Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Filipino Dream

I wrote the other day about the Philippine Dream because, as an immigrant, I don't know what it is. I don't know what is supposed to motivate me to strive to see the dream fulfilled. First, I did a little research.

I found the Pledge of Allegiance:

I am a Filipino
I pledge my allegiance
To the flag of the Philippines
And to the country it represents
With honor, justice and freedom
Put in motion by one station
For God
for the People,
for Nature and
for the Country.

And the Oath of Allegiance:

I love the Philippines,
the land of my birth,
The home of my people,
it protects me and helps me
To become strong, hardworking and honorable.
Because I love the Philippines,
I will heed the counsel of my parents,
I will obey the rules of my school,
I will perform the duties of a patriotic citizen,
Serving, studying, and praying faithfully.
I will offer my life, dreams, successes
To the Philippine nation.[

The National Anthem is poetic but ends on a real downer:

Land of the morning
Child of the sun returning
With fervor burning
Thee do our souls adore.
Land dear and holy,
Cradle of noble heroes,
Ne'er shall invaders
Trample thy sacred shores.
Ever within thy skies and through thy clouds
And o'er thy hills and seas;
Do we behold thy radiance, feel the throb
Of glorious liberty.
Thy banner dear to all hearts
Its sun and stars alight,
Oh, never shall its shining fields
Be dimmed by tyrant's might.
Beautiful land of love, O land of light,
In thine embrace 'tis rapture to lie;
But it is glory ever, when thou art wronged
For us, thy sons to suffer and die

The problem I personally have with the two oaths is that they insist on a militaristic obedience to authority rather than inspire personal commitment. It seems rather a one-way street, that the citizen owes all and will give all to the State. The Pledge also has God front and center, which denies atheists the right NOT to be dedicated to God. They could not, in good conscience, cite this Pledge.

I enjoy the National Anthem for its poetic elegance. In melody and lyrics, I like it better than the American Anthem. I don't enjoy the last two lines, for they raise dying for country to a worshipful glory when it is nothing but tragic. Furthermore, the Anthem demands total capitulation of self to the State, even in how the Anthem is sung. As Martin Nevera found out, anyone who sings the song as anything but a militaristic march risks being hauled before Congress and beaten with verbal sticks until he grovels and apologizes to the uberpatriots.

Freedom evidently means something different to me than to the Philippine State.

I think allegiance ought to be earned by the State before it is demanded.

The American Dream is to dedicate oneself to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is what has motivated new arrivals since the getgo, in 1776. It is "customer oriented", or citizen oriented, a perspective that is largely missing in the Philippines with its general obsession with self rather than the common good (self-engagement is the underpinning of pollution, corruption, inefficiency, rudeness)

The seven words of the American Dream mean so much. Life means safety, security and health. Liberty means freedom and responsibility to laws that define where one person's freedom ends and another's harm begins. Pursuit of happiness means many things. It means freedom to worship as one wishes, or even not to worship. It means the right to pursue opportunities fairly without others cheating to undermine good effort. Today it is being redefined to allow same-sex marriages, if that harms no one else and is the path to happiness.

The point here is that the dream is not static. Indeed, it mandates change, in the pursuit of happiness. It changes as Americans change, as new technologies define different ways to communicate and deal with personal information, as awareness of the human condition gets deeper and better thought out, and as the real-time digging for information reveals new insights as to the way things work. The America of today is much different than the America of 50 years ago.

Much of the Philippine governmental framework is patterned after the standards of its former colonial master, America. But it doesn't work the same. First of all, this is not a nation of immigrants. It is a nation of local communities pasted somewhat haphazardly together. There are three main forms of worship here  -  Muslim, Catholic/Christian and Tradition/Superstition. Filipinos have lived under occupations by  Spanish and American conquerors, with a short blink by Japanese. Southwest Mindanao feels a greater affinity for the Moro neighbors in other countries than with Catholic/Christian Manila.

New arrivals are generally associated with the arrogance of occupiers and are therefore not wholly welcomed in the hearts of Filipinos. Oh, some may be welcomed too well in the way that fits the Filipino class concession to a white person. But they are not welcomed as FILIPINO.

A Chinese American is an American.

An American Filipino is an outsider.

So two counter-forces are at work. One wants unity as a nation. The other imposes exclusion upon those who can't help but be different. The disenfranchisement that Joe America feels when he is treated rudely is perhaps not much different than the disenfranchisement that Muslims feel in a predominantly Catholic state. Unwelcome, basically. But we are all expected to kiss ass when the State demands that we kiss ass.

