Quite by accident, I read a letter emailed to the editor of one of the Manila dailies (not the Business Mirror) last week. Judging from her name and email address, the letter writer’s a Filipina married to a Belgian national. But I’m sure her husband looks nothing like those bandy-legged, balding and toothless specimens of Caucasian manhood we often see in these parts fighting off 18 to 30-year old Filipinas who want to marry them so they can relocate to the prosperous West.

In any event, you could sense the anger in this Filipina-married-to-a-Belgian beyond the actual words she used, which by themselves were already quite pugnacious.

She said the officials of the Arroyo administration are themselves the instruments of destabilization “against the Republic”. “By (sic) their recent pronouncements and press releases,” she said, these officials “are themselves propagating dissent and challenging (sic) the discontented Filipinos and soldiers to stage an armed revolt.”

That’s an interesting theory and probably true, and our letter writer goes on to urge the nation to “come to its senses,” because its “own government has just threatened to utterly destroy an already wobbly Republic…” What’s more, she wants “the media and the intelligent people left in the country (what with over 8 million Pinoys of better caliber having left for greener pastures abroad) [to] train their guns on this corrupt government before it transforms the country into another Rwanda.”

While I hope she doesn’t mean that last phrase about guns literally, it’s not what she said about the Arroyo government or even what Filipinos should do that struck me (others have said it before, believe me), but the phrase “the intelligent people left in the country,” which she elaborated on with the parenthetical statement that the ten percent of the population who’ve left the country are “Pinoys of better caliber.”

I could also sense the exasperation in her declaration that “The nation should come to its senses”. Apparently she can’t understand why “the nation” isn’t doing what she seems to think is obvious to “intelligent people” such as herself. I could almost hear her saying “What dolts you are, not to see the obvious!”

Our letter-writer’s attitude is probably typical of those Filipinos who’ve “left for greener pastures abroad,” particularly for Europe and North America, although I have only anecdotal evidence to support that suspicion.

Filipino Americans, for example, sneer at the traffic, the pollution and the way their relatives pronounce English words, and never run out of suggestions about how to get the economy running again or how to elect better officials. Nannies from the United Kingdom carry on about how the trains run on time “back home” while you can’t rely on Manila buses to follow any schedule. Some Japayukis have been known to opine that the Metro Rail Transit could save on salaries, if only it had the technological savvy that enables Tokyo trains to run automatically without operators.

Apparently they’re all patriots like our letter-writer and those Filipino Americans the broadsheet she wrote to has hailed as heroes for dying in Iraq in the service of the US armed forces. They’re only pretending to have abandoned the country of their birth in exchange for lives of (relative) comfort. “Back home,” whenever these “intelligent people” get together so they can brag about the car they just bought, junior’s American accent, or the pretty dress they’re wearing, they know exactly what’s wrong with the Philippines (they don’t mention the brawn, brain and body drain) and what to do about it.

I once knew a Filipino in the US who believed parking meters would solve Manila’s traffic problem. There were others who insisted during the martial law period that the first thing the anti-Marcos resistance should do is read what Americans have to say about getting rid of tyrants (they didn’t know the US was supporting Marcos).

All that readiness with advice is premised on the assumption that those Filipinos still hanging on in the country of their sorrows just don’t know any better–and are, in fact, less intelligent and of lesser caliber than those who’ve left the country.

If you asked a Filipino why he immigrated, the most common response is “so I can eat what I want.” I suppose that’s true of women too. It makes sense to imagine that one’s being able to gorge on pig knuckles in Germany– where one’s husband may be as old as the hills, snores, and drinks enough beer daily to float the Seventh Fleet, but can afford a BMW–means that one is more calculating at least. Meanwhile, those fighting corrupt governance, trigger-happy policemen, taxation without representation, and general idiocy in the Philippines in the hope that a better country could somehow result from it would look like fools.

