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Ethnographic Fieldwork: A Look Into The Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF Ortigas)

Brief Background on Christ’s Commission Fellowship

The Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) is a non-denominational church which began as a small evangelistic home Bible study in 1982. For 3 decades, the fellowship constantly transferred from one place to another 6 times before it found a permanent home in Frontera Verde, Ortigas in 2013. During the transferring period, CCF also expanded its reach by creating several satellites inside and outside the country. Today, it has over 60,000 believers and 65 satellite locations. Due to the large number of worship service attendees it has per week, CCF is considered to be an example of a megachurch.

Just like any church, CCF has its own set of beliefs and practices. In fact, their beliefs are very similar to those of the Roman Catholic’s. Worshippers of CCF attend an hour and a half long service every Saturday or Sunday. On Saturdays, there is a 6:00-7:30 P.M. schedule, while on Sundays, there is a 9:00-10:30 A.M.; a 12:00-1:30 P.M.; a 3:00-4:30 P.M.; and a 6:00-7:30 P.M schedule. During Sunday services, the pastors make use of the same bible – the one that has 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament – in referencing their discussions. Their church also believes in the same God that comes in three forms: namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For them, the use of water in baptism is also important as it symbolizes “an act of obedience to Christ’s command” (CCF, 2016).

Methodology

This ethnographic research paper talks about our group’s first hand experience on CCF’s Sunday service. Last July 8, 2018, our group attended the 12 noon Sunday service in CCF’s Ortigas branch. We used participant observation in collecting data to better understand the culture of CCF and the people there. Our group was asked to arrive at 11:30 A.M., 30 minutes before the service, in order to manage good seats inside the auditorium. Getting inside CCF’s building was easy as anyone is free to enter. The only hurdle was trying to mix well with the regulars so as not to look lost. Upon reaching the auditorium, it was observed that during the time before the actual Sunday service (from 11:30 A.M. to 12 noon), a quiet time or reflection time is being imposed in order to prepare one’s self for the upcoming service. At the start of the worship, the audience is asked to stand up, sing and dance along to the songs that are led by multiple singers on stage. It is then followed by a short prayer and a short moment to greet one’s fellow worshippers. At this point, establishing a rapport is crucial in order to make the people around us comfortable having us around. The whole worship service that consisted of talks from pastors and personal sharings from worshippers lasted for an hour and 45 minutes (12:00 to 1:45 P.M.).

Ethnographic Fieldwork

Offhand, the structure of venue reminded us a great deal of the Mall of Asia arena. From the escalators that were facing opposite sides of the reception area, to the amenities that await us inside the building (e.g the bookstore, cafeteria, coffee shops, basketball court, zumba area, gym, offices, and the auditorium to name a few). The place evoked feelings of warmth, belonging, and camaraderie as the people inside were very accommodating towards the participants for that Sunday’s worship. There were people who were well-acquainted to each other, families and friends who greet each other with wide grins plastered over their faces, but even so, the place did not feel exclusive at all, people from all walks of life joined together had one objective in mind—-the Sunday worship.

When we stepped inside the massive auditorium—a 3 level infrastructure with a 10000 pax capacity—-we were bewildered and stunned because we did not really see this one coming. We expected the place to be more intimate, modest, and subdued, yet there was this full blown production that included performers who sung in a lively song-prayer worship. The discourse was very much like a TED talk, at least in our frame of reference because of the ambience and the aura that it evoked—from the display monitors, the equipment, up to the content of the powerpoint presentation. It was interactive and it deviated from the traditional customs of  the Sunday mass in a sense that it didn’t follow the ceremony/form that most of us, first century Roman Catholic Christians are familiar with. They had pastor/s for the speakers, and during that afternoon they tackled concept behind the act of mercy or being merciful. They affirmed that in order to achieve “legit happiness”, one must be full of mercy—-and that really puts thing into perspective. Other factors such as KCF which stood for kindness, compassion, and forgiveness were also discussed during the hour and a half long session. A first hand account sharing was also given by a couple who struggled with their marriage prior to becoming active in their Christian faith—-they openly disclosed the rocky path that they embarked upon, such as the husband’s infidelity in marriage and the wife’s apathy.

The community members were very welcoming, one instance that we had in particular was with this man that we sat next to during the worship, he extended his greeting by shaking Eunice’s hand when the speaker requested us to greet our fellow worshippers—this came as a bit of a shock to is because under traditional Catholic circumstances, we are often timid when it comes to greeting other people that we’re not all that acquainted with—-perhaps it varies from one Church community to another but it still came as a surprise nonetheless. People from all walks of life came and we can’t help but have this impinging need to calculate the costs of their production because technically, dropping by to participate to their Sunday worship was not subject to any admission fee/s whatsoever so quite literally, a person could drop by unintentionally and still get to enjoy and make the visit count without having to shell out as much cash.

Overall, the environment inside the CCF fostered a healthy safespace for people who wished to join and participate in their worship service. The community was very casual, upbeat, and welcoming and they did not sneer nor look down on us when we arrived the venue. Not to mention, the people we encountered and ran into were very nice, genuine, friendly, and accommodating and there was no room for exclusivity whatsoever. The place was filled with people who were dedicated and interested to learn not only from the pastor and his sermon, but from each other’s insights and personal experiences as well. Regardless of who you are, where you come from, what you believe in, or what your faith or religion may be, the whole CCF community will definitely make you feel more than welcome and part of the community. In fact, they have a Welcome Center by the main entrance, which is managed by young volunteers. The Welcome Center’s main purpose is to, of course, welcome first timers and new members of the community and entertain their questions regarding the worship service and to give them an idea of what to expect during the CCF worship service. It is also open to anyone who is curious and wishes to learn more about the CCF, as well as its community, worship service, faith, beliefs, etc.

Our key informant from the CCF Ortigas branch was Pastor Ickhoy De Leon, who was a former businessman who decided to leave his corporate career in order to serve full time at his Church as a pastor. Other than that, he is also the current head of the CCF’s Singles Ministry. During our visit and interview with Pastor Ickhoy, he shared with us how most non-Christians view the CCF’s worship ceremony as a “concert” because of the large auditorium filled with people dancing and singing lively. Besides singing and dancing, the CCF is still looking for more ways on how its audience and fellow worshippers may actively participate during their worship services. Another thing we learned from Pastor Ickhoy is that contrary to Catholic faith, Christians believe that receiving the Holy Eucharist every worship service is unnecessary, since they strongly believe that Jesus Christ is always present within them and that Christians do not follow and observe the Sign of the Cross. Moreover, he also shared with us how the CCF community celebrates their Sunday worship services. The worship service first starts with a Bible reading and a quiet prayer or reflection time, followed by praise and worship through song and dance, then the pastor’s sermon. After the sermon, families or couples who were invited by the CCF to share their personal experiences are asked to share it with the rest of the CCF community. Also, we learned from Pastor Ickhoy that the CCF worship service is open to everyone, even to those who practice and come from different religions.

During the worship service, we were not able to contribute that much to the program since it was planned beforehand and none of us in the group were members or part of the CCF community. However, because the CCF community practices active participation during its worship sessions and welcomes non-Christians to join and participate in their worship service, our group’s presence in the event contributed to the crowd’s participation in praising Jesus Christ through singing and dancing. Although we did not know much and were not familiar with the worship and praise songs, as well as the dance, we just clapped our hands. Through our own active involvement in the activity, our group was given the opportunity to also contribute to the overall ambiance of the worship.

Sociocultural Context and Background

The Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) is considered to be one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in the country. According to CCF’s website, anyone can participate in their activities. However, since CCF has a mission which is “To honor God and make Christ-committed followers who will make Christ-committed followers”, those who are willing to abide by this mission are encouraged to join. Their church also has certain beliefs, and the only way to join them is to “walk with God” and to understand the beliefs that accompanied this line of thinking. It is considered one of the fastest-growing Evangelical (non-denominational) churches in the country. We posit the claim that people gravitate towards this type of church or community because it breeds a sense of camaraderie that the traditional & oftentimes conservative roman catholic church would otherwise not be able to provide and/or develop. The Roman Catholic church tend to preserve the status quo and this element is intricate and deceptive because the religion follows a highly dogmatic approach. First century christians, such as the members in our group, lead lives by the book and at times this could feel a bit routinary or stagnant in the long run than its designated purpose of being a joyous/spirited celebration. By no means is this a derogatory assertion that we try to posit as religion is a conundrum—-with multiple layers and decades of history that defines its canon. To put it into context we are limited to the confines of the Christian traditional church’s customs; to have this unique community that is widely hospitable, with such cutting edge and top of the line facilities that seem too good to be true, it is a no-brainer that people could be swept away by the allure, the pomp, and the circumstance. With that in mind, it should not come as a surprise that Filipinos are indeed fond of communal celebrations that involves some sort of singing and/or dancing which ultimately cultivates a positive outlook on life—-the CCF worship is a manifestation of this code. Regardless of where a person came from or what their current standing in life is, they are free to join the worship and rest assured they will  be treated just like everyone else–on equal footing.

Conclusion
1. What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?

Through our participation in CCF’s worship ceremony, we realized that our pre-conceived belief that Christian ceremonies were simply just “concerts” was a wrong assumption. By actively participating and immersing ourselves in the experience, each of us was able to feel our strong love for Jesus through the music and dances being performed on stage. The interactive discussions by the pastors made us learn more about what it takes to be truly happy. The use of audience participation, rather than having the audience to just listen and observe, made reflecting and learning more personal. Despite this service being a non-Catholic ceremony, CCF succeeded in inspiring us to open our hearts to our faiths through the use of active song and dance, insightful lectures from the pastor and through the story shared by a Christian couple about how their faith salvaged their dying marriage.

  1. What did having a key informant add to your understanding?

By coordinating with Pastor Ickhoy de Leon, our group was given the opportunity to understand and realize that although the Christ’s Commission Fellowship somewhat differs from the Roman Catholic religion in terms of its practices, traditions, celebrations, methods and rituals on worshipping and praising the Lord, both of these faiths and religions share the same goal and purpose, which is to love and serve God and to promote His love through our everyday actions. Other than that, we also learned from Pastor Ickhoy the different forms of worship that the CCF community observes and practices, such as Bible reading, prayer or reflection time, dancing and singing along to worship and praise songs, and sharing of personal experiences. Furthermore,

  1. What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?

By employing participant observation in our ethnographic research on the  CCF’s worship ceremonies, we were able to see and witness for ourselves the commendable effectivity their church and worship service has in terms of inspiring and encouraging people to full-heartedly participate in their worship celebration. Through participant observation, the group was able to experience how Christians celebrate and worship Jesus Christ. Not only did we get to witness and observe the difference in the crowd’s eagerness to sing along and dance to the beat, but we were also able to observe how the pastor communicated his message to his audience and listeners. Furthermore, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in the experience of what it would be like to be a Christian and a part of the CCF sector. This is in contrast to the very minimal and shallow information we would have obtained, had we chosen to adhere to the interview, survey, or questionnaire method of conducting this ethnographic fieldwork research.

  1. For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?

A questionnaire or interview would prove to be more effective than participant observation when one simply wants to conduct a survey or simply a casual interview for a feature magazine. On the other hand, participant observation was imperative and was key to close and address all of the floating questions that we had prior to our visit to the affluent and renowned worship community. Having  or conducting an interview point-blank would leave us with blanket statements that we, as researchers, could view with a one-sided lens. It would not really echo well in our respective psyches to the extent that it would remain as a plain text and a bunch of jargon that we could not interpret for ourselves if we did not opt for a participant type observation.

  1. What insights did you gain about Philippine society and culture from the event that you observed and participated in?

In essence, Filipinos are always on the pursuit of happiness—of pure and utter bliss. They seek for the next best thing, even in terms of religion, a request that the CCF community heeded to. The idea of camaraderie, of shared feeling/s of joy that is carried out by singing and/or dancing is deeply embedded in the Philippine society. This is one of the driving factor/s that attributed to the CCF community and explicates why it gained prominence and reached a wider demographic in the first place. There’s also the convenience and the prestige that comes along with the patronage to the CCF community—it’s captivating and fresh and it transcends the confines of tradition and it sweeps Filipinos right off their feet.

Sources

The Christ’s Commission Fellowship. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.ccf.org.ph/

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Ethnographic Study on Dungeons & Dragons: Explanations & Implications of the Rebirth of this Phenomenon

by Enzo Lam and Gabriel Ong (SA 21 C)

Since 1974, Dungeons and Dragons has given millions of people the opportunity to immerse themselves in fantasy worlds, explore wondrous landscapes and engage in various situations – the possibilities are endless, limited only by one’s imagination. It is the first and undoubtedly the most popular tabletop role-playing game, wherein – as the name implies – players must assume the role of a character and make decisions, thus, players are responsible for the story and eventual outcome of the game. The explosive popularity of the game when it was released prompted the creation of the role-playing game (RPG) genre all by itself, which led to thousands of other role-playing games, perhaps most evident in the massive market for video games today. It is to be noted that with the advent of rapidly advancing technology, allowing us humans to render visuals mirroring reality – leaving little to nothing for the imagination – video games have seemingly eclipsed tabletop role-playing games in popularity to the point where games like Dungeons & Dragons seem like an artifact from a bygone age; a mere prototype or precursor for the creation of video games.

