Nov 26, 2010

Are Filipinos considered Asians or Pacific Islanders?

Dear Filipino,

I'm a Fil-Am based in Hawai'i, and I know of Filipino folks who consider themselves "Asians" and I also know others who consider themselves "Pacific Islanders."  What do you think -- what are we really?

Hopeful Hawai'ian

Dear Hopeful,

Check out this video below: Maybe Filipinos are actually Latinos? ;-)




And so that you don't feel bad about your question, check out this next amateur video made by young Filipino-Americans, which shows just how much you're not alone in this confusion when it comes to our identity:



I don't know about you, but I kinda liked the theory of that guy in the video about the Filipino people -- or Pilipino because there is no "f" in Tagalog -- being the "chosen" (pili in Tagalog) and "fine" (pino in Tagalog) people. :-)   Except, of course, that assertion is pure bunk. :-(   And as I said in an earlier post, Filipino is a derivative of "Las Islas Filipinas," the name the Spaniards christened the Southeast Asian archipelago they colonized in honor of King Philip II of Spain.

But back to the question: Are we "Asians" or "Pacific Islanders"?

While this question pertains to Filipinos, it is really an American issue because Filipinos in the Philippines are not vexed by this question at all.  Ordinary Americans are honestly confused as to how to classify us (many typically think of Asians as only those from North Asia: China, Japan and Korea), while we, US-based Filipinos, are regularly faced with this "identity confusion" ourselves, at the most basic, when filling out forms which take this data into account. Which box to check? 

More importantly, however, we get confused, even insulted sometimes, when others, favorably or unfavorably, view and lump us with other ethnic groups because of how we look and how they view our culture, or exclude us from the group we think we rightfully belong.  Most importantly, this question bedevils us when we want to reach out to be part of a bigger community with whom we can have a sense of affinity, kinship and pride.  We are conflicted because we seem to be both and neither at the same time.

You have to understand though that the correct classification boils down to the definition of terms.  Are we of the folks who hailed from the same geographic region or of the folks who, generally, ethnically look like or act like us? 

In other words, does "Asian" or "Pacific Islander" refer to geographical provenance?  If it does, we're actually both: because the Philippines is in Asia and it is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean.  But under this definition, the Japanese would also be both, even if they don't seem to be as contorted as we are by the labels.

Now, if the term "Asian" or "Pacific Islander" refers to ethnicity, then I think both terms are misnomers.  Actually, even if I concede that "Pacific Islander" may be a little more specific than "Asian" and conceivably acceptable as an ethnic classification, there is really no such thing as a single "Asian" ethnicity for the simple reason that the continent of Asia is so big and so diverse.  By this definition, any school kid with the most elementary knowledge of geography would know the term "Asian" would encompass many ethnicities, including, among others, the yellow-skinned North Asians, the dark-skinned South Asians, the brown-skinned Southeast Asians, as well as the Persians, the Arabs and the Turks (who, by the way, also consider themselves Europeans because their country straddles the continents of Asia and Europe).  In fact, it can be argued that "Pacific Islander" is just another subset also of the Asian umbrella of ethnicities.

What exacerbates the issue really for us is that we have never been in the position to define these terms for ourselves.  Thus, even if we do have historical and genetic kinship with the "Pacific Islanders," the US Census defined the term as referring to "people having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Tonga, Samoa or other Pacific Islands" and otherwise those "of Polynesian, Micronesian and Melanesian cultural backgrounds."  And said government agency purposefully did not include the "Philippine Islands" as among those "other Pacific Islands."

The term "Asia," on the other hand, is another Western construct -- i.e., "a concept exclusively of Western civilization."  In fact, according to Wikipedia, "the peoples of ancient Asia (Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Persians, Arabs etc.) never conceived the idea of Asia, simply because they did not see themselves collectively," and the term was "first attributed to Herodotus (about 440 BC) in reference to Anatolia or -- in describing the Persian Wars -- to the Persian Empire, in contrast to Greece [Europe] and Egypt [Africa]."

Coming from a heterogeous and polyglot society which has a colorful history of mass migrations (Negritos and Malays) and colonial occupations (by Spain, US and then Japan), the earlier waves of Filipinos who migrated to America became more contorted by racial identity issues because of ignorant and discriminatory American laws in the not-too-distant past.  For instance, in California, a state anti-miscegenation law prohibiting interracial marriage between whites and "Negroes, mulattoes, or Mongolians" had been routinely applied to Filipinos because they were deemed members of the "Mongolian race."  It took a controversial case, Roldan v. Los Angeles County (1933), for Filipinos to successfully argue that Filipinos are actually descended from the "Malay" race (which technically is, of course, not entirely accurate).  However, the victory celebration was short-lived because the ever-reliable California legislature then, unhappy with the judicial decision, quickly responded by adding "Malay" to the restricted races because Filipinos then were viewed as "scarcely more than savages" whose "social problems were based almost entirely on their sexual passion."

This reminds me:  In keeping with the Thanksgiving weekend, I want to say I am just very thankful as a Filipino-American (emphasis on American) that our modern American society has successfully and quite impressively moved on from the ignorant and dark days of the Roldan era.  You want proof?  Look no further than the black (?) man in the White House -- your kababayan, no less! -- who, like many Filipinos, had also spent childhood years in Southeast Asia and who considers himself a "mutt," which most Filipinos are.

Also, I am very thankful that as Filipino-Americans (emphasis this time on Filipino), the US now, increasingly, has better literature and forms with regards to race-related classifications.  By this, I mean, of course, that we now have a checkbox designed just for us:

"Filipino."

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Nov 24, 2010

Do Filipinos have their own script and do they still use it?

Dear Filipino,

I once passed by a "Filipino fiesta" near the Moscone Center/Yerba Buena Gardens [San Francisco, CA] and so I checked out some of the booths. I saw these pretty cool shirts being sold with all sorts of weird-looking "characters" -- I mean letters, not people :-) -- which I figured must be from your native alphabet.  Am I right?  If so, what do you call it and does anybody in the Philippines actually still use it?

Thanks in advance for your reply, bud!

Surfer Dude

Yo Surfer Dude!

"Surfer" as in "Internet surfer" or "surfer" as in "California surfer"?  If you're the latter, here's a link for you: The Top 10 Surf Sites in the Philippines as compiled by BISEAN.  Just thought you'd appreciate knowing there's quite a few surfing spots where I was originally from in case you find yourself feeling adventurous one of these days.
Baybayin (from The Bathala Project)

Now, on to your questions. 

