Sunday, September 05, 2010

I'm A Filipino, A People, Just Like You

This post was forwarded to me by a friend. I know how each one of us felt the shame and frustration of the recent event in our homeland. Perhaps this letter may somehow find our lost dignity or at least help us to move on.  All I’m saying is may they open their hearts and give us a chance, as a nation, to amend the failures created by a few misguided individuals. We are not what some think we are as a people. - BlogusVox

After the August 23 hostage drama, there is just too much negativity about and against the Filipino.

“It is difficult to be a Filipino these days”, says a friend who works in Hongkong. “Nakakahiya tayo”, “Only in the Philippines” were some of the comments lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles received in her Facebook. There is this email supposedly written by a Dutch married to a Filipina, with 2 kids, making a litany of the supposed stupidity or idiocy of Filipinos in general. There was also this statement by Fermi Wong, founder of Unison
HongKong, where she said – “Filipino maids have a very low status in our city”. Then there is this article from a certain Daniel Wagner of Huffington Post, wherein he said he sees nothing good in our country’s future.

Clearly, the hostage crisis has spawned another crisis – a crisis of faith in the Filipino, one that exists in the minds of a significant number of Filipinos and some quarters in the world.

 It is important for us Filipinos to take stock of ourselves as a people, of who we truly are as a people. It is important that we remind ourselves who the Filipino really is, before our young children believe all this negativity that they hear and read about the Filipino.

We have to protect and defend the Filipino in each one of us.

The August 23 hostage fiasco is now part of us as Filipinos, it being part now of our country’s and world’s history. But that is not all that there is to the Filipino. Yes, we accept it as a failure on our part, a disappointment to Hong Kong, China and to the whole world.

But there is so much more about the Filipino.

In 1945, at the end of World War II, Hitler and his Nazi had killed more than 6 million Jews in Europe. But in 1939, when the Jews and their families were fleeing Europe at a time when several countries refused to open their doors to them, our Philippines did the highly risky and the unlikely –thru President Manuel L. Quezon, we opened our country’s doors and our nation’s heart to the fleeing and persecuted Jews. Eventually, some 1,200 Jews and their families made it to Manila. Last 21 June 2010, or 70 years later, the first ever monument honoring Quezon and the Filipino nation for this “open door policy” was inaugurated on Israeli soil, at the 65-hectare Holocaust Memorial Park in Rishon LeZion, Israel.

The Filipino heart is one of history’s biggest, one of the world’s rare jewels, and one of humanity’s greatest treasures.

In 2007, Baldomero M. Olivera, a Filipino, was chosen and awarded as the Scientist for the Year 2007 by Harvard University Foundation, for his work in neurotoxins which is produced by venomous cone snails commonly found in the tropical waters of Philippines. Olivera is a distinguished professor of biology at University of Utah, USA. The Scientist for the Year 2007 award was given to him in recognition to his outstanding contribution to science, particularly to molecular biology and groundbreaking work with conotoxins. The research conducted by Olivera’s group became the basis for the production of commercial drug called Prialt (generic name – Ziconotide), which is considered more effective than morphine and does not result in addiction.

The Filipino mind is one of the world’s best, one of humanity’s great assets.

The Filipino is capable of greatness, of making great sacrifices for the greater good of the least of our people. Josette Biyo is an example of this. Biyo has masteral and doctoral degress from one of the top universities in the Philippines, the De La Salle University (Taft, Manila), where she used to teach rich college students and was paid well for it. But Dr Biyo left all that and all the glamour of Manila, and chose to teach in a far-away public school in a rural area in the province, receiving the salary of less than US$ 300 a month. When asked why she did that, she replied “but who will teach our children?” In recognition of the rarity of her kind, the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States honoured Dr Biyo a very rare honor by naming a small and new-discovered planet in our galaxy as “Biyo”.

The Filipino is one of humanity’s best examples on the greatness of human spirit!

Efren Penaflorida was born to a father who worked as a tricycle driver and a mother who worked as laundrywoman. Through sheer determination and the help of other people, Penaflorida finished college. In 1997, Penaflorida and his friends formed a group that made pushcarts (kariton) and loaded them with books, pens, crayons, blackboard, clothes, jugs of water, and a Philippine flag. Then he and his group would go to the public cemetery, market and garbage dump sites in Cavite City – to teach street children with reading, math, basic literacy skills and values, to save them from illegal drugs and prevent them from joining gangs. Penaflorida and his group have been doing this for more than a decade. Last year, Penaflorida was chosen and awarded as CNN Hero for 2009.

