SO… Perhaps it is time for me to talk about some of my demons. It is another year, after all. It is easy for me to tell you that I am Filipino, and proud to be so. Didn’t I choose to keep my citizenship in the face of the oh-so-tempting green card and subsequent opportunity for Kano citizenship? Didn’t I opt to return to the native land after more than 10 years of imposed exile in the land of most Pinoys’ dreams? Yes, I prefer to be treated like crap in my homeland by fellow Pinoys than to be treated like crap by citizens of the land where I used to live. But then again, I don’t take crap from anybody so the above claim becomes “mute” and academic.
Since childhood, I have struggled with being different. Different in my attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, perspectives. So I was raised to espouse my “uniqueness.” So I was told that everyone had the right to be different. So I was raised to be Pinoy but different. Never gave it much thought, though. Until this stage of my life. I’ve been writing this weekly column for more than a year now, and for those of you who diligently try to decipher my weekly mental meanderings, much of my thoughts center on how I see us. The Pinoy. But what is the Pinoy?
And therein lies my dilemma. Yes, I love our country. What’s not to love? More than 7,100 islands, rolling verdant hills and mountains (which we will dig flat to sell as limestone), fields of arable land (which we don’t like to ara), hidden mineral treasures that lie deep in its bosom (which we passively lease to aliens to exploit), glorious rivers (convenient sewer systems) and waterfalls (surrounded by concrete tables and bences to be rented out), long stretches of sandy beaches (littered with plastic bottles and trash by uncaring tourists), awesome animal and marine life (which we should work harder to protect), and don’t even get me talking about the food. Dear Lord, what’s not to love? Yes, I love the Pinas, totally and completely. But the Pinoy? That’s a whole ‘nother question.
The Pinoy, thorn in my side, pebble in my shoe, mosquito hum in my ear. What is there to love? Undisciplined, disrespectful, oftentimes shallow and materialistic, politically immature (still), selfish but occasionally compassionate, subservient to white skin, has little love for fellow Pinoys (kind of like me, then), ignorantly opinionated, overly emotional, minimally rational, prideful but not proud. Before you all tell me to get the hell out of your (and my) country, think about it. All we do is complain about each other. Gossip about each other. Envy each other. Look down on each other. But then generously give to donation drives for each other when disaster strikes. We take Pinoy victories so deeply personally. Look at Pacquiao, or the Azkals, or claiming fame for Pinoy descendants who live and represent their own foreign countries. Basta may lahing Pinoy, atin ‘yan. And yet we prefer Pinay beauty queens who are white, with foreign-sounding last names, acquiline noses. I mean, really. The last truly Pinay beauty queen who embodied us was (in my opinion) Gloria Diaz, in spite of her Hispanic-sounding name. Even Margie Moran has Spanish blood running through her veins, visible in her countenance.
We are truly a confusing pair o’ ducks. Generous but greedy. Hospitable but complaining about the cost of being hospitable. Seemingly proud of our culture and heritage but dreaming of blond hair. Okay, I’m just as guilty as the rest on the last one, and not just blond but the occasional green and purple and fuschia. But I love a deep, dark tan. I have mixed feelings about my un-Pinay height (although the younger ones boast the same now that we have access to superior infant and child nutrition). And I find myself constantly critical and pained by what seems to be a rut that we find Pinoys ourselves in.
The Pinoy hasn’t really changed much over the last 400 years. Still willing to be slaves to the white man. Still unable to process political concepts. Still sleeping under the coconut tree, waiting for the nut to fall. Still unable to discern the difference between being literate and educated. Don’t get me wrong. The Pinoy is smart. Very smart. I know that for a fact. But for some reason, we prefer not to use that smartness to widen our perspective, to gain wisdom, to become mature.
And yet I do what I do because I love the possibility of the Pinoy. Of what we could be, of realizing our untapped national potential, of seeing us grown into the awesome people we could be. And, yes, there are those who also daily struggle to rise to the occasion. To become close to the ideal. I suppose they find themselves in the same dilemma as I do. But then I choose to live in the Pinas, to give back to the Pinas, to be buried in the Pinas. And until I’m converted to fertilizer, I also choose to keep searching for the lovable Pinoy, the admirable Pinoy, the better Pinoy.
To keep believing that I can stand up and say that I am proud to be Pinoy. My goal. My epitaph.