This pandemic we see a lot of stories of businesses closing and people losing their jobs. However, we also see plenty of new small businesses sprouting. Thanks to diskarteng Pinoy. The word diskarte doesn’t have an equivalent English word. The closest translation would be resourceful and ingenious. Madiskarte is used to describe someone who, in a disadvantage, can thrive, and survive, and get themselves out of the disadvantage.
I asked myself where the word came from? There is one article quoting a Professor of Anthropology from UP that suggests the word may have come from the Spanish word descartar meaning dealing of playing cards, which eventually evolved in the Philippines to mean “strategizing behavior”. This maybe because of what Filipinos do when dealt with bad cards or unfavorable sitution, they get out of it. With our history of being invaded and oppressed by other cultures, this explanation makes sense. Reading Japanese history and finding out how ingenious they are during the Japanese medieval times, I thought maybe it was their influence while they were here during World War 2 so I checked the word ingenious in Japanese. 独創的 Dokusō-teki is the Japanese word for ingenious or creative, so I thought that maybe, since the sound is somewhat similar when pronounced, diskarte may have come from the Japanese, that is unfounded though and pushing it a bit; a new word though for those like us who don’t know.
In my years of training ranks, I always hear the word diskarte when they solve problems. One bus driver fixed the broken wiper by tying them together to make them travel “safely” through the rain. When I have my car fixed, and the mechanic does not buy the parts from the Casa and do something about it, they make diskarte. I had my oven fixed, the technician used the butt of the screwdriver to hit the sensor to align it better, he made diskarte. Those stories represent the negative meaning of the word.
But here, I want to focus on the productive and positive meaning of diskarte without the elements of cheating or short cut, specifically finding ways to thrive and survive. We have so many success stories this pandemic because of diskarte. I saw an article about a coffee bean entrepreneur whose business of reselling beans was affected at the start of quarantine, but eventually turned an old sari-sari store into a minimalist Japanese-inspired café. We also have seen on the internet how some flight attendants sold food on the streets to make a living and how those who lost their salaried jobs started a small home based business. In the corporate world, there are less stories I know since the set up does not give much elbow room for diskarte or Dokusō-teki. but I heard of a story where a manager lost a presentation file due to a computer virus. Fortunately, she knows the presentation by heart and turned the presentation into a game. She asked other managers to guess the percentage of sales on her presentation, just like how it is done in Price is Right and the closest gets a coffee. A failure turned to victory because of diskarteng Pinoy.
We do not know where diskarte came from, but the spirit of diskarte is evident in the mindset and culture of Filipinos. Borrowing what Wam Mendido wrote in his article Diskarte 101 for Rappler back in 2014, “Descartes. I think therefore I am, gives way to, I diskarte, therefore I can.”