Garcia, Kimberly G. August 24, 2012 ENG 10 – WFW5 Concept Paper (Final Draft); 1,910 words Juan Dela Cruz’s Flip Flops The capacity to think introspectively – to wonder about the world within – is one that is unique to mankind, and one that has led to age-old search for identity. Perhaps more intriguing than questions about the physical are questions about the world that cannot be seen, but that is felt in every aspect of life. This unseen world comprises things that may seem mundane, such as beliefs, principles, traditions, and culture, but those are an essential part of the fabric of human nature.
This unseen world is the world of identity. Because the Filipinos are a diverse group, this question is of great interest. What is distinctly Filipino, and what does this translate to in terms of who the Filipino is? To answer this, at least in part, an artifact of culture must be found that transcends regional boundaries and socioeconomic status. This object, albeit in varying forms, is a quite essential part of the Filipino household. And for a people of an island nation, it has become an extension of the body itself.
This paper aims to draw insights about Filipino identity from an object so familiar, so simple; yet one that has been a part of every Filipino’s life – the tsinelas. It defines the tsinelas as not only a staple footwear in the Philippines but also a reflection of what being Filipino is. In construction, basic rubber slippers are very simple. The body of these rubber shoes is nothing more than a comfortable sole; the foot rests on the sole, which is secured to the front area of the foot in one of two ways.
The traditional design includes a simple band that ps the top of the foot in the area between the instep and the toes. Attached to this band is a small loop that fits neatly between the big and second toes. The heel of the slipper is left open, allowing it to flop as the individual walks (”What are Rubber Slippers? ”). This gives the tsinelas its unique oblong look with a y-shaped band. It usually comes in different sizes and colors and also in a variety of designs for those who love cartoons and for those who want the face of their favourite actor or actress on their footwear.
Flip flops are a common sight in the markets of the Philippines. The reason for their popularity is because they are both cheap and convenient to wear especially in a country of wet and dry seasons, where it is too hot to wear socks and shoes and where it is too uncomfortable to have wet shoes and socks during the rainy season. The origin of the tsinelas dates back to the barter trade among other nations. This footwear was brought long ago to the Philippines by the Chinese merchants, but the name ‘tsinelas’ evolved from the word “chinela” (slippers) came from the Spaniards.
Since then, it has become the staple footwear among the Filipinos despite the fact that there were other forms of footwear before the tsinelas was introduced. For instance, “bakya” and “abaca slippers” are also uniquely Filipino footwear. The ‘bakya’, which is made out of thick wood with a band of leather or some other similar material attached to each end of the sides of the body with a nail, has been deemed uncomfortable and inconvenient for everyday use compared to ‘abaca slippers’ and ‘tsinelas’.
Nowadays, it seen only paired with traditional Filipino clothes or costumes. ‘Abaca slippers’, which is made out of abaca, a species of banana plant which are harvested for their strong fibre called Manila hemp (”Abaca” 1), are cheap and are highly praised for their durability and lightness, characteristics footwear should have. Why then are these not the staple footwear in the Philippines? Unfortunately, the abaca is difficult to process and most of the abaca the country produces is exported.
Abaca slippers are also difficult to find in the markets compared to the slippers, and they are more expensive than the tsinelas. Ergo, the tsinelas got its position as the staple footwear of the Filipinos. However, these have more significance than just being a form of footwear. “Tsinelas” or rubber slippers are an integral part of Filipino culture, pervading aspects like social status and practicality, as well as, a tool of discipline and a prop in uniquely Filipino games. The tsinelas plays an integral role in every Filipino’s youth.
It does not only serve as a vessel through which the youth can achieve their dreams but it also serves as two important objects in molding their characters. The tsinelas serves an object of discipline and fear for Filipino children. Much like the bamboo stick that the old Chinese man uses to threaten or pk the ‘bad’ children with in the movies, the tsinelas is also the favourite tool of the Filipino adult to discipline a child with. The tsinelas has been used by adults to pk, preferably the buttocks, of children as punishment for something that they have done wrong.
When a child starts to throw a tantrum, the adult would take off his/her tsinelas and hold it in one hand. Then the child suddenly turns quiet, as if the tsinelas was a magical silencing tool. The tsinelas becomes an object of fear among the Filipino children because of such circumstances. However, the youth have managed to turn the tsinelas as something that they fear into something that they can readily play and have fun with. It becomes a prop in uniquely Filipino games.
These types of games become a common sight in the streets of the Philippines, whether in the province or in the city. The most famous of these games is the Tumbang Preso or Chinelas Lata where each player brings a slipper which they use to topple a can in the middle of a circle, the objective of the player to get back to the slipper and get to the other side of the base without being caught by the guard who also brings the can back into position (“Tumbang-Preso” 2). Another one is the Shakay where the circle is small and playing field is smaller in size.
The rules are the same as softball. The player uses feet to play the slipper thrown toward the player and score (“Games” 2). Pinoy flip flops do not only hold significance in a Filipino’s childhood. They still continue to hold significance through adolescence and adulthood and play a role in domestic and social life as well. The tsinelas has been used by so many generations that it has become a part of social culture. For instance, the branding of flip flops has turned them into a subtle status symbol.
