This is a story about a comedic pair. Tuko and “her” next-door neighbor and sparring mate, Ms. Marawi Maranao.
Tuko is a term that I use to refer to any of several kinds of small lizards up to 10 centimeters (four inches) long. Tukos make their appearance during dusk. Dusk and its twilight brings them out. Twilight is the best time to catch a glimpse of these helpful reptiles. Lizards are reptiles. These lizards feast on insects like mosquitoes. Useful as they are, some species will keep you up at night as in this mention of tuko in a previous post.
I ran into Tuko and Ms. Marawi-Maranao (MM) at the dry goods section of the public market. They’re both vendors.
I don’t know their names and that’s why I’m using the terms I remember them by. I call her MM because that’s the only way I can classify her. She hails from Marawi city and she’s a Maranao.
The Maranaos are the largest Moro and cultural minority in the Philippines, numbering more than 840,000 in the late-20th century. They are known for their brasswork, fine mosques, rish raiment, exotic dances, and love for music. [sic]
[The Maranaos are a tribe that descended from Malays of Arabic descent.] They settled in the Mindanao province of Lanao long before the advent of the Spaniards in the Philippines. They possess their own culture and civilization which makes them a different kind of Filipino. Their language, customs, traditions, religion, social system, music and other features are factors that make Lanao peculiar and distinct from other Philippine Provinces.
Usually artistic, the Maranao lavish elegant pageantry and celebration. Their festivals are rich in vivid hues of red and purple seen on bright banners and intricate silk malongs on both men and women.
The spread of Islamic religion in Marawi, the capital of the province of Lanao del Sur, and the only chartered city in the country with predominantly Muslim population, followed the pattern in Indonesia and other Malay areas. It started with the coming of Arab traders, intermingling with the Maranaos and consequently establishing communities locally.
The first contacts were primarily economic but the Muslim teachers and Islamic missionaries pursued the native traders with intensity, indoctrinating them with the Islamic religion to strengthen their hold on the natives. Finally, the Maranao chieftains embraced Islamic religion and the people followed. Shortly thereafter Islam spread throughout the south. By the time the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, Islam had taken deep root throughout the south.
The Maranao families are traditionally large. They are a close-knit people that in a family with 10 members is considered small. Even in a wealthy family, married members of the same family tend to live in the same house. In some great Maranao merchant houses, the central room is shared by as many as six married families.
The Maranaos are also known for their business acumen and commercial prowess.
Among the Maranao, feudal standings once strictly defined and inclusive are still visible. [sic] The leading class is composed of sultans, datus and their closest kin, sometimes referred to as “of royal” in reference to their ancestors who were once the ruling sultans of Lanao. Many of them maintain their high positions because of wealth, land ownership and generally, political positions to which they are now elected or appointed.
The first few minutes
MM calls her next-door neighbor lizard in a friendly, even affectionate, manner. Her next-door neighbor is gay–not flaming gay according to this definition–just “big-time” gay. I may not be making sense. I’m just trying to explain the magnitude of his gay-ness.
How gay is he? Well, it was just with momentary hesitation before he answered babae when I asked him point-blank what he was.
Lalaki ka ba o babae? I asked him.
Man or woman?
And he replied babae.
I wasn’t trying to be rude. I had to clarify it immediately because after MM introduced us, he spoke up and said that he was looking for a boyfriend. Shit.
Let me draw the line right away!
Oh!, I said to myself and shut up.
You can’t get mad at someone who thinks he’s a woman unless he makes a move on you, I figured.
Tuko sold mobile phone accessories; things like cell phone cases and the like. Boring everyday stuff. What did MM sell?
MM sold DVDs of pirated movies.
In the caption, I refer to them as “clips” but each clip is an entire movie. You can enlarge the image below (like any other image), but I’ll save you the trouble. This single DVD contains 28 movies. Some of my favorite titles are there:
- Terminator 1
- Terminator 2
- Terminator 3
Terminator 4 is also included. The movie’s real name is Terminator Salvation; it starred Sam Worthington in Arnold’s place. Technically this should not have been included in this DVD since it was not one of Schwarzenegger’s movies but I’m glad they included it to complete the series.
The DVDs were priced at 50 pesos ($1.16) each.
They were sourced out of Manila, MM said. Her puhunan (or capital, the amount she invested) was 40 pesos, she claimed.
Counterfeiting is big business. It’s illegal because it deprives the content’s authors and publishers from earning revenue. It’s international because the means to access this entertainment (namely, the electronics) is found all over the world.
Entertainment is a basic need. If it isn’t already, I think it should be included in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs after food, shelter, and so forth.
There’s a strong demand for reasonably-priced entertainment by large segments of the world’s population.
Someone who figures out how to meet that demand in a way that’s acceptable to the content authors will make a lot of money. Until that person shows up, counterfeiters and the supply chain (meaning counterfeiters, wholesalers, and retailers) will make that money.
Destruction of goods that have been confiscated are publicized (like in this article from a site that caters to Seattle-area Filipinos). Unfortunately that doesn’t solve the problem. This is a problem of the content’s authors and producers–the studios in this case. If they were willing to accept a smaller cut–one proportional to the selling price in this market–they would drive counterfeiters out of business. But they can’t since studios and producers can’t support a two-tier pricing structure (e.g., a per-movie price of $1 for third-world countries and $10 for first-world ones).
As Ms. Marawi-Maranao said, you can’t beat the price of this form of entertainment. That’s her point-of-view.
Philippines slashes, smushes [sic] haul of pirated goods
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Police slashed fake Louis Vuitton bags and drove armored vehicles over Oakley sunglasses and pirated DVDs Thursday to mark World Anti-Counterfeit Day — a first step in destroying a five-month haul of counterfeit goods.
The symbolic destruction at police headquarters in Manila involved a portion of the items seized from January through May and the rest will be destroyed later, Intellectual Property Office Philippines head Ricardo Blancaflor said.
The entire haul would be worth $39.4 million if the items were authentic, he said. The street value of such fakes is far less.
Counterfeiting pits two powerful forces against each other. On the one hand are the studios and producers, the creators of content. Arrayed against them is an even bigger force–the vast demand for inexpensive and sophisticated entertainment.
If the studios became realistic and smart, I think they could turn the problem on its head. If they were willing to figure out a way to maintain a separate lower pricing structure, they’ll make more money. But until then, the money will go to the counterfeiters. And I think it serves them right.