Words by Kathlene Masilongan
A couple of years ago when I was processing my transfer papers from my old university to my new one, I rode a taxi. It was a sunny day and I was on my way to have lunch with my mother. My mom looks younger than she is, so getting comments and jokes like ‘I thought you were sisters’ was common. That in itself makes me feel weird because are they implying that I look old? Anyway, I ignored it.
But on that day, it didn’t stop there.
The taxi driver continued, talking to my mother: ‘Ma’am, ang laki ng anak niyo ah. [Ang] taba taba. Ano ba pinapakain niyo jan?’ (Ma’am, your daughter’s so big. She’s so fat. What do you feed her?)
My mother, clueless and not really paying attention said nothing. I kept silent because I was just so shocked.
The traffic in Ayala was bad that day and the 10-minute taxi ride stretched to 30 and the driver kept harassing me with his comments. My mother, who eventually figured it out, tried to put a stop to it. “Wag naman pong ganyan.” (Don’t be like that.) She said it politely, you know, like the polite person that she is.
Then the driver said: “Joke lang naman ma’am.” (It’s just a joke, ma’am.) And laughed, and then to me: “Uy joke lang. Baka magalit ka ha.” (Hey, it’s a joke. Don’t get mad.) Luckily it was at the exact moment that we pulled over at the mall. After 30 long minutes, I was finally free.
This didn’t happen once. No. It happened twice. Both of them were taxi drivers. I couldn’t ride a cab for a long time after that because of the fear of being talked about in such an insulting manner.
Because let’s face it, it hurt. I remember the second time it happened, I came home crying and I couldn’t stop. I won’t excuse myself and deny that I’m overweight, because I am. Growing up, I was always the odd one out because I was taller than everyone else and therefore took up a lot more space than the “average” Filipina. It was only in college, when I started stress eating and having
excessive mental health problems, that I started getting bigger.
But does that give people a pass to tell jokes about my body? Does my being a plus-sized person give everyone the right to make fun of me and give me unsolicited health advice? Hell no. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m not the healthiest person on the planet, but people need to stop pushing big people down and disguise it as “concerned health advice”.
I watch variety shows sometimes and the hosts would casually joke about people’s bodies and it’s honestly disturbing that we live in a society that allows that. The person they’re joking about would laugh it off because if they react negatively they’ll be labeled as pikon. They use the “it’s a joke” card, but for people who genuinely struggle with body image, it could be extremely damaging.
It seems like fat people, especially in the Philippines, either need to have humungous personalities or be the “funny ones” in the group, they have to have endless amounts of patience and never complain about people talking about their bodies because it’s “their choice naman to be like that eh“. Fat people are just people. Why should they be defined by just that one trait?
The point is, we need to collectively stop using people’s physical appearances as punchlines for jokes. You don’t know why that random man on the street looks paper thin or why the woman you shared a ride with earlier had to occupy two seats instead of one. You don’t know their lives, and even if you did, would it hurt you to not bring up their weight? Is that so hard?
People giving me unsolicited life advice based on my weight, being “good people”.
Personally, I’ve been struggling to lose the weight for years now, but in between my mental health thing and the cysts in my damn ovaries (which is a story for another day!), it’s pretty damn hard. But I am trying. At least I’m not a shitty person who points out people’s insecurities for the sake of cheap humor.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments.