Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘Filipino’

A reaction to “Proud to be Filipino” by Conrado de Quiros

Posted by butalidnl on 26 February 2013

The following is an e-mail which I sent out in reaction to a column written by Conrado de Quiros on the 9 June 1998 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Quotes from the de Quiros column are in italics.

12 June 1998

I have a problem with Conrado de Quiros’ generalization about Filipinos abroad not being proud of their country. While I agree that there are indeed balikbayans who are loud and repulsive when they return to the Philippines, I think that the stereotyped image that de Quiros portrays of us is a sweeping generalization.

Proud to be Filipino, by Conrado de Quiros, PDI columnist (9 June 1998)

Most Filipinos, particularly abroad, feel no great compulsion to defend the country. Other than when a fellow Filipino is ganged up on, or when some macho response is needed. Many Filipinos do not even feel a need to identify themselves as Filipinos. It is not a matter of pride, it is a matter of shame.

In my experience in Europe, most Filipinos have become more proud of themselves as Filipinos upon coming here. As a response to the culture shock upon arrival, plus the racist laws and popular prejudices that we find here, we have learned to fight for our place ‘under the sun’- and we have learned to fight back whenever and wherever people try to put us down. True, with time we are able to blend ourselves into the host society: speaking the language, adopting the native customs, but we keep asserting our Filipino-ness in our friendship circle, in the food we eat, in the way we bring up our children, and in countless other ways. We have to – it’s either that or succumb to the general anti-foreigner bias of our host countries.

Whenever I go home to the Philippines, I visit my family and friends, and go sightseeing, shopping, etc. Most of the time, people don’t recognize me or the rest of my immediate family as balikbayans. I know there are very many of us who are not obvious in their being balikbayan. For me this is natural – after years of people noticing us for being short, brown skinned, black haired, short nosed, etc…, in other words, being different from the rest of society, we find just blending into Philippine society a pleasant change. My daughter told me as much when I asked her what she liked about the Philippines: all of a sudden, she was just ‘normal’, ‘ordinary’, and she felt at home. I suppose that the most repulsive among the balikbayans tend to stand out in the crowd of ordinary returnees. But I think that those who tend to show off their balikbayan-ness could not immediately be labled as not being proud to be a Filipino – I think it is wrong, in principle, to judge one’s patriotic pride by how they act immediately upon arrival. I know one case of a young Filipina who was quite active in the preparation of the Philippine Centennial exhibit in the city she lived in, and who upon arrival in the Philippines was shocked by the heat, noise and the various inconveniences she found there. I would not be surprised if she made a complaint or two.

Or probably, put more simply, being Filipino is not being able to abide balikbayans. Frankly, I don’t know a more insufferable group of people, a group that seems to have made a blood compact to bash the country at every turn.

The next time I go to the Philippines, I (and my family) would like to visit Mr de Quiros and show him how ‘normal’ balikbayans act. If he wants. I can refer him to all my friends who go home, so that he can have a more balanced sample of this group of people.

I am proud to be Filipino.

So are we, Mr de Quiros. We are six or seven million Filipinos abroad, and I am sure that the great majority of us are quite proud of being Filipino. We are proud not only of what we have in the Philippines, but also to what we have achieved abroad. After all, Filipinos have earned respect for our being hard working, for our close family ties, for our resourcefulness, warmth, flexibility. And we are also known for asserting our rights. Even the mail-order bride rackets have realized this and have learned to avoid sourcing in the Philippines. They say that: “The Filipina only LOOKS subservient.” Filipinos often end up as leaders of unions in their host countries. We are no pushovers, and we are proud of this.

Mr. de Quiros, I was a nationalist activist when I left the Philippines in 1983, I know how it is to be proud of the Philippines and being a Filipino when I was still in the country. After 15 years abroad, I feel that I am prouder still, and that I know now (after having been exposed to other cultures) that I have much to be proud about. We are a beautiful nation, and we have admirable traits, and you can only really KNOW that when you have lived abroad. We have been giving the coutnry a good image throughout the world for years, and we are proud of this.

I think that the biggest problem that would rise from this misconception is that it gives support to many laws and practices of the Philippine government tht are anti-Overseas Filipino. After all, why should these insufferable people be given the right to vote or representation? Why allow them to own more than half a hectare of land? Why waste precious government funds on consular budgets or overseas worker benefits? Why indeed?

I appeal to Mr. de Quiros and all other well-meaning Filipinos in the Philippines to avoid bashing Filipinos abroad in the name of patriotism. I hope you would join us in our quest to make us all even prouder of being Filipinos.

Carlo Butalid
Tilburg, the Netherlands

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Posted in Overseas Filipinos, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Compel Lawmakers to Understand Filipino

Posted by butalidnl on 25 August 2011

On 24 August, during the House debate on the RH Bill, Representative Apostol of Southern Leyte demanded that Rep. Bag-ao be compelled to speak in English. Bag-ao replied that Filipino is an official language and that she had all the right to speak it in Congress. This was upheld by Deputy Majority Floor Leader Magtanggol Gunigundo who said that indeed Filipino is an official language. To this, Apostol said Filipino is not his official language, and that if Bag-ao persisted, he would then demand to have an interpreter.

