THE ABC's OF FILIPINO PRIDE
From top to bottom, here's why we can hold our heads high
by John Magsaysay
You've got 7,107 islands over 114,830 square miles and over 65 million people... but enough of the numbers game. When it comes to summing up 100% Pinoy pride, none of those pesky equations are needed! Instead, here is the ultimate
While our traditional art masters sell for millions of dollars in Christie's auctions, while Protacio and Gerry Alanguilan rule the pop art world of comic book illustrations. If the names Wolvering, Cyclops, Storm and Jean Grey ring a bell, then you've seen their high-speed, fast-action drawings of super heroes and deadly villians-- talents that put the "X" in X-Men!
With a mix of mestizas, chinitas and morena in the beauty pool. the Filipino face is a masterpiece and inevitably, the international eye takes notice. It's no surprise that the first Asian-American to win Miss America in 2001 was Fil-Am hawaiian lass Angela Baraquio. From our local magazines and TV ads, models Cindy Kurleto, Maike Evers and many others leap out to fill other Asian fashion pages. If you thought you missed Sarah Meier when she left for style-center New York, it won't be long before you see her again--this time on international billboards!
"The coconut nut is a giant nut, if you eat too much you get very fat..." The Filipino is really loco over this fruit, and why not?
The fruit of life is the perfect sign of Filipino ingenuity. From dessert concoctions to summer throat coolers, houses (bahay kubo) and household aids (read: banig, bunot, walis tingting) furniture and fashion, even a possible cure for cancer, no part of the coconut tree is left unused-- proof enough that with Filipino ingenuity and craftsmanship, you can turn loco with the possibilities.
No tourist has ever stepped foot on this archipelago without adding adobo and sinigang to his must-taste menu. Being the melting pot (literally) of various culinary cultures (form Arabic to Malay, American to Spanish) the Pinoy adapts to a taste all his own. The Asian rice staple is turned into delightful kakanins of suman and sapin-sapin. The Spaniards must be proud of how menudo, mechado and kaldereta came to be. Take, for instance balut, barbecued isaw, and the convenient taho and you have the most fulfilling and tasteful fastfood there is. I wonder why they turn them into Fear Factor stunts, though!
Home of the first university in the East, the Philippines has come a long way since its landmark, the University of Santo Tomas. With a 94.6% literacy rate, which means that almost all Filipinos know how to read, write and speak our basic languages, it seems that intelligence is in the Pinoy bloodline. Never mind if we trail behind other Asian countries in our Sciences, or if we share our books with five other students. It just goes to show that Filipino wit and wisdom go beyond books and blackboards.
In one diary entry Ferdinand Magellan stated that the people of ethnic Philippines were a notch above other island natives--that they were wearing gorgeous clothes and glamorous accessories. Well, not exactly in those words, but the fact remains, Filipinos are a fashionable people. Why else would Winona Ryder add a Josie Natori bag to her loot, or would we see Sarah Jessica Parker (as Sex's and the City's Carrie Bradshaw) clutching a Rafe Totengco purse? How can we explain the global domination of Bench and the Sari-sari store in downtown New York? So much for long-time established Filipino designers, but Filipino underground fashion visionaries are also attracting a second glance, with Jojie Lloren's Parisian invasion, Mich Dulce's London affair and Paolo Raymundo's New York raid.
With Buddhist countries in the east and the biggest Islamic nation in the south, it is quite a surprise how the Philippines became the only Christian country in Asia. With such a religious zeal, the Pinoys are evidence of unconditional faith. Problems are faced with prayers, celebrations are opened with rituals and blessings are acknowledged with heavenly attitude. One thing's certain though -- Pinoys are a sacred people, beautiful inside and out.
For a country that has been colonized thrice in a row it is only natural for Luzviminda to give birth to 100% red-blooded heroes with clenched fists to fight their oppressors. But one used the biggest muscle, the mind, to fight the freedom game. And it is but apt, we consider him Gat Jose Rizal, the national hero. Earning European respect and beating the Spanish in a battle of wits and skill, it became everyone's dream chess game. More than stamps and street names, our heroes deserve applause from the world.
While debates could go on about Pinoys inventing the yo-yo, there is no doubt that the Filipino is a natural innovator. The fluorescent bulb, karaoke, lunar buggy, insecticide chalk, multi-sign advertising device (or simply the billboards you see in malls that morph into other ads), the first water-powered automobile, and the Wonder Mop--all products of Filipino inspiration and perspiration. Why can't we invent a cure for corrupt politicians and a no-fail anti-traffic device?
You could curse them for the traffic, but it's undeniable that the Jeepney is the Filipino mark of pride and progress. A prototype of the American jeeps of World War II, the jeepney has become the eternal Pinoy pop icon. From its quirky displays ("Katas ng Saudi," etc.) to the colorful detailing and disco boom boxes and lights. It's Pinoy life on four wheels--something to remind the world where we were and where we're heading.
Minus the need for tubs of Coppertone grease or spraying Hawaiian Tropic, the bronzed-brown Pinoy color has been the envy of many Westerners. Lucky for us, we can skip the baking under the sun and the skin cancer, still sporting that exotic supermodel look.
For a showbiz obsessed country that eats chismis for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it's but natural for the Philippines to be the constellation of global star hotshots. In Broadway's Miss Saigon (which would have been called Miss Manila) Filipina stage stars reigned supreme. There was Monique Wilson, Isay Alvarez, but much of the spotlight fell on Lea Salonga, now an acclaimed Broadway veteran, with a Tony in one hand and two Laurence Olivier trophies in the other. The Filipino rules the silver screen, too. With films like Legacy and Goodbye America, our 100% local talents ruled in 100% Hollywood productions. As for the studios, Cher Calvin left F for Las Vegas' Fox News and Donita gabs on MTV Asia.
