She had me at my worst. You had me at my best. At binalewala mo lang lahat iyon. —One More Chance
You’ve heard it before: overly dramatic, ridiculously sentimental, and heartbreakingly sad. These lines designed to tug at our emotions seemed to suddenly break out from the Filipino internet, taking hold of our imaginations and spawning a culture: hugot culture. But will this phenomenon last?
According to Lakangiting Garcia, author and professor at De la Salle University, hugot culture is simply a novelty. Like other novelties and trends, it will end when people get tired of it and another one takes its place.
On the face of it, he might be right. Using Google Trends, the search term hugot began picking steam in 2015. It peaked last year, 2016, and search interest has been generally going down since then.
However, cultural phenomena like hugot can’t be easily reduced to graphs, particularly when the origins are hazy. After all, hugot lines have been passed around even before a term was coined for them. These lines exploded in social media like other memes but they did not originate from the internet. They arose organically from Filipino culture.
You’ve done it before: sharing memorable lines from your favorite movies with your friends because they’re insightful, funny, or sad. They’ll be passed around – an oral meme. And some will take hold over more minds than others depending on culture. But while other cultures place a higher value on the funny lines or the deep ones, Filipinos seem to have gravitated to the sad ones, particularly those tinged with grim bitterness.
The reason for this preference can only be presumed. Paolo Apagalang, a director and maker of hugot image macros, argues that hugot culture is a coping mechanism. It pulls out deep seated bitterness or frustrations in order to laugh at it and thus reduce its power.
Perhaps that’s why a hugot line tends to be over-the-top. It’s easier to laugh at the extreme display of emotions. And why it was so easily placed into other contexts outside of love and turned into a joke.
It wasn’t about wallowing in despair; it was about conquering it.
If hugot culture serves as an outlet for the Filipino psyche to unburden itself, then it won’t – can’t – entirely disappear.
Hugot lines probably first spread around social networks as a response to circumstances beyond some people’s control. They found relief in sharing those old lines from movies. And like other memes spread online, it morphed and exploded. In fact, it’s probably fading as original content about it seems to have died down.
But when someone breaks your heart, when frustrations overwhelm you, or simply when Valentine’s returns, you’ll be sharing a hugot once again.
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