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Pride in Being Filipino is a heightened awareness coming out of the woodwork at this time more than at any other. And it has nothing to do with politics and pundits.  Everything to do with a sense of awareness that as individuals we can pull our own bootstraps, walk in our own shoes and best of all, leave our own imprint.

The establishment may ignore and diss the accomplishments of an athlete in the ring named Manny Pacquiao, but to a large segment of society—global society—Pacquiao has become the symbol of the scrappy undaunted, undefeated, “give-‘em-your-personal-best” boxing icon the world literally has ever known. Admit it, you may be a pristine scholar, a bookworm buried in the archives studying the evolution of the Filipino psyche, adamant on explaining to the world what a Filipino is; but here, this dynamo of a man, compact and focused singularly defined the Filipino character through which the world could gauge a people!   

It took a foreigner named Michael Sellers in a blog to bring this fact home to me. Unlike other sports commentators, he didn’t gush over Pacquiao. He was in awe:

For a boxer to say “I want to make people happy” seems overly simplistic on one level—but when you think of where Pacquiao comes from—not just the Philippines, but the mean streets of the Philippines, a place of grinding poverty where there is no escape and where hope is often all but extinguished —the power to “make people happy” is a power that means more than producing a transitory moment of enjoyment. It’s an ability to fundamentally alter that state of mind and heart for people—to lift them up and make them feel that there’s hope, and good things are possible in a tough unfriendly world. For Manny Pacquiao, to “make people happy” is something far more profound and meaningful than it would be if the same statement were coming from an American boxer.

“…. I have another job after this, I’m going back … do my job as a public servant—and I want to help people.” … What is on display when Pacquiao speaks is essential Filipino values that typify the elusive best of a country whose people’s humble and gentle virtues are not particularly well understood abroad. … The truth is, it’s easy for ill-informed westerners to underestimate and misinterpret the gentle, gracious nature of the Filipino character—yet somehow Manny Pacquiao is singlehandedly changing that, teaching the world and reminding the Philippine universe that humility, grace, compassion, and empathy can coexist with the heart of a warrior.

But now, today, he is an elected Congressman … the skinny kid who grew up on the streets may well someday have the opportunity to lead not just an impoverished Sarangani province, but an entire resurgent nation that with Pacquiao as example-maker-in-chief–a long-suffering and self doubting country that under his inspired leadership may lift itself up as a country in ways that would be just as surprising, yet just as inevitable, as Pacquiao’s rise to the top in boxing.”   (Reprinted with permission: http://michaeldsellers.weearth.com)

In the past year too, more books have been published by Filipino authors, yet the word out there is that Filipinos don’t read, much less buy. They write, as vociferously as if driven by an unstoppable energy and we commend the publishers who keep up with their output!  What was the saying . . . ? “If you build it they will come.” The readers will come. They are here. They thirst as much to see reflected on the page their experiences as articulated by their own kind. What film and commercial jingoism cannot replicate is the plodding numbness hidden at the core of the heart that can only be felt when peeled back a layer at a time, as one does in the turning of the page, in the slow absorbing of paragraphs strung together line by line: a procession worthy of new tomorrows and the building of hope. Hope hidden, but stacked high. I believe in the people because the homeland has been purchased and packaged by commercial greed. The people on the other hand carry a spirit of pride that cannot be bartered for nor bought. A spirit that somehow and unpredictably survives.

Remé Antonia Grefalda
December 2010

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Remé-Antonia Grefalda

Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto

Victoria Paz Cruz
Seb Koh
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Geejay Arriola

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