Sunday, August 12, 2007

Little drops that make the ocean

Iconic Nick Joaquin was not only un-Filipino but anti-Filipino when in A Heritage of Smallness he has written: “Society for the Filipino is a small rowboat: the barangay. Geography for the Filipino is a small locality: the barrio. History for the Filipino is a small vague saying: matanda pa kay mahoma; noong peacetime. Enterprise for the Filipino is a small stall: the sari-sari. Industry and production for the Filipino are the small immediate searchings of each day: isang kahig, isang tuka. And commerce for the Filipino is the smallest degree of retail: the tingi.”

Somehow, Filipinos have decided to let the insult pass. Not Dr. Jose Rizal when a similar affront had been hurled at the “indolent” Filipinos of his time. (A couple of years ago I was equally disposed when an old hate e-mail accusing Filipinos as spurious Asians had landed on my inbox and so I blogged about The Asian hoax.)

Rizal’s answer in The Indolence of the Filipino was not surprising:
The evil is not that indolence exists more or less latently but that it is fostered and magnified. Among men, as well as among nations, there exist not only aptitudes but also tendencies toward good and evil. To foster the good ones and aid them, as well as correct the evil and repress them, would be the duty of society and governments, if less noble thoughts did not occupy their attention. The evil is that the indolence in the Philippines is a magnified indolence, an indolence of the snowball type, if we may be permitted the expression, an evil that increases in direct proportion to the square of the periods of time, an effect of misgovernment and of backwardness, as we said, and not a cause thereof. Others will hold the contrary opinion, especially those who have a hand in the misgovernment, but we do not care . . .
In defense of the “degenerate species,” Rizal made the case that Filipinos, before their “discovery and conquest” were, among others, shipbuilders, artillery manufacturers, international traders and warriors of great consequence. He did not spare both the Whiteman and the Chinaman.

How do the Europeans live in tropical countries? Rizal answered his rhetorical question: “Surrounded by a numerous train of servants, never going afoot but riding in a carriage, needing servants not only to take off their shoes for them but even to fan them! And yet they live and eat better, they work for themselves to get rich, with the hope of a future, free and respected, while the poor colonist, the indolent colonist, is badly nourished, has no hope, toils for others, and works under force and compulsion!”

And the “industrious” Chinaman: “so rarely does he take up agriculture . . . .”

The current efforts of Dr. Amy H. Sturgis to dismantle The Myth of the Passive Indian, by which “generations of scholars took as gospel and applied to other indigenous groups” who “had no real history prior to European contact, when Western influences at last put them on a path to genuine social evolution,” are no less Rizalian.

Dr. Sturgis wrote that during the Columbian conquest, the Aztecs were “more sophisticated in terms of construction and cleanliness than their counterparts across the Atlantic” and had made “extensive use of ceramics to build up the soil, elaborate road systems, and artificial ponds and canals—‘a highly elaborate built environment, rivaling that of many contemporary complex societies of the Americas and elsewhere.’”

Nick Joaquin, on the other hand, while demeaning his compatriots who “act on a pygmy scale,” extolled the Whiteman who are “accustomed to thinking dynamically” and their “murderer mentality” which, according to Joaquin, the Filipinos lack, and also hailed the Chinese who “clambered to the top of economic heap and are still right up there.”

If Joaquin’s subjects were the Semites, and he was not as vague as T.S Elliot, then the Jews would raise hell to bake what would be his Nobel Prize. But fortunately for him, Filipinos, as Joaquin claimed, are small-minded and don’t think as big as transforming a dessert into a verdant field or could only mount an uprising “large in number but small in scope.” So, the foremost Filipino novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and biographer remains a revered National Artist, the highest award for arts in the Philippines.

“We seem to be making less and less effort, thinking ever smaller, doing even smaller. The air droops with a feeling of inadequacy. We can’t cope; we don’t respond; we are not rising to challenges.” By “We” Joaquin meant the run-of-the-mill Filipinos excluding of course icons like him or towering personages like Jose Rizal or the “Chinese in the Philippines” who can handle “the big deal.”

