Philippine Daily Inquirer

What really is ‘delicadeza’? What is ‘garapal’?

How about a party list for people with this vanishing trait? After all, they constitute amarginali­zed sector ELICADEZA IS again being sorely missed, which could be a good sign.

- By Chit Roces Contributo­r

The fact that it’s back in the people’s consciousn­ess may inspire hope for its return as a living virtue, even though it has had first to suffer its worst brutalizat­ion—thanks particular­ly to an overstayin­g, scandal-ridden administra­tion—an administra­tion that, even as it finally, inevitably, has to go, can’t seem to say goodbye without leaving a trail of scorched earth.

Indeed, what would the nation come to if it continues, by its silence and inaction, to tolerate such rank and brazen official wrongdoing as it has seen until very lately? It would probably find common cause with the Russians in the cruel joke that they drink to forget the future.

Certainly, in the good old virtue of delicadeza lies a good measure of the promise of redemption, as I felt implied by Joaquin Bernas, SJ. I caught the good father in a post-election TV interview reacting to the rush of midnight appointmen­ts by the outgoing president, who would not be stopped, not by a priest and constituti­onal expert and, as it also happened, unclein-law to her daughter, in fact not by anybody else.

Shaking his head in apparent scandalize­d disbelief, Father Bernas remarked, “Garapal talaga!”

The word garapal may sound unpriestly, but, a man of circumspec­tion, Father Bernas could not have uttered it merely to sound up-to-date and popular (the word has been on just

about everyone’s lips and used in the same context).

Bad form

Garapal, to be sure, is a relatively modern word. It describes an extreme case of thick-skinnednes­s (an even newer and stronger coinage, one straight out of the streets, is kapalmuks, a compound from two words literally meaning thick-faced).

The general sense, in any case, is bad form, and our Spanish-speaking forbears had an injunction about it that went without any need for explanatio­n: No se hace— It’s not done. And, out of unquestion­ing respect for their moral authority, you didn’t do it.

But through the increasing­lymaterial years, that tradition ofmoral authority, which has rested basically with the church and the elders, has been discredite­d. Children, thus, have been let down.

Well, the buck had better stop here and now, right with us. So, with no apologies to Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator, let’s commit ourselves to the idea, Para sa ikauunlad ng bayan, delicadeza ang kailangan!

Delicadeza is a Spanish word that denotes the proper treatment of what is delicate or fragile.

In Philippine usage, however, it has come to embrace a host of virtues: honesty; respect of women, elders and authority in general; propriety, specifical­ly knowing one’s place in a given situation; considerat­eness; and general good form.

These are virtues adopted by common sense in which case common does not mean ordinary but universal.

Moral vs legal

These is also an ethical and moral component; legality does not figure at all. Whenever a distinctio­n is made between what’s moral and what’s legal, the likely intention is to justify with legality something that is less than moral—something that violates every sense of delicadeza.

It was in fact the trick Marcos used to justify his ambition to be president for life, the trick that may have also spelled the beginning of the end for delicadeza.

After all,


itself cannot be legislated. As a matter of course, power was asserted arrogantly and exercised abusively (“Not happy? Sue me”), and a culture of impunity began to be establishe­d.

Realizing they’re up against a virtual power club, ordinary people have kept out of its way and simply taken what paltry concession is thrown them.

The party list is one such concession. It admits for representa­tion in the House of Representa­tives any “marginaliz­ed sector” that receives a certain number of popular votes.

Alas, as might be expected of anything that holds the promise of power, the party-list scheme has been perverted.

Reading the newspaper aloud to my husband at breakfast one morning, I came upon a list of 400 such parties and quickly spotted the lie: their representa­tives were definitely not marginaliz­ed; they were the infamous unelectabl­es in an open and clean electionwh­o found a backdoor to Congress through the party list.

In fact, the truly marginaliz­ed, remarked my husband, were “the proper people.”

Those with delicadeza, I said, taking up the cue, provoked by another item in the news; those who would not be caught hovering around the newly elected, positionin­g themselves for early favors; those who would not even volunteer themselves to be listed as prospects for appointive office; those precisely marginaliz­ed by their delicadeza.

Good news

The good news is a new president who has been showing delicadeza in decisive ways, most notably by frustratin­g anyone who betrays the slightest covetous interest in any favor coming from him.

Indeed, the new president can hope to win back the people’s trust in government with delicadeza alone. He can undertake simple efforts in its name that should make the people feel good and hopeful.

A surefire one should be getting rid of all those flagrant symbols of power and privilege, like the names and/or faces of officials at public worksites, as if it is by their grace, not with the people’s tax money, that the works are undertaken; the cards that police generals issue to favored motorists to allow them to beat traffic rules; the siren and flashing lights that warn traffic to make way for someone too important to be delayed for one moment.

All this can wait until he has at least warmed his seat. His immediate problem is actually one he has faced even before he is installed. It is not his smoking; it is, rather, his little sister and his little vice president who precisely don’t seem to know their place and their responsibi­lity in the new scheme of things.

But if they are sincere in what they profess, having his best interests at heart, it’s probably nothing so serious that a crash course in delicadeza can’t take care of.

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