Tuesday 13 August 2013

Raise the Filipino Race

There was an article a couple of months ago stating that Tagalog is the fastest growing
language in Canada, the most common immigrant home language in Edmonton, and the
second most common in Calgary. This also reflects a broader immigration pattern showing that the Philippines has been the biggest source country for the past couple of years, surpassing India and China. Furthermore, the Philippines seems to be playing a more vital role in Canadian trade and foreign policy, with Prime Minister Stephen Harperʼs visit to the country last November.

It is difficult to determine whether this piece of immigration news is a positive or negative turn around for our country. On the one hand, it shows the quality of our citizens in its ability to be qualified and readily accepted by a first world country. On the other hand, an increase in Filipino immigrants means a strong desire for the people to leave their mother country and a drive to look elsewhere for something that the native country can no longer provide.

What does this increasing visibility in a foreign country signify and entail? For whatever reasons for our leaving the Philippines, we are inadvertently ambassadors of our country, a reflection of our race and culture, in the adopted country, and are no longer just after our own interests, living lives in our individual ways.

In this new year, it is an appropriate time to reflect on what we show of our culture, in our daily living in foreign shores. In a multi-cultural society as Canada, do we lift up our race? Or do we put it into shame?

In one of my internet browsing moments, I chanced upon a forum discussing the traits of
Filipinos as observed by both Filipinos and by people of other nationalities/race, abroad. A lot of people have remarked about the Filipinosʼ traits: hospitality, respect for elders, generosity. In the same breadth, there were comments about: crab mentality, fatalism, short memories, tactlessness, lack of discipline, racism, colonial mentality. This does not mean though that weʼre the only culture/race who exhibit these traits - only that these are the predominant ones that characterize us.

The discussions on Filipino traits somewhat perplex me, with certain contradictions. Some say weʼre hardworking - others say weʼre lazy, respectful - rude, caring - gossip monger. But in fact, there is an ambivalence with some traits and it is our choice on how to use them. The fatalistic attitude may show true faith and spirituality for some, but at the same time, be an excuse for human weakness. What other people refer as our “short term memory” may be good in the sense that we do not hold grudges, but at the same time we never learn from the errors of the past. The motto of “utang na loob” (indebtedness) is good but may be carried to the extent regardless of moral measures and outcomes. Loyalty, whether to an individual or to a group, is a way of putting otherʼs welfare ahead of ours but can result in turning a blind eye or a deaf ear to their faults and errors.

In the end, how we live and act is a personal choice. Driving around the city, I see bumper stickers and displays of “I am Filipino”, “Proud to be Pinoy” or signs of the Philippine flag and map. As we live our lives and raise our children in foreign shores, will we choose to replicate the negative traits, the very traits that we fled from but inadvertently display in our adopted country? Or do we raise the Filipino race to our ideal? However we define success in our individual lives, we eventually define ourselves by highlighting our values.

Observing our penchant to honor and put in pedestals Filipinos with great achievements like Manny Pacquiao, Lea Salonga, Arnel PIneda, CNN Hero of the Year Efren Penaflorida, among others, it is obvious that we all love a hero. So why not be a Filipino hero in your own individual way?

* This article was written for and published in the January 2013 issue of Pinoy Times.

No comments:

Post a Comment