If Rizal had been hell-bent to uphold the Filipino race, Joaquin’s denigration was unrelenting:
The depressing fact in Philippine history is what seems to be our native aversion to the large venture, the big risk, the bold extensive enterprise. The pattern may have been set by the migration. We try to equate the odyssey of the migrating barangays with that of the Pilgrim, Father of America, but a glance of the map suffices to show the differences between the two ventures. One was a voyage across an ocean into an unknown world; the other was a going to and from among neighboring islands. One was a blind leap into space; the other seems, in comparison, a mere crossing of rivers. The nature of the one required organization, a sustained effort, special skills, special tools, the building of large ships. The nature of the other is revealed by its vehicle, the barangay, which is a small rowboat, not a seafaring vessel designed for long distances on the avenues of the ocean.
Today, the small rowboat mentality, a social phenomenon that has swept the country, has caught the serious attention of world-class observers and in the Philippines has become the only pillar of economic growth and development vastly outperforming the combined achievements of the “Chinese in the Philippines” and the once-almighty Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that bigheads in IMF and World Bank have prescribed for the Philippine government to seize upon. The IMF/WB strategy has foundered on the rocks condemning a third of the population to isang kahig isang tuka subsistence or otherwise, if fortunate to posses some skills, to brave the uncertainty of distant shores like the seafarers of the old realm, for many “a blind leap into space.”

The barangays of eight to 10 millions Filipinos (the annual deployment is estimated to be close to a million now) have settled in exile in some 193 countries as tourism professionals in Dubai, seamen in Sydney, mechanics in Nigeria, domestic helpers in Hong Kong, teachers in South Korea, japayukis in Japan, and health care providers in USA, remitting back home dollars, dinar and dirham to the tune of US$100 billion since 1975, or ten times the Marshall Plan, the US economic aid used to rebuild Europe after WWII. And this is happening on a “people-powered” philanthropy of the tingi system variety on a monumental global scale.

The economics of migration, born out of petty thinking and desperation, is now the big picture. The swellheads in the elite community will not say it loud - that the national development policy revolves around the phenomenon and that the Philippine economy today is consumption-driven, propped by the economic activities of the Filipino diasporic community, small in amounts but large, nay, gigantic, in scope, much like the “little drops of water that make the mighty ocean” to borrow the highbrow gentility of a literary biggie, yet the much admired Nick Joaquin.

9 Comments:

Blogger Karl M. Garcia said...

Well said!

August 13, 2007 3:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an English instructor in Nagoya, not a japayuki. Why do you guys in the USA look down on your kapwa?

August 13, 2007 10:24 AM  
Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

Ms. Anonie (of course I'm guessing, Ms.), could you have also said these:
__________

When you hear the word, japayuki, you instantly conjure images of young, sultry, doe-eyed Filipina girls dancing onstage, being ogled by rich Japanese businessmen in gray suits. Japayuki is the term used by Filipinos to refer to Filipino women who work in Japan as entertainers, hostesses or dancers.

What a lot of people don't know is that japayuki, in the Japanese language, literally means "going to Japan". In the same way that if someone is going to America, he will called America-yuki. If you add the suffix –yuki with the name of a place, it literally means that you're heading towards that destination. With that in mind, anyone going to Japan—whether they are ambassadors, doctors or entertainers—should really be called japayuki. Unfortunately, this is not the case and in my opinion, this word is still used in a derogatory way to call Filipinas who work in the entertainment industry in Japan.

Before moving to England last year, my British husband and I both worked and lived in Tokyo for six years. I worked as an English language teacher for the first four years and moved up to help manage and direct two different children's schools during my last two years there. Looking for a decent teaching job in Japan was tough for me as an Asian. Generally, the Japanese look for three things in a good English teacher; 1) honey-coloured hair, 2) blue eyes, and 3) a Western accent. Okay, so I exaggerate. But you know what I mean. For them, “real” English can only be taught by those they refer to as “native” English speakers. For Asians like me, I needed to work harder just to even get an interview. It doesn’t even matter if you speak with a posh Oxford accent. If you come from a non-western country, prepare to fight for a place in the interview room. I remember insisting on giving free sample lessons to show potential employers that I may be brown-skinned but I was very much capable of teaching the English language.
_________

Please check the full confession of Beth, an e-japayuki here

btw, I'm not sure if the "J" in japayuki should be in upper case or lower case. Does any one know?

August 13, 2007 1:35 PM  
Blogger the spy in the sandwich said...

you forget to include the fact than in making this claim of a heritage of smallness, nick joaquin does an exhaustive list of evidences to support it. i, too, began reading this essay with patriotic fervor, and i was ready to dismantle it, but mr. joaquin is careful in his consideration, and his examples are real and persuasive. i find the essay to be descriptive rather than prescriptive, and that is its power. for me, instead of accusing mr. joaquin of exhibiting a kind of treason, i would rather take what he has written as a challenging eye-opener to what is in fact going on: a heritage of smallness that pervades almost every aspect of our society. my problem is not that mr. joaquin has written this essay, but that not enough people has read it to learn from its subtle challenge for all of us to rise beyond this handicap of smallness.

August 23, 2007 12:08 PM  
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