However, in the past five years, tabletop role-playing games – with Dungeons & Dragons at the forefront – have been making a silent resurgence as a popular hobby among enthusiasts. We were fortunate enough to participate in one such session of Dungeons & Dragons with Earl Dy and his friends . Our goal is to engage ourselves thoroughly in the experience of playing Dungeons & Dragons, finding the appeal of the game and adequately provide possible valid reasons for its success and popularity.

Earl and his friends began playing Dungeons & Dragons late into their high school lives. A friend within the group had been by aninspired  online video of celebrities playing Dungeons & Dragons to learn and play the game and invited Earl and his friends to start their own “campaign” – a term for the long-term or continuing story behind every session which could take up to multiple sessions or even years to finish. Whereas in high school, they could meet each other everyday, now that their group of friends have different colleges, the group has settled to meet at least once a month to devote their time to a session of Dungeons & Dragons. Unfortunately, we were not able to participate in their monthly session but instead in a hastily-organized session which took place in the dormitory of one of Earl’s friends. Normally, their “party” or group would consist of about 7 of them but only two of Earl’s friends were in the vicinity and had the time to join. When asked if we could participate in the game, he accepted enthusiastically.

According to Earl, while the story revolved around the main seven in his friend group, it was a common and welcome sight when other people join in on the fun, even if they have no prior knowledge regarding the intricacies of Dungeons & Dragons.  Before the session started, Earl asked us to create our own characters, which was a process that would usually entail careful deliberation, but since we were only going to be part of one session, we would create “guest characters” – characters that were not fully fleshed out and lacked “ability scores”. These six “ability scores” measure the physical and mental qualities of a character consisting of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. These scores are usually determined by the player (being given a set amount of points that they could distribute among the scores) and increase as the character gains “experience points” and “level up” by exploring the world and fighting creatures. However, Earl said we had to at least decide on two aspects of our characters, “race” and “class”. These “races” dictated our characters’ appearance and physiology were limited to the setting we were in, in this case, the fantasy world and universe of Dungeons & Dragons, thus, the choices given to us include “human”, “elf”, “dwarf”, “half-orc” and “halfling” while “classes” determine your specialty and capabilities in fighting creatures and enemies, these include but are not limited to “bards”, “clerics”, “barbarians”, “rangers”, etc.  

With our characters ready, Earl explained to us the context of this particular session. According to him, the narrative was that their original party was resting in a nearby city when James and Ethan’s characters, named “Chubs” and “The Power” respectively, decided to wander to a nearby crypt due to some rumors that there treasure inside. The role-playing aspect of the game began after this explanation by Earl. Suddenly, Ethan and James started talking in their characters’ voices and interacting with each other. We noticed that Ethan also changed his accent and the pitch of his voice when talking as his character, explaining later that “The Power” was a character inspired by “a mix of Prince, David Bowie and Captain Jack Sparrow.”. Throughout the game, he would speak in a distinct flamboyant tone and have unique mannerisms while in contrast, we noticed that James would speak in his normal voice while role-playing. Earl said this was not a requirement for playing the game but rather encouraged so when I joined in, I tried speaking like my character, to everyone’s humor.

We conversed with our alternate selves and eventually we descended into the crypt or this session’s “dungeon”. Eventually when we encountered a monster, the game suddenly showed it’s more mechanical and technical aspects. At this point, Earl started role-playing not as a player-character, but as the creature we were fighting. He explained his pivotal role in the session: being the Dungeon Master (DM) of the game. The Dungeon Master was in charge of organizing the game’s events, describing the environment and role-playing as the non-playable characters (townsfolk, monsters, etc) in the campaign among other roles. To say that the DM is important in a campaign would be an understatement; they essentially served as referee, storyteller and author of the game. They have to mete out compelling consequences for the players’ actions, creating challenging yet fair obstacles for the players – all requiring intimate knowledge of the rules of the game as well as tireless preparation of materials to be used in the session (maps, props). Indeed, the quality of the game is arguably most heavily dependent on the creativity, wit and skill of the DM.

As complicated the mechanics of battling enemies were (requiring copious amounts of math), the fundamentals of battle were simple in that the players were free to do anything to try and defeat the creatures, furthermore, the same freedom is given to the player when exploring and interacting with the world. That being stated, the game started to flow smoothly from that point on as we immersed ourselves into that fantasy world we were all simultaneously imagining. We fought a few monsters afterwards, culminating in an epic showdown with what Earl described as the “final boss” of this particular session. After a grueling half-hour showdown, we eventually defeated the final creature, our party went back to the city and our characters parted ways. Thus, one chapter of their long-term campaign was concluded and the session was soon over.

From our time with Earl and his friends, we made several observations. Our first major observation was that Dungeons and Dragons was a way to reconnect. Because of their busy schedules and distance from each others’ homes, Earl and his friends no longer meet as often as when they were all classmates in high school. Despite that, every month – without fail or exception – they arrange a Dungeons & Dragons session at one of his friend’s house to continue their campaign. There, despite the time they have spent apart, and the different lives they now lead, they are able to bond with each other over this game. We noticed during the game that there were small comments made, questions thrown around, and conversations being held, so while they did take time every month to play this game, at its core, the game was a way for them to reunite and reconnect. This calls back to how humans are social beings. According to Sreenivasan and Weinberger (2016), in the olden times where the environment was harsh and unforgiving, humans were required to group together and cooperate to increase their chances of survival, and that while the world we live in may not be as perilous and dangerous, that nature of forming groups is still deeply ingrained in us. In addition to this it is representative of how Filipinos connect. As the late Anthony Bourdain says, “Filipinos are, for reasons I have yet to figure out, probably the most giving of all the people of the planet”. While this is not something that can’t be quantified or made concrete, it is something that is silently acknowledged. This was evident when we first asked Earl if he was willing to arrange a game of Dungeons and Dragons for our research’s sake and he did so without hesitation. Furthermore, Ethan welcomed us into his home and even fed us dinner. During the game, despite neither of us understanding any mechanics or having any experience whatsoever, they welcomed us into their campaign and took the time to guide us along the way and made sure we not only learned about the game, but enjoyed it as well.
Secondly, it calls to how prevalent storytelling is in Filipino culture. Among the Agta, a group of indigenous hunter-gatherers native to the Philippines, storytelling holds a special place. According to Andrea Migliano, she found that storytelling was a skill valued even higher than hunting or gathering. When she asked 300 Agtas for their ideal partners, good storytellers were twice as likely to be named. Similar to this, Filipino culture is teeming with many fables and legends. Originally recited orally, these stories were passed down from generation to generation, until it has been cemented in our very culture. This, again is another manifestation of how we as people interact with one another. What differentiates the skill of a storyteller apart is in how he tells a story, not what story he tells; when one tells a story, while it comes from the mind, it is told from the heart. We remember these because of their impact in our lives and the different emotions and memories they hold, and when we share these stories, we imbue them with our wonder and all our emotion and heart, sharing not only the story, but a part of ourselves as well.  One of our major insights is that Dungeons & Dragons is essentially a continuation of the tradition of oral storytelling that it most often attributed to indigenous cultures like the Indian (Hodge, Pasqua, Marquez, & Geishirt-Cantrell, 2002) and the aforementioned Filipino culture. This kind of communal storytelling eschews the common notion of storyteller and listener, allowing both parties (in this case the Dungeon Master and the players) to both contribute a story and to play a role in it, allowing players to influence and change how a story flows, leaving our impression upon it, and also giving a part of ourselves – once again returning to the idea of using these activities as a means of connecting and being a part of someone’s life.

Thirdly, we noticed how similar it was to the childhood act of dressing up and playing make-believe. As we grow up we are taught about maturity and practicality, yet, we were able to clearly observe Earl and his friends – well beyond the age of childhood – taking valuable time that could be used for work or what society deems more “mature” activities, to play a game based on shared imagination in a fantasy world, requiring them to pretend to be someone else and play roles that may not necessarily reflect their real-life personalities. This shows how that sense of wonder and amazement we have as children, remains a part of us and continues to be a part of our being regardless of age. This is called neoteny, or by definition, a retention of juvenile characteristics. Neoteny is a trait linked to basically all of humankind and as a result we retain these characteristics of immaturity and also curiosity. Dungeons & Dragons, simply put, falls under the premise of “What if you lived in a fantasy world and were someone else, facing this impossibly powerful enemies,undergoing this long eventful journey?”. This even includes the actions you take in this fantasy world like “What if I run away?” or “What if I destroy a mountain?”. Similarly, every discovery made by man was made under questions of similar logic and “what ifs” like “What if we harnessed lightning?”, “What if we built cities?”, “What if we went to the moon?”, “What if we could make this into food?”, etc. The limits of what is and what is not possible continues to be pushed by human curiosity. Even playing out scenarios in our head, guessing what are our parents going to say, what our score in this test is, what we would like to drink or eat – all these fall under the premise of “What if?”. The activity of Dungeons & Dragons shows us that our nature to never stop and to keep asking “What if?” stems from that same childlike sense of wonder and curiosity. Part of the appeal of Dungeons & Dragons, we believe, is born from an unconscious desire for make-believe play that, according to the famous psychologist Jean Piaget, humans first exhibit in the preoperational stage of cognitive development that we experience during childhood. Perhaps Dungeons & Dragons is a continuation of that stage in our lives; a nostalgic trip back in time.

The final thing we noticed, is the tendency of people to project themselves onto their characters. The fantasy story and role-playing aspect of the game gave players the freedom to create varying characters, including customizing their characters’ physical and mental capabilities to their liking – via the aforementioned “ability scores” that included qualities like Strength, Intelligence and Charisma – which did not necessarily have to reflect the player’s own qualities. We observed that there was a tendency to imbue characters with improvements on one’s real self or traits that the player himself seemed to desire to have. For example, a player with a scrawny physique, would make his character in the game large and strong almost as if he was compensating. We asked Ethan during the game why he had to change his voice, speech patterns and characteristics, just for a game. He explained that it was a way for him to show or express that other side of him which he never really had a chance to express in real life. In a way, the game allows people to project themselves to their character but also as an escape, to change who they are and to be better than who they are. We likened this for this innate psychological human need to seek control, which we discussed in class. In real life, when we encounter factors or things we have no control over, we seem to unconsciously rationalize this chaos – born from an innate need of order and control. The option for customization of characters in Dungeons & Dragons could perhaps be a sign of appealing to that need of control. This explains why that when an opportunity arises in Dungeons & Dragons to take time and decide on an action and to control who we are, we take it. Dungeons & Dragons does however, try and balance this abundance of freedom and order with its’ own chaos – represented by the need to roll dice for certain actions. In the game, we learned that the Dungeon Master had the option to ask for “ability checks” for certain actions. For example, when we asked if we could persuade a villager for more information, Earl made us roll a “Charisma check” – rolling a 12 or less on the dice would mean the villager won’t give info while rolling a 13 or more would mean the villager (or rather, the Dungeon Master) would give us more information. However, the argument can be made that there is still a sense of order in the dice roll since the value needed for a successful “ability check” is arbitrary and up to the Dungeon Master’s discretion (which is why an objective and fair Dungeon Master is necessary), meaning the Dungeon Master still has control over the chaos. Despite this, compared to other role-playing games like most video games, Dungeons & Dragons still gave the players more power to direct and control the narrative and their characters’ actions and future.

Overall, Dungeons & Dragons is an experience that cannot be covered by a questionnaire or described succinctly. One reason is because of how it relies on social interactions between people that cannot be concretely answered by a questionnaire. The second reason is the nature of Dungeons & Dragons as an immersive experience, unlike most video games, Dungeons & Dragons requires players to be fully invested in order to properly partake and enjoy and understand the game, a simple questionnaire is not enough to cover the large range of human emotions felt when playing this game. The third is that every campaign is different from one another. Because the game changes from Dungeon Master to Dungeon Master and from group to group, it is hard to concretize the story and they events that happened as these change throughout each individual campaign. Therefore, one would fail to understand the concept in a holistic manner until one actually experiences and takes part in the event himself/herself.

(Word count: 2899)

References:                                                                                                                       

Sreenivasan, S., Ph.D., & Weinberger, L. E., Ph.D. (2016, December 14). Why We Need Each Other. Retrieved July 13, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201612/why-we-need-each-other

Hodge, F. S., Pasqua, A., Marquez, C. A., & Geishirt-Cantrell, B. (2002). Utilizing traditional storytelling to promote wellness in American Indian communities. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 13(1), 6-11. Retrieved July 13, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3098048/

Stafford, T. (2012, June 19). Future – Why are we so curious? Retrieved July 13, 2018, from http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120618-why-are-we-so-curious

Wong, A. C. (2012, July 29). What Filipinos can be proud of. Retrieved July 13, 2018, from http://globalnation.inquirer.net/45875/what-filipinos-can-be-proud-of

Yong, E. (2017, December 08). The Desirability of Storytellers. Retrieved July 13, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/12/the-origins-of-storytelling/547502/

 
 

Common ground in uncommon territory: Relating the worship service of the INC to the day-to-day Filipino

Castelo, Cojuangco, Fernando, Seraspi

SA 21 – D

Who knew we would end up in Iglesia ni Cristo? As a group, we wanted to do something new, something that would satisfy our curiosity and need to learn more about a part of Filipino culture. We searched, and searched, and after many suggestions being thrown around, we eventually found out about Iglesia ni Cristo, an independent, widely-spoken-about religious sect. It is an international church that originated in the Philippines. However, the information that truly struck us and piqued our curiosity the most was the belief that they are the one true church, as founded by Jesus. We wanted to find out what they mean.

