By Nicholo Jallores
Just what does it mean when a Filipino is referred to as “liberated?”
Used to be that the word “liberated” carried a sinister connotation amongst Filipinos. Before, to be “liberated” suggested promiscuity and wobbly morals; a degradation of the traditional social values that were associated with the Filipino family archetype. To be “liberated” was to be hyper-Westernized, to shed one’s conservative upbringing in favor of the more open sensibilities of the US and Europe. But things have changed. The world has been made smaller by great strides in digital communication, and cultural transference happens in seconds over the Internet. The Western world is not the exotic and tantalizing frontier it once was. It’s just another website address, or a page to like on Facebook. “Liberated” is no longer synonymous with “loose.” In fact, it has become a benchmark.
Whether the Filipino is truly free can be a matter of fierce and often divisive debate. Some pundits say that we do not truly deserve the independence and democracy that we have fought for, implying that we would have been better off if we had just settled on being an American colony. The Filipino, – in every sense of the word – is free, but knowing what to do with that freedom can sometimes be tricky. Unless we understand just what we can be free of, we will never know what it is like to be truly free.
Liberty is not just a state of political independence. First and foremost, it is a state of mind, and then it is a daily practice. To be free, you have to think and act as a free man. Unburden thyself with the usual trifles that plague the Filipino worldview. Here are some measures that you can take now, right this instant, to assert your independence.
Free yourself from Indio Mentality
We have not been referred to as indio’s for more than a hundred years, and yet a lot of Filipinos insist on thinking and behaving like second class citizens – that is, operating with a slave’s mindset of having less opportunities by virtue of race, nationality, and social standing. This can affect us in two ways: 1.) We think we are less worthy of having the same success as other nationalities, so we lower our standards and limit our expectations, and/or 2.) We think there aren’t enough opportunities around for Filipinos, so we become crab-minded and knock each other down for scraps. This is a travesty because not only does it cripple our chances of succeeding as individuals, it inhibits us from coming together as a community. Free yourself from the lie that you deserve less and have less because you are a Filipino. You have a shot at good life, just like everybody else.
Free yourself from Regionalism and Clannishness
Filipinos uphold the traditional family and barrio archetype to such dizzying heights that they tend to work in silos and operate very insularly even in the workplace or community setting, i.e. tayo-tayo lang. Throw in the Filipinos’ knack for being hyper-competitive and you have a recipe for a social disaster. We cannot put up a united front because we are segregated in groups, each with their own exclusive interests and self-centered agenda. While there is nothing wrong with finding your own support group of like-minded individuals, we must take care not to inadvertently turn our sense of community into regionalism and clannishness. Otherwise, we will limit our opportunities for learning insights and fostering productive relations with other networks. Free yourself from the belief that you can only be in one group. You are a dynamic individual with a diverse and multifaceted character. You don’t have to be just one thing for one group. You can be many different things.
Free yourself from Financial Anxiety
If in this day and age, your financial strategy still revolves around the medieval concept of “Isang Kahig, Isang Tuka,” then you are not only mismanaging your money: you are also culling your chances of securing a brighter future for yourself and your family. There are plenty of resources online that you can check out and on-ground seminars that you can attend to improve the way you manage your finances, but most of them will teach you these two fundamental tenets:
1.) Review and increase your income streams, and
2.) Save first, and then spend.
Your money does not have to come in from just one source. You can take on freelance jobs, accept consultancy projects, invest in a small enterprise or even try your knack for the stock market to diversify your income portfolio. And please: before you go for a mad dash towards the new iPhone, make sure that you have taken due care of your savings first. Redirect some of your disposable income towards your savings account. Free yourself from the notion you are a slave to your money. You need control your finances, and not the other way around. And remember: you don’t need “stuff,” as much as you need a stable future.
Free yourself from Celebrity and Media Worship
It’s one thing to admire the way actors look or the way singers sound, but to hold him them high on a pedestal and think that they can do no wrong? Ridiculous. For far too long, celebrity worship has been used as a tool to addle the intellect of the masses to great and devastating effect. Artista’s dictate what we buy in the grocery, how we raise our kids, and what we write on our ballots. Show business has permeated every aspect of our daily life, and it bears questioning just how much control we are willing to relinquish to our Kapuso’s and Kapamila’s. Free yourself from the illusion that celebrities are better than us. Fame is not a virtue. It’s an occupation, just like any other. Just because your favorite telenovela starlet endorses a certain brand of toothpaste doesn’t mean that it really is the best in the market. Do your research and make up your own mind, as any wise and prudent person would do.
Free yourself from Lynch Mob Mentality
Filipinos tend to be so inordinately self-conscious about the opinions of others that they tend to opt the consensus, instead of forming and standing up for their own choices. We have a “follower mentality”; a real propensity for just jumping into the nearest available bandwagon for the sake of convenience and fitting in, instead of treading our own direction. This is why Filipinos are such fierce brand loyalists and trendsetters. It’s also why they are susceptible to mass media manipulation. Free yourself from the misconception that because everyone believes it, you should believe it too. In argumentation theory, it’s called “Argumentum Ad Populum:” a logical fallacy that concludes that a proposition is true simply because many believe it to be true. Being different doesn’t automatically make you a deviant. Don’t be afraid to stand out and have your own unique voice.
Filipino, take your freedom!
The freedom that we enjoy today stems from the blood, toil, and strife of our forefathers. We must never take it for granted. We must appreciate it, enact it, and keep it alive by thought and by deed. Take your liberty, dear kabayan. Take it and run with it.