A cultural taboo of oversleeping


Shame of all shame.

I woke up at 11:30 this morning. Although I had a very sating sleep, and it felt so good, but instead I reacted differently, I panicked and was filled with guilt and self-loathing. For somebody who grew up in the Philippines where one’s industry is measured by the time one wakes up in the morning, waking up at such late a time is tantamount to indolence and faineance.

Once upon a time, the natives’ god, out of solitude and loneliness decided to create man. He accidentally cooked up several races of man: because of his fretfulness – the white men, his forgetfulness – black men, until he reached perfection – the brown-skinned men he called Filipinos. After a very tiring day, as the story goes, the natives’ god went to sleep and so did his newly created human beings. The next day, just before sunrise, the white men woke up first, followed by the black-skinned men, causing them to step on the faces of their still sleeping brown-skinned brothers. This resulted to the dominant Filipino facial feature of  an almost flat nose.

The myth, aside from explaining the reason for the conspicuous wide nose of the people from the Philippines also gives a commentary on the value placed by the society where the myth originated on industry and time and how they relate with that crucial time of the day when farmers go to work.

Farm animals, specifically water buffaloes, or carabao in the native language, do not have sweat glands so this explains why they cannot work in the middle of the scorching sun forcing farmers to work before dawn when it is cool. This is why it is morally upright and compelling for farmers, and the Philippine society dependent on agriculture, to wake up early. The story above was told to me by my father who grew up in the plains of Iloilo as a young farmer; the same story was told to him by his  mother who is also a farmer.

Although I’ve been spending the last eight years of my life in urban areas, I know that I have never outgrown this urge to wake up early and to feel unwell whenever I wake up late in the morning. A case of oversleeping transformed into a taboo. When I was still studying in college I wake up an hour before my first class to do some writing or last minute cramming; this didn’t change when I was teaching in the university.

Longer nights during these months compounded by winter in Hanoi make me sleep until almost forever. This disturbs my Circadian rhythm which I have a little chance of recovering, but I hope to reverse this soon.

So whenever I visit my hometown my father’s prodding to wake up early is as constant as the idea of home. So tonight, I resolve to sleep earlier than usual, stick to this resolution and wake up earlier tomorrow.

I will never forgive myself if I wake up again at 11 in the morning.