Iglesia ni Cristo!

We were able to gain access to this exclusive and elusive religion, thanks to our key informant—someone willing to orient us and walk us through the whole experience of an Iglesia ni Cristo worship service. Lian Lizarondo, a high school friend of researcher Winona Castelo, is a former choir member of the church, and the daughter of the head of the same choir. We hurriedly set up a date on which we could attend a “samba”, and she then patiently briefed us on the entire process of the worship service, along with the do’s and don’ts, both inside and outside of the church.

The day of our service soon came, and we arrived at the Iglesia ni Cristo South Commonwealth branch. At exactly 7:45 pm, we were perfectly on time for the next “samba”. This is the local term for an INC worship service. Early on, church-goers were already flocking to the quickly-filled pews. Upon arrival, we were faced with a security check. Security personnel do not allow the church-goers to carry their phones with them inside the church, so they precede the church with a booth for depositing all gadgets and most personal items. This policy, according to our informant, is imposed to ensure that the attention and focus of the people are on the pastors and prayers of the service. Effectively, we noticed no one talking or being otherwise distracted by any means—including before the start of the service. We thought they might have some camaraderie being regulars at the same “lokal’, but formality is followed to the letter.

Outside the church, the group already noted magnificent architecture and exterior designs. Yet it was even more amazing to walk in and see how the Iglesia ni Cristo church was impeccably clean and utterly unblemished—down to the hymn books distributed and the name cards in the lobby—all in perfect order. It seems as though they really expend effort in making their building a place the attendees would be proud of and happy to attend at. They had uniformed dome ceilings and multiple huge, exquisite, and ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling to dazzle and welcome you—this is your church.

Look at that interior structure and design!

When the group entered the lobby, the previously-mentioned named attendance cards, or “katibayan ng pagsamba” (proof of worship), were set up on posts. As if timing-in for work, church-goers flip over their individual cards, signifying they were there to attend the service.  

Katibayan ng Pagsamba!

Moving deeper into the church, the crowd was divided by sex. Anxious to listen to the preaching of the day, the group stared in awe at the systematic yet graceful manner of how the male and female churchgoers were being ushered by ladies in uniform Filipinianas. You could tell it was perfected, but the routine didn’t look rote. Males were to sit together at the left-side pews, and the females to sit at the right. There was strict enforcement of a dress code, with all the gentlemen in collared shirts and slacks, and ladies in modest, knee-length dresses.

While church-goers were sit and settle down prior to the start of the service, a large mixed-voice choir, highlighted by a sloping arrangement of benches front and centre, sang seven hymns all with polished harmony.

There were nine throne-looking chairs in front of the church, which, according to our informant, were for the 8-10 pastors who typically preach for the service. However, only four were filled by the pastor at our “sambas”. Each man wore a minimalist black suit with a white polo and a necktie.

In front of the middle chair was a lectern. The choir sitting down signified the beginning of the service. The choir the stood once again in a centre-starting wave to sing grander hymns of praise. This arrangement was followed in the way they sat, as well; and was done at the ending of every song, regardless of the fact that another hymn was to immediately succeed—a sign of formality and the seriousness they place on their duties. Hymn books were opened and closed simultaneously.

The Choir!

The service started when a pastor positioned himself behind podium. The service was in Filipino with deep vocabulary that showcased the pastor’s resounding voice. Additionally, it was interesting to note that their praises were in the form of saying ‘amen’ and ‘opo’ to what the pastor was projecting at this opening, expressing their agreement. Each response was very solemn and heartfelt; while the preaching and praying was going on, several people brought out handkerchiefs to wipe their eyes, including the pastor himself. The pastors would talk about transgressions that the current Iglesia ni Cristo is facing, the current problems of the Philippines, down to the personal problems the pastor was facing. They seemed to take to heart every issue that was mentioned. Before realising that eyes were to be closed in prayer, one researcher noticed him writhing in pain and crying at each notion proclaimed.

The service’s first sermon then began—with a boom, as the pastor presented himself blaringly and started talking about how the Iglesia ni Cristo community was brought up and established by Jesus Christ himself, and how he passed it onto Ka Felix Manalo, their founder. Through listening, the group realized how the Iglesia church firmly believe that the Bible points towards the Philippines as the mentioned “other followers.” The second sermon by the next pastor focused on how the INC was the one and only true religion. During the praise after the sermons, it became apparent that these members of the community were very emotional and affected by the service because they appeared so moved even the choir started tearing up, genuinely believing that salvation was guaranteed as long as they stayed within the Iglesia community.

After the service, the people filed out of the seats per row. The hymn books were stacked neatly as each person leaves the pew. This was to the help of the ushers, though it was as if every single person was being watched and graded for performance. After the church was emptied of church-goers, the main worship chamber contained ministers praying over the choir before they changed out of their garbs.

There was an office outside the main chamber contained people filling out forms. These forms were supposed to be filled up by those who attended the worship service in the branch but come from different branches, or “lokals” as proof of attendance.

Filling out forms for attendance!

There was so much discipline and the same time sincerity between both facilitators and participants. It was as though every single aspect was by the book, and yet despite formalities every single church-goer’s emotionally heartfelt participation was palpable. It spoke volumes about the commitment of the people to their church.

Moreover, the Iglesia ni Cristo church appeared to be well-funded, especially when taking into consideration that the popularly-believed myth on tithing is false. They are made to give as much as they can as long as they give in sincerity. This again, points towards the faith of the members in the organization. According to our informant, all these people chose to be ministers, ushers, and volunteers. They openly and willingly committed to a very demanding duty. Although there is compensation for these people, most of these people already have a separate occupation which could imply the spiritual fulfillment meaning more than the financial gain.

We found out as well that newborns of members are dedicated to God by a congregational prayer, by an INC minister. This was a new perspective for us because it seems to come with a price. Members are checked on if they follow the teachings and those that don’t believe in the teachings of INC are automatically expelled or excommunicated. Another thing we found out was that if members have continuous absences for attending the services they would be evicted. We were shocked but at the same time it gave us a realisation that a member really has to stay committed and to not stray from their faith. This includes other factors we learnt members are forbidden from doing, such as eating blood like in dinuguan, drinking alcohol, and having relationships with members outside of INC. Just like absenting oneself from too many of the twice-weekly services, breaking these regulations too could lead to excommunication.

We could say it is notable that the Iglesia ni Cristo community all firmly believe in the decisions of the higher-ups. This is evident in how they follow the unexpectedly rigid rules, not with complaint, but with some of the truest emotions. Likewise, they follow the community’s words, as seen in actions like block-voting. In block-voting, the heads of the INC decide on which candidates to vote, for the welfare of not just the Philippines but the INC community in particular.

 

Answers to Reflection Questions

What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?

Participation is a way for an individual to talk and connect with people in the community. In this case, because we went to INC we were able to participate by responding to the homily with amen and opo, singing with the choir, and even giving donations. With this in mind, we were able to see how different an experience is between physically participating and just listening.

It gives you the opportunity to actually find out new insights such as seeing how different INC is from other Catholic and Christian churches. Being able to praise with them and understand their way of thinking makes you recognise their commitment into being members. Additionally, it’s interesting to see how a belief system can affect one’s behaviour and decisions in life in which they always need to carry that faith that they have.

This was also observed in the way they responded to the homily, however if you participate by responding with them it does really make a difference because from the sound of their voices and even their body movements — in a way, it makes you feel what they feel. It seems as if you are a part of their community and that stirs up your own curiosity to learn more and to see if there is more to it then just that.

What did having a key informant add to your understanding?

Having a key informant helped us process what we were observing as first-time church-goers in the service. Although the environment of the Iglesia ni Cristo was new and unfamiliar to us, our key informant, Lian, helped give context to the customs and traditions the church-goers strictly uphold through providing her standpoint as a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo herself.

For instance, the group initially wasn’t aware that church-goers had to be in business attire/semi-formal clothing (dresses for the women, slacks for the men), and that male and female church-goers were supposed to be separated into different pews. The group also wasn’t aware that we had to surrender our phones upon arrival at the gate, and that we were mandated to give any financial amount during the collection period in the service. However, thanks to the briefing done by our key informant days before the event, we were able to digest the basics of what it entailed to be a church-goer and a “kapatid”.

After the service itself, we also asked her questions to help further our understanding of the “samba” we had attended. She then patiently relayed to us how Iglesia church members Upon doing so, it came to our understanding that the strict enforcement of the dress code, the prohibition of cellular phones, and the segregation of males and females indicated the reverence they have not only for God, but also for the worship service itself and for themselves as vessels of Christ as well. The key informant not only informed us about what to do, but she helped us understand the reasons behind their practices, and the history behind their traditions.

Furthermore, having a key informant made it easy for us to practice objectivity and sensitivity throughout the task. Since the informant has prior knowledge about church-goers and the worship service itself, being a devout member of the church, we were able to extract an inside perspective on the customs and traditions surrounding the occasion. This helped make sense of what was new and unfamiliar to us, and it helped open our minds to the different religious practices other institutions uphold. It made us open to how other norms may exist within our fixed perceived norms. Our key informant helped us process how religious practices can vary between different cultures and religious institutions.

What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?

Participation Observation is a way to acknowledge the different aspects in a community that is unknown to the participants by actively partaking in their various activities. In our case, we were able to consider numerous factors that a questionnaire and an interview might miss.

For example, when we entered Iglesia ni Cristo, we were able to immediately observed the architectural structures exterior and interior designs, and we noticed how it was very well-maintained inside and out. Additionally, before actually entering we were required to surrender our phones to the security this is perhaps to reduce distractions being inside the church while listening to the homily. However, in a questionnaire and an interview, the answer of the participant would more likely depend on the questions being asked, so if the interviewer asks about the environment and designs of the church, they wouldn’t be able grasp and imagine an exact replica of the place making the information limited. Also, if the interviewer presumed that an individual can surely go in with their phones they wouldn’t have known extra information that there are phone collections or scanners. It is the same with a questionnaire in which an individual can interpret the question wrong and give false answers.

Moreover, the participation observation creates this feeling of appreciation towards the study due to the fact that we were actually in the church observing and actually participating with everyone instead of just waiting to get answers from a questionnaire and having set up questions from an interview. We also learned from hearing all their voices and seeing their body language, you could see how they truly felt committed in front of their God and how they really felt emotionally bonded in Iglesia ni Cristo.

I believe the number one thing that a questionnaire and interview might miss is being physically there during the whole experience of the samba not just observing but also participating, which means an individual can make connections with the people in the community and get information. This is especially when the information is from their own beliefs without them having the concern of someone watching and observing them. In fact, there is a possibility that you might get emotionally affected as you see them cry while listening to the homily and you get to feel what they feel about their beliefs and their God.

Overall our greatest take away from doing an observation participation and being in the whole event is that, to truly learn about something is to experience it just the way it is, as this gives a different aspect on the community being associated with, rather than just observing while still having a bias point of view.

For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?

We had an informative and personal experience by being immersed in our research’s culture—something only offered by participant observation. However, whilst participation cannot be replaced as a means to learn and discover nuances which may not have occurred to one to ask about at an interview research, it can give an incomplete picture. Much remains unknown after a limited time participating in an event with their community.

In our instance, we found many questions were opened up after we collectively had attended two of Iglesia ni Cristo’s sambas, and compared and discussed our comments amongst each other. For instance; given the male and female pews’ separation, we wondered what their stances on non-binary sexes or genders are. Also, we learnt from our key informant that there were frequently 8-10 speakers for the homilies. Both of our services had two, so we were curious as to when few versus many occurred, and even where the tenth person would come from—we only observed nine throne-like chairs at the dais. How about how topics for homilies are chosen? So much more gets noticed via this method, but much that is noticed also goes unexplained. These we could ask further about at interviews.

Questionnaires, on the other hand, are useful for large groups such as these. Statistics can give a broad overview of specific quantitative and qualitative facets of a society, especially since there is no way to learn about each individual member, and, thus, we learn about them as a group. Although a distanced perspective, we can learn about a culture with less of the extremes, variations, or differences from the culture’s ‘average’ that individuals or an individual interviewed or interacted with through participant observation most likely would have.

A possible bias or skewing may arise from certain members uncomfortable with a researcher’s out an outsider’s presence during participant observation. Whilst similar biases and skewing can and do occur at interviews, you are most likely interviewing willing explainers. At the same time, confidentiality or anonymity are explicitly agreed upon—perhaps making them more open than other participants who might feel watched or researched upon, and thus, guarded.

