Our False Sense of Pride and Patriotism

I am tired of the common belief that Filipinos lack discipline, thus explaining our retarded economic, social and political growth. We do not lack discipline. We lack a basic understanding of what values we believe in.

When we are presented with organized and sensible guidelines, our compliance is exemplary. This I saw from living, working, or visiting the Middle East, Europe, Mexico and now here in the US. We push back, obviously like any other sensible race, when the guidelines do not make sense, like in the recent Covid MCQ or ECQ (whatever acronym they came up with) guidelines.

You do not need to be a social scientist or a psychologist to see our broken cultural values. We laugh at rape jokes, we are amused at literal garbage talk from our leaders, we make fun of people even of our own race who are darker-skinned than others (“ulikba, baluga”), we are obsessed with skin-whitening products, we are enamored with degrees and titles especially if the title holders (doctors and lawers for example) are light or fair-skinned, we love the English language (I am obviously guilty here) even if we have our own rich languages (yes, Tagalog, Capampangan, Cebuano, Ilocano, etc are languages, not dialects), we strive so hard to be American, we glamorize and idolize the rich even if they are dumb as a rock (no need to name names, just read the list of members of the Senate and House of Representatives), we like inserting sexual undertones in every joke we make, we make LGBTQ people a punchline for weakness and stupidity (“bakla kasi eh”), we brag non-existent familial ties like it is the only definition of our character (“pinsan kong malayo si governor talaga”), this litany can go on.

But my favorite of all is our inherent refusal to take feedback. We take any feedback, positive or negative as an affront to our pride, hence our total rejection of anything said, even if what is said will really be for the better. We especially abhor if the feedback comes from foreigners whom we then tell to take a hike and leave our country. But if it is a positive feedback, especially if it comes from a white foreigner, we are quick to post it and brag how superb the Filipino race is. This column is one example of feedback and I will not be surprised if I get bombarded with scathing criticism after, which will just prove my point. 

Acknowledging mistakes and building on them is a foreign concept to Filipinos too. Instead of recognizing the error made, we deflect the blame to someone or some event. It is never our fault. I have seen this time and again with some of my Filipino staff (and even fellow business operators in Southern California) and we are working hard to break that bad practice. It is really counter-productive.

If there is anything I learned from my over 15 years of American union work is to learn to listen and digest what worked and what did not work in any campaign. The “what did not work part” can be brutal but that is how you learn and avoid those mistakes in the next fight. We Filipinos have yet to learn that value and we will surely move a lot forward if we really begin learning that.

This does not mean I found perfection because I myself fall short of many expectations in my life. I admit I have my own prejudices like any other person. The problem begins when those prejudices are actually carried out and it becomes discrimination. Sadly, a lot of us Filipinos and Filipino-Americans fall into the latter category of actually fleshing out prejudices and it shows especially in this critical civil unrest times. For example, given a little comfort as say, well-paid medical professionals (many Filipinos unarguably are plenty in this profession), we get on our high horses and awkwardly assimilate into the “All Lives Matter” side, even prouder and mightier than any grand wizard of the Ku Klux Clan. Forgetting that even after we applied all those skin-whitening creams and lotions, we are still brown.

This is not a sweeping indictment of the Filipino people or our culture. This is an urgent appeal to start a local, if not national conversation on what values we really believe in as a people. How we want to define nationalism and our pride as a race. We can debate about how that goes but one thing must be certain: we must and should not contradict ourselves like we always do in many issues. We cannot condemn racism in the US yet support EJKs or lately, the anti-terror bill in the Philippines. If you do not see the irony of taking those diametrically opposed positions, then the more we really need to have a national conversation of principles and values we have to advocate as a nation.

Another contradictory example is you can not say all lives matter when just two weeks ago, you advocated the premature re-opening of the economy that would put those same lives you say matter, at risk, including your grandmother’s.

This false, if not misplaced sense of pride or nationalism/patriotism, does not just make us clowns. It dwarfs our long delayed ascent to supposed greatness. Our Asian neighbors are already way past building cars and achieving many technological advances. We are still stuck in bragging to the world that we supposedly invented the damn fluorescent lamp, which is by the way, a myth. It is false. Even if that narrative were true, it is not like we were actually there when the process was going on. For the love of Pete, let us all make this stop and start earning the respect of the world.