Photo: An improvised boat made at the height of the Habagat flood that paralyzed Metro Manila for days
I have cousins who were raised in the US, and we spent much of our pre-adulthood years during the era pre-Facebook, when “sharing” photos meant not uploading but getting them developed first, then sending them via good old-fashioned snail mail. I remember feeling like I wanted to instantly teleport myself to their country whenever I would see pictures of them playing in the snow. I would later learn though, that landscape utopia in the eyes of many Westerners is not snowland but the tropical beach.
When I was a student in UP, a Filipino-American exchange student interviewed me about my idea of America, because she was required to submit a research paper about Filipino culture upon coming back to her home country. I told her that America for me meant the suburban bliss of the very popular book and TV franschise Sweet Valley, popular about fifteen years ago, thus giving you another idea of our era.
The two lead characters of the Sweet Valley franchise are twin blondes who look so picture-perfect and live an equally picture-perfect life in the suburbs of America. The Fil-Am exchange student looked very surprised and bewildered hearing my answer, as all the UP students she had interviewed had told her also of their view of a utopian America. The one which is formed from reading and watching so many picture-perfect stories set in the US of A. She told me that no, US life is not that perfect, especially for racial “minorities” like her who had grown up in an inland state of the US that is far less racially heterogenous than coastal states like California. My acquaintance at UP had to struggle with growing up having to deal with the condescending attitudes held by some towards the foreign blooded in an almost-homogenously-White part of America.
As for me who has grown up and lived in the Philippines which is a nation that consistently ranks poorly based on international standards of honesty in government and delivery of basic social services, I had and have to endure world-famous NCR Traffic, the lack of fitting job opportunities, floods that come with the threat of Leptospirosis due to very poor management of waste and drainage, as well as the experience of studying in public schools in classrooms with chairs that often serve not for lecture use but as antique rocking chairs. These are of course the consequences of either too much politics or abuse of power. And the classic explanation, graft and corruption.
I remember hearing Bro. Eli of the program Ang Dating Daan (as promoted on local TV, the TV program is now aired in such continents as Europe and Latin America) say that many Filipinos may be facing a lot of very tough concerns and problems, but the Philippines has far less suicide rates than other economically prosperous nations like Japan. And that though we may face experiences unknown to much richer nationalities (ex. violent house demolition because your address is at such a place as “under-the-bridge”), we have a far more positive outlook in life than those who commit suicide in the midst of the kind of socio-economic prosperity that people who live on less than a dollar a day could only dream of. We are nowhere near the list of the most suicide-prone nations of the world.
While I am of course not proud that my country simply has more than its enough share of self-serving and selfish politicians who are the epitome of oppression and injustice, I just know and feel that my upbringing at home and genuine social values has imparted me with a sense of self respect and dignity no matter how pathetic my nation’s political realities may seem. Because I am a Filipino, I just know that someway, somehow there is a way out of pathetic circumstances and I need not lose my sanity or dignity just because some people consider my country or my race servile, having been colonized thrice and seemingly still colonized even at the present.
Some foreign scholars may view Filipino’s positive outlook as a sociological or anthropological anomaly. But in the language of the common tao who has endured the travails of working far from home, of the real inhabitants of Home Along Da Riles made famous by the hit TV program topbilled by the late Dolphy, it is simply hope. For academicians like me who has never given up on our ideals of scholarship despite the lack of institutional support, and for struggling middle-class parents doing their best to send their kids to school at minimum wages, it is hope.
Mentioned and Hyper-Linked:
trailer of Home Along da Riles TV series topbilled by the late Dolphy
2009 Mashable Most Educational to Follow blog of Bro. Eli Soriano, Host of Ang Dating Daan