You probably saw shirts with these characters found on the image on the left in that fiesta.  It is a writing system called Baybayin and it was widely used in the islands now called the Philippines even up until the 19th century.  More importantly, however, it was THE system of writing well before the Spaniards came and pretty much imposed the Latin alphabet (also called the Roman alphabet) on the natives they subjugated.  As such, some refer to the writing system as a "pre-Filipino" because the term from where "Filipino" was derived, "Filipinas," was itself coined by the Spaniards in honor of their king, King Philip II. (Noteworthy for Filipino Catholics: King Philip II was the son of Charles V, who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII.) 

Mistakenly, others also refer to it as "Alibata," but this term is really a silly modern coinage by a member of the old National Language Institute, Paul R. Verzosa.  Why?  Because the term Alibata is a mash-up of alif, ba and ta, which are the first letters of the Arabic alphabet.  Now, Alibata would probably be fine for people who are fine with formally calling the Latin alphabet as "ABC"; however, the problem in this case is, Baybayin is NOT even based on Arabic!

In fact, Baybayin is a member of the Brahmic or Indic family of scripts, which is not only alphabetic but actually and, more importantly, syllabary in nature: i.e., the letters are actually symbols which represent syllables.

According to Paul Morrow, a respected researcher in the field:

The word baybayin is a Tagalog term that refers to all the letters used in writing a language, that is to say, an “alphabet” – although, to be more precise, the baybayin is more like a syllabary. It is from the root bayb√°y meaning, “spell.” This name for the old Filipino script appeared in one of the earliest Philippine language dictionaries ever published, the Vocabulario de Lengua Tagala of 1613. Early Spanish accounts usually called the baybayin “Tagalog letters” or “Tagalog writing.”...[T]he Visayans called it “Moro writing” because it was imported from Manila, which was one of the ports where many products from Muslim traders entered what are now known as the Philippine islands. The Bikolanos called the script basahan and the letters, guhit.
Now, here's the interesting part (for me at least):  Although I earlier mentioned that Baybayin was actually used by the natives up until the 19th century, implying thereby that it died, the alphabet is actually "being resurrected thanks to young soul searching Filipinos," according to Christian Cabuay of Baybayin.com.  This is especially true among the Filipino-Americans raised in the US, who seem to be yearning for meaningful cultural ties to their ancient forebears.  Hence, I think you will increasingly see not only Baybayin-inspired shirts in Filipino fiestas but also real "Filipino characters" with tattoos of the weird characters you mentioned, like this lady for instance:

Baybayin Tattoo (from pinoytattoos.com)
Now, The Filipino is not really too keen on tattoos, but he kinda likes this picture. ;-)

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Nov 19, 2010

The Mexican asks: How much Spanish remains in Filipino languages?

Dear Filipino,

How much Spanish remains in Tagalog or any of the other Filipino languages?  Whenever I'm enjoying my pansit bihon with lechon and the turo-turo joint is broadcasting some Pinoy show on the television, I can't concentrate because the sprinkling of Spanish makes me feel like I should know what everyone is saying!

The Mexican

The Mexican

Dear Mexican Dear Idol,

First of all, thank you very much for your email and question!  The Filipino is honored -- no, make it extremely honored and grateful! -- that you've written to encourage him to keep up this blog, which was inspired in the first place by your "Ask a Mexican!" column!

[NOTE: This and the next few paragraphs, which are enclosed by the brackets, are not for you, Idol, but for the uninitiated.

A Filipino turo-turo joint, or a carinderia, is a local eatery which serves inexpensive home-cooked meals and is typically characterized by a very informal ambience: i.e., no reservations required, no uniformed waiters at your beck and call, no fancy fixtures, et cetera.  The root word, turo, is a Tagalog word which means "to point," so patrons of a turo-turo joint usually just point from an array of heated but earlier-prepared viands to order their desired meals (although generally they are also able to order a la carte meals at higher price points). 

Pancit bihon is a popular Filipino noodle dish and lechon is a pork dish.  See the below photos for reference:
Pancit Bihon (from wokwithray.com)

Lechon Kawali (from wokwithray.com)
Just looking at the pictures make me salivate, but enough with this aside and on to The Mexican's my idol's question. ;-) ]

The Pinoy television show you were watching was probably in Tagalog, which is the language of the people from the provinces in and around Metro Manila.  It was made the national language in 1937 and renamed Pilipino in 1939. 

There are several good reasons why, whenever you're eating at the turo-turo joint, you feel you should be able to fully understand (but maybe don't) what the Filipinos on TV are talking about.  They are as follows:
  • There are an estimated 4,000 Spanish words in Tagalog, or about 20-30% of Tagalog words while Visayan and other Philippine languages borrowed about 6,000 Spanish words.  But then dig this: Chavacano, which is spoken in Zamboanga, is actually the only Spanish-based creole language in Asia. (So I'm not entirely sure here, but I'm guessing you can probably survive in Zamboanga speaking only Spanish!)
  • With slight changes in spelling and pronunciation, Pilipino incorporated the Spanish terms for counting (uno, dos, tres...), telling time (a la una y media?), the calendar (Enero, Pebrero, Marso...), days of the week (Lunes, Martes, Miyerkoles...), among others.  
  • Spanish has developed "false friends" in Tagalog and in the other Philippine languages.  These are the related words which started out from the same starting point but -- probably because of local usage/application, loss of nuance, or outright misuse -- have developed different meanings with the passage of time (e.g., kontrabida, which is from contra vida, meaning "against life," is now Tagalog for villain).
  • Of course, there are also a lot of "false cognates" -- similar words in Spanish and Tagalog that appear to have a common origin but actually do not (e.g., ama is Tagalog for father but Spanish for housewife).  (I think another good example is the word recently used by Brandon Rios to describe Pacquiao: puto, which is a popular steamed rice cake in the Philippines, but is not exactly a term of endearment in Spanish.)
  • Then, there are the Tagalog words which the Spaniards incorporated into their own language, too (e.g., dalaga, palay, bolo, etc.)
  • And here's the most interesting as far as you and I are concerned: Because the Philippines was directly under the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which was created to administer Spain's far-flung colonies including those in the Spanish East Indies and which was headquartered in Mexico from 1565 to 1821 (until Mexican independence), there was an active Manila-Acapulco galleon trade which allowed many native Mexican words, such as those from the Nahuatl, to creep into Philippine languages (e.g., sayote from chayotl, kamote from camotl, etc.).
Despite the departure of the Spaniards in 1898 from the Philippine archipelago, Spanish remained one of the official languages in the Philippines until 1973.  And in fact, it was still a required subject in colleges across the country until 1987.  Unfortunately, however, except for a few thousand words which became part of the daily Philippine lexicon, The Filipino did not really learn it enough to be able to really converse in the language.

