The greatest love
When I was in the elementary, we were required to bring a Filipino dish to school at least once in August because it was Buwan ng Wika. It was part of the activities we did to celebrate our culture. There were also assigned days when we would wear the barong Tagalog or baro’t saya. Students participated in quiz bees about history and writing contests in Filipino. The program even included a Palarong Pinoy, where students would play sack races or hampas palayok.
I looked forward to that month every school year. But when I was in the sixth grade, a remark by my classmate never left my mind. I was opening my lunchbox, ready to start digging into the adobo my mom prepared for lunch. My classmate looked at my meal and said, “Yuck!” When I asked him why he said that, he answered, “Adobo. Pang-Pilipino. Kadiri!”
In junior high school, I downloaded the 9GAG application on my phone out of boredom. I had fun on it for hours, until I saw a picture with the caption, “It’s election time again in the Philippines.” The picture was a wall filled with campaign posters that looked like low-quality imitations of The Avengers: Infinity War promotional movie posters. I thought it was supposed to be funny. When I checked, most of the commenters were Filipinos saying things like, “This is why I don’t type in Tagalog on the Internet. So people don’t know that I’m a Filipino.”
When I reached senior high school, my cousins and I started talking about our future. We discussed our dreams, our goals, and everything else we wanted to do. Proudly, I told them I was going to be a journalist. It’s what I’ve always wanted. They told me that they wanted to work in the field of medicine. They wanted to be doctors or nurses. I felt so proud of them. In time, they will be saving lives and together, we will be successful and serve the people in our own ways. However, they told me more details of their plans. After graduation, they would move and work abroad. In disappointment, I asked them why they wanted to leave. Their answer was, “Ang pangit dito sa Pilipinas. Ayoko dito.”
Through the years, these encounters were engraved in my memory. Somehow, it never felt right when I heard people say such things. I think it’s one thing to be embarrassed about who you are, and another to completely despise where you came from. I’ve always wondered why it was difficult for them to love their country and their people. What do they have to be ashamed of? Do they not know how rich the Filipino’s culture is? Do they not see how much potential we have? Are they not grateful to be born under a mother country who loves them? How could they not love her back?
I will always proudly say that I am a Filipino. I was born and raised in the Philippines. In my blood runs the blood of my ancestors who toiled this country’s land. I come from the same race of courageous heroes who fought bravely for the freedom of their fellow countrymen and women. I am of a people who endured wars, disasters, and tragedies yet still came out alive and thriving. Although we are short, our dreams for our country are high and although we are not light-skinned, our intent is never dark. My heart beats with love for my country and its people, who never got what they deserved because of pillaging foreigners and greedy, self-serving people in power.
We, the Filipino people, deserve more and we know it. We deserve more than politicians who abuse the power given to them by the people. We deserve more than incompetent leaders who abandon their people in times of need. We deserve more than capitalists who put profit before everything else. We deserve more than family dynasties who keep themselves rich while the streets are littered with sick mothers and hungry children. We deserve more than institutions who pretend to give us service when all they really do is take advantage. We deserve to be truly free – from the oppressive system that makes us hate who we are rather than ignite the fire in our hearts for us to truly love our country.
No matter how bad things get and no matter how hope seems to keep on evading us, we must never let that fire of love dwindle. Let that be the reason why we want things to be better; why we no longer allow ourselves to settle for less. One of the greatest loves we could possibly feel is the love for our country. Because as long as that love is alive, we will have the courage to fight for what we deserve. We will refuse to get caught in the crossfire and be mere collateral damage to power plays. We will push for progress and we will achieve it. We will once again see how powerful we are when our goals are aligned towards the betterment of our people. And once we get there, we’ll realize that we have nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, we should be proud; because Filipinos love and fight for their country and its people. — Remy Mae S. Consolacion