But what does it mean to be a Filipino? What values do I uphold? What am I known for? What do I contribute to society? Am I really proud to be a Filipino?
It’s weird but when I ask people these questions, I get answers such as “I am Filipino because I love lechon and bagoong”. Others would reply, “we are known for being domestic helpers in Hong Kong, labourers in Saudi and for our mail order brides across the globe.” Wow! Not so good so far. Then I have the occasional, “we are known for our great artists and musicians.” Yes! Finally, something positive! And of course, there’s a mixture of responses like “well, we have traffic, jeepney, the EDSA revolution, Pacquiao, ballot, Boracay, a corrupt government and bribery amongst officials.
Which now made me think, do we really associate food to anything we do in life? I mean, Chinese people love their suckling pigs and shrimp pastes, too. Don’t they? Hong Kong and India have traffic as well and “Balut” is common in Vietnamese restaurants. Are we really measured with the type of work we do, or how desperate our countrymen would like to leave our own country? Isn’t corruption part of any government? But what makes us so special in this field? Why does everyone say they love the Philippines but we have not seen proof to do this besides perhaps the EDSA revolution? Like any other countries, we have our moments in history. But lately, when did we ever have the mark?
Everyone seems to want to leave our country except perhaps for my dear Uncle (Jovito Salonga) and a few relatives. Everyone seems to want to leave behind the life they had. Everyone seems to be looking for a new hope, a fresh start. But why do we have to do this in a foreign land? Why can’t we start at home?
Personally, I didn’t want to leave the Philippines mainly because of my family and I had everything I needed there. As a family member had an offer here, insistent as he can see a better future in Australia, and I had an obligation to respect that decision – I moved here over 2 decades ago. Not that I am complaining. But why did he think we have a better chance here than back home?
Let me start with the people. Is it safe to say that people (in the Philippines) have respect for the law? A lot of people commit offences there, but due to bribery being rampant and (having) a “kumpare” in position or status is backing up friends, do you really think everything is fair? Who really observes the pedestrian lane? How can people charge for passing by a public street and be “territorial” (what is commonly called “harang”). The people in government are rampantly stealing openly in the public eye. So what hope do we have? So there we have it – we have no respect for the law and lawmakers.
That brings us to another question. Why do we have no respect for these people? What drives respect? It is definitely not gained by force. We had (the) Marcos regime as a proof of that. So would you agree that it is trust? People have lost faith in our system. The EDSA Revolution could have been a turning point until an unscrupulous actor (who became president) brought down the foundation again. We were so divided for so many years that it took another country to free us from the Spaniards. It took us so many years to demolish the dictatorial regime (of Marcos) and decades to finally get rid of the US bases. Aside from EDSA, when did unity really exist? Have we all given up? Have years of empty promises numbed us from our patriotic beings that we turned to nurturing our own personal goals? Have I established that there is no trust in our government or faith within our people?
So I can assume that respect is scarce in our community because of the lack of trust and faith on people in power. Respect in our modern days would be due to status and their talents or skills – like Pacquiao or Lea Salonga. Why respect these people? Well, in the first instance, some Pinoys support the saying “it’s who you know.” When it comes to other Filipinos making names overseas, it’s because it’s the only time they can flaunt a sense of pride that “he is one of us” and that we are not merely servants in foreign lands. It is a shame that we had to look for other people rather than our leaders to carry our flagship. Where is our sense of pride?
Searching for an identity is a big issue. For one to find motivation and confidence, we need to know who we are. That brings me back to my first question, who are we? Are we all lost as our leaders abuse our resources and we are left to fend for ourselves? Is this why we are a nation of fashion victims in a sense that we go for what is “in” or “uso”? Since we have no identity, we find satisfaction from other people’s approval or become a slave of the brands. Are we really that unsure of our own identity?
With all that is happening, people are trying to escape reality in search of protection or security. But does this justify self-interest? Have we really become selfish people oblivious of other’s needs and our own environment? In the darkness, a few turn to crime, prostitution and greed. We have heard that Pinoys are “inggitero” (jealous) and have this crab mentality. But the question is, why? What drives them to be jealous? Why do they covet what others have? Has jealousy become our core value because we want to lift ourselves from where we were? “Nakakasawa na!” (I am sick of it!) Do we crave for a better life or a better status? “Kasi yung nasa posisyon o may pera lang ang may karapatan.” (Because the ones who are in position or rich are the only ones with rights). Is this why a few people want to be on top? To excel in any way possible to satisfy their egos? Is this why, we have too many organizations because everyone wants to be a leader? Is this why womanizing is very common amongst Filipinos? Do we really feel that vulnerable as our leaders cannot protect us from injustice, poverty and threats?
So, what values are we teaching our children? Sure, we can all blame the government but how about starting from home? Yes, our kids need to know the harsh reality of life but respecting the law starts with discipline. If we don’t respect our lawmakers, don’t degrade them in front of kids – teach them what an ideal leader should look like. Maybe inspire them to seek hope rather than being so negative all the time. The disrespect comes from our parent’s very mouth and that’s what kids will always remember. How can we enforce trust if we do not give that to our neighbours and kids? Instead of whining about our day-to-day lives, why don’t we focus on living in God’s faith? What are we doing to make Philippines a better place? When will we learn to take ownership rather than quickly blame the government?
We tend to look down on people based on how they make a living. You sometimes hear your Mum say: “Do you want to grow up like your uncle who’s merely a janitor?” That is the time when you take away the sense of pride in someone’s work or skills. Why is it okay to be a janitor overseas and not in the Philippines? Shouldn’t it bring you pride that you earn clean money from hard work?
With our lack of confidence, sense of security and ego – let me just say, what are we teaching our kids? Is having an affair a norm in our society because he is a man? Does this really make one’s life any better? Are we seeking a lifestyle we cannot afford? What happened to honesty, integrity, pride and perseverance or being a good example to our children so they can carry that on for future generations? Have we tarnished our own values? Are we not guilty of our own fate?
Now let me get back to my questions. What does it mean to be a Filipino? What values do I uphold? What am I known for? What do I contribute to society? Am I really proud to be a Filipino?