[The following is an article by Star columnist Don Pedero published in The Philippine Star 29 October 2000 and also featured in Get Real Philippines on the same year.]
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Last July 23, I wrote about Nasty (short for Anastacio), a balikbayan from Los Angeles, who, while vacationing in Manila, had nothing to say but negative comments about the Philippines and the Filipinos. The article elicited a deluge of comments from our readers. Though some agreed with his curt observations, most were enraged at the repulsive way he acted and whined.
For me, he was the classic epitome of the “crow perched on a carabao,” thinking and acting nauseatingly superior just because he has become an American citizen, inequitably comparing everything here to how they are in the first world. I was particularly irked by his repulsive “know it all” attitude and peeved no end by his irritating Waray-American twang.
Those who have not read that article may access philstar.com and click archives, then select July 23 and click Lifestyle. The article is entitled “Little Brown Americans.” As a backgrounder, here is an excerpt:
The next day, I took them on a little city tour and accompanied them to do extra shopping at the duty-free shop. They were to leave two days later for their respective provinces (Randy is from Pampanga, Nasty, from Samar).
“God, ang dilem-dilem naman ditow (it is so dark here)!” screamed Nasty in his characteristic Taglish slang, “At ang inet-inet pa (and so warm)!”
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All throughout the day, Nasty complained about everything. He griped that all Filipinos he encountered were dense and inefficient (I hope that didn’t include me!); that the traffic was horrendous and drivers “drove like they were late for their funerals”; that the pollution from the smoke-belching vehicles was irritating his dainty, surgically-pinched nose.
He was disgusted that water closets didn’t work; horrified that there was no toilet paper in public toilets (“God, how do you people do it?” he bewailed); petrified by street children begging while soaking wet in the rain (“Where are the parents of these kids?” he nagged).
He moaned about the proliferation of slums, people crossing the superhighways (“There should be underground or overhead walkways for pedestrians!” he demanded), the potholes on the streets, the disgusting garbage and filth all over the city, and the annoying floods! And all these he observed in just one day!
Weeks after the publication of the article, I took Nasty’s silence to mean that of contempt and anger. I must admit that I didn’t care because I was really turned off by his arrogance. The good news is, Nasty has finally decided to break his silence and give us his side, loaded with a big piece of his mind. The bad news is, he hits more sensitive chords and it stings.
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My Zen master says, “Never fight fire with fire.” So, I sat in a lotus position, imbibed the ethereal qualities of cool mountain water and stoically resisted the temptation of answering back to defend myself in rebuttal of your article. I kept quiet while you and your readers had a charlatan holiday, dissecting and fanning sarcasm on my every comment about your country and your people.
I am not mad at you for writing that piece. I was never upset at any point, even after your readers from all over the world e-mailed in their two-cents’ worth. In fact, I found it rather amusing and carnival-like.
I even felt happy that people still came to the defense of your Philippines!
If you noticed, I now refer to the Philippines and Filipinos as your country and your people. Every time I went back there for vacation, my Filipino-ness always took the better of me (blame those damn green mangoes smothered with bagoong!) and made me forget that I am, in all reality, what you aptly called a “Little Brown American.” I have come to terms with my own identity- I am, after all, an American citizen carrying an American passport!
What precipitated my quick decision to sever my ties with your country (aside from your ***** of an article) were the Abu Sayyaf abductions (que barbaridad!), the Payatas-like downslide of the peso (eat your hearts out, I earn sweet American dollars!), the “devoid of conscience” graft and corruption in your government (this has gone on for the longest time-how shameful!), and lately, the stupid “Juetengate” and juicy but enraging “Boracay” mansion gossips. With all these, who would be proud to be a Filipino? Besides, to tell you frankly, those Erap jokes are no longer funny- they are passé and leave a bad taste in the mouth and heart. No Apology If I sounded brash and insensitive with the way I threw my comments, well, I cannot do any-thing about that because that is the way I am, and I offer no apology. Here, in America, you have to tell it like it is or you’ll never be taken seriously. I have learned to drop my “Pinoy sugarcoating” because out here, you get nothing done if you are meek and sweet and pa-api. Hindi puwede mag-Anita Linda dito!
When I commented about your pollution, street children mendicants, slums,potholes, toilets that don’t work, garbage, floods, and most of all, the Pinoys’ chronic lack of discipline, I was merely putting into words what I saw. I can’t blame your being blind about your country’s situation.
