It’s a time to remember the dead and keep up tradition, but as we have increasingly seen over the years, it’s also a time to dress up and assume characters of a scary nature.
Halloween is not as distinctly Filipino as “undas”—the collective name for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day when people visit the graves of their dear departed—but we have thrown ourselves into it with much zeal. It is an excuse, after all, to get together with friends, share food and have some fun. There are parties in offices and schools, as well as in commercial establishments that cater to the young and old.
The occasion presents an opportunity to be creative in thinking about who to come as. There are the easy picks—vampires, zombies, ghosts and other creatures of the night. Characters in popular culture are great alternatives. The satisfaction comes, first in deciding which character to channel, preparing to achieve that look, and finally stepping out among other characters. The obligatory selfie will not be far behind.
The candy, if there is any at all, is all secondary to the ritual.
But while people are garbed in their scariest outfits, it is as good a time as any to ponder the fearsome possibilities brought upon us by harmless, ordinary or even pleasant appearances.
For example, the familiar blue uniform of members of the Philippine National Police could be quite deceiving. We are supposed to see these uniforms and feel secure that they are there to protect us. Alas, bad eggs in the force have tarnished the entire organization, and a sight of the uniforms will occasion fear and ambiguity. Some of them are indiscriminate and unthinking in their implementation of the war on drugs. Some recycle confiscated drugs for material gain. Some rise in rank and protect not the public but the wrongdoers. Small wonder that President Duterte has said he is having difficulty choosing who should be the PNP’s next top brass.
And then, our honorable officials look impeccably respectable in their pressed barong tagalog. They keep up their image of serving the people—until we find out, much later, that they used their high positions to secure wealth and power for themselves.
Business owners and employers often go around in expensive suits. And yet, they pursue profit without thought of the public good, and despite their business being one of public trust. They show themselves to be good corporate citizens, but are in fact bereft of compassion for their long-suffering employees.
It’s fun to see masks and costumes for the occasion, but often what’s scarier is who people truly are.