Wrong message, misplaced nationalism, and poor wit

For me being a Filipino is to choose to be the best, to strive for the finest in what ever I do. Sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.

I do not understand Aristotle Cruz and his recent post. His attempt to take the moral high ground in response to the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the recent “What’s Your Mix” campaign immediately degenerates into nothing but immature mud-slinging. His facts are nothing but his unsolicited opinions, and instead of providing a voice that attempts to make sense of the current situation, he just adds fuel to the fire. It’s really nothing more than a waste of bandwidth.

What is Aristotle being all upset about anyway? What is this hypocrisy he ascribes to everyone who got upset? What is his point? I do not see any. The entire piece is nothing more than the rantings of an upset child who refuses to take responsibility for how we as a nation and as a race are developing. He is nothing but a heckler on the sidelines, like those two old gentlemen on the Muppet Show, who make a lot of noise but contribute nothing.

All right, now that I have finished indulging myself, let me get to my point: the Bayo campaign is simply, an example of a bad concept, supported by equally bad copywriting. To equate the mixing and matching of casual separates to the varied ethnic backgrounds possessed by many young Filipinos these days makes for poor sense and bad marketing. 

I also echo the sentiments of the grammar hounds that have taken a look at the ad; it is also poorly written. My apologies to the advertising agency that Bayo contracted; but their work here is sloppy and is not responsive to psychographics of their intended target market. While I may not have an advertising background, it doesn’t take a marketing genius to see that this ad just does not work. Which is why it was open to a lot of misinterpretation. 

What was the objective of this ad, to begin with? Get people to buy Bayo clothes, right? So why mix up the message with ethnicity and cast aspersion on Filipinos who choose to get together with people of other racial backgrounds? One of the commenters to Aristotle’s tirade was correct when she said that it generalizes these unions as whoring. 

Didn’t the ad agency think of this during conceptualization? Or were they just too caught up in what seemed to be a cute idea to properly gauge the repercussions. Poor work, very poor work.

Proud to be Filipino

For a long time now, I have seen people looking for ways to display their pride in being Filipino. I personally am very happy about this. While it may come across as being balat-sibuyas for the most part, I see it as a generation of Filipinos trying to find out what it is that makes them happy, even proud to be Filipino. 

These are the birth pains of a renewed nationalism, the likes of which I have not seen. Historically, nationalistic fervor seemed to be around from the time of Rizal to around the time of Manuel Quezon, but somewhere along the way it got lost. I am happy that Filipinos are finding it within themselves to be proud of who they are.

Growing up in Toronto in the mid-90s, I wondered why of all of the different races I grew up with, we Filipinos were the ones who were most eager to “fit in”; to disappear as it were, within the Canadian mosaic. 

I remember a classmate in high school once telling me, “if someone asks you, say you’re Chinese-Jamaican,” as if being Filipino was some sort of a shameful secret. It was something I could not, for the life of me, understand. I had friends back then, who were proud to be Croatian – Croatia was not even a country back then – and here we were hiding the fact of our heritage.

In university, I found a group of like souls, those who are proud to be Filipino, and don’t hide it at all. In fact, we celebrated it, surprising our elders by coming out in force every June 12; young, Filipino, and proud. 

We strove to rise above the internecine squabbles our parents’ groups indulged in, which were mainly between people from different provinces, vestiges of the inter-provincial prejudices they held against each other back in the homeland. We were not Ilocano-Canadians, Ilonggo-Canadians or Bicolano-Canadians. We were Filipino-Canadians, plain and simple.

In a move that baffles a lot of people I talk to, even today, I went home. I saw it as a duty to myself, after having availed of the advantages of a North American education and upbringing, to come back to the Philippines and do something here; to contribute to the development of the nation. 

Being a Filipino

While I may not have done as spectacularly as I thought I would, the desire for positive contribution to the Philippines is still something I hold within me, and in whatever way that I can, I help our country move forward, by being a Filipino I could be proud of. 

So yes, I follow traffic rules, pay my taxes, keep abreast with national events, and speak out when those who are placed in authority do the rest of the country disrespect. For me, being a Filipino is not a matter of birthplace, of genetics, or country of residence. It is a choice, one that I make every day, every moment. It is not dependent on whether or not the people around me are being “unFilipino”; I do not presume to live their lives for them.

So what does being a Filipino mean for me? What do I celebrate about my being Filipino? Let me give you a few items of what, to me is a fairly long list:

  • Our creativity: Filipinos have excelled in every form of artistic and athletic expression imaginable, I don’t think I need to cite examples, but everywhere I look, from the people behind the counter at a fast food restaurant, to my cab driver for the day, every Filipino I’ve met is proficient at some art form or sport.
  • Our dedication to family: While the world has been rocked by various financial crises, our OFWs have taken up the gauntlet, and have done whatever they could to continue supporting their families. At home, the lengths I see people go to make sure their families are taken care of amazes me to no end.  I believe that this is what our nascent nationalism is built on; we defend our national pride the way we would defend a bullied sibling.  It can lead to some awkward moments, but like I said, it’s a start.
  • Our cosmopolitan outlook: Having been to many countries, it amazes me how insular some people in the developed world can be. Some people in other countries will be born, live out their lives, and die in the same small town or suburb. Meanwhile, I know or have read about Filipinos all over the globe. From Alaska to the Galapagos, and every point in between, I have seen, met, and know a Filipino who has visited, worked, or lived there. We adapt, and our psyches are resilient enough to deal with whatever life throws at us.


Choosing to be the best

I’m not trying to paint a rosy picture here. There are obviously a lot of challenges our country and our people face. What I am saying is that Filipinos have it within themselves to be great people. There is a lot for us to be proud of. 

I borrow a distinction from a friend here, something that apparently developed from the Filipino-American communities in California. They break down “Pilipino” like this: Pili, to choose or to be discriminating; and Pino, the finest or the best. For me being a Filipino is to choose to be the best, to strive for the finest in what ever I do. Sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.

Which is why when people like Aristotle appear, and try to trivialize what seems to me to be a valid expression of nationalism, I have to speak up. And this is what I have to say: let it be, let it grow. Nationalism and Filipino pride, are, as with most other things, in flux. 

Every Filipino, young or old must define for themselves what it is about being a Filipino that makes them proud to be one. And while I do not wish to curtail Aristotle’s right to get up on his soapbox and call everyone a hypocrite. What I will defend though is everybody else’s right to express their nationalism and pride however way they want. 

It isn’t shameful or “nakakahiya.” There is no philosophical or logical inconsistency in liking K-Pop, watching anime on TV, going to the theater to watch The Avengers, and being Filipino. If one was to live in Aristotle’s logically consistent world; then one (would Aristotle want to be the first?) must eschew the comforts of the modern age, strap on some tribal attire, head into the forests, and live as our ancient forebears would. Only then can one be suitably devoid of the hypocrisy he ascribes to every one else.

And yet, if you noticed, I ascribed my own standards to that last rant. So let me get back to the point: there’s nothing wrong. 

We happen to live in a democracy, where everyone is free to express their opinion. If the Tulfos can go on national TV and threaten people with physical harm, then why deny some people their upsets? The flames of nationalism are bound to singe more than a few people; and in this case, they will immolate some poor copywriter.

Peace, man. – Rappler.com

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