Monday, September 3, 2012

How Filipino Personal Independence Undermines Community

I notice that Filipinos don't do "unified" particularly well. They don't do "compromise" or "concede" particularly well.

Do I need to do a recitation of examples, or will you stipulate that I am right and save me the time and words?

Okay, a couple of quick examples.

  • Senator Sotto did not concede or compromise. He rebelled and set out on the attack.

  • Elections are murderous. Not much concession there.

  • Bloggers operate apart from one another rather than as a unified community. Loyalties of different writers join then split because they get hung up on some win-loss argument they cannot resolve with compromise and concession. Those who comment on blogs strive to dominate, not find agreement.

  • Arguments for federalism keep cropping up because strong cities and provinces chafe under the heavy hand of the central government.

  • Political parties collect and fall apart and collect again like bees with no queen or an elephant with no memory. The Philippine party collaboration is a short-term thing, with each candidate jockeying to find a niche that will benefit him best. There is not a lot of give to it, for sure.

Independence is great. Necessary in some circumstances, to define one's turf and rights. We don't want no stinkin' American occupiers ever again. Or Japanese. Or Spanish. Or Chinese.

But community is also great. Necessary in some circumstances, to be strong and repel enemies, or to go along the same path rather than erode progress by butting heads.

A sense of community is necessary IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES to agree to a set of laws and abide by them, for the good of the whole.

Filipinos have proved to me, their Western Born Resident Blogger, that they can do independent well. They have not proved squat about being able to do UNIFIED well. Just about everything is transactional. Temporal. "What's in it for me?"
Source: NASA

Big Ego does not let go well. It is a brittle business, trying to get things done in a climate of win/lose, gain face, save face. Brittle breaks easily.

The most constructive institutions hereabouts seem to be those with autocratic, independent bosses who have a clear sense of where they want to take things. Davao City, for example.

Fortunately, President Aquino is also one of those because he has the Peoples' endorsement, and that is an enormous backing. But what happens when Mar Roxas is elected President, and he has to do it on a bloody and divided battlefield over VP Binay? Or the other way around?

What is the aftermath of a dog eat dog political battle? Vengeance? Bitterness? Divided legislature at each other's throats? Vindictive Get Real style bloodletting for six years?

What happens to the unity of the Executive Branch and its ability to move the Philippines forward? How does the nation end the endless carping and malcontent bickering and maybe even coup plotting or Constitutional rewrites?

President Aquino has brought stability and progress because MOST of the Philippines is unified behind him. That ends in three years.

Until Filipinos can do the tough business of conceding, the Philippines will never be unified. Until a broad segment of population can grasp the concept of "good loser" , it will always be a bickering, contentious, negative place. As if the Get Real attitude speaks to what the psyche of the Filipino really is. Small minded and bickering and negative, relentlessly looking for someone to tear down.

As per usual, in spotting flaws, and believing they are real, I search for solution and . . .

I don't have one.

Until there is a national drive to teach -and a desire among mature adults to learn - how to be COMMUNITY, the Philippines is destined to be a contentious and non-productive place.

The fundamentals of unity:

  • Sacrifice

  • Courtesy

  • Diplomacy

  • Concession

They are built on being able to be BIG ENOUGH to let go of one's own imperatives in favor of those offered by others. In personal terms, unity requires:

  • Strength of sacrifice

  • Compassion of courtesy

  • Dignity of Diplomacy

  • Courage of Concession

It seems to me that Filipinos seeking a unified nation need to demonstrate, through acts, that they have the required:

  • Strength

  • Compassion

  • Dignity

  • Courage

You may wonder why I plant a photo of an American shuttle launch in a blog article about Philippine unity.

Here's why. I look at that picture and I imagine climbing into the seat of that plane and getting strapped onto what essentially is a huge guided explosion. Riding a bomb. THAT my friends is courage. Can you imagine the noise, the vibrations, the sense of vulnerability?

As it happens, and maybe you can read the small print on the shuttle, this is the Columbia, and while it is being blasted into space, a piece of foam insulation falls from the big rocket tube and damages the heat shield tiles of the shuttle wing. On re-entering the atmosphere, the wing breaks apart, the shuttle explodes, and all seven astronauts, six Americans and one Israeli, are killed.