Thanks again for your question, Idol!  Mabuhay ka! ;-)

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com. 

Who are those Filipino backup singers for Justin Bieber?

Dear Filipino,

I saw Justin Bieber on Saturday Night Live one time and he performed with a young group of Filipino guys. Who are they?

Thanks,
Kurious

Dear Kurious,

They're Micah Tolentino, Chris Abad, Delfin Lazaro and Dominic Manuel -- members of the San Francisco Bay Area R&B group called Legaci. The New York Times featured the group in an article entitled "Unexpected Harmony," calling them "the most visible yet invisible pop figures in the world."

Actually, they were already YouTube "stars" in their own right when Scooter Braun, the manager of Justin Bieber, saw their rendition of "Baby," which they performed together with Vietnamese-American singer Cathy Nguyen and the rapper Traphik. Here's the video:



Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Nov 18, 2010

The Frenchman asks: Why do young Filipinas marry old French men?

Hi Filipino,
 
It seems that the only encounter one will have with Filipinos in France will be women that married much older Frenchmen. I remember hearing a lot of about it 15-20 years ago, there were agencies that would set up Frenchmen with Filipino women, and usually those men would do that because they couldn't really find a woman in France (either because they lived in remote rural areas, or worse, because they were jackasses and no women wanted to be with them) and they'd use those agencies. Those men had no interest in the Philippines as a country or a culture, they just knew they could easily find a wife there.

I've never personally met such a couple, and I'm definitely not saying that it is the case for every Frenchman/Filipino woman couple, but every time I run into such a couple they leave me that strange and unhealthy impression that they don't love each other. It feels that for the man, the woman is his own personal prostitute/maid/you-name-it and for the woman it seems like a way to fulfill her unrealistic dream to live in France (and once she realizes that France is not that fairy tale country she dreamed about, once past the disillusion, she stays anyway because it's either that or back to poverty).

On the one hand, I understand that some people in poor countries will go to certain extremes to escape that poverty (and I know all too well what African people have to go through to try to get a better life in Europe), but on the other hand, I can't really understand the logic of those women, and especially the fact that it became a more than anecdotic phenomenon a little while ago. I'm not sure about the current situation with this issue though, but I know that among the infamous "I met a French man online does he love me?" questions I get for my blog, a big share of those are from Filipino women.

Could you expand from the Philippines side of the story?

Thanks,
Frenchman

Dear Frenchman,

When I started this blog, I was hoping, naively, that I could shed more light on the positive aspects of the Philippines and its people.  I was not really expecting to answer questions relating to "affairs of the heart," as I felt, thought and believed I was not only ill-equipped to answer them but also because the general subject matter is often too complicated, too intense, and -- especially in the situation you described -- too fraught with perils: i.e., the perils of over-simplification, broad strokes, prejudiced observations, unfair generalizations, condescension, racism, classism, defensiveness, and even hate.  In fact, for a second or two after reading your question, I even had this overwhelming desire to curse the heavens, the corrupt Philippine officials who've long been causing misery to millions, and yes, those Frenchmen you described with less-than-sincere intentions, on behalf of these Filipino women.

But since you asked, I figured I'd tackle this thing head-on, hoping that in the process I can somehow contribute to your and others' understanding (hopefully better and more humane) of these relationships.  Who knows? Maybe somewhere along the way, writing this answer may end up being cathartic too for me, enough at least to lessen the urge to lash out.  I hope that if I end up causing offense to anyone who gets to read this, he/she will forgive me for my attempt, albeit lame, to articulate something positive about something so complicated and, for most, is better off not talked about.

First, let's look at the ideal situation. I think a "typical" middle-class Filipina is like any "typical" middle-class Western woman:  she wants to marry a man who she really loves, who's in the same age group, decent-looking, fun, educated, has good character, in good financial standing, makes her feel good, and shares her cultural background.  I think, for a Filipina, that last characteristic typically means she would rather marry a Filipino instead of a foreigner -- assuming, of course, that everything else is equal. No data on this is available, of course, but I think, even in the United States where Filipinos have much higher rates of inter-marriage, a very high percentage of beautiful, well-traveled, highly courted Filipinas still end up marrying Filipinos.  In other words, like other races, generally, the Filipino people stick to their kind.

But we're not exactly talking of ideal situations when we're talking of young Filipinas marrying old, French men from "remote rural areas" who are "jackasses" and who these Filipinas hardly know and whose intentions and feelings these women are quite unsure of (enough at least to write you), are we?

In fact, if I have to hazard a guess (again, the following description is, by necessity, a simplication of a data set; is in no way comprehensive; and is subject to countless exceptions), the main characteristics of the Filipinas you described in your question are: (1) they are generally from very poor families; (2) they are generally not really highly educated; and (3) rightly or wrongly, they are generally considered not attractive or desirable enough by wealthier, more educated Filipino men who, again, rightly or wrongly, want to be understandably perceived as having made a "great catch" in their chosen partners by society. 

Now, add to the above the fact that (1) there are more women than men in the Philippines (numbering more than 50 million out of a population of roughly 100 million); (2) many of these poor women are not exactly looking to get even poorer by marrying unemployed Filipino men in worse financial straits than they are; and (3) these women are so family-centered, so conscientious and overly eager to do almost anything to improve the lot of their immediate relatives -- and you have a perfect recipe for disaster and, um, exploitation, right? 

Or is it?  And secondarily, even if it's so, who's exploiting who?  The objective answer is: It depends. That's why this line of questioning is really like a Pandora's box, isn't it?

You are right about one thing though: the poverty issue is a leitmotif in these types of relationships between French men and Filipina women.  All over the world, that is the same issue which explains why Ukrainian "Natashas" are feeling compelled to leave their country only to land in less-than-ideal situations abroad; why the "Romas" are being thrown out of France; why Mexicans routinely risk their lives to cross the US borders; et cetera.  But when you think about it, even in the history of Europe, it's the same consideration which drove European kingdoms to marry off even their princes and princesses to undesirable partners.  It's also the same consideration why young and gorgeous European women fall in the arms of Berlusconi, or maybe even Sarkozy.  I guess you can say the story of Anna Nicole Smith, while extreme, is really not that unique.

