Time to Rise and Shine

By | March 2, 2012

Saying it obliquely is perhaps the most effective, least antagonistic manner to focus attention on some pernicious character traits that plague Filipino individuals and institutions.

On Feb. 17, officials in Toronto announced the team-up of the Manila-based network giant ABS-CBN and UGAT (Ugnayan at Tulong para sa Maralitang Pamilya) Foundation in a world-wide search for Filipino organizations that exemplify everything good about the Filipino.

Indeed, these are times to rise and shine and let go of the ills. It’ll be a big therapeutic pause to stay out of the sordid spectacle in the Philippine capital where the country’s top leaders are locked in high-level mudslinging and bloodless combat for political power.

Today is probably the worst moment to be a Filipino. The heroic struggles of many Filipinos worldwide are eclipsed by the unending bickering, the finger-pointing, and the extensive corruption in high places and the constant infighting for selfish ends and personal gains in the homeland.

But thanks to ABS-CBN and UGAT, our attention is being re-directed towards the uplifting of our souls and the elimination of the many negatives around us.

The occasion may be coincidental but it is very timely in launching what to me is essentially a global call for an end to that affliction so pervasive in many Filipino communities, the so-called “crab mentality” – a malady fueled by jealousy, envy, fault-finding, rebuke and parochialism.

Crab mentality is a national disease. It is, says Wikipedia, a “desperate lust to pull other people down, denigrating them rather than letting them get ahead or pursue their dreams. It is an unwillingness to allow someone to get out of dire or bad life situations, often being foiled by friends and family members who keep sucking them back in.”

Most Filipinos knew it by heart; in fact, they’re one of its unrelenting practitioners in the Filipino Diaspora so much so that
it seems already part of the fabric of their society, be it in the family, community or national level.

Initiating the search may well be the beginning of an institutional foray to root it out of the Filipino psyche. Yes, by laying the ground rules, the network is basically trying to contain the scourge.

Those that qualify will receive the Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Global Bayaning Pilipino, an award named after the late “Father of Philippine Broadcasting” who was so moved in 1994 by the courage of an unidentified Filipina maid in Hongkong to save a child and got run over by a car and killed in the process.

The fresh new approach – targeting the elimination of crab mentality and its many forms – has been launched in Toronto and apparently in eight other capitals in America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Nominations are accepted until March 15.

While the organizers didn’t say in exactly the same words as I write here, it is obvious that they are putting out the clarion call for unity and the slaying of this ailment that has defined Filipinos everywhere.

The positive spin makes an attractive cloak but when one comes down to it, the award amounts to a blanket condemnation of the very things Filipinos abhor but continue to practice. It is in fact an exercise in reverse psychology.

This is the most opportune time to train the national spotlight on those working for change. We’ve been so long engrossed in mutual destruction. The political leadership has failed to inspire us, instead it engaged in gutter politics against other branches of government.

Network officials said the award is intended “to honor extraordinary heroism by ordinary Filipinos in the service of their countrymen”.

As a Filipino I am proud to hear this. As a new transplant to Canada, I feel empowered knowing there are corporate institutions like ABS-CBN and community organizations such as UGAT willing to re-shape our views of ourselves as a people and rekindle pride and dignity among us.

At this point, to purge Filipino communities of crab mentality would be an act of heroism. In that context, the Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Global Bayaning Pilipino is a welcome development since it puts a premium on the selection process through a list of requirements that touches the core of what a Filipino truly is.

Quite appropriately, the award is named after Geny Lopez Jr., a “bayani” or hero himself, having endured years of incarceration by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos during the martial law regime until his daring escape from prison in 1977.

But more than this honorary, the award is in keeping with a family tradition begun by his father, the nationalist Don Eugenio “Ening” Lopez Sr., to promote and preserve Filipino heritage, instill pride and develop a unified Filipino spirit.

I knew father and son from a distance, having worked at The Manila Chronicle (now defunct) at a very young age, first as proof-reader and later as staff reporter, a stint cut short by Marcos who closed it down in September 1972, seized its assets and reopened it through his brother-in-law Kokoy Romualdez as the Times Journal.

My 93-year-old father (now living in California) accumulated 25 years as pressman at the paper’s printing press in Aduana, Intramuros where the Chronicle was headquartered until it embraced a new technology at that time and moved to a swank new office in Pasig.

Given this background, Filipino communities here and elsewhere are in good, reliable hands and trustworthy partners. The Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Global Bayaning Pilipino is a reflection of a historical commitment towards community- and nation-building.

It is the next best thing to being named a true modern-day hero. #