Saturday, December 5, 2015

Living Leyte Interviews: Daniel Rød, Anthropologist

Daniel Rød
AGE: 26
Born in Manila, Philippines,  grew up in the middle part of Norway,
Daniel was taken to Norway when he was 1 yr old by his adoptive parents along with another Filipino baby girl. 

The cue cards I had for this interview was practically thrown out the window, as it turns out, Daniel is an anthropologist who is currently working on his post-graduate thesis. He admits that part of his objective in coming to Leyte was to do research about our cultural structure in addition to doing volunteer work. The knowledge I was able to glean from this man in the hours I spoke with him was nothing short of remarkable; during the process, Daniel drew models and diagrams that pertained to his scientific observation about the dynamics of our culture and mind set as a people. Without further ado, here it is.

LL: Can you describe the place and vibe where you come from? (Daniel shows me a scene of a pristine lake surrounded by snow-peaked, deep green mountains on Instagram to clearly illustrate to me where he comes from. The photo of his hometown was picturesque and breathtaking, the sort we see in calendars).
DR: I grew up in Eresfjord (pronounced Eres-fyord), it's a very small town with 300 inhabitants, everyone takes care of you, people are helpful but at the same time you can’t escape gossip. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. It's frigid during the winter months and when it’s Christmas, snow comes down from the sky. You always have to shovel the snow in the wintertime. It snows from Nov - March. Currently though, I live in Tromsø which means land of “Troms", where it snows from October through June, sometimes through July. (Daniel also teaches me that the Nordic letter “Ø” is pronounced the same as “oe”).

LL: So Daniel, what was your life like before you came?
DR: I am doing masters in Anthropology in University of Tromsø
LL: Is there a sort of an Ivy League grading for universities in Norway?
DR: We don’t have that in Norway but I am familiar with the concept. Our university is in the top 5
LL: Is there a famous alumna that comes from your university?
DR: I’m not sure. The Norwegian language came from the Germans. Tromsø is a beautiful place I lived there for four years now, my girlfriend is there. Have you seen The Lord of the Rings?
LL: Yes.
DR: Well, Tromsø is like the Shire, the shire of Shire where the Hobbits live.

LL: What's your impression of our place?
DR: Tacloban is very full of beautiful people. I am here on a scientific quest, one can sense that Yolanda only happened two years ago. I find Tacloban to be both modern and traditional, I think a lot of the foreigners get caught in their own bubble and don’t experience Tacloban for what it can be, there are challenges here and I hear many of my co-volunteers tell their experiences of changed life and I am happy for them. It’s both beautiful and sad at the same time though all in all I find people beautiful.
LL: A dichotomy.

LL: Have you learned anything from here? From us?
DR: Oh, where to start... Filipinos really value their families, they value group opinion, this is something that goes really deep and this is different from the culture I grew up in, example, in Norway there is a welfare system that works; here, your family is your welfare system. Filipinos choose very differently, a lot of Filipino ways are different and people pick up on them but in the end, they are just as rational as what we do back home even though it’s different.

… Daniel draws the Grønhaug Model of his cultural observation:


DR: Typically, the focus of the Filipino does not extend outside of this two inner spheres; Filipino traits such as “bayanihan” and "utang na loob” are typically exercised within the inner two circles. The outer circles of the Filipino are the local community and the outermost sphere are the environment, political landscape or the financial realm of the country, but this is a far extension already for the Filipino. Interaction and involvement with the outer spheres are very rare.
LL:  If not nil (I agree). Now, given this scenario, how can this society survive in the long run, especially if there is lack of concern by the individual for his world?
DR: It works for now, but in the long run, it might not.
LL: How can we improve our place and as a people in general?
DR: Hard to say. To improve is relative because the Filipino is happy the way it is. What I think of as “good" is very different from what the Filipinos think as “good.”
LL: What about corruption? corruption here is practically institutionalized. Vote buying is the norm and I have seen where people register to vote so that when the election comes, they are ready to receive money from a candidate. 
DR: About corruption.  A lot of Filipinos like to have good relations and as what I understand about corruption here, it’s people giving favors to each other. One gives favors in exchange for favors. Even if it’s money that’s on the table, it’s still favor. Understand though that the longer the people sell their votes or cheat with their taxes for example, the longer the process is abused and it will all contribute to the collapse of the society.