I don't know the numbers behind these inter-marriages.  I don't even know if the numbers are big enough to warrant a broad-stroke explanation.  But assuming the premise of your question is indeed supportable by hard data, and following a cursory research I made online and the personal conclusions I derived therefrom, one can actually make the following arguments:

(A)  Excepting those who've been illegally forced into these types of relationships, these poor, uneducated Filipinas are actually very smart because they've shown they can make rational economic decisions.  They know they have their youth, desirability, and wifely services to offer, so they use them as perfectly understandable "bargaining chips."  They marry white, old French men because "white" means the guy is probably rich; "French" means the guy is probably bearably nice enough (men from other cultures are reputed to be much worse); and "old" means the guy is probably close to dying.  In other words, for the Filipina in these types of relationships, the marriage is an "investment" in the future for herself and her relatives in the Philippines -- or you can say, at the very least, a form of "delayed gratification," i.e., a way of paying short-term pain in return for long-term gain.  Whether the "reward" from the "investment" pans out or not, the "risk" of continuing to live in abject, grinding and subhuman poverty back in the Philippines is at least minimized.  While, as a matter of survival and psychological fortification, many of them probably still hold out the hope that they will still "live happily ever after," I don't believe most of these Filipinas are really thinking of French fairy tales when they marry their French beaus.  (The takaway here: Don't feel too bad for these Filipino women!)

(B)  Many of these French men, like you mentioned, are really quite undesirable to French women too, deservedly or undeservedly.  But if they have something to offer in a matrimonial bargaining table, why should they not be allowed to seek other women elsewhere?  I don't think these men are so clueless as to think the women are after their French looks.  But then again, maybe they're actually the ones influenced by romantic French fairy tales, not the women?  (The takeaway here: Don't be too harsh on these French men!)

(C)  Believe it or not, many of these relationships actually work, producing healthy and beautiful offspring who end up enriching our increasingly globalizing world.  Why?  Because French men (or generally Western men) are used to aggressive French (Western) women, while Filipinas are generally, because of their culture, more subservient, more deferential to their male counterparts.  Thus, I think many of these Western men are actually surprised and feel fortunate (they should!) that they married women who, being devout and religious Catholics, are devoted to making the relationship work, are quite caring, and, often, were still probably virgins when they first came in contact with their matrimonial beds (Philippine society, being under the heavy influence of the conservative Catholic Church, generally still frowns upon premarital sex, especially in the provinces).  So, quite understandably, these men are pleasantly surprised and extremely grateful to high heavens for landing what ended up as better marital lives than those of other people they know. For their part, the Filipinas, who had earlier probably braced themselves for ugly marriages, end up getting grateful partners, enjoying a higher quality of life, and being able to help their relatives back home, which redound to their sense of accomplishment and joy.  (The takeaway here: Maybe we should be happy for these couples!)

With (A), (B) and (C) to make as arguments, exploitation becomes a non-issue, right?  But then, ever the romantic, you ask (and cue the music), "what about love?" 

Well, to be realistic about the whole thing, most of these types of inter-racial relations you mentioned are actually, or at least akin to, "arranged marriages," not "love marriages."  But I think any successful Indian who is happily married via an "arranged marriage" will tell you that a "love marriage" is overrated.  For one, "love marriages" have much higher divorce rates than "arranged marriages" due to various reasons, the simplest being that couples who bind themselves via the latter setup come into the arrangement with eyes and minds wide open and with the natural commitment to make things as beneficial to the parties as possible.  In other words, an "arranged marriage" addresses "personal needs" of the couple while a "love marriage" often is too consumed with "personal desires."  Inevitably, where needs are met, love creeps into an "arranged marriage," leading to a stronger and happier relationship; on the other hand, where desires dissipate and needs remain unmet, love escapes from a "love marriage" and with it follows the ruination of a shaky relationship.

To end, I just want to wish you happiness, Mr. Frenchman, and blissful days spent with the woman you love and who loves you just as much, regardless if she's French, German or -- dare I say it -- even a Filipina.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Nov 17, 2010

Pacquiao: Is he the best boxer of all time?

Dear Filipino,

Do you think Manny Pacquiao is the best boxer that ever lived?

Boxing Fan


Dear Boxing Fan,

I think he is, but admittedly, there are several issues with my answer.

One: I'm biased, and I'm not even a boxing historian.

Two: It's difficult to compare boxers (a) from different weight classes, (b) from different eras, and (c) who faced different opponents.

Three: The standards are fuzzy. What should we look at? Stats? Ability to knock out opponents? Speed? Power? Flair inside the ring? Fighting style? Ability to generate excitement? Ability to handle high pressure? Length of reign at the top? Conduct outside the ring? (What about mercifulness and compassion, as Pacquiao has shown when he pulled his punches in the last rounds against a totally beaten Margarito?)

There are two clips which can help me make my case for Pacquiao. Watch them and decide for yourself.

First: Here, again, is the CBS 60 Minutes feature on Pacquiao. But note that this was shown about a week before his latest fight for which he won his 8th title in 8 weight divisions (against Margarito who had a 4.5-inch height advantage and almost 17 pounds weight advantage).



Second: Here's a YouTube clip I found with some highlights of his past fights.



Got a question for The Filipino? Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Nov 13, 2010

Why does the Philippines suck?

Dear Filipino,

I am a second-generation Filipino American born and raised in the US, and while I’m proud of what the Filipinos in the US have accomplished as a group in America (I read somewhere that we’re one of the most affluent minority groups according to the US Census), I keep wondering: Why does the Philippines suck? I mean, I’ve visited Manila and the provinces a couple of times in my life, and while the country does have some beautiful vistas, for an outsider looking in, it’s really, overall, a f--king sh-thole. Seriously, dude! And yet, why do those rich-looking Filipinos seem so f--king smug and arrogant and apathetic about the whole thing? And as a concerned Filipino, what can I really do?

Thanks,

Ilonglocano (Ilonggo- Ilocano)


Dear Ilonglocano,

Wow. I felt like you just hit me in the solar plexus. So let me catch my breath first…

There. Now, I should be fine…

Frankly, your questions are so loaded and will probably require many experts to even come close to answering with any sense of justice. I will give you my two cents, though, based on what I’ve learned (in the bookish and the real worlds) and my own limited understanding of things. Of course, my answer will in no way be exhaustive because I just don’t think anyone is capable of doing that.

