The lack of substance of Filipino society

03 August 2004

All form, no substance. That's the Filipino.

The latest manifestation of the Pinoy character -- the ahead-of-schedule troop pull-out from Iraq in July, 2004 -- has left many -- and even some Filipinos -- scratching their heads. The implications of this action will ripple far and wide for a long time. It is a triumph of evil over the basic principle of non-negotiation with kidnappers. The act may have saved one life. But it put thousands more at risk as practicioners of terrorism are further emboldened

When a country joins an alliance for purposes of war, it doesn't just pull-out in the heat of battle.

If one is not prepared to shed blood, one must not join a battle.

Whether the Iraq War was a worthwhile undertaking or not is not the issue here. The issue is the reason (or rather lack of any deep reason) behind the participation of the Philippines in this war in the first place. Unlike the withdrawal of Spain, which was executed by a different Administration, only one Administration had overseen both our enlistment into the Iraq War and our disgraceful exit from it. Understanding the true motives behind both the glib "yes we're in" and the disgraceful "we're outta here!" calls of the Philippine Government, is an exercise that will ultimately lead to only one thing -- political agendas. There is no deeper spirit to anything the Pinoy does whether it be going to Church or going to War other than partisan politics -- the art of grandstanding, one-upmanship, and intrigue.

The Philippines did not pull out of Iraq because there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction to be found. And it certainly did not pull out because it felt that its fundamental principles were being violated (there aren't any to be violated in the first place). It pulled out because its Government wanted to shore up its popularity and present itself as a compassionate "partner of the people". Good press and political survival, that's what drives Government -- a government that mirrors its constituents -- a people who go to Church to exhibit form rather than experience the substance. A people who adorn the skin of its national symbol -- the jeepney -- while allowing engineering mediocrity to persist underneath it for 50 years. A people who are quick to slap the label of "Hero" on what is nothing more than a victim.

Take a look at what we have sacrificed as a people on the altar of political grandstanding:

(1) The nurturing of Filipinos' victim mentality

What is not mentioned is the nature of the presence of thousands of people like Angelo de la Cruz in even the harshest of environments -- working menial jobs, pumping foreign currency into the consumer economy, and leaving their children -- an entire lost generation -- to come of age parentless. That a Government would come to the rescue of a man who is fleeing the failure of his Government and people to build a prosperous nation -- yes, OFWs are refugees from Filipino incompetence -- and then lionise him as a hero is the height of hypocrisy. There are thousands, no, millions of Filipinos whose suffering and shameful poverty the nation routinely tolerates with banal efficiency (the only thing Filipinos are efficient at). Yet the Government chooses to focus on one man -- and put at risk the interests of the larger Filipino people. More disturbing still, we have once again we have outdone ourselves in the World League of Injustice. Alvin Capino writes in an article:

though, the OFWs who have been killed and wounded in previous bombings and shootouts in Iraq should be getting the same treatment from the government as de la Cruz, who, from what we heard, got a house and lot, scholarships for his children, and was feted to a fiesta, where public funds amounting to P300,000 were spent. None of the other OFW heroes who were killed and wounded in Iraq and many other places have been treated this way by the government.

Heroes are men and women who act with conviction. What we have now is a perversion of the concept of "hero" -- Pinoy style! The very people that symbolise everything that is wrong with the Philippines are now deserving of our medal of honour. Men who have eight children, who suddenly discover they are unable to feed them, and then work overseas to the detriment of the upbringing of an entire generation of Filipinos. They are now our heroes.

(2) The international standing of Filipinos

A nation that makes whining about colonial mentality and racism a national hobby ironically seems to lack the cojones to earn the respect of the global community. According to this Time report:

Arroyo has been flaunting her decision to grant the kidnappers' demands and bring home the soldiers as a badge of honor. She crowed about De la Cruz's homecoming in her annual State of the Nation address, saying that Philippine lives are "held more dearly than international acclaim."

"Philippine lives are 'held more dearly than international acclaim'". Really now. That's a lot of words from the leader of a nation that tolerates having a sizeable number of its citizens eat and live off garbage dumps. The prospects for global acceptance are indeed dismal for a people who crave respect but do not have the collective spirit to resolve to earn it. This is disturbing considering that the Filipino's characteristically debilitating colonial mentality predisposes him to hold anything foreign in high regard. Certainly global praises are standards par excellence.

(3) Unrealistic expectation of Government's duty to OFW's

The Australian newspaper The Age reported in this on-line article:

The question is, what happens the next time a Filipino worker is in trouble overseas? On Thursday, Mr de la Cruz said he expected the Government would extend the same helping hand. However, Dr Arroyo sounded a note of caution: "The circumstances may not (always) allow such a successful outcome."

OFW's are becoming another squatter situation. They are sucking up Government resources and attracting political pandering to the detriment of the nation.

This lack of a clear collective direction and conviction in the Filipino people is but a symptom of our collective lack of substance -- unlike the solid spheres that more robust societies are represented by, ours can be more likened to a thin-skinned bubble with nothing but air at its core flying off to wherever the wind takes it.

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