All in all, the benefits of interviews and questionnaires are more for specific details. Participant observation is, arguably, an ideal way to learn what you need to learn more about. After having real exposure, you know what else to dig into when you get the opportunity to ask. Participant observation opens one’s eyes to reasons behind, to perspectives, to previously-unknown factors or occurrences. This goes hand-in-hand very well with interviews and questionnaires to compose a genuine, well-rounded, and knowledgeable research, showing their perspective, your perspective, and your perspective as one of them; as well as getting questioned answered, clarifications cleared, and doors for future learnings opened. Together, they form the whole research as an experience.

What insights did you gain about Philippine society and culture from the event that you observed and participated in?

Iglesia ni Cristo, being a religion that originated in the Philippines, has long been surrounded with controversy due to its strict and conservative practices. Naturally, because of its widespread popularity, it has always been a matter of cultural interest among Filipinos. With this, comes the generated public opinion and biases from their practices and impositions.

From undergoing participant observation during an INC “samba”, the group was able debunk some of these biases and was able to generate a more objective approach analyzing its cultural implications. For instance, it came to our knowledge that Iglesia ni Cristo members mandate the giving of monetary donations. Initially, we were reluctant to acknowledge this as an acceptable practice for a religious sect, as it wasn’t the norm for us, and it seemed worldly.

However, as we closely observed the church-goers during the worship service, we realized that the giving of monetary donations isn’t as “imposed” as it seems. Rather, the giving of donations is willingly done by church-goers, as it becomes an extension of how they show their faith. The collection of monetary donations has been routinely done not for the purpose of garnering more funds, but as a way to systematically accept this joint initiative from the Filipino Iglesia members. As a group, we were able to see the extent of what Filipino “kapatids” are willing to go through to uphold their faith, regardless of public opinion and outspoken judgment from other religions.  

Moreover, in spite of the fact that the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, the steadfast presence and continuous growth of the Iglesia ni Cristo are testament to how Filipinos exhibit openness and willingness to adopt a new practice. Additonally, the fact that a church and a new form of worship, that which continuously expands internationally, originated from Filipinos, shows how we as a people, are not reliant on other cultures despite how many of us were born into Catholicism. We Filipinos are independent enough to establish our own faith and practice it as we please.

During the worship service itself, the reverence shown by worshippers of the Iglesia in terms of how they systematically segregate men and women, shows how Filipinos instill discipline and respect whilst upholding their faith. This is also seen through the diligence of the church-goers to attend worship twice a week while patiently taking note of their attendance through their “katibayan ng pagsamba” time cards. Ironically, through this practice, the group realized that the long-since notion of “Filipino time” existing throughout Filipino culture does not apply when it comes to Filipinos professing their faith.

The Iglesia ni Cristo members’ inclusion of numerous songs of worship show how Filipinos, with their love for music, incorporate different forms of art into their faith in God.  Conclusively, we can safely say that in the context of the Philippines, religious practices are not something done out of obligation. Rather, the firm adherence to religious practices become a manifestation of one’s personal faith in a higher being, and then becomes an essential part of Filipinos culture. The pulling force of the Iglesia ni Cristo only goes to show how much Filipinos value religion, as well as how religion guides them in their daily toils.

 

 
 

“I Roll to Backflip:” A Study on Dungeons and Dragons

It had only been a few days ago since our group played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time in our young adult lives, and admittedly what we experienced far exceeded any expectations we had about the nature of the game as one of the most popular fantasy tabletop games in contemporary history. The game allowed us to experience a kind of interactive storytelling that was more socially involved than other video game any of us had played, primarily because the narrative — though partially described by the Dungeon Master, or the host of the game — was determined by what the players wanted to do.

 

Observing a session of D&D would have made us — the observers — naturally feel out of place; because D&D is such a social tabletop game, anyone opting to watch a game instead of actually joining the players would have missed the camaraderie and fellowship the players exhibited towards one another as they all moved towards a single objective.  Simply watching would have hindered us from experiencing a sort of “shared imagination” that the players indulged in to enjoy the game. A key factor that adds to the excitement of players in D&D is the uncertainty of the rolls. In a game where majority of the events and circumstances are dictated entirely by dice rolls, this randomness and lack of control at times often allowed for interesting outcomes. One such instance of randomness was when one of our observers wanted to perform acrobatic maneuvers — a flip — every chance he could get. Perhaps the most foolish one out of his antics would be when he rushed head-on and attempted to place himself behind a group of enemies charging the party, essentially flanking said hostiles. When he decided to roll a 20-sided die to see whether or not he would succeed, he rolled an incredibly low number and subsequently failed the attempt at jumping over the party’s enemies;  the DM concluded, for the sake of the story and the combat encounter, that this observer’s character would have tripped his landing and fell prone on the ground, leaving him open to attack by the enemy boar.

Dungeons & Dragons involved the use of many variations of dice

 

Playing Dungeons and Dragons, however, did not begin only when all the players in our party sat down together at a table in Eat! for four hours; we first had to ask around for a key informant to introduce us to the game. In this instance, our point individual was AJ Elicaño, a professor in the Loyola Schools who one of our groupmates was acquainted with and knew that the former played the game.

 

Having arranged a meeting between him and the rest of the group, Sir AJ provided reading materials necessary for anyone to understand how the game worked — rulebooks, character creation sheets, guides, and so on. After browsing through the rulebooks and guides, we somewhat had an idea of what characters we wanted to be, and expected the character creation to be easily done during our initial meeting with the key informant — though this definitely was not the case.

Our group on the early stages of character creation

 

In the brief hour and 30 minute meeting we held, we were only able to allocate the stats and establish the bare essentials for our characters. Little did we know that creating characters for every member of our group would take more than several hours of perusing the official rulebook, online guides, and asking Sir AJ himself about mechanics of the game the members felt weren’t explained properly; the game gave us so much liberty to decide on many aspects of our characters such as race, class, background, skills, backstory, items, and even the languages that we spoke. At this stage, we immediately realized how different watching a session of D&D would have been compared to actually playing for a session — any observer would have missed the crucial character creation stage.

 

Character creation — as with any roleplaying game — was a personally involved process where players imagined themselves to be some sort of fantastical adventurer that can perform specific tasks, and in Dungeons and Dragons these tasks were tied to unique classes. In addition to selecting a class that determined how a player wanted to play the game, character races and backgrounds provided players with tools to create fantastical backstories for their characters and craft the imaginary worlds they were going to play in. The way players create their characters in Dungeons & Dragons is nothing like the character creation steps contemporary games experience in other games; from their personalities and skills all the way to the very look of your character, the player is fully in control of how their characters express anything.

 

The group actually hit a lot of stumbling blocks in the six days they had to create their characters. For one, a group member had misplaced his character sheet, and two others struggled to store theirs as PDFs because of technical issues. The group, embarrassingly enough, ended up relying more on Sir AJ on how the character creation process should go instead of consulting the rulebooks at every possible turn; instead of consulting the rulebooks on how character statistics affected character skills, for instance, the players often had to ask our key informant about such and such. After the group had more or less finished creating their characters — a Tiefling Paladin, a Half-Elf Rogue, a Human Ranger, and a Human Sorcerer — the time had come for us to meet with Sir AJ, our Dungeon Master Nico, and two other party members at a small food establishment— Eat! —  in Esteban Abada.

 

Having a key informant providing us with relevant information which helped the group in understanding just how much preliminary reading was required to even understand the basics of D&D. It is highly possible that any outsider watching this game without prior knowledge of its mechanics would assume that D&D is not fun because of the necessary preparations that must be made to play the game. To some, the amount of information needed to be learned may seem like an equally unnecessary chore, but Sir AJ  made the experience nonetheless worthwhile; through him, we understood that what others might see as time sinks is considered to be fun by some others. What made Sir AJ such a capable key informant was perhaps his experience as both instructor and frequent D&D player; the previously mentioned group member who is acquainted with Sir AJ found out from the latter that he plays almost every week with two different groups of friends. Again, it was worth noting that this observation could not have been made if the group remained just passive observers as opposed to active participants in a session of D&D; had the group remained just observers Sir AJ would have been nothing more than a gracious host, and his friends — our other party members — equally so if not less.

Through the participation in the D&D session, the group was able to draw two key insights on how our informant was able to deepen our understanding of the game. First, the key informant can sometimes serve as the first encounter for the researchers conducting their ethnographic study so it is important that such informant is knowledgeable in the particular field. We experienced this especially during the critical character creation stage. Having no prior experience with the game at all, the group had only the rulebook and wiki pages to rely on to fill in the blanks of the seemingly complicated character sheets. Thankfully, Sir AJ was gracious enough to take his time and respond to our numerous inquiries regarding the many mechanics present in the game. He did not limit himself to only reacting to our questions but also actively suggested tips on how we should build our character to better fit the overall theme and experience of the game. Through our knowledgeable key informant, we were able to deepen our understanding of the mechanics that governed Dungeons and Dragons.

 

Second, the key informant was not necessarily limited to bridging the gap between the researchers and the field of study, primarily because his participation is also valuable to the study. During the actual one-shot session, we observed that Sir AJ constantly shifted from being our guide to a fellow comrade and member of the party. Although he was a senior — as well as a faculty member — compared to us, he did not treat us any differently; through Sir AJ, we were able to appreciate the value of camaraderie and fellowship — two of the core elements of D&D.

 

The need for a key informant became more understated with the realization that, had the group chosen to simply watch a game of D&D unfold, we would have had little to no clue as to what purposes rolling dice served the players in doing anything in-game. Simply observing would have also left us clueless about the mechanics of the game, as the game’s reliance on rules was stressed as early as the character creation stage. In this regard, the group is grateful for Sir AJ’s assistance in explaining the lengthy rulebooks as concisely as possible, as well as addressing concerns regarding character creation and progression.

 

Despite the group arriving only a few minutes late at the destination (thanks to traffic and mishaps involving a lamp post and a group member’s car), the session did not begin right away. Instead, Sir AJ and his friends caught up with the goings-on of one another’s lives, and it was this that cemented D&D as a truly social activity; aside from the opportunity to indulge in role playing and interactive storytelling, it was also the chance to meet up with old friends. Dungeons and Dragons was an opportunity for friends to gather and connect with one another — playing the game was equal parts socializing, writing, and exercising the players’ ability to imagine and communicate. This aspect of socialization between our key informant and his friends extended even to the group; we were hardly treated as strangers who had come to watch and play with an established group, but rather as newcomers to a game that has remained popular ever since its inception 44 years ago.

A misfortune indeed!

 

Upon entering Eat!, it was almost 4:00 in the afternoon and the temperature outside was sweltering; it was quite a relief to enter the air-conditioned venue where we agreed to meet-up. The smell was pleasant and sweet because of the food and the atmosphere was chill and relaxed — the perfect venue for a tabletop game. After taking quick glances at the restaurant and the offered food items, we noticed a small group of people with laptops and a familiar face — Sir AJ. We quickly sat down and introduced ourselves to each the three other new faces on the table: Liam, Risa, and Nico — our dungeon master.

 

After settling in and getting familiar with the names of the people around us, we made ourselves comfortable by getting some cold water and ordering some food as we spent about 20 minutes making small talk — like what our courses were and if we’ve played this game before. We were glad to find out that Risa was also new to the game because we won’t feel as out of place as we would if we were surrounded by veterans. Afterwards, it was time to share the characters that we’d play as, which was decided to be the names each of the players will be called by for the duration of the game. After explaining some other basic concepts related to the game — and making last-minute tweaks to the Sorcerer and Ranger’s character sheets — the dungeon master, with a good level of detail, laid out for the party the setting in which the story began.

 

Perhaps the most obvious and important aspect of D&D that the group captured in its entirety by playing the game is the development of fellowship among the party members. Our characters, having been hired by a goblin named Squelch to seek out lost treasure, were expected to communicate with one another as the narrative progressed and they were constantly put in stressful situations. Near the beginning of the session, for instance, the group had to decide on whether the paladin’s natural intimidation skills will be used to break Squelch out of the city jail, or if the group will bribe the stationed guards instead.

 

The options the players can choose from could not have been made possible without communication between the players, or at the very least like-minded thinking among some of them. As intangible a concept as it is, communication between individuals cannot be quantified by questionnaires and simple interviews that could have been used to analyze the activity had the group decided to just observe; it was an aspect of play that, more than anything, establishes rapport and had to be experienced by the group themselves. Participant observation has brought to the group the understanding that D&D seeks to bring players together as a close-knitted group of friends more than anything — an observation questionnaires and simple interviews can easily miss.

 

Since friendship cannot be quantified in researches, the only way to understand D&D is through empirical evidence — participation and experience in the game. Without communication, the party could not have achieved anything of value in order to progress the story of the campaign; without communication, there would not have been anything to observe at all. As comprehensive as we can make interview questions to be, the group doubts that the essence of play — as well as the fun the players had in the process — could have survived the transition from being an actual experience to a memory being narrated to someone else.

 

D&D owes its popularity to being the most interactive of tabletop games even years after it was first created; meaningful play that involves the game can be correlated with the fact that the game, by its own merit, is primarily a sensational experience. Players in a D&D campaign, like ourselves, are likely to remember most fondly the instances where the players laughed the hardest, cooperated and synergized with one another’s play styles the greatest, and so on. Approaching D&D as a study, then, will rely heavily on empirical rather than quantifiable data.