That is sacrifice.

Not just to America, or Israel, really. But to knowledge, and the deepest quality of the human spirit that insists that we can be more tomorrow than we are today.

So in understanding the great courage and sacrifice these seven brave citizens of the world displayed, I wonder why it is so difficult for us to summon up the courage to concede an argument upon which no lives rest. Or let someone else be boss for a while, and support him rather than undermine him. Or grant a pedestrian the right-of-way in crossing the street, as a small gift of courtesy to our nation.

How hard is it, really, to give a little of ourselves in order to build a greater, unified Philippines?

Strength. Compassion. Dignity. Courage.

That is a proper Philippines.

45 comments:

  1. Reasons for disunity
    1. Language
    2. Culture
    3. Historical Grudges
    4. Archipelago Geography
    5. Regionalism

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, but the U.S. has more languages and cultures and a very big geography with clear regionalism, north east, midwest, south and west. There are 50 states with Hawaii and Alaska being separate from the mainland. It does not have geographical or historical grudges as we see in the Philippines other than a big north-south one left over from the Civil War. That one does not detract from everyone's interest in the well being of America as a whole.

      In the U.S., rivalries are channeled into sports, and sportsmanship calls for respecting others rather than denigrating them.

      Here in the Philippines, things originated and evolved differently.

      The natives or locals were always here but never aspired for being more than natives. The island structure to some extent did isolate them.

      The U.S. was a big blank slate after the Indians were stomped to oblivion. It was possible to write "opportunity" on it, and have every new immigrant buy into the ideal. Here, the slate was not blank, it was occupied, and everyone wrote "defend what we have" on it. Maybe that is the historical grudge you mention. The result was a well-developed inward look, not outward.

      I speculate that the 5 reasons you cite may come into play, but to me it is more that the Philippines never got inspired by the notion of "unified opportunity". I think it is bubbling under the surface now, and like a volcano, I hope it erupts rather like Pinatubo did. President Aquino is a catalyst and some economic gains (call centers) could spark enthusiasm for a sense of "wholeness".

      Sorry I rambled. You sparked some thinking. Always dangerous.

      Delete
    2. Nah it is very interesting that a foreigner has interest in my country. Well I'll expound further the problem is that the Spaniards a remarkable job of divide and conquer strategy for over 300 years in the Islands. They pitted each ethnic group against one another and every time a rebellion will occur in one region, they used troops from another region that culturally is different and alien to them.

      Classic example is that when most of Southern Luzon rebelled circa 17th century, they used soldiers of Bisayan ethnicity who do not understand one iota of word from the Tagalogs. And you know our culture, we can be quite brutal to each other (classic example Moros of Mindanao) and every rebellion that is stamped further ingrained in the hearts of the people that the others cannot be trusted.

      We consider Filipino as our national language but it is much more complicated than that. Filipino is the classification assigned to the major and regional languages spoken in the Philippines. But to simply state that Tagalogs can understand and communicate effectively with Ilocano, Bisaya, Hiligaynon, Waray, Bikolano, Maranao, etc. you cannot be more mistaken. We have a saying here in the Visayas that we are much smarter than Tagalogs since we know 1 more language than them (Tagalog, English, regional language). You can observe that I do not use the term dialect since it will be an understatement. Heck even the plain Tagalogs cannot understand wholly the deep and rich Tagalog of Bulacan (its place of origin). As we all know one common language is a common denominator for unity and effective communication, but ever since the Spaniards prohibited the teaching of Spanish to the natives, we were never truly become one.

      As for regionalism I beg your pardon but the bitter rivalry is there. We Bisayans feel slighted by the Tagalogs and distrust the Moros. Within Visayas, We Illongos ridicule the Tagalogs, misunderstand the Warays and envy the Cebuanos.

      The Philippines has a lot of history behind why we find it hard to come into any consensus. Maybe once or twice in a generation we unite in a common cause but most of the time we go back to our own problems, not caring much what happens outside our islands. Of course I dream of a time when my countryman can proudly say "I am a Filipino" like "I am proud to be a Filipino because I am a Filipino" not the present mentality of "I am a Filipino because (insert famous person of known ethnicity)."

