Tuesday, 12 June 2012
Ako ay Pilipino (I am Filipino)
I have waited for this month to write a blog about my nationality/race. The title says it all. No fancy words nor catchy phrases. I don't want to use the cliche term "proud to be...". I find that it sounds arrogant and boastful. I guess the best way of putting it is "I am BLESSED to be a Filipino". Why? Let me tell you a few reasons in the form of stories. Hopefully it wouldn't bore you or make you fall asleep but enlighten you about us folks.
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of studying and working (part-time) in a foreign land. My cousin and I have both enrolled in a college that offered a course in health & social care. I can still remember filling out their student forms and I frowned at the options as there was no "Filipino/Pilipino" or even my home country on the list. We had to write under "Others, please specify" instead. But when the instructor learned that we were Filipinos, she beamed at us and smiled. She obviously has met a lot of carers and students who are like us.
My aunt and her colleagues (all Pinoys) always tell us about how "proud" they are of how we work. In terms of enduring all types of stress and even managing to do part-time odd jobs like babysitting, house cleaning and even selling food in their offices, you bet we can turn night into day or day into night (depending on what work shift you're on). Everyone kept encouraging us that once we get into the routine, it'll be easy peasy.
Me and my cousin worked for a domiciliary care home about 30 minutes away from where my aunt lives. At first it is difficult to absorb every information they are trying to teach you but after 2 weeks, we were surprised we are close to making it a habit. Our bosses (a couple who have worked as carers before) were very appreciative and kind to us. They noticed we learned quickly the daily routine of the clients and have commended us for our dedication in the field. The idea of working hard and earning your keep was instilled in me by my family and even by how our nation viewed "having a job" which I believe helped me in focusing on what makes your boss happy and doing well. As a child, pinoys are taught, among a lot of other things, to trust in God and grow in your faith, respect the elderly, and study hard so you'll have a bright future ahead. This I have embraced and have also seen amongst a lot of Filipinos living abroad.
Life is tough and if you don't 'pull your finger out', you'll starve to death. This is another mindset that we have been brought up to believe in. That's why if you ask a child what he/she would like to be when he/she grows up, a quick reply would probably be somewhere along the lines of, "I want to be an engineer or a doctor or a nurse or a scientist". When asked why, they would simply answer back, "Because I want to help other people or I want to help my family rise up from poverty." While I was in that first world country, a teenager answered these same questions very differently. The girl said, "I want to be a hairdresser so I can color my hair." I couldn't believe what I just heard. Rich countries, I noticed, have all the means to support everyone - the senior citizens, the disabled/sick, the single parents with little to no monthly wages, and even the unemployed. It's like having a fall back in case you don't get any joy from working and you get bored you decided to quit. But for the unfortunate ones in my nation, the government cannot do anything to help alleviate their poor state. So everyone has to work and do something to earn money whether working odd jobs or selling food in the streets. And when given the opportunity (as most of us would love to work and live in a greener pasture), we grab it and do our best to keep on going to provide for our loved ones across the other end of the globe.
Respect is not just for parents or the governing authorities, we were raised to give due respect and be polite to everyone we meet. This trait I am so proud to see in the Filipino families abroad. They have made their children (even in a foreign land) to adapt this cultural heritage from old. I was surprised that the children would "bless" even to me and my cousin (considering we are just in our late 20's back then). The term "bless" is what we use to denote "kissing of the elderly's hand" or "placing the back of the elderly's hand on our foreheads". This has been taught from every generation to the succeeding generation and in the west wherein there is no more obvious respect for the geriatrics or even their own kin, I commend all the Filipino moms and dads who have raised their children as how they were raised by their own parents. Children in the Filipino community would even use "po" and "opo" - two words we add to every sentence and even to phrases when speaking to someone older than you no matter what age they may be.
With regards to faith, our country has embraced the religion imparted by the Spanish when they colonized the Philippines. And in a way, I am grateful because it became the means of placing our lives in a loving and gracious God. This I believe made Filipinos view life in a positive way. That in every trial, God is there. He will never leave you nor forsake you and that He will see you through in every problem you may encounter. I've learned that in western countries, people view depression as a form of illness. They take medications and see specialists to help them cope. On a lighter note, in my country, depression is cured once and for all, as what my alcoholic colleagues would recommend, by beer. After a drinking session with your beer buddies (as what they claim to do), you move on and do things right and forget about it. For the non-alcoholics, you cry, you vent out every painful memory and then get over it. In troubled times, your family and friends would be there to help you out. One for all and all for one, as the three musketeers would say.
People may belittle my race, scrutinize our ancestral lineage or think we're just a mix of different blood lines by mistake, but we are special and we have made our mark and will continue to show everyone (not in a boastful way) that we will set a good example of what a real person should be. I know we are still far from being one of the richest countries but we will get there eventually, by God's grace I know we will. A few years ago, a christian believer helped design and conceptualize the new peso bills. And on these paper bills he stood his ground in putting this verse (written in our native language) from the bible which says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." ~ Psalm 33:12. This is the promise that I hold on to. That my beloved homeland will be so blessed that we will be a blessing not only in our neighbouring countries in Asia but to every single one around the world.
I am thankful that God made me a Filipino. I am not ashamed to say I am Filipino and even if I had to explain where exactly the Philippines is in the map up to the point where I had to tell stories of our history. I feel honored to share and encourage people to come and visit the 7,100+ islands. I remember the conversation I had with my workmates in the care home about my controversial country of origin. One of the guys said to me, "The first time I saw you, I thought you were Chinese. But when we heard you speak, we thought you were American." So I told him, "I'm neither. I am Filipino." And from then on they got curious as to what our country is like because they saw in me a glimpse of what to expect when working and being with a person from that unknown land somewhere in Asia.
Praise God for another year of being able to celebrate and commemorate our independence as a nation. I will continue to intercede for our nation and bless it not curse it. Blessing means speaking good things for ourselves, the government and the country as a whole. Cursing means degrading (or uttering bad and negative things) every single aspect of your homeland. A lot of famous (and unnamed) heroes have fought bravely to set us free from the tyranny of the conquerors of old. They believed that one day, though they wouldn't be able to see it, we will enjoy the freedom - from oppression, from poverty and all things that held them back from living a fully enjoyable life. And what they all believed in came true! The blood that they shed have paid for the liberty they have longed for and what we are sometimes neglecting now. I honestly believe the only thing we Pinoys can do is to love this country and continue to uphold the values we have been known for as Filipinos. It is what makes us genuinely unique from others.
As requested by a dear friend, here is the song entitled "Ako ay Pilipino" sung by Kuh Ledesma, one of the best singers of our country. It tells us what being a true Filipino is all about. To serve your homeland and put to good use the knowledge and God-given skills we all have.
Ako ay Pilipino
Ang dugo'y maharlika
Likas sa aking puso
Adhikaing kay ganda
Sa Pilipinas na aking bayan
Lantay na Perlas ng Silanganan
Wari'y natipon ang kayamanan ng Maykapal
Bigay sa 'king talino
Sa mabuti lang laan
Sa aki'y katutubo
Ang maging mapagmahal
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Isang bansa isang diwa
Ang minimithi ko
Sa Bayan ko't Bandila
Laan Buhay ko't Diwa
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Taas noo kahit kanino
Ang Pilipino ay Ako!