Tsinelas

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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 spans 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...
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