This exchange may sound quite trivial, but it has bigger implications. Filipino IS an official language, and one of the implications of this is that government officials should be fluent at it. Being an official language also means not only that Representatives are allowed to speak it; but that the other representatives should be able to understand what she is saying. Otherwise, it would not effectively be an official language; because why have it as an official language if it cannot be used?

In Switzerland, they have four official languages ( German, French, Italian and Rumantsch). While the parliamentarians are not required to be fluent in all four, they ARE required to understand other parliamentarians speaking them. It is fascinating to attend such sessions, where the MPs speak in German (actually, the Swiss dialect of German), French, Italian or Rumantsch, and they don’t have interpreters! (When Italian or Rumatsch speakers want to make sure the others understand the nuances of what they say, however, they speak in either German or French) I think it would be unthinkable to have a lawmaker there who cannot speak fluently at least two languages.

I believe that Philippine government officials need to be fluent in Filipino, and not merely be able to comprehend it. I applaud PNoy’s consistency in speaking Filipino during his speeches. I note that he is speaking ‘ordinary’ Filipino, and not the version that is too ‘deep’ or ‘classical’. It has many borrowed words from Spanish and English.

The use of Filipino as an official language should also extend to our foreign relations. Erap Estrada was the first, I think the only, Philippine president who talked to US officials in Filipino; forcing the Americans (Sec. of State Albright) to hurriedly look for an interpreter. I think PNoy should follow Estrada’s example and talk Filipino to Americans, just to make the point. Talking in English to the Americans is a courtesy; the Americans should return this courtesy sometimes by listening to us speaking Filipino. I suggest that when Filipino officials talk to Americans in the Philippines, they speak Filipino; and if they talk to the Americans in the US or elsewhere, that they talk in English.

I understand the sensitivity of people like Apostol, who is a Cebuano speaker, to the predominance of the mainly Tagalog-based Filipino over other languages such as Cebuano. I am a Cebuano myself, and my father raised me to be English-speaking. But c’mon: Representative Apostol lives in Manila; he speaks colloquial Filipino every day. Why can’t he learn just a bit more Filipino to understand official talks in it? It isn’t really that difficult, a couple of months of study should do it. I know, I did it too.

The barrier to learning Filipino is more a question of arrogance, rather than difficulty. I bet that Rep Apostol couldn’t also make an official speech in Cebuano (his native tongue) either. He does all official duties back home in Southern Leyte in English (even though he surely speaks colloquial Cebuano fluently.)  It is really a question of an ‘air’ that he is educated, a lawyer, and speaking Filipino or Cebuano in official functions is below him.

I think this is a matter for the Supreme Court to decide. We could not have lawmakers declaring that Filipino is not THEIR official language. They should declare that having Filipino as an official language means that lawmakers should be able to comprehend it. They should decide to compel Apostol and other lawmakers to understand Filipino.

Posted in Cebu, Philippine education, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I mailed in my vote today

Posted by butalidnl on 23 March 2010

I mailed in my vote for the Philippine elections today. I received the election “kit” about three weeks ago, but I only did it today.  Part of the delay is having to get a stamp pad for the fingerprint. The rest of the delay, I guess, is that  it was still some time till it HAD to be sent in.

Well, I mailed the ballot to the Philippine embassy in The Hague, where it will stay unopened till 10 May. The ballot is an “old fashioned” manual one; you have to write down the names of the candidates you select. On 10 May, the votes will be counted, and the returns will then be sent in to the Philippines.

Obviously, I am a Filipino citizen; although this is really not that obvious, since many Filipinos here in the Netherlands are no longer Filipino citizens.  I “regained” my Filipino in September 2003, and immediately registered to vote. However, during the 2004 elections, I was disqualified from voting because I had not been a Filipino for a whole year by this time. (I thought that this was rather ironic, having been born a Filipino.) Anyway, I was sent election materials in 2007, and now also in 2010.

I was one of those who campaigned for the right of Overseas Filipinos to vote in Philippine elections. I had been campaigning for this right since about 1992, making me one of the few in Europe who campaigned for it that early. I was one of the delegates during the 2001 Overseas Filipino delegation’s visit to lobby for the bill; visiting the President, the Senate, Congress and Comelec during the time. So, when the Overseas Absentee Voting bill passed, followed shortly by the passing of the Dual Citizenship law, I took it as my obligation (and privilege) to “regain” my Filipino citizenship, and register as a voter.

By voting, I affirm my being part of the Filipino nation, and that I am doing my part by participating in the exercise of elections.  I know that many people think that our votes don’t count, and that the rich and powerful will continue to get their way nevertheless. But I believe that every little thing that ordinary citizens do does count.

Posted in Overseas Filipinos, Philippine politics, Philippines | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »