Imagine for a moment that the Philippines was suddenly swallowed up by the seas leaving no trace of it, its culture, and its people. Then ask yourself this question:
Will the rest of the world miss the Philippines?
What a confronting question, right?!
It may be true, of course, that the Philippines is a source of the world’s “friendly” people, its hordes of OFWs that provide cheap labor to the world’s big business, that care for the rich world’s kids and senior citizens, and the seamen who man its merchant fleets. It is supposedly home to “the world’s best beaches” where the world’s backpackers and holidaymakers get their tans. The Philippines also hosts the vast call centers and business process outsourcing centers whose labor-saving services fatten the bottomlines and share prices of countless businesses in the First World.
If these labor services, these great beaches and these call centers and BPOs suddenly disappeared, what is the rest of the world to do? Can these services and facilities be easily replaced?
We Filipinos also pride ourselves in our country being home to the world’s “pound-for-pound best fighter in the world”, boxing champ Manny Pacquiao. How soon can the world produce a new champ if he were to disappear along with the rest of his kababayans in that hypothetical scenario?
If all we get while considering the above is nothing more than a lot of headscratching, maybe there are more nuances to the question worth exploring.
What world-class ideas and cultural things do Filipinos contribute to humanity’s collective intellect and artistry? The United States, for example, is a source of much joy to billions of people thanks to the unparalleled output of its entertainment industry. Germany, despite much of the First World practically giving away its technology and manufacturing expertise to China, still manufactures lots of stuff that are “engineered like none other in the world”.
What do Filipinos have to offer that will convincingly assure us that we make a mark in the world and that we contribute something truly valuable to the human race? Honestly, while all the feel good “Pinoy Pride” material I see shared and shared again all over the Web may be patriotic candy every now and then, I still struggle to pin down exactly what our society’s real value proposition to the world is.
What can we be truly proud of if we fail to articulate exactly what it is that justifies our continued existence as a people on the planet?
What does the Filipino stand for?
Do we stand for “freedom”? I’d think twice about that. I don’t think Filipinos are truly free — just suckers for the bullshit their leaders and celebrities feed their little minds.
Do we stand for “justice”? Hmmm… I don’t think so. There’s lots of crimes that remain unsolved in the Philippines. Some of these crimes are even big fat mass murders that would normally send an entire society screaming with indignation. Not in the Philippines. Injustice is pretty much the national morality nowadays. The eminent BongV refers to Pinoy-style justice by its apt colloquial term: just-tiis, ha ha!
Are Filipinos a beacon of Christian values in Asia? Well, the pope is coming to the building this January. He might have some ideas coming out of the experience on whether or not this remains true. But out of respect for our Muslim “brothers” in the south, I’d say this notion is sort of passé — no more than a quaint relic of a pre-politically-correct world of old Pinoy bukang bibigs.
In terms of contributing economic value to the world, well, beyond cheap labor, I don’t think we’re much of a player in that field. I mean, c’mon, beyond San Miguel and Jollibbee what else is there? Bench? Lol! You should see a Bench shirt I bought just six months ago. It used to have a snug neckhole. Now I can wear it like an off-shoulder top! Think too that San Mig and Jollibee are such so-last-century labels. The US, for example, creates a handful of world-class brands every year.
If we want to see ourselves as a great country that is home to a great people, I suggest we even at least think of something that differentiates us in an increasingly competitive world. What makes us unique as a people? What sort of icon can we put up on a stick (aside from our flag) that foreigners can spot and straightaway say: Hey that stands for Filipino!
You know what? I can only think of one universally-recognized icon that fits that criteria — Imelda Marcos’s face. Put that on a flag and the world will look at it and scream: “Filipinos!” Ha ha!
Sad. But the truth, indeed, hurts.
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