Saturday, March 29, 2014

What I Think About the Philippines and the Filipinos (My comment on Raul Dancel's article)

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a viral article in Facebook about a certain Filipino correspondent who wrote the article titled Back home in Manila, and feeling out of place. At first, I thought, it was a good read. I must admit I can mostly relate to the things he mentioned. As a Facebook-article-worm, I just thought it was one of those articles I can read and leave and move on to the next one. I actually did. However, tonight, I saw an article again that Raul Dancel got some bashers from writing that article. Oh okay, typical Filipino behaviour. If anyone criticizes Filipinos or the Philippines, prepare to get stoned to death. I kid you not.

Going back to his article, comments have already flooded his page. Needless to say, he was being attacked but it was also refreshing to see that a lot of Filipinos were also being objective about their criticism to Raul. Fortunately, you can easily profile the majority of his audience. I have noticed that people who have given their humble opinions about his article that is basically comparing Philippines to Singapore have obviously traveled or if not, lived in another country. I can honestly say that their comments and opinions are valid and I couldn't agree more.

So, Raul Dancel, in his mid - 40s has been living in Singapore for 7 years now. He was sent back to the Philippines for work and and so this article was born. Some points in his article are honestly quite petty like Philippines using "take out" instead of "take away", "elevator" instead of "lift" and "comfort room" instead of "loo" or "toilet". What comes into my mind is 'hello, American english vs. British english please.' I can strongly relate to this as I have also been lost in translation when I lived in Sydney. Traveling back and forth in Sydney for the past couple of years and have technically lived there for 9 months had made me a victim of the American vs. British war of terms. And should I say that my spelling was a collateral damage? (Criticize vs. criticise, travelling vs. traveling, labor vs. labour, and the list goes on so pardon me if some of my spelling in this entry will stab you.) But the challenging part is trying to completely change my American orientation to British because I live with my Australian boyfriend, I hang out with his friends and I spend time with his family. I am not complaining. Absolutely not. But what I'm trying to say is when you start spending every second of your life adjusting to the new environment, new culture, new people, new sets of words, it is one way of educating yourself. Challenging, yes! Fulfilling, yes! But most often than not, being accustomed to the new world is just a matter of getting used to. Although it's kinda tricky when you live a double life. I am a semi-British/ Australian Asian girl when I'm in Australia (oh yes, I love using the word toilet than C.R. and I love how everyone is orderly on the escalator) and I am an Americanized Pinoy when I'm in the Philippines. I'm using the term Americanized Pinoy because I am a home grown Filipino but (as we all are) educated in an American way. Going back to our history, we were once an American colony, thus, the education system, our constitution and our love for basketball were all gifts from the Americans. So whenever I come home after 3 months of staying in Sydney, I would usually say "take away" from Jollibee. Thankfully, Jollibee's crew are trained to know what "take-away" means. Sometimes, it would take a month for me to revert back to my Americanized self and start saying "take out" or "fries". On a lighter note, Filipinos are not dumb to understand what a lift means or a toilet. It's just that WE DON'T USE THEM. In my opinion, whether we use the American form of the British form of words, no one is actually politically correct.

Photo by Raul Dancel

So what two things I actually want to raise from Raul's article? Escalators and pedestrian lanes. I admit that up to this day, the first thing that really annoys me whenever I go to the malls are the people using the escalators. The escalator, in its truest essence, should help people get from point A to point B the fastest way possible. Although it is moving, people who would want to rest from striding could take a rest on one side, however, that leaves one more lane for those people who want to keep moving. To sum it all up, one side is for stationary human beings while the other side should be left open for people who don't want to waste their time. In the Philippines, an escalator is treated like a luxury ride. Couples standing next to each other smooching or an entire family and/or a group of friends blocking the entire way are my deal breakers. Worst thing is whenever I say "Excuse me, coming through," they look at me like I am a disrespectful person trying to cut through their moment. Sometimes, they just don't hear me. Even if I repeatedly trying to excuse myself, to them, I am non-existent. Often times, I would like to rant about this on Facebook but I am scared that people might think I have become obnoxious since I have been to a first world country. But seriously, the root cause of the problem is the ignorance and attitude of the people. Ignorance that maybe they don't know the escalator etiquette and attitude because Filipinos don't respect time. Next is the use of the pedestrian lanes. Filipinos are hard headed and daredevils. To be honest, the word Safety is not in any Filipino's vocabulary. This month, the city where I was born and grew up with imposed the anti-jaywalking policy. Jaywalkers will be fined Php500. For me, it's a significant sign of how progressive my beloved hometown has become. However, 2 days upon the implementation, people are complaining; that they need to walk another 30 meters before they can get to their destination or the government is making them poorer by collecting fines. Alright, bunch of idiots. All these people think is to complain instead of looking at the bigger picture that this policy is for everyone's safety. And by everyone means those who are crossing the streets and those who are driving. In Manila, MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) spent millions of pesos for footbridges and big signage saying "WALANG TAWIRAN, NAKAMAMATAY". As if that is not clear enough for everyone, if you notice, that's in tagalog, and yet the cases of hit and run in highways are hundreds per week. So Filipinos, no matter how our government is trying to keep us safe, we are overboard risk-takers. I just don't simply understand this. And as someone who has very well adjusted to being safe in another other country, more than it shocks me every single time I see someone risking his life crossing on the road, it does make me wonder why will they ever risk doing that. I think I know why but I think I am in denial to the answer to my real question --- "Will these people change?"

Photo by Mike Ong Chua of

Photo by Dennis Villegas of Pinoyexchange

So going back to the comments from Raul's article, I would have to say the attitude of the Filipinos - being pessimistic, reluctant to progress and lack of discipline drives this "culture shock" that Raul is talking about. It is so ironic that we often praise foreigners who would see the Philippines as a country of opportunities but us Filipinos are obstinate to change for the better and make those opportunities work for us. We are settled with our own mischievous and traditional beliefs that they take us away from being open-mindedness. One doesn't need to live in a better country for a month to realise how much the Filipinos are missing. That's why I often tell my siblings and my friends to invest on trips to other places, other countries to see what our country is like in the real world; learn from other cultures so we can adapt to it, bring it home, practice and share to those who lack knowledge and experience. What I'm trying to say is that Raul's observations are valid and true. While his article seemingly puts our country to the ground, despite these not-so-admirable traits, there is more to being a Filipino. Filipinos are still the warmest and most hospitable people in the world. This country is thriving on the happiness of its citizens. As they say "It's more fun in the Philippines." Filipinos are friendly, hardworking and committed people. And as far as the development of this country is concerned, we also have to take into consideration the role of the government, politics, economical circumstances, employment, religious beliefs and what not. Classic case is the RH Bill. Years of fighting for this to be approved and we are still stuck. We still argue over this because of science vs. religious beliefs that prevent us in moving forward and save lives of women and babies. And why is this still an argument is because of the lack of knowledge and materials in educating everyone what this bill is fighting for.

I seriously pity our country. Simply put, there's a better life outside the Philippines. But why would foreigners love to come here? Why would I still love to come back and visit my country? Because anyone, Filipino or not, feels at home here. Filipinos are accommodating, funny, loud, loving, caring and thoughtful. But that's it. Home is comfort zone. We all need to be outside our comfort zone to grow. Every time I go to a progressive country, I would secretly wish that our country would keep up. I know it is possible and would probably take decades to hit the benchmark but we can. We surely can make that change. We just have to start within ourselves.