Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Filipino dream By Rod Nepomuceno

I get mixed feelings when I catch that TV commercial that shows an old female balikbayan repeatedly saying to her son, "Walang ganiyan sa States." I am amused by it because it shows a scene that I think is quite familiar to a lot of us. I also like it because it has a nice ending to it - when the balikbayan lola starts hugging all her grandchildren, her son (who has been on the receiving end of all her whining and Philippines-bashing) sarcastically tells her, "Ma, walang ganiyan sa States!" I think that was a real nice twist.

While I do enjoy the commercial, I am saddened by the reality that it presents. The ad is an accurate depiction of how we tend to be. When I first went to the States, I felt I was a cut above the rest when I came back to the Philippines. It's like I felt superior to others who suffer and toil here while I was enjoying Disneyland and Universal Studios. I tended to compare the States with the Philippines - from the weather, to the road quality, to the people, to the quality of life.

After a while I begin to realize what a cancer this is. But it's still a very pervasive mentality, I'm afraid. We all have US-based relatives or friends who complain about everything they see and experience upon their return, just like that lady in the commercial. These are the relatives and friends who say, "My-God-how-can-you-stand-living-here?" The "trying hard" accent is bad enough, but what really annoys me is the smug, arrogant way they say it - as if they didn't have anything to do with all the problems besetting the country.

If you look at them, they're as Pinoy as suman, suka and squid balls. The only difference is they sport highlighted hair (close to being a blonde), their noses are a little bit pointier (but fake-looking), and they wear black leather jackets with a big "Lakers" embroidered on them (feeling LA!). But those "improvements" (if you can call them that) don't change them one bit. No matter how much Californian accent a Pinoy picks up, I don't think he or she would ever have the right to complain about everything they see in the Philippines - and that includes the traffic, the heat, the crowd, the smog, the potholes, everything - because they are still part of this country. They did something to make this country what it is.

Before I get hate mails from all the US-based Pinoys, let me just clarify that not all have this holier-than-thou mentality. A good number of them remain Pinoy at heart. My cousin Willie can watch all the pop stars in LA - Britney, Madonna, Linkin Park or Black-Eyed Peas. And yet, when he arrived here from the US a few months ago, the first thing he asked me was, "Saan ba puwedeng makabili ng CD ng Parokya ni Edgar?" Amazing.

My beef is against those who think that by staying in the US legally (or maybe even illegally), they have the right to put down their own country and countrymen. They complain about garbage in the street. Well, didn't they throw gum wrapper in the highway when they were here? They complain about buses stopping everywhere. Well, didn't they hail a bus before in the middle of Edsa? They also had something to do with the problems that are prevalent here. The only difference is we're still here trying to solve the mess that they helped create, while they're out there enjoying the cool weather, picking up an accent, and enjoying their new superior status as a clerk in Wal-Mart. Again, let me clarify - I am not talking about everyone who leaves for the US or abroad. There are those who think that just because they stayed in the States they are "the chosen people."

But that's not always the case, believe me. I know of so many people in the US who tried to live the American Dream - only to come back disillusioned with the whole concept. And some of them are now living their dream in the Philippines.

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as the Filipino Dream. Ask Henry Sy. Ask John Gokongwei. Ask Lucio Tan. They built their empire here in the Philippines. There are so many people out here who are living the Filipino Dream. Senator Manny Villar used to sell hollow blocks and gravel near the wet market. My friend and classmate Gunn Roque started out as a consignee in one shop and he turned that little business into Kamiseta, one of the most successful apparel shops in the country today. Ricco Ocampo - the brains and the prime mover of i2i, Anonymous, Kitchen , Ebun, Mix, etc. - used to peddle his silk screen shirts to different shops. Now, he practically has a business empire. And all of them became successful right here in the Philippines.

So who says that Pinoys in the US are better off living the American Dream? Think again. They deal with the same kind of shit that we deal with here. They have office politics (probably worse). They have racism issues. They have murders (remember our dear Pipay?). They have rape cases. They have loonies (walk along New York streets for an hour and you're bound to bump into one). They have beggars. And every day, Americans fear attacks from terrorists. And it's not just in the US. Spain just had that tragic train bombing. In Taiwan, there was an assassination attempt of a presidential candidate. In Korea, their parliament turned into an Ultimate Fighting Challenge arena. And in Sweden, a couple of months ago, the Minister of Finance was knifed to death while shopping.

Sure things are bad here, but oftentimes, the things that happen here are only magnified because we're here. But when you go abroad, you will realize they have the same problems. That's why I sometimes shake my head when the US embassy and other embassies issue travel advisories warning their citizens about going the Philippines. Hello! Terrorism is everywhere.

Going back to the age-old concept of the American Dream (or should I say, the American Illusion), yes maybe there is some economic advantage in going there, at least for the short term. Sure, you can have a bigger house and more cars. In garages in the US, you would usually see more than three cars and a host of other modes of transportation - a dune buggy, a Jet Ski, a motorbike, an SUV, an AUV, a scooter, a motorized skateboard, mountain bike, a hang glider, a deep-sea diving mini-submarine, and a lunar module. But guess what? All of that's on credit, and they owe their banks until the year 3000. Worse, most of them don't have the luxury of time to use all those gadgets. They're all busy in the weekends doing their laundry and running all sorts of errands. Somehow, we here in the Philippines never seem to have that problem. When we want to watch a movie, we go straight to the movie house. We don't have to look around and search for a baby-sitter.

It's easy to hit the Philippines. There are so many things to complain about. Anyone can do it. And I find that corny. I have decided to take the more challenging route - I choose to love the Philippines, and I would want to do something about it.


Unknown said...

Very well said ^_^ Pinoy ako and Proud AKO ^_^

torvics17 said...

Thanks, I'm one with you.