Efren Penaflorida is one of the great human beings alive today. And he is a Filipino!

Nestor Suplico is yet another example of the Filipino’s nobility of spirit. Suplico was a taxi driver In New York. On 17 July 2004, Suplico drove 43 miles from New York City to Connecticut, USA to return the US$80,000 worth of jewelry (rare black pearls) to his passenger who forgot it at the back seat of his taxi. When his passenger offered to give him a reward, Suplico even refused the reward. He just asked to be reimbursed for his taxi fuel for his travel to Connecticut. At the time, Suplico was just earning $80 a day as a taxi driver. What do you call that? That’s honesty in its purest sense. That is decency most sublime. And it occurred in New York, the Big Apple City, where all kinds of snakes and sinners abound, and a place where, according to American novelist Sydney Sheldon – angels no longer descend. No wonder all New York newspapers called him “New York’s Most Honest Taxi Driver”. The New York City Government also held a ceremony to officially acknowledge his noble deed. The Philippine Senate passed a Resolution for giving honors to the Filipino people and our country.

In Singapore, Filipina Marites Perez-Galam, 33, a mother of four, found a wallet in a public toilet near the restaurant where she works as the head waitress containing 16,000 Singaporean dollars (US $11,000). Maritess immediately handed the wallet to the restaurant manager of Imperial Herbal restaurant where she worked located in Vivo City Mall. The manager in turn reported the lost money to the mall’s management. It took the Indonesian woman less than two hours to claim her lost wallet intended for her son’s ear surgery that she and her husband saved for the medical treatment. Maritess refused the reward offered by the grateful owner and said it was the right thing to do.

The Filipina, in features and physical beauty, is one of the world’s most beautiful creatures! Look at this list; Gemma Cruz became the first Filipina to win Miss International in 1964; Gloria Diaz won as Miss Universe in 1969; Aurora Pijuan won Miss International in 1970; Margie Moran won Miss Universe in 1973; Evangeline Pascual was 1st runner up in Miss World 1974; Melanie Marquez was Miss International in 1979; Ruffa Gutierrez was 2nd runner up in Miss World 1993; Charlene Gonzalez was Miss Universe finalist in 1994; Mirriam Quiambao was Miss Universe 1st runner up in 1999; and last week, Venus Raj was 4th runner up in Miss Universe pageant.

I can cite more great Filipinos like Ramon Magsaysay, Ninoy Aquino, Leah Salonga, Manny Pacquaio, Paeng Nepomuceno, Tony Meloto, Joey Velasco, Juan Luna and Jose Rizal. For truly, there are many more great Filipinos who define who we are as a people and as a nation, each one of them is part of each one of us, for they are Filipinos like us, for they are part of our history as a people.

What we see and hear of the Filipino today is not all that there is about the Filipino. I believe that the Filipino is higher and greater than all these that we see and hear about the Filipino. God has a beautiful story for us as a people. And the story that we see today is but a fleeting portion of that beautiful story that is yet to fully unfold before the eyes of our world.

So let’s rise as one people. Let’s pick up the pieces. Let’s ask for understanding and forgiveness for our failure. Let us also ask for space and time to correct our mistakes, so we can improve our system.

To all of you my fellow Filipinos, let’s keep on building the Filipino great and respectable in the eyes of our world – one story, two stories, three stories at a time – by your story, by my story, by your child’s story, by your story of excellence at work, by another Filipino’s honesty in dealing with others, by another Pinoy’s example of extreme sacrifice, by the faith in God we Filipinos are known for.

Every Filipino, wherever he or she maybe in the world today, is part of the solution. Each one of us is part of the answer. Every one of us is part of the hope we seek for our country. The Filipino will not become a world-class citizen unless we are able to build a world-class homeland in our Philippines.

We are a beautiful people. Let no one in the world take that beauty away from you. Let no one in the world take away that beauty away from any of your children! We just have to learn – very soon – to build a beautiful country for ourselves, with an honest and competent government in our midst.

Mga kababayan, after reading this, I ask you to do two things.

First, defend and protect the Filipino whenever you can, especially among your children. Fight all this negativity about the Filipino that is circulating in many parts of the world. Let us not allow this single incident define who the Filipino is, and who we are as a people. And second, demand for good leadership and good government from our leaders. Question both their actions and inaction; expose the follies of their policies and decisions. The only way we can perfect our system is by engaging it. The only way we can solve our problem, is by facing it, head on.

We are all builders of the beauty and greatness of the Filipino. We are the architects of our nation’s success.

