For the most part, Filipinos have proven themselves to be fiercely loyal. When it comes to their families, the statement “blood is thicker than water” rings true. A father would protect his son, even if his son is the guilty party, and the man-of-the-house will support his cousins and other relatives, even if it comes at the expense of his own (and sometimes his own family’s) welfare. There are also Filipinos loyal to those who have been kind to them, even if the aforementioned people are far from the best of role models. There are Marcos loyalists to this day, 20 years after the Martial Law dictatorship ended. And there are even Filipinos who are loyal to ideologies or concepts, which explains the lingering groups of communist parties, or the anti-chacha (anti-charter change) rallies every few years or so. Unfortunately, said loyalty debatably doesn’t carry over to the country itself.
Admittedly, national sense of pride isn’t exactly at an all-time high. Majority of the youth and the populace simply want to leave the country, either migrating abroad of working there. Government policy also doesn’t alleviate the problem. I mean where have you seen a country that praises its citizens for working abroad? Sure, we depend on the remittances of our OFW’s (Overseas Foreign Workers) to help pay for the country’s debts, but what kind of example are we setting when we praise people who work abroad because they can’t find good employment opportunities in the country they were born in? Not to mention the proliferation of “imports” (or the very fact that we have a term for it), and I’m not talking about merchandise. Many sports and TV personalities we favor are of partially Filipino-descent, and the nature of their citizenship only becomes an issue when it’s convenient (or inconvenient, depending on who brings up the matter). Yet while some Filipinos favor Fil-Americans and Fil-Europeans, the same outlook doesn’t extend to their Asian counterparts. The Chinese will always be Chinese to certain segments of the population, even if they’ve lived here all their life and adopted native practices. Filipinos don’t take pride in their Filipino-Chinese community, yet praise their Taiwanese soap-opera heroes and heroines.
Even among Filipinos, not a lot view themselves as part of the whole nation. We identify ourselves by our region or by the dialect we speak. A running joke is a person is asked “Are you a Filipino?” and they would reply “No, I’m [insert local region here],” the practice of which will astound even the optimists. And who do Filipinos vote for during election? Not necessarily the one that’s best for the country, but the one that’s best for their region (although perhaps we’re not unique when it comes to that voting practice). The contradiction is that Filipinos are extremely loyal to the region they belong to (just ask any Cebuano and they’ll proudly tell you they’re Cebuano), but not to their country.
The country’s literature attempts too much to be socially aware, to be socially relevant that it comes at the expense of other genres. But in the end, such books are only patronized by the literati, while the very society it tries to help enjoy their romance novels and celebrity magazines. When it comes to animation and comics, a lot enjoy the products of Japan and America, not realizing that some of the animators, artists, and writers are Filipinos. And when those same people come out with local works or tell people that they’re the ones behind people’s favorites, some can’t help but stare with either disbelief or skepticism. The nation also has lots of indigenous resources, whether cultural, natural, or ideological. Yet who takes the time to invest in such treasures, or recognize such valuables? Is it the local populace, or the foreigners? Look at the martial art arnis; while it has a cult following locally, there’s probably an even bigger following abroad.
Amidst this bleak outlook, perhaps the only thing bleaker are the reaction of the populace. Do we seek to solve the problems we face? Many choose to flee instead, migrating to a different country, not realizing that the places they wish to relocate have problems of their own. What government doesn’t have its own share of corruption and political turmoil? And it’s not really such a big mystery why the West is fascinated by the East, and vice versa; the Philippines is no exception to the disease of familiarity. Of course everyone will claim they have things worse, until they experience first-hand what other people are experiencing. While the Philippines does indeed paint a bleak picture, there are probably other countries which are suffering more. The only difference is that their population is perhaps more hopeful. And for every hundred of Filipinos who are tired of this country, there will always be at least one vanguard who will fight unto death for the country he owes an allegiance to. Some might criticize what can one person do, but change always begins with one man. And there will be the uncounted supporters of the Philippines, be they Filipinos living abroad or in this country of ours; they may not have Filipino blood or even citizenship, but their true loyalties can be seen in their actions. For Filipinos, the question isn’t whether we are capable of being loyal or not, but rather to who we owe our allegiance to.