For months I left my blog page dormant, until the gunfire of August 23d woke me up and I received this e-mail.
The Filipino today
By Alex Lacson
After the August 23 hostage drama, there is just too much negativity about and against the Filipino.
“It is difficult to be a Filipino these days”, says a friend who works in Hongkong. “Nakakahiya tayo”, “Only in the Philippines” were some of the comments lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles received in her Facebook. There is this email supposedly written by a Dutch married to a Filipina, with 2 kids, making a litany of the supposed stupidity or idiocy of Filipinos in general. There was also this statement by Fermi Wong, founder of Unison HongKong, where she said – “Filipino maids have a very low status in our city”. Then there is this article from a certain Daniel Wagner of Huffington Post, wherein he said he sees nothing good in our country’s future.
Clearly, the hostage crisis has spawned another crisis – a crisis of faith in the Filipino, one that exists in the minds of a significant number of Filipinos and some quarters in the world.
It is important for us Filipinos to take stock of ourselves as a people – of who we truly are as a people. It is important that we remind ourselves who the Filipino really is, before our young children believe all this negativity that they hear and read about the Filipino.
We have to protect and defend the Filipino in each one of us.
The August 23 hostage fiasco is now part of us as Filipinos, it being part now of our country’s and world’s history. But that is not all that there is to the Filipino. Yes, we accept it as a failure on our part, a disappointment to HongKong, China and to the whole world.
But there is so much more about the Filipino.
In 1945, at the end of World War II, Hitler and his Nazi had killed more than 6 million Jews in Europe. But in 1939, when the Jews and their families were fleeing Europe at a time when several countries refused to open their doors to them, our Philippines did the highly risky and the unlikely –thru President Manuel L Quezon, we opened our country’s doors and our nation’s heart to the fleeing and persecuted Jews. Eventually, some 1,200 Jews and their families made it to Manila. Last 21 June 2010, or 70 years later, the first ever monument honoring Quezon and the Filipino nation for this “open door policy” was inaugurated on Israeli soil, at the 65-hectare Holocaust Memorial Park in Rishon LeZion, Israel.
The Filipino heart is one of history’s biggest, one of the world’s rare jewels, and one of humanity’s greatest treasures.
In 2007, Baldomero M. Olivera, a Filipino, was chosen and awarded as the Scientist for the Year 2007 by Harvard University Foundation, for his work in neurotoxins which is produced by venomous cone snails commonly found in the tropical waters of Philippines. Olivera is a distinguished professor of biology at University of Utah, USA. The Scientist for the Year 2007 award was given to him in recognition to his outstanding contribution to science, particularly to molecular biology and groundbreaking work with conotoxins. The research conducted by Olivera’s group became the basis for the production of commercial drug called Prialt (generic name – Ziconotide), which is considered more effective than morphine and does not result in addiction.
The Filipino mind is one of the world’s best, one of humanity’s great assets.
The Filipino is capable of greatness, of making great sacrifices for the greater good of the least of our people. Josette Biyo is an example of this. Biyo has masteral and doctoral degress from one of the top universities in the Philippines – the De La Salle University (Taft, Manila) – where she used to teach rich college students and was paid well for it. But Dr Biyo left all that and all the glamour of Manila, and chose to teach in a far-away public school in a rural area in the province, receiving the salary of less than US$ 300 a month. When asked why she did that, she replied “but who will teach our children?” In recognition of the rarity of her kind, the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States honoured Dr Biyo a very rare honor – by naming a small and new-discovered planet in our galaxy as “Biyo”.
The Filipino is one of humanity’s best examples on the greatness of human spirit!
Efren Penaflorida was born to a father who worked as a tricycle driver and a mother who worked as laundrywoman. Through sheer determination and the help of other people, Penaflorida finished college. In 1997, Penaflorida and his friends formed a group that made pushcarts (kariton) and loaded them with books, pens, crayons, blackboard, clothes, jugs of water, and a Philippine flag. Then he and his group would go to the public cemetery, market and garbage dump sites in Cavite City – to teach street children with reading, math, basic literacy skills and values, to save them from illegal drugs and prevent them from joining gangs. Penaflorida and his group have been doing this for more than a decade. Last year, Penaflorida was chosen and awarded as CNN Hero for 2009.
