Nationalism rears its ugly head

I should have said a kind of pseudo, limited, distorted sense of nationalism rears its ugly head. I refer to that sense of being Filipino that manifests itself in a propaganda fashion, the kind of thinking that gives rise to individuals who believe they should be angry at others who do not share their own thoughts about who they are. This is the flag-waving kind, the sort of celebrating over the ashes of those they need to repudiate in order that they could feel important.

If I sound like I am talking about the wars of civilizations, it is because I need to elevate this debate away from the muck of what happened over free television.

The event is called Pilipinas Got Talent, actually a franchise that appears in other nations. The idea is that countries and other ethnic groups do possess talent. We have it here because we want to share in this family.  The competition of nations paying tribute to what  jurors and, later, audiences, think what talent is all about. That talent, we have to underscore, is supposedly “Filipino.”

Together with many Filipinos, I feel talent takes a long time to discover and discern.

One acrobatic stunt, one glorious song, does not a nation make. But that is not what’s on the mind of an action star who accosted two talents because they could not speak straight Tagalog.

Since when has speaking English been a crime in this country? Since when has it become that offensive that a network would allow its, well, “talent” to create a scene as if he was the God Almighty about to hurl a lightning against a mortal who was there, eager to show his talent, except that his language was not the language this action star felt was the only language in that arena.

I should not really take these events seriously. But I speak to the management of networks that allow these acts. Darling, it is entertainment. Do not bring this sudden, righteous rightist attitude to take over what promises to be fun and frothy and light.

This is the problem with a nation that sends its workers abroad and finish that migration with the claim, we are “world-class.” A singer makes good in West End and we claim we are the best in Asia.  Other Asian countries with talents as big as Lang Lang and Sumi Jo do not scream each day they are world-class.  But we do. We have surpluses in songs that declare ourselves as Filipinos and proud to be so. It is because we do not really know what we are and whether we should be proud of it.

In the 1980s, at the height of the Japayuki phenomenon—of women who were bound for Japan for that is the meaning of the term—Filipino talent managers told young Filipinas to be  proud as hostesses and bar girls in Japan. They were the most popular because they were the cheapest.

We send cheap labor abroad. It is not merely an individual choice. We push our men and women to leave the country. We create incentives that enable them to travel faster to their place of work where some of them will be abused, or killed. Then we declare them as heroes.

Some of these migrant Filipinos marry into the country of their employment. They produce children who are half-Filipino and half of a particular ethnicity. When that intermarriage produces achievers, we readily claim them as Filipino—one-half, one-fourth  Filipino. It does not matter if they do not speak any of the Filipino languages. Pathetic.

Some of these children grow up and feel the desire to join talent shows, a desire that is fueled by many factors, one of them the allure of celebrity. There is nothing wrong with that. When the offsprings take on the features of an American or European, then we see them as beautiful. Armed with the lilt of English, the person wins a beauty pageant. Some of them join a talent show and they are punished for not speaking Tagalog.

Nationalism is tricky. It is even trickier when a territory and its occupants do not really see what makes them as a nation. And so we hold on the tenuous twig of language, a language that is even questioned by those whose mother tongue is something else.

When other nations make fun of us as a country of people with rotting teeth and dirty cities, we want to go to war. But each day, our jokes about Indians, Chinese, Japanese and other ethnic groups really point to us as a nation of bigots, racists and artists with a sense of art as limited as a TV screen.

It is more fun in the Philippines? Try, it is more vicious in the Philippines. That will work. As for the Philippines having talent, let us leave that to comedians and action stars to vociferously and with arrogance deride and decide.




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