For a people who invented and carry on a love affair with videoke, it isn’t hard to get Filipino vocal cords to sing out. Take Freddie Aguilar's undying hit, Anak; which can be considered our national anthem, having been translated into Japanese, Chinese, German, English and other languages. And how could we forget how, in all her decibel-defying glory, Regine Velasquez was named Asia's Songbird? With a voice that goes so high, she does take to flight quite well. Or how about the once toothy-kid fronting That's Entertainment! We used to simply call Billy Joe? Newsflash: He's dated Mandy Moore, has a Platinum album and makes Justin Timberlake tremble.
For the record we are talking about a country that starts putting Christmas trees in the middle of August and pulls them down in the heat of February. That's proof enough that the Filipino can't get enough of celebration, from it's long stretch of fiestas (kicking off with the Ati-atihan, Panagbenga and the Pahiyas) to its social calendar of birthdays, weddings, christenings and even funerals. Minus the reason for the party seasons, the Filipino still finds every chance to get the disco ball rolling. Maybe that's why we have the most progressive party scene in Asia, from martini bars and rioting rave parties to just the neighborhood tambayan.
Ever wondered how despite being half a million miles away the Filipino had a part in Iraq attacks? Simply because Juan de la Cruz isn't an apathetic fellow, he goes around sticking his nose in every issue. One thing for certain is, he's never in the grey area -- he's either a pro or a con. Blame it on the natural fixation for news, intrigue or simply the innate need for a good debate. The Pinoy opinion matters a lot more than the "Yes or No" text messages they flash on tv.
With more than 10,000 square miles of coastline, the "Pearl of the Pacific" could be the biggest vacation playground there is. Just start counting the beaches on our map, and realize that island-hopping is inevitable. From the pristine white sands of Boracay to the virgin paradise that is Palawan we have the answer to every sun worshipper's dream. Then they wouldn't mind wearing a T-shirt with WOW Philippines! written on it.
If there is one thing that is great about the Philippines, it would have to be that you can find a lot of inexpensive stuff, from clothes to shoes to furniture of quality good enough to rival expensive designer brands. Not just the craftsmanship but even the materials are world class. Could that be why you spot the "Made in the Philippines" tag on some imported brands?
Being the first republic in the whole of Asia there is no doubting Philippine Democracy. For anyone who knows how to count, EDSA's 1 2 and 3 are testaments to the Filipino "Parliament of the Streets" kicking corrupt asses off Malacanang seats -- a record for fool-proof and bloodless revolutions. Proof enough that a combination of peace and politics is a possibility.
For a country that lives and breathes basketball, it's quite ironic that the Filipino athlete excels in other sports that doesn't require bouncing balls. But the real score is they do excel in whatever courts you put them. In the fairways Fil-Am Dorothy Delasin bagged the 2000 LPGA Rookie of the Year, our very own female and Filipino version of Tiger Woods. In the ringside's red, blue and yellow corner however, Manny Pacquiao pulled the TKO off international boxing bouts. On the horsetracks, the beauty we all simply know as Mikee wowed every spectator in the recent SEA Games. And just who could play pool better than Efren "Bata" Reyes and Django Bustamante?
TRAFFIC AND TARDINESS
After all the pride and joy we Pinoys must also face our shame. Now part of worldwide vocabulary, the term "Filipino Time" is the definition of the "Juan-come-lately." Poor Juan can blame it on traffic of course, because he was stuck on EDSA, site of our historical bloodless revolution (twice over) and our famed bumper-to-bumper traffic -- one of the world's unresolved mysteries.
Being the biggest population of SMS-users in Asia, it is no surprise that this country is the breeding ground of techies, technophiles, webbies and computer junkies. Never mind if the Love Bug virus caused millions of dollars, we are sure Microsoft took notice. Now we see the Filipinos ruling the World-Wide-Web and one is even a mayor in the world's biggest computer-producing hub. Silicon Valley, California.
Po, opo, mano po -- those words may sum up the Filipino trademark of respect. With its perpetual welcome doormat, the Filipino home is the hospitality center for hungry friends and families and homeless balikbayans. Also, Pinoys are a clannish lot, piling families and families under one roof. But what tops the Pinoy values list is the bayanihan system, more than the symbolic carrying of the bahay kubo, it is the fact that the Pinoy always has an open hand to help.
The Oxford dictionary once defined the word Filipina as a laborer. servant or paid help. That news may have caught us off-guard but beneath those seemingly harsh definitions is something to be proud of. On record, the Philippines has 2million OFW's around the world, with more than half in the Middle East. The one thing they have in common is their desire to work for a better life. They are the country's biggest dollar earners, earning them the nickname Bagong Bayani because of their role in aiding our drooping economy. And of course their patience and loyalty remain, come demanding bosses, strict rules and world wars.
Watching the X-Games may be a big bore for us, what with a natural obstacle course for the speed obsessed and the action-addict. From San Juan (L,a Union) and Siargao's rip-curling surf, to Mt. Apo and Mt. Banahaw's peaks, 4x4 trekking up Sagada, Cordilleras or Mt. Pinatubo's crater, deep diving in Anilao and Tubbataha-- we not only have 7.107 islands but 7,107 possibilities as well.
Just as the world is three-fourths water, three-fourths of our country is made up of young people under 30 years old! And as a forward-thinking youth, the Pinoy has adapted to all Global change, from topics to trends. Whoever said that the youth and power couldn't mix?