By Lalaine Chu Benitez
119 years of Independence on the 12th of June 2017. When we think about independence, freedom and liberation, what always comes to mind is breaking free from major forces that subjugate us – from the Spanish conquistadores who took our country as their own for over 400 years, to martial law and oppressive past regimes that curtailed the freedom and growth of our nation.
Liberation seems like such a big word that we rarely ever think of it as something personal, internal and related to our day-to-day existence. When in actuality, there are also things within us that paralyze us and hold us back from growing, not only as individuals, but also as a nation.
If you are tuned in to social media for the last year and half, you might have noticed that something else has captured the Philippines. It’s neither a world power nor an opportunistic neighbor from across the shores; instead, there is this creeping destructive force that seems to have quietly laid siege to the collective Filipino psyche.
It would seem that overnight, we have been taken over by social media trolls, ranters and hooligans; purveyors of fake news – both individuals and what once were thought of as respected media outlets, as well as groups dedicated to cause unrest and instability. Every single day, our newsfeeds are dominated by Pinoys versus Pinoys – the “yellow cult” versus the “dutertards”, the “decent” versus the “vulgar,” the “intellectuals” versus the “incompetents,” and the “know-it-alls” versus the “troll-‘em-alls.” There’s an online brawl over everything and anything, from our president, to our government, to our beauty queens, to copycat advertising campaigns, even over obscure popularity contests on the internet, and yes, we even fight about “unli rice” these days!
We’ve always been nervous about China usurping our sovereign rights. What we haven’t realized is that our real and very present oppressor is in fact the “warring mentality” that has become so pervasive among us Filipinos that it runs from the top echelons of power down to the street level “masa.” Whether we are aware of it or not, the fact that we can’t seem to agree with one another (or agree to disagree) or be able to participate in productive discourse, and how we seem to love denigrating each other for all the world to see, has become a hindrance to moving things ahead in our country to serve the common good.
Perhaps, you might think that it’s a small thing. Maybe for you, it’s even something to laugh about. Surely, swearing at a fellow Pinoy or trolling a post you didn’t agree with are nothing compared to our country’s humongous problems – drugs, Marawi, Metro Manila traffic and deep-rooted corruption to name a few, that desperately need to be solved. But consider this. Wouldn’t it be good if we can all be part of positive change by building on things we can control ourselves – starting from our mindset and the way we communicate with fellow Filipinos?
We can’t fix all our country’s problems with mere niceties and the proverbial joining of hands. But we can start looking into solutions when we can talk productively with each other. Furthermore, it’s high time to stop ranting. Instead of just complaining about our country and about each other, how about actually doing something productive? You want something better? Go do something about it. Finally, if you can’t be part of the solution, at the very least, don’t be part of the destruction.
It’s time to liberate ourselves from our new oppressors. Ditch the deadweight. By doing so, we may be able to find ourselves a lot lighter and a step closer towards the change that we all want and deserve.
Lalaine Chu Benitez
Editor-in-Chief and aspiring urban farmer “almost superwoman” Lalaine has been driving Illustrado’s mission to uplift Filipinos in the region for almost a decade now. A former corporate dynamo living in Dubai for over 20 years, she has seen enough to appreciate that the best things in life can’t be bought, and that in this day and age, authenticity could be one’s best asset.
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