Being Proud and Being a Filipino at the same time. Possible??

August 10, 2006

**i hijacked this from Tony Abaya’s site, “TAPATT”.

By Barth Suretsky

My decision to move to Manila was not a precipitous one. I used to
work in New York as an outside agent for PAL, and I have been coming
to the Philippines since August, 1982. I was so impressed with the
country, and with the interesting people I met, some of which have
become very close friends to this day, that I asked for and was
granted a year’s sabbatical from my teaching job in order to live in
the Philippines.

I arrived here on August 21, 1983, several hours after Ninoy Aquino
was shot, and remained here until June of 1984. During that year I
visited many parts of the country, from as far north as Laoag to as
far south as Zamboanga, and including Palawan. I became deeply
immersed in the history and culture of the archipelago, and an avid
collector of tribal antiquities from both northern Luzon, and

In subsequent years I visited the Philippines in 1985, 1987, and
1991, before deciding to move here permanently in 1998. I love this
country, but not uncritically, and that is the purpose of this
article. First, however, I will say that I would not consider living
anywhere else in Asia, no matter how attractive certain aspects of
other neighboring countries may be.

To begin with, and this is most important, with all its faults, the
Philippines is still a democracy, more so than any other nation in
Southeast Asia. Despite gross corruption, the legal system generally
works, and if ever confronted with having to employ it, I would feel
much more safe trusting the courts here than in any other place in
the surrounding area.

The press here is unquestionably the most unfettered and
freewheeling in Asia, and I do not believe that is hyperbole in any
way! And if any one thing can be used as a yardstick to measure the
extent of the democratic process in any given country in the world,
it is the extent to which the press is free.

But the Philippines is a flawed democracy nevertheless, and the flaws
are deeply rooted in the Philippine psyche. I will elaborate… The
basic problem seems to me, after many years of observation, to be a
national inferiority complex, a disturbing lack of pride in being

Toward the end of April I spent eight days in Vietnam, visiting
Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City. I am certainly no expert on
Vietnam, but what I saw could not be denied: I saw a country ravaged
as no other country has been in this century by thirty years of
continuous and incredibly barbaric warfare. When the Vietnam War
ended in April, 1975, the country was totally devastated. Yet in the
past twenty-five years the nation has healed and rebuilt itself
almost miraculously! The countryside has been replanted and
reforested. Hanoi and HCMC have been beautifully restored.

The opera house in Hanoi is a splendid restoration of the original,
modeled after the Opera in Paris, and the gorgeous Second Empire
theater, on the main square of HCMC is as it was when built by the
French a century ago. The streets are tree-lined, clean, and
conducive for strolling. Cafes in the French style proliferate on
the wide boulevards of HCMC. I am not praising the government of
Vietnam, which still has a long way to travel on the road to
democracy, but I do praise, and praise unstintingly, the pride of
the Vietnamese people
It is due to this pride in being Vietnamese that has enabled its
citizenry to undertake the miracle of restoration that I have
described above. When I returned to Manila I became so depressed
that I was actually physically ill for days thereafter.

Why? Well, let’s go back to a period when the Philippines resembled
the Vietnam of 1975. It was 1945, the end of World War II, and
Manila, as well as many other cities, lay in ruins. (As a matter of
fact, it may not be generally known, but Manila was the second most
destroyed city in the entire war; only Warsaw was more demolished!)

But to compare Manila in 1970, twenty-five years after the end of
the war, with HCMC, twenty-five years after the end of its war, is a
sad exercise indeed. Far from restoring the city to its former
glory, by 1970 Manila was well on its way to being the most tawdry
city in Southeast Asia. And since that time the situation has
deteriorated alarmingly. We have a city full of street people,
beggars, and squatters. We have a city that floods sections
whenever there is a rainstorm, and that loses electricity with every
clap of thunder. We have a city full of potholes, and on these
unrepaired roads we have a traffic situation second to none in the
world for sheer unmanageability.

We have rude drivers, taxis that routinely refuse to take passengers
because of “many trappic!” The roads are also cursed with pollution-
spewing buses in disreputable states of repair, and that ultimate
anachronism, the jeepney! We have an educational system that allows
children to attend schools without desks or books to accommodate
them. Teachers, even college professors, are paid salaries so
disgracefully low that it’s a wonder that anyone would want to go
into the teaching profession in the first place. We have a war in
Mindanao that nobody seems to have a clue how to settle.

