MANILA, June 14, 2005
(STAR) LIVING ALIVE By Dero Pedero [The weaker the country, the stronger the smile. — Howard Koch, US screenwriter]

Most Filipinos love the Philippines. Why won’t they when it is the land of their birth, the home of their people? I am a Filipino and, yes, I love the Philippines. Yet with almost the same intensity (or maybe a little bit more), I hate it for all the great things it can be, which at present it isn’t.

Confusing? Well, much as I love this country with its sunny skies, fresh winds, blue seas, verdant mountains, shimmering rivers, golden plains, and smiling people, I hate it for what it has become because of what we, Filipinos, have made of it.

Secret Hatred

Ask any Filipino what he feels about the Philippines. Of course, initially, he will share with you all the glorious reasons why he loves this country (the usual "fun-loving, hospitable people" blah-blah). If you dig deep enough, you will start to unravel a commonplace reality: That deep within every Filipino is a secret hatred for his country. To prove this shocking hypothesis, offer a Filipino a chance to work or live overseas and he’d choose that (I would surmise more than 85 percent would) hands-down over living in these perlas ng silanganan (pearl of the Orient).

Why this common sentiment? Why would the typical Filipino want to leave this sparkling, lush, tropical archipelago if he indeed loves it?

For one, life is getting harder and harder in these supposedly paradise islands – so many people live below the poverty level as revealed in a survey made by the United Nations. The chance of improving your life and fully realizing your fondest dreams is very low, and the health and financial security you want to have during old age can’t be assured. To top it all, there is just too much politics and corruption that you can’t trust anyone anymore and begin to fear for the future of your children.

These are just a few of the reasons why many Filipinos are disenchanted by this nation. Of course, the ones who would choose to stay are the ones milking it of its resources, making a big profit, or stealing from its already distressed people.

The "hatred" that most Filipinos feel stems mainly from the frustration of feeling powerless to change the situation especially with regard to the political status of the country (even with the knowledge that they can, at any time, activate people power to oust any undesirable government official). Most Filipinos have given up: "Maski sino ang ilagay mo diyan, magnanakaw din (No matter who you put in power, he will also steal)!"

National Pride

Now, ask any Filipino if he is proud to be a Filipino. Chances are he would not know what to answer. We all have had our little brushes (abroad, especially) with co-Filipinos who find it more convenient and status-uplifting to claim to be of some other nationality except Filipino. I, myself, fear for the direction our youth are taking – they’d rather rap in scarily precise black-speak and wear snow caps (in the tropic heat!), have their pierced navel peeping through their blouse and jeans a la Britney, buy P25,000 tickets to an F4 concert, and swoon over Korean telenovelas.

Deep in our hearts, we Filipinos want to be proud of our country and ourselves. But what is there to be proud of? What are the newspaper headlines and top stories of TV network news that those high-strung newsreaders are barking? Negative, depressing news. Killings, graft, corruption, exposés, gossip, and inanities. Rarely anything that would extol national pride. You can’t have national pride if there is nothing to be proud of.

I Love

These I love: Our naturally beautiful islands and beaches (until soda pop bottles, beer cans, and junk-food wrappers ruin the ecology and mar the view). The naturally golden heart of the Filipino. Filipino music. (We all sing and dance so well! But I hate the double entendre and vulgar Spaghetti, Bulaklak, and Basketball variety, if you know what I mean!)

Filipino food, despite its being a culinary expert and dietitian’s nightmare: Oily, salty, fatty, mostly brown in color (think adobo, dinuguan, paksiw na lechon). Mangoes, leche flan, carabao milk ice cream, halo-halo, anything cooked in coconut (yummy!). Christmas in the Philippines (over three glorious months of celebration from November till Valentine’s Day).

I salute Dolphy (for refusing to enter politics), Rosa Rosal (for her commendable charity work), Gloria Romero (so real and unaffected!), and Pilita Corrales (a wacky and truly wonderful person!). I am glad there is Mayor Lito Atienza and his successful Buhayin ang Maynila campaign, and the silent but amazingly effective MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando. (I was able to make Makati to Cubao in 15 minutes – a miracle!)

I love it that when you hiss "Pssst!", Filipinos look back. Abroad, that’s how you can tell the Pinoys from the rest of the pack.

I Hate

I hate, I hate, I hate: Reckless drivers (I could have died the other week when a reckless bus driver almost sideswiped my car!). Uneducated cab drivers who can’t tell a red from a green light (colorblind?). Smoke belchers. Money-motivated policemen hiding in dark streets waiting to catch you beat the red light. Old, grouchy immigration and customs personnel at the airport. (In other countries, their front liners are young, beautiful, truly inviting people! Attention: Department of Tourism).

Jumping lines (singitan nang singitan). Power tripping (Hoy! Di mo ba ako kilala?). Palakasan (using influential people). Media sensationalism. Tabloid journalism. Lackluster, gory, repulsive, yucky, nonsensical TV shows. Gaya-gaya (copycat) show formats. Invasion of privacy by TV camera crews (unconstitutional!). Below-the-belt TV stations’ rivalry. I hate it that almost every little Filipina girl’s dream is to be a Sex Bomb dancer or a Japayuki. Yuck.

Too many awards shows that honor mediocre work, films, and personalities. Too many unsolved mysteries: Ninoy Aquino’s assassination, Marcos’s hidden wealth, Nida Blanca’s murder, etc. Too many hearings in the Senate: What happened to the Brunei-yuki, Ador, and jueteng hearings (they start off with a lot of noise, then everybody becomes quiet afterwards; I wonder what silences them).

The pretentiousness of some Filipinos, and their hollow and superficial values (mga nagmumurang Louis Vuitton). Not enough museums and art and science exhibitions to quench the thirsty soul and tickle the imagination. Slow election returns that allow for cheating. Vote buying, vote selling. Starstruck people voting for showbiz folks who may not even be qualified for government office. Greedy, obnoxious politicians and their power-wielding alalays (sidekicks). And overbearing queridas (mistresses).

I hate that Filipinos never learn. How many Payatas garbage dump landslides, and how many more Quezon Province and Ormoc floods should occur, killing hundreds of people, before Filipinos learn that the ecology and environment are important to life? How many more inter-island vessels should sink or catch fire before the concerned authorities become really strict with safety measures and strengthen disaster control?

I Love/ I Hate

Ah, but I both love and hate: Filipino time. I hate it when someone is late and I am in a hurry to do many other things; I love it as a backup reason every time I am late. And balikbayan boxes – they are such an eyesore (wa poise) but forgivable if stuffed with wonderful goodies to be shared with relatives and friends!

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For your comments, e-mail DeroSeminar@yahoo.com or text 0920-4053233. Today is Independence Day. Celebrate! You’ll never realize the value of freedom till you lose it.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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