 

This information, however, can be difficult to synthesize when the observers themselves are involved in the game. In this case, then, questionnaires and interviews can be used instead to keep track of the “numbers” involved in playing D&D — how many players are involved in one party, how many hours were spent on creating a character and finishing one portion of the narrative, and so on — as well as the perception of individuals outside the participant observer group. Interviews can also be utilized to establish a general understanding of how D&D works, and primarily to highlight what players think of the game and their past experiences with other parties and individuals. It is also worth noting that, while the group knew each other beforehand, it seemed as though the members of the party — AJ, Liam and Risa — only knew each other in passing; AJ and Liam operated as a pair in the campaign since they knew each other even outside of the party, while Risa mostly acted with a degree of independence from the rest of the group — brought on, perhaps, by the fact that she seemed to know only the dungeon master.

 

At the end of the study the group realized it now held a ton of non-quantifiable data that they must present objectively. The group also had to contend with the fact that D&D, an American invention, is not so easily applied in the sociocultural context of the Philippines and, more specifically, the culture’s highly physical and mobile forms of play. We came to the conclusion that, primarily, D&D is a polar opposite to how tradition in the Philippines views roleplay. Whereas D&D encourages players to use their imaginations and is primarily limited to mature adults, the country traditionally sees roleplay — really, any kind of play — as an activity only kids should indulge in.

 

No formal research has been established, but anecdotal evidence — and the personal experiences of some of the group members — points to the stigmatization of play as an activity for children.  As we grow up, we slowly find different ways of entertainment — such as hanging out with friends in public spaces like malls, and watching films in cinemas; generally, Filipino adults avoid games that involve social interaction. Even after a childhood filled with very social games like Luksong Baka, Agawan Base, Langit Lupa, or Tagu-taguan, we Filipinos tend to stray away from these games as we age because of the stigma of it being viewed as childish. Even now, in this day and age where everyone is virtually connected, we find less opportunities to interact and play with people in person because of the convenience of interacting with them through digital media.

 

However, it is equally important to note that, based on the experiences of our group members, the act of playing games with people in person is a wholly different experience. By being there physically with the people you’re playing with, a sense of intimacy and physical connection — empathy, in a sense — makes the social atmosphere friendlier and more inviting as the players share a common space. This is very much true in the case of D&D — a game where every player works together in a shared fantasy world and put themselves in the shoes of characters they had personally created. The game shows how the “child” within us never really dies, we can always find that childlike joy of playing games with friends no matter our ages. This — on top of the aspect of our national identity that define Filipinos to be generally one of the happiest peoples in the world — adds more to the fun of experiencing the game because everyone is so close and everyone’s reactions are seen in real time. This very concrete sense of entertainment boosts the fun that goes with D&D because it’s not a game you necessarily have to play seriously; the simple prospect of having fun and crafting the craziest ideas to overcome an obstacle invites players to spend more time with their friends in the game. As the group recalls, the moments with the most laughter involved the craziest and stupidest ideas that somehow worked in solving the problems we faced or failing in very comedic ways.

Our D&D party for the one-shot campaign

 

With all that said, D&D is a very interesting experience for all of us. Coming from gaming backgrounds, it served as a refreshingly unique platform to express one’s ideas and strategies in a shared imaginary world where each one of our characters were living and breathing characters in a way that we can never do in our real lives. It’s a wonderful form of escape where we serve as avatars for our personas as we lived them out based on the personalities and traits we have assigned for our characters. This structure and design of D&D offers a very new experience that’s fueled and limited only by your imagination that no other activity can provide. It’s a fantastical game that appeals to all the senses through the very descriptive details of the dungeon master as you overcome challenges and undergo the fellowship that comes along the social pillar of the game. Here,  the thrill of discovering uncharted territory and expressing yourself down to the looks of your character is unquestionably liberating. It’s a game that gets more fun the closer you are with the people you’re playing it with — be it your actual friends or strangers you’ve had the pleasure of meeting through the game and you get closer with each other as the game progresses. It offers fulfillment and joy that isn’t endogenous to the game since the memories and friendships that come with the experience carry over outside our common creative bubble and on the table. There’s an amazing sense of pleasure as we anticipate the next events that our characters will overcome and the possibilities of all the choices we can do. The thrill, humor, and pride in an accomplishment as we triumph over adversity never ceases to be as fun as the first time we experienced it.

Looking back, the game was, by all accounts, a memorable and enjoyable experience any of us in the group could have imagined playing in the near future — at least, not without incentivizing the game as a way to accomplish an academic requirement. Despite all this, however, there is no doubt that the members would be willing to participate in another campaign in the near future. After all, the party’s just arrived at the tower Squelch described as his enemies’ current hideout, and we’ve yet to claim the lost treasure for ourselves.

 

Written by Aquino, Escalaw, Santos, and Tiongco

 
 

Disability? This is my Ability.

by Reinzel Colle, Hope Due, Bea Sison and Austin Tan (SA 21 C)

While choosing an activity for our Sociology and Anthropology class, our group happened to chance upon the opportunity to observe a catechism class for the deaf people and we realized that this was a rather great opportunity for us, and it highly piqued our interest. We all came from Catholic schools and were relatively well-versed when it came to religious teachings. However, what drew us to choose this activity goes back all the way to our grade school days. During this period, we were all fascinated with secret languages, the ability to communicate in which only the signifier and the signified would understand the message, effectively canceling noise. In grade school, we used non-verbal cues to communicate with each other, but as we grew up, we realized that sign language is much more than just being a secret language or a cool thing. It is a community’s way of communicating, and we wanted to see that interaction. Luckily, one of our groupmates, Hope knew one of the volunteers in the catechism class who signs for the deaf people, and we were set. However, due to personal matters, her friend could not come and had to back out a day before we were going to visit, but there was nothing to worry about as she forwarded us to the caring hands of one of the other volunteer signers in their parish ministry.

What happened?

1. Attended mass

Last Sunday, July 1 at 10 in the morning, we went to Christ the King Parish which is located in Filinvest Homes 2, Quezon City in which we attended the Sunday mass since our key informant suggested that it was better to hear mass to witness how sign language is very much alive and encouraged in their parish. Throughout the mass, there was a sign language interpreter that stood in front signing the songs, homily, responses, and the whole missal. During the Consecration, which is the highlight of the entire Eucharistic Celebration, the priest himself signed for all those present at the mass to show inclusivity to the deaf community. We observed that the deaf parishioners were all seated at the first two rows and actively participated by signing during the hymns and responses. Since there was a lack of offertory collectors, the collector ministry assigned some of our group mates to assist in the collection.

Christ the King Parish

Inside Christ the King Parish

2. Went to the activity room

After the mass, we then met our key informant, Marianne, and she lead us to the room where we will meet the deaf, the volunteers, and the teacher. At that time, we all felt anxious since it was our first time being there and we still did not know what to expect with the catechetical class. Marianne then introduced us to the volunteers and told them that we were to observe as well as participate for our ethnographic fieldwork project. She also called Julius, who is a deaf brother of one of the volunteers, to give us our respective sign names which would be used to address us throughout the entire session. At first, Marianne guided us with fingerspelling our names using the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet before being given our sign names. These sign names are based on our initials and distinct facial features. After our introductions, the other hearing-impaired students came in for the catechism ranging from kids, adults, and parents. We also noticed that one deaf mom even brought her hearing child with her. Marianne then informed us that as visitors and observers, we are tasked with distributing the food ordered by the parish ministry for the deaf, teacher, and volunteers.

3. Distributed food & Ate lunch

When we got a whiff of something very appetizing and familiar to all of us, we got thrilled because we knew it was Jollibee’s Chicken Joy we were about to savor for lunch. But then again, on second thought, we remembered Jollibee Food Corporation’s issue on contractualization which somehow dampened a bit our elated spirits. We then distributed the food to everyone present and they reciprocated by gesturing to us their happiness and gratitude straightaway through signing “thank you” coupled with a smile on their faces and we responded by smiling back as well. After which, Marianne invited us to join them for lunch but we were initially shy and hesitant because we felt guilty since the food was allotted for the students but because it rained that day, only a few came. We then relented to their offer since declining might come off as a disrespectful gesture. During our fellowship over lunch, the volunteers and our group talked just about everything and anything like our course, where we lived, and what we found interesting about sign language among others. On our part, we also asked them questions on how long they have been volunteering.

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The deaf community eating their lunch

4. Class on sacramentals started

Teacher Jen, a Special Education (SPED) teacher, came in after a while and started to prepare her PowerPoint presentation for the class. For this particular session, the topic is about sacramentals. The class started and it was evident that the students were all focused and attentive to the teacher. They were taking down notes, asking questions and clarifications, and sharing insights as well as personal experiences. Based on their behavior, we believe that they were not just forcing themselves to study, they were really interested in the lessons. In the middle of the discussion, Teacher Jen called us to introduce ourselves to the class using our sign names that were recently given by Julius. We learned that the two adults from the class were already working and both had gotten their Entrepreneurship and Design degrees in De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde and Miriam College respectively. They also asked us what we were doing and we explained what ethnographic fieldwork is. The class then resumed with their discussion and Teacher Jen even asked Marianne to do the signing for her since her arms were getting tired and it was difficult to speak and sign at the same time. While Teacher Jen explained orally, Marianne interpreted what she said. Some of the deaf were also asked by Teacher Jen to sign the PowerPoint and while doing so, they were looking at her to ensure their signing was correct. 

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Teacher Jen explaining Sacramentals to the deaf community

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Marianne interpreting what Teacher Jen (sitting at the right side) is saying

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One of the deaf students teaching “Blessings” to the class

5. Watching the group presentations

During the discussion, we also saw the parent who brought her hearing child, multitasking by taking down notes while taking care of her child. To sustain their interest, Teacher Jen tasked the students to do a group work where they would have a role play showing examples of sacramentals in the Church and they were given a measly 15 minutes to prepare. During their planning, we observed they they were so focused on what each member suggests on how to make their output better. While presenting, we were all amazed that they were able to create a remarkable presentation in such a short notice. Teacher Jen hands out chocolates to those part of the best group as their prize for a job well done. By this simple token of appreciation, we could already glean how delighted they were with it. This just goes to show how little and simple it takes to make them happy. It was great that the winning group was chosen based on our group’s vote and by doing this, we somehow felt like we played a big role in their class and we were not just mere observers. With Teacher Jen’s reward system, she also gives chocolates to students who recited in class. Moreover, when she noticed a kid who was wearing a proper Sunday mass attire with black slacks, long-sleeved polo, and leather shoes, she was impressed since it is not such a regular occurrence so she gave him chocolates too. For further understanding of the Church and the sacramentals, Teacher Jen showed videos about it with subtitles. After the video presentations, we then proceeded to pray Glory Be accompanied by their sign language. Everyone then went on their separate ways.

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First group presenting

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Second group presenting

6. End of the activity

At the end of the experience, we felt more knowledgeable about the deaf community than when we came in there a few hours ago. We interacted and observed them, and we felt that in those few hours we were able to bring home some important takeaways. The most important one in our opinion is that, the deaf community is only looking for equality. They want to be treated not as disabled people, but simply, as fellow people. They do not want to be ostracized from society just because they are different. Even while being at a disadvantage, they do not let their disability hinder them. This was one of the things we observed that really made us think of how we live our lives, and how we abled beings, can take very normal things for granted. Lastly, we came to the conclusion that attitude is not shaped by the disability, but it is shaped by the environment. With this, we mean that there are various factors that influence a person’s attitude, their interactions with others, their experiences, and their environment as a whole. That is why it is really commendable how the parish made a loving and nurturing space for the deaf in order for them to build a positive mindset towards life.

What did our key informant tell us?

Our key informant, Marianne, told us all about the catechism such as its goals, usual routines, insights about the community, and more. With the help of this catechism, our key informant was able to understand the community more. She said that before the only thing she knows about them are the information found online but when she joined, she realized they are just like us. The only thing they are looking for is equality. Once you’re involved in the community you will see how they do things despite of their disability. The deaf are given a stigma that are lazy which is not true at all. It is not because they are deaf but because of where they come from. A lot of us even if we can hear, we’re also lazy which is because of our environment factors and the same goes with the deaf as well.

Catholics only have a simple lifestyle so the only thing we could give them are words of encouragement and motivation. During Catechism, there are more people attending when there is an occasion but as time goes by, the students decrease in number but there are two students who are consistent in attending since they work in the parish already. Most of the students do not attend because of their faith but because of what they can get. As compared to before, there aren’t as many people who are interested in learning sign language. This seems ironic since everything about equality and awareness is being talked about today but the number of people learning to sign reduced.

There were indeed barriers that made connecting with these people difficult. When she was starting, she only knew how to fingerspell which was hard since all the words had to be spelled out. All the letters had to be spelled one by one which made it tiresome. In addition, learning sign language should not only be in a classroom setting, but it also should be practiced while communicating with the deaf because they sign at a fast pace and also have shortcuts. For example, the phrase “My Name Is” can not always be signed since it takes to long, so a shortcut would be just signing the name. People who are learning sign language should be exposed to the deaf community for them to truly learn and apply it in real life.


