45 times. Including the title, that's how many times the word "hate" was mentioned in the essay I just read about the current state of the Philippines. That's a lot of hate, especially for an essay of just 400 or so words.
Don't get me wrong, there was nothing that Miss Diamante wrote that I disagree with. Well, almost nothing. In my opinion, decent medical care is available in the Philippines, and at a fraction of the cost that it has been available in the United States. This is why "medical tourism" is bringing many people to the Philippines.
Anyhow, as a foreigner in the Philippines for a year, I experienced some of her frustrations myself (though of course, it doesn't even scratch the surface of what it must be like for most Filipinos).
The taxis at the Manila airport frustrated me to no end, then when I finally found one that would only overcharge me 5 times instead of 10, I realized that due to the traffic in Manila, I could literally walk faster than my overpriced ride could take me. Many times I got out of the taxi and did just that, but then I had to deal with the jeepney exhaust and dangerous lack of sidewalks.
I could go on and on about the red tape and name-dropping I had to get through at immigration just to be able to leave the country and fly back home...but for these reasons and all those that Miss Diamante mentioned, the Philippines is an easy target. If all I did was focus on the negatives, it would be an easy country to hate.
Admittedly, I sat nodding my head in agreement all the way through her essay...but I couldn't wait to reach the end - you know, the part where the "BUT" is. Something like: "Yes, living in the Philippines can be horrible, BUT here's what we have going for us, and here are some baby steps we could take to begin to fix things..." Instead, I was left feeling heartbroken and hopeless about a country that I love very much. Where's the hope? Filipinos, you will break my heart if you lose that.
The essay mentions how some foreigners seem to have more love for the country than the author does. Some cynics in the comments think that's because these men are treated like gods and just love taking advantage of young Filipinas. To an extent, unfortunately this is true. I did experience these foreigners, and they infuriated me. However, not all behave like this.
Some of us truly see and appreciate what being Filipino is all about. In the Philippines we find a sense of humanity that we might feel is lacking in our home countries. Sure, our lack of experience in your country might make you think we're naive, but in the Philippines we try to take the good from what IS, and have faith in what could be.
Of course, many Filipinos see things this way as well. I believe that this faith, followed by a healthy serving of action, is what will slowly begin to push the country forward. Simply removing people from government offices and replacing them is not enough - the change needs to come from the citizens as well...all the way down to the barangay level. People need to be accountable and proactive. Basically, everybody has played a part in how things currently are - including my home country, the U.S.
People have to care enough to not throw their trash in the streets, and not look the other way as government officials silently ask for and accept bribes. They need to encourage each other to succeed instead of pulling each other down. They need to know how to choose qualified, respectable people to represent them.
Being Filipino is not reason enough to be proud - people must once again work to create something to make Filipinos proud. They must strive for something just and sustainable. Only then might the "Pearl Of the Orient" rise again.
The information age may have provided the Philippines with a crucial turning point - mobile technology is now more affordable than ever. Even some of the poorest people in the country have access to the Internet at some point during their day-to-day lives. That means that now, more than ever, the people have the power to be heard.
If you're wondering how you can make a difference, I think teaching your countrymen how to effectively harness the power of the Internet is a great place to start. When the people are making educated decisions about what to read and share online, they can really begin to make a positive change in their world!
"Lmentioned a very fitting proverb in the comments section of the original article:
Miss Diamante, you are so young, and clearly you have a tremendous talent. That essay was powerful and well-written...and look how many people you were able to reach! Please don't lose that passion and idealism you left college with. It is quite clear that you love your country - rather than focusing on the hate, I hope you will instead use it to inspire a positive change in your kababayan. Please don't fool yourself into thinking that you can't make a difference. You really have a gift, and your country needs you.
It's easy to hate a broken country, but truly courageous to take the first few steps toward putting it back together.
- Nathan Allen
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