Thursday, June 24, 2004

On the Importance of Being Filipino

Before we take any pride in the thought that portions of the world would shut down if ever the Overseas Filipino Workers would disappear, I'd like to pause and think differently, just like a wise soul once said:

"We should stop kidding ourselves that we are important in this world. We are as ordinary as the Bangladeshis as they are as ordinary as the Americans. If we want to be recognized, we have to sweat it out like any other instead of making false claims. We should attempt to perform well as individuals. Let us feed our kids and send them to school. That we can do, and do greatly. Because as a race, we have been mixed up too much in the cauldron of opposing cultures. We are diluted as astreet hawker's buco juice in some aspect, and dense as Petron's motor oil in some others.

So, a world without Filipinos? I think the world might not even notice. Reality bites. So our recourse really is just to try to do well as individuals. If our kids notice us as good parents, well that's a greater reward."

If Filipinos were to disappear from Saudi Arabia, we would open the labor market to engineers from places such as India or Indonesia who are just as qualified but maybe not as skilled in communication or not as savvy in learning. The Saudis have done just as well with Indian surrogates for positions once held by Filipinos, and in the general labor market Filipinos have been overtaken by Bangalis (Bangladeshis) and Pakistanis. After all, the Saudis can live with the mediocrity of their citizens. They can live with the mediocrity of others less qualified than Filipinos.

Besides, many Filipinos who have been here a long time have become rather arrogant. I shared this thought with some of the veterans in this place: “Cast your net about in the Philippine labor market, and see where you do stack up. Better transform yourself into an entrepreneur, and you would be a bigger hero than you would think.”

I think the more important question is to focus on what can be done in the Philippines. We’re famous as a cautionary tale, and making the change seems to be an impossible task. I don’t propose any quick-fix solution within one post, or even thousands. We must however, as individuals, do our best to change our situation without hurting others. This is the best thing we can do insofar as our desire for “societal change” works, at least as a common denominator.

Putting forward a hypothetical situation:

"A Filipino (X) in Sydney toiled hard and saved about 50,000 Aussie dollars in 6 months. He plans to invest it in a house for his family. Then another Filipino (Y) comes along and asks to borrow half of that money for a business he would like to start up. Y promises to pay X back with 20% interest in 6 months. Meanwhile another Filipino (Z)wants to borrow the other half as his wife is sick.

If you are X, what would you do if you deem yourself a true Filipino?"

For me, there is no way on Earth I would lend that money out without a decent return on my money. I’d say to the guy to wait for another six months for me to lend him the cash. As to the other Filipino, if I don’t know him from Adam I’d say no. Sue me, life really sucks. I can always pass the hat for him and his wife in the office, where I’d give a normal share just like everyone would. But me to shell out 25 grand? Forget it. Making the exception means I would have to qualify the contribution.

As to this question gauging our Filipino-ness…. I’d like to add another (true) story just to drive home the point about where we are in terms of our civic responsibility:

A college professor asked his class of working students, mostly professionals in night school, this question:

“Do you really consider yourselves Filipinos?” The class said yes in the strongest terms.

“Would you do anything if you think it helps your fellow Filipinos?” The class, sensing the cheery note in his voice, said yes again.

He took a more serious mien and said, “Really, this is a serious question. You said that you consider yourselves true Filipinos? I’m asking again, would you do what you can in helping your community because you take pride in being Filipino?”

The class settled down, and after a while, all of them gave their assent.

“So let’s see… let’s just say your mayor and the city council call for a public hearing on re-zoning the place where you live, and let’s just say you attend because it is very important. The DENR, the MMDA, and the city council have come up with a study for a landfill to be built near your home. The studies point out that your location is ideal for logistics in setting up the landfill, and that in four to five years they will be able to build a recycling center near the landfill. They have also conducted a serious study in which the landfill will not contaminate ground water. It will essentially be a receiving area so that the recycling center could do its work.”

The professor paused and looked into the eyes of his students. Then he asked, “Would you agree even if it means you will have to live with garbage everyday?”

The class looked at him in stunned silence. Just then the bell conveniently rang, and before the class started filing out, the professor said, “Just a thought for all of you before you say you take pride in being a true Filipino.”

No comments: