I used to be a parochial silly little Filipina.

I thought my parents were traitors for opting to work abroad when they could have stayed on in the Philippines and stood by me and my siblings, as we came of age.

In college, my friends and I would gossip about a fellow “Iskolar ng Bayan” who came from the US, and who claimed that English was her first language.  We would wince in disbelief whenever she would “try” to speak in badly mangled Tagalog, or effortlessly mouth off English with a distinctive twang, thinking to ourselves, “Ang arte naman nito!

The same judgmental attitude kicked in automatically when I met a couple of siblings who grew up here in Dubai.  My friends and I would sneer whenever they would speak English even as we spoke to them in Tagalog; they insisted that they didn’t know the Pambansang Wika, but spoke Kapampangan at home instead.

I moved to the UAE with a heavy heart, prodded by my parents, thinking that I was committing the ultimate act of treason against the country I so love.

But it seems that distance could actually give one a better perspective.

Out here, one comes to realize how big the world truly is. How diverse cultures are, and how different (and ironically similar) to each other Filipinos of varying backgrounds are.

Being in a different country and existing with Filipinos from around the Philippines, I have realized how we Tagalogs sometimes discriminate against our own kind, thinking that the whole Filipino community should revolve around our language (when there are over 100 of them in the Philippines), and that our country is Manila – period.

I have also come to develop a new appreciation for our home looking at it with fresh eyes, but at the same time understanding that moving to another country is not only an opportunity, but also a right, as people follow their bliss around the world.

Most of all, I have realized that love for country does not reside in the superficial – skin color, language, personality traits, or even choosing to live back home, and that the capacity to contribute to the betterment of our motherland and our people is a reality even when you are a thousand miles away.

It is our sacred duty to hand down our traditions, to teach our children the values passed on to us through generations, and ignite the pride and love for country which every true Filipino nourishes in his heart.  Our culture depends on that for its survival.

But in the same way that it is our responsibility to hold on to our roots, so should we also understand and accept the progressive evolution and the growing diversity within our community.

The Filipino is no longer limited by the virtual “four walls” of the barrio, or even the Philippines, for that matter.  He exists in all corners of the globe, born and bred within and outside the homeland, in all skin colors, with different tongues and mindsets.

Despite the variations, we are all inevitably and undeniably tied together by one thing – the knowledge that we are all Filipinos fuelled by our love for family and the hope that our country will continue to rise successful, proud and free.

As we commemorate the 113th anniversary of Philippine Independence this month, let us further liberate ourselves by expanding our minds and ultimately embracing progress, tempered by being in touch with our roots.

These could only serve towards the continued enrichment of the Filipino existence.

Taas Noo, Filipino!

Lalaine Chu-Benitez

Publisher & Editor-in-Chief

 

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