Most of us Filipinos, especially those living in urban areas, have already experienced this okray thing one way or another. You could be simply telling your co-workers about how you were able to finish your assigned task early, when suddenly, one of them hollers, “Ikaw na! Ikaw na!”. Or, you could be giving jokes in an inuman session with friends, when one of your gay friends bursts your moment by making okray. In social media website, in movies, even in music, okray has become a common way of dealing with people.
Okray is the gay lingo term for “diss” which means “to treat, mention or speak of rudely“. In Filipino, panlalait o pamimintas. Filipinos have this penchant for rudely pointing out flaws that they see in other people, but people from the third sex have made a good job out of this that they created okray as term for it. Thus began the proliferation of okray in Filipino society.
Why do Filipinos have this penchant for pang-ookray?
The most obvious culprit is our Spanish heritage. These vain Europeans have made it their life to pinpoint the ills and flaws of our “ancient and backward society” since they came here in the 15th century. They embodied this perspective in various literary works, in Sunday sermons from the pulpit, and have been described in detail by Dr. Jose Rizal in Noli Me Tangere. Even Spanish historians, writing about the Philippines (especially about the Propaganda Movement there), have dissed our compatriots in various editorial articles in conservative newspapers at that time. Even when they left in 1898, the Spanish legacy of dissing other people did not wane and was thus ingrained in us.
This culture of pang-ookray become more widespread after World War II, especially after the time when Martial Law was declared. The repressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos had everyone thinking twice about bashing the famed strongman and his policies, but this didn’t stop some from making okray. TV host and radio DJ Ariel Ureta once mocked the government slogan “Para sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan”, changing it to “Para sa ikauunlad ng bayan, bisikleta ang kailangan”. His pang-ookray meant a day’s worth of biking around Camp Crame as punishment. The downfall of the regime in 1986 gave many Filipinos their freedoms back, including the freedom to diss government officials or ordinary people alike.
The proliferation of pang-ookray in the late 20th and early 21st century Filipino society was largely attributed to the rise of the third sex and the widespread use of gay lingo. This new language put a new spin on pang-ookray, introducing new words, phrases and expressions with various meaning that are beyond the usual convention. This enabled people to mock and diss others without having to be offensive or without the knowledge and understanding of the person being mocked. With this development came the mushrooming of various comedy and gay bars, as well as TV shows, where pang-ookray would become a common form of entertainment, much to the dismay and annoyance of some.
Why do modern Filipinos continue to spread the culture of pang-ookray?
One thing I noticed with pang-ookray is that, while it occurs across all social classes, it is certainly most associated with the middle and lower class members of society. And the subject of their pang-ookray are usually people who belong to the upper classes (most especially, government officials, celebrities, and other famous personalities). But this is not always the norm. Others have also lampooned personalities or even ordinary people who are just plain obnoxious, annoying or stupid. And in the era of social networking, this pang-ookray has leveled-up to a type that is fast, widespread and uncontrollable. Some notable examples are what happened to Christopher Lao (after driving his car through chest-deep flood water during Typhoon Lando in August this year), to presidential speech writer Mai Mislang (who tweeted about her negative comments while visiting Vietnam together with the Presidential entourage) and the officials of the DPWH (whose photoshopped picture of their inspection of Baywalk in the aftermath of Typhoon Pedring this September went viral). Some forms of pang-ookray have become more than just comic relief. As in the case of Lao and Mislang, pang-ookray can become sinister and damaging, to the point of causing grief to people affected.
Which leads us to reflect on another issue: Are we becoming an Okray Nation, which sees sarcasm, mockery and rudeness as legitimate forms of self-expression? Are we a society that finds comfort and entertainment pointing out and putting to shame the mistakes and innocent stupidity of some?
While I refuse to believe, from my point-of-view, it is indeed a well-established norm in our society already. Filipinos, by nature, are not mapamintas or mapangmata, and I believe that is still an innate goodness in us that we somehow find uncomfortable to let out because it is not the norm society in general is used to. While pang-ookray can be of no offense for some, or have learned to cope with it, not all people in this society have the capacity to do so. Not that they have special needs and all that, but rather, due to the fact that they are human beings with dignities to be valued and cherished.
I hope this article enlightens us to consider our actions the next time we think of making our fellow Filipino the laughing stock of humanity. TSS