Everyone has that one nosy neighbor (or a flock of neighbors) who loves to hang around outside and gossip about everything and everyone. Picture them: a group of middle-aged women in their Sunday dusters, huddled around on your street indiscreetly talking about the latest chismis in your neighborhood. They are now fondly called as Marites.
We love to hate them and we hate to love them, but one thing is clear: town gossip is an integral part of the community. And in 2020, during the early months of the global health crisis, they have become the newest internet sensation and have even been given a name: the Marites.
The origin story of Marites and its memes
The idea of a meddlesome Marites (also known as Maritess) has long existed even before she was christened with the name. The neighborhood’s bigmouthed chismosa is a universal character that most Filipinos are familiar with, either through real-life encounters or through their frequent depictions in the background of several teleseryes.
But in 2020, the name Marites started being associated with the chismosa character — first through the internet, and then the offline world started to catch on. Memes about the gossipmonger are shared by thousands and go viral. Whenever there’s a celebrity scandal floating online, Marites is frequently invoked in the comments section. Soon enough, the term Marites became a cultural shorthand to label any chismosa on the internet.
Like most internet sensations, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the Marites memes or when it was first used on the internet. However, we do know that it surged in popularity in 2020 during the first few months of the global health crisis. One of the most prominent Filipino content creators who helped spread the sensation is @justineluzares on TikTok.
In a Facebook post about then-Manila mayor Isko Moreno announcing that there will be no liquor ban during quarantine, one commenter named Marites was decidedly not impressed. She commented that there should be a liquor ban since alcohol is not an essential need, to which another commenter replied, “Manahimik ka, Marites!” And the rest is history.
Before going through the rest of the story, you might want to watch this hilarious Maritess video produced by Netflix.
The cultural capital
The Marites expression has since taken off and is now a part of the colorful lexicon of Filipino pop culture. Marites has become almost synonymous with the Filipino chismosa. Originally just a name or label given to somebody, Marites is now also being used as a verb meaning to gossip with one another, as in: “Lapit ka, meron akong ima-Marites sa’yo.”
The Marites iconography of a loose-fitting duster dress and a towel over a head of wet hair is instantly recognizable, and it has since been memed and parodied countless times over social media. Most notable are the TikTok videos by Justine Luzares, who adds another layer to the Aling Marites character by giving her a posh British accent.
Isn’t it crazy how just one name evokes such an image and stereotype in our heads? When somebody mentions that somebody is being a Marites, we know exactly what they’re talking about. Marites is such a clear stereotype that many have even posited the term as the Filipino version of Karen, a name that carries with it the notion of an entitled middle-aged white woman in the USA.
But while the term Karen is often used in a derogatory manner, Marites remains to be quite harmless and is used in humor and banter in a tongue-in-cheek way. There’s a slight reverence that is given to the term Marites, which perhaps reveals how we view the chismosas as an important foundation of the community.
The legacy of Marites
Most of us have a certain love-hate relationship with the Aling Marites in our lives. We detest how they make a habit out of talking about other people’s private business, and we worry about whether they’re talking about our own affairs.
However, we also depend on them to learn about information we wouldn’t have been able to get any other way. How else would we know about the latest neighborhood rumors without the sharp eyes and ears of the Marites? In situations where political institutions and official channels are slow, deceptive, or unreliable in sharing the news, the Marites may be a more dependable source of information because they belong to the community.
The Marites character gets a bad rap because gossiping may sometimes be malicious and instigate conflict among certain groups. But gossip, when it’s friendly and constructive, also serves the important function of imparting news and strengthening social bonds through stories and active engagement. And Marites is at the very helm of this mission to bring the people of the community together.
Here’s a funny ‘mockumentary’ for Marites we found on YouTube.
All of us have a Marites in our lives. And maybe we ourselves have been a Marites one way or another in the past, sharing the latest stories and scandals with our best friends. We love to make fun of her on and off the internet, but don’t forget how much we actually depend on the real-life Marites to get the latest scoops on the latest stories.