Nationalism or What do Filipinos Care About?

I am presently working in a foreign country as a temporary economic migrant. Someday, I will return home, but for now, I owe my financial resources to this nation whose culture is as different from mine as night is from day.

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I was thinking about my situation when I came across this article from one of the blogs I follow and usually comment on.  It is asking about nationalism, how it can be a bad thing, and finally, what Filipinos care about.

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First, the question of whether nationalism is “good” or “bad” is maybe a question of gradient and context.  When I was in elementary, the message I got from my teachers is that nationalism is “good” – and that is something we should strive for. We sang the national anthem and recited the “Panatang Makabayan” every morning without fail so this vague thing called “nationalism” could be instilled in our young minds and hearts. I had this idea as a child that it is a noble quality to be willing to die for one’s country. Back then, I was not aware of the nuances – i.e: what exactly are you dying for your country for?

Fast forward to Now.

Nationalism has taken on a bad rap.  The idea that “nationalism” is a dangerous concept probably started in Europe with its issues about the Nazis; fascism;  the breakdown of Yugoslavia due to the nationalist tendencies of the states that made it up; and now the deluge of non-European migrants into European soil. Presently, the US President is the poster child of the poisonous “nationalist” – a word which has become almost synonymous with “bigot”.

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A personal story regarding nationalism & immigration:

My aunts and uncles have all migrated to Canada in the 1990s. They have worked there and paid their taxes and eventually became Canadian citizens. So recently, Justin Trudeau has been welcoming Syrian and other immigrants to Canada. I would think that given their previous positions as economic migrants, my relatives would agree with Trudeau’s policies, in the spirit of paying it forward. But, alas … no. When I spoke with my aunt and uncle, all they could complain about was how the Canadian government policies would mean more taxes for them to pay and how welcoming more immigrants would be such a drain on the economy and how these middle eastern migrants are terrorists-in-disguise etc etc. So I just rolled my eyes and stopped the debate because I love my relatives and I don’t want us to spend their vacation arguing over immigration policies.

So what has this story got to do with JoeAm’s blog post is this: “What inspires Filipinos, broadly? Family, faith in the rituals of it all, gossip, and the practicalities of life: eating and getting around. Where is the MORAL foundation?” — particularly, me, mulling the answer to that question.

F Sionil Jose once wrote that Filipinos are  a shallow people (by the way, FSJ also supported and probably voted for Rodrigo Duterte — go figure).

FSJ said that we are shallow because we are “mayabang” (arrogant), we do not read (hence we are under-educated) and that our  mass media is shallow.

Given this “shallowness”, what inspires us then? I mean what would one expect a child to be inspired of? JoeAm gives this answer “Family, faith in the rituals of it all, gossip, and the practicalities of life”– ouch, but true. If we want to get rid of our shallowness, of this narrow definition of nationalism that we have, then we have to start with the family. And because of this we must consider that the unmet need for family planning in the Philippines is presently at 17.5% — oops, but this is another topic for another blog post  🙂

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So, to connect the ideas of this meandering post: do I believe nationalism is bad? Not necessarily, depending on how it is used. I mean, if one will define nationalism as a sense of loyalty to one’s country of birth/allegiance, that is not a perilous thing. That is actually a virtue. However, if one uses nationalism to justify the exclusion or persecution of “the other”, meaning people who are not part of your country of allegiance then that would just be mean. And if nationalism is used to defend one’s laziness and shortsightedness and unwillingness to make the personal sacrifices needed to combat climate change, well, that is just stupid.

Do Filipinos have a sense of nationalism? Yes and no. We have a superficial (“shallow” is the word FSJ’s used) sense of nation. We love our families to our detriment; and we identify with our tribes/regions (i.e Ilokano, Tagalog, Maranao etc), to the exclusion of our identity as “Filipinos”.

Given this fact, the question of “what inspires us?”, with all due respect, is the wrong question. The question should be: “how should that which inspire us translate to love of nation?”

Like, I love my family, my family inspires me. But would my family have existed at all if Filipino nationalists have not asserted our independence from Spain, America or Japan? My grandmother was telling me a story how the Japanese used to bayonet babies in their village. Without Filipino nationalism, she could have been one of the kids who suffered and then I would not exist.

