Gossip: The Filipino Favorite Pastime

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Gossip, the Filipinos’ talent/ Gossip, towards success/ Gossip, the country’s marijuana/ Gossip, worshiping

Just as Rico Blanco’s song “Chismis” says, gossiping is the country’s national drug. It is a part of the Filipino culture. Every barangay has at least one group of town gossipers who meet every single day to talk about ‘news’. Usually these are housewives and middle-aged women who are bored, but could also be observed in every age bracket. You will commonly hear people say “Tara magtsismisan tayo (come, let’s gossip)” or “Ano ang bagong tsismis (what’s the latest gossip)?”

Filipinos love to gossip just like every other nation. However, gossiping has a more negative connotation in the Philippines compared to other countries. Most of the time a gossiper is someone who loves talking about the secrets and stories of other people. In the country, when someone is known for being a tsismosa, that means they’re branded as the town liar. While they may spread some truth every now and then, most will come up with alternate stories or exaggerate events in order to have something to talk about.

People tend to stay away from tsismosas, but love them at the same time. Its human nature to want to know the nitty-gritty’s of a person. What makes Filipino gossip wrong is the fact that it is usually filled with envy which could be attributed to the close-minded nature of the Filipinos. It is a passive-aggressive way of inflicting harm to their enemies.

Gossip is typically used to hurt the reputation of an individual, bring down a person, or judge their sins and character. The most common form of tsismis involves daring subjects such as sex, pregnancy out of wedlock, homosexuality, and adultery, but could also range from simple topics such as financial status or academic standing.

Gossip vs. Knowledge

It’s sad to say that Filipinos prefer gossip to knowledge. While there are some who are reluctant to believe the rumors they hear, many can easily be swayed with the constant bombardment of ‘alternative facts’. Few people confront the subject of the gossip, and even less bother to fact check.

The country’s inclination to gossip is also reflected in our media consumption. Pinoys love showbiz and entertainment; stories about actors and their relationship status or the latest scandals in the industry. News programs always manage to squeeze in a few minutes of showbiz happenings despite having more important topics to cover. Entertainment stories in websites also get the most buzz and exposure, while important news is less popular.

The same could be said in our internet consumption. Filipinos spend the most time online worldwide, and yet the country’s internet usage shows that Filipinos are more interested in social media rather than educational sites. Facebook secures the top spot as the most used website, and social media platforms YouTube and Twitter ranks as third and fifth. Meanwhile, search engines Google and Yahoo take the second and fourth spot. The most visited informative website is Wikipedia at ninth place, and the first media outlet site in the list is ABS-CBN at eighteenth place.

Unsurprisingly, the country’s fondness for social media has led to widespread gossip and fake news. Filipinos tend to believe whatever is posted on social media, using the number of likes and shares as the deciding factor for credibility. We rarely seek out the truth. In fact, Mocha Uson, the recently appointed Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, is known for spreading fake news, rumors, and gossips. Her current career was founded on her relentless sharing of ‘news’ and malicious stories about anyone opposing the President.

 Legal remedies

While gossiping might seem like a simple harmless act, there are times when it can get out of hand. When taken too far, it can ruin the reputation and severely affect the well-being of the person on the receiving end. Gossiping that specifically aims to hurt a person and is malicious in intent could be considered a form of defamation, and there are legal remedies a person could pursue in order to defend oneself such as filing for libel or slander.

According to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, libel is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. It is considered libel when the imputation is made over a form of medium such as in writing or broadcasting among other things, while slander is imputation made verbally.

However, this course of action is more common in the entertainment industry, with actors who have money to burn for lawyers, or politicians and journalists. An average Filipino doesn’t have the means for lengthy trials and would usually settle outside of court, if not completely letting the situation slide.

 Other Policies

In other places in the country, gossiping gets so bad that towns are being forced to penalize the act and implement anti-gossiping policies. This is the case for Binalonan, Pangasinan where seven villages resorted to using the anti-gossip policy. Under the ordinance, rumor-mongers will be fined P300, P500, and P1000 for first, second, and third offense respectively. On top of that, they will also be required to render community service.

The policy was put in place to lessen the problems caused by gossiping in the barangay, which often lead to conflicts and fights. In an interview with the Philippine Star, Barangay Captain Danilo Tabucol Sr. said that the ordinance has helped maintain peace and order in families and has decreased the circulation of untrue “speculations” that might be deemed harmful to one’s character and reputation.

Humans are social beings, therefore it is only normal for us to talk and want to connect with others. Gossiping is a natural occurrence and is human nature to want to discuss events and person. It is safe to say that gossiping will always be a part of our lives, and that, in itself, is totally okay. The problems only arise when we start using it to hurt people or to feel holier or better about ourselves. While it is something that we cannot regulate or eradicate, being wary of the way we talk about others and how we spread information would help a great deal in limiting the harm that gossip can inflict.

Sources:

https://www.similarweb.com/top-websites/philippines

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/01/08/1660723/pangasinan-barangay-goes-after-gossipers

http://fleirecastro.com/guides/social-media-and-digital-stats-in-the-philippines-2016-wearesocial-data/

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2006/april2006/G.R.%20No.%20160351.htm#_ftn20