By that standard, Japayukis in Tokyo, truck drivers braving suicide bombers in Iraq for US dollars, doctors scrubbing bedpans in nursing homes in the US, janitors sweeping up offices at 2 a.m. in Italy, and mail order brides sitting out winters and colossal depression in Canada would be “the intelligent people” and of “better caliber” than the 90 percent of Filipinos still in this country.

Thus do most of the ten percent abroad think they know better–better than journalists and university professors, better than revolutionaries and reformists, better than those Filipinos able to survive all sorts of adversity including TV shows like “Wowowee,” and certainly much, much better than senators or party-list congressmen.

When living in another country in the late 1970s, I used to think that I didn’t have the right to tell Filipinos in the Philippines what to do. They were at risk of torture, rape and death fighting the Marcos dictatorship daily, while I was only at risk of not making the car payments on time.

I didn’t think I had the qualifications and the knowledge either. Not only because things aren’t always what they seem from afar– oversimplifying complex issues is also the occupational hazard of the exile.

Apparently I was wrong. Like our letter writer from Belgium, like mail order brides, entertainers, janitors, construction workers, doctors, nurses, real estate agents, car and insurance salesmen and prostitutes, I was one of the intelligent people and a Pinoy of better caliber because I was abroad.

(Business Mirror)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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  1. Just a comment, response to Luis Teodoro’s article:

    I would not fault a Filipina speaking like that. As a matter of fact she is right that the Arroyo regime must be booted out quickly as possible. However she’s wrong when she say we are better intelligently, those like me here out of the country. However Luis Teodoro’s response only furthered put a wedge between us Filipinos, those who opts to survive out of the country and those who want to stick it there. He missed the point. The struggle for us goes beyond even Arroyo and her regime. The struggle is not even the issue of here and there. The struggle is everwhere. It is a matter of complimentation of identifying the primary and secondary. Though in our case the homefront is the decisive and primary. Good intentioned comments from Filipinos abroad may have seen the importance of giving in to complimentations and for sure have seen the importance of booting regimes, the likes of GMA who personify the landlord and compradors in power, the very social base of US imperialism.

    We have come a long way to strategically position ourselves in different part of the world conciously or unconciously. We will never permit comments to wedge out unities among pinoys. Long ago we have been colonized in a manner of divide and rule. Such schemes still operate today as well.

    I think for Filipinos who had the luxury of exposing themselves in first worlds, seeing how things are done, the likes of more developed parking systems and so on and so forth, their best help will only be realized under a government run by the people themselves. It will be fruitfull indeed n better if they busy themselves exposing the rotteness of a semi-colonial and semi-feudal system, regimes such as GMA’s with the aim of helping people in the homefront seize political power so their suggestions and ideas will be to to play.

    On the note we encourage comments from pinoys abroad, either they be Japayukis, nannies, carpenters, nurses, programmers etc… Let us encourange them to join national democratic mass organizations and course their good will help through these organizations and their programs. In times like this, we have unify the broadest range of pinoys not divide ourselves. We must never loose sight to the gigantic task of preparing solid grounds abroad, building international solidarity groups and movements in support our peoples struggles in the homefront. Better than ever.

  2. Kalovski Itim,

    Mr Teodoro took my words out of context. I said: “…the media and the intelligent people left in the country (what with over 8 million Pinoys of better caliber having left for greener pastures abroad) train their guns on this corrupt government before it transforms the country into another Rwanda.”

    “Better caliber” also means “higher degree of courage” and I stick to my guns: these OFWs are DEPLOYED to uncharterred territories, to unknown waters…”of better caliber” is appropriate. Let me assure you that I wasn’t speaking of those Pinoys who are found overseas but were not part of the DOLE registered contingent of Pinoy laborers and I certainly wasn’t alluding to their being more intelligent than those they left at home.

    Moreover, Mr Teodoro committed an enormous mistake by assuming (and publishing his false assumption) that I am married to a Belgian. He committed a journalistic faux pas.

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