Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Yes, we can wow the world

Posted on April 26, 2008 by jimparedes


HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
Sunday, April 27, 2008

Consider that almost nine million Filipinos are now living abroad in practically every continent, in every region under every climate known to man, and under different types of political systems. Filipinos have invested their lives, established residence, intermarried with locals, begotten children, put up businesses and built futures in different countries and cultures all over the world. And more will be doing so.

There are more Filipinos living outside the Philippines than all of the people in New Zealand. The number of overseas Filipinos equals half of Australia’s population. It is not hard to imagine that our recent history of massive diaspora should have made some kind of impact on the different cultures of the world.

The Chinese, for example, have made their presence felt in many countries not only through its citizens, but through Chinese restaurants, temples, religion, culture and the numerous Chinatowns that can be found in most great cities. The Indians, on the other hand, have spread their arts, places of worship, food and Bollywood movies which have become recognized, enjoyed and admired everywhere.

But what do we Filipinos have to show for ourselves?

While it seems we may have settled outside our homeland in quieter ways than the Chinese, Indians, Americans and Brits, I am sure that we are also somehow impacting on the world.

Take the world maritime industry. The best, most plentiful and in-demand seamen in the world are our kababayan. Through the years, we have built our reputation in this field, and the world has recognized our competence. Also, consider that during the 1950s and 1960s, many Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indonesians and Iranians were studying architecture, engineering and other professional courses in Manila. It is also a little known secret that the banking industry in Indonesia was professionalized by Filipino expats during the ‘70s.  One only needs to go to these countries to see how well they have learned their lessons. In fact, they learned it so well they have outpaced us in many ways.

In many parts in Asia, the best musicians are Filipinos. Take a look at the nightspots and symphony orchestras in our neighboring countries and you’ll find our kababayan ranked among the best.

In world events, it is hard to imagine that despite our severely flawed politics, our people power experience in 1986 became the template for countries like East Germany, Romania, Ukraine, etc. that moved out of dictatorship into democracy.

But one really has to wonder why it is that despite our numerical presence in many countries, our influence is not as overt as that of other nationalities. There is a dearth of things Filipino anywhere outside the Philippines, such as clear cultural influences, save for a few restaurants, and the crowds of kababayan who get together on Sundays in places where there are Filipino Masses, and Statue Square in Hong Kong that make our presence noticeable.

I venture to say that we have not contributed to the world the stuff that speaks of who we really are. Sure, we have shared our brawn, brains and technology, but we have not given of ourselves except what we have learned from other cultures. We pride ourselves in speaking English well. We have sent our teachers, doctors, nurses, our best and brightest, to other countries and they have done us proud with the universally applicable knowledge they have mastered.

In effect, we have adapted well and blended with different cultures. But we have not, in any big, concerted way like other peoples have done, shared our own original music, cuisine, books and ideas, movies, dances, and our stories for them world to assimilate, enjoy and learn from. When we think of Japan, China, Africa and America, for example, we are bombarded with visual themes that speak of what their people and culture are like. But rarely has the world seen the true face of the Filipino.

When we migrate to any place, we like to blend in quietly, to fit in without fuss and to be “one of them.” That’s not bad in itself. In fact, one can say this formula has worked for us most of the time.

But if we want to move out of the limited image the world has of us, including the derogatory ones like “mail-order brides,” domestic helpers, “Japayuki,” corrupt people, dog-eaters, the “sick man of Asia” and other unsavory epithets, we may have to speak louder and tell our stories with our own voice and walk with a little more swagger and assertiveness.

After all, we do have movies that have won in film festivals all over the world. We do have first-class performers, sportsmen and talents in every field. If we were computers, the Filipino as “hardware” is certainly more than capable. It is our software (culture) that we need to tweak and make available for free download for the world to appreciate.

By “software,” I mean all the good things our culture can offer to the world. All we need is to look at what are  good about us and present these in a bigger way than we normally do. Years ago, the King of Thailand decided to open the palace kitchen and share the official royal recipes with his people, thus setting the national standard that has made Thai cuisine impact on the world in a big way. 