But first, I want to thank you for being “a concerned Filipino.” Despite the language you used, I can sense the anguish in it, the pain, even the anger, because if you’re a typical Filipino American who grew up trying to find your own place in the world, you probably felt a bit lost and insecure and groping for your own identity and pride in belonging to a group – any group – that has reasons to be proud in a massive and rich Western country with no shortage of overly proud, even noxiously boastful, people.

Now, let me try to tackle your two main questions:

(1) Why does the Philippines suck?

I have many arguments to claim that the very premise of your question is wrong because, in many respects, the Philippines is, in fact, a really cool place! The people are generally nice and a lot of foreigners have fallen in love with the country for good reasons. You won’t appreciate their arguments, of course, unless, after stuffing yourself with great seafood, you’ve lazed around in a gorgeous beach with a buko juice within reach while the sun is setting.

Having said that, I will admit that I’m with you on this IF by “suck,” you’re referring to the pervasive, all-enveloping sense of poverty, filth, and disorder that characterize most of Metro Manila and, to a much lesser extent, even the provinces – characteristics which are all too visible to anyone from the developed countries. I also presume you’ve seen the richer and nicer enclaves in Makati, Bonifacio Global City, Alabang, etc., but felt they were too few, too overwhelmed, and too negligible compared to the more common ramshackle housing of the middle class, or worse, the tin-and-cardboard housing in the slums of the lower classes. If you’re like some of my friends, the impression you had was probably like: My God, how can so many people in the Philippines live like that? How did this level of abject poverty come to pass? And how do those rich folks living in mansions in those few enclaves stomach that kind of inequality anyway?

The short answer is: You have the “Filipino culture,” as shaped by geography and history, to blame.

Notice that I put Filipino culture in quotation marks. I did so for two reasons: (1) because “Filipino” is actually a fairly new concept, probably not even more than 150 years old; and (2) because that “culture” performs noticeably more differently in another context, as you yourself have noticed when you pointed out that Filipino-Americans comprise one of the most affluent minority groups in the U.S. and are collectively estimated as having a higher “GDP” than the Philippines itself.

But let’s tackle the impact of geography first on the Filipino culture because it’s the less thorny one.

The country is an archipelago of over 7,000 islands (to be more precise, 7,107 during high tide and 7,108 during low tide, says one beauty contestant), with the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the south. With one of the longest coastlines in the world, the islands are (or used to be) mostly covered in tropical rainforests (hence, lots of trees and one of the most diverse collections of flora and fauna). And because these islands were formed over time by active seismic and volcanic activity, minerals are abundant – e.g., gold, copper, and nickel, to name a few.

With fertile lands and abundant water and water-based resources, it’s easy to imagine that the pre-Hispanic Filipinos did not really want for much in the food department. It’s also easy to imagine that, because the islands’ biological characteristics did not really change much from island to island, and with no harsh winters to contend with, there was not a lot of trading necessary among the different tribes which populated the islands. Maybe, as a consequence, there was probably not a lot of fighting either – thus, foreign colonizers, when they came, were quick to note that the natives appeared peaceful, fun-loving, and, yes, even “docile.”

And foreigners did come, attracted by the richness of the islands. And yes, those minerals, of course!

As mentioned impliedly above, the first to colonize the islands were the Spaniards, and that was the time when the misery of the indigenous population started in earnest. Ostensibly in the name of Christianity, the conquering Spaniards claimed the islands for the Spanish throne, baptizing their new territory “Las Islas Filipinas.” And through ruthlessness, tricks, treats, and the Church, the Spaniards were able to brainwash and pummel the natives into submission or otherwise negotiate some semblance of peace with local leaders in order for them to solidify their rule and milk the islands for their selfish commercial pursuits.

What’s really remarkable is the fact that the Spaniards were able to this with very limited head count. For all intents and purposes, they just had small garrisons scattered across the archipelago. Why did they face very little opposition during their conquest and their centuries-long domination? Well, because the natives didn’t have a common language (your parents, an Illonggo and an Ilocano, can't even converse without a third language like Tagalog or English!) and were primarily tribal and clannish, so they also didn’t share a common political structure (can you blame them?). And the Spaniards realized they couldn’t let go of this inherently beneficial advantage: thus, they decided to administer the islands using the locals’ ethnic languages, not using the Spanish language; after all, Spanish was the language of the ruling class and they didn't want the natives to learn it. They also relentlessly and tirelessly made sure the locals knew their “proper place”: by constantly hammering to the brown natives that the latter were inferior in all respects to the white Spaniards, and they must therefore always be submissive to the Church and their authority.  Thus, by the end of Spain's corrupt, inept and heavy-handed, patronage-politics rule, only a very small percentage knew Spanish with some facility: the elite five or so percent.

These local elites were for the most part comprised of the "mestizos." They were the progenies of the "cross-pollinating" wealthy locals and the conquering class and erring friars, and many of them were sent by their parents to study in Europe. They were beneficiaries of the largesse of their Spanish patrons, and invariably these largesses meant grants of vast tracts of land – which easily translated to substantial passive but non-creative, non-entrepreneurial income. They knew they were the elite and they, of course, had elitist tendencies as well. Interestingly, however, while they were known as the “ilustrados” or the “enlightened ones,” they actually referred to themselves as “Filipinos” even when the term was meant to refer only to Spanish creoles, those who were pure Spaniards but were born in the Philippines. The national hero, Jose Rizal, was one of these ilustrados, and he was also the one who really popularized this heretofore alien concept called “nationalism.” However, because these mestizos were sentimentally far removed from the “indios” (the ethnic local masses), it would actually take a poor artisan from Manila who spoke Tagalog named Andres Bonifacio and his Katipuneros to really begin the armed revolution against Spain.

And what Bonifacio started, the young general Emilio Aguinaldo finished, culminating in an “official” proclamation of an independent “Republic of the Philippines” in 1899 in Cavite. However, it was a fragile “republic” (which was mostly comprised of the Tagalogs really) because it had practically no purchase whatsoever, or very little support if at all, in the vast southern regions of the country or even in the non-Tagalog regions up north, which had their own peasant-led mini-revolts. And to make things worse for the leaders of the new republic, the world powers didn’t care about them really.  Because when the Spaniards realized they were going to eventually lose Cuba and the Asian archipelago they'd ruled for so long, and with the Americans declaring war on them in 1898 and subsequently destroying their fleet in Manila Bay, they decided to negotiate not with the locals but with the Americans, who agreed to purchase the islands in late 1898. The revolutionaries would rise up against the Americans too, but through merciless campaigns, superior firepower and a disorganized opposition with no common language, the Americans would easily prevail and would later turn the country into an experiment of their own version of “benevolent” imperialism.

