Why "Filipinos Around the World"?

Filipinos Around the World aims to present stories, real and fiction, about Filipinos anywhere they can be found in the world.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Looking at the paradox of being Filipino

       It is difficult to explain what is it that has created the phenomenon of the modern Filipino. There are countless facets, and equally many paradoxes, of the Philippines and the Filipino people. This makes understanding the country and its people almost as difficult as determining how many stars there are in the eternally revolving night sky. A few of the very high profile aspects appearing constantly in news stories typify the confusing image most people around the world have of the Philippines and Filipinos: Glaringly conspicuous rampant poverty languishing in the shadow of dazzling modern fa├žades of comforts and wealth, virulently extreme violence juxtaposed against the most peaceful revolution ever experienced by humankind and fabled Filipino hospitality, pernicious and debilitating petty thievery, skullduggery and high-positioned “highway robbery” competing with an unprecedented voluntary willingness to give back to the country’s economy by overseas workers and endemic corrupt, unscrupulous, uncaring politicians adjacent to legions of dedicated highly competent doctors, nurses, engineers, nursemaids and domestics, as well as staff in international organizations, including the United Nations. The parallels are numerous and the contrasts are perplexing and equally numerous.
       The images are paradoxical not only because of the contrasting extremes with the bifurcated impressions they create, the paradoxes themselves are notoriously ambiguous. Most countries with a chronic negative image are generally equated and identified with that image only and are, accordingly, categorized as such. The Philippines uniquely falls simultaneously into two categories of extreme opposites of both negative and positive images. Is it possible to credibly pinpoint anything specific that can explain this dichotomy? Probably not! As Gilda Cordero-Fernando observed, “…we Filipinos are…endlessly defining ourselves…in terms of…this or that…because we are both.” There are too many features of the Filipino character that have congealed to produce the paradoxically sui generis hybrid we have come to know as “the Filipino”. Rather than try to explain, I think it might be more revealing to look at actual manifestations of some of the facets to demonstrate how the paradoxical complexity of Filipino-ness is manifested in the real lives of some Filipinos and let the observer or reader judge.
       In this blog, I would like to bring out this manifestation of Filipino complexity in stories, essays, news and images. Many of these accounts will be about me as a half Filipino and who lived in the Philippines for eight years from 1948 to 1956. My limited memory of Philippine culture and society is frozen in time in grainy, black and white recollections and flashbacks that are slowing receding as I age and sometimes have little apparent relevance to the Philippines of today. Nevertheless, I remember and think about the Philippines and being Filipino as a plus in my life and I think many other Filipinos who have lived abroad for a long time feel the same. The blog title, "Filipino+" is meant to reflect this feeling.

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