My Zen master says, “One cannot easily see the dirt in one’s eye.” I am sure though that you are aware of those sordid details, but have grown accustomed to them (like most Manileños have). All the complaints I aired may have hurt your pride but what I wanted you to realize is this: The things I pointed out are all symptoms of a failing, falling nation!
Suffering A National Karma?
Could yours be a country cursed with a huge national karmic debt? It could be payback time, you know. Look back into your history, look deep inside your hearts-what could you have done as a nation to deserve this fiasco you are in today?
What you are faced with didn’t just happen overnight-it developed and grew into a monster in the course of time. Deeply imbedded in the psyche of the Filipino is the amalgamation of the characters and events that have impacted your lives – Dona Victorina, Dona Concepcion, poor Sisa as well the other hilarious and tragic characters of Dr. Jose Rizal… Stonehill…the notorious gangsters immortalized by your Filipino movies like Asiong Salonga (hmmm!), et al…the killers in your (I thought they’d never end!) massacre movies…those cheap, appalling titles of your movies…those staged “religious miracles” that your naive masses believed…family men with pushy queridas (mistresses)…your crooked politicians, undependable police officers and greedy customs collectors…your bribe-hungry court judges…Imeldific, gloriously smiling and crying at the same time, bejeweled. (How very Fellini!)
What you are is the sum total of your history, your heritage and culture,your education, the crap that your press sensationalizes, the bad icons that your movies glorify, the artificial values your advertising extols, the bad examples your leaders and role models project. What you feed your country’s mind is what it becomes. You have become the ugly monster that you’ve created. You are now crying all the tears your sickeningly sentimental movies wailed out for years and years! Your Biggest Fault If there is one thing that comes to mind, I think your biggest fault would be your individual greed. “Ako muna!” seems to be the national mantra. The trouble is, very few people think for the common good in a deplorable “to each his own kurakot” festival. Coupled with your crab mentality of pushing down others, this can be fatal. You think barangay, not national. Hello, everybody else around the world is thinking global! Europe is unshackling her national boundaries while you are building fences around your nipa huts.
Do yourselves a favor and look at your nation as a ship. All of you are in it and it is sinking! Realize your oneness-what hurts your brother hurts you, too. Think about the future of your children and the succeeding generations, and do something about it quick before your poor little banca plunges forever into the irretrievable depths of despair.
You are a nation of star-struck ignoramuses. You are easily awed by your movie stars who are usually nothing but uneducated, aquiline-nosed and light-skinned ******** picked up from some gutter somewhere. I have seen what these artistas illusionadas can get away with. They just flash their capped-tooth smiles and policemen let them get away with traffic violations; they bat their false eyelashes and customs officers impose no duty on their suspicious balikbayan boxes.
Worst of all, with the Filipino movie industry taking a nosedive, hordes of actors and show personalities went into politics. It is, as they say, the next best “racket”-there is more money to be made in the politicking business than in show business! (And what is this I hear that in the coming elections, more are jumping into the arena? Mag-hara-kiri na kayo!) How can you expect these comedians and actors, who only know how to take directions from their directors, to direct your nation? For them,politics will just be an “act”. No big surprise here, for they are mere actors with no original scripts to speak, no original visions to share. So what can you expect but a government that is a comedy of errors. Serves you and your star- struck nation right!
My Zen master says, “Give unto Caesar what is due to Caesar, but keep Charlie Chaplin on the silver screen to make us laugh.” To survive, you must teach your citizenry to say no to three things – no to drugs, no to stealing and graft and corruption, and no to artistas in politics. I hope you’ve learned your lesson by now. (Yours is the only country where Mexican soap stars are received like royalty in the presidential palace. How shoddy! God forbid-Fernando Carrillo might end up being your next president. At least he has great abs and doesn’t wobble like a penguin when he walks!)
For those artistas who honestly believe that they can make a positive difference in the Filipino masses’ life, they must first study law, business and public administration, and immerse themselves in the life and passion of Mother Teresa. Politics is not an art for dilettante artistas to dabble in. It is called “Political Science,” hello?!
Educate Your Masses
Educate the masses – especially your electorate. What you need is an intelligent vote aside from, of course, intelligent candidates. The University of San Carlos in Cebu City, founded in 1595, and the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, established in 1611, are the oldest universities in Asia, and are even older than Harvard. But the standard of Pinoy education has deteriorated so much that the Philippines ranks among the poorest in the educational hierarchy of Asia.
Education, education, education-that’s what you need in this age of information, information, information.
