(This is a guest post featuring a fellow Filipino, a man who has taught me to always be proud of who I am as a woman, as a Filipino, as a citizen of the world. I thought this was an important post to share as there is just too much negativity about my country, the Philippines. I am not naive. I see the wrong that is going on in my country. I see the social and political ills that continue to drag us down decades after we have declared independence from oppressive rules of both foreign and local governments. I see the mental shackles that keep us from moving forward as a nation, a people. Still, I am proud of my country and my heritage. I am proud of my people. I am proud of my father for feeling the same.)
Why is it critical to have positive thoughts about our country? I reflected on this post by a young Pinoy.
In the context of the coming Holy Week, I also asked: Why do we Pinoys indulge in self-flagellation?
In 1978, I was chosen to be one of the JICA Scholars for Electrical Steel Engineering, in Nagoya, Japan. But before National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) could approve the grant, all JICA scholars had to undergo a deep immersion seminar at the University of the Philippines. NEDA insisted on this because Pinoys, based on their experience, feel small and unimportant when associating with their counterparts abroad.
I recall it was the late Prof. Jocano, foremost anthropologist, who stirred my feelings of pride and glory about my country, the Philippines. “The mummies of Mountain Province are evidence of the advanced state of knowledge in organic/inorganic chemistry, concepts of the soul and afterlife, community organization, etc. How come only the Egyptian mummies are mentioned in history? We have such an advanced civilization, like Egypt!”
Years later, National Geographic featured the mummies that Prof Jocano lectured about.There were others we learned: our own alphabet, our seafaring ancestors and maritime skills, etc.
Back to Japan in 1978. Did I feel small and intimidated when grouped with trainees from Turkey, Iran, and Thailand among others? We have our own ADVANCED CIVILIZATION, was what I reminded myself. I stood TALL, in spite of my height. I spoke the best English and I showed my command of carbon-iron metallurgical theory.
When our Japanese lecturer mentioned Turkdogan, the Turkish delegate bragged to us that Turkdogan was a Turkish icon. What did the Philippines contribute to steelmaking? I HAD NO ANSWER, but I did not feel small. We have an advanced civilization, remember?
Never again would I look down on my country, on our country! Never again!
(Daniel T. Saracin was a National State Scholar of the Philippine government for the degree of Chemical Engineering. He finished his MBA at the Asian Institute of Management.)