So the question is, does the Philippines even want a dream for immigrants? Possibly not.

It depends on what the dream for FILIPINOS is.

You see, I don't know what the "domestic dream" is, either. If it is to stay as we are, then things are peachy keen. Hunky dory. No need to do anything. The Philippines is pretty much the same as it was 50 years ago, and can be the same 50 years from now. Uncommitted to anything but subsistence.

I suspect that if you asked Filipinos what they have as dreams, you would get one of two answers depending on the wealth of the respondent. For those with money, it would be to make more money and collect the power and prestige that goes along with it. For those without money and little opportunity to get some, you'd get a blank stare.

Well, as I personally think we homo sapiens need goals to strive for, principles to guide how we live, and growth to enrich our souls and drive a wedge between us and other animals.

Therefore, I shall attempt to construct a dream for Filipinos. It is perfectly acceptable if Filipinos ignore this. It is just for my personal pondering and amusement. I won't run out and seek to impose it on my innocent neighbors.

 I'll use the brainstorming method which begins with the simple first step that all ideas are poured out without regard for whether they are good or bad, flawed or inspirational. After everything is on the table, we can better sift through and grab the best ideas.

What points should the dream make? I use "we" under the assumption that I am Filipino.

  • That history is rich, and our heritage makes us what we are.

  • That there are many famous Filipinos because we are engaged in the world in many areas.

  • That we should have the opportunity to improve our lot in life; our wealth mainly.

  • That we remain the Philippines, and no other country will again claim or occupy our land.

  • That we are one people, but incredibly diverse, with 114 dialects, many religions, and 7,000 islands.

  • That we can deal with disaster better than most; we are strong.

  • That we are becoming computer literate and adopting new values, like divorce and health and reproduction bills. We are modernizing.

  • That we prize our educational reach and literacy, and our ability to work in English.

  • That we are free and democratic and want to remain that way.

  • That we have huge problems to overcome, like poverty, inadequate schools and poor health care.

  • That we aspire to treat women fairly and as equals to men. We don't believe in age discrimination. We do believe in Christian ethics and the discipline of being conservative about homosexuality and sex outside the marriage.

  • That we are one nation, without geographic division, but our island structure and diversity require some decentralized authority.

Now some of these are hard to express as a unified dream. "We are Filipino. We deal with disasters and are free."

So there has to be some amalgamation.

For example:

We are dedicated to preserving a rich, diversified heritage while defending and promoting a free, secure, principled and resourceful way of life.

Now this is perhaps not the best. Maybe it can be made shorter. Not seven words, probably. Maybe it can be made to ring more profound as it rolls off the tongue. But it is a start.

Here's a brief on my thinking.

A diversified heritage is important to the Philippines. It is very different than in the US, which is substantially a new nation. Preserving heritage means anyone  - natives, Moros, Filipinos born overseas, foreigners - can be brought into the national community with the highest respect for their historical contribution to the Philippines. The lessons of history - the trials and tribulations - are a part of the richness that makes up the nation. There is no need to consider those who are different, or who come from different places, as divisive. There is no need to fear them. They make up the rich fabric of the Philippines.

The words "defending and promoting" are meant to show action. It is not a static society even though its heritage is important. The people want to direct their own nation and defend it, and never again be subservient to invaders. We also want to modernize and change to stay relevant.

The way of life - "free, secure, principled and resourceful"  - provides the standards for a lawful, safe, healthy, innovative and productive society. Citizens must be highly educated to achieve this dream. And they must be motivated to build, to grow and to be strong. Now today, I might argue the Philippines is falling short in adhering to some of these standards. That is why expressing them in the dream is important.

That is why it is still a dream. Not reality.

Buying into the dream is important. It is an oath that each person should take, to himself. Not to the State. The State is an outgrowth of the dream. The dream is not an imposition by the State.

With this dream, the path is clear, the commitment total.

It is the dream I bought into when I moved permanently to the Philippines.


  1. Actually Joe, Pinoys have this double standard about Americans being Pinoys. You will never be a "Filipino" to most Filipinos. But the following Americans are recognized as "Filipino" by Pinoys:

    Phoebe Cates
    Vanessa Hudgens
    Rob Schneider
    Bruno Mars
    Olympic Gold Medalist Natalie Coughlin
    WWF Star Batista
    UFC Fighter Brandon Vera

    See a pattern here?

