The dictionary in my handy android defines the word “procrastinate” as the intentional or habitual suspension of something that should be done. Procrastination or the tendency to momentarily suspend or set aside work in pursuit of other less productive task is a common characteristic of many Filipinos.
I shared the definition of the word ‘procrastinate’ to my daughter and inquired what it meant to her. She put up a big smile and interpreted in our local language “naga tinamad ikaw” (you being a lazy person). In short, procrastination for her is equivalent to laziness.
This is manifested in the everyday life of Filipinos through statements like: “Let’s do it later”, “we still have ample time to do it”, “let’s do it tomorrow” and “it is not yet the deadline”. This is apparent in our community life as we see our abled-men and women engaged in informal conversation early in the morning instead of cleaning up surroundings, do house chores, cook for their children, or pursue other productive activities.
As a habit, Filipinos has formed various descriptions of procrastination or laziness. This old trait, however, hits controversy after a slang was developed from no less than the nickname of President Benigno Simeon Aquino or PNoy and the term is now popularly known as “Noynoying”.
Expectedly, President Aquino is irritated of becoming a national symbol of an undesirable trait which is pointed out by many hard working Filipinos as a social ill and among the main reasons why our country could not move forward and achieve progress.
“Noynoying” however is not new to us. Long before the term “Noynoying” emerged, we have Juan Tamad, the person described in Filipino folklore as somebody that exemplifies laziness as a trait. I could wholly remember one of my elementary grade teacher sharing the story of Juan Tamad, not as a story to criticize Filipinos, but to emphasize that laziness is an undesirable trait and is something that we must not adopt as a habit if we aim to achieve the best in life.
In the household, we grew up in the environment of family members who are hard working both in their vocations, in their community and religious involvements and in the household. This is the reason why “Noynoying” is viewed by many as a characteristic that does not generally personify Filipinos for many are actually hard working.
I did not have the opportunity to witness how PNoy work in office or how he manages his day-to-day activities in spite of the fact that his activities are likewise well covered by media. Not seeing how PNoy demonstrates his day-to-day activities somehow provides a level of gap between the people and PNoy if compared to his predecessors. Former president Fidel Ramos is at his best in this aspect of packaging his presidency.
The absence of an inside look at a working PNoy makes people rely largely on stories shared by his officials from within his circle like his playful mood with his nephews in the middle of office hours. This is even made worse by the message being conveyed by his body language during official functions. These stories put flesh and blood to “Noynoying”.
As the highest official of the land, PNoy is being expected to exemplify the hardworking Filipino. He also needs to set an example by letting the people see the hardworking in him in order to inspire people to move forward instead of wasting time on trivial and unproductive activities.
I view the emergence of the term “Noynoying” not as a deliberate attempt to embarrass PNoy but rather a way of conveying a message of criticism to him; that what the Filipino demands from him is not a portrayal of a graft-busting character, but fundamentally, a hardworking leader.