by Cha Coronel Datu
I found out about this tweeter page called "Filipino Problems" from my daughter who couldn’t stop laughing while reading it on her laptop one day.
It may have actually been inspired by its precursor, a blog called First World Problems, which catalogues the many frustrations and complaints of people living in wealthy countries. Also sometimes referred to as white whine, these complaints include such "challenging" conundrums like what to do with one's iPhone4 after upgrading to iPhone5, how to fit the oversized pizza box in the fridge, or what to do when your book runs out of battery.
The tweeter page Filipino Problems, on the other hand, presents the day-to-day challenges faced by two young Filipino-Canadians and their friends, all growing up in Filipino families in their adoptive country of Canada.
It cracked me up when I went and checked out what those guys' problems were. Their issues were jumping off my desktop monitor like photos from the scrapbooks of my own younger days. In short, the old hag has had the same problems (or some other version of them) way back when. It’s funny how some of the old ways have also trickled down to the lives of our now technologically savvy and more worldly wise sons and daughters.
Here's a sampling of the teenage angst provoking Filipino Problems of the current generation:
1. Relationship Status?
X Not allowed to have a boypren/ girlpren
3. When you tell your grandma you're already full, she tells you to eat some more.
4. When you have no clue if your parents are talking about the iPod or the iPad.
5. After a long day doing your homework, you finally got some time to chill and then your mom says:
"Anaaaaak, why don't you do your homework?"
6. Your parents pretty much disown you when you get 75% in anything - including Karaoke scores.
7. When you were little, your parents always bought you shoes that were 1 or 2 sizes bigger, and
they called it "allowance".
8. Running out of ketchup? Add some water.
9. Not sure if "Auntie Joy" is really your aunt.
10. When your mom has a few of her friends over, you can still hear them talking from inside
your room. With the door closed.
11. Pasko and New Year - you'll eat left-overs till March.
12. Your party guests running on Filipino Time.
13. Magic Sing broken. Party cancelled.
If you cannot claim to have suffered through at least half of the tortuous circumstances outlined in this list; let me now offer you my commiserations. You probably are not Filipino (or have not been around Filipinos enough). Alas! You will never know the sweet absolute joy and sense of calm that embraces one's being when the karaoke singing finally stops.
But are our Filipino Problems really all that unique?
One of the benefits of living in a multi-cultural country like Australia for us has been the diversity of racial and cultural backgrounds that our children have grown up with. From this, they have learned to become tolerant and respectful of other cultures, as well as their own.
For no matter how much they may want to resent some of our Filipino ways and cultural idiosyncrasies, there always seems to be someone else worse off than they are.
Case in point : My daughter's 10:30 curfew before she turned 16; while she wasn’t happy about this, she couldn't really complain. Her best friend, whose mom is a second generation migrant from Malta, would have been lucky to even be allowed out at all.
Our kids may wince at mom and dad's attempts to scrimp and save every once in a while but that's about all the protesting they are wont to do. Why? Because most Aussie kids start looking for part-time jobs when they turn 14; after which they barely ever ask their parents for any money. My son's Aussie friend got a ribbing from their peers for wearing his school shoes with his suit, instead of proper leather shoes, to the prom. He said he didn't want to spend his hard earned money on a $100 pair of shoes that he may not even wear again. Neither did he want to ask his mom to pay for them. (I should adopt that kid.)
They may think a lot of Filipinos speak funny but heller, their Aussie friends say "Nawr, thank you" and ask for Peetah when they're looking for Peter. And then there are the Kiwis (New Zealanders) who say they will ride an earplane to go to Milburn, Australia and ask for sex when they want one less than seeveen.
And were they ever afraid Dad might bring out the Karaoke at their party? Not anymore. My son has seen the look in his friend's eyes when the latter's Croatian born mom brought out her surprise for his 18th birthday. A stripper! Yippee! Just what he needs to impress the girls he invited; their classmates at a local Catholic school.
We may have Filipino Time but their Indian friends have also told them about Indian Standard Time.
The more we learn about other people, the more we realise we are all not so different from each other after all.
The specifics may be different from one culture to another but overprotective, overreaching, overzealous parents can be found everywhere. And so are embarrassing, annoying and obnoxious relatives with some irritating, cringe worthy habits and ways.
If only that were all a teenager in the Philippines also need worry about!
One would hope that there will come a time, in the not so distant future, when the Filipino Problems of teenagers in the Philippines can be no more different from those of their counterparts in countries like Canada, America, and Australia.
Yes, every young person deserves at least one overzealous, overprotective adult in their life; someone that's got their back no matter what.
And yes too, young people should be nagged to do their homework. They should be kept in school to learn how to read, write, add and subtract. They should not be foraging for food in garbage dumps or begging for money on street corners instead.
They should be sent to their room or grounded for doing “silly little things” like not cleaning up after themselves or breaking their curfew. They really shouldn’t be getting into trouble for breaking the law, instead. Stealing cell phones and wallets and breaking into other people’s homes.
The adults around them should serve as their mentors and role models, teach them right from wrong and enable them to make the right choices in life.
The grown-ups should be teaching them good manners and proper decorum. Not dragging them along to ransack a government facility and cart away relief goods meant for victims of a natural calamity. Or inciting them to attack and vandalise police cars, or the offices of oil companies and foreign embassies. Dios mio!
The grown-ups should be encouraging them to study and work hard to achieve their goals in life. Not ask them to vote into office their sons and daughters who have no accomplishments of their own to speak of. "Anaaaak, why don't you run for Senator? You are qualified naman because you are my daughter."
The grown-ups should be showing them how to settle their differences with others sensibly and intelligently. Not how to condemn and demonize the opposing side by labelling them immoral, murderers and sinners. A.K.A."Team Patay".
Unfortunately for the young people of the Philippines at the moment, their Filipino Problems include an oversupply of problem Filipinos. Grown men and women with the mental faculties of a prawn. People of influence and power whose credibility and integrity are just about as evident as a mongo bean on the ground, on a dark night.
The Department of Education has set for itself a pretty important and lofty goal (and rightly so) in its Mission Statement: To provide quality basic education that is equitably accessible to all and lay the foundation for life-long learning and service for the common good.
Well, good luck with laying "the foundation for life-long learning and service for the common good". For as long as we are not able to dissociate ourselves from the notion that our children's education begins and ends in the classroom, that will most likely be one tottery and unsteady foundation.
Because children learn what they live.
DepEd should develop and articulate a policy of partnership between the schools and parents in supporting the learning that takes place in the classroom; provide a structure and appropriate support programs. It should collaborate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), non-profit organisations, and mass media in structuring and implementing parent education and information programs to ensure that the values children are taught in the schools are supported and reinforced at home and by what is fed them by mass media.
And those of us who know better, we really ought to be doing better. We should be setting a good example for our kids and for each other.
And what to do with our problem Filipinos? Like, how do we solve a problem like Jesus, Joseph and Maria? How about we don't let him become the President?