Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Filipino Culture and the Pinoys Abroad

A nice house, perhaps a car, children not going in public schools, and...working abroad. Its all part of the Filipino Dream. This article is not completely about seeing hope in the opportunities on other countries, but about what we bring there, what we lose and what we gain. A word of warning, these are collective observations of people and to our kababayans living and working abroad, nothing personal really.

Chances are, every Filipino family has relatives overseas. They could be immigrants, contract workers or overstaying tourists. A considerable percentage of a foreign workforce comprise Filipino men and women. Ever since the second half of the 20th century, our countrymen are the preferred choice when getting international manpower. We are affordable, efficient and worth the investment. Such is how we are being seen.

Being away from our beloved country, a Filipino suffers. He or she will be assailed mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. It could be very cold or very hot at another country. Dominant religion in another country may not be like ours and places of worship are not around. The sense of detachment and the distance from family members and friends puts an emotional stress to a Filipino that neither phone or video calls can never relieve.

Culture shock happens to a certain degree and we strive to blend in. We begin to assimilate whatever social constructs, political point of views, stereotypical choices, and beliefs of foreign country to a certain extent. We acclimatize and adjust so fast that some Pinoys become unrecognizable after just a year of being there. There are even Filipinos who are so convinced that the system and how things are done where they currently stay are far better than what our country has to offer (sadly that "better" is true 90% of the time).

Take for example a commercial ad back in 2003. A balikbayan lola complains continuously while being driven through the traffic, potholes and rude motorists in Metro Manila. Her famous lines "walang ganyan sa states" are iconic to balikbayans and familiar to all Filipino families with relatives abroad. Every objectionable action, situation or person encountered here in the country is being compared to the US.

The survival instinct of a Filipino is top of the line. Our mental constructs allow us adapt very quickly and though we are consciously resistant to change, when survival and sanity is on the line, our race does adjustments beautifully. But of course, it won't be a complete change. Like the history of our country, it is an integration to what we are, therefore we still retain what we've learned, lived and believed. Like a chemical reaction, it starts with mayhem and confusion, there are losses and gains, then something new comes out of it. The introverts become extroverts, the outspoken becomes more outspoken.

Ego and pride takes play, as well as the striving of our countrymen. They hunger for compliment, acknowledgement and people who will look up to them. It is a struggle because no matter how people deny it, there exists racial discrimination, especially coming from caucasians. It may not be expressed openly, but in the back of their minds, there exists a screaming part that says brown people are less of who they are. Though our fellow Filipinos abroad are climbing to the top of the food chain should they be here in the country, they're still discriminated out there no matter how hard they try to blend in.

This discrimination dictates a lot of conflict for us Filipinos. Even here in the Philippines, we discriminate our fellow Pinoys. It is a deep part of the Filipino Culture. The urban population discriminates the rural population. The Bicolanos, Cebuanos, Pampanguenos, Batanguenos, including others discriminate one another and tend to rally together based on their provincial origins. If this is the case here, what stops this from happening to our countrymen abroad.

"Talangka Mentality" is also very damaging. The victims of this way of thinking are always our fellow Pinoys. This sources from discrimination and envy of a kababayan and his or her accomplishments. It is so complex when all of these things work together, but the end result is always conflict between fellow Filipinos. Imagine one, saying to others "wala ka karapatan! ako lang!" If this happens overseas, the caucasians are not affected by this because of a conditioned thought in our minds that they are bigger, better and "wala tayo sa teritoryo." Besides, other people think differently.

All of these things are just symptoms of a Filipino adjusting from the culture of the Philippines to the culture of another. Things written on this post are just a fraction of what has to be considered, and there are far more things not mentioned. Even the impact of this argument isn't readily presented in this article. Admittedly, there are more factors needed to be considered, more thought and observation has to be done, more insights need to be gathered. But at a first glance, these are the most evident.