      Delete
    3. I appreciate the elaboration, and I can see how the history and regionalism creates divisions. I think divisions are well absorbed in the Filipino cultural sense of being. For example, you write:

      ". . . it is very interesting that a foreigner has interest in my country . . ."

      But, you see, I am not a foreigner, really. This is my home. You inherently draw a line that divides, as do most Filipinos. It is the "immigrant/native" perspective I cite, the difference between a unified U.S. and a divided (divisive?) Philippines. Now yours is not a hostile divide; indeed, I feel welcomed. But I fall into a category apart from "one of us", and I think the distinction need not be.

      I think we are agreeing, there is a difference between the U.S. and Philippines, and you have stated quite well why. The question is, would not the Philippines be well-served by better unity? And if so, how does one get there from here?

      Delete
    4. That is our mentality unfortunately, we can be welcoming but at times we also hide in our own shell (local problems, politics, etc.) We need a rallying cry no doubt, even the Revolution of 1896 was a bit regionalized if you put it in perspective.

      I agree that if ever the Philippines put our s*** together we can become a new star of the world. We have the resources, manpower, skill, technical know how and competence. At times my cynicism tells me that we need a civil war as bloody like the US to finally forge the blood of the people into one. We need something that will erase the curse bequeathed unto us by the effing Spaniards.

      I really hope that the death of Sec. Jesse can become the battle cry that we as a nation is willing to sacrifice a little of our individuality for the common good. :)

      Delete
    5. Yes, I'm surprised WWII didn't do more. I'm thinking maybe it is not blood that will do it, but a booming economy, sustained for 10 years.

      Delete
    6. You know Americans broke our heart after WWII. No servant did so much for their master (or in case of the US perspective, no loyal ally did so much for the love of another ally) like the Philippines.

      WWII was so full of tragedies that even me, who look up to the States as a kind of model was heartbroken after I learned what they did (or did not) to the Philippines.

      Delete
    7. I lived in Zambales for awhile, and studied up on the history of the area. They had just found an old burial site near Iba with remains of about 30 people there, Filipinos, I believe. The Magsaysay brothers led the rebels of the area, fighting from the mountains at first, with occasional raids, but mostly biding their time, as instructed by the U.S. Then, when the invasion came, they completely destroyed the Japanses infrastructure and American troops came ashore without a fight to start the slow good-riddance drive toward Manila from the north.

      The destruction of Manila, and the final battle at Intramuros, were heartbreaking, as well. America followed its policy of saving American lives, and to hell with anything or anybody else.

      And very possibly, it was all unnecessary. There were two plans to get to Japan quickly to end the war. The Army plan, or the MacArthur plan, which was essentially an ego-campaign for the general. And the Navy plan, to bypass the Philippines and leapfrog quickly to Japan. Roosevelt bought the Army plan. It is easy to ask "what if" the Navy plan had been adopted.

      It is strange, isn't it, the postwar period? I have not studied that, but will, now that you mention it was "heartbreaking". It appears the U.S. did more for the enemy, Japan, than for the friend, the Philippines. That would be under Hoover and Eisenhower.

      Delete
    8. My father, god bless his soul, said that it would have been better for the Philippines allied with the Japanese, at least the Americans will be compelled to help in the reconstruction and rebuilding of our country.

      But what can we say, your policy of benevolent assimilation won the hearts of most of the country. We could have been your 49th state you know, earlier than Alaska or Hawaii :)

      Delete
    9. And yes the destruction of Intramuros was especially heart breaking. It destroyed whatever good the Spaniards left the Philippines, the Pearl of the Orient was no more. What remained of Intramuros was a pittance for my generation to truly grasp our national heritage.

      Delete
    10. Well, I hold certain musings to myself. One is that Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao would make three superb states. I hold it to myself because I don't want to be seen as "subversive" to Philippine independence. Many Filipinos would see that as the ultimate occupation and submission and insult, and they would rather starve or even die than go down that path. Never mind that it would end the senseless visa blockade that stops Filipinos from even visiting the US, would bring law and order, would bring investment and new money of a scale beyond imagination, and would likely solve the China problem.

