How did Filipinos once thought of themselves in general? A popular folklore will give us a good idea how.
Filipinos, a generation ago, once had a negative folklore going around by word-of-mouth about a general concept of what Filipinos were. Folklores on lazy Juan, or “Juan Tamad,” was said to symbolize the typical Filipino. Stories of lazy Juan went around, especially narrated to kids and young people, hoping that the young generation would be challenged to wake up and determine not to be like lazy Juan.
But some social experts, beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, started challenging the general notions on Filipinos that folklores on lazy Juan produced. They asserted that such folklores did more harm than good, especially to young minds. If something like a negative folklore becomes imbedded in the imagination of the youth, it might produce a lethargic culture among them instead of discourage a similarity to lazy Juan’s lifestyle.
Folklores on lazy Juan are characterized by a lazy lad who uses his native wit to simplify hard work. For instance, instead of going up a guava tree for a ripe guava fruit, he lays down right under the fruit and waits for it to fall off by gravitational pull. To others, folklores on lazy Juan are actually a plus factor for Filipinos; they show their unique indigenous wit. Instead of unnecessarily going through a tedious process of work, why not simplify it whenever possible?
To some, the folklores really shouldn’t be titled “Lazy Juan”, but “Smart Juan.” While others insist the main character, Juan, is more a tricky Juan than a smart one. But the majority seems to favor to have the folklore remain a thing with the old folks; the present crop of young generation hardly knows the folklores on lazy Juan. It’s rarely heard in schools and kids’ conversation. It seems a majority prefer to let it die naturally; unless someone makes a PC or Internet game on it.
Some conjecture that the folklore started with the Spaniards. Some centuries ago they started a campaign to demoralize the brown Indians or “Indios” (native Filipinos) from taking even a fancy at independence and self will. Thus, according to a theory, the conquerors thought of circulating a folklore on the incompetence and laziness of “Indios.”
The folklore on lazy Juan had served its purpose in its own generation. It had made fun in certain ways some undesirable Filipino habits and highlighted in some ways some Filipino ingenuity.