USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Community’
Adulthood
Customs
general
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Bayanihan Spirit

Pauline is an international student from the Philippines. She is studying Chemical Engineering in the United States, and she plans to return to the Philippines once she graduates and receives her B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Her hobbies are watching anime, eating delicious food, and taking naps.

Original Script

So there’s this custom from the olden times in the Philippines that’s called Bayanihan. So before like people used to live in like really small bamboo huts and when like people wanted to move because maybe like the ground is not fertile anymore and they wanted to go to another place like near the shore or something. Like instead of just leaving their home and building a new one, it’s like actually portable—there’s sticks at the bottom—and then like you can like carry your house and then just move it. So the concept of Bayanihan is all your neighbors are like going to help you carry the house.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant learned about the Bayanihan spirit in elementary school. Her teacher wished to teach this value to her students because it is an integral part of Filipino culture and possesses heavy historical importance.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

The Bayanihan is a Filipino custom that refers to the spirit of communal unity, collaborating and working together to achieve a particular goal. “Bayan” means “community, nation, or town,” while bayanihan means “being in a bayan.” This concept can be traced back to the tradition of rural areas in the Philippines, where the town’s people would lend a hand to a family who is relocating. The Bayanihan spirit demonstrates the Filipino value of helping one another, especially in times of need, without expecting anything in return.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I really admire this quality valued by the Filipinos. When I visited the Philippines with my family a few years ago, I noticed that the Bayanihan spirit is still very much alive. While I was in the rural areas, the locals went out of their way to welcome and help my family and me. I also saw a group of Filipino men help a family move their house to another location.

Customs
Life cycle
Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sitting Shiva

The informant is a 20-year old Jewish student attending USC. She was born in Venezuela but has lived in Miami since she was eight years old. She is majoring in Engineering. The information she shared with me is about Jewish funeral custom.

 

Informant: “Everyone goes to the funeral home or the synagogue, or wherever the funeral is taking place. There is a service; the Rabbi says some prayers in Hebrew and in English and some kind words about the deceased. Then usually some family members will speak about the person who has passed.”

 

Interviewer: “What kind of stuff do they say?”

 

Informant: “Well it varies. Sometimes they will talk about the person’s accomplishments, sometimes they will tell funny stories about the person, or their fondest memories with them. I was at a funeral about a month ago where one of the deceased’s grandchildren read a portion of a school project she had written about her grandma when she was a kid. She had interviewed her grandma for the project. It was really cool.”

 

Interviewer: “That sounds really cool. What happens next?”

 

Informant: “Well, everyone goes outside where the burial takes place. I don’t know if it is Jewish tradition everywhere, but at least at the weddings I’ve been to, there are shovels around the burial site, and everyone who wants to can shovel some earth onto the grave. It’s really beautiful. Then there is a shiva.

 

Interviewer: “What’s the shiva?”

 

Informant: “The shiva is when everyone—the family and friends of the deceased’s family—goes to someone close to the person who has passed’s house. There is lots of food and drink (usually non-alcoholic though) and people eat and talk. It’s a big gathering as a sort of celebration of the person’s life and as a way to comfort the family.”

 

Thoughts:

Often rituals surrounding death double as celebrations of life and a reason for social gathering. Death is a rite of passage and like other rite of passage rituals, it is a rite of transition, mainly for the family and friends of the deceased. The shivas I’ve been to aren’t typically sad events. The funeral itself is generally a somber, teary-eyed event, but shivas I’ve attended often involve a lot of conversing and even a good-deal of joke-telling.

Proverbs

3 Greek Proverbs

Informant A is a 17-year-old Sophomore at USC studying Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis on Neuroscience. She is ¼ Greek Cypriote, ¼ German and ¼ Argentinian but she strongly identifies with the Greek side of her. She spent 9 years in Greek school and goes to Greece every summer. She speaks Greek with her grandparents.