Insights from participation

Being involved in signing during the catechism class would truly be a different experience when compared to just observing. After all, using the five senses can only get you so far; observing the mass and the catechism only gave us a glimpse of what actually is happening around usdeaf students learning and volunteers teaching. During our stay, we were invited to go up to the class and had interactions with the teachers as well as the students. Teacher Jen asked us our names and told us to sign it. The pressure was on us since the first time we signed was around 20 minutes ago prior to us going in front of the class. Luckily enough, Teacher Jen saw our uneasiness and assisted us in signing our names. After that, we showed the entire class our sign namesthe shortcuts. The feeling of standing up there is certainly different from being one of the people sitting down. For starters, there certainly is a sense of achievement once you are able to fingerspell your name and be given a shortcut. Being given a sign name is of significant importance as it marks a personal connection not only with your name, since they usually use unique characteristics to make it, but with the people as well. The feeling is comparable to being part of a secret society where your sign name is your code namea new, different, but ultimately, part of the collective you.

We also learned the importance of body language and facial expressions in communicating to the deaf community. Since we do not know how to do sign language and cannot verbally communicate with them, we smiled and showed gestures of gratitude for them to understand that we are happy to be there and meet them. When we distributed the food and drinks, they smiled and thanked us in sign language. To respond, we also smiled, nodded a bit and thanked them in sign language. Even if there is a communication barrier between us and the deaf community, both sides showed how grateful and appreciative they are to each other.

Having a key informant adds to our understanding

Having a key informant during the activity helped us have a deeper understanding on the students and the catechism as a whole. We were able to ask questions such as the goal of the program and how it started, the changes that happened, barriers that made it difficult to communicate with the students, how the program helped in understanding the deaf community, and more. With the questions asked, we were able to gain information from the perspective of someone who knows the program well. If we did not have a key informant, the whole activity would be difficult to understand since no one would be there to explain what was going on and to introduce us to the people in it.

Marianne, our key informant, was the one who connected us to the deaf community and other volunteers by introducing us to them and initiating conversations. All of us are quite shy and timid and by being exposed to an unfamiliar environment, it made us feel more tense. But thanks to Marianne, the anxiousness we felt subsided. She not only answered our questions regarding the activity, deaf community, volunteers and the teacher, but also made us feel part of their family as well.

Learnings from participant observation

One of the signers that we talked to told us that there is a difference between the young ones and the old ones who sign in their organization. The old members usually are the ones who are in charge of teaching, while the young ones are the ones who are generally more involved and immersed with interacting with the deaf. As such, she told us that there are things you would not be able to understand or realize without immersing yourself. One of the examples she told us is the phrase “My name is” which has a three-part sign, one for each word, and that is what they teach you at sign school. However, when actually performing sign, the deaf shorten “My name is” to “Name” so they only sign one word which represents the phrase. Likewise, participant observation just gives us that extra layer of information that normally you would not be able to garner from a survey or interview. The unfiltered, raw scenario where people act how they normally do without the need of composing themselves in preparation of an interview is an example. Furthermore, a questionnaire most often than not is objective which is why you can miss out on emotions. It is also inflexible, it is not as free-flowing and spontaneous as being in the field, where depending on circumstances, new ideas and questions can pop up and come to you. Since our activity involves the deaf community, being there on the scene itself and participating throughout the session allowed us to see how the deaf participates in class and how the teacher explains the lessons to them. 

Purposes when a questionnaire/interview might be better than participant observation

A questionnaire would be better in instances where gathering data in a organized and standardized manner is essential. It can help the group get information from a large sample size. The questionnaire is a good tool to use as it is versatile, and can gather both quantitative and qualitative data. An example of using a questionnaire  in our activity is feedback on how effective the catechism class is. This can be achieved by using different methods of assessing, such as scales, open ended and closed questions. Questionnaires can also help in getting the demographic of the location. Questions that ask about age, sex, etc in order to accurately figure out the demographic of the class. However seeing that the class is relatively small, this is not necessarily needed for a class this size. As observation or individual questioning would suffice.

An interview would be better in instances wherein there can be various meanings that can be associated to a certain phenomena. Since our group is not very knowledgeable with the activity, the way we interpret the behavior and actions of our subjects would come from our biases or preconceived notions. Due to this, misunderstandings could arise and that is where the importance of interviews or questionnaires come. These enable us from the need to assign meanings or decipher every action. Furthermore, since we are studying a topic they are much more familiar than us, it is better to get a clear, direct, and concise answer from them and not just through our own inferences.

Insights gained about Philippine society & culture

From the activity, we witnessed with our own eyes the culture of hospitality that we, Filipinos take pride in. From the start, Marianne, our key informant, even though we did not have any prior meeting, was very approachable, friendly, and all-smiles. She tried her best to get us past our shyness and awkwardness by introducing us to her fellow volunteers, the deaf, and Teacher Jen. Furthermore, she insisted on eating together with them even though the remaining food and drinks were allocated for the deaf. During our time with them, we experienced the community’s friendliness towards us since they included us in their conversations, engaging us in topics even outside of catechism. Moreover, we also felt the deaf community’s gratitude and appreciation when we served them food through their actions and facial expressions even though we are complete strangers to them. On top of that, we felt welcomed and accepted in their community since they gave all of us sign names, a distinct identity of their culture, basing it on our initials and facial characteristics. We really felt honored since a sign name is considered as a gift that is given to a new non-native member.

Another insight that we gained through this activity is the scope at which religion affects the people of the country. This can be seen through the amount of non-secular educational institutions in the country as well as the various efforts that religious sectors implement in order to garner more followers. We realized that different churches have different ways to enamor the people, and that the amount of followers they have represents their “sway” or influence. Furthermore, there are also various sects, which are groups of people who break away from a larger, established religious denomination, or movement, because of a set of beliefs that differ in some key ways that are emerging. Due to this, the Catholic Church feels the need to evangelize the Word of God through various ways such as catechetical classes while offering free food, a way of keeping their followers under their beliefs. These people, the deaf, mostly come from public schools that do not have religion classes or CLE. As such, the Church serves as their second school, a place to share the Word of God. Ultimately, this shows us how religion is deeply rooted in Philippine society, which is not that surprising considering our history.

Moreover, we also saw how passionate the volunteers are in lending a hand to people who are in need whom they treat like family. They do various charitable activities such as creating a parish ministry dedicated to the PWD, which is a safe space for the deaf that is free from any form of judgement and stigma. This is done to protect them from societal notions that disabled people do not actively contribute to society, that they are lazy. However, we realized that the laziness does not come from their disability, no, it is because of of their background, the setting which they came from. They also take some time out of their busy schedules to teach and help their community because of their love for service. They use their skills to share their knowledge to people who cannot access these easily. The service that these people do does not only provide joy to others, but it also brings joy to themselves.

Additionally, we noticed how Teacher Jen employed a reward system by reinforcing their behaviors through chocolates. We can relate this to Skinner’s explanation in Baseball Magic on how personal rituals get established. The students can be linked to the birds while the chocolates are like the seeds. The birds keep on doing whatever it is associated with getting food until the next pellet arrives just like how the deaf students raise their hand to recite as well as go to church in their Sunday best in order for them to be commended and rewarded for their behavior.

Lastly, we also witnessed the deafs’ willingness to learn in spite of their condition. Even if they have this thirst for knowledge, they do not forget their other responsibilities. We saw this through the hearing-impaired mother who brought her hearing child with her since a mother’s first instinct is to take care of her child. Furthermore, the parish also employs the deaf to be productive members of society just like any other normal person. It goes without saying that they are capable of doing things in spite of their disability.

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Ethnographers with key informant, Marianne and deaf student

References

Name signs: Naming custom in Deaf culture. Retrieved from https://www.handspeak.com/culture/index.php?id=79.

Spradley, J. & McCurdy, D. (2012). Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. Pearson Education, Inc.

 

#RiseUpTogether: Pride March 2018

Our group at Pride March! 🌈

Hans Dytian, Arvin Almario, and Caitlin Young of SA 21 D 

Saturday, June 30 may have been a gray and rainy morning, but it was filled with anticipation, nevertheless. The members of our group donned our most colorful clothes and headed out to Marikina Sports Center for the annual pride march. After all, what better way was there to cap off the last day of Pride Month?

Raise a flag and rise for pride! 🌈 #RiseUpTogether

Entering a Pride March for the first time can only be described as overwhelming, but in the best way possible. Imagine, if you might, a vast field of grassy land—much akin to a football field—filled with hordes of people (the Marikina Sports Center can hold up to 5000 people, but there were certainly more that day), not to mention tons of decorations and booths. Pride March is anything but quiet, but the beauty in it was that the loud cheers and hoots were nothing like the dangerous chants you might hear in, say, a violent rally. The entire area was chock-filled with rainbow streamers, bright posters, and colorful banners and inflatables. Those in attendance were donned in bright colors, chattering about, and welcoming both old and newcomers. There was nothing dangerous or foreboding about the place. It was a place that radiated love and acceptance, and despite the chilly weather—warmth.

Our group arrived at Pride March at around 12:30. All around us were giggles and swirling laughter. At first, we were unsure about entering the place—outside the gate of the sports center were a alt-right ‘Christian’ picketers, carrying crass signs about sin, and channelling their inner homophobia. There were signs featuring Bible verses, signs that read ‘Turn away from sin,’ and signs that said things like, ‘It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.’ Although the protesters were loud, harassing, and hurtful, the members of the LGBTQIA+ community amazingly decided to respond in a peaceful way by simply displaying pride signs of their own to counter the homophobic ones. But what was more wonderful was that once we swept through the negativity and past the gates, we became surrounded with nothing but love and positivity.

A girl we saw conquering hate with nothing but love…💖🌈❤

Since this is our first time to attend a pride march, for our first order of business, we met up with our key informant: Caleb Macion, a Fine Arts major from UP Diliman, and a longtime friend of our groupmate Arvin. Caleb identifies as genderfluid. With this being her second pride march, she was able to brief us first. She described the entire event as “celebrating the freedom to love whoever we choose to love.”

“We do pride to be heard,” Caleb explained. “Pride is more than just a gathering and celebrating who we are, but it is a way for the LGBTQIA+ community to let our voice be heard.” This enlightened us and allowed us to realize the difficulties of being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially in the olden times, when any thing different was considered out of line and a means for ostracizing.

Strike a pose! Here’s Arvin and our key informant, Ms. Caleb.

The ‘official’ march was supposed to begin at around 4:00, but it was delayed until 5:30pm. As such, we decided to explore the entire area, to observe the many happenings and other activities that were in store for us.

From a sociocultural context, Filipinos by nature love to congregate, to gather together when it comes to celebrations, like birthdays or certain holidays. Although Pride March was certainly picked up by us due to Western influence, there’s no doubt that such an activity is reminiscent of some festivals and processions we have (for example, Flores de Mayo). With the theme #RiseUpTogether, it was heartwarming to see a sense of unity and acceptance around us. There were several types of people in the Pride March, for starters. However, these people were not limited to members of the LGBTQIA+ community alone. Rather, we saw several types of people—even those who were not a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, so-called cisgenders or heterosexuals—there, showing their support. We saw several couples strolling about with their children. The beauty of this was that some of the couples with children were same-sex couples! Furthermore, we witnessed several student groups and organizations there, all out to show their support—for example, Ateneo’s own AIESEC and UP Diliman’s Babaylan. Even some professors had showed up in a show of support for the LGBTQIA+ community. This just goes to show that in order to rise up and support others, one does not necessarily have to be of the same plight—what matters most is the unity and togetherness in caring for a cause.

With so much love around, it was hard not to feel happy or even giddy while walking along to the upbeat music. This year’s pride march had a catchy playlist, featuring empowering anthems—both old and new songs—by gay icons like Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, BLACKPINK, or simply singers who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, like Troye Sivan, Shura, and Rupaul. Each song seemed specifically selected, as each contained a powerful message about loving yourself and being yourself—very apt choices, indeed. But that wasn’t all that we listened to—prior to the march, there were speeches being given that celebrated the just-declared Mental Health Act of 2017, as well as speeches dedicated to the SOGIE bill and marriage rights for the LGBTQIA+ community. Truly, the fight for equality did not simply stop with pride march.

Impressive!

While exploring the entire venue, we were also struck by how much fun it was. The whole area was set up in a style much similar to that of a fair. There were booths all over the place. Student organizations such as AIESEC and Babaylan were selling shirts supporting the LGBTQIA+ movement. There were game booths, as well, and even booths featuring works under the genre of queer literature. Several people lined up to win prizes; one of the game booths our group tried out involved shooting a ping-pong ball in a small hole, and we won a tube of lube. Of course, however, the best types of booths were certainly the food booths. Everything was done according to the theme of pride march; we bit into delicious sandwiches oozing with gooey, rainbow-colored grilled cheese—courtesy of the food service Sebastian’s. Rainbow pop, which consisted of soda and juice in a beautiful swirl of colors, was also being sold. The attention to detail in making sure everything was according to theme was impressive. But we aren’t complaining—the food was not only pretty to look at, but really delicious, too!

In support of pride march, we ended up buying an AISEC shirt that read ‘Ding, it’s a bading!.’ With so many fun products and merchandise being sold, it was hard to decide what to buy and what not to buy—it was so tempting to spend the money, but we kept ourselves in check! We finally settled on a Pride March flag—a colorful rainbow flag. Although the small size was 400 pesos already, we still opted for the bigger flag, which costed 600 instead.