Some of the things Filipino we have wowed the world with tell a lot about who we are as a people — our folk dances through the Bayanihan Dance Company, people power, OPM, the countless choirs that win contests every year in Europe, our cuisine, our hospitality.

But before we can share more of these and become a major cultural force in the world, there is something that we must do: we have to believe in ourselves. We must believe that we have something to share, as other cultures have. We can’t show our stuff to the world if we have not learned to take pride in ourselves.

For starters, we have to be more accepting of who we are as we are. We need not seek approval from others. We must stop bad-mouthing ourselves and our culture, and accept that there is greatness in us. No more bashing ourselves and doubting our capabilities. Let’s start dreaming big. We CAN do it.

Nine million Filipinos abroad have shown their resilience, persistence and determination competing in the even playing fields of the world, and many have won! We just have to apply the same winning attitude in asserting ourselves and showing the world our uniqueness. It’s time to give our bigger contribution to the world which may turn out to be more valuable than our skills and talents, and this our Filipino-ness.

Nick Joaquin liked to chide us Pinoys for our preference for and obsession with small things. An example is we cut our provinces and cities into smaller parts each time they become economically successful. It’s time to think in global terms.

As much as we have been looking outward, let us also look inward and rediscover our literature, music, arts, theater, cuisine, stories, and proudly share these with the rest of the world. We’ve been trying to fit into other cultures for too long. Let us now invite those cultures to our celebration of ourselves.

When we start taking ourselves more seriously, the world will take notice.

* * *

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14 to “Yes, we can wow the world”

  1. Hi Jim, A wonderful post. I agree that there are so many things Filipino culture has to offer the world, I hope that your post will one day find it’s way into the curricular of the provincial schools and colleges, so that each person there can understand your sentiments and believe in themselves as well. The Philippines is a wonderful nation, that has created a resilient, resourceful and creative people who may yet show the world many things that heighten the respect and admiration of, and toward, all Filipino people. Great Stuff!

  2. benign0 says:

    Very insightful post, mate. Pinoys are fond of citing individual achievements of a handful of elite compatriots.

    But I don’t know if we will in our lifetime see the day when a COLLECTIVE achievement attributable to Pinoys AS A PEOPLE will be realised.

  3. madbong says:

    Hi Boss Jim, been reading your blog for quite sometime now but first time to comment. Yes I am also one of those nine million and I am living in NZ. Here, Filipinos are regarded as hardworking and industrious. Likewise, Filipinos here are one of those law-abiding immigrants as it is rarely that you hear about Filipinos involved in any crime. We are slowly making our mark in NZ society. G’Day mate!

  4. straycat260 says:

    “Nine million Filipinos abroad have shown their resilience, persistence and determination competing in the even playing fields of the world, and many have won! We just have to apply the same winning attitude in asserting ourselves and showing the world our uniqueness.”

    Minsan kulang sa yabang ang Pinoy kaya madalas halos magpatirapa tayo sa mga foreigners. Aliw na aliw tayo sa kanila, sorang hospitable tayo na inaakala nating mas mahusay sila sa atin pero ang totoo pare-pareho lang naman tayong tao.

    I agree kulang tayo ng winning attitude, kailangan iintegrate yan sa kurikulum natin. dapat umpisahan sa paaralan, baguhin ang mind set ng mga Pinoy.

  5. madbong says:

