Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Pinoy of better caliber

The author is a journalist and former dean of the UP
Mass Communications College.

A Pinoy of better caliber
by Luis Teodoro

Vol. 1 Issue No. 95 | Friday| February 10, 2006

QUITE by accident, I read a letter e-mailed to the
editor of one of the Manila dailies (not the
BusinessMirror) last week. Judging from her name and
e-mail address, the letter writer's a Filipina married
to a Belgian. 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

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 eight 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 10 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

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

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 10 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

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.

COPYRIGHT (c) 2005 Philippine Business Daily Mirror
Publishing, Inc.

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