Aside from imposing English as the common national language to be learned by everyone, one thing the Americans did that differentiated them from the Spaniards was to somehow politically “unify” the islands by putting up, for the first time in the archipelago's history, a “national congress” for the Filipinos. Naturally, the wealthy elites saw this as a great way to extend their power not only in their respective provinces, where they had their own personal fiefdoms because they already had solidified their control at the local level, but also nationally. So what power and wealth the elites had during the Spanish period, they in fact increased dramatically during the American period. And the American administrators, generally hands-off in the nitty-gritty of administration and uninterested in upsetting the local social structure or in making Philippine society more egalitarian, were only too willing to become friends with the country’s national elites.

Unfortunately, this socio-political structure did not change after the Japanese invasion because the elites were the first to become collaborators, or even after Filipinos and Americans, fighting side by side, ousted the Japanese from the country after the Second World War. Unlike the ultra-successful American project of busting the old elitist socio-political structure of Japan which turned the country into one with a more equal distribution of wealth and power, in the Philippines, which was a "friend" becuase it was part of the American Commonwealth, the order of the day was to restore the country to the status quo before the Japanese arrived. Thus, the wealthy and highly connected national elites were the ones ultimately rewarded by the Americans with more power and lucrative contracts for rebuilding the ravaged and war-torn country. The poor indios’ plight remained practically the same.

And this little excursion into history is my roundabout way of explaining why it is hard for the indios, the typical Filipinos, to feel “nationalistic.” How can you be nationalistic when other Filipinos speak a language different than you? How can you be nationalistic when you see your national leaders getting richer as you get poorer? How can you be nationalistic when options are limited because you are not of the mestizo class? How can you be nationalistic when you lose or can't get a government job because you don’t have a relative, a friend, a patron in power?  How can you offer your loyalty to a nation whose government is way too corrupt?  How can you be nationalistic when your stomach is growling, or worse yet, when your kids are whimpering in agony for the same reason?  Chances are, you would also think of survival first before nationalism, right?

In his 1987 article, “The Damaged Culture,” James Fallows discussed this “failure of nationalism” at length. He concluded: “Nationalism can of course be divisive, when it sets people of one country against another. But its absence can be even worse, if that leaves people in the grip of loyalties that are even narrower and more fragmented. When a country with extreme geographic, tribal, and social-class differences, like the Philippines, has only a weak offsetting sense of national unity, its public life does become the war of every man against every man.”

Ilonglocano, I think your feelings when you visited the Philippines were in fact shared by Fallows over 20 years ago because he wrote:

“Most of the time I spent in the Philippines, I walked around feeling angry--angry at myself when I brushed off the latest platoon of child beggars, angry at the beggars when I did give in, angry at the rich Filipinos for living behind high walls and guardhouses in the fortified Makati compounds euphemistically called villages, angry as I picked my way among piles of human feces left by homeless families living near the Philippine Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard, angry at a society that had degenerated into a war of every man against every man.”

Many Filipinos hated Fallows for this lurid, ugly portrait of the Philippines he saw then, but I liked Fallows’ analysis because  he was also very lucid in his criticism of the American role in the stagnation and decay of Philippine society.  In his essay, he said: “In its brief fling with running a colony, America undeniably brought some material benefits to the Philippines: schools, hospitals, laws, and courts. Many older Filipinos still speak with fondness about the orderly old colonial days. But American rule seemed only to intensify the Filipino sense of dependence. The United States quickly earned or bought the loyalty of the ilustrados, the educated upper class, making them into what we would call collaborationists if the Germans or Japanese had received their favors. It rammed through a number of laws insisting on free ‘competition’ between American and Philippine industries, at a time when Philippine industries were in no position to compete with anyone. The countries that have most successfully rebuilt their economies, including Japan and Korea, went through extremely protectionist infant-industry phases, with America's blessing; the United States never permitted the Philippines such a period. The Japanese and Koreans now believe they can take on anybody; the confidence of Filipino industrialists seems to have been permanently destroyed.”

That’s why if there’s one thing I envy about The Korean, aside from his more robust, more engaging blog, it is the fact that his former home country is in much better shape than mine.

(2) What can you do as a concerned Filipino?

If you feel helpless and hopeless at times, know that The Filipino completely understands you. Sometimes in fact, I feel the Philippines should just break up into smaller countries. Why not? Belgium is close to breaking up, and it has a population almost just a tenth of the Philippines. Yugoslavia, which only had a total of 23 million at its height, was broken up into six countries. The Philippines, on the other hand, now has about 100 million.

But is this the solution? Probably not. The solution is for concerned Filipinos, whether inside or outside the Philippines, to show its concern by pushing for good governance and reform, becoming more active in politics, supporting well-run charities, following the rules – even the most mundane ones like traffic rules and what-not. Do not litter, do not spit everywhere. And show some – for lack of a better term – love.

Actually, come to think of it, it is probably the best term. You and I need to show more love, and not just curse the situation. Many Filipinos lack the most basic: sanitation, clean water, decent housing, even food. They are very, very poor.

The country doesn’t suck. It's those morally and intellectually effete elite who care only about themselves, who are afraid to speak up, who manipulate the system, who are in cahoots with each other to rape the country -- they're the ones who suck.  It’s those Filipino people – rich or poor, man or woman, based locally or abroad – who don’t care about helping the Philippines and about doing something even just one tiny bit about the present Philippine situation (and I can imagine they sometimes include you and I) – they, sir, are the ones who suck!

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

What's next for Manny Pacquiao?

If you have any doubt as to whether Manny Pacquiao is going down in the history books as one of the biggest legends of boxing, then watch this 60 Minutes Exclusive about the P4P (pound for pound) King!

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Are there Filipino winners in the 2010 US elections?