“So when I was younger my grandparents wanted to stress on me, not only my ancient Greek heritage, but also the important Greek proverbs that everyone learned in school. So one of the big ones you actually hear a lot in English is

En eetha otee uu then ee eetha

which is Socrates when he was pronounced the smartest man in the world. It actually means ‘I know that I know nothing, which is why I’m the smartest man’. He knew that there was so much more that he needed to learn. So that was basically their way of saying ‘Don’t let your head get too big’. Like even though you may know a lot there’s still so much more to explore so don’t treat this world like you’ve done everything it has to offer because there’s always so much more. I learned this when Grandfather sat me down and started talking about the history of Greece and he told me to remember that. You know everyone has an opinion on everything even if they know nothing. This proverb was like a self-reminder for me. A lot of the proverbs my grandparents told me were supposed to be for you internally, they’re something you think of when you’re struggling. Another proverb my grandparents told me is ‘Nothing easy is worth it’. So when I was telling them how hard my Physics class was last semester, they actually told me this. They asked me, ‘Do you think it’s worth it, are you learning a lot? Because that’s what’s meaningful and it’s good you’re working hard. If it were easy you probably wouldn’t actually like it and that you like the challenge.’ I think this proverb was from one of the ancient Greek philosophers like way back when. This last proverb is definitely one you’ve heard in English. But the original Greek is not what the actual translation is in English. The original Greek is

Pan metron ariston

which means “always measure absolutely perfectly” but what you’ve heard in English is “Everything in moderation”, that’s what that was translated from. It says you can have everything you want, but make sure you measure it well. Make sure you understand what’s moderation and what’s excess. A lot of these proverbs they’ve said have been for my physical and mental strength. And a lot of these proverbs have been passed down to the people who lived in Cypress and Greece. When some of these people came to America, some tried to teach the lessons and morals rather than the myths and the proverbs. That may be why there’s this divide between Greek-American culture and traditional Greek culture. Most of my friends and family in Greece though would definitely recognize these proverbs. They actually teach them in the Greek schools. These proverbs really shape the Greek culture and unite us in our values of work hard, be kind to strangers… You don’t see the kind of similarity in values in the US because there are so many different cultures here. I think something is lost when you move away from the land and aren’t surrounded by the people who share the same history and the same values. You’re not in the community anymore.

 

Analysis:

Informant A mentions 3 proverbs here and how they are important to her. She emphasizes how she thinks of them in times when she is struggling and uses them as bits of advice. The Greeks seem to stress learning these proverbs, they actually teach them in their schools, and A explains how they are less emphasized in the US. The Greek people value working hard, self sufficiency, and humbleness, as most of their workforce depends on agriculture which requires hard work and determination.  The informants family also primarily works in agriculture.  She talks about how the US not emphasizing proverbs makes some of the values that these proverbs teach less prominent in US communities because the people are in such a mixed environment.  Generally people in the US want the shortened version and just the lesson rather than the long story, even if this may be less effective at communicating the lesson.

Folk Beliefs
Magic

Turkish Fortune Telling

Informant C is 20 year old and studies Journalism. She is half Turkish and speaks Turkish as well. Her mom is Turkish and is from the Eastern Turkey area, about 200 miles west of Syria. Her entire family is scattered over Turkey and have resided in Turkey for many generations. Many of them are involved in agriculture.

Fortune telling is actually a big deal in Turkey. They do it with Turkish coffee, which is really like fine ground black coffee and its very dark. You get in a little tiny cup and you have a saucer and you flip the cup over onto the saucer and all the little grounds trickle out of the cup and you can read the different things. My mom and my grandmother can do it really well, like everything my grandmother says comes true. She said that I’ll find a tall blonde guy whom I’ll really like, which is true, and then that there’s one class I’ll really like and one that I’ll have to work really hard in. And she said about water she said something you love like the ocean could turn dangerous for you but then it’ll come back and be really good for you. So me and my little brother were surfing over Presidents Day weekend and he actually got caught in a rip current which was kind of scary and luckily he got out but he’s like 14 so he’s pretty little. But then after all that happened we ended up having a really good day surfing and he actually just got his lifeguard certification which is really cool. And I kinda think a lot of it is made up but I don’t know I’m actually starting to believe in it a bit more. And my family really believes in it.

