The whole issue just refuses to go quietly.
In Internet blogs, and just about every online forum imaginable, everyone seems to be expressing their views on the controversy. And of course, there is the unceasing coverage on all of the mainstream media.
Not only ordinary folk, but politicians of all persuasions have been weighing in with their views – ranging from the reasonable to the absurd.
But what is behind all this uproar? Is it even justified? Are we doing the right thing to redress the wrong that has supposedly been done to us? Or are we perhaps acting in a way that is only going to do us more harm than good in the long run?
In one of our discussion groups, I was asked by a friend to elaborate on my views. I feel that it builds on the arguments I presented in the previous column regarding the same subject, and thus I am printing it here for the benefit of a wider audience.
Here is the full text of my reply.
The whole issue goes well beyond just academic equivalence here, in my view. I think many Filipinos reacted the way they did because for the first time (and on primetime TV at that) they felt like they were not really totally accepted and welcomed in their newly adopted homeland. It was almost like "hey, why make fun of me, I am one of you" sort of thing, I believe.
Here is probably where a bigger problem with the Philippines today lies – we are so USA-oriented, it’s untrue! Almost everyone wants to be in America, whether it is by hook or by crook. And this in itself causes a lot of problems.
It used to be that in the old days, only hardworking and upstanding Filipino professionals went to the US to work. Today, in this modern-day Diaspora when it seems every Juan and his dog has already moved stateside, it is not just our "model citizens" that we are exporting, but the dregs of our society are there too! You will have heard about Filipino criminal gangs in LA, surely?
This is always a problem with migration, and I see it everywhere I go to – whether it be in the US, Britain, any country in Europe, and even in Turkey and the Middle East. Any large migrant group is always subject to a certain amount of scrutiny from the native population, who feel in some way either threatened or disturbed by such presence in their midst.
I think we have now reached critical mass in the States that we cannot anymore keep our heads below the parapet. Like it or not, we are being noticed, in good and bad ways, by the native population, as well as all the other immigrant groups.
Let me give you an example. Insurers of product warranties in the UK have singled out Filipinos for one particular thing – the unduly high return rates of products prior to the warranty expiring, to have them exchanged for new ones. I was not sure why this was, until a friend of ours told me about what seems to be a modus among many Filipinos here. In his case, he apparently was having some "problems" with his PC, so in order to have it exchanged for a new one prior to the warranty expiring, he poured orange juice on it. Clearly, enough of us here must be pouring juices on their PCs for insurers to take notice!
As immigrant groups, we need to take the rough or the smooth, and criticism – whether warranted or not – is part of this in a free and democratic society, like the US is. Free speech has its blessings, but as we found out, it can bite too. But we cannot get too overly sensitive and politically correct about it, or we become labeled as whiners and whingers. A lot of the reaction I have seen seems to be bordering on mass whining.
We cannot anymore reverse the trend, like it or not. We will be a sizeable minority in the US for years to come, and we need to be prepared to take more of these on the chin. It took a long time for the Italians and the Irish to be accepted as equals in the US, and even today jokes about them are still aplenty. Filipinos will need to be prepared for this for a long time to come yet!
Published in the Sun Star Daily, Saturday, October 13, 2007 (http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/ceb/2007/10/13/bus/batuhan.still.desperate.over.housewives..html).