By Joanne Zapanta-Andrada
Love your country. Your country is the land where your parents sleep, where spoken that language in which the chosen of your heart, blushing, whispered the first word of love; it is the home that God has given you that by striving to perfect yourself therein you may prepare to ascend to him. – Giuseppe Mazzani
No one can truly pinpoint exactly when we stopped being proud of being Filipino. Some of us are honest enough to admit that we never were proud to be Asians to begin with, let alone be known as brown-skinned Pinoys.
If you had a centavo for every time you have read, heard or said a deprecating comment on our country and our people, you would have saved, liked thousands before you, enough for a one-way ticket to Canada where, at best, a blue-collar job may be waiting for you. For no one can put down a Filipino better than his fellow Filipino. With countrymen like us, who needs enemies?
Having observed our growing jadedness and apathy, actor Leo Martinez prevailed on his fellow United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) commissioners to brainstorm on how to remind the average Juan Dela Cruz that there is still much to be proud of about our nation.
Leo asked a simple question: “Ano ang isang bagay, tao o gawain sa iyong lugar na pwede mong ipagmalaki?”
I recall reacting immediately to Leo’s question by announcing, “The halo-halo of Guagua, Pampanga is without equal! It is made out of four simple ingredients and yet nothing has ever matched its exquisite flavor!”
Chair Menchu Padilla recalled, “Lipa’s kapeng barako was so famous that it was well-known in Paris. In fact, Lipa itself was known as the Paris of the Philippines!”
Designer Inno Sotto declared that the southern Filipinos could, using indigenous materials, create the most beautiful artistic objects.
Leo could not contain his enthusiasm: “Ako taga Balayan, Batangas kung saan matamis ang santol at sampalok, masaya at basang-basa ang Parada ng Lechon (June 24) at masarap ang orig na bagoong Balayan. Maipagmamalaki ko rin ang mga dagat na palibot sa amin, ang suot kong Burdang Taal, ang kalapit naming taal Volcano at kababayan ko at kamag-anak na si Ryan Cayabyab. Masarap din ang aming sinaing na tulingan, puto at kutsinta at marami pa ring lumang bahay na puno ng kasaysayan.”
A true-blue Boholano, actor Cesar Montano proudly pronounced the ube of his province to be not only rich in taste but steeped in historical significance. He pointed out that to this day in Bohol, one could only handle ube with the utmost respect because during World War II, the people of Bohol owed their survival to the humble root crop.
Ever true to her craft, Manila-bred Lisa Macuja-Elizalde heralded her internationally-acclaimed Ballet Manila as a troupe that the country could be proud of.
University of the Philippines professor Edru Abraham shared that in his beloved Cagayan Valley , it is common for a person to speak four languages. He added that they had the most varied terrain of any region in the country – the broadest valley cut through the mightiest river and three of the most awesome ranges which included the Sierra Madre, the mother of mountains, west of the Cordilleras and south of Caraballo range.
Within minutes of our personal manifestations, the room was charged with hope and bravado. That day we in UNESCO gave birth to a pride campaign aptly called “ Doon po sa Amin.”
In later days and meetings, members of other commissions enthusiastically shared their views, talents and resources to the cause. TV host Cheche Lazaro (UNESCO Communications Committee member) shared with the group her video library wherein thousands of footages on our country’s tangible and intangible treasures are kept.
Could this commitment to conduct ourselves pro-actively be infectious in a nation that eats disappointment and disillusionment for breakfast, if people eat at all? We will soon find out.
Text your raves
Through all forms of media, a contest will be created wherein the various UNESCO committees, with the help of Globe Telecom and other sponsors, will pose to the nation this question: “Ano ang isang bagay, tao o gawain sa iyong lugar ang pwede mong ipagmalaki?” Filipinos can submit their answers through text messages. Depending on the theme of the month, responses may be about food, persons, places, flowers, trees, fruits, animals, handicrafts, etc; anything at all that makes you proud. At the end of a designated period of time, those adjudged as the most interesting answer will be awarded prizes and featured on TV and print.
We hope that through the texting craze, messages of local pride will override the countless text jokes and trumped-up coup warnings that have been the staple of our mental impressions.
It took several years to get us so disenchanted with ourselves. A single campaign certainly will not be enough to restore health to psyche, but it is a start. We may be the source of our country’s lethargy but we can also be the elixir of its revival. No matter how varied our political, cultural or religious inclinations may be, at the end of the day we are all Filipinos. If we look into our hearts, we may come to realize that in spite of all our frustration and despair, we all know where home truly is – doon po sa amin!
Originally published in Sunday Lifestyle of Philippine Daily Inquirer issue of June 6, 2004.