25 things that are no longer true

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated July 28, 2011

On the 25th anniversary of The Philippine STAR, I would like to share 25 things that I personally experienced, believed to be true, or accepted as correct a quarter century ago, but which have since reached their expiry date.

1. Smoking did not cause cancer. For decades, this issue seemed to be on a perennial seesaw — true one day, not sure the next. Despite many cigarette company-sponsored “studies” by scientists through the years that said cigarettes were not carcinogenic, the issue has finally been settled. But why are so many people still smoking?

2. “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” This Jerry Rubin quote was something my generation believed in… well, sort of. Old people could not be trusted. Today, we have a situation where the media consider people in their late 20s to be “old” and 50- and 60-year-olds who used to believe Jerry Rubin consider themselves as anything but old.

3. Virginity could be “lost” only once. Today, there is the extreme makeover of virginity restoration that seems to be gaining traction in some parts of the world. Dr. Vicki Belo recently announced that she has acquired a machine that can “tighten” vaginal muscles. While it does not exactly restore virginity, her older clients may be able to sing Madonna’s Like a Virgin again.

4. Breaking the mandatory fast before receiving Communion was a mortal sin. When my mother was growing up, Catholics had to fast from midnight in order to receive Holy Communion the next day. Then the Church changed the fasting rule to only three hours before communion. Then it became one hour. Finally, they took out the fasting altogether.

I’ve often wondered what has happened to the poor souls who took a light snack during the fasting period and still received Communion, and died without confessing this “mortal sin.” Do they now get a free ticket out of Hell? Strange are the ways of the Church!

5. Music was something we only listened to. I remember a Time magazine issue in the ‘80s on the MTV phenomenon where a boy was quoted asking, “Have you seen Michael Jackson’s new song?” People now “watch” music and for a ‘70s guy like me, this is disconcerting. Musicians in my generation made good music that did not need video support. Nowadays, a lot of awful music is considered “good” because of a great video, and good music can lose its appeal because of a bad video.

6. Children were seen and not heard. Before the late ‘60s, young people were raised without much fuss. As long as they were fed, disciplined, sent to school and cared for when sick, children were considered pretty much “properly raised.”

Enter Dr. Spock with his ideas on rearing children that considered their physical, socio-psychological, mental, artistic, and kinetic intelligences which now had to be cultivated for the child’s full development. Everything seemed to change overnight. All of a sudden, spanking was taboo. Scolding could be considered “verbal abuse.” Whether one is “old school” or modern, one thing is sure: There has been a palpable “transfer of power” from parents to children, for better or for worse.

7. It took two to three weeks to send a letter to the US. When was the last time you used the post office to send a letter? Everything now happens in cyberspace and all in an instant.

8. “The Commodore 64 is the most modern computer today.” This was the claim of a computer engineer who worked for the company, and it was a valid claim — in 1982. In fact, the Commodore 64 outsold Apple, IBM, and other computer giants then. But does anybody still use a Commodore? If you own one, it could be a rare artifact in computer history that could be of value someday.

9. No black man could become president of the United States. How quickly many have forgotten how unlikely, in fact, how next to impossible it seemed that such a thing could happen just two decades ago. But Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, and may even get reelected in 2012.

10. “Ninoy Aquino is a communist.” So claimed Ferdinand Marcos who thereupon sent him to jail for seven years and seven months. The sycophant media trumpeted this as gospel truth when Marcos was the almighty and Ninoy was a powerless political detainee. Now, Ninoy is a national hero, and the old dictator is nowhere near having a decent place in history.

11. Boracay was a sleepy, rustic, unpopulated seaside town that few people knew about. The only thing true about this statement today is that Boracay is a seaside town. Voted number four in the list of best beach destinations in the world, it has become an overpopulated haven for sun worshippers from all over the world who have made it a mecca of fun and partying all year round.

