Filipinos love their country and at the same time many of us would bad mouth it to every foreigner we’d meet. There are many things that people can criticize about the Philippines–our corrupt government, the rise of poverty, the avaricious business tycoons, the unsanitary streets filled with trash, the rebels in the south, the criminals, the slow and biased justice system, and the list goes on. Add centuries of colonialism where our colonial masters did all they could to make us feel like savages, and you’d end up with a people who’d feel like their country was a god-forsaken land.
Ask any Filipino about our food however, and you’ll have us glowing with pride. We’d feed you to death just to prove how awesome our delicacies are. Some of our specialties are lechon, kaldereta, adobo, kare-kare, and paella. If you have a sweet tooth, we’ll feed you some halo-halo, sapin-sapin, and leche flan. We’d force you to eat balut and not feel a bit offended if you almost vomit at the thought of eating a duck embryo. We’d even laugh at your tortured face as you try to eat it.
Ask Filipinos about Filipino people and you’d have a mixed review. Overseas Filipino workers are given high marks on being hardworking and having integrity, but the Filipinos back home are often described as undisciplined, lazy, and dishonest. Why is Juan Tamad geographically dependent?
Ask Filipinos about our culture and most of us would say we don’t have one. Many Filipinos think that our culture is just a combination of the cultures of our colonial masters and other foreigners who have visited our shores. It seems crazy to think that a whole nation doesn’t have a culture. Heck even a small gang has a culture, so how can a whole country not have one? My sociology teacher gave me low marks when I said this in a paper, but up to now I still can’t explain what Filipino culture is. I know we have one, and I notice when something is distinctly Filipino, but I don’t know how to explain what Filipino is.
Ask Filipinos about our art and many would say that our artists are unoriginal and shallow. Ask them to name who these artists are, many would say I don’t know. I even have a friend whose parents forbid her to watch Filipino movies because they don’t want her to become stupid. I don’t think this is right, but I must admit that I haven’t exposed myself enough to Filipino art. I have long promised myself to read more Filipino books and watch more Filipino movies, but I haven’t made good with these promises.
Ask any Filipino if they want to return to their country and the answers will be different across generations. The younger generation who grew up in other countries would usually say no. The ones who’ll say yes are the Filipinos who have known what it’s like to live here. Other countries will always feel lonelier, lacking the smiles of a people and warmth of a world that are worth knowing and worth staying for.
 Juan Tamad is a character in Filipino folklore. He is so lazy; he lies under a guava tree with his mouth open, waiting for the fruit to drop into his mouth.
- A Childhood in the Philippines: Eating Mangoes
- A Tribute to Mang Jo
- Buying from Street Vendors in Jeeps
- I’m Thankful That I Live in a World of Coconuts
- Normal na Buhay
- Sardinas Bus
- To Walk the Streets of Manila
- Why Do You Speak English?
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Note: For some entries in this blog, a few names and details have been deliberately and willingly changed by the author. This is a personal decision made by the author for specific reasons known to her and is not an endorsement for censorship.