Friday, March 02, 2007

Manila Represent

Being one of only five Filipinos (that I've met so far) in campus, I know I am an unwitting ambassador of the Philippines. How I am perceived and the things I say about my country will inevitably shape other people's perceptions of a harmless archipelagic nation they will likely never see unless they have a penchant for 'excitement' and 'danger' verging on insanity. Chinese folks have come up to me speaking Mandarin, mistaking me for one of their own, or at least one of the many hyphenated Chinese (-Malaysian, -Singaporean, -Thai, -Indonesian) in campus. I had foreseen this event, and so I brought with me two t-shirts I bought from the hugely successful and trendy Team Manila.

Going back to representing my country, I fear (or hope) I've made the impression that Filipinos are:

1. Argumentative.

2. Talking about the Philippines all the time. Well, two of my classes tackle developing nations and there are many similarities and inevitable comparisons. I have expressed being 'depressed' in discussions of Latin America. And I think the Germans who sit behind me wish I'd just shut up.

3. Defensive. What can I say? I want to champion the Third World. I am surrounded by young people who want to right the world, but who see the 'world' that needs righting to be mainly 'developing countries.' Always, in class discussions, the ROW (rest of the world) is war-torn, malnourished, mal-educated, in need of help. While in many cases these are true, the problems are framed from their own perspective, needing solutions that contain their own values. Perhaps more significantly, these problems are highlighted in the West's apparent lack of similar deficiencies. It highlights their superior ways of living. It is left unsaid, but that is the subtext.

Always, the standard against which all the world is compared are those set by the West. "Democracy," and "Freedom" often come up in discussions. Hollow definitions of these concepts mostly amount to civil and political freedoms. Freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to elect government. My own country is living testament that assuring those freedoms do not necessarily amount to a better way of life but these young people seem to have swallowed their countries' moral by-line all these years. They are the beacon of the "Free World."

4. Frighteningly smart. While I think I am of average intelligence compared to most graduates of the UP, I may seem overly intelligent compared to my present classmates for two reasons: I've done and taught IR before, and while it is a huge field spanning most of the social sciences, I feel I've covered the relevant bases. Second, this being a 'private' uni, all other frighteningly smart foreigners and Aussies have probably gone to the country's premier state university, the ANU, or any of the other public unis for that matter.

5. Crazy. Its because I do accents and talk about anything and everything from roasting and eating people, to reproductive body parts to the consistency of poop in addition to all the multitude of -isms that come up in class.

6. Excellent English speakers. Some benefits of post-colonial Philippines. Huh, wha'?!? You didn't know your country colonized ours for fifty years? Oh well, now you know.

7. Nice. Hopefully. Some people are just so bitchy. I think I'm (still) kind and open to other people's cultures and beliefs. I don't talk about physical deficiencies. I am not consciously malicious. Snark begets snarkiness of course. All in all, I just want to maintain world peace

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