This is a what-if of history (something my aunts get exasperated about when I bring it up, saying it is futile to think of what ifs).  But part of learning history is wondering about what ifs.  And that is what Filipinos lack, I think, why our love of our family does not translate to love of nation. We lack history. Somebody stole it from us (the colonial masters, the fucked up educational system, the present elites, you name it) – and now we fail to be inspired.

 

 

 

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Necessary Fictions

Ana met up with Carrie after the conference. This was one of those seminars that people in Ana’s profession go to out of obligation. In her case, Ana felt obligated to attend because Carrie, who is a dear friend, already paid for her registration.

 

Ana started reading Mills and Boon before puberty. So maybe that's why she is R-rated and Carrie is PG. Mills and Boon are the precursors of Fifty Shades of Grey, with better editing.

Ana started reading Mills and Boon before puberty. So maybe that’s why she is R-rated and Carrie is PG. Mills and Boon are the precursors of Fifty Shades of Grey, with better editing. They sold to women who wanted to have fun. People cannot seem to understand this. Sex+love=romance and romance sells because it’s fun. Atrocious editing, bad narrative structure and seemingly shallow characterizations are (sometimes, though not all the time) superfluous. A roller coaster does not need to be blue for one to feel adrenaline rush while riding it. An orgasm is an orgasm whether one has had  it with a dildo or with something else. Picture from bankstownnorthps.com.au

 

Once upon a time, Ana and Carrie worked in the trenches together. They were excellent soldiers — obedient with just the right amount of cynicism; they could look at blood and gore with clinical detachment; they could sublimate their fear, disgust and depression, until a more appropriate time (however long that takes). They could have been made into generals. Ana actually rose to captain but she found that she  hated soldiering and was in it only for the money. For these girls (or women), Carrie and Ana, their passive-aggressiveness is an effective antibiotic to future success.

Now Ana  is thinking: there is something about being in a war-zone (which is basically what their previous job was all about) that draw people closer. If I had been more determined, and gave in to my Inner Goddess and quit while I was still  relatively sane, Carrie would not have been my friend. I would not be sitting here now, drinking mojito and commiserating about our husband’s infrequent erections.

Carrie: I think something happened after I gave birth. That fourth degree laceration really took something out of my sex life. Maybe it’s the lubrication or something.

Ana: I miss it when we were in our twenties and would have sex every other day. Half the time I was asleep, which is a bummer now that I look back on it. Men’s interest really go down with age.

Carrie: I love our daughter and I think I don’t mind not having sex with Ian at all.

Ana: Really!? You mean that?

Carrie: Ana, of course I’m lying! But I can’t help thinking that he doesn’t really love me. That he just married me because I got pregnant?

Ana: Oh please! Are we going back to this storyline? Harlequin, Loveswept, Silhouette, even Mills and Boon novels are teeming with the accidental-pregnancy-plot-that-leads-to-marriage — haven’t you learned anything by now?

(Carrie’s face is blank so Ana would have to spell it out for her)

Ana: Ian loves you, get that through your thick head. It’s not as if you pointed a gun at him and made him marry you.

Carrie: For men, isn’t an accidental gestation just like pointing a gun to their  heads?

Ana: (Silent. How would she know? She had never been pregnant.) Tell me again how your daughter was an accident?

Carrie: I forgot to take my pill.

Ana: Wow, that’s stupid.

Carrie: Thank you, Ana. That is very insightful.

Ana: Well if you will do it all over again, I’m sure that that you will not prefer not having had your daughter. I mean, Arielle is cute and smart and she will probably be your last chance at genetic mortality because, and I quote, women’s chance at conception drastically go down at 39 even with IVF. Hey look, you should have another kid, otherwise, you will smother this one.

Carrie: I am on DMPA.

Ana: Wow, is that so. Well you’re 38, you should probably give yourself a deadline. Don’t be like me. I am still not passionate about progenies and I’m only 3 years younger than you.

Carrie: Having a child is difficult. A real drain on the finances, and on your energy. You want to give her the best. And it’s depressing when you realize you can’t.

Ana: I am so glad you said that. I am tired of these women, and even men, who keep yammering on like having a kid is the Holy Grail.

Carrie: Of course they will say that Ana. It’s a necessary fiction.

 

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Review of the week: Fifty Shades of Grey

“we should not begrudge E. L. James her triumph, for she has, in her lumbering fashion, tapped into a truth that often eludes more elegant writers—that eternal disappointment, deep in the human heart, at the failure of our loved ones to acquire their own helipad.”

 

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