Wednesday, August 17, 2016


When a young Singaporean swimmer named Joseph Schooling did the impossible (like beating the Metahuman named Michael Phelps) in the Olympic pool, some Pinoy squirmed uncomfortably.  No, no, no!  It has got nothing to do with this fairy tale story of a young boy who grew up to beat his idol and deprive him of his last possible medal in an individual event in the Rio Olympics.  Southeast Asia rejoiced with that.

It was that sudden reference to a certain Yaya who eventually took care of Joseph since he was a baby and served as his ever-so-sweet and reliable surrogate mother through his formative years.  Oh, wow --- Pinay ang nag-alaga sa Olympic Champion.  Ok. fine. Now moving on.  But this fifty year old Filipina, one of the thousands of OFWs who have left their own children to take care of other families, is a symbol of Pinoy Pride, someone insisted.  

Yes, indeed --- when it comes to taking care of people, Filipinos are top notch not only because we are hard working, patient and persevering but the most affectionate humans ever allowed to roam the face of this planet.  Like Pinoy nurses and caregivers, we are different --- and if that should be a reason to call this our pride, eh, di sige.  

But then wait. We also have to put a lid to this.  

We cannot go on claiming any one who has any trace of Filipino blood running through the various roots and branches of their family tree as yet another sparkling example of Pinoy pride.  When we start stomping our feet and hollering to the world, "Pinoy pride! Pinoy pride!" just because somebody's great grandfather had a trace of Filipino blood in him , then we are already being ridiculous. We become overbearing and even laughable.

Point to consider:  being Filipino goes beyond the order of chromosomes and the blueprint of genes. 

Being Filipino is about one's national consciousness, the sense of who we are, how we think and why we think this way --- because of what is so deeply ingrained in our culture as well as the upbringing we received from our family.  Just because you have a Filipino-sounding family name or you have third cousins back home in the islands with an appetite foe bagoong Balayan and balut does not mean that you are still a Filipino or that people here can claim you to be one of us.

Sure! Let us celebrate Filipinos who bring such great honor to our country as celebrate we should. And must.

Let us shout out loud the names of Lea Salonga, Jonjon Briones, Rachel Ann Go as well as all the other kababayans who paved way for our musical talents to find their spotlight on the world stage.  

Yes, Jaclyn Jose is the very first Southeast Asian actress to hold an award at the Cannes Film Festival as the best among the finest --- but there are Mercedes Cabral, Angeli Bayani (who no less than Ang Lee called "your national treasure") and now Teri Malvar as examples of cinema artists who have won worldwide attention and affirmation. Pinoy Pride indeed.

And we need not qualify why the entire country goes on freeze mode each time Manny Pacquiao enters the ring for another fight --- or why every beauty salon and dress shop ceases operation when the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant is being telecast live via satellite.  Crime hits zero when the Gladiator from GenSan shows his superior athletic prowess (so that we can even find amusement in his mother, Dionesia) or when for six consecutive years Filipinas managed to reach the top ten, then the top five until eventually clinching the crown of Miss Universe. 

These are examples of Filipinos who succeed in gathering our countrymen to rally behind them with a feeling of sameness and community.  They unite us even for the few hours of suspended time when everything is focused on their activities.  They are not only sources of pride but also serve as national anesthesia.

Pia Alonso Wurtzbach is Pinoy Pride personified together with all the other beauty queens who have become the representations of Maganda to Pacquiao's Malakas. 

It is national obsession for the three B's:  Basketball, Boxing and Beauty Pageants --- bring Filipinos closer together as a cheering squad rooting for their flag bearer.  And there is nothing wrong with that until this need to rally behind a national representative is brought to the level of the ridiculous.

Here lies the irony in being Filipino: whereas we have created our own infamy for having a tendency to foist our crab mentality, we also go completely gung-ho trying to deify anyone who resembles us by name, color or even shape of the eyes.  

How many disappointing stories have we heard of Pinoys contra Pinoys simply because we claim that disgusting trait of not wanting our own kind, our own blood brothers get ahead of us.  

