Friday, October 13, 2006

We're worth more than what we let on

About 20 years ago, the American James Fallows visited the Philippines and got disturbed with what he found. According to Fallows, the Philippines is “a society that had degenerated into a war of every man against every man.” The Filipino’s reaction back then, upon reading Fallows, was to figuratively burn him at the stake, but recent critical reviews have started to reconsider the knee-jerk reactions to Fallows’ report.

Fallows coined the term “damaged culture” – pertaining to the Filipinos’ attitude towards his fellowmen. He has observed that Filipinos do exceptionally well anywhere in the world – except in his own country. The Filipino is undoubtedly just as talented and as gifted as any American, Japanese, Korean or any other nationality, but somehow, we end up with a backwards country. As a European executive remarked, “You’re such a wonderful people. How did your country end up in such a mess?”

Fallows tries to answer the question with his observation:

"Individual Filipinos are at least as brave, kind and noble-spirited as individual Japanese, but their culture draws the boundaries of decent treatment much more narrowly. Because these boundaries are limited to the family or tribe, they exclude at any given moment 99 percent of the other people in the country. Because of this fragmentation, this lack of useful nationalism, people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country I have seen . . . the tradition of political corruption and cronyism, the extremes of wealth and poverty, the tribal fragmentation, the local élite's willingness to make a separate profitable peace with colonial powers - all reflect a feeble sense of national interest. Practically everything that is public in the Philippines seems neglected or abused."

We see this everywhere. Corrupt officials (not just politicians) are ready to take advantage of anyone to advance himself, if given the opportunity. Our people is engaged in voluntary diaspora. We're willing to screw anyone if it forwards our family's estate -- as if 'taking care' of our family excuses our atrocious acts. Our illustrados are willing to sell us to anyone willing to pay. It seems that we no longer believe in ourselves as a nation.

The author and publisher Franciso Sionil Jose once wrote:

"We are poor because we have lost our ethical moorings. We condone cronyism and corruption and we do not ostracize or punish the crooks in our midst. Both cronyism and corruption are wasteful but we allow their practice because our loyalty is to family or friend, not to the larger good . . . I am not looking for a foreign power for us to challenge. But we have a real and insidious enemy that we must vanquish, and this enemy is worse that the intransigence of any foreign power. We are our own enemy. And we must have the courage, the will, to change ourselves."

We are our own enemy. Our lack of belief in ourselves and our willingness to take advantage of any opportunity – even if it harms the greater society – has crippled our systems and ingrained corruption in our roots.

Ala Paredes thinks that our country is jam-packed with culture -- and I agree. Makulay ang buhay dito sa Pinas. But ours has a disease, a cancer eating our nation from the inside.

John calls me a racist
because I seem inclined to antagonize Americans. I think this attitude was triggered by our people's long history of preference for the caucasians over our own countrymen. One time, I overheard an acquaintance, an old lady, speaking to her friend about her niece. Her niece had a boyfriend, but her family was pushing her to choose this foreigner whom the girl met only a week before. I couldn't stop myself, I had to ask, "You're pushing your niece to go for a guy you don't even know?" Her answer was emphatic - "Oo naman no! foreigner yun eh!" ("Of course! that's a foreigner!"). The sad part is, her friend readily agreed with her, and as I have heard this a thousand times before, I suspect most Filipinos would. We pimp ourselves without hesitation and think that's practicality.

I agree to John's label that I'm a racist -- but not because I'm against Americans or any other nationality foreign to us. What I abhor is how our people embrace these colonists, and how willing we are to hate our own. I have no issue with foreigners, or even with Filipinos who left our country for their own growth or to earn a living or whatever. My quarrel is with those who have readily given up on the Philippines (whether or not they stay here) and are so willing to screw everyone else for a few pennies. What I do believe in is that if we are going to stand for something or someone, we might as well stand for ourselves because sure as hell, no one else would do that for us.

If our country has any hope of recovering from this muck we are in, we must believe that we are worth fighting for. We must stand for the should-be-obvious fact that Filipinos -- our own countrymen -- deserve the same respect we so readily give to foreigners. If we have any hope that our nation could get better, we must first heal -- first believe that we are worth saving.

Only then, perhaps, can we start having this 'strong republic' the almighty in Malacañang is raving about.

* photo from fotosearch


apester said...

if you want to get all waxy hot about this, study our history and study it well. study how we never got a chance to rise because WE WERE MADE TO FIGHT WITH EACH OTHER. study how the illustrado class was always complicit in everything to keep us poor.

remember: corruption is not a problem - it is a symptom. corruption will NOT stop a country from progressing. just look at china and korea.

always take our history in the context of the history of the world.

Kat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kat said...

moks this post made me think really hard. sa everyday simple dealings na lang natin like pagsakay sa jeep or pagpila sa mrt, lagi tayo nag uunahan, lagi may nakikipagkumpetensya, nakaka-frustrate! tayo tayo mismo naglalaban laban.

paano pa kaya sa mas malaki at mas importanteng mga bagay di ba?

but ah, it's true that filipinos are great people (as are other people from other countries). we just have to confront this damaged culture... this mentality that we are "kawawa", or minsan naman may iba nasosobrahan sa yabang...

ang sarap isipin ng resulta if only everyone will work together.

apester said...

by the way moks, i mean my comment by way of encouragement ha? hehe. i think it's commendable you do think of these things - not many people do - so sayang naman if you don't learn all you can about it para mas effective ka :)

koAla Paredes said...

Funny thing is, being in Australia has made me wonder the same thing, why we don't love each other as countrymen when we are in our own country. In fact, I think we despise each other.

kurokuroko said...

^ isang maaaring rason diyan ay ang pagiging archipelago ng ating bansa. meron tayong perspektibong kanya-kanya. ilonggo, ilocano, kapampangan, cebuano, kanya-kanya, hindi iisa ang pag-iisip. tapos patutsadahan pa sa isa't isa.

may nabasa ako dati na ang mga chinese at koreans, kapag napunta sa isang foreign country, talagang stick together. kaya raw may chinatown at koreantown. pero ang mga pinoy, imbes na magsama-sama, ayun, nagsisiraan, naghihilahan pababa.

napansin ko sa mga out of the country trips ko, may ilocano association, may ilonggo association, kung meron mang filipino association, nababahiran naman ng pulitika at siraan.

nakakalungkot ito actually pero parte ito ng psychological upbringing natin bilang bansa. lumaki tayo ng hiwa-hiwalay at may kanya-kanyang kultura. at
tama rin si apester, we were made to fight with each other.

ako dati, sobrang proud pa ako lagi sabihin na pinoy ako. pero ngayon, nabawasan na siya. can't help it. kahit ako, gusto ko na umalis sa bansa pero alam ko namang masakit iwanan ang bayang iyong kinalakhan.

wandering storyteller said...

hehe. thanks for the tip. and I'm glad to receive echoes of the teacher that you are -- always encouraging the pupil to improve Ü

Ay totoo. kung pwede lang no?

Koala Paredes,
Hwag naman sana. I believe we can still shrug off these conditionings of the past and learn to see ourselves as one nation.

Tol, maybe you could work on that in your show? Ü

kurokuroko said...

nakow, kuya. masyadong mataas iyan at hindi masa. hindi siya pang-show namin. pwede siguro 100%, o kaya reporter's notebook. pero sige, will consider. kaya lang, masyadong high topic, lalo pa kung umeere ka ng alas dose ng gabi,nakupo, eh matutulog ang mga tao. tapos expected ka to rate. good luck talaga.