Efren Penaflorida is one of the great human beings alive today. And he is a Filipino!
Nestor Suplico is yet another example of the Filipino’s nobility of spirit. Suplico was a taxi driver In New York. On 17 July 2004, Suplico drove 43 miles from New York City to Connecticut, USA to return the US$80,000 worth of jewelry (rare black pearls) to his passenger who forgot it at the back seat of his taxi. When his passenger offered to give him a reward, Suplico even refused the reward. He just asked to be reimbursed for his taxi fuel for his travel to Connecticut. At the time, Suplico was just earning $80 a day as a taxi driver. What do you call that? That’s honesty in its purest sense. That is decency most sublime. And it occurred in New York, the Big Apple City, where all kinds of snakes and sinners abound, and a place where – according to American novelist Sydney Sheldon – angels no longer descend. No wonder all New York newspapers called him “New York’s Most Honest Taxi Driver”. The New York City Government also held a ceremony to officially acknowledge his noble deed. The Philippine Senate passed a Resolution for giving honors to the Filipino people and our country.
In Singapore, Filipina Marites Perez-Galam, 33, a mother of four, found a wallet in a public toilet near the restaurant where she works as the head waitress found a wallet containing 16,000 Singaporean dollars (US $11,000). Maritess immediately handed the wallet to the restaurant manager of Imperial Herbal restaurant where she worked located in Vivo City Mall. The manager in turn reported the lost money to the mall’s management. It took the Indonesian woman less than two hours to claim her lost wallet intended for her son’s ear surgery that she and her husband saved for the medical treatment. Maritess refused the reward offered by the grateful owner and said it was the right thing to do.
The Filipina, in features and physical beauty, is one of the world’s most beautiful creatures! Look at this list – Gemma Cruz became the first Filipina to win Miss International in 1964; Gloria Diaz won as Miss Universe in 1969; Aurora Pijuan won Miss International in 1970; Margie Moran won Miss Universe in 1973; Evangeline Pascual was 1st runner up in Miss World 1974; Melanie Marquez was Miss International in 1979; Ruffa Gutierrez was 2nd runner up in Miss World 1993; Charlene Gonzalez was Miss Universe finalist in 1994; Mirriam Quiambao was Miss Universe 1st runner up in 1999; and last week, Venus Raj was 4th runner up in Miss Universe pageant.
I can cite more great Filipinos like Ramon Magsaysay, Ninoy Aquino, Leah Salonga, Manny Pacquaio, Paeng Nepomuceno, Tony Meloto, Joey Velasco, Juan Luna and Jose Rizal. For truly, there are many more great Filipinos who define who we are as a people and as a nation – each one of them is part of each one of us, for they are Filipinos like us, for they are part of our history as a people.
What we see and hear of the Filipino today is not all that there is about the Filipino. I believe that the Filipino is higher and greater than all these that we see and hear about the Filipino. God has a beautiful story for us as a people. And the story that we see today is but a fleeting portion of that beautiful story that is yet to fully unfold before the eyes of our world.
So let’s rise as one people. Let’s pick up the pieces. Let’s ask for understanding and forgiveness for our failure. Let us also ask for space and time to correct our mistakes, so we can improve our system.
To all of you my fellow Filipinos, let’s keep on building the Filipino great and respectable in the eyes of our world – one story, two stories, three stories at a time – by your story, by my story, by your child’s story, by your story of excellence at work, by another Filipino’s honesty in dealing with others, by another Pinoy’s example of extreme sacrifice, by the faith in God we Filipinos are known for.
Every Filipino, wherever he or she maybe in the world today, is part of the solution. Each one of us is part of the answer. Every one of us is part of the hope we seek for our country. The Filipino will not become a world-class citizen unless we are able to build a world-class homeland in our Philippines.