The very idea of being dehado infuriates us especially when a fellow Filipino is at an advantage.  Our kayumanggi complexion turns naturally green as we do everything to pull down our dear kababayan through scathing words or even malicious deeds.  Utak talangka, we call it --- as well pull down each other, never allowing any one of our kind to prove himself superior.  There are certain examples (as I can personally attest) that not even years of friendship count when inggit comes into play and pandurugas and paninira come into play. "So typically Pinoy," we dismiss.  As if by accepting such unspeakable behavior turns something so wrong sound puede pasar correct.

Then there is that other side of our national yabang which is cute for the first five to ten minutes.  

When Filipinos start claiming Pinoy Pride even from those who just happened to have Filipino blood but have rightfully assumed a completely different citizenship (which is legal)  as well as embrace a totally different culture (which is natural and within their rights), then something seems to be out of sync here.  

There is nothing wrong with being proud of our successful half brothers and sisters because they defied borders, tore off the ceiling and set new standards for our countrymen. But ...there is something unfair and even embarrassing when we start shouting Pinoy Pride even to people who may not want the honors because they do not deserve it or have no right to claim such.

When we started cheering for that little girl who reached the Top Two in the show American Idol too many seasons ago, we may have pushed the claim a bit too far. Fact: said contestant is not only an American citizen and even if she still has relatives out here, the singing spitfire has never set foot on this country until after she won the runner-up position.  And we still celebrated and said it was Pinoy Pride. OK (muttered with exasperation).  

Sure, it did wonders for the little girl to have a nation claim her ... but then that was not enough to make her win the contest or boost her career right after the contest.

Then there was another talent show winner --- whose lineage was obviously Filipino ... but was born and raised in Australia. Pinoy Pride pa more.,  OK fine again.  But the poor mate may have the looks of any of our better looking kababayans but please give the Australians the credit due them.  He is theirs ... not ours and in our insistence to make loud our shoutouts, we are actually shooting ourselves in the mouth instead.

Now what does this all mean? Why these strained attempts to come out with instant heroes who can be the focus of national adulation and cause for celebration?  Why are we so prone to jumping at the back of the next celebrity of the moment --- whether in sports, show business, politics --- and find a way of tracing some Filipino lineage in his person?  Are we so devoid of role models that we need to cling onto anybody who comes along the way and who, by chance, has some form of resemblance to any of us?

We always remind ourselves that Bruno Mars has Filipino blood.  So does Lou Diamond Phillips, Tia Carrere, Nicole Scherzinger and the second wife of Robin Williams.  But so does the White House Chef, the Fil-American Cristeta Pasia Comerford or businesswoman Loida Nicolas-Lewis --- who are Filipinos by heart and whose accomplishments bring pride to our countrymen in the Americas. 

Then we ask ourselves: why do we have to look across the ocean to affirm ourselves of the capability for greatness?

Is that not possible to achieve here without the grandeur of international recognition?

Pinoy Pride goes over and beyond the echoes of applause.  And sometimes the greatest source of our pride are those who choose to be un-celebrated.  These countrymen of ours who are not hungry for cameras and microphones aimed at them but whose achievements, small as they seem, are great in terms of inspiring others around them.  These kababayans of ours who walk through fields, hills, forests and streams just to get a proper education ... or the poverty-stricken taxi driver who returned thousands of dollars left in his vehicle because he has the nobility of character that comes so scarce nowadays.

These are the role models we should celebrate --- these are the little people who matter more to the values of our kababayans rather than the fleeting glory that makes a celebrity.

Need we look far to find the source of our Pinoy Pride if we only looked at ourselves first ...before yearning for the applause of the anonymous others?  

In spite, despite and because of what is happening around us in the here and now, the more we should muster all our energies to find reasons to still be proud that we are Pinoys.  It has got nothing to do with who you think should be president ... or what you think about governance. It has got everything to do with simply being a good Filipino.

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