 

Analysis:

Informant C tells here of a traditional Turkish custom and folk belief that her family participates in. The fortune telling is an entertaining way to bring the community together and connect generations all over Turkey, while for many providing an insightful view into the future. H says she may have participated in the fortune telling just to bond with her grandmother and mother, but then she adds that she is starting to believe in it more.  For many, knowledge of the future is valuable, and something like the more chance based way the coffee grounds are running down the cup provide a good medium for this fortune telling.

Folk speech

Military Acronyms

Informant E was born in Korea and moved to El Centro California when she was 4. Before she came to USC she found that she was accepted into the school but also enlisted in the military. She put school on hold and deferred for a semester and went to training at the age of 17, and was one of the youngest soldiers to graduate. And after her experience with boot camp she came back to USC and started school and contracted to army ROTC. She has been deployed over the summers to Korea. She studies Psychology and Linguistics as a double major and a Forensics Criminality minor combined with dance as well. She wants to use her schooling and military experience to be in the FBI one day.

In the military we have a lot of acronyms we use throughout like AR, PT, APFT, UCMJ, MJP, EAS, basically ROTC and the army is just full of acronyms. I feel like when we get together we talk about these things and we know what they all stand for and the abbreviations but other people really don’t and there’s this specific one called the CNN. And CNN is like a news network and we call it the Cadet News Network so its basically like the rumor mill you know like what only the cadets know. And so in the military there’s the cadets and then there’s the cadres who are like the people in charge of us and then there’s the NCOs, Non-Commissioned Officers, that’s an acronym right there, and none of them are aware of the CNN. That’s only within like our group. Especially when its something so tailored, it can really exclude everyone else and they have like no idea what’s going on. So we might say like, ‘Oh did you hear about cadet so and so doing this on the weekend?’ then we’ll say like oh I heard through the CNN that he was over here or here and like none of the people above us will understand what were talking about. It all stays within the CNN. We all kind of know what’s happening on the outside all within this professional setting, and to us its almost like an inside joke and were not supposed to talk about this outside occurrence. Were supposed to be integrating into the actual army so if someone found out about the kinds of stuff we talk about it could be really bad. They expect us to be professional and its kind of hard to balance that, you know like being a soldier but also a college student too. We try to keep them separate but we all live kind of the same lives and its funny when these mix and someone usually gets in trouble, which is why we try and keep it usually within the CNN. It happens though.

So we have this thing too, its kind of vulgar, called the Blue Falcon and the B in Blue stands for Buddy and the F in Falcon stands for…you know…basically and we use that acronym to label or address people who get their friends in trouble. Especially in the military when were doing stuff that we would be evaluated on, the Blue Falcon would be like ‘hey you forgot to do this’ like right in front of everyone and so we would address them as the Blue Falcon. Everyone else then would understand that this guy is like a Buddy uhhhhh, and everyone would understand what that meant. And the person would probably know that they’re the Blue Falcon like someone would say to the person like ‘Hey you’re being a Blue Falcon right now’. It’s kind of a universal military term, like everyone knows what that means. The military is about the group, and they use mass punishment too. So like if one person does something wrong then we all have to do like pushups and so we would call that person who got us all in trouble the Blue Falcon because they screwed their buddies over. In the real world you don’t see much of mass punishment where everyone hates on 1 person for getting everyone in trouble. It’s a specific military thing.

 

Analysis:

Here informant E talks about some of the specific vernacular that the military uses. Some of these acronyms may have come out of the need in the military to do specific things quickly and efficiently.  She explains how it separates the out-group from the in-group and also helps them balance the 2 different sorts of lives they live. The military expects them to be extremely professional while often college students are casual and crude.  These acronyms allow them to remain professional, while alluding to some other crude things, like maybe what the did on the weekend, or even just in the acronyms itself.  She also talks about how they can call out members of the in-group, which actually serves to bring the group closer together. Community and support are extremely important in the military, which explains this strong emphasis on the in-group and not getting their friends in trouble.  The military emphasizes unity and cohesion which is why the term Blue Falcon might be so popular across the military, because someone who is a Blue Falcon is deviating from the norm of unity and should be called out for doing so.