… Daniel then draws another diagram called the Bourdieu - Grønhaug Model.

DR: In this model, we see the very rich people with the famous family names, politicians and the financial people on top, over here (at the bottom) are the poor or working class and the middle class, there is a divide between these groups of people. The ones on top mingle with each other and the ones on the bottom do that as well. The people at the top will not mix with the ones on the bottom unless maybe in church or through NGOs and when there's something that happens like big disasters, a good example is when I big company will do charitable work.
LL: Can a poor person or working class person go up the chain or cross over within the classes?
DR: Yes they can.
LL: But this is aberrant
DR: Yes, it's not the norm. 
LL: At that, really there are still classifications, the old rich will not accept the nouveau riche as their own. 
DR: Correct. 
LL:  Will this society last in this dynamic?
DR: It will for a short time, but as the gap grows bigger, it will eventually collapse.
LL: Wow, we haven't talked about the level of materialism here, our brand-name-worship. I know of some people who go in debt just to buy these brand name bags or shoes.
Personally, I think it's a façade
DR: You are right, it's a façade, it's also a way to get "love."
LL: Love? How? 
DR: They think that by getting prestige (through these expensive things), they get power and people would love them more. They do what's called as strategic chores on to the society, then the society gives them feedback. See, prestige or pride with one's possessions is nothing if nobody sees it.
LL: That's sad.
DR: It may be a warped way to get love, but it's still "love."  The Filipino's agenda includes minimizing risks, maximizing profits and happiness in relations. by trying to please their family through money or doing things for them, they minimize risk even if it will cost them or it may even become abusive. In this aspect they maintain happiness in relations. They also like to maximize profits, an example is when they do favors for many people, these people in return are indebted to them and when the day comes when they are in trouble, they have a lot of areas to go to for resources. They are doing this for that one "big day." In this culture though, it works when there is big trouble, such as a big disaster like Yolanda. You have the culture for it. If something of this magnitude happened in Norway, I don't think we will have the culture for it. 
LL: Wow. I am astounded by these things because I really can see it for myself! 

At this point I see that I could speak to Daniel for days and he would have an adept representation of our ethos and he would be correct for it. Mind you, he does not postulate that all of his findings are gospel, merely scientific observations and there are individuals who are exceptions to the rule. I see this too, a lot of us do have the heart and the selflessness to extend ourselves outside of our social strata. 

If I had the means, I would commission Daniel to do talks all around the different areas of our community if only for educational purposes. I believe that if all of us can identify the areas by which we could be better then we might just be keyed up to pay attention and make changes. A part of me has hope for us yet a bigger part of me feels that this is a pipe dream.

LL: Well, I certainly learned so much by just interviewing you Daniel. And since I see that this interview has gone on to another direction, I am already happy with what you’ve imparted. I mustn't waste your time any further, you have so much to do. Just to end on a lighter note, wanna play one-word-answer questions?
DR: OK. *smiles. 

Moon or Sun?   Sun
Monochrome or Colored?   Colored
Iceland or Australia?  Iceland because I know the landscape.
Fútbol or Football?  Futbal
Coffee or Tea?  Coffee
Eagle or Dolphin?  Dolphin. 

The following day I learned that Daniel has also been consulted by other organizations to assist in the evaluation process of programs that have been implemented all over Leyte. This is not a surprise of course. It appears that this man is a windfall of knowledge and I am happy to have been a recipient of it.

 * Drawings were done by the blogger based on Daniel's illustrations of the models. 

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