Monday, January 29, 2007

The Colonization of the Pinoy Mind

I just hate it when some of my fellow Pinoys and Pinays behave more native than the natives of the country they emigrated to. They tend to act more European than the Europeans or more American than the Americans as if people can't see the actual color of their skin or the features of their face. DUH!
A lot, pretending to have forgotten their native tongue, refuse to use Filipino as their language and propagate the same snobbery in their children. If ever these same people visit the Philippines, they look down on their countrymen/women and usually see themselves as no longer Filipinos and more like the natives of the countries they have chosen to settle in.
Now don't get me wrong, some Filipinos abroad are still okay and they extend the same Pinoy hospitality when you meet them on foreign soil. These are the ones who long to be in the Philippines again and who still relish the idea of garlic rice and dried fish. At home, they also tend to eat Filipino food like sinigang, kare-kare, adobo, and kaldereta. Their kids are trained to speak in Filipino or at least, understand Filipino.
However, I would like to focus on those who tend to feel and think that they are better than most Filipinos just because they have assimilated the culture so well in their new homeland and have a better life over there. When they return to the Philippines as "balikbayans", they tend to act so superior to the natives and keep putting down the backwardness of the Philippines as compared to their adopted country. I hear haughty remarks like "Stupid Filipinos," or "Have you seen this before?" or "In the US/Europe/Canada/Australia/New Zealand, things are done this way or that way."
Okay, okay, I get it. Things are a lot better and done better in those First World countries. But for crying out loud, the Philippines is still a Third World nation so it is so unfair to make such comparisons. Plus, they have decided to abandon their native country for greener pastures already, why do they need to rub it in when they come "home" for a visit? Well, I guess it has something to do with the fact that a lot of Filipinos do envy them and wish they were in the same blissful boat.
But please, give us a break. We, Filipinos, who have chosen to stay or who have unwillingly stayed, have other problems to deal with and don't need any more putdowns. We get the picture, you immigrants are wealthier than most of us in the Philippines even though some of you, not all, are mail-order brides or domestic helpers or TNT's.
I have been abroad a few times before so I have seen for myself how some Filipino immigrants behave out there. Again, not all of them are snooty. I do understand that Filipinos born abroad have no choice but to imbibe the culture of their respective countries. It is but natural and this I can accept without any grudge. What irks me is the Philippine-born migrant who tries his/her best to have nothing to do with his/her country of origin as much as possible (even though, s/he comes to the Philippines for a visit every now and then).
In Amsterdam, for example, there was one Pinay who talked to us briefly when we asked her for directions. My friend and I assumed correctly that she was a Filipina by her looks and actuations (you usually know a fellow countryman/woman by instinct, I guess) so we approached her. After giving us what we wanted, she turned her face to her left so fast to hint that she didn't want to be bothered anymore, even though her body language showed she was in no hurry. Good thing she did not deny her nationality or else my friend and I would have looked like two stupid Filipinos talking to a stranger in their mother tongue.
In the US, one of my aunts had admitted that my cousins ,who were born in the Philippines and who used to speak Tagalog before, had refused to use their native tongue after migrating. It saddened me to see that my aunt did not view this action as a loss but more of a gain. I have nothing against the English language per se but I just hate it when Pinoys who know how to use both Filipino and English make English the superior language to Filipino as if the latter is just for the maids or the uneducated or the backward. Incidentally, this same aunt was guilty of referring to her "kababayans" as "stupid Filipinos" as if she is not one herself. The only reason she became a US citizen is through migration (plus passing the test and taking the oath of allegiance). They can't give me the reason that they had no choice but to use English since it is the language in the US. How come the kids of a Filipino couple I know can speak English and Filipino fluently even though they are in the US? It is just a matter of choice and personal belief.
I also noticed how my Philippine-born relatives behaved in the US. They were more condescending to me than the Americans themselves. They thought I had no idea about American culture. Goodness, with all the Hollywood films and American literature I have seen and read, not to mention that the Philippines was the only colony of the US, I do know a bit, thank you very much. And when I remarked at some new experiences in the US, I was usually greeted with patronizing looks and replies like "Oh, is this the first time you have seen/tasted/smelt/experienced this?" or "Don't you have this in the Philippines?". Come on! They were born and grew up in the Philippines. Some of them subscribe to the Filipino Channel and most of them have visited before. I wouldn't have felt bad if the replies had been innocent but I just couldn't stomach the patronizing air.
I hear stories like this from some of my friends. Some of their relatives act the same way as if they were the natives of the foreign country they migrated to. It can be worse in Europe, I was told. Since Filipinos know English already, acquiring a new one like German or French is no small feat; hence, some Filipinos who have migrated to Europe and have assimilated well tend to be more snooty than their American counterpart. They have the air of "I have made it here and it is not an easy task." Since there is this prevalent thinking that Europeans are refined and cultured, these Filipinos believe that this notion has rubbed off on them as well. So they are now classy and act accordingly. They now couldn't understand why Filipinos, as a rule, are not into fine dining or quiet evenings or nature tripping.
Filipino migrants are not the only ones who belittle the Philippines and her inhabitants (never mind what First World nations think of us). Filipino expats do the same. After being abroad for a few years, some of these expats want to follow the traditions and habits of the country they've seen and lived in. It would have been all right had it not been at the expense of the Filipino culture, as if the Filipino way of life is barbaric. I have nothing against getting the best from other cultures as long as we don't put down ours.
Sadly, it all boils down to how Filipinos think. Even the natives of the Philippines view Filipino culture as inferior to others. It is no small wonder, foreigners, especially caucasians, are treated well in our country. We generally think highly of them and can't even envision having a caucasian serving us hand and foot, right? English is considered as the language used by the rich and the educated. Filipino is seen as the language of the masses. Such views propagate the idea that the Philippines as a nation is nothing without "western" influences. Filipinos become somebody only when they are not much a Filipino in language, actions and thinking. Isn't it a shame that despite our independence, the Pinoy mind has been colonized so well? I am not surprised we don't get proper treatment abroad. As long as we are not proud of ourselves as Filipinos and live in dignity, we will always be living in the shadows of our colonial masters.

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