Using “Culture And Tradition” To Justify Bad Behavior? Now That’s A Red Flag

It's a no from me.

When tradition is used as an excuse to be an asshole, it’s time to rethink your priorities.

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If there’s one thing Filipinos often do, it’s follow tradition. As a society that values family and being in a collective unit, Pinoys use tradition to shape their culture and vice versa. Whether amongst the family or the wider community, traditions are ways for past generations to share what they know with the new generations, as well as tell their story and history so it won’t be forgotten. 

A good portion of Filipino culture and its tradition is based on this idea, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But what happens when culture and tradition are used as a scapegoat for bad behavior? It loses the plot of why we do them in the first place and turns what should be a fun cultural experience into an inconvenient mess. Just look at what happened in San Juan City. 


Recently, San Juan has been the talk of the town for how city residents acted during the celebration of the Wattah Wattah Festival. ICYDK, Wattah Wattah Festival, also known as Basaan Festival, is a yearly celebration in San Juan done every June 24 that is meant to celebrate St. John the Baptist. Every year, residents spray each other with water to symbolize when St. John the Baptist baptized Jesus. It’s a pretty wholesome origin, but if you saw videos that came from this year’s festival, it was anything but. Clips of people spraying commuters just passing through aggressively went viral on social media. 

The unruly behavior caused unwanted disruption and inconvenience for people who just so happened to be in San Juan at that time. The furor was so intense that netizens gave a man caught spraying a motorcycle driver while sticking his tongue out the nickname “Boy Dila” and San Juan City mayor Francis Zamora had to apologize and promised changes to future iterations of the festival.

On the surface, the festival was supposed to be about people having fun. But it quickly delved into a mess as people did not think of the consequences their actions had on other people. This is what happens when tradition is done without understanding its meaning. You are left with hollow ideas used by people to do whatever they want. Participants just focused on spraying people with water part, forgetting that it goes beyond being a Waterbomb Festival in the streets. 


This problem is also visible in other aspects of Filipino tradition and culture. From titos and titas giving unwanted comments about people’s bodies to the “utang na loob” mindset of parents treating their kids as just a bank account for a better life, far too long do we see Filipinos use “culture” and “tradition” to undermine and disrespect other people. Following tradition does not mean you forget how to be a decent human being. That’s not how it works, bestie. Tradition should never be seen or used as some sort of menace. 


Culture and tradition feed into each other and vice versa, and it’s a sad reality that problematic behavior can affect this cycle. But every cycle can be broken, and that includes using traditions to excuse bad behavior. Yes, it’s important to know our history and culture and understand the importance of the traditions that make us who we are. But it’s also important that newer generations update these traditions to fit modern times. Tradition should be about celebrating something good and worth remembering. When tradition and culture become maligned and misunderstood to the point that it’s a problem, it’s time to change, and for the better. 

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