We Filipinos are lucky to be in the position we are in now: we speak English with the best in the world (sometimes even better), we enjoy the best things the world has to offer us, and we are able to draw from any number of inspirations and influences in order to create things that are art on so many levels. However, we are and have, for most of our history, been at risk of forgetting who we are.
People have always questioned why we even teach Philippine literature, consequently Philippine culture and history, in English. Some even go as far as petitioning to stop using English as a medium for education, instead teaching everything in Filipino. They follow through by saying that people who do not speak and write primarily in Filipino are not “true” Filipinos. These people are missing the point; the point is not really to not speak in English, but to never forget how to speak Filipino. Never forget where you come from, lest you lose your idea of where you are going (to provide an inferior translation of Rizal).
Installing Filipino pride in today’s youth is indeed a difficult task for a teacher today. What use, after all, are 1521 (the year Magellan “discovered” the Philippines), the 1898 Treaty of Paris (the treaty that handed our country over to the Americans) and Proclamation 1081 (Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law) to somebody other than a point, a check mark in a test paper?
But numbers are simply numbers, and facts simply facts. The real tests of pride come much more spontaneously: when the “Lupang Hinirang” (not the “Bayang Magiliw”, mind you) plays in the background all of a sudden, when a student wears a malong/bahag properly, when a child looks at a grocery aisle and decides to buy Nips instead of M&M’s. Being aware of these subtle yet powerful displays is essential to identity. Being able to tell what makes us Filipino, and how our superhuman senses of humor and self-deprecation can make even national calamities look like dance parties, can give us a sense of pride that no amount oppression can remove from us.
The point? Never forget where we and you come from, and you will never forget who you are.
And just to make things clear: yes, it really is more fun in the Philippines.