by F. Sionil Jose
from Philippine Star
Here we go again, some inconsequential columnist in Hong Kong takes a cheap shot at our unhappy country, calls us “a nation of servants” and immediately an uproar, and magma feelings of hurt are unleashed. Editorials, columnists, politicians are outraged — they demand apology as if one would really salve the bone-deep insult. It was the same sometime back when an English publisher defined “Filipina” as a housemaid. Such insults hurt profoundly but the pain fades quickly and soon after all that enraged outburst, we settle down to the same complacency, we continue sending more of our women abroad to be raped by Arabs, demeaned by Malaysians and Chinese, heckled by the Brits. What has our sense of outrage brought us?
Go to Hong Kong, to Singapore. Visit the Star Ferry environs in Hong Kong or Lucky Plaza, and Singapore’s Orchard St. And there, on Sundays you will see them, hundreds of Filipino domestics, yak-yaking, socializing on the sidewalk, having a pleasant respite from their work.
To the visitors, tourists and the natives, they are a piteous sight, illustrating so clearly and so well how this country has sank. As a Filipino, having witnessed such, I am utterly shamed. I do not blame our poor women for their sorry condition, for I know only too well their plight is the only way by which they can help their families at home and survive.
It is such a boring cliché now, but back to the not-so-distant past: Filipinas was the second richest country in the region, next only to Japan; our universities attracted students from all over Asia, and we had the best professionals, the most modern stores and hospitals.
And what was Hong Kong then? There were slums crawling up those hills on Victoria island, and slums all over Kowloon. Singapore as an English naval base was like old Binondo, with its small squalid shops and equally small houses.
But look at Singapore and Hong Kong now, then look at our country and people.
Sure, you can find in Makati magnificent mansions, the biggest luxury cars, the tony restaurants, skyscrapers. But elsewhere the ugly sprawl of slums, the very poor who now eat only once a day. We must ask ourselves that question, why we became “the hewers of wood and drawers of water” of the world. What happened to us, a very talented and heroic people with a revolutionary tradition?
Once we have answered this question, then we should no longer wonder why there is a continuing diaspora of our brightest people, of our women. It is then the time for us to be truly enraged — not at that Hong Kong columnist — but at the creators of this dismal miasma we call Filipinas. Do not kill the messenger who comes to us to tell the horrid truth about us. Ingest his message, then turn all that outrage, that vehemence, to the Filipinos who turned this beautiful country into the garbage dump of the region: the oligarchs, the Spanish mestizos, the Chinese Filipinos and the treasonous Indios who sent their money abroad instead of investing it here in industries to create jobs for our people. Then it is time for us to rail and condemn the crooked politicians who are the allies of these wretched rich who permitted the relentless hemorrhage of this nation’s capital.
Revolutionary tradition? Ask those rebels why, after 40 years, these leeches are still feasting on our blood!