era were probably the most Americanized generation of young Filipinos. An observant few were quick to lament the eradication of our values as Filipinos became enamoured with the American dream with Hollywood movies, the carnivals and cabarets, the cigarettes and the scotch—providing the cheap thrills of youthful leisure.
Kapampangans’ love affair with America would last longer than most—even with the rise of nationalism in the 1950s, mainly due to the presence of Clark Air Base that was seen more as a boon, to the neighborhood community. For decades, the base provided thousands of livelihood opportunities, jobs, and, for many Misses Phatuphats among us, a possible ticket to a good life.
All that would end dramatically and abruptly in 1991, with Pinatubo kicking out America from Clark with finality. The American absence cleared the air and gave us time and space to reflect on what colonial mentality has done to us, and what we have been missing all these years. After bidding “adios” to Alice Roosevelt and Miss Phatupats, it’s now time to say “hello” to the rediscovery of our race, our own culture and heritage.