In the past, the wearing of tsinelas was regarded as something the people of low status would wear outside the home. However, as Lauren Dado, a well know Filipino blogger, asserts: What’s incredibly interesting about this whole slipper fad is that two years ago, if you decided to wear tsinelas to a school like Ateneo, people would look down on you or think you were poor or something…my school imposed a dress code on the tricycle drivers that could go in Ateneo, and one of the no-nos was- you guessed it- wearing of slippers (“Sinelas, Tsinelas, or Chinelas? ”).
Moreover, the tsinelas was seen by many Filipinos as something as should not be worn in hotels or big malls because is presents a ‘street look’ of the poor to middle class Filipinos. In fact, the term ‘bakya crowd’, which is a term described as the larger population that consists of citizens of the lower class, is now referred to as the ‘tsinelas crowd’. But the term ‘tsinelas crowd’ has evolved from the term ‘bakya crowd’, in a way that the ‘tsinelas crowd’ now refers to street protesters, so called because of the cheap rubber slippers that are worn by them (Patajo-Legasto 421).
Recently, the tsinelas have transformed from being a form of low status into a form of high status. The tsinelas have evolved to become a fashion trend and more are using the western term ‘flip flops’ to refer to the tsinelas. According to Smith in “The Evolution of Flip Flops”: They have since evolved from beach walks to concrete pavement and have taken on a more preppy look. Not only do men wear them at the beach but also when going to the mall or dining out with friends. The revolutionary sandals like the [Lacoste] Palison leather footwear are now [classier] and savvy (par. ). Indeed, the tsinelas has now become a fashion craze resulting to many brands that are now out in the market. A few years ago, the most common tsinelas was the Beachwalk slippers, the cheapest ones that can be bought from the stores that are usually white in body color with different rubber strap colors such as red, blue and yellow that is below a hundred pesos or even the infamous Islander ‘Tibay ng Orig’ slippers. Who would have thought many brands of tsinelas- or in this case the most proper term would be flip flops- would emerge?
Who would have thought that one day there would be a tsinelas that is worth one thousand pesos or more? The emergence of expensive brands of tsinelas (flip flops), such as Havaianas and Crocs, led to the evolution of the tsinelas from a footwear unworthy of being worn to the mall to a footwear worthy of being worn in malls, at fancy beach resorts, and even in hotels. Although there are still cheap tsinelas out there, it is not looked down upon as much as before. The tsinelas remain an essential part of the most intimate Filipino things – the home.
It does not only play a part in our social life. The tsinelas has been the footwear that most Filipinos seek comfort from at home after wearing shoes for a whole day. At the end of the day, the first thing that is done is to taking off the shoes and putting on the tsinelas. In a classic Filipino home setting, the tsinelas are aligned from biggest to smallest at the bottom of the staircase or near the door. As each member of the family comes home, they replace their shoes with their tsinelas, which also becomes a convenient way of finding out if a family member is already home.
There are always ‘extra tsinelas’ for guests and visitors. The tsinelas is also used as way of showing hospitality to guests. The tsinelas is offered to the guest by the owners of the home, often insisting that the guest should remove his shoes to be more comfortable. It is also deemed unusual for Filipinos if a person wears his shoes all day inside the house. It is as if the Filipinos have created a rule of ‘no wearing shoes inside the house’ that it is necessary for every member of the family to have a tsinelas.
The Filipinos also have created a new classification of tsinelas, the ‘tsinelas panlabas’ or tsinelas for outside the home and the ‘tsinelas panloob’ or tsinelas for inside the home, which is strictly imposed in many homes in the Philippines. Pinoy flip flops have also been a way to show love and respect to the elders. Most Filipino children were taught to deliver the tsinelas to their parents and/or grandparents as soon as they get home. This is one of the most unique traditions that Filipinos have.
In conclusion, Juan Dela Cruz’s flip flops, the tsinelas, is something uniquely Filipino. The tsinelas become more than a reflection of individual taste or class – they are a mirror of the Filipino people. It becomes a reflection of Filipino ingenuity and practicality. Works Cited: “ABACA (Musa textilis). ” Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species. cropsforthefuture. org. Web. 4 Aug. 2012. Dado, Lauren. “Evolution of Flip Flops. ” Sinelas, Tsinelas, or Chinelas?. Ang Sapatos ni Juan dela Cruz. Blogspot, 15 Jan. 2008. Web. 4 Aug. 2012. Games Played by the Native Children in the Philippines. ” Uupcc. org. n. d. Web. 4 Aug. 2012. Patajo-Legasto, Priscelina. Philippine Studies: Have We Gone Beyond St. Louis? Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press, 2008. 421. Print. Smith, Diana. “The Evolution of Flip Flops. ” Ezine Articles. Ezinearticles. com, 23 Jan. 2011. Web. 4 Aug. 2012. “Tumbang-Preso. ” Tagalog Lang: Filipino Culture. n. d. Web. 4 Aug. 2012. “What are Rubber Slippers? ” wiseGEEK: Clear Answers for Common Questions. wisegeek. com, n. d. Web. 4 Aug. 2012.
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