When the viral video “20 Things I Dislike About The Philippines” came out, I had to remind myself to be objective. After all, the American on that video had the right to express his opinion and exercise his freedom of speech. But only a few minutes after clicking on the link, I began to feel defensive and upset.
It’s not that anything that was said was a lie. Certainly his comments should be taken as constructive criticism and inspire us into positive action to change what needs to be changed. So why was I so offended? Why, when I’m normally so open-minded about everything?
During our travels around Asia in the last few years, my husband and I have come across many foreigners backpacking through the region. I was surprised to find that most of them knew very little about the Philippines.
With no exception, we would convince them that our nearby neighbors like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam to name a few, just have a better way of marketing themselves for tourism. They have ads on TV, travel magazines and billboards. But in my opinion, our 7,107 islands have much more to offer in terms of natural beauty. Another huge plus is the friendly nature of our people, who very conveniently, can all speak English!
This video depicting our country as a less than desirable place to live was interfering with my own personal “It’s More Fun In The Philippines” campaign. So I guess that’s why, misguidedly, I felt personally offended.
So I’ve decided, as my response to that video, that I’d like to share with you my top ten reasons, in random order, for loving the Philippines. I dedicate this list to all of us Pinoys who will always have lots of complaints about our country but will forever be proud to call it our home.
1. Ridiculously fattening food such as Crispy Pata and Chicken Skin Chicharon – Here in New York, I go to a Filipino restaurant called Maharlika, just very occasionally, to indulge in such decadent treats.
2. Boracay and Pamalican Island, Palawan – I can lose myself for hours walking barefoot on the beach, swirling the baby powder-like sand around my toes.
3. Still being the undisputed Texting Capital of the World – It’s a fact. We are just more aware of our phones than any other people. We are connected to each other 24/7. If I leave my phone at home by mistake, I’d feel like I was missing an arm and I would have to go back to get it. I don’t get why here in the States people like to leave voice mail. In the unlikely event I miss your call because I don’t have my phone on me, which means just either one of two things- I’m in the shower or singing on stage, please text, BBM or PM me! I’ll get back to you.
4. Swimming with whale sharks in Southern Leyte – I snorkeled with seven of them. Incredible!
5. Spectacular diving – I’ve yet to dive what many say is the best site in the country, Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our waters are part of the Coral Triangle, boasting of more than 500 species of coral and 3,000 species of fish. My best dives so far were in Coron, Palawan and Malapascua Island, north of Cebu. Diving the Japanese shipwrecks there was an eerily cool experience, as was seeing a thresher shark actually looking straight at me!
6. Pinoys are fun! – We will find any excuse to congregate and have a picnic. When I was a kid, every November 1, on Todos Los Santos, my family would pitch a tent near my lolo’s grave in the cemetery. We would have food and my cousins and I would play all day. In Manila, there is no weekend or weekday when it comes to having a good time. Any night of the week, it’s very easy to find someone to go out with and party.
7. Wearing flipflops (tsinelas) all day, everyday – Some Filipinos can be fashionable. I’ll just never be one of them. In general, we are very casual in dressing and the year-round warm weather allows for constantly looking like we’re on vacation.
8. We’re super mega cheesy – We love watching sappy movies and TV shows, listening to “senti” songs that make us cry. Hey, I’ve totally made a career out of it!
9. Pinoy-style Christmas – I love the constant togetherness and festive atmosphere that normally starts in September, when many department stores start playing Christmas carols. By December, the traffic is unbearable. There are a gazillion parties to attend. We eat way too much queso de bola, ham and ube halaya. There’s just nothing like Christmastime in the Philippines.
10. We can laugh in the face of poverty, even death – We are an amazingly resilient people. We can make light of any situation.
So there you have it. To sum it all up in one word, the best thing about the Philippines is US…
And just to set the record straight, I espouse healthy eating 100%. I love, but only VERY OCCASIONALLY, have crispy pata or chicken skin chicharon.
Rachel Alejandro is co-owner and VP for Marketing at The Sexy Chef, a health food catering company. She has been a singer and actress for over 25 years and continues to perform for Filipino audiences all over the world.