The only policy to deal with the war seems to be to react to what
happens daily, with no long range plan whatever. I could go on and
on, but it is an endeavor so filled with futility that it hurts me
to go on. It hurts me because, in spite of everything, I love the

Maybe it will sound simplistic, but to go back to what I said above,
it is my unshakable belief that the fundamental thing wrong with this
country is a lack of pride in being Filipino. A friend once remarked
to me, laconically: “All Filipinos want to be something else. The
poor ones want to be American, and the rich ones all want to be
Spaniards. Nobody wants to be Filipino.”

That statement would appear to be a rather simplistic one, and
perhaps it is. However, I know one Filipino who refuses to enter a
theater until the national anthem has stopped being played because
he doesn’t want to honor his own country, and I know another one who
thinks that history stopped dead in 1898 when the Spaniards

While it is certainly true that these represent extreme examples of
national denial, the truth is not a pretty picture. Filipinos tend
to worship, almost slavishly, everything foreign. If it comes from
Italy or France it has to be better than anything made here.

If the idea is American or German it has to be superior to anything
that Filipinos can think up for themselves. Foreigners are looked up
to and idolized. Foreigners can go anywhere without question. In my
own personal experience I remember attending recently an affair at a
major museum here. I had forgotten to bring my invitation. But while
Filipinos entering the museum were checked for invitations, I was
simply waived through. This sort of thing happens so often here that
it just accepted routine.

All of these things, the illogical respect given to foreigners
simply because they are not Filipinos, the distrust and even
disrespect shown to any homegrown merchandise, the neglect of
anything Philippine, the rudeness of taxi drivers, the ill-manners
shown by many Filipinos are all symptomatic of a lack of self-love,
of respect for and love of the country in which they were born, and
worst of all, a static mind-set in regard to finding ways to improve
the situation.

Most Filipinos, when confronted with evidence of governmental
corruption, political chicanery, or gross exploitation on the part
of the business community, simply shrug their shoulders,
mutter “bahala na,” and let it go at that. It is an
oversimplification to say this, but it is not without a grain of
truth to say that Filipinos feel downtrodden because they allow
themselves to feel downtrodden. No pride.

One of the most egregious examples of this lack of pride, this
uncaring attitude to their own past or past culture, is the wretched
state of surviving architectural landmarks in Manila and elsewhere.
During the American period many beautiful and imposing buildings
were built, in what we now call the “art deco” style (although,
incidentally, that was not a contemporary term; it was coined only
in the 1960s). These were beautiful edifices, mostly erected during,
or just before, the Commonwealth period.

Three, which are still standing, are the Jai Alai Building, the
Metropolitan Theater, and the Rizal Stadium. Fortunately, due to the
truly noble efforts of my friend John Silva, the Jai Alai Building
will now be saved. But unless something is done to the most
beautiful and original of these three masterpieces of pre-war
Philippine architecture, the Metropolitan Theater, it will
disintegrate. The Rizal Stadium is in equally wretched shape.

When the wreckers’ ball destroyed Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial
Hotel in Tokyo, and New York City’s most magnificent building,
Pennsylvania Station, both in 1963, Ada Louise Huxtable, then the
architectural critic of The New York Times, wrote: “A disposable
culture loses the right to call itself a civilization at all!” How
right she was! (Fortunately, the destruction of Pennsylvania Station
proved to be the sacrificial catalyst that resulted in the creation
of New York’s Landmark Commission. Would that such a commission be
created for Manila…)

Are there historical reasons for this lack of national pride? We can
say that until the arrival of the Spaniards there was no sense of a
unified archipelago constituted as one country. True. We can also
say that the high cultures of other nations in the region seemed,
unfortunately, to have bypassed the Philippines; there are no
Angkors, no Ayuttayas, no
Borobudurs. True.

Centuries of contact with the high cultures” of the Khmers and the
Chinese had, except for the proliferation of Song dynasty pottery
found throughout the archipelago, no noticeable effect. True.

But all that aside, what was here? To begin with, the ancient rice
terraces, now threatened with disintegration, incidentally, was an
incredible feat of engineering for so-called “primitive” people. As
a matter of fact, when I first saw them in 1984, I was almost as awe-
stricken as I was when I first laid eyes on the astonishing Inca
city of Machu Picchu, high in the Peruvian Andes.

The degree of artistry exhibited by the various tribes of the
Cordillera of Luzon is testimony to a remarkable culture, second to
none in the Southeast Asian region. As for Mindanao, at the other
end of the archipelago, an equally high degree of artistry has been
manifest for centuries in woodcarving, weaving and metalwork.

