On The Perspective of Not-American Filipino News and Politics

By Miguel Locsin, FINDink Contributor

It is easy for somebody who is interested in politics in America to find themselves trapped in a bubble. It can be any kind of bubble you can think of. There is the bubble of partisan politics we hear about so often. There is the bubble of naïveté that is often exemplified by young people. There is even the bubble of race, which multiple groups are currently struggling to pop, ever so slowly.

The bubble I wish to discuss, however, is the bubble of American news, particularly where it pertains to politics. America is so big, its news cycles so efficient and condensed, that it is sometimes hard to pay attention to news outside the country if America is not involved or if there is no war. Yet life altering events happen every day that can affect everyone living on this continent, even if the event occurs on the other side of the globe. This is simply the nature of globalization, of living in 2017.

Readers of this article are particularly likely to be interested in the politics of the Republic of the Philippines. People rarely attach the republican part of the official name in day-to-day conversation even though it is important in identifying the brand of system the Philippines uses. It is a system that is, like many countries, modeled after the American system with three basic branches of government, each with its checks and balances. One could read an outline of the constitutions of America and the Philippines, and it would be hard to tell which was American and which was Filipino.

The Philippines has such a deep and rich and vibrant political history that continues today, yet not many Filipino-Americans know about it. Many Filipino-Americans know who President Rodrigo Duterte is (who could obviously be the subject of another article). Many also know that famed boxer Manny Pacquiao once held a seat in the House of Representatives, and currently holds a seat in the powerful Senate, which is absolutely ridiculous if you think about the fact that Pacquiao did not even finish high school and gets punched in the face for a living (full disclaimer: I am a fan, and I enjoy watching him punch people in the face).

Unfortunately