Carvajal: Dubious legacy

Orlando P. Carvajal
·2 min read

“When you are at the top, be careful of the monster called PRIDE. Pride will make you look down on the people who haven’t attained your level of success.” Nelson Mandela.

Filipinos are most vulnerable to the pride monster because of a highly dubious legacy from our Spanish colonial masters. This enduring legacy was starkly brought to mind by the recent removal of Marichu Mauro from her ambassadorial post for alleged maltreatment of a domestic helper.

It doesn’t take much probing to realize that looking down on domestic helpers and treating them as inferior beings is more prevalent in our society than we care to admit.

This can be traced back to the way our Spanish colonial masters treated us.

The Spaniards Christianized us yet did the most unchristian thing of taking our native land from us, making us tenants instead of owners, domestic helpers instead of masters of our own households. Throughout their reign we were never allowed to forget that they could treat us any which way they wanted. As it turned out they treated us cruelly as inferior Indios. As a young boy in Barili I grew up hearing horrid stories of Spanish cruelty to the natives.

Their treatment of us as inferior tenants and domestic helpers is, of course, unchristian. And that’s to say the least because in many instances it spilled over to the realm of the inhuman. But as Catholic masters, many of them priests, were modeling it, soon it registered in our collective psyche that the cruel way of our Christian colonizers was how masters treat tenants and domestic helpers.

Thus, when the Spanish masters left, those of us who became masters in our own right treated our tenants and domestic helpers the way we learned it from Spain, as inferiors.

Ambassador Mauro is definitely not alone in treating her domestic helper as inferior. Many of us unconsciously yet ever so matter-of-factly treat domestic helpers in a manner that makes them feel inferior.

Inferior is the operative word because treatment really ranges from condescending benevolence (inferior quality and quantity of food, unhealthy living quarters?) to extreme cruelty. Of the latter, I’m sure we have heard of grim stories of how some domestic helpers suffer in the hands of cruel Filipino masters.

In 1965, Fr. Jaime Bulatao SJ came out with the book “Split-level Christianity.” He defined it as “the co-existence within the same person of two or more thought-and-behavior systems which are inconsistent with each other.” Our treatment of domestic helpers is a good example. We believe we are equal before God yet we treat fellow Filipinos “who have not attained our level of success” as inferior.

It’s a dubious colonial legacy we should, in Facebook speak, unfollow.