      Then when Venezuela and Uruguay becomes provinces of China, it will be tit for tat.

      Delete
    11. Nah I think most Filipinos will go for practicality. They know the advantages of being an integral part of the US. And we can be another commonwealth you know, since we clamor for defense and easier entrance to the States :)

      Delete
    12. Works for me. I think I'll write Ms. Clinton. Her husband writes me regularly seeking donations for his charity. So we are almost pals.

      Delete
  2. Things that have united Filipinos, well, most of them, if not in spirit, then in physical presence( feel free JoeAm and Dave to add or subtract):

    1. Ninoy's death
    2. Marcos
    3. Erap
    4. Cory's death
    5. Jesse Robredo's death

    DocB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suppose Marcos, in a way, did unify, being the clear single point at the top. I don't know about ERAP as I wasn't here then and don't really know what he did. I think Cory's death flows into Noynoy's presidency, which if it seats stability and earned, honest wealth generation as the national economic style, suggests Noynoy should be added to the list.

      How durable Robredo's death is, as a unifying force, has yet to be determined.

      You know, as much as I chide Pacquiao about being a lousy congressman, I'd add him to the list. Or else a conglomerate point of "showmanship".

      Delete
    2. I am surprised you forgot to mention Ramon Magsaysay :) And the problem is that most provinces outside of Luzon don't give a damn about national politics because simply it is not of their immediate concern.

      The literate and the educated understand the significance of each the person you listed but the masses in the provinces are too busy thinking what to eat and wear that corruption, freedom, unity, etc. are abstract things to them. And you might be frightened that elders in provinces outside Luzon still revere Marcos. My grandpa, an SDA elder and his wife (both are educated) still holds admiration for Marcos, thievery, murdering, martial law and all.

      Delete
    3. As it has been since Aquinaldo, there is Manila and there is the rest. If you want to catch some of my research findings about Aguinaldo, read the "Fire When Ready, Gridley" tab above.

      Delete
  3. Without waiting for wars, revolutions and events of demise – all negative drivers - to unify us, there are four positive drivers for unification. Two have been discussed above.

    1. Language
    2. Sports
    3. Fiestas
    4. Capital

    I think that a common language is the primary driver, and that English should be the primary language and Pilipino (Tagalog) the second language. In spite of national sentiments, I choose English for several reasons:

    • It is the lingua franca of the world.
    • Our Constitution and laws are written in it.
    • Scientific, technical, mathematical publications are mostly accessible in it.
    • Our cultural history, in arts and literature, are preserved in it.
    • Our contemporary culture – primarily press and web media – is carried in and though it.
    • To further our commercial and trade engagement with the world as a BPO country.
    • Pilipino would be used as it is now, a secondary bridge of communication, between country folk.

    I believe Joe has nailed sports – while causing intense rivalry – as a major unifying force just like the NBA, Rose Bowl, FIFA and the Olympic Games. Only team sports, not individual ones, should be considered.

    • The team sports would be basketball and football (soccer)
    • Regional eliminations – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao - would be held for the most part of the year.
    • Semi-finals would pit regional winners against each other.
    • Finals would involve the top 2 regional winners for a national trophy (say, the Philippine Eagle trophy).
    • Members of the winning teams will receive impressive medals in gold, silver and bronze.

    Town fiestas should be amalgamated into regional levels – again Luzon, Visayas and Mindano. Something akin to Brazil’s Mardi Gras carnival when each region should literally stop to celebrate.

    • Town and provincial level celebrations just increase fragmentation. The pooling of funding for these low-level celebrations can result in more impressive regional festivities.
    • It would remove the sectarian-tainted celebrations into the secular sphere.
    • Regional celebrations should be held on different dates to attract local tourism.
    • The Visayas fiesta should be held in a centrally located island, like the upper tip of Cebu.

    The final proposal is to move the capital city elsewhere, probably to a central island like Masbate.

    • Countries that have relocated to new capital cities include the US, Canada, Australia, India, Brazil, Tanzania and Myanmar.
    • Relocation would dissipate the MMDA-centric development to other parts of the country.
    • It would stimulate economic development in a backwater area.
    • It would neutralise ethnic rivalry
    • It might increase security if the seat of government is relocated in an island surrounded by other islands.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, these are very creative but yet "applied" suggestions that could break down the divisiveness. But somehow, I think ears here are deaf; the system is deaf. There is no place available to receive your ideas and act on them. The Legislature is a pit of irrelevance and incompetence. The President has closed out even the FOI initiative because he has more important stuff to do.