Legends

The Legendary Cadet

Informant E was born in Korea and moved to El Centro California when she was 4. Before she came to USC she found that she was accepted into the school but also enlisted in the military. She put school on hold and deferred for a semester and went to training at the age of 17, and was one of the youngest soldiers to graduate. And after her experience with boot camp she came back to USC and started school and contracted to army ROTC. She has been deployed over the summers to Korea. She studies Psychology and Linguistics as a double major and a Forensics Criminality minor combined with dance as well. She wants to use her schooling and military experience to be in the FBI one day.

There was this one cadet and his name was Cadet D. So we have these FMs, which are Field Manuals, and it’s where all the army rules and regulations are and it literally has everything. And its very thick and detailed, there’s so many different aspects. So Cadet D, and I don’t know if he memorized the entire thing, but he would always know what to address. So we would be talking about like ‘Oh this is the right way to do this’ and someone would say ‘No its like this’ and he would put his little finger up and say ‘Well according to FM bla bla bla dash blab la, it says,’ and he would recite it off the top of his head. And he had this really nasally voice. And so today even some of the cadets that don’t know him if they’re having like a smart aleck moment they’ll put their little fingers up and say, ‘Well according to blah blah balh,’ and they’re being sarcastic but everyone knows who he is, even if they’ve never met him.   I knew of him, I didn’t know him too well though. But everyone has heard about him and will all do the same mannerism as him. It’s a fun, teasing thing. Its remarkable he memorized the entire thing and knew what to reference but it was also sort of funny because who has time to do that as a college student? No one really wants to have no life and memorize the entire manual, it’s not negative but it’s a joking playful kind of way. When things get stressful or tense sometimes someone will say ‘Well according to…’ and everyone will bust out laughing because they know who he’s all referring to and everyone will take a step back, laugh about it, and then come back and compromise and agree to do the specific thing. This legend will keep going through I think. People below me have carried on his tradition.

 

Analysis:

Here informant E talks about a legend in the military about a cadet who went above and beyond the already large demands of the military to memorize the entire field manual. She talks about how the stories of this cadet have already taken a life of their own and are likely to continue even after she’s left USC. Imitating this person also serves to lighten the mood and release tensions while fondly remembering a cadet who went above and beyond.  The military can be very tense and stressful, and its important sometimes to have a way to lighten the mood so everyone can work more effectively, and it also helps to bring the community together through humor.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Veteran’s Day Tradition

Informant E was born in Korea and moved to El Centro California when she was 4. Before she came to USC she found that she was accepted into the school but also enlisted in the military. She put school on hold and deferred for a semester and went to training at the age of 17, and was one of the youngest soldiers to graduate. And after her experience with boot camp she came back to USC and started school and contracted to army ROTC. She has been deployed over the summers to Korea. She studies Psychology and Linguistics as a double major and a Forensics Criminality minor combined with dance as well. She wants to use her schooling and military experience to be in the FBI one day.

So in the military we have a lot of military balls we have a lot of Veterans Day dinners and banquets where everyone comes up in their nice dress uniform. But specifically we had this one Veterans Night/Dinner/Ball put on by USC and it happens every year but it’s a tradition that the very youngest cadet and the very senior oldest cadre member come together to cut the dessert cake together. It’s been an ongoing thing not just within USC Veterans Day dinner but also balls outside of USC. And I think it symbolize the fact that the youngest and the oldest and everyone in between is a part of this ceremony. I have a very late birthday and I joined the military at the age of 17 which is the absolute youngest and so the first couple years it was me that was cutting the cake with this like 5 star general and personally it was such an honor and it made me feel really important. Like I was a part of this ceremony with this amazing phenomenal general who was in several wars, and just to stand beside him and doing this together symbolizes the fact that we are one, an army of one, one fight, one team. I don’t think I’m ever going to forget that and I know that every year we have this and it’s a new younger cadet and a new older senior personnel every time and I know kind of what exactly they feel. It’s a huge honor and its very humbling too. Everyone’s watching you do this and what it signifies. It’s an amazing tradition. This is one night that everyone who has served beside you comes together and everyone comes together out of this stressful environment, everyone just comes together and has a good time.  I do find it nostalgic and it makes me proud too because some of these cadets I’ve mentored and taken under my wing growing up and now they’re up there doing this thing and I know the experience they’re having. Its really humbling and it’s a moment of joy and pride and its very nostalgic because I was once up there too.