Somebody shared this piece of good news to The Filipino (note that these results cover only California):

ELECTED FILIPINO WOMEN:

Tani Gorre Cantil Sakauye elected Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court
Hydra Mendoza re-elected to San Francisco School Board
Joanne F. del Rosario re-elected to Colma City Council
Linda Canlas elected to Union City School Board (New Haven)
Mae Cendana Torlakson re-elected to Ambrose Recreation and Park Board (Bay Point)
Myrna L. De Vera elected to Hercules City Council
Pat Gacoscos elected to Union City City Council

ELECTED FILIPINO MEN:

Christopher Cabaldon re-elected for Mayor of West Sacramento (Mayor since 1998)
Jose Esteves re-elected Mayor of City of Milpitas (4th term)
Mike P. Guingona re-elected to Daly City Council (3rd term)
Pete Sanchez re-elected Mayor of Suisun City (Mayor since 2006)
Rob Bonta elected to Alameda City Council
Robert Bernardo for Harbor District Board of Commissioners, San Mateo County

Congratulations to the winners and best of luck!

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Nov 12, 2010

What do Filipinos cook for themselves at home?

Dear Filipino,

I've had lumpia before, and that's it. Could you please tell me about Filipino cuisine?  Everyday eating, not what the restaurants pump out.  I'm especially interested in hearing what families cook for themselves, more than what they cook for guests.  Has a Filipino Brother-in-Law, But Boy is He Worthless.

Thank you!


Itchy Ishy

P.S.  Filipino, lots of people start blogs and lose steam. I'm really looking forward to yours, so don't quit on me. Good luck with the questions!

Dear Itchy Ishy,

Believe it or not, what you see in typical Filipino restaurants are also the dishes ordinary Filipino families cook for themselves on a daily basis.  Except for a few fancy Filipino restaurants, most Filipino restaurants serve the home-cooked variety.

The most popular are the following:

You have all types of adobo (typically marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic): chicken adobo, pork adobo, chicken-pork adobo, adobong pusit (squid), adobong hipon (shrimp), adobong isda (fish), and other variations.

Then you have the sinigang series, which are soups characterized by a really sour flavor, usually by using tamarind, calamansi (Filipino lemons), or guava, and a generous heaping of all sorts of vegetables.  Like adobo, they can be sinigang na manok (chicken), sinigang na baboy (pork), sinigang na hipon, sinigang na isda, etc.

Because Filipinos love soups, you have the nilaga (really soupy stew), typically with beef or pork and made healthy by vegetables like bok choy.  And the really yummy chicken tinola.

You can also have kare-kare, kinilaw (ceviche), ginataan (all sorts of stuff cooked with coconut milk), all sorts of barbecued meats marinated in soy sauce and vinegar, and all sorts of pansit (noodles), which can be cooked in different styles: palabok, bihon, batchoy, etc.

Honestly, the list of viands is really almost a mile long because of the different styles, regional versions, permutations, combinations of Filipino cooking as richly influenced by the Chinese, Spanish, Americans, Japanese, South Asians, Malays, and many other cultures.   And frankly, I don't have the inclination and time to really go through this list exhaustively right now, but might go back to it later down the road if another reader asks a more pointed question.  (So keep returning, 'k?)

But note, Ishy: There is one thing you can't EVER forget to serve in a Filipino meal:

RICE.  And lots of it!

P.S.  The Filipino doesn't plan to quit on you, Ishy, but then again, The Filipino has made other plans in his past that, because of one circumstance/reason/excuse or another, he had to abandon.  But let's not dwell on this quitting thing and let's just keep wishing each other well, 'k?

P.P.S.  Did I mention you have to serve RICE, and lots of it, every meal?

P.P.P.S.  I'm sorry you have a "worthless Filipino brother-in-law"?  Are you sure you're feeding him enough rice?

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Why do Filipinas have dark armpits?

Dear Filipino,

Question: Why do Pinays [Filipino women] have dark underarms?

Donna

Dear Donna,

Do they really?  Is this observation supportable by sufficient data?  The Filipino finds the premise of your question extremely interesting and he'll probably be more observant in this department moving forward. ;-)

In any case, without regard to race, according to The Beauty Brains ("Real Scientists Answer Your Beauty Questions"), the top five causes of darkened armpits are:

1)  Shaving - "If your hairs are slightly darker than your skin color, they can give the appearance that your skin has a dark stain when it`s really just sub-surface hair."

2)  Buildup of dead skin cells "trapped in microscopic 'hills and valleys' on your skin."

3)  Antiperspirant and deodorant usage - "In theory, some ingredients in these products (perhaps the fragrance) could be reacting with the skin to cause discoloration. Practically speaking this seems unlikely but many people do claim that when they stop using APDs, the darkness goes away."

4)  Acanthosis nigricans - "This [medical] condition causes light-brown-to-black markings on the neck, under the arms, or in the groin. It can be related to insulin production or to a glandular disorder and it typically occurs in people who are overweight."

5)  Hyper pigmentation - "This condition causes your skin to produce excess melanin pigment."

If The Filipino has to hazard a guess, of the five theories above, he will submit that despite the article saying it seems unlikely, Cause No. 3 as discussed is the real culprit to blame for the darker armpits of Pinays (assuming of course that the premise of your question is true).  Why?  Because of the high humidity levels in the Philippines, Filipinos, men or women but especially women, wouldn't be caught dead with wet, or worse, smelly armpits.  So what do they do?  Well, what would you do?  Load up on antiperspirants and deodorants, of course!

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Who are the best Filipino musical artists?

Dear Filipino,

First off, I'm super psyched that you decided to do this blog. I'm Filipino too, but I've been born and raised in the US, so my upbringing has been quite... American (not hating of course.)

On to the questions: Can you name a couple of the top/popular Filipino musical artists? I really need to expand my Filipino music library. I really like Rocksteddy and Spongecola, plus some of the artists my mom listens to while she cooks - Martin Nievera, Jessa Zaragoza, and Willie Revillame (lol). Any others you can recommend? And are there any in Ilokano? I know most of the Filipino music I came across was in Tagalog.

Right now, other than American/English songs, my library is filled with K-pop/rock (no surprise right?). I listen to it so much that I'm actually picking up the language - I think I know more Korean words than Ilokano, which makes me rather sad.

Thanks!

Signed,
The Not-so-filipino Filipino


Dear The Not-so-filipino Filipino,

Hey, thanks for being supportive of the blog!  Frankly, I just hope I can do as good a job as The Mexican and The Korean.

Fortunately or unfortunately for you, The Filipino's musical tastes may not be similar to yours!  But if you really want his recommendations, here they are:

I like Gary Valenciano, Apo Hiking Society, Eraserheads, The Dawn, Ogie Alcasid and Freddie Aguilar.  I hate Willie Revillame!  (Yes, The Filipino thinks he's one of the most loathsome Filipinos out there!  But that's for another discussion.)

