Friday, August 17, 2012

Mano Po

A Filipino Family Value
"Let me tell you this, I don't care if it is part of your culture but it is not proper to grab my hand and place it onto your forehead." The priest warned before he gave his final blessing.

I was standing there shocked.

"Asking for my blessing after you have received the ultimate blessing from God is an insult to God himself." He continued.

I am still frozen, unable to process what I just heard. Obviously referring to us Filipinos inside the church.

I glanced at my children and saw the confusion on their faces, I shook my head, a sign of disapproval from what we just heard. In my mind, I was like; I need to correct this nonsense.

Why would the priest say that? What is his basis? Did he just attack our Filipino Family Values? There were so many questions running through my mind.

There must be a logical explanation to his behavior. A behavior which to be honest, took away a huge chunk of respect I had for him.

Slowly, I tried to dissect what just happened and make a sense out of it. Here is what common sense dictated. 

The priest, being a non-Filipino doesn't have a clue on what he is saying. In our church, after the mass, these priests would stand next to the exit and shakes hand with their parishioners as they go out.

For Filipinos, we don’t shake hands with priests; we bestow the highest respect to them by raising their hand to touch our forehead. We give them "Mano" and this is probably where the culture gap sets is. Or should I say, Ignorance. Not by the priest but Ignorance of my fellow Filipinos.

Why do I blame my fellow Filipinos? Because I know the priest, he is one of the most sensible priests I have ever listened to. And he won't be so insensitive about matters like these if he didn't do his own little research. 

What could have happened? 

Our church, just like any other place here in Singapore is a multi-cultural environment. A lot of Filipinos volunteers for church work, me included. So, if there is non-Filipino from the church wants to know our ways, there is always somebody nearby, a Filipino to ask from. 

The priest was probably puzzled on why we aren't shaking hands with them instead; we pull their hands and place it onto our forehead. So what would a smart priest do if in doubt? Yes, he would ask a Filipino what that gesture is and what it is for. 

Since all of us know that "Mano" is a Tagalog word, the fellow probably converted it to English, and what do we commonly call "mano" in English? Yes, we commonly call it "Bless". Probably the guy even go further by telling the priest that it is an act of asking for a blessing, thus the priest stance on "mano".

Looking at the priest's point of view, I couldn't blame him. The problem was, he was misinformed.
Let's do a quick analogy of the term that we use for "mano" and it's REAL meaning.

Mano is a Spanish word, which directly translates to Hand. That is why when we want to give respect to our elders we say, "mano po" which directly translates to "hand please".

Now where did the term "bless" come around? It came around because when we give this highest gesture of respect to our elders, especially our parents, they would normally say "Kaawaan ka ng Diyos" which translates to "May the Lord BLESS you". 

During the course of time, we have identified "mano" with "bless" and eventually these two words became synonymous to each other. Our parents would normally tell us "mag-bless ka" if they would ask us to pay our respect to our grandparents. The more appropriate or more accurate term for that matter should have been "Pay your respect". 

We are not asking for a blessing, we are paying our highest respect without asking anything in return when we "mano". Our elders’ response of "May the lord bless you" is just a voluntary prayer to reward the gesture

So could I blame the priest for his stance on "mano"? Certainly not. Should I blame the fellow Pinoy who imparted his thoughts to the priest? Partly, yes.

Did I mention that I was a volunteer in the church? What I asked my children to do is to continue to pay their respect to their mother and me by doing "mano" after each mass. Deep inside I am hoping the priest would notice and ask me about it. But that never happened.

It's been almost two years since that church incident happened. A lot of things have changed.  We moved to another house and also moved to another church. But up to this day, that incident haunts me.

Filipinos please be informed.