    btw, i added you to my blogroll if that’s ok

  6. Timawang Tasyo says:

    Unlike the Chinese, we do not have central communities or community centers and the Chinese, with a few exceptions, have not been colonized by a western power. The Indian culture, much like the Chinese, is not complamentary to Western culture, although they were a British colony for a century. They have their own identity while we, sadly, aspire to be like the white masters. Bollywood, by the way, is a bigger industry than Hollywood.
    There is nothing to be proud of in regards to Indonesia’s banking and economic system in the 70s, you must be ignorant of the horrors, the genocide, commited by Suharto. This Friedman neo-liberalism helped oust a democratically socially conscious leader, Sukarno, and in it’s place the said dispicable tyrant.
    East Germany, Romania, and the Ukraine was not inspired and successful because of the People’s Power Revolution in the Philippines. The Soviet Union lost the cold war against the United States greatly because of the protacted war in Afghanistan, a product of U.S. agitation and which we are receiving blowback from. Mohandas Gandhi has a greater claim to inspring the uprising for his efforts in South Africa during the early 20th century and his subsequent struggles for Indian independce. I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, that there was a great censure and filtering of outside news and the EDSA Revolution would be one to be censored.
    I’ve seen the throngs of Filipino domestic helpers in Wanchai, Kowloon, and the neighboring areas; as well as the Thai day and I forget what other national day off; and am not instilled with pride but sadness. Saddened by the thought that my compatriots are separated from their families and their native land just to be thrust into a new form of slavery. Making maybe a couple of dollars a day, after working from dawn until midnight, just so they can send home to indifferent family members who spend it on wasteful and lavish imported products which exacerbates our bleeding economy.
    How can we promote our culture when people do not know their culture, we collectively don’t seem to have love for our culture or people. Children go to school learning a bit about the heroics of nationalist from times past but are bombarded with billboards and television programs that show them the contrary, that one must be light skinned with a pointed nose to be beautiful. That we must walk the streets under a payong, use papaya soap, and periodically visit Dr. Belo. That we aspire to own western things like USD$120 Nike or Reebok Shoes or $40 Gap or Abercrombie shirts that are ironically made in Filipino sweatshops where our brothers and sisters are making less than 2 dollars a day.
    We have inherited the worst from our past. The tribalism from the precolonial period that was exploited by the Dominicans and Franciscans. The colonial mentality drilled into the Filipino psyche by the colonizing Spanish and Americans. Most of us still bear our given Spanish slave names, our country is still and identity is still named in honor of a Spanish King unknown by us.
    This is the first time I’ve heard someone take pride in his/her people being in diaspora. Emigration to foreign unforgiving lands is symptomatic of a social cancer at home. We need to rediscover our identity and reject the negative aspects of western culture (ie. avarice). How can we spread our culture or create an identity without when we do not have it within the motherland?

  7. jimparedes says:

    timawang tasyo– People Power did inspire all these countries to make a go at democratisation. Foreign correspondents who covered them have repeatedly said so. China, prior to then Tien an Men massacre had pages and pictures of the People Power book displayed in walls everywhere as inspiration.

    I fear your take on history is largely a Western colored one. As an example, the Americans claim victory for our EDSA even if Ronald Reagan tried his darndest to save Marcos with statements that said there was cheating on both sides, until he realised he could not turn the tide of history.

    We are not the first people to have had a diaspora, and while it is tragic, I believe we can still turn a bad thing to good thing. History is not static. Korea, as described by IMG-World bank in the 60s, was ‘hopelessly corrupt’ and a failed state.

    We still have good things going for us. It’s a dynamic world and things can change in a snap.

  8. Timawang Tasyo says:

    I’ve done a quick search on the connection between Romania and the EDSA revolution and have not found any that links the two. I have also failed to find a direct relation between the EDSA Revolution and East Germany and Ukraine’s move to democracy. I think that the EDSA revolution was incredible and something we should be proud of but I wouldn’t go as far as say that it was the driving force or even a significant force from a pseudo-marxist state to a Democratic Republic. I might be missing something and will admit that I don’t assume to know a great more than you do so please enlighten me.

    The East European countries have been suffering and struggling for decades before the EDSA rev. came. They were police states who received financial, logistical, and military support from the Soviet Union and, again, the protracted war in Afghanistan, the space race, and the arms race greatly bankrupted the Soviet Union. This is what lead to the fall of the iron curtain.

    There was a media blackout within the iron curtain and great cencorship. People were thrown in jail for months if they were suspected of even telling jokes, any form of dissent. I’ve noticed you’ve read 1984 in your former blog, this isn’t far from what it was.

    – – – – – – – – – –

    Western colored as in I take my information from American History books and media? I’m sorry but I am against the fourth branch of the United States government, the MSM. I’m ideally a Marxist but, since I don’t trust people and anarchy, am a Social Democrat in practice. If they could have their way, I’d be in Guantanamo.