12. Tagalog songs and movies were only for the “bakya” crowd, or the “masa.” In the ‘60s, only the poor and lower middle class went for Filipino songs and entertainment. The famous director Lamberto Avellana coined the term “bakya crowd” to describe his audience who wore cheap wooden clogs (bakya) in lieu of shoes. Today, OPM and local movies have a following that spans all the social classes.

13. EDSA was once a sleepy four-lane highway. I can still remember EDSA as a four-lane road that was not busy and of hardly any significance. It had stoplights on the corners of Ortigas, Shaw, New York, Aurora Boulevard, Buendia and other places. It had no flyovers, no elevated pedestrian crossings, no billboards, hardly any cops, and no MMDA. Today, it is the busiest, most populated road in the Philippines, full of functional and political significance.

14. Shoe Mart was a small retail store on Carriedo and later in Cubao that sold only shoes. Henry Sy, the owner of a small retail outlet called Shoe Mart, was a start-up businessman who personally served customers as they tried on shoes in his store. My aunt told us that Henry Sy himself attended to her when she bought a pair of shoes at the Shoe Mart store in Carriedo. Now, even the smallest SM outlet cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a small retail shoe outlet.

15. Telephones were scarce and were exclusively landlines that you shared with a “party-line.” It is hard to believe that there was ever a time when there were no cell phones, when access to a telephone was shared by a nearby neighbor who, when they lifted the phone, could actually eavesdrop on your conversation. Today, the phone density in the Philippines is such that practically everyone has a personal cell phone.

16. For emergency news, or special events, people sent telegrams. You could even send a singing telegram on your girlfriend’s birthday. Do you know anyone who has received or sent a telegram in the last 10 years? Where do you even go to send one these days?

17. Men went to barbershops and women went to beauty parlors. When I was growing up, my brothers and I went for haircuts in those bastions of masculinity called barbershops where cutting hair was a pretty simple affair. The barber cut your hair and slapped that stingy lotion on your nape after. Now, we are pampered by a stylist in the same salons that women go to.

18. We went to a “sastre” or a tailor to have our clothes made. Most people went to a tailor for clothes that were made to order and fitted individually. If you knew were to look, you could also have shoes and boots made especially for you. Today, everything is off the rack.

19. The only things you could buy that were made in China were Mao caps, pins, and Little Red Books. And when you did, you had to hide them. Today, there is nothing you can buy anywhere in the world that is not made in China.

20. China was a communist state. Only the Chinese government still publicly espouses this now. While China is in no way democratic like the US, it is on its way to becoming the biggest capitalist country on earth.

21. Plaza Miranda in Manila was a symbol of democracy where people were free to express their ideas. “Can you defend that in Plaza Miranda?” politicians asked each other by way of a challenge. The vast open space in front of Quiapo Church made Plaza Miranda a perfect venue for political rallies and student demonstrations. Today, Plaza Miranda is simply too crowded with merchants and traffic and has lost its populist significance.

22. An impenetrable wall divided the city of Berlin, separating West Berlin from the rest of East Germany. I once crossed “Checkpoint Charlie,” the gate that divided Germany, going from democratic West Berlin to East Berlin and into communist East Germany. It was scary, mysterious, thrilling, and the memory of it still evokes the tensions of the Cold War.

23. The term or even the concept of “political correctness” did not exist. The first time it was used was in 1970 by Toni Cade who wrote in The Black Woman: “A man cannot be politically correct and a chauvinist too.” Today, political correctness has become the norm, a mode of behavior and speech that strives to make conversation about differences among people least offensive.

24. Local news on TV was delivered exclusively in English. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, every TV channel delivered the news in English. My favorite news show was The World Tonight with Angelo Castro and Tina Monzon-Palma. It was only in the ‘80s when news in the vernacular caught on, making it much more accessible to a wider population.

25. In the ‘60s, a girl was a “bird,” an apartment was a “pad,” and an event was a “happening.” These days, a girl is a “chick,” a “pad” could be an electronic device or even a feminine napkin. And to call anything a “happening” will expose your age.

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