Another fun activity we had prior to the official start of the march was with the Durex booth. It stood out amongst several much more ‘serious’ corporate booths, such as Standard Chartered, Visa, and Uber. For the Durex, we were tasked to write anything about love on a post-it note for free condoms! We also participated in a free hugs event. Arvin even got HIV tested!

Finally, it was time for the march to start. Despite the rainy weather, people told themselves that it was only apt—since after the rain, comes the rainbow! We marched with pride, alongside several members of society—not just the LGBTQIA+ community, but students, teachers, parents, and even the handicapped. It was one big show of inclusivity and support, and it was amazing to be a part of it all. Unicorns and other colorful banners were raised. People cheered and shouted in happiness. It was an indescribable feeling, then, as we marched 2 kilometers. It did not even feel like 2 kilometers, thanks to the high we got from all the love and support that surrounded us. It took us only 1 hour to march out and come back, and it was a truly eye-opening experience. We witnessed the kindness of several people. Bakeshops along the streets would give us free food—bread and donuts with adorable signs like ‘Don’t worry, they’re clean!’ People parted for us to march through, showing us support all the way. When signs that read ‘Honk if you support Pride March’ were raised, the cars all honked their horns loudly in a show of support for the LGBTQIA+ community!

A march for pride, indeed. 🌈

Even the loud picketing of the protesters wasn’t enough to bring us down. We were, arguably, on a high, surrounded by love and support from everyone around us. Truly, it was not just a beautiful sight to see, but a wonderful thing to feel deep inside our hearts, as well.

To cap off the entire event, at night, members of the LGBTQIA+ community held a mini program for fun. Popular local drag queens like Joanna Kween performed Nicki Minaj’s ‘Pound the Alarm,’ and several people were brought to laughter by her dance skills. Another drag queen named Vinas impressed the crowd with her amazing lip-syncing skills. On a more serious note, there was also an HIV talk given, emphasizing the need to treat people who have HIV-AIDS with kindness and equality. It showed how those with HIV-AIDS were normal everyday people, just like us. They were unabashed and unashamed as they shared their experiences and encouraged others to be more careful in the future.

Let’s dance the night away! 🎶

Following this, several youth talks by student leaders were given. This included the College of San Beda, UP Diliman, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and Far Eastern University. The talks were about the need for inclusivity and acceptance—not just tolerance!—towards the LGBTQIA+ community. Emphasizing how bullying and discrimination are still rampant issues in schools, they encouraged everyone to put a stop to the hatred and show some love to the LGBTQIA+ community instead.

Finally, the program concluded a beautiful rendition of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’—a song which, in popular culture, has become one of the anthems of the LGBTQIA+ community—as well as a rave, where everyone got down and danced the night away. To cap off Pride March, beautiful fireworks were released, exploding across the starry night sky, amongst the cheers of all the people. Pride March—it was certainly not just an event to remember, but one to always celebrate wholeheartedly.

 

Indeed, at Pride March, each one of us was able to #RiseUpTogether 🌈

 


  1. What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?

From participating, we could clearly see how despite several advancements, discrimination still sadly exists in today’s society. It gave us a perspective on how the LGBTQIA+ people felt like. Although we could never claim to feel the same pain as them—especially if one is cisgender/straight—we saw how people would harass the members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We saw things from their point of view. Thankfully, though, it inspired us to be more supportive of them.

We also realized how informative Pride March is. With its colorful banners and signs, loudly blaring music, and booths, one may be wont to think or assume that Pride March is all fun and games. But it’s not. True, it’s hard not to smile amidst the several activities in store for the people. And there’s certainly a lot of games and a lot of laughter. However, Pride March was still surprisingly informative. We were able to gain insights from the perspective of the LGBTQIA+ community. We saw how hard it was to be harassed by so-called ‘good’ citizens or members of society. We also learnt the importance of staying safe—for example, when HIV talks were given, when HIV testing was offered, and when speeches concerning bullying and discrimination were given. It is not easy to be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, indeed. Rather, it is quite difficult, and at times even quite disheartening. But it inspired us to give our number one support, more than ever. After all, nothing can compare to the feeling of love and acceptance that surrounds you as you chant and march through the streets of Marikina, and receive overwhelming support from people from all walks of life. It’s definitely an experience like no other. You become part of a movement far bigger than yourself, and you wouldn’t have known that immense warmth of acceptance if you observed instead of participated.

Pride March is definitely not just about being proud of one’s self. It’s also about showing support to the members of society who need it the most. To promote equality, the ‘strong’ must help the ‘weak.’ And instead of being simply limited to LGBTQIA+ rights, support for the Mental Health Act of 2017 and the SOGIE bill was shown—emphasizing the need for equality in all aspects. This just goes to show that even if one is not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, he or she can still participate and, most importantly, show support in the hopes that one day, all of society will do so as well. Love and acceptance are truly the most important factors in ensuring equal rights and inclusivity for all.

 

  1. What did having a key informant add to your understanding?

Having a key informant helped brief us on the event itself. We could easily assume that Pride March is just a yearly ‘chill’ event, just walking in colorful clothes, et cetera. But a key informant—in this case, Caleb Macion—truly enlightens you and opens you up to things that you probably did not realize before—allowing us to be open to different ideas and possibilities.

Although there are times when it seems better to walk into an event blind, in things as big as the Pride March, it’s important to be prepared so that you don’t get too lost or overwhelmed. One should truly prepare in order to fully commit as a participant observer, in order to carry out the task properly and more accurately.

Thanks to Caleb, we got to see the relevance of Pride March, and its significance in today’s society. We begin to understand how it isn’t simply celebrating your sexuality; rather, it’s being proud of who you are, who you identify as, regardless of society’s standards. As Caleb said, “Pride is more than just a gathering and celebrating who we are, but it is a way for the LGBTQIA+ community to let our voice be heard.” The LGBTQIA+ community has been ostracized for so long; it’s about time we showed our love and acceptance for them all. You don’t have to be a member of their community; just support for them will go along way in allowing their voices to be heard and their rights to be realized.

 

  1. What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?

A questionnaire is very objective, very technical. It just answers the questions you want to have answered. An interview may provide a lot of information, but again, it is limited to what the interviewer asks, and what the interviewee wants to share. But participating in an actual event leads to a tremendous amount of insight and experience. After all, how can one simply describe the entire experience of pride march in but a few sentences? It is an experience that needs to be lived out, to be fleshed out and cherished. And that can only be done by participating in it wholeheartedly.

For example, how would one know of how hurtful sexual discrimination is if we did not witness the protesters who harassed the members of the LGBTQIA+ community? And how would we put to words the composure and kindness the victims of these harassments showed to their harassers? We would certainly not gain things from another person’s perspective if we just limited things to a mere questionnaire or interview.

Furthermore, there’s just no way to aptly describe the full experience of having such overwhelming love and support surround you and wrap you up with warmth, like a blanket. If we hadn’t stepped foot in Pride March, we wouldn’t know of this breathless, overwhelming feeling. That feeling of overcoming all hatred with love. That feeling of fun as you walk amongst different types of people who are all dedicated to the same cause. We wouldn’t know of the immense relief and assurance acceptance (not just tolerance!) brings. Not to sound too prideful (pun intended), but there’s an invincible sort of feeling one can only feel when he or she marches through the streets of Marikina and sees the traffic part, when one carries multicolored flags, when one receives support and free food from the heartfelt shop owners, when one gets honks of support from the wave of cars, and when one experiences all the things there is to be experienced in a pride march.

 

  1. For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?

If one were really to delve into specific instances of discrimination, then a questionnaire or interview will suffice. After all, if this were the type of answer one would be looking for, then of course the types of responses should be unbiased and people-centric. It should concern only the interviewees, and not the interviewers.

Everyone has their own respective experiences when it comes to gender bias and discrimination. Each feeling is unique in its own, and thus requires someone who has really experienced everything to respond.

Furthermore, a questionnaire or interview would also be fitting if one wants to give words of encouragement or share a positive experience. After all, each person’s words are his or her own. They are personal and should not be clouded by someone who has never been on the receiving end of such negativity. Rather, they should only be focused on the people who have experienced this kinds of things, as personal experiences from these types of events should only come from that very same person in particular. Again, it should be completely centered on the person’s response.

 

  1. What insights did you gain about Philippine society and culture from the event that you observed and participated in?

The Philippines has unfortunately never fully accepted the LGBTQIA+ community. True, they allow it, and sometimes they support it, but tolerance is not the same thing as acceptance. The members of the Filipino government should, for example, be more aware of these types of things, these particular cases of discrimination, instead of simply playing deaf or turning a blind eye to it, or—God forbid!—having that same type of discrimination as well.

Frankly, it’s quite hypocritical for a Catholic country to be all ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Be kind’ when it cannot do the same for the LGBTQ+ community. The Philippines used its religion as an excuse, but when even the Pope all the way in Vatican is accepting of so-called ‘homosexuals,’ then the charade must come to an end.

It’s actually quite sad that the Philippines still has such outdated views on the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole, when during pre-colonial times, genderfluidity was very much accepted (this accounts for Filipino pronouns like siya to have no specific gender, as opposed to the English he or she). While it’s true that Western influence is to blame for our closemindeness (and ironically, at that), it’s also important to note that Catholic countries like Spain—the very country that colonized us and introduced Christianity!—already allowed a transgender woman to represent it at beauty pageants.

Overall, it’s disheartening that Philippine society is so judgmental, as evidenced by the protesters. Thankfully, with our observations, it seems like the newer generations are more accepting. Movements like these, especially ones concerning such large changes, are up to us, when it comes to whether or not they are successful. If the pride march is any indication, one small show of support is enough to propel others to the love and respect they need. All we need to do is to show others the acceptance and love they need.

 
 

Blue Eagles Pa Rin: A Glimpse into the World of AHS Blue Babble Battalion

Blue Eagles Pa Rin: A Glimpse into the World of AHS Blue Babble Battalion

Arcinas, Marcelo, Mercado, Pamfilo

SA 21 – C

 
According to Jose Rafael Dumaano, the coach of the LS Ateneo Blue Babble Battalion, Babble started as a group of men called “hecklers”  that wanted to support the school’s athletes back in 1920s. Eventually, they were named the school’s official cheering squad in 1926. It was the first in the Philippines that did not resemble the mainstream cheerleading squads known in the United States but a support system for Ateneo. In the late 80s, female cheerleaders were introduced to Babble. Found in The Guidon, by the year 2000, Babble was officiated as a Varsity Team. The transition from an organization to a Varsity Team created a system wherein it was established that these people are student athletes and also compete in UAAP as the school’s representatives.

The varsity team in the Ateneo High School (AHS) department is divided into three groups or units as referred to by the coaches. The first unit is called “band” or “Banda” which consists of boys and girls that play either the snare or the bass for the Ateneo cheers. The second unit is called the “cheerdancers” which are all females that have different moves per Ateneo cheer. Alongside them in the aisles would be “Battalion,” which the researchers specifically chose to focus on. “Battalion” may consist of boys and girls but it is generally male dominated. Their job is basically the male counterpart of what a cheerdancer does except they are the ones who say uplifting speeches during UAAP games and normally encourage the crowd to cheer.

The group chose to observe the tryouts of the highschool Battalion team, one of the sectors that makes up Babble of both the highschool and LS departments. We were able to observe the one held on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, after highschool class hours. The whole tryout process took place in the AHS promenade, the heart of the highschool campus.

Parties that were present during the observation period are the following:  1.) highschool Babble aspirants, 2.) current male and female members of the highschool Battalion team who facilitated the tryouts, 3.) the coaches of the highschool Battalion team, 4.) former members of the highschool Battalion who are now members of the LS Battalion, 5.) the observers, and 6.) a few passersby.

Gab Castillo, the group’s main key informant, is a member of the party who were previously part of the highschool Babble team and is now a member of the LS Battalion. He is currently the team captain. He was selected as the group’s key informant due to his connection to one of the group’s members and vast knowledge of the team and sport. Megan, one of the group’s members, is currently one of the managers for the LS team. This allowed us to organize the observation through her connection with Gab, who in turn made it easier to coordinate with the different parties involved in the observation. The group’s presence during the tryouts were also made possible due to his connections to the current coach and members of the highschool team. This allowed the group to gain access to the entirety of the process and alert the coach and current members beforehand of the group’s presence so as to not cause any disturbance while the tryouts were taking place.

The Ateneo Blue Babble Battalion seemed like a good choice for observation due to the culture within the their team. Babble’s environment offered a fairly new experience for each member since no one on the group is familiar with their tryout and training process. It was something we all have heard of in the past due to the LS Babble team’s notorious tryout process, but no one has actually immersed themselves in the actual environment. With the very limited time the group could observe the Battalion tryouts, we were still able to collect numerous observations and information from simply watching the event take place.

