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By the powers of reasoning

Lagrimas Perdio . 

THE Filipino has, I think through evolution under tyranny, developed a highly sharp sense of reasoning as required by survival. I say this because on a daily basis I deal with people who truly test my patience and instinct to kill simply by having to deal with their convoluted logic. Perhaps it is because no one likes to entertain the possibility of being reprimanded or, worse, held accountable for one’s actions. Perhaps because it is easier to pass on the blame to another person than to be told of one’s inadequacies. Perhaps it is habit.

When we received notice last weekend that there would be no water service in our area for a period of 20 hours, I gave instructions to store water so that we would have enough supply to last us through the temporary drought. To provide a background story, I must tell you that our home has a convoluted system of water tanks, water pumps and all sorts of spiderwebby pipes which we had installed after Sendong. Lately, it has been quite useful since the water pressure where we live seems spotty at best. At any rate, I asked our houseman to be sure that the ground-level tanks were filled so that we would have somewhere to get water.

Later that day, I remembered to ask just how much water we had in the tanks. Truly, I was unprepared for the spate of words uttered in response to my query. First, I was told politely not to worry since the elevated tanks would provide water to the bathrooms of our one-and-a-half storey house without problem. There was an attempt to assure me that I could take a shower and flush away my poop without concern. Then I was informed that since there was electricity the flow of water to the elevated tanks would not be interrupted in any way shape or form. Lastly I was assured that as long as there was water in the ground-level tanks, pumping water to the elevated tanks would be no problem.

Confused by the explanation, I sent our houseman on his merry way only to realize, after his corporeal entity was no longer visible, that my question was never answered. Which resulted in my having to summon him once again to my presence to ask the original unanswered question. After he reappeared, I began to ask my question again at which point he started to repeat the litany which he had honored me with a few minutes earlier. Cutting him short, I asked if there was water in the ground level tanks.

He responded with, “It is easy to determine how much water is in the tanks by tapping it on the side and listening to its resonance.” (All this in the Visayan vernacular.) Taking a very slow, long deep breath while making sure that my hands were not involuntarily reaching for his neck, I asked once again, “Is there any water in the tank?” At which point, he looked at me is if to question my capacity to comprehend since in his logic, he felt he had answered my question in detail, more than once. My brain finally fired up and I said that a simple “yes” or “no” would suffice. He exited, returned a minute later and told me that one tank was full and the other was half full.

“Why did you leave without saying a word?”

“I had to go check before I could answer your question.”

Speechless, I had to collect my wits or be arrested for assault and battery. It turns out that since I left immediately after giving instructions that morning, he had forgotten to check the tanks until I returned and started my inquisition. This got me to thinking how many times in a day I would run into similar situations where unnecessary or excessive explanations would come my way as a matter of response to simple queries.

I asked our houseman what that whole going around and around explanation was about and he finally admitted that he was afraid that I would dress him down for forgetting what he had been instructed to do. Which made me wonder just how common this defense strategy was in the Filipino psyche. Defense before honesty. How simple it would have been if he had just said that he forgot to check the tanks. I would have sent him out to check and I would have gotten my answer with less stress and aggravation. Just to see how far this reasoning would go, I asked him why he didn’t check immediately after I instructed him to do so.

There came another long explanation about how he had been called away to help the other houseman carry some unwieldy heavy object to another location and how that task took them almost half an hour. After which, of course, other things slipped his mind. How many times have we in our lifetimes been given excuses which hinged accountability on another person or persons. The convenient “siya”.

Somewhere in our growing-up molding years, we were never taught the merit of accountability. I remember in my younger days how rapidly my mind would construct these scenarios which would serve as my defense as soon as I was called upon to be asked why I had or hadn’t done what I did or didn’t do. If my memory serves me right, I was never told the merits of honesty and accountability. There was always punishment involved, and harsh words. Things anyone dreads. Which also instilled the skill of excuse-making or blaming othersw rather than to admit my shortcomings.

I had to teach myself to be accountable in adulthood, mostly because I expected–nay, demanded–it from people who worked for and with me. Surely I couldn’t expect them to be what I was not. So on a daily basis, I deal with people still trying to overcome bad habits of saying why it’s not their fault or why other people are to blame. I suppose I work very hard to find the humor in it rather than be angered or aggravated. After all, I can’t blame these people for how they were brought up. I do, however, blame myself if I don’t try to teach them new and better habits.

In the end, it turns out I didn’t need to worry after all, because we DID have enough water to last us the day, and if I had not heard the COWD notice on the radio, I would never have known that there was no water to be had in our barangay. Just goes to show how sometimes we just need to chill.

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