    I do not read American History books or World history books published for the schools. My type of History book is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States or Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart. For Sociology I read Marx and Engels, Noam Chomsky, etc. Investigative journalism: John Pilger. Globalization: Subcomandante Marcos from Chiapas, Naomi Klein. I have studied the Bible, Tao Te Ching, I Ching, Rig Veda, Upanishad, Osho, etc. I delve greatly in all aspects of Western and Eastern Philosophy. I do not have a western view of the world, sir. I hate Reagan as much as I hate the Marcos family.

    I would not trust the World Bank, WTO, or the IMF. They were established for good reasons, I believe it might’ve been introduced or promoted by John Maynard Keynes, but the western powers which control the banks through majority vote have greatly perverted the institutions. These institutions do the American capitalist’s biddings, first and foremost. A breeding ground for Friedman/Chicago School economic neo-liberalism, they have inspired coup de etats all over the third world and have left the third world impoverished. They are supporters of Suharto, Pinochet, Bolivia, Argentina, Panama, Nicaragua, etc. China, shortly before the Tiananmen Square Massacre, had moved to a market economy a decade before and, with double digit inflation, heeded the advice of Milton Friedman, a neoliberal leader and patron saint.

    Quick question about the U.S. supported IMF/WorldBank, why is it that the United States said nothing when Marcos was embezzeling all those hundreds of million (or is it billions) and yet, when we finally oust him, they continue to expect us, the repressed people who did not benefit from it, to pay the balance at a ridiculous interest rate. How much of our GDP or state budget goes towards the repayment of these loans? All the while, they have us (the Filipino people) in a choke hold to regulate our economy the way they want to and to do business with who they want us to? Doesn’t that disgust you? We should be revolting against them, refusing to pay for something our oppressor borrowed. Stop this dependence on these foreign fascists that have nothing to do but pit our Christian and Muslim brothers against each other (from the U.S. sponsored christian settlement in Mindanao at the beginning of the 20th century up until today with the VFA).

  9. jimparedes says:

    I do not question that you are well-read. Please, I do not wish to get into a long argument since a lot of your sentiments resound in me as well.

    Except for the first point: The censorship in those countries was not as iron clad as much as we think it was. Even the defense minister of the Soviet Union prior to Gorbachev was listening to Beatles music (he said so in the DVD of Paul Macartney’s USSR tour), and people all over the eastern bloc could access a lot information and ideas. I had friends from Estonia who were political prisoners then who heard about Edsa when it happened.

    And while we may not have been the main inspiration, we definitely gave the world a view of bigger possibilities with what transpired here. And I am sure that the phenomenon of people-power was not missed by leaders of liberation movements everywhere. The fact is after EDSA, it was being done in many places.

    I am not as pessimistic as I seem to read you to be when it comes to the Filipino. I have been in the deepest of pessimism before and have discovered only one thing—more pessimism. I would like to think that there are some things going for us that we can use to get us out of the rut we are in.

    The politics of today with all its complexity cannot be understood,much less solved with simplistic left or right ideologies and solutions. I think there is something to learn from both, and more outside of it. I would prefer, in place of ‘left’ or ‘right’, a politics of ‘close’ or ‘open’ where we get out of the contrictions of cold war political maps and into new possibilities.

  10. Timawang Tasyo says:

    It seems we have reached our closing arguments.

    I am sorry that I gave out the wrong impression about the message I was trying to convey by listing the books. I’ll be the first to admit, in fact, that there is much more that I have to read and experience and that I can’t possibly learn a single percent of the information I would like to. It was just a response to the misimpression that I have a narrow western perspective.

    I understand that it was not an airtight society where no outside news were passed, even Rizal managed to smuggle out a poem out of his jail cell. My argument was that with the political climate and the state media censorship, it was harder for it to be as an effective force as some people would like to think though I don’t doubt that it did inspire a good deal of resistance leaders. In the U.S. where there is supposedly a “fair and balanced” “free press,” “freedom to protest,” and “freedom of political association;” one need only look at the success of this administration to justify and perpetuate the current Iraq war through the media; though 10% of the Iraqis are displaced, 5% dead, and countless others injured; to see the power of censure. Imagine its extent in a society that openly denies such freedoms. Did anyone even hear about the WTO protests in Seattle? (see the documentary “This is what democracy looks like,” I believe it’s on YouTube.

