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-By Nathan Allen
When I was in the Philippines, a friend of mine said "Nathan, you think too much". Actually, I heard this from a few Filipinos. Really? I mean, I know I tend to analyze things, but "thinking too much" is precisely I how I dreamed up a way to (modestly) travel the country for a year - then write an in-depth article on Filipino culture (an article that Filipinos seem to really appreciate).
Filipinos: I am asking you to think MORE.
Eleanor Roosevelt said "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people." Sadly, perhaps due to colonization and other factors (I'll get to these later), the Philippines may have established itself as a country full of "small minds" - and by that I mean people that were intentionally discouraged from being ambitious, and kept from their potential. Those in power wanted to keep it that way, and to some extent I believe it's still the same today. The masses (who I'm addressing in this letter) are encouraged to keep consuming products and stay focused on (and distracted by) trashy, mindless TV and gossip. I've seen it happen in the US. It's good for the economy, but bad for the culture (it makes things easier for a government to manipulate its people and keep them powerless).
The Philippines seems to be a country full of consumers and copycats. What do I mean by that? Media consumption - TV, radio, and Internet...and it's all designed to manipulate you one way or the other. Encouraged through the media is shopping - you've got to have the latest shoes, bags, and phones. Otherwise, your value in society isn't very high.
Just like in the US, it's a very shallow, endless cycle of consumption, but Philippines, what are you producing? What are you contributing to the world in terms of original literature, art, and music? From what I've seen, I think you have a LOT to offer...
You are widely known to be some of the best cover-artists in the world. You can recreate almost any song - sometimes even better than the original! Pinoy vocalist
Arnel Pineda becoming the lead singer of the iconic American band "Journey" is a good example of this. You're such gifted musicians and vocalists, and your grasp of the English
language is impressive - so where are your own musical contributions? I know you have some classic Filipino songs, but I'm talking about international hits (and Fil-Am
artists don't count).
Filipinos, perhaps hundreds of years of colonization have left you holding back your talent...and feeling like you don't have a "voice" to speak up with - that your opinions don't matter,
and have no value. That is understandable (given your country's repressive history), but we live in a different world now, and I hope you can begin to take the first few steps away from
that oppressive colonial past. The way I see it, for you, the sky is the limit.
Now, with your growing economy, you are heading in the same direction as many wealthy western countries. You are "modernizing", and that appears to be a good thing. Do you know what the irony is, though? In our countries, the "higher standard of living" is not what you might think. Most of you have plenty of quality "social time". The amount of time we have to reflect and enjoy life with friends and family is shockingly little. Unlike most of yours, our families are broken and very disconnected. In the "developed" world, we seem to be losing our humanity - we barely make eye contact when we're out in public! Your family-oriented culture and sense of connectedness is something that you REALLY have going for you in the Philippines.
In our countries we work too much, are completely stressed out, and have countless new diseases and psychological disorders that I believe are popping up because of life in our hectic modern world. A therapist is practically a requirement for life in any large American city. Filipinos, do you even know what a therapist is? No? Good! ;) The point is, these disorders (just like therapists) are rare in the Philippines. This seems to be the price we pay for being "advanced and developed" nations. The point is, I do hope you can break free from this "colonial" mentality, but aside from that...
Filipinos: Don't try to be more like us, try to be more like YOU. I believe what the the world needs now is more you, not more us.
In my last article about Filipino culture, I mentioned how a few people in Manila seemed to be ashamed to speak Filipino with me. I was saddened by that; I hoped they would be proud of their culture. I got the impression that they admired me so much - just for being white! When I would go through security anywhere in Manila, I was the only one who wouldn't be searched. I seemed to get a free pass, again, because I was white. That was something I loved about Cebu and the Visayas...there, the security searched me just like everybody else. It was fair. In general, people down there weren't impressed with my white skin. If I was going to impress them, I would have to earn it. They were proud, and I loved that. I don't mean to promote regionalism here; I just would love to see all Filipinos develop that sense of cultural pride.
Filipinos (from north to south), please know that your culture and who you are is something unique and special in the world - something precious that's rapidly disappearing, in fact. Please don't be afraid to be proud - I know you prefer to be modest, but I don't believe pride and modesty have to be enemies. I believe you can be proud without thinking or acting like you are better than others. Be proud of your culture; your heritage.
Philippines, I hope soon you will become known for being more than just a friendly country with affordable opportunities for foreign-owned businesses. My hope is that you will gain a reputation as a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs...as creators. I have never seen so much talent be so under-utlilized. With your stunning beaches and lush mountain provinces, you are also poised and ready to take the world's tourism industry by storm. However, your ecosystem is delicate, and it needs to be protected and preserved. I'd love to see your country pave the way for environmentally-friendly tourism. That would be an innovative and much needed contribution to the world!
At the very least, I hope you can share the Filipino way of life with the rest of the world, because we could certainly learn a lot from it.
Please put an end to the "crab mentality" - lift each other up, don't pull each other down. If your country is ever going to rise up and share its treasures with the world, you will have to foster an environment of praise and support for your countrymen.
Filipinos: You are some of the most talented, soulful, and generous people I have ever encountered. Please know that you DO have a voice, that your ideas DO matter, and that your contributions (whether they be musical, artistic, or intellectual) WILL be felt.
Believe it, and the rest of the world will, too.
Oh! One more thing. If you work in government, do not EVER forget your responsibility to represent the PEOPLE - a people and a culture with a lot to offer the world. YOU represent them on the world's stage. Do NOT let them down.
- Nathan Allen
* UPDATE * - I have explained exactly what I was doing in the PHL and responded to your comments in a follow-up post. Please click HERE to read it!
If you liked this article, you might also like the one below...
"Like" this page to follow me on FB...it is a site dedicated to promoting the beauty of the Philippines...as well as giving OFWs a "little piece of home each day".
* Please Note * I have explained and responded to the negative comments in a follow-up post. Click HERE to read it before commenting below! Thanks :)