Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mukhang Pera

I love doing trick photography. And the above pictures are just a few of the countless things you could do with a P500 bill. It's quite simple really. All you need are the following: a camera, money (of course, folded to your desired half) and a willing subject, all appropriately aligned and positioned for the perfect capture. It will be much easier if you do it with a webcam, with the bill fixed at an appropriate distance from the lens so you could simply align your head for a perfect fit with the money's face. Below are the webcam images I took in gif animation (I didn't realize I look a lot like Gary Lising if I had Ninoy's eyes and forehead). It adds a whole new meaning to the term "mukhang pera".

Kidding aside, it made me think about certain things. “Mukhang pera” actually does not have any direct translation to English (I find “money faced” too weak a translation). Greed for money? It just goes to show how creative Filipinos can be with their way of words especially for something as undesirable as being materialistic. In today’s world feeding on consumerism and materialistic values, can we really say it is so undesirable to be materialistic when it seems to be the norm?

Materialism is defined by Richins as "the importance ascribed to ownership and acquisition of material goods in achieving major life goals or desired states". According to Oxford English Reference Dictionary, it is "devotion to material needs and desires, to the neglect of spiritual matters; a way of life, opinion or tendency based entirely upon material interests." In other literature, it is described as "the value of things rather than people". Being materialistic has its negative connotations, thanks to religious beliefs (it is said that love of things hinders spiritual growth), history and culture and societal values. As beings designed to manipulate objects for desired purposes, owned things tend to become expressions of one's identity, so some say there is a basis for man being inherently materialistic.

Psychologists claim that there should be a healthy dose of materialism. Research has shown that people who emphasize the role of possessions (high materialists) are not as happy as others. There seems to be a distinct difference in terms of attitude/behavior towards buying new things between high and low materialists. High materialists think that they will be happy in buying new things (thinking these will make their lives much easier) while low materialists don't think so, saying from experience that these things won't change their lives that much. It is surprising to find that high materialists often feel angry or frustrated even if they have already bought, perhaps due to higher expectations.

I admit to be an admirer of quality products (and it is so obvious, I always blog about my new toys), and as much as I can and have the resources to do so, I will own quality products (which are usually more expensive) rather than the cheaper alternatives. This prodded me to think whether I am materialistic for being so. I took an online quiz at ExpertRating, and these were the results:

Your Materialism Test Score : 53

The above bar graph indicates your score on a scale of 0 to 100 where 50 is considered a normal degree of the symptom/trait being tested. The higher the score, the higher the prevalence of the symptom/trait.

Description of your test score: The ExpertRating Materialism Test score indicates that you are a moderately material person. You are not too obsessed with it but do dream of having quite a few things. Big cars, big houses, big bucks definitely charm their way into your heart and make you get up for work each morning. All said and done, you are still a realist and are not too obsessed with the acquisition of such fancy things. You want, just like everybody else, to be rich but that does not mean that you will give whatever it takes to be so. You have your feet firmly planted to the ground and your head firmly planted on your shoulders. You are actually balanced right between being altruistic and being too materialistic, and that's just the way you like it!!!

So I am a moderately material person, an average guy in terms of material values. You can take this test too at: ExpertRating: Materialism Test. I don't know about the reliability and validity of this test but there is the standard measure for materialism known as the Material Values Scale developed by Richins (I wrote the items included in this scale in my Moleskine entry below).

These questions are quite interesting to answer too:

What is your most cherished object and why? To make this question more dramatic, let's rephrase it. If your house were fast burning and you can only save one object, what would that object be? Answer this first, before proceeding.

I would probably save my box containing all of the letters, mementos, paintings, pictures a treasure chest of all my personal memories. This box basically represents my life and my relationships. Otherwise, I'll save my laptop, being my new personal box, now that almost all of these are digitized. In a study that used this question, the researchers found that adult members of happy families tend to choose objects that reminded them of other people and the good times they'd had together. These objects are things you would find in average homes and look anonymous, but the intensity of relationships and sentiments are embedded in these. By contrast, members of unhappy families tend to look at their possessions as having meaning to themselves alone.

The $20,000 Question: How would you spend $20,000? (Distribute on the following: Savings/investment, Pay off debts, Buy things you want/need, Travel, Give/lend relatives/friends, Church/charity and Others). Answer first before proceeding.

I would spend it this way: Savings/investment: $6000, Pay off debts: $4000, Buy things you want/need: $5000, Travel: $1000, Give/lend relatives/friends: $2000, Church/charity: $1000, Others: $1000.

Here are the average figures provided by the participants in Richins' study:


High materialists

Low materialists

Savings or investments




Pay off debts




Buy things I want or need








Give/lend relatives/friends




Give to church/charity








Most of the answers I provided would fall between the values given by high materialists and low materialists. But what's so alarming is the amount I gave for buying things I want or need. I am indeed a big spender! How would you rate?

It's nice to know how you stand in a materialistic world, whether you have already been devoured in its ever hungry belly or still surviving. It's so sad to note that some people can be so greedy, that they will do anything to have money in their hands, and this is true not only for those living below the poverty line (you don't have to own much to be materialistic!), but ashamedly for the already filthy rich too. There's nothing wrong in possessing things or aspiring to be rich, but it has to be placed in a responsible moral perspective. Here's a song originally sung by The Youth, revived by Parokya ni Edgar:

O, ang tao kapag walang pera ay napapraning
Hindi alam ang gagawin
Tatawag sa Diyos
Samba dito, samba doon, oh, Diyos ko
Tulungan Mo po ako
Tulungan Mo po ako

Pero kapag nand’yan na ang maraming pera
Wala na’ng Diyos
Paano, nalunod na
Sa diyos-diyosang pera
Pera na’ng sinasamba
Pera na, pera na, ‘di ba

Oh, bakit ang pera may mukha
Bakit ang mukha walang pera
O, ang pera nga naman
O, ang pera nga naman
O, ang tao nga nama’y mukhang pera
Mukhang pera
Mukhang pera, ha ha
Mukhang pera, hoy wah

Mukhang pera ka ba?


Please do make your own versions of "Mukhang Pera" and send the pictures to or post in your replies. It'll be interesting to see your faces in your own money :-).

1 comment:

Julius said...

Thanks for the link. I scored a "50." This comes as a total surprise, of course. I thought I was an unapologetic hedonist. Apparently, I'm a balanced person after all. Who would've thought?