  2. Anon, hmmmm. Fame and fortune.

    I fear you are correct. I shall never make that standard.

  3. Joe, the pattern above isn't just fame and fortune. I think that most of the people on that list claim to have some Pinoy blood coursing through their veins.

    Maybe if I strike it absurdly rich, I'll adopt some poor country as a point of origin...maybe I'll claim that I am from mars and my real name is Ziggy Stardust.

    Thanks for taking an interest in this country. How are the Pinoys on your island? Are they showing signs of life and are they getting inspired?

  4. brianitus, yes, of course you are correct. In the US less than 1% of the population has native American blood coursing through their veins. Thus, I see Pinoys as pursuing, benignly, a kind of racial purity that discriminates. Sometimes it discriminates FOR we whities, which is odd in the extreme. I think it would be better for all if Pinoys were blind to race or heritage, and were just concerned if people are good, and contribute constructively. Racially pure and highly corrupt are not high standards in my book.

    My island is great. The Dutch have discovered it, but not too many Americans. If Americans really understood what is here, the retiring baby boomers would be coming here in droves. It is like Hawaii before it became Americanized and commercialized. The cost is about 1/20 of Hawaiian today, I would guess.

  5. Joe, I think you hit the nail on the head with your racial purity statement. Here in the PI, I think we should give it a century or two.
    I think the image of the White Man as a rich colonizer rather than a friendly neighbor is still firmly entrenched in the minds of some folk.

    I don't know if this is a correct example of the speed of assimilation: the USA is a melting pot of immigrants of all colors and it's just in this century that the lines between the "races" started to blur, right?

    Honestly, I am not sure how to accelerate that process here. Who knows? Maybe there's not enough white folk here yet, except in the girly bars and tourist districts.

    Oh, AND DO remember that you don't get to be friends with the Pinoy men right away. After all, the white folk take all the nice-lookin' women. LOL

    How about repackaging the Philippines not just as a retirement haven for the boomers? Hmmm, how about an automatic investment portfolio (a perpetuity fund maybe?) for retirees? Just let your cash for you while you live out the rest of your days in peace. =)

  6. brianitus, ha, I look around, and it seems to me there is no shortage of nice-lookin' women here, even though I have my authorized quota (one).

  7. the US pledge is: ""I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.""

    whats the difference between that, and the philippines?

    "I am a Filipino
    I pledge my allegiance
    To the flag of the Philippines
    And to the country it represents
    With honor, justice and freedom
    Put in motion by one station
    For God
    for the People,
    for Nature and
    for the Country."

    they use the same words. the same ideas.

  8. GabbyD, no difference, and the "under God" line gets a lot of criticism from atheists. By the way, I like the "for Nature" line in the Philippine pledge. I would also note that a lot of people in the Philippines do not abide by the honor and justice line, if corruption is any indication. Also, Nature is pretty well plastered with plastic. But I am, in this blog, striving for something positive to reach for. Any ideas?

  9. Writing a blog such as yours can often be a thankless task – you open your soul fully expecting to hear little from those who agree, but to be overwhelmed by comments from those who disagree. And those who disagree are sometimes less than polite. Well, at the risk of overly inflating your ego I am here to say this: you are a prolific writer of quality, stimulating prose. But it’s your last two posting that particularly moved me. I think with your insights concerning the passion of righteousness (or the absence of it) that you’re getting close to uncovering the secret of the Filipino condition.

    Sometimes I don’t agree with you, but I don’t learn from reading only those I agree with.

    I am so delighted that you take the time to vent your feelings. I am sure, too, that the people in your community are delighted to have you as an “import”.

  10. Greg, thank you. You made my day. I think many who disagree do not speak up, as it seems I get more agreement than not. But I very much welcome disagreement, as, like you, that is when I learn the most. Plus, although my writing is, ummm . . . opinionated on the verge of really obnoxious . . . I sometimes am not that confident in what I am expounding. And I am generally always open to a better view, or one that can shade me in a different direction.

  11. I asked plenty of Filipinos what their dreams are. One common answer is to stand in line rain or shine before the pearly gates of U.S. Embassy to get the coveted precious American Visa to live the American dreams of life, liberty and pursuit to reap what the Americans has sown and be goot citizens to Americans but not to fellow Filipinos.

  12. ... then apply for American citizenship, pledge an oath of alliance to American flag and protect it then the following day they go to Philippine Embassy to apply for dual citizen in the Philippines and then pledge another alliance again.