For women, I like Lea Salonga, Kuh Ledesma and, most of all, Charmaine Clamor.  If you haven't yet, you really have to check out Charmaine's "Jazzipino" -- which, according to her, "is the new musical genre that results from melding traditional Filipino melodies, languages and instruments with the soul and swing of American jazz."  Her album Flippin' Out is absolutely spellbinding. [Added 1/4/11: Click here to download the MP3 copy of the most unbelievable rendition of Ikaw.]

For online musical resources, The Filipino likes the site titikpilipino.com.  Check it out -- it needs some regular updating but its content is really robust.  Of course, you can always visit the top media sites run by ABS-CBN, GMA and the like. 

As for Ilocano music, The Filipino has no personal recommendations.  Sorry, sorry, sorry.  But the reality is, Ilocano music, like other dialect-based musical genres, is not that popular nationally.  But check out these links from opmpinoy and kabayancentral.  One of these days, I'd like to see provincial artists singing in Ilocano, Bicolano, Visayan, etc., break out onto the national or even better, international scene. 

K-pop/rock, huh?  Well, K-pop is really getting more and more popular, so I don't blame you.  But I like the fact that you're trying to reconnect to your roots, because honestly, if there's one thing Filipinos know how to do, it is music. 

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.

Does the Philippines value its people?

Howdy Filipino!

Hello! First off, let me say, I'm loving the blog. I'm a 1st generation Filipino who has lived in America for about...23 years (out of my 25 years). I wonder about the mother country sometimes. It seems that the Philippines is not fully utilizing a lot of the country's natural resources (though I could just be grossly misinformed). Also it seems that the country is not doing much to maintain it's most important natural resource - it's people. From what my relatives tell me, most people try to get out of the Philippines. My cousin in-law (who graduated at the top of his class in medical school) commented on how it's hard to intern (or do his residency) at a really good hospital because you have to pay the doctors there a lot of money - skills and ability are secondary. He's now doing his residency here in America.  He commented that the good thing about America is that they pay you for your abilities. I realize that a lot of this is based on familial anecdotes, but is there a degree of truth in any of the scenarios listed above?

Fil-I-Am

Dear Fil-I-Am,

I don't know where to even begin, so let me start with your question outright: "Is there a degree of truth in any of the scenarios listed above?"

The short answer is: Yes, of course.  But let's parse it a bit more...

I'm imagining your relatives who share these familial anecdotes are not doing so to spread lies about the country, because I don't know of a lot of Filipinos, even if they've gone AWOL in the Philippines, who hate the country per se.  I'm sure they've experienced similar situations related to these anecdotes, personally or vicariously through their friends, classmates, acquaintances, etc. 

For instance, let me share some stories myself: A person I know who was working as a consultant for a top American consulting firm was only making about $400 per month in Manila, but she was always being sent to the US to help out at the site of their American clients.  Her stateside peers were easily making salaries by a factor of 10.  Thus, being a US resident herself, she quit the Philippine office and then applied and was accepted for the same role, same position in the US for ten times the salary.

I also know of doctors, some of whom are friends of mine, who labored through their residency and early years as practicing doctors being paid about $300 per month.  Even with the lower lower cost of living in the Philippines, that's still NOTHING! 

What about nurses, some of whom make in excess of $100K in the U.S. working in two hospitals?  Well, in the Philippines, you're lucky to be making $400 per month if you're an experienced nurse.  If you're a new nurse, you basically pay a hospital to hire you as a "new trainee."  (I guess, in fairness, you can't really blame the hospitals too much -- most of these new nurses are just looking for experience to be able to go abroad and they have thousands to choose from.  In other words, it's a classic supply and demand question: who has more leverage if there more supply than demand?)

But as you probably already know, the underlying themes with these anecdotes are the seemingly intractable problems of poverty, lack of opportunity, government corruption and culture.  (Of these, I will discuss the last one (CULTURE) in more detail in a different post.)

As a result, a lot of Filipinos go abroad in search of better opportunities, better lives for themselves and their families.  It is estimated that at least 10% of Filipinos are now living all over the world.  You and I are among them.  Is it a waste of human resources?  In large measure, sure!  Because imagine the brain drain that this situtation causes:  For instance, it is estimated that there are about 20,000 Filipino doctors who are now living in the US alone, because as you said yourself, in America, "they are paid for their abilities."

Personally, the sad part for me about the whole thing, as someone who migrated myself to the US, is when other Filipinos begin to deride those who leave the country as "traitors," as people who "bailed out" on the country, without regard to the complexity and multi-facetedness of the issue of leaving the Philippines "for greener pastures."  Many people don't realize it's really a very personal and often difficult decision.  As Jose Ma. Montelibano, a well known columnist and an executive of Gawad Kalinga (an amazing nonprofit which is aiming to end poverty in the country) recently noted in his column, "greener pastures have more to do about opportunity, about choices, than just plain income."

He went on:

"Leaving the motherland is hardly because there is a diluted sense of patriotism, but because patriotism itself is denied development in a citizen's heart. To the life of a poor person or family, what then is country? What would make a poor person or family, landless and without the right to be in any square meter in their land of birth - and without the means to rent that right? What benefits are derived from a land of obvious plenty by a Filipino family who is only a step ahead of hunger while public officials of the land can spend millions for a dinner in New York? What can make a Filipino love the Philippines other than a birth in a motherland not yet of his or her choice?"

What to do?  Mr. Montelibano has this to say:

"The challenge now rests heavily on the shoulders of Filipinos who have reason to love our motherland. It may be that, like me, the circumstance of birth favored me economically, socially and politically. It may be like those who built on their boldness, on their education, on their perseverance, and, most likely, on their business sense, and can now help others. It may be that, like most Filipinos, a basic goodness, a sense of bayanihan and a commitment to walang iwanan, transcends personal interest in order to give succor to a fellow Filipino. When Filipinos go beyond the boundaries of family and clan to care for another as a brother or sister of the same motherland, then even the impoverished and marginalized are given good reasons to love country and race."

Thanks for your email (especially your "loving the blog") and I hope you will find a way to help the Philippines in your own way from time to time, not just "wonder" about it. 

P.S. I can tell you right now I'll have much more to say later about this issue of out-migration and the Philippine brain drain as the blog further develops.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.
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