The highschool Battalion tryouts last for three days, with each day having a different set of activities that each aspirant should complete. Day one of tryouts were held on July 2, 2018 where the current Battalion members would meet the aspirants, get to know them, and after this they would proceed onto teaching all aspirants the cheers that they had to learn before moving on to physical conditioning. The first day of tryouts, according to our key informant, lasted around two hours. Day two, July 4, 2018, was where the aspirants would undergo a test of physical, mental and emotional strength. It is also the day that the group decided to observe the tryouts. The process for day two lasted for two hours finishing at around 7:30 pm. The last day of tryouts were held on July 6, 2018. The process for day three, according to our key informant, is fairly similar to that of day two. However, day 3 is also where the current highschool Battalion members interview and screen the current aspirants to determine whether or not they are accepted. On the last day, the final list of names of those who made it onto the team is released. Due to the added activities of day three, the tryouts last for approximately four hours, starting at 5:00 pm and ending at 9:00 pm.

The group’s observation period consisted only of the second day of tryouts for the Battalion team. We were only to observe their practices and culture during their tryout process and not their training period. The group was also limited to observing only a single day of the Battalion tryouts which lasted for only two hours. We were only to take note of all the events that were happening within the given date and time period. With this being said, all conclusions and assumptions made are solely based on the second day of auditions of the highschool Battalion team and the information that the key informant was willing to provide.

As we made our way to the promenade, we noticed that there were other students in their uniforms sitting around the area watching the tryouts while waiting for their fetchers. They watched silently, none cheering for the aspirants. We then met Coach Walrus who was informed about our study.

Along the hallways of the classrooms stood the aspirants trying out for the team. They wore white shirts, black shorts, and rubber shoes. Their posture was straight and rigid as they stood in a line, waiting for the veterans to give orders.. They each wore a folder around their necks with their name, grade and section, and nickname given by the team. At the back, they wrote their reason for wanting to be a part Babble in the first place. Much of it was based on their desire to be a part of something bigger than them, to do something fruitful with their time, to express their love for Ateneo.

All the aspirants’ eyes were focused on the boy being ordered around, being told to cheer “Halikinu” beside a tree. He was obviously tired, out of breath, and soaked in sweat, but continued to execute whatever was asked of him. The tone the veterans used was very loud and harsh which was meant to impose a sense of authority and intimidation. The aspirants all responded respectfully, most of them avoiding eye contact and replying with “yes po!” One girl being assessed was called and told to convince our key informants, who were members of the same team during their time in highschool, to cheer with her. They gave her a difficult time, but soon gave in and cheered with her. It was a cycle that happened for quite some time, every aspirant getting the chance to stand right in front of the promenade, execute unusual, embarrassing, and degrading tasks, and answering very personal and uncomfortable questions very publicly. To end this portion of the tryouts, the aspirants were told to line up and go for a run around the highschool campus.

While they were out on their run, it was an opportunity for our group to ask our key informants, the coaches, and the other veterans about the team and the procedure of their tryouts. We were told that the tryouts we see now have been dialed down and is a much calmer version of what it was before. When Battalion was an all-boy team, tryouts were so harsh that aspirants would leave crying. Because Ateneo opened their doors to young women, Battalion had to hold back as directed by the administration of Ateneo. The key informants told us that tryouts are physically, emotionally, and mentally draining because being a part of the Battalion is difficult if they are not strong in those aspects. It is to help them build confidence and strength in order for them to handle adversity well in the upcoming season.

When the aspirants returned, they were given a break. This is when the tension in the air disappeared as they submitted their homework on explaining “Fides Animus Gubernatio” which is faith, spirit, and leadership, the foundation and core belief of the AHS Blue Babble Battalion.

Once tryouts resumed, the tension in the air returned as the aspirants were separated into two groups. However, a special group of two girls and one boy were picked and separated from the rest of the aspirants. Our key informants explained that during Battalion tryouts, the veterans and the coaches separate the best of the group from the rest. The best in the sense that these were the aspirants who knew the cheers and could execute the choreography exceptionally well. The rest of the aspirants who still had to improve were subjected to conditioning which consisted of doing multiple sets of push-ups, planks, crunches, and other exercises.

For the three aspirants deemed “cream of the crop,” their tryouts were much more difficult. They were subjected to more emotional and mentally taxing orders. They began by executing the cheer and choreography asked of them. Drenched in sweat, it was obvious the aspirants were exhausted, but they were still asked to give a performance level cheer and choreography of Blue Eagle Spelling, Halikinu, and Fabiloh. While they cheered, the veterans would scream other university cheers such as “DLSU” and “Go USTE!” to rattle them. They were then circled by the veterans, each of them convincing the aspirants how difficult life is as a member of Battalion. The coaches then asked them to sing their favorite Disney songs. Despite seeming like quiet individuals, these aspirants belted their tone-deaf hearts out, not caring about the passersby that gave them unusual stares, and the coaches and veterans laughing on the sidelines. After singing, they were asked to do as many “pumps” as they could in an allotted amount of time. Pumps are like squats, a physical activity that hurts the legs and the core, really knocks the wind out of the person executing it. After the pumps, the aspirants were given time to stand still before proceeding to the next activity where our group was able to participate. The aspirants were asked to pick one girl from our group and find a way to ask her out on a lunch date. From the cringe-worthy pick up lines, to funny date plans, and touching ideas and sentiments, they really gave everything they got trying to convince us to go on a lunch date with them. One of them even saying that when she gets into Babble, Peps had to go out with her. The two girls were very confident in trying to convince our group. The only boy, on the other hand, had difficulty delivering his pick up lines. It was a bit awkward because he would fall silent after failing a few times. He later explained that it was because he didn’t have much experience with girls. The coaches and the veterans urged him on and he was able to pull through and deliver a funny but sweet line (“I lost my number, can I have yours?”). The coach then stepped in, saying that as members of Battalion, they need to be able to be confident enough to initiate conversation and engage individuals in the crowd in order to hype them up enough to cheer. They need to be strong and brave, and think fast. Before letting these 3 aspirants go, they were asked to do another round of all the cheers and the choreography that went along with it.

Before the tryouts ended, the two groups of aspirants were reunited with each other. They were asked to put their arms around each other and do unity pumps, where they had to pump all at the same time. We believe it’s to instill the value of teamwork in the aspirants. The tryouts ended with a motivational speech from one of the veterans, urging the aspirants to try harder on the last day of tryouts.

Participating in the ethnographic study evoked specific feelings that could not have been felt if the group merely observed the practice. Being a part of the tryouts and immersing ourselves in their world allowed us to better understand their situation and empathize with them. Through putting ourselves in their shoes, we felt what they were going through much more than if we merely stood at the side lines. Participation allowed us to set ourselves up in their world and see them as more than students trying out for a team. We were able to see the stories behind their actions.

During the observation, a lot of what was being done by the “aspirants” and “veterans” were difficult for the group to completely comprehend. With having multiple key informants which also included the coach, it was much easier to understand the whole process of tryouts and training. For instance, individually aspirants were asked to stand far away from the veterans and have a conversation with each other. Mainly, the veterans would just make them do something like convince the former Battalion member to cheer along with them. The group did not understand exactly why these aspirants had to be humiliated like that, but with our key informants the group learned that the purpose of the exercise is to condition these aspirants to be confident and have thick skin. A lot of the tasks being asked of the aspirants were to condition and prepare them for the difficulties of being in Battalion. It was explained to us that, the job itself is not easy and can even become discouraging because the goal is to be the spirit of the school and voice of the crowd. If Team Ateneo were losing, the crowd would no longer cheer but Battalion cannot do the same, it is their job to keep pushing through an entire game. The key informants helped the group also feel more welcomed as observers, given that we were somewhat outsiders, it wasn’t easy per se to blend in amongst them. In addition to this, the key informants were able to teach us the Ateneo cheers and movements that we were observing.

Being physically present to observe the tryouts allowed us to use all of our senses and to take in the entire scene and not just rely on the descriptions of others. A questionnaire would not have let us to see the faces of the aspirants as they would get embarrassed, or how tired they actually appeared after doing a few rounds of conditioning. If we weren’t there in person, would not have been able to detect the tension in the air as each person was waiting for their turn to be called. Observing the event in person gave us the opportunity to ask our key informant questions about the things we ourselves were able to notice. These things could have been left out by the people answering the questionnaire because they are seen as insignificant to the people being observed because they are so used to seeing certain things happen, but to us outsiders, these small things could be crucial in our understanding of their culture and practices better. By being present, we were also able to participate in the things that they do in order to get a better sense of the intensity of the activity. Upon trying to learn the cheers and the choreography that accompanies them, we discovered that the movements were not every easy and actually quite tiring to do. Two members of the group even took part in embarrassing three of the top aspirants. Being the ones to embarrass the aspirants allowed us to experience what it was like to be the “vets,”  the coaches, and to be on the other side of the tryouts. Our presence there not only permitted us to observed things that can be perceived with the eyes and the ears, it also gave us a glimpse of how each group in the event might be feeling in the wake of this event—from the aspirants’ feelings of abandoning all modesty, being embarrassed, the fear of your every move being watched and chastised, to the coaches’ and the vets’ feelings of sympathy, and even as twisted as it sounds, amusement.

The distribution of questionnaires would have been able to offer the group a great deal of information that couldn’t have been accessed through merely observing. A questionnaire can be used to gather varying personal opinions and perspectives about the event. Since there were multiple parties present, the group would have been able to look into the perspective of each party and get a varying opinions about the event happening rather than just seeing the event as observers. The group would have also been able to touch into the opinions of the current and former babble members.  The group could have been able to listen and take note of some personal sentiments about the type of environment that they were and are being subjected to because of their sport. The same situation applies to the coaches. The group could have gotten feedback from not just the coaches and key informant, but also the aspirants themselves. Interviews and questionnaires would have allowed the group to interact more with the aspirants rather than just observing them. In doing so, the group could have processed the situation a bit differently due to the added data of the aspirants’ and Babble members’ perspectives and feedback.

Another advantage that an interview or questionnaire would have been able to offer are the formalities and the logistics of the event itself. Through giving the key informant a set of questions to answer, he would know how to approach explaining the event to the observers. Offering a questionnaire would allow the key informant to thoroughly explain the details and process of the event in terms of catering to the perspective the observers wanted to obtain.

Lastly, the existence of a questionnaire would allow the data collection to require less manpower and be less tedious. Since the information is being spoon fed through a pool of answers, it would have been easier to systematically organize and relate each answer to one another because the questions themselves are able to filter out the answers of each response according to the way the observer phrased each inquiry.

The culture of Philippine sports are very distinct compared to those of other countries. It is influenced mostly by the Filipino sense of community and hospitality, ones filipino nature. This is seen in the way every athlete and or player treats their teammates and opponents, the language they use, and generally the way they act while playing the sport.

One can observe that Filipinos value the notion of authority and “age”. Although, they do treat all of the players with respect, it is noticeable that Filipinos give much importance to those of a higher position or status in the sport. This comes from the Filipino practice of “respecting your elders”, and it can still clearly be seen and applied to different contexts because it is rooted deep in their culture. The same goes for the language they use and they way athletes act while playing the sport. Even though one can see that two teams are playing against one another, at the end of the game it is observable that they a still have great respect for one another despite whoever won. The players still treat their opponents kindly and show that they value each others time and effort. This is seen in sports like basketball, football, martial arts, etc. Even though most of these sports have a foreign origin and their own respective cultures, Filipinos who play them still manage to add their signature touch into the game as a tip of the hat to Filipino nature and culture.

As AHS now caters to males and females, allowing both genders to be part of the Blue Babble Battalion is a step towards achieving equality. However, it was discovered that the tryout process for the past two years has been made easier because of the inclusion of girls. In previous years, the all male aspirants were made to do tasks that would push them to their absolute limits, even to the point where tears would be shed. This year, not one aspirant was observed crying and veterans were even more lenient with the conditioning part of the event. This kind of behavior reflects how Filipinos view women: as the weaker sex. A “proper woman” in the context of the Philippines is expected to be more gentle, soft-spoken, and more fragile, which is why women are usually treated more delicately than how men are treated.

The group was also able to observe the relationship between the veterans and aspirants, which is similar to the social hierarchy in sociology. Given the fact, veterans are superior to aspirants because they have more experience on the team. The responsibilities also of a veteran is different from what is expected of an aspirant. Although, there is still someone above both a veteran and aspirant, being the coach. The aspirants technically hold no power and are not exactly considered members of team. When it comes to evaluating who becomes a member, the veterans are allowed to share their input but the coaches have the final say. This dynamic is similar to what you see in the Philippine society, well it is expected of in the society where in whoever holds the power is someone with the most experience, but not just in the government.

As a whole, the experience was one we as researchers learned a lot from. All of us came into the event unfamiliar with the culture, practices, routines, beliefs, and other things common to the AHS Blue Babble Battalion. Through participant observation, we discovered the great difference between passive observation and actually getting involved in the activity. This affected how we were able to interpret the things we observed and it allowed us to have a deeper understanding of the event. By immersing ourselves in the activity, we were able to apply what we were taught in class and we learned a lot about the culture of Babble, the culture of Ateneo, and even the culture of the Philippines. We discovered that even though the concept of Babble seemed so familiar to us, we didn’t really know much about it, making it seem like a new culture. Through watching the rituals of the highschool Babble and comparing them to those of the LS unit, we discovered how cultures can greatly vary despite both units being under the same school and having the same mission. By the end of the day, we gained a deeper appreciation for the people who are often taken for granted in the Ateneo community.