ice_of_dreams: (memories)
Delayed Independence Day Post:

Just thinking aloud . . . (thoughts from teh person who forwarded it)

Barth Suretsky, the ex-pat author of this article, is not the first one
to have given such an accurate account of what ails the Philippines.
Many have done similarly earlier on. Surely many will still attempt to
write on the same theme in the future.

Half of the battle is already won when we, Filipinos, honestly and
sincerely admit that there is something basically wrong with the
Philippine nationhood and that we are consciously aware of that which
ails our society. The other half, which is even more important, is our
common effort and determination to resolve the identified pervading and
perniciously endemic national malaise in a timely manner. Are we to
wait for the emergence of another Dr. Jose Mercado Rizal to show us the

Let us save the "Pearl of the Orient", "ang Mutya ng Silanganan", that
is the Philippines. Mabuhay ang Pilipino.


The Philippines Through the Eyes of a Foreigner By Barth Suretsky
Atin Ito Philippine
NewsFeature April 2007

My decision to move to Manila was not a precipitous one. I used to work
in New York as an outside agent of Philippines Air Line, and 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 whom 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

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 Mindanao.

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 countries.

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.

Nevertheless, the Philippines is a flawed democracy, 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 national
inferiority complex, a disturbing lack of pride in being Filipino.

Toward the end of April I spent eight days in Vietnam , visiting Hanoi ,
Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). 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 25 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
Theatre, 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 mi racle of restoration that I describe

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

But to compare Manila in 1970, twenty five years after the end of the
war, with HCMC, 25 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 traffic situation second
to none in the the world for sheer unmanageability.

We have rude drivers, taxis that routinely refuse to take passengers
because of "many traffic !" 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

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 departed. 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

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's just
accepted as 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 exploita tion 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, 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
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 the
sacrificial catalyst that resulted in the creation of New York's
Landmark Commission. Would there be such a commission 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 the nations in the region seemed,
unfortunately, to have bypassed the Philippines ; there are no Angkors,
no Ayuttayas, no Borodudurs. True. Centuries of contact with the high
cultur es 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 was 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 courageous repulsion of Dutch and British invaders from
the 16th through the 18th centuries, even the origins of the
Independence of the late 19th century, are hardly known by the average
Filipin o 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 Aguilnaldo 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 into this category. Without a sense of who you are
how can you possibly take any pride in who you are ? These are not

On the contrary, these are the root problems of the Philippine
inferiority complex referred to above. Until the Filipinos take 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 w ho he is, who he was, and who he can be, I will
be one happy expat indeed !

-- Shared by Nenita Brown


Feb. 14th, 2005 06:19 pm
ice_of_dreams: (reach)
I'm graduating this April.

An achievement certainly, even if I'm dropping biology tomorrow.

So I was thinking of working, of going on, of where to stay of what to do. There is one thing I've never thought of doing : leaving the country.

I would have written my piece on it, but there are people who are far better at writing than me that have expressed their feelings on these things.

So I'll just put the entire thing behind an LJ cut and be happy that there are Filipinos, in the Philippines who still love our country.

Sacrifices )

November 2010

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