For all of Filipinos’ kayabangan (bluster), there does seem to be sufficient level of actual achievement to match. This observation is best encapsulated in the Tagalog phrase “Wala naman palang ibubuga.” Filipinos rely almost entirely on capital that trickles down from the First World into their gaping mouths — so much so that even the political discourse is divided based on which capital-rich bloc to pander and panhandle to.
Indeed, there is noisy debate between partisans loyal to current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who defend his pivot of the country’s foreign policy towards China and Russia, and Opposition partisans who remain beholden to the United States and Western Europe as dispensers of their daily bread. If we step back from that quaint noise and regard it with a more critical mind, we will see that they are just two flavours of the same thing — mirrors held up to the reality that Filipinos still cannot stand on their own two feet like a truly independent and free people.
We observe the rather sad way Filipinos remain reliant on powerful countries to prop up their own self-worth. Two familiar words encapsulate this condition: colonial mentality. The pathetic way “thought leaders” of the Opposition look to their counterpart liberals in the West to add weight to their demonisation campaigns against the Philippine government is the most striking current example of this mentality. They scrape in any willing European-looking schmoe hoping that including a white face (or seven) in a publicity photo or propaganda meme will multiply their credibility and brand equity a thousand fold.
These same liberals may be staunchly critical of current US President Donald Trump and regard him as the American analogue to Duterte’s populist rule. Yet, it seems, to the average Filipino mind, Trump is still a powerful white guy whose mere presence in Malacanang could bolster the Duterte brand before the masses. Indeed, their faith in their conviction that Trump is universally-detested tyrant does not seem consistent with an evident fear that his planned visit to the Philippines to meet with Duterte could potentially win support away from their cause and back to Duterte’s camp. If it is true that no less than “senator” Antonio Trillanes was dispatched to schmooze with key US politicians to mitigate this possibility is testament to how much they fear what a Trump visit to the Philippines could do to the popularity of the Opposition’s position.
In short, in the Philippines, European voices still speak louder than Filipino voices. That’s not something to be mayabang about. It’s just, quite simply, rather sad — sad to see both partisan camps “debating” one another over the attentions, favours, and money of one patronising European bloc or another. Both sides claim to be astig (tough) and assert that toughness in their posturing when facing off with the opposing camp. Yet if you look closely enough, much of this toughness is underpinned by one or the other’s preferred resbak in the First World — e.g. the European Union (EU), the foreign media, Russia, China, the Catholic Church, God, whatever. We hardly ever see a Filipino debate where the arguments stand on their own merits as relevant in the Philippine setting and its national interests and on the credibility of their formulators as Filipinos.
Some of the arguments fielded in these debates are downright pathetic. For example, a favourite one involves quoting the billions in grants, investments, and aid the Philippines stands to lose if its government falls out of favour with the EU. In the process of latching onto this lazy position to take, the more fundamental points are missed — like why are Filipinos so dependent on all that to begin with? Or that, if that dependency has long been recognised, why did Filipinos not take steps to wean itself off it or, more importantly, stop habitually entering into commitments they are inherently incapable of honouring. Examples of such commitments include the Philippines’ enormous population. Why did Filipinos allow their population to balloon to its current size when it has long been clear that foreign capital (foreign technology, foreign medicine, foreign governance methods, foreign money, foreign employement, etc.) is required to sustain populations of such size in societies and cultures that lack strong traditions of innovation and technological achievement?
The Philippines is like a pair of rich parents’ spoilt brat kid who drops out at Grade 7, marries his sweetheart and has seven kids knowing, at the back of his mind, that Daddy will provide him a house and monthly allowance. Such a kid may be living in a nice house and driving around in a nice car, making all the right friends, and talking to them about “modern parenting”. But does such a person carry an ounce of self respect? Then again, does such a kid even understand the concept of self respect?
It is time Filipinos step back from their petty bickering and take the time to really understand what it is they are fighting over. If Filipinos are so concerned about being respected as a people, perhaps the first step to achieving that is to first gain a bit of self respect and act like a truly independent people.
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- Tricia and Aika Robredo are a couple of spoilt brats - November 21, 2020