“Filipino Pride”

Filipino Pride. 

You hear a lot about it these days and that is good.  But let me play devil’s advocate for a second.

Why are you proud?

Are you proud that a literate and developing civilization was conquered by a small band of misfits from Europe? 

Are you proud that our lands were given the name of a long dead–and if you know your history–fairly inept Spanish king?

Are you proud that the name we call ourselves: “Filipino” was the name for Spanish people born on our islands?

Are you proud that our victory over these same colonizers were sold out to the Americans?  That they “bought” as one newspaper columnist at the time wrote “10 million niggers for $2 a head?”

Are you proud that our victory over the Japanese during World War II only resulted in Americans bombing our economic infrastructure to prevent our development?

And are you proud today that our mother land, the land where all of us have roots, is a place of great poverty, great corruption, great suffering, and most of all great profit for the same developed countries that have always benefited from our toil?

Filipino pride.

Pride is earned.  Pride isn’t just something you have just because you should.  If you are proud, and if you are honest, you have asked yourself these questions.  You’ve asked yourself what about being Filipino has earned that pride.

I am proud.  I am very proud to be a Filipino.

My pride was not automatic.  I too asked myself these questions.  It was only after studying our history, and after doing a lot of work with BAYAN affiliated organizations did I learn why.  Only then did I realize how my pride was deserved.

Filipino pride was earned by the many many brave women and men who fought for it through action.  It has been almost 500 years since the Spanish first arrived.  And it has also been almost 500 years of our people fighting back.

Our country is rich, and yet it is horribly poor.  Our country has talented and skilled minds and workers, and yet they can’t find work in their own countries, in their own fields.  Our country has brave women and men who work for change, and too often they fall to government guns.

Patriotic pride is borne in this struggle.  In the fact that even under the gravest odds we fight.  Many martyrs have fallen.  And with each five more have replaced them.

Tell me.  Beyond the sadness we feel for the fallen.  Is not the pride we have in their actions even greater?

And this is why we should be proud.  And this is why we too must act.

We.  Each of us.  Is called to join the struggle.

We might think: but we’re in Canada now, we are free!  We’ve escaped that hardship.

But have we?

Today 30% of the Philippines total land mass has been signed away to mining (66%) of the Cordillera.  Everyday 4,000 people leave the Philippines to find work abroad.

And even here in Canada we’re not doing so well, Filipino youth have one of the highest highschool dropout rates and low levels of post secondary attainment–despite the fact that we are the most educated of first generation immigrants.  Worse, we are the only migrant group where the second generation makes on average less money than their parents.

All this feeds our shame, and lessens our pride.

*     *     *

These days, I’m the Toronto spokesperson for BAYAN, an alliance org that was established during the height of the struggle against the US-Marcos dictatorship.  It brings together over 1,000 people’s organizations across all the sectors of Filipino life: from peasant farmers, to workers, to women (Gabriela), to migrants (Migrante), to youth (Anakbayan), etc.BAYAN does something very unique in the world: it brings together different struggles into one coordinating body.  Compare this to Canada where one struggle steps on the toes of another.

Because of the long experience of struggle in the Philippines we know that we need to organize together.  To form one united front.  Because we know that all our struggles come from the same root cause.

We know that the oppression of farmers has the same roots as racism.  We know that the struggle for the rights of various groups within society: like the fight for women’s equality, or gay rights, or indigenous rights, or the fight against colonial mentality–are not problems in and of themselves, but are symptoms of the main fight.

Because no matter what social ill it is we are focused on in the Philippines, its source can be traced to the socioeconomic system that makes profit more important than people.

That’s why Filipino elites oppress their sisters and brothers.

That is why rich countries oppress poor countries.

That is why the US military has never left (and is in fact trying to make its presence once again official through new bases), and why Canada loves to mine the Phils for mineral wealth and for people.

Filipino Pride.  On this day.  120 years after the founding of the Katipunan.  I hope you’re all reflecting on pride and what it means.  And I hope you’ll all agree with me:  Pride comes from action.  The actions of our forebears.  The actions of our contemporaries around the world.  And just as important.  The actions we ourselves take.

And if we are proud today of being Filipino, how much more if our country was truly free, truly democratic, and truly ours?

We are called to join with our sisters and brothers in this struggle.

alex felipe
– Toronto spokesperson for BAYAN-Canada
– organizer with Anakbayan-Toronto

[*this talk was given at Diwa ng Kasarinlan, 7 July 2012]

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