To all the people of HK and China, especially the relatives of the victims, my family and I deeply mourn with the loss of your loved ones. Every life is precious. My family and I humbly ask for your understanding and forgiveness.

Maita G. Magalong
Margarita St., Zone 1,
Barrio Obrero, Iloilo 5000
Telephone No. (0063-33)335-0220


  1. I find it hard to accept that fiasco of August 23 is a negative reflection of the Filipino as a nation and as an individual. It was a hostage situation that could have been easily and successfully resolved except for the bungling of the officers in charge of the situation.

  2. we now have a lot to do to move on. i just hope they get to learn from this.

  3. di ko malilimutan ito, araw din kasi ng bakasyon ko dito ng mangyari ang ganito.. hirapan akong mag komento dito. nalungkot ako ng sobra!

  4. bertN, me too. But, sadly, some people still think that ones mistake is the sin of the whole. Very tribal and catholic, I would say.

    dong, a lot of "wake-up call" passed but still some people never learned. I think it has something to do with our mediocre attitude and "pwede na yan!" mentality.

    ever, nakaka-awang nakakayamot isipin na nadamay ang mga inosente dahil sa makitid at makasariling pag-iisip ng iilan.

  5. its not true when they said "there is nothing left in the philippines to be proud of". we as filipinos, shouldnt be defined with what happened. there are a lot of things---good things that could represent us.

    with the incident that happened, we can only hope for the best.. that people learned something from it and that should it happen again, it will not result to bloody scene. what we can do is to move on... move forward and take whatever we can get from what has happened.. and continue bein proud of who we are, where we came from.....

  6. If reincarnation is true, without a doubt I would like to be reincarnated as a Filipino again. Now, I don't mean to be cynical, but in all of these self-pumping, self-aggrandizing rhetorics floating around after the hostage debacle, I never heard any these overly PROUD PINOYS say - first and foremost,

    "let's give the grieving families JUSTICE they deserve "

    Maybe it will be a good start to get back the credibility we lost ?? Are we really a great people when we don't seem know what JUSTICE means? What will the accomplishment of the few of us mean if justice is incredibly hard to find in our country, esp for those for the have nots among us?

    These rhetorics aren't blank bullets because the mind of the world judging us will never change with eloquent speeches and promises. The world awaits results - only then can we achieve redemption.

    Is greatness of a nation all about pedigree or work of the few ? Can we achieve greatness when today our nation is viewed as one severly lacking accountability for our failed actions? I'm sorry to sound as sour graping here but saying sorry, we are a great people, we are capable of doing great things, this won't happen again, let's move on, we are a proud people has nary a redemptive flavor however inspirational it sounds to us.

  7. That's a very moving piece/essay from Alex Lacson. The first time I read it and after each time, the more I find it encouraging to do better.

  8. Yanah, "hoping for the best" isn't the phrase. That's clergy talk. Change should come from each one of us. From our character as an individual to our collective mindset as a society. These could only be achieve if given the proper understanding. Sadly the majority among us doesn't have that luxury.

  9. bw, you raised a point there. That is why pressure is on our government to present a credible result and reparation to satisfy the international community.

    But will they act accordingly if the hostages where all Filipinos? Sadly, we are all witness to this "colonial" mentality. The Maguindanao massacre is a case in point.

  10. Ms. Jo, ??? you mean to say Ms. Magalong is just a pseudonym of Alex Lacson? How did you found out this?

  11. I wanted to write something like this letter. Beautifully done. Now I only need to forward it. Thank you.

  12. Fickle Cattle, okay lang. Hindi naman sa akin yan. BTW, thanks for dropping by.

  13. maraming advantage and dis advantages ang bawat bansa, kaya hindi lang Philippines ang nasa bad lists , kasama na yang 64K cases of dengue in Phils.
    Dito sa france, one case of dengue lang last week, nag panic na ang buong health ministry, mama mia.
    noon ang bird flu sa hk, now limot na halos.

    Pasanayan lang yan, meaning the story is fresh, time heals all wounds, and some would prefer to face reality and move on.
    some doesnt, prefer to stick to the issue.

  14. pasensiya na, mayabang ako eh.
    ihanay sa pader ang mga bansang walang dapat ikahiya sa kanilang kasaysayan. at babarilin ko ng salitang "IPOKRITO!" at ipaaalala ko ang sandaling dapat nilang ikahiya.
    pustahan tayo, bakante ang pader na iyan. tantanan ako.

  15. Francesca, sa pinoy siguro malilimutan din yan. Kasi maiksi lang ang memorya natin. : )

    atticus, napag-isip ako sa sinabi mo. Meron kayang bansa na walang kalansay na tinatago sa aparador?

