Monday, September 19, 2005

[Blog Entry] Stagnant Reading Habits, Money, Bag Death

Stagnant Reading Habits

When I go to the bookstore these days (even if I don’t have any money), I’m surprised by the fact that I wander the fiction section more often. Normally, I’d just linger around the fantasy/science-fiction bookshelf (even if that bookshelf happens to be extremely wide in the case of Fully Booked Rockwell) and perhaps pass by the children’s section (since fantasy novels tend to stray over there as well). Now, my reading tastes are miraculously expanding, but time remains my nemesis, as there is so much to do, and so little time to read.


One quality I admire in the Chinese is the fact that they’re not afraid of giving money as gifts (the three occasions for giving gifts are birthdays, Christmas, and the New Year).

Honestly, in Western and Filipino culture, there seems to be this taboo of giving money as presents. Perhaps it’s the idea that you’re “buying” or bribing the person. Honestly though, if I wanted to bribe someone, I don’t need money to do it. It could easily be food or favors. For the Chinese though, giving money as a gift is natural. Just make sure they’re sealed in red envelopes.

The thing that I find ironic is that while most Filipinos shy away from giving money as presents, they have no such compulsion when giving gift certificates. I mean one of the reasons why people give gifts is so that the amount spent is not known (hence the practice of tearing out price tags). That’s not the case with gift certificates though. There’s a blaring “500 pesos” or “1000 pesos” indicated on them, and most likely, you spent the same amount of cash to purchase them.

Honestly, unless you got those gift certificates at a discount (or they were gifts to you as well), I’m sure some people would appreciate the cash instead. I mean cash is more flexible (you actually get change for spending in smaller denominations) and they can be used nearly everywhere. Give me real money over Mickey Mouse money any day.

But bookstore gift checks will always be appreciated.

Bag Death

Barely a month old, my new bag effectively died when its strap snapped earlier today. Not that I’m attached to this new bag, especially considering it doesn’t have a zipper and instead has an open hood, making my items easy prey to the weather (and the occasional thief).

Of course I don’t blame the bag for getting ruined. To be fair, I was lugging around something that was effectively more than a third of my body weight (which isn’t much, but still). Me carrying such heavy weights, I was praying that Murphy’s law wouldn’t apply. Unfortunately, only the fact that it didn’t rain was answered.

The bag strap snapped as I was walking from Katipunan, and when I got to the MRT station, there was a line long enough to rival Neil Gaiman’s book signings. At that point, I would have taken a cab if I had the spare cash, so I opted to take the bus instead (the reason why I avoid public transportation is because when I ask for the price of the ride, they usually answer me in Spanish-Filipino, and I can’t count in Spanish-Filipino). The ride was smooth, until we arrived at the usual choke point (namely the Ortigas intersection where La Salle, EDSA, and Robinsons Galleria collide). Heavy luggage in tow, I got off, and walked to various malls to make deliveries.


Blogger Nikolas said...

Well if anyone hasnt told you yet. the reason behind this, other than the bribe part, is because giving only money shows the lack of effort of the gift giver. Effort is the most important aspect of gift giving which is true with some contemporary culture. Money is given when there is completely no idea what would make an appropriate gift.

The priority leans towards the thoughtfulness of the gift. As a custom of filipino gift giving even the most cheap ass and thoughtful trinkets were placed at a higher value. Despite its modern cultural trappings, this approach to gift giving is old because of the virtue of poverty which philipine culture is exposed to since spanish time. Not to mention, gift giving is not that important as celebrating. What is more important than the gifts is the presence of the friends and loved ones, i've read a number of stories about celebrations and gifts were rarely given except by those who could afford to give one. The rest of the friends usualy just helped out.

I remember my mom telling why i can't just give money, my Lola also remarked the same reasons thinking i didn't know at the time.

There is also the fear of squandering a gift. Certificates provide at least a basic idea of what the "real" gift would be. Money is not always the best gift because its hard to put form to the gift and thus hard to form a sentimental atatchment to it.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

If it's a personalized gift, then whether it's money or an actual present is not an issue, because obviously, the present will win.

Yet people do give generic stuff: t-shirts, mugs, socks, wallets, ties, etc. Obviously, we give these to people who we're not familiar with (or rather don't know what to give). Whereas Westerners or Filipinos would give just that, the Chinese just give money (which I think is more practical). Since giving money is a common practice for the Chinese, there's no mentality that "I don't know what to give the other person". Among people whom you actually give presents to, and then quickly switch to money (such as Filipino culture), yes, that much is obvious.

There's also the fact that I think for most Filipinos, money is still taboo, still seen as "the root of evil", hence a subject to avoid talking about often. Even when you talk to someone about business or say, their salary, they shy away from mentioning specific numbers.

As for the gesture, you yourself mentioned it's the thought that counts. Whether it's an actual present, money, or somebody greeting you happy birthday, it still shows that you took the effort. If it's a matter of not being able to afford a gift, then that's besides the point. I'm not saying that one should give a gift, but in circumstances that we do give gifts, why give a generic gift when you could do so with money?

Regarding sentimentality, well, not all gifts are material, or as enduring. Have you never given food as a gift? Surely it's not there anymore the next time you visit. Or maybe it's a feast at a certain restaurant, or for some people, a strip club show, or even a whore. They obviously won't stand the test of time, but they'll still be remembered nonetheless. Same goes for money. I might not remember the specific amount someone gave me, but I will remember it helped pay for the bills, help fund this or that item, etc.

And honestly, if you give somebody money as a present, will you begrudge him or her that? (Just my thoughts.)

10:13 PM  

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