However, the most shocking aspect of this lack of national pride,
even identity, endemic in the average Filipino, is the appalling
ignorance of the history of the archipelago since unified by Spain
and named Filipinas.

The remarkable stories concerning the Galleon de Manila, the
courageous repulsion of Dutch and British invaders from the 16th
through the 18th centuries, even the origins of the Independence
movement of the late 19th century, are hardly known by the average
Filipino in any meaningful way.

And thanks to fifty years of American brainwashing, it is few and
far between the number of Filipinos who really know – or even care –
about the duplicity employed by the Americans and Spaniards to sell
out and make meaningless the very independent state that Aguinaldo
declared on June 12, 1898.

A people without a sense of history is a people doomed to be unaware
of their own identity. It is sad to say, but true, that the vast
majority of Filipinos fall in this category. Without a sense of who
you are, how can you possibly take any pride in who you are?

These are not oversimplifications. On the contrary, these are the
root problems of the Philippine inferiority complex referred to
above. Until the Filipino takes pride in being Filipino these ills
of the soul will never be cured.

If what I have written here can help, even in the smallest way, to
make the Filipino aware of just who he is, who he was, and who he
can be, I will be one happy expat indeed!*****

Submitted by:

Sigrid G. Zialcita
Cushman & Wakefield
1600 Tysons Blvd, Suite 400
McLean, VA 22102


8 Responses to “Being Proud and Being a Filipino at the same time. Possible??”

  1. You are absolutely true. I was born in the Philippines, raised in the US. On my visits to the Philippines in the last four years, I have seen widespread devastation. The Filipino culture is trashed, banged, whacked, suppressed, ravaged, fucked up culture. Why? Because noone really cares anymore. Like you said, Bahala Na.

    When you no longer care, you lose a sense of who you are. You no longer fight for the things you believe in. Fortunately for me, I have learned to make a difference in those that have lost their sense of being.

  2. Isabel Says:

    I’ve read that article, I don’t think it’s fair to make assumptions about the “young boys” based on hear-say especially when this man was just killed and is not alive to defend himself. You should know how things are in the Philippines, the police and other groups sometimes make up stories based on gossip or hearsay without any real evidence to justify someone’s death or killing, or sometimes, someone has jealousy or animosity against the foreigner and will create chismis as a form of their own crab mentality. Being a Filipino-American who understands Tagalog, but looks like a white person, I’ve been victim to this as well, to extortion and to lies by Philippine authority figures, so don’t believe everything you read in the press either, and don’t join them in disgracing the reputation of a man that was just killed. That’s also disgraceful of you.

  3. LaPinay Says:

    I want to know more about my culture. I want to want to be a Filipino..not anything else.

  4. vernon Says:

    be proud of who and waht you are… go… go.. go…

  5. loreto santiago Says:

    Barth was wrong – over and over, and through and through.

    Here’s the proof: The International Journal of Public Opinion Research (Spring 2006) published a global research paper: “National Pride in Cross-National and Temporal Perspective” based on international surveys in 1995-96 and 2003-04, conducted by the International Social Survey Program, a consortium of survey researchers throughout the world.

    The surveys for National Pride were conducted on 2 scales: 1) General National Pride (GNP) based on people’s sense of patriotism, nationalism, allegiance and NATIONAL SUPERIORITY (i.e., “my country is better than any other country in the world”),and 2) Domain-Specific National Pride (DSNP) about national pride in 10 specific areas about the country: its democratic system; political influence in the world; economic system; social security; science and technological achievements; sports; arts and literature; armed forces or military; history; and fair treatment of all groups in society.

    Results published in the Journal: 1. 1995-96 Survey –

    General National Pride (GNP) – Philippines ranked # 6 ahead of New Zealand, Spain, Ireland, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Russia, and many other countries.

    Domain-specific National Pride (DSNP) – Philippines ranked # 12.

    Overall rank (average of GNP and DSNP): Philippines ranked # 9.
    USA was number 1 and Austria, second.

    2. 2003-2004 survey

    GNP – Philippines ranked # 8
    DSNP – Philippines ranked # 7, in both cases ahead of Israel, Finland, Ireland, Denmark, Hungary, Great Britain, France, Portugal, South Korea, Taiwan and many other countries. USA was # 1 and Venezuela was a surprise second.

    3. On June 27, 2006, the National Opinion Research Center at University of Chicago, Illinois, USA released the research paper: “National Pride in Specific Domains” . In the “Overall Rank of Countries on Domain-Specific National Pride”, the Philippines ranked # &, ahead of Austria, New Zealand, Great Britain, Spain, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Russia, Japan and many other countries.