If all your social, religious and political sectors don’t sit down now and decide to take the Right Way, the Philippines and your children’s children will be grand losers in the worldwide rush to the future. Education is one sure way to salvation. Teach what is right, good, beautiful and beneficial.
Downplay all negativity if you cannot eliminate it altogether.
The Ideal President
I’ve got news for you. (As if you didn’t already know.) No matter whom you put up there as your leader or president, it will be the same banana. Even a holy man can turn into another J. E. (Judas Escariot) for a few pieces of silver. Kumpares, alalays, relatives and cronies will encrust like flies and maggots on his cordon sanitaire. And it will be the same despicable “Sa amin na ‘to!” hullabaloo all over again.
Take an advice from Aling Epang: “Pumili ng matanda, mayaman, mabait, at madaling mamatay.” Get a president who is old – so that he is full of wisdom, rich – so he won’t need to steal more money, goodhearted – so he will render heartfelt service to his people, and is in the sunset of his life – so that he will think of nothing but gaining good points to present when he meets his Creator. And may I add: At iisa lang ang pamilya! This is, of course, asking for the moon. Just pray fervently for an intelligent leader with a pure heart who genuinely loves the common tao!
Magpakatotoo Kayo! Wake up and look at the real you. Enough with looking at your reflection in glorious, self-embellishing mirrors. The tropical sun can play tricks, you know. Do not wait for darkness to fall before you take that much-needed long, hard look at your real situation. Magpakatotoo kayo, ano? This isn’t a wake-up call-it is the final alarm!
Save the ship while you still can. Don’t wait till your people have no more dreams left to hang on to, no more hope to sustain their broken spirits. I came home, spent my penny-pinched savings so that even in the minutest way I could help your bruised economy. Your politicians sit on their fat, farting butts and get balatos (kuno!) in the millions. Receivers are as guilty as the givers. Now, tell me, who is really nasty?
I Have Made My Decision; So Should You.
My Zen master says, “Life is all about decisions, not choices.” I have made a decision which I know will be very hard for me to keep- You will never hear from me again (not in this vein) and I will not even think of visiting or buwisiting your Manila ever. This is my way of letting you know that I have given up on you. Bahala na kayo! Only you can help yourselves because at the stage you are in, nobody would want to help you. My Zen master says, “You have to fall to learn to rise again.” How much lower do you want to go?
Anyway, regarding the Philippines as a tourist destination, you have a lot of cleaning up and face-lifting to do before foreigners would dare go to your islands again. The Abu Sayyaf episode has done your tourism industry more damage than you could ever imagine, and it will take a long time before the world forgets. (By the way, your tourism projects are lusterless and have no global impact. If you want real business, spruce up your infrastructure and do aggressive marketing on the World Wide Web!)
Of course, I would gladly reverse my decision if someone offered me exclusive lordship over lotto, bingo, jueteng, pintakasi and the jai alai.Think about it: this will be to your advantage because I never give tong or blood commission to anyone! (If only your president used the millions he received from those gambling lords to build homes for the masses, you wouldn’t have any more squatters. Huling hirit: defrost those Marcos billions, pay off some debt, place the rest in high-yield investments, feed your hungry, and spread bounty and joy to every Filipino! Are you stupid or what? – That’s your money sucked from the blood of your people!)
I have made my decision, now make yours. I would hate for the day to come when I’d have to say, “I told you so!” Good luck! (You need it.)
J. Anastasio “Nasty”
P. S. My Zen master says, “Vox populi is not always the voice of God.”
P. P. S. Come over to L.A and I’ll show you a great time!
P. P. P. S. Our friend Randy says hello! We will be going to Vancouver to feast our eyes on the colors of autumn. Wish you could join us.
P. P. P. P. S. The new Miss America, Angela Perez Baraquio, is of Filipino ancestry. Dero, her parents hail from Pangasinan just like you! But keep in mind that she is an American (in case some wise fools over there claim her to be Filipino like they always do whenever someone becomes successful).
Wait for the girl to say it- don’t put words in her mouth!
P. P. P. P. P. S. Mabuhay kayo (SANA)!
P. P. P. P. P. P. S. Sa totoo lang, MAGDUSA KAYONG LAHAT! (Don’t you just love my Waray-Kano accent?) He-he-he!
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My Short Reply
Thanks for your e-mail. I swear you sort of stole the words from right under my tongue. Now, I am utterly speechless.
Send my regards to Randy. Wishing you the best!
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