There’s a war in social media with so much vitriol coming from dissenting opinions that insist they are all right. Even during the elections, I distanced from politics, hiding some news bits and choosing light-hearted fare. Some friends said they’ve deleted comments and “unfriended” people on FB. I have not crossed that line, but I’ve un-followed some, especially those who are too negative.
When Martial Law hit, the maelstrom of hate and division reached a new fevered pitch. People’s reactions made me feel sad because this is not merely just a political issue. People are suffering and dying in Marawi, which is 100 km from my home, making this a humanitarian crisis that hits close.
But where is everyone’s humanity? People are too busy making noise, too strong in shoving their opinions down everyone’s throat, and too harsh in bashing each other. Tomorrow is our Independence Day, but are we truly free? With a country that’s divided and shackled by hate, how can we proclaim we are a united, independent, and free country?
This is heartbreaking because my family and I chose to move back to the Philippines when everyone was seeking greener pastures. We let go of the Green Card and made this beautiful country home. And home will always be where the heart is! Now, amidst all the chaos, I have to dig deep and remind myself why I love this country. Sometimes, it is necessary to state the obvious, so we can appreciate what we take for granted.
If you’re Pinoy, you know there’s no toilet paper in most public bathrooms. Heck, even malls don’t always have toilet paper, soap, and paper towels. Keber! Deadmadela! No use crying over something we can’t control. We bring our own tissue, wet wipes, and sanitizer. Boyscout, laging handa! We also have handy sachets that are readily available in sari-sari stores, which are unique in our part of the world. Another novelty, since it took time for water pressure to be stable here, we all know the magical “tabo”. Answering nature’s call Pinoy Style is a testament to our ingenuity!
“Dear God, Bahala ka na…” This line or something to that effect is one that I often see on my news feed. Not surprising because our country is the largest Christian nation in Asia! Noteworthy, even before the Spaniards introduced Catholicism, ethnic tribes already worshipped diwatas, anitos, or bathalas. Where I live, the Muslim and Christian community co-exist and get-along.
“Mano po!” These familiar words, which often translate into action, convey courtesy and respect for elders. Tito/Tita, Kuya/Ate, and Manong/Manang are words we use because we can’t bear to call someone, especially the older ones, by their first names. Some say this art is forgotten, but when I listen to the younger generation, I can’t help but think that the times may have changed, but the core values have somehow remained.
Close Family Ties
Christmas, New Year, birthdays, or town fiestas show our Filipino festive spirit, our deference to tradition, and our deep connection to our families. I appreciate how close we are to our relatives, and how we can always rely on them for support during difficult times. Most of all, I love that we take care of our elders. The most bothersome for me in the West was seeing the elderly abandoned and forgotten in nursing homes. It always warms my heart to see that seniors are valued and respected in our country.
The Pinoys’ spirit is strong and unrelenting. In spite of life’s many struggles, such as Yolanda, we always bounce back with a smile. We’ve been dished crap due to corruption: lack of health care, poor education system, traffic, and many other things. But through it all, we just chug forward and continue to live life the fullest. EDSA may be a parking lot, but carry lang yan! Selfie na lang pag may time…
Bulad (tuyo in Tagalog) and sinangag, mangga’t bagoong, guinamos ug saba, sorbetes, isaw, tokneneng, etc.! Gosh. Pinoys are kings of finding joy in simple fare. Perhaps because majority of us grew up with so little, it also takes very little to make us genuinely happy. I see this everyday when I bring my kids to school. Public school kids walking for miles on end with their rubber slippers, smiling happily and content. It never ceases to amaze me!
Who does not love getting these treats? Strongly associated with this is the famous balikbayan box. This is the Pinoys’ way of giving back and sharing to their family or friends. And the receivers somehow vicariously live through the thrills of their loved ones’ travels thru these heart-felt gifts.
Places to See
Our country is comprised of more than 7,000 beautiful islands! Have you been to them all, “mula Apari hanggang Jolo”? I know I haven’t. There’s definitely a lot to see, do, and experience in this archipelago of ours alone. We have miles of shoreline, caressed by the warm waters of the Pacific. Here in Mindanao, we have: Camiguin, Siargao, Dedon Island, Bucas Grande, Agutayan Island, Samal Island, and so much more.
And speaking of Mindanao, which is my home, I hope people (especially fellow kababayans), don’t think of our place as some foreign unsafe land filled with terrorists like the Maute and the Abussayaf. I admit I used to think this way when I still lived in Manila. But, clearly, I was wrong. My fervent wish is for all of us to look past regionalism, and truly see the beauty of all our thousands of islands and its people as one indivisible nation.
Let us rise above the divisiveness, negativity, and hate. Our soldiers put their lives on the line for our country in the war against terrorism so we can all sleep soundly at night. Let us honor their sacrifice by being united. It is not about the yellows and the reds! Like Pinoy Big Brother’s song, “Lahat tayo may pagkakaiba sa tingin pa lang makikita na…but…Pinoy, ikaw ay Pinoy…Pinoy ako, Pinoy TAYO!” Happy Independence Day, dear Motherland.
This article first appeared on SunStar newspaper weekend special: June 11, 2017