Honoring those who came before is very important. Before every function we have this table we set for our Prisoner of War and Missing In Action brothers and sisters in arms. It’s very specific. We have this table set and the tablecloth signifies that they’re not here with us, the empty chair signifies that they’re not here with us, there’s a plate set out because were waiting for them to come. There’s a slice of lemon on this plate to symbolize their sour fate and there’s some salt to symbolize all the tears that we’ve cried waiting for them to come home. And after everything we say that we remember and we toast to them in the end. I think it’s another tradition before we start all these functions that we still remember them and we still honor them even when they’re not here with us.

 

Analysis:

The military places a strong emphasis on community and unity. This tradition with cutting the cake symbolizes that everyone from the oldest to the youngest is a valued member and is honored in this ceremony. This helps unite the military together even more.  Even those who are not currently present are honored as well because they are still included in the community.  The military also emphasizes honoring and remembering those who have came before.  The informant mentions how humbled she was to have the opportunity to cut the cake and how proud she felt to stand next to this celebrated general and to be a part of the military.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Military Fitness Test Ritual

Informant E was born in Korea and moved to El Centro California when she was 4. Before she came to USC she found that she was accepted into the school but also enlisted in the military. She put school on hold and deferred for a semester and went to training at the age of 17, and was one of the youngest soldiers to graduate. And after her experience with boot camp she came back to USC and started school and contracted to army ROTC. She has been deployed over the summers to Korea. She studies Psychology and Linguistics as a double major and a Forensics Criminality minor combined with dance as well. She wants to use her schooling and military experience to be in the FBI one day.

So in the army we have an APFT which stands for Army Physical Fitness Test. It consists of 2 minutes of pushups, 2 minutes of sit-ups, and a 2 mile run. And the standards are slightly different for male and female but they’re supposed to be set for what you should be able to do like capability wise. As ROTC cadets, we take one every month. So in a way its kind of a ritual you could say. We have a specific way of taking the test. Because I’m in the army as well as ROTC I can see kind of the comparisons. For ROTC everyone comes 10 minutes before the test. And were not told to do this but everyone does. And everyone puts their headphones in, sips on some water, stretches, and gets like pumped up and this is kind of a ritual within USC. It’s just kind of taken its own life as this tradition. So after that we’ll all get up and do like 10 of these calisthenics exercises which are standardized throughout the entire army. And that’s kind of like a ritual as well, we do it every single time. It’s supposed to stretch and prepare you for the fitness test. And then everyone will line up and fold their clothes; everything is very specific you know in the military. And this is a ritual through the entire military too. And then we’ll go pushups sit-ups and run. But in between the sit-ups and the run, they give us about 10 minutes to allow our bodies to recover from doing the other 2 exercises. And during that time, it’s so strange, almost everybody will sit down and talk. They’ll talk to get the anxiety off their mind. Its kind of a nerve racking test for ROTC because if you fail APFT you can lose your scholarship. You would think that people would be freaking out but everyone just kind of sits down and talks. They talk about everything, mostly non-ROTC related stuff to ease their minds. Then you take the exam and most everyone passes every single time. It’s almost a superstition that you have to do this. Ever since I’ve been in the program for 3 years, we do this every APFT which is every month so it’s interesting how that’s formed on its own. It’s this student mentality to be really prepared here at USC. When you put high achieving students here together, they want to do really well, they want to be really early. I know that having these specific steps and rituals help to calm some people down. People have found that it helps to do it specifically. It’s almost like an OCD person, they do things specifically to help calm their nerves so we can take this intense test. The military puts you in these high stress environments, but these rituals and superstitions and community kind of comes out of these environments.