  13. The Filipinos are in need of enlightenment and reformation. The only way is thru no nonsense education and professional, educated editorially independent Philippine Media.

    For the past ten years or so I run in Santa Monica and hike up Griffith Park. Never seen a shadow of Filipino exercising. All I see are whites and japanese on the beach and Koreans and Hispanics at Griffith. Could I be too early? I'm at the beach at 5:00 a.m. huddled in blanket in the car. I would start running when the sun peeks out, returns at 9:00 when the meter maid starts giving out tickets. NO FILIPINOS.

    Just lately, I've seen Filipinos in Griffith. Beanies, hoodies, Nikes and shorts all straight from the mall. Not only one or two. Many !!!! Many !!! Every weekend. I didn't get the connection right away. Why so many Filipinos.

    On my way down from the fire road, early one morning on a weekend, I saw a guy (definitely a Filipino). What attracted me was the Monster headphone at $599.00 a pop!!! I was thinking how can a brown-skin-punk'd-nose Filipino splurge on a headphone? When I was about close to discern how he looks like, I, like, "he looks familiar!". "I've seen him before".

    There were several numbers of Filipinos on the way down, too !!! They look at me, I look at them. I was wearing a cut-off shorts, rag shirt and muddy trail shoes. No warmers. No beanies. Just my iPod and Sennheiser headset.

    I saw a white scrawny guy in John Lennon spectacle. He looked at me. I looked at him. He stared. He must have thought, "he is a Filipino, no bling-bling, typical hiker slim fit look. Could he be a Filipino? Yes, he could be a Filipino born in America. No swagger. Pure hiking enthusiast. No care about a gaggle of Filipinos with brand new trail shoes and matching shirts and tights".

    I felt uncomfortable with his stare, "Is he gay?". Gays troll around Griffith Park for hunks, ahem, like me. :)

    It sank into me right away, "that's Roach looking at me. If he's Roach the guy with the Monster Beat headphone must be Manny Pacquiao!"

    MANNY PACQUIAO RUNS AT GRIFFITH !!!! They were there to Manny watch. Or to do the Manny thing. They are now hiking up and down the trail like Manny do.


    If only they can adore Filipinos that made it to the top in schools Filipinos would follow suit like they followed Manny Pacquiao.

  14. ... now I hike on the other side of Griffith where I know Filipinos wouldn't dare hike up because I do not want them thinking that Manny Pacquiao inspired me.

    There is nothing inspirational about boxing. This is a sports run by sleazy mafiosis off Las Vegas whose sports skills are honed prison rumble and street fights and most of all IT IS EDUCATION OPTIONAL.

    Manny missed a semester of congressional sessions to practice boxing, went back to school where professors are afraid to fail him because of his celebrity status.

    So the lesson learned. Drop school. Go to Jail. Box. When become celebrity go to school.

    Not school. Box (boxing is not school sanctioned sports(?)). Become a celebrity. Then spend retirement in jail.

  15. So, yesterday, Monday. I went up there to take pictures against my wishes but my wife and son wants to. Grrrrrr !!!!

    Gosh, the parking spot was perfect. I, by chance, parked next to Manny Pacquiao's Cadillac Escalade. The only spot !!! Filipinos looked. And they looked. They stood. Craned their neck. Flash began popping. TFC cameramen followed with their HD Cameras. Who could be in this white SAAB with the moon roof open? He's wearing an oversized Paris Hilton black sunglass at 6:00 in the morning. Filipinos do not drive SAAB. They do not open the moon roof afraid to get skin fried brown or mushed their well-coiffed hair. I calmly closed the hatch and stepped out. "Bwesit, it is another Filipino. A Manny Pacquiao fan!"

    I was able to grab several great shots. But Manny is not accessible anymore. I couldn't have my shot taken with him. I was shooed away by a burly Filipino with Philippine-englischtzes. But I was able to have a shot with his two brothers. They were amiable. Well, they are not celebrity yet!

    The Filipinos around were bisdaks. They talked in Bisdaks. Manny Pacquiao was giving jokes that is inappropriate to Americans more so as a congressman. Well, he is a boxer. Around him are boxers who are down on their luck at education and trying their luck on boxing.

    The people around him made corny uneducated jokes. They were rough on the edges from the American perspective point of view. To Filipinos direct from Philippines it was appropriate and funny.

    I drove off. The Filipinjos looked again thinking, why drove off Manny is still here? They didn't know that I am not a boxing fan. I came to take pictures for my wife and son so they can show it to their friends and officemates.