      So join the ranks of the intellectually and progressively frustrated, that there is no mechanism around, or perhaps even apetite, to deal with the fundamental social barriers that hold the Philippines back.

      Somehow, the internet community has to orchestrate the development of a new force. I'll require a blog to deal with this more elaborately.

      But I find it uplifting to know the applied creativity exists to remove some of the barriers that block progress.

      Delete
    2. Yeah I am also for English, like what India did for their own.

      Regarding sports I cringe it since most resources are concentrated on Luzon and far flung provinces will be laggards again :( Although if you remember the defunct MBA that was an excellent vision in part of ABS-CBN sports to embrace every region and compete for pride, although the costs are too high and they have no choice but to disband it.

      Regarding the relocation of our Capital, I think making Masbate Island the entire Capital Region of the Philippines will be better. The government can finally plan the development and since the island is remote, our honorable Congress will have lesser junkets to go to. Flights should be chartered and scheduled by PAF hehehe :D

      Delete
    3. After thought: I do find it interesting that the Philippine professional basketball league is based on corporate sponsors rather than geographic location, like in the U.S. It is rather like an oligarch's league, eh? Boys and their toys.

      Delete
    4. Funding for sports can partially come from big business, sales of franchises, venue attendance, tv ads, gambling on results, and the sale of sport accessories - shirts, caps, jackets, key rings, etc. Here in Australia, you can see fans proudly dressed in team colors on the day of play.

      My only fear is that in the Philippines, if people see you wearing the colors of the rival team, you are likely to be mauled and beaten up.

      But, really, sports is a great unifier. Here and in the US, it has replaced religion as the opium of the people.

      Delete
    5. @Joe
      Yeah they really are the ultimate example of toys for the big boys since governments will find a hard time scraping for resource allocations in funding locale based teams.

      You should really research the defunct MBA, although owned by corporations, they are based regionally. The Finals is North vs. South.

      @Edgar
      Hopefully our economy improves faster and more equitably so that we can have the money to spend since sport is a luxury, not a necessity :)

      Delete
    6. Joe,

      "The permanent temptation of life is to confuse dreams with reality. The permanent defeat of life comes when dreams are surrendered to reality." - James Michener

      Dave,

      "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".

      It's not a luxury, it's part of a strategy of development and unification.

      ay...

      Delete
    7. Ah, MBA. I didn't know there was one. I agree with Edgar that sport could be an element of a unification strategy. In the U.S., they are commercial paying huge salaries to the entertainers. Maybe here they need to be subsidized and that damn island structure is the pits. The Visayas is widespread and poor. People wouldn't travel to Cebu to watch a game.

      Maybe we need competing regional "Philippine Idols" where the venue is TV mainly.

      Sigh . . .

      Delete
    8. @Edgar to most advanced and developed companies it is a way of life. Here in the Philippines not so much, The problem is the equity of the spectators. In the Big Urban Areas it ain't a problem but once you go to Visayas and Mindanao it is. And Joe do have a nice suggestion if the sports will be subsidized. The question is who will foot the bill? As i said ABS-CBN tried to do it with MBA but folded nevertheless because costs were too high.

      Delete
  4. From experience working in groups in a corporate setting or just with social groups, what unites people together are usually a shared vision or purpose or goals, shared frames of reference (e.g. common processes, procedures, outlook or context, values) and shared experiences that enable them to earn the respect and trust of each other.

    I think President Aquino's Daang Matuwid is a vision now shared by a lot of Filipinos while social media is providing that common or shared experience that is building bridges among so many Filipinos from all walks of life. Look at what's happening in blogs like Joe America's and Raissa's; commenters supporting/ building on each others' ideas, banding together against those who are perceived as obstacles to Daang Matuwid. In time I think each blog's followers and perhaps most of the Filipino blogging community will eventually work out with each other the frames of reference that can further strengthen and enhance their ability to influence what goes on in Philippine society.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, shared vision and values. Shared experiences. Respect and trust. And I think your idea that the internet can be a way of strengthening unity is correct. As I indicated to Edgar, I want to reflect on this in a separate blog.