 

Analysis:

Here the informant talks about some of the rituals and superstitions in the military surrounding their physical test. Many of the rituals she says is to calm anxiety and continue to foster unity and support within the group. Unity is extremely important for the military because they need that support in order to do their job effectively.  They will do these rituals so exactly that they almost turn into superstitions that they must do them.  Even how the military training is set up with these stressful tests breeds community and support because they can all help each other and cheer each other on, and they all understand what each person is going through.

Narrative

Gloria I

You can talk to G about this, and M.I. and M. So, first or second year of the co-op, so like 2007, 2008, N lived at the co-op and we were at the old house on orchard street back then. And um, there were a lot…well, there were a lot of people sleeping with each other in the house. (laughs) Not like that’s strange or anything, but umm, there was constantly this joke about how given that so many people are sleeping with each other in the house, why don’t we just have an orgy? Since that’s an experience we all seem to want to have. And N coined the name ‘Gloria’ as like the name of the orgy. So in her mind she was thinking like we’re gonna have this orgy and it’s gonna be epic and all these people from the house are gonna be in it and it’s gonna go down in history and we’re going to call it Gloria. So that was like 2008. Now it’s 2012. And there have been two…people refer to them as Gloria I and Gloria II. Neither of them were like what people think of when they think of an orgy- a sexual orgy. Yeah, I wasn’t really part of Gloria II, but Gloria I is alternatively called The Acid Orgy. Um, and yeah, that was the one where like 15 to 20 people ate acid and we ended up in that one room just like lying on top of each other listening to Air… for like twenty hours. We weren’t actually in that room for twenty hours, but we all tripped for a really long time. But yeah, it’s interesting the way people use the word orgy, because usually you think of orgy as like four plus people having sex. And I think what we realized that night – cause we realized it was Gloria I, at the time it was just Gloria – that night, and called it that that night. We realized that instead of four plus people having sex and bonding in a sexual way, it was a whole bunch of people bonding in the way that people bond with each other when they feel comfortable tripping on acid together, which is like it’s own little bonding thing. So that’s why we called it Gloria. (laughs) But yeah, you should ask G about it too.

 

This is a piece of group lore that the members of that group reflect on fondly and I’ve heard variations on the story from numerous people who have told it to people outside of the group. Without intending to, the experience redefined a term that usually has taboo connotations that make people uncomfortable. Instead, it was a deep bonding experience within a community. Also, I shortened names to the first letter or first two letters for the sake of privacy.

 

Customs
Folk speech

Fight On!

My informant for this folk term is a student and tour-guide at USC, and told me a bit of history and context of the saying:

Fight On!”

He tells me that it’s been a term for the University of Southern California ever since the early 1900’s, when USC came back from behind in a football game and the next day a sports writer proclaimed that the USC football team “fought like Trojans” to come back. After that, the saying was commonplace; meaning that no matter whether you are behind, or the odds are stacked against you, fight on until you succeed.

This mantra has caught on heavily here at USC, and has lasted the test of time and is still a vital internal and promotional term for USC. My informant told me that he says it on every school tour that he gives to prospective students and parents, and feels that it is a special thing that sets USC apart from other universities. “It bonds us together as a community. It’s something we all know and is a part of our lives here,” he said.

Now, the term is applicable in many different areas of university-life, including academics, athletics, and social life. “Whenever I’m on my tour, my friends will see me and yell “Fight On Curt!” with their two fingers in the air making the fight on symbol”. Both the symbol and phrase are equally well known, he says. Recently, USC has launched a campaign that reads “Fight On For a Cure”, in reference to finding a cure for women’s breast cancer. My informant said that it was “cool” to see how it has progressed from just being derived from the wording of a sportswriter to such a vital part of the Trojan community. It is one of the first things you learn on your tours and orientations, and it is one of those things that you will remember about your college experience in the future after graduation, he says.

Being a USC student, I had heard that story on my own tour as a prospective student when I was on my tour around campus. I believe that it is a phenomenal symbolic message to the USC community, and that it is an important piece of folklore that not only has a plethora of different applicable meanings, but also joins us all together as the Trojan community.

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