Weekly Ketchup 13 - I Refuse to be Filipino

Whether for a particularly wanting public transport system or a general frustration with every aspect of society, this week had (at least) a couple of friends considering renouncing their Filipino citizenship and/or moving to other countries with agreeable living conditions.

Between these sentiments and the Straits Times article I alluded to last week, I got to thinking about "nationalism", "the Filipino identity", "the Philippine experience", "Pinoy Pride", etc.

Deep, right?

Hello, no. Of course this is all about me!

Right off the bat, I will say this: I'm not Filipino. Not legally at least.

Ethnically? Who's to say who's a Filipino in that regard? Anthropologists, care to weigh in?

Culturally? Well, that's where it gets interesting.

See, I didn't find the article offensive at all. I've been living in this city for 20 years and I still find other people's lax compliance to rules and signs alienating. I even empathized with the writer pushing for his adopted brand of linguistic nuances. I found his experiences hilarious rather than offensive.

Actually, I have yet to be offended by any article that criticizes Filipinos or the Philippines. I am actually more critical of Filipinos who are offended by the most idiotic instances (the Teri Hatcher, Dan Brown, and Lucy Liu episodes come to mind).

However, yesterday, Tatcee brought up a very interesting point over our Plurk conversation about the article: It was published on an international platform. Since inductive reasoning dictates that "because some - okay, a significant number of - Filipinos are an undisciplined bunch as the article made them out to be, therefore ALL Filipinos must be the same way", then it might hurt other peoples' perception of Filipinos, especially migrant workers, which is her NGO's advocacy.

On the same Plurk conversation, one of my contacts responded "Masunurin tayong mga Pinoy kapag wala tayo sa sarili nating bansa". And that's the thing: I don't have a "tayo" or "we" mentality. I have an "us vs. them" mentality. As far as I'm concerned, the writer wasn't talking about me, my family, or my friends. He was talking about "the others" - the others who believe that "because you're in the Philippines, rules are bendable". And I refuse to associate with that rabble.

Case in point: I still use pedestrian lanes and wait for the traffic signals to cross streets. Sometime in college, a friend dissuaded me from doing so, saying that it's okay because "nasa Pilipinas ka eh". Context: I had just come back from a couple of years in Canada and had perpetuated a lie that I actually grew up in the States (long story).

And I hate it. I still hear it to this day. My boss says it all the time, sometimes adding "diskarte" into the mix. And I hate it as well.

Many of the butt-hurt comments from the original article pointed out the idea of "pakikibagay", which makes sense as far as adapting linguistic nuances are concerned. But if you're telling me that I have to adapt to the cultural norm that breeds an undisciplined citizenry, then hell no! I refuse!

The thing is: I grew up in this country. I spent all my schooling here. Like many, I spent my formative years in the province (Quezon in my instance) and, except for my high school, endured a dominantly Catholic education. I am not privileged. My family can't even afford a car. So where is the disconnect? How did someone like me become a better Filipino than Filipinos with more qualifications than I do?

I used to think that "nationalism" meant being a model citizen, by not being part of the problem. That my discipline alone made me an exemplary Filipino. Recently I realized that I don't do it for love of country but for respect of my environment and of the people I share it with, because it's common sense, and because I'd like to believe I'm a decent human being. Because, logically, if I was doing it for some semblance of nationalism, I should be comfortable breaking the rules in other countries in a glaring reversal of the "nasa Pinas ka eh" mentality.

On a more sinister note, I'd like to believe that I'm better than "the others". Just last night, as I was coming home from Myna's birthday party, I had my cab driver turn right from Magsaysay Blvd. to Pureza St., then make a U-turn so that we can make a left turn back to the opposite lane of Magsaysay Blvd. I always do this even as other drivers ignore the No U-Turn sign on the corner of Magsaysay and Pureza.

If the Filipino experience is defined by such wanton disregard for basic rules on account of "eh nasa Pinas ka eh", then yeah - I refuse to be Filipino in the only possible way I can be: Culturally. (Then again, I have never been attuned to other aspects of Filipino culture anyway, but that's another story for another time.)

Going back to my opening paragraph, I realized that while I have the privilege to leave and be done with this nonsense, my friends are tethered to this country. What offends me now isn't that this one article, which ultimately paints a realistic portrait of daily life in this country (or at least this city), puts Filipinos in a bad light. What offends me is that there are Filipinos, who are as much Filipinos for the same reason that my friends are Filipinos, who cast a shadow on the Filipino identity. These are the people to blame if the general perception of Filipinos in other countries isn't as glowing as we'd like them to be, not the article or its writer.

However, I do recognize that this aspect of the Filipino consciousness is just an affliction - and it doesn't affect everyone. My friends, who are far more outstanding citizens than I am and far better Filipinos than most people chosen to represent the Filipino ideal, are living proof of that.

I also recognize that my divisive mentality is something that I have to work on, but until then, I'll revel in the fact that I'm in the right company.

On that note, I got to spend some time this week with some awesome people:
Giselle is in town!
(Last Thursday at Rocket Room BGC.)
Last Friday, a bunch of friends and I traveled all the way to BF ParaƱaque to enjoy a "smuttering" of nachos.
I also accomplished a life goal.
Game night for Ian and Myna's birthday last night.
(Photo from Tania's G+)
On, and last Wednesday, Ralph invited me to their company's block screening of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier". It was awesome.

1 comment:

  1. Dude, you hit the nail dead center.

    I've always felt the same way since I first came back here. It's all the little things that make me crazy, like the jaywalking and the leaving a complete mess after you're done at a fast food restaurant, or the weirdly oblivious way some people just drop their litter in the street with no furtive, guilty glances to their sides.

    That's as much the Filipino Way as "hospitality" is. It's the plain truth.

    I still think we need a common courtesy course in schools, because somewhere along the lines, the majority of Filipinos missed out on those lessons.