      Delete
    2. Cha, on the condition that a certain Senator does not get his wish to shut down social media. Sorry, I cannot mention his name - I tend to foam at the mouth.

      Delete
    3. Edgar is that Lord Voldemort? hehehe ;)

      Delete
    4. Forgot to add laws, rules and regulations and the Constitution serving as common frames of reference too. Sadly, as Joe has written about in another article, Filipinos don't seem to feel about their Consitution the same way Americans do.

      With laws, rules and regulations, when they're applied differently between the rich and the poor, then there's not much unifying that can really happen where that is concerned, just results to more divisiveness.

      Delete
    5. Edgar, Dave,

      Lol, "he who must not be named" is also a unifying factor at the moment. We'll have to give him credit for that. ;)

      Delete
    6. Yes, that is amusing. We need more Sottos to unify the place. And he is rather a Voldemort kind of character.

      Delete
  5. My comment disappeared?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's back. Thanks for alerting me. The system randomly dumps blogs into the spam folder. I have to take action to get them out.

      Delete
  6. With all those single descriptive words on Filipino unity, you missed one word:
    Humility.

    One virtue what every Filipino needs. Being humble will get rid of putting up new association or organization or political party when disenchanted out of selfish interest. Anywhere in the world the Filipinos have set up their diaspora, one common denominator of animosity among them or dispute between themselves is due to absence of humility. Everyone thinks they are above each other's principle resulting to splitting from a successful established organization by creating a new faction. This is also the offshoot of recurring political factions in the Philippines.


    "Simplicity thru humble beginnings"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joe, I should have added that one recent Raissa blog discussed the evils of many political parties in the Philippines.

      Johnny Lin

      Delete
    2. Yes, humility. That is important. It is NOT weakness. I suppose it is the partner of compassion. It is an ability to set aside the importance of self for the benefit of others. Humility + compassion = courtesy

      Thanks for the note on political parties.

      Delete
    3. "That ain't true, we the politicians are your masters, behave peons, do what we say" hehehe :)

      Delete
    4. Agree with Johnny. Humility is also a partner to concession.

      To be able to concede is a true lack of egoic pride that says "I may be (or am) wrong". It is a recognition that others are right.

      Delete
  7. "I am not a foreigner, really. This is my home. You inherently draw a line that divides, as do most Filipinos."

    According to my Ilongga wife the white foreigners will always be foreigners and treated as outsiders. She mentioned that often the "utang na lob" will not be applied to us. Even if we help the families. There is one standard for Filipinos and one standard for kanos. The more I learn about the double standards the more I understand how Filipinos sabotage themselves. They are also not considerate towards each other in the USA by overstaying. The few who come here on a tourist visa will most likely overstay. They end up working illegally: No taxes are payed and jobs are taken away from legal residents. The Filipinos will care only about supporting their own family and will not care about the negative effect of it. The US government will not change it's position of not issuing tourist visas and that will prevent Filipinos to come here. Interestingly most of the Filipinos that are here in New York are over stayers according to my Filipino friends. Some of them are here for many years already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I am resigned to being stared at and favored for the rest of my life. Also, it is interesting to me that Filipinos get angered at the US Embassy for making visas so difficult to get. They ought to get angry at their countrymates who, once sampling the American milk and honey, don't want to return to the Philippines.

      Delete
    2. i think we (speaking as a filipino) do get angry at them for wanting to stay there, not coming back and contributing to our country rather that living it up over there. that's just more of the independence that you've talked about. always looking out for number 1. can't really do that here... but the funny thing is, you put and average Juan in the same situation and he'd do the same thing. flip-flopping abound. we'd rather have it handed to us (overstaying) rather than working hard to get there ourselves (develop our own lands). tsk tsk tsk.

      Yb-Anderson (Andy)

      Delete
    3. Ah, good to know, Andy, that the Embassy does not bear the full brunt of blame. And it is true, the easy way is the popular way. But the enriching way is often the harder way.

      Delete