Image by Sukaina Abbas

Gossip, and I quote Cito Beltran on this, is the National Sin of the Philippines. Filipinos have glorified talking about other people's business to an art form that is atrocious. It is expressed in all levels of society: from the grassroots as good ole gossip about whose daughter got pregnant and whose husband is straying, to the water cooler gossip that about which agent the team lead is sleeping with now, and even up to whom the President is dating. Gossip is so ingrained in Philippine society that it is the top-selling form of entertainment in the country.

Visayans are no different. Only, it is expressed differently, depending on which island group you belong to. While there are common recurrent themes in gossip, like the juicy, salacious stories of people caught in different kinds of compromising situations, certain Visayan areas talk about specific issues more than the other areas.

In Iloilo, for example, gossip is stratified according to the circles you belong to. The Ilonggo Intelligentsia, or those who consider themselves thinkers, talk about national issues. The Ilonggo media and those who revolve around the political circles, talk about the salacious details of politicians' lives. In the Provincial Capitol, most especially, gossip is a commodity. Someone else's dirt could be your claim to a level-up in the food chain. For those stuck in the rural towns, somebody getting pregnant seems to be the topic of choice.

There is also one thing that's very annoying in Iloilo. One trait of Ilonggos that I sought to escape by aiming to study in Metro Manila: Ilonggos tend to watch out for your every move, especially if you are in competition with them. When I was in Elementary, the bullies' favorite pastime was to poke fun at people's mannerisms; every little thing about their person of the season was scrutinized. Not a very fun thing if you were the object of their scrutiny.

Now we discuss the gossiping patterns of the Bacolodnon. I'm not a resident of Bacolod, but I have great friends from that lovely city. One thing that I noticed about them is that rich or poor, they hold their heads high.

Bacolod was known to be a prosperous city, before the Sugar Crisis of 1980. Before the Sugar Crisis hit the nation, Bacolod and Iloilo City have both benefited from sugar trade and export. But Iloilo had already been on the road to economic decline, way before the Sugar Crisis. And Bacolod, despite the Sugar Crisis, retained its economic prosperity, mainly because despite the decline of the sugar trade, the haciendas and the nation's wealthy are still located there.

These factors, I believe, are the reasons why Bacolod's people are a confident, even proud (in a good way, though in some cases, in an obnoxious way), lot.

That is why it is understandable that the content of their gossip is all about the good life. Bacolod's 20-something set talk about the nightlife, making it big in their careers, and who made it abroad, who made it in showbusiness (i.e. Bacolod's James Yap, Saicy Aguila), and all things shiny and glamorous.

Yes, there is the ever-present topic of what's salacious, but the content, in general, is all about the glitz and glamor.

As you can see, gossip is a window to a people or a culture's heart. What are their priorities, what do they care about, what makes them tick? Sometimes, it's hard to differentiate when regular talk ends and gossip begins. I guess the rule of thumb is that: if you spread that particular factoid, would it destroy someone's life? If it would, then better keep it to yourself.

As a quote exhorts us, "Small minds talk about other people, average minds talk about events, great minds talk about ideas."

Which kind of mind are you? If you find that you're not a "great mind," maybe it's high time to shift your tastes in conversation topics and BE a Great Mind!