    I am certain that leaders and supporters of mass movements throught the world were affected and inspired by the EDSA revolution; what I’m arguing is that it was not the main inspiration, the main push, or even a catalyst for the events. Most of the movements were years if not decades in the works and, though, again, they might’ve been moved by EDSA, there were larger forces driving them. I would argue, in fact, that Mahatma Gandhi, though he was succesful in S. Africa, was in fact unsuccessful in India and independence was only gained thanks to the bankruptcy of the British Empire after the second world war.

    People see me as a pessimist but I believe that I am more a realist than most people or the majority of the people are too optimistic or delusional. I don’t see how my being able to recognize that most of the imported goods that we consume are made by sweatshop labor, sometimes our own, is pessimistic. I merely understand that if a product says that it is made in the Philippines, eg. Nike or Abercrombie or Nautica, that it is most likely made by a young woman working for less than a living wage in poor working conditions. That, of the $40-$200 spent, my sister in CPZA that worked on the item probably got paid a dime. Is that pessimism? I would think that if I were in fact a pessimist, a cynic, I wouldn’t even bother speak out on behalf of our brothers and sisters.

    I’m also a devout existentialist. I believe that everyone has potential, that no culture is greater than the other. I believe in a global village and belive that we have contributed and have a great deal more to contribute to this global village. But I also believe that we cannot begin to promote ourselves, to make a name for ourselves, to contribute to world change without first changing our brothers’ and sisters’ current society. We cannot begin to do this until we learn to teach ourselves to love ourselves. We cannot accomplish this when we are told one thing but shown another. 75%, a conservative percentage is what I’m giving, of the population is Malay, kayumangi. Why is it that who we see on billboards, television, magazines, and pageants; ones that are supposed to embody our image of beauty; why are they predominately mestiza? I’m a mestizo and I hate it when people tell me I should go to the Philippines to become an actor. We are stuck with this colonial mentality, this self hate, that we must rid ourselves of.

    I believe that we are able to produce great pieces of literature, philosophy, arts. But we need to embrace our language and don’t promote the idea that one must be well versed in English to be successful or an intellectual.

    Noong ang ating pambansang bayani ay walong taong gulang, kanyang naunawaan at isinulat na, “ang hindi magmahal sa kanyang salita/ mahigit pa sa hayop at malansang isda.” Kung ang puso nati’y tumitibok sa wikang Tagalog o Cebuano o Ilocano, kung tayo’y nagiisip sa ating nakagisnang wika, bakit natin pinagsasapilitang ipahayag ang nasasapuso’t nasasaisip sa wika ng iba? Kailangan nating matutunang mahalin ang ating kultura at kasaysayan. Sa ganoong paraan matututunan nating mahalin ang ating mga kapatid, ating kapwa, at ang ating lipunan.

    Hindi ako walang malay o inosente na tao. Alam kong ang problema ng ating lipunan, ng pamahalaan, ay malalim at mahirap ngunit hindi ka ba sangayon sa mga huli kong ilinahad?

    Sa pagsasara nitong ating pangangatuwidan nais kitang pasalamatan sa iyong pagbigay sa aking ng iyong oras at pakundangan. Nais ko na iyong malaman na ang iyong mga sinulat na awit ay kahanga hanga at sana’y, isang araw, mapagbiyang-diwa ko ang ating mga kapatid gaya ng iyong pinapatuloy na ginagawa.

  11. MykeO says:

    A laser light of an insight. Thanks for sharing this online and for keeping the faith in all things that truly matter. Keep up with the good work. Mabuhay!

    By the way, I’m MykeO from Cebu and presently based in the US. Hope you don’t mind a linkage. God bless us all.

  12. Kaylee Lopez says:

    Bollywood Movies are very colorful and mostly they are musical stuffs like Broadway~`,

  13. bollywood movies are quite cheesy isn’t it? but they are nice stuffs too**-

  14. Very nice articles. I’ve found your site by Aol and I’m really blissful in regards to the info you’ve gotten inside your post. By the way in which your blogs design is sort of damaged with the Chrome internet browser. Might be really nice in case you’re can repair that. Anyway preserve within the great operate!



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