  16. Joe, sorry for this very long comment.

    Your observation about the lack of a clear “Filipino Dream” is well taken. It’s good to hear from the opinion of “outsiders” (used in the positive sense). However, there are a couple of points that I believe need to be pointed out.

    1. On the Filipino Dream vs. the American Dream

    “The American Dream is to dedicate oneself to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is what has motivated new arrivals since the getgo, in 1776. It is "customer oriented", or citizen oriented, a perspective that is largely missing in the Philippines with its general obsession with self rather than the common good (self-engagement is the underpinning of pollution, corruption, inefficiency, rudeness)”

    “PREAMBLE of the 1987 Phil Constitution

    We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.”

    Comparing the two “dreams” I would say the US dream puts individual good above the common good. Secondly it offers no clear definition of “pursuit of happiness” meaning every individual is free to define what makes him happy and the means to attain it. I would venture to add that this implies a belief in an invisible hand that will sort things out.

    The Filipino Dream states its goal and the means to achieving it. The Filipino dream should not be measured against the American dream rather it should be measured against itself i.e. the rhetoric versus the reality of the Filipino dream

    2. On the oath of allegiance

    “The Pledge also has God front and center, which denies atheists the right NOT to be dedicated to God. They could not, in good conscience, cite this Pledge.”

    The Pledge of Allegiance of the US

    I pledge Allegiance to the flag
    of the United States of America
    and to the Republic for which it stands,
    ONE NATION UNDER GOD, indivisible,
    with Liberty and Justice for all.

    Both have a God bias.

    3. On US and THEM:

    “New arrivals are generally associated with the arrogance of occupiers and are therefore not wholly welcomed in the hearts of Filipinos. Oh, some may be welcomed too well in the way that fits the Filipino class concession to a white person. But they are not welcomed as FILIPINO. A Chinese American is an American. An American Filipino is an outsider.”

    And Japanese Americans were not placed in detention camps during WWII? Joe, even Jews and Afro-Americans still feel unwelcome in many places in America. Even Native Americans are discriminated against! How about newcomers like Mexican Americans, Arab Americans, Central American Americans and all the recent arrivals who are refugees from the various wars since WWII, are they welcomes as Americans by all European Americans? But the Irish, the Poles, the Italians also went through discrimination. It seems only the descendants of Pilgrims are the only real Americans.

    This US vs, THEM observation is unfair. It singles out Filipinos. There is an US vs. THEM mentality all over the world, it varies only in degrees.

    Finally, I like your blog. You provoke thought. And you roll with punches as good as you can deliver them.

  17. Mariano,


    I enjoy Manny Pacquiao for his boxing skill. He is amazing, especially since Coach Roach taught him skills to go along with his natural speed, strength and tenacity. His success leads to a ton of endorsements and extraordinary wealth, which I can't begrudge him. That's the way economic values work in entertainment.

    But I do have trouble with him being a Congressman, for I don't think he has the education or experience to run a country. His other work is full time so he is not at his desk, and his quotes are embarrassing. So he may be a winner in the ring, but he is a LOSER as Congressman.

    And I really hate to see the honorary awards gloried on him, a Doctorate and a Colonel's appointment (promotion from Master Sergeant). I think it puts Filipino values in the wrong place. What about the guy who earned the Colonel slot by training and leading and risking his life? Rather cheapens his title. In my opinon, it makes the AFP as cheap and unsubstantial as Wowwowee was.

    I guess when people don't understand commitment and capability, it is difficult for them to see the absence of same.

  18. MB, thanks for the kind words and the substantive comment. I appreciate both, the latter because I think a blog site should be different than a chat room.

    You are correct about "God" being in both. It is controversial in the US, too. It is not a big deal for me, as I adhere to my own faith when I say the pledge.

    I also agree that there need be no comparison, as both countries have different situations. It was just a useful anchor to build relevance around.

    The US dream is not a legal statement. It is different than the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. It is an emotional statement, a statement of aspiration and vision. As such, it is masterfully crafted. Other documents can define what "pursuit of happiness" means.

  19. What I like about AMerican journalists and their columnist and authors they tell us the evolution of their constitution, declaration of independence, the personalities how and why it is worded and the back and forth between Benjamin Franklin and John Adams when they crafted it.

    Here, in the Philippines, nothing like that. We do not know nothing at all about our constitution. How it was constructed. Who were the drafters. What were they thinking at that time.


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