    Hep, hep… A big and resounding HURRAH forever for the Filipinos and the Philippines! This should terminate the masochistic stupor of some Filipinos erstwhile submissive and haplessly resigned to Barth’s sadly wrong opinion underestimating Filipino national pride and superiority complex. This is likewise a wake-up call to innocent foreigners and other readers long mesmerized by Barth due to their failure or inability to research the whole truth about Filipino national pride and superiority complex.

    Sources: 1) Google for “National Pride” and click on National Pride in Cross-national and Temporal Perspective, National Pride in Specific Domains; 2); 3); and 4) International Journal of Public Opinion Research (Spring 2006) pp. 127-136.

  6. Steven Says:

    Surveys and statistics are all black magic and spin anyway. You can even quote the counter surveys where people admit that they lie. If you walked into my house and it was completely trashed and then I informed you that “I take a lot of pride in this place” You would lose a lung laughing if you were rude enough. If I also told you that I take great pride in my appearance, yet I was in rags with hair not washed in months and teeth that were green, you would also be astonished. But if a survey tells you the very same thing then you believe it without question? Of course, it was survey and regardless of what I see with my own eyes, the survey people are “real smart” and they all have big names and lots of letters after the surname. I am just a dumb cow who cant think. None of them have probably ever ventured past the university canteen and have resided on campus from the day they got that shiny PHD. Now they all spend there days vacillating and pondering there garbage papers to prove that they are actually doing something for that 100K a year grant. Along with there intellectual tosser mates, they are all merrily aboard the good ship gravy train of academia and you like everyone else, worship there “findings”

  7. loreto santiago Says:

    You seem to think like Barth Suretsky, if not worse, either which way is tragic for you and pathetic for those who believe you and have been on the verge of death from laughing, if not deceased yet. It’s not too late to reconsider your thoughts. It’s easy. First, open your eyes. Barth Suretsky spoke of one instance and then concluded that such one instance is everything. He thought erroneously that one swallow makes a summer. For example, Barth spoke of Manila and then concluded that it was the entire Philippines. (Makati City for one would have made a big difference in his thinking). Barth spoke of one Filipino who refused to enter a theater until the anthem was over, and then Barth rushed to conclude that all Filipinos were like him. And there were many other instances where Barth jumped from a single example or situation to the conclusion that such was what everything was all about in the Philippines or among the Filipinos. Once upon a time, there were the Boston Stranger, Al Capone, the traitor Benedict Arnold and other heinous criminals. By and large, the way Barth’s thinking worked, it meant all Americans were Boston Stranglers, Al Capones and Benedict Arnolds and infamous convicts all in one! And the way you are thinking like Barth, you are telling your readers that one New Orleans after Katrina was the entire USA being a disaster, in shambles and in economic and social misery until now. Of course, you will tell me and everybody that it absolutely does not follow, right? Open your eyes further and further. You talk about “your house being completely trashed” ( I hope not) and your laughing to death “if you take a lot of pride” in it? Or your taking pride in “your unwashed hair in rags or green teeth” would “astonish” people? But look, the Philippines is not that house, nor that hair or teeth of yours. Find the time to visit the metropolises and cosmopolitan areas in Makati City, Cebu, the modern 5-star hotels in Luzon and Visayas, with which American hotels could not compare a whit, the chain of big and flashy supermarkets like ShoeMart which have no counterparts in the USA, et cetera…Surprised, aren’t you? From a few of such instances alone of the foundations of Filpino Superiority Complex and National Pride now internationally recognized as numero uno in Asia and many parts of the world, you will surely find that the Philippines is not and can never be the “house completely trashed,” “unwashed hair in rags and green teeth” you have inexplicably concocted to suit your purpose of beguiling your readers and inducing their untimely demise. Now, open your mind and seriously reason with yourself. In logic, one does not mean whole, and one single instance alone does not mean everything, and one example does not make major premise from which you can cite a minor premise and proceed to a reaonable conclusion. To do so is to commit the fallacy of overgeneralization or non-siquitur. Review Barth’s article and you will observe a spate, if not a flood, of non-siquiturs and overgeneralizations which, to a rational mind, take a nose and abysmal dive into absurdity and ridicule when scrutinized with the scalpel of logc and when juxtaposed with the international research findings and recognition of the Superior Complex and National Pride of the Filipinos. If you ask, I can say more to help you out of your confusion and dilemma if you’re still in it. Thanks for your attention.

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