  16. isa sa mga reason na ayaw kong iwan ang pinas para magsettle sa ibang bansa ay yung kahit na nga mga kapwa na natin pinoy e ikinahihiya ang pagiging pinoy nila.
    lahat ng kamaganak namin at almost buong clan ay naka settled na outside pinas.
    call me no IQ, low mentality but call me no crab mentality.
    sa tagal kong nagtatrabaho sa ibat ibang bansa,marami nakong pinoy na nakasalamuha, na sa ganitong mga pagkakataon e ikinahihiya ang pagiging isang pinoy.
    nung mangyari yung hostage taking, 1 wk nako nakabakasyon satin.
    yung office at agency ko worried na di ako makakuha ng visa dahil sa nangyari...i told them, i dont give a damn, di lang china ang nagiisang bansang pwede kong puntahan.
    pagbalik ko dito,my mga kilala akong pinoy/pinay na pag tinatong sila anung nationality,walang mga konsensya isasagot kundi malaysian,indonesian, duh!
    nung ako ang tanungin nagmwestra ako na pinagbababaril ko sila,alam nila kagad pinay ako(naasar kc ako sa mga kasama ko e) sabay layas.
    wala akong makitang dahilan
    para itatwa ang sari mong sinilangan ng dahil lang sa isang pagkakamali ng ilan.
    hindi ko kahit kelan itatatwa ang bayan kong sinilangan para lang wag akong mapulaan.
    at lalong di ako maninilbihan sa mga among makikitid ang utak.
    matalino ang mga pinoy, mga talentado (my pagka tarandado na rin hahaha) mahusay makisama, tapat sa trabaho.
    mas mababa ang tingin ko sa mga taga ibang nasyon na ganun ang trato sa mga pinoy (kakaawa di nabigyan ng right of way,kikitid ng utak hehe) at nakakatakot naman makatabi o makasama yung mga pinoy/pinay na ikinahihiya ang pagiging pinoy nila.
    sory, pero mas maraming mas masasama at nakakahiyang mga pangyayari sa ibang bansa pero nagagawa nilang itago yun sa mata ng mundo at ng di mapulaan.
    kaya nga after ng incident na yun, yung friends ko sa FB na 30 persons, after that 15 nalang hahaha, kasi kada my magpost na ikinahihiya ang pinas sinasagot ko kaya ina-unfriend ako hahahaha.
    di bale ng isa nalang matira kong kaibigan, basta totoong tao at my pusong di traydor sa bayan.

  17. sensya na bro, mainit ulo ko e hahahaha
    pero infairness, tahimik dito, pag sila loko loko sakin makakatikim sila hahaha.
    so far naman walang nagbabangit sakin dito sa lugar ko ng against sa nangyari, alam nila na mas grabe sila dito, at di lang grabe, worst pa.
    at wala akong ikinahihiya sa ngyari, that happens everywhere,mas grabe pa, at so far kahit alam nilang pinay ako at pag tinanong pinay kako ako,wala namang pumapalag hohoho

  18. Lee, kahit ang dami kong pagkakataong mag "settle" sa ibang bansa, hindi ko kinagat kasi mas gusto ko paring tumanda sa atin. Besides that marami akong responsabilidad doon.

    Yang mga pinoy na hunyango, marami din dito sa Riyadh. Hindi ko na lang pinapansin, kasi ayaw kong bumaba sa level nila.

  19. tunay ka dyan, pero bali baliktarin man ang mga ilong este bali baliktarin mo man ang mundo, di nila pwedeng itangging pinoy pa rin sila.
    tama ka, ang sarap yatang mag stay sa pinas,
    yung time na yun ang hinihintay kong
    makatapos at maka settle lang yung anak ko
    at talagang for good nako
    satin,..isang puno ng talong, isang puno ng okra at talbos ng kamote sa bakuran,
    bigas nalang ang bibilhin mo,konting pambayad sa koryente at tubig,pwede kabang maka survive ng ganun lang sa ibang bansa?
    wala ng sasarap pa kesa mabuhay sa pinas.
    proud to be a pinoy,kahit san tayo
    makarating,angat tayo,di nila pwedeng itatwa yan.

  20. Lee, dadagan mo na man ng ulam kahit tuyo para masarap ang pag kain. : )

    Doon sa "puno ng talong", naalala ko nanaman ang ate vi mo! : )

  21. hahahahahahah
    hoy, baka naman sabihin mo kaya gusto ko magkaron ng ganun e umaasa pakong my gumapang sakin (sana,wala naba?) hahahahahahaha