genius by Conrado de Quiros, Philippine Daily Inquirer
the same e-mail Rina Jimenez-David put out the other week, the one
written by one Mustafa Idrees in Arab News, a Jeddah-based newspaper,
which carries a Filipino Page to cater to the huge Filipino community
have Filipino workers" is a sign youll see in some shops
and trucks in Saudi Arabia. The advertisement derives from the fact
that Filipinos are highly skilled, hardworking and get along well
with people. A contrast apparently with Arab workers, who do not
possess the same virtues. The sign guarantees that a job will be
done well, or indeed done at all.
knows?ask Idrees. One day, they might even see the sign on
toilets. That might be the only way they could guarantee those toilets
would be clean.
warms the heart, as does another e-mail I got listing Filipino inventions
and accomplishments. The list is long, and I can only give a sampling:
Banatao helped develop GUI (graphical user interface), without which
computer screens would now be able to register only text. Abelardo
Aguilar, a doctor from Iloilo, co-discovered Erythromycin. Maria
Carlita Rex-Doran produced a concoction from ampalaya that treats
diabetes and HIV infection, which won for her the World Intellectual
Property gold medal in 1989. Ramon Barba discovered that spraying
mango trees with potassium nitrate induced flowering all-year round,
making the Philippines a leading exporter of mangoes and mango products.
Rodolfo Aquino helped develop the IR8, the rice strain that sparked
the Green Revolution.
a lighter note, Filipinos invented the commercial fluorescent lamp,
the karaoke (yes, despite the Japaneses claim to it) and Filipino-Americans
are the most wired ethnic group in the United States64 percent
of Asian-Americans are "netizens" while 85 percent of
are also the preferred OFWs in many countries.
does all this mean? Well, two things.
the Filipino obviously does not lack talent. There is no truth to
the rumor that our capacity to make a mess of this country comes
from genes. The Filipino is monumentally inventive, which should
be obvious from the way he has transformed the jeep into the jeepney.
That transformation shows that the Filipino cannot just do things
well but that he can do things in style. The jeepney adds not only
whole new dimensions to the utility of the jeepit seats more,
at the very leastit also adds whole new dimensions to its
aesthetics. Or at least, it improves on its dullness, as some people
may be aesthetically assailed by the gaudiness of the jeepneys
designs (and lighting, especially at night) and loudness of its
art, its been called, and its a pretty apt description
of it. Of course, the jeepney also belches not very colorful soot
and causes traffic snarls that are colorful only in the language
everyone gets to use, but that is another story.
Filipinos capacity for improvisation, or playing things by
ear, is legend. The "playing things by ear" is quite literal,
Filipino musicians being one of the countrys premium exports
to Asia. The sign, "We Have Filipino Workers," in Saudi
Arabia has a counterpart in many Asian countries, which is, "Filipino
band playing tonight." That is a guarantee of satisfaction,
a Filipino band not merely being able to play (Western) music exceptionally
well but being able to field almost any request. Just hum the tune
to the band, as they say in Bangkok and Jakarta, and theyll
be able to play it.
the Filipino does not always use his capacity for inventiveness
and improvisation for useful ends. He uses it as well to lie, cheat
and steal. Or more commonly, he uses it to get around corners. Sometimes
to an astonishing degree: He will go to contortions to get around
the law when following the law is in fact easier. He will, for example,
go to great lengths to find a "contact" in the LTC when
lining up to get a license or to register a car is so much faster.
The concept that the shortest distance between two points is a straight
line is often alien to us.
brings me to the second point. The Filipino does not lack for inventiveness
and improvisation, the Filipino is able to accomplish great things,
the Filipino has gotten very far ahead while working abroad. So
why isnt he able to do so in his own country? Why does he
succeed only in making a mess of his own country?
it has to do with the system. You put the Filipino in a system where
talent and hard work, and not connections, are valued; you put the
Filipino in a system where accomplishment and good work, and not
social status, are rewarded; you put the Filipino in a system where
obeying the law, and not finding a way to skirt it, is considered
wa-is or even cool; the Filipino will put his inventiveness and
improvisational abilities to good use. He will get far ahead in
lifeas he has in other countries. He will be an asset to the
communityas he has been in other countries.
most wasteful thing in life is talent wasted. It is a person lavished
with gifts throwing away those gifts in a life of dissolution and
drunkenness. Which is what makes what weve done to ourselves
doubly tragic. It is not just that we have made a mess of things,
it is that we have done so when we are perfectly capable of carving
out a magnificent edifice fit for the gods.
is a friend of mine who pointed out to me that before the War, we
had amahs, or Chinese maids while today the Chinese (in Hong Kong
and elsewhere) have Filipino maids.
are capable of being masters, but we insist on being servants.
I do not despair that things can be better. The same inventiveness
and capacity for improvisation that we are now putting to the most
execrable uses we can still harness to better ends. That is not
just a job for our leaders, that is a job for ourselves. Of course,
we can always use our own inventiveness and capacity for improvisation
to find excuses not to do it, or to wait till others do it. Or we
can start doing it ourselves.
choice is ours.
featured in HFC website are original texts as originally published
in their respective sources. No word has been edited in any way.]