We are a beautiful people. Let no one in the world take that beauty away from you. Let no one in the world take away that beauty away from any of your children! We just have to learn – very soon – to build a beautiful country for ourselves, with an honest and competent government in our midst.
Mga kababayan, after reading this, I ask you to do two things.
First, defend and protect the Filipino whenever you can, especially among your children. Fight all this negativity about the Filipino that is circulating in many parts of the world. Let us not allow this single incident define who the Filipino is, and who we are as a people. And second, demand for good leadership and good government from our leaders. Question both their actions and inaction; expose the follies of their policies and decisions. The only way we can perfect our system is by engaging it. The only way we can solve our problem, is by facing it, head on.
We are all builders of the beauty and greatness of the Filipino. We are the architects of our nation’s success.
To all the people of HK and China, especially the relatives of the victims, my family and I deeply mourn with the loss of your loved ones. Every life is precious. My family and I humbly ask for your understanding and forgiveness.
Alex Lacson wrote an article titled The Filipino Today. It is a well meaning, carefully researched piece but it is flawed on many levels.
1. He says we must accept the Luneta incident " as part of us Filipinos.. a failure on our part, a disappointment to the whole world.." It is not so.
The Luneta incident was a result of the ineptitude and insensitivity of the police force and officials of the present administration. I and more than ninety million Filipinos here and abroad had nothing to do with it. We refuse to be identified with the dullness of mind and spirit of a handful of policemen and politicians.
2. He says we must protect and defend the Filipino and hence he makes no explicit condemnation of the character of the hostage taker, the conduct of the negotiators, the blind, unthinking carelessness of the government authorities with human life. But there is nothing Filipino in violence and irrational recklessness.
3. Instead he implies that the persons responsible for the death of the hostages may not be judged too harshly because after all there are heroes like Jose Rizal, celebrities like Ruffa Gutierrez, athletes like Manny Pacquiao and singers like Lea Salonga.
This is absurdly irrelevant. The nobility of Dr. Rizal, the looks of Ms Gutierrez, the strength of Mr. Paquiao and the talent of Ms Salonga belong to them alone.
4. If Alex Lacson claims kinship to Rizal, and a connection to Gutierrez, Pacquiao and Salonga, then he must admit complicity to the cupidity and cruelty of the Marcos dictatorship, the cases of corruption in the Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, and Macapagal regimes, the lawlessness of the NPA, the malevolence of the Abu Sayaf. I am not prepared to do that.
5. The point is this: Filipinos should not be burdened by collective guilt anymore than they can justifiably claim credit for individual endeavor and achievement. Each of us must account for himself and receive praise or blame as he deserves. Misconduct and merit are non transferable. Neither can truly be shared. In a social context the doctrine of Original Sin does not apply and Redemption by association is not possible.
I must say I agree with the writer and I apologize to my friend Alex Lacson who perhaps, if he had enough time, would have taken a more nuanced position.
So it seems ludicrous to me that members of the administration who are actually culpable for the mishandling of the hostage crisis should announce to media that "they would not abandon the President."
One of them said, "I am willing to take a bullet for him."
Needless to say none of them has admitted any blunder or negligence on their part.
My question is: Why would anyone need to defend or shield the president ? He is not to blame. It is he who at an enormous personal sacrifice is assuming responsibility for the incompetence of his men. He is helping those who are supposed to help him. And this is where I agree with the writer. The President's generosity, his willingness to protect his people can only go so far. The President's men must show individual capability, resourcefulness, drive and intelligence to meet the challenges which the Aquino administration will surely meet in the days to come.
Much is expected from the President and he has the mind, heart and spirit to live up to the people's expectations.
But those around him should not only avoid being part of a problem but devise their own solution to a bad situation of their own making.
There is no need to take a bullet for the President. No one is shooting at him. He is blameless. But it may be time for some of the President's men to bite the bullet, acknowledge the fault that is theirs alone and face the inevitable consequences.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
For months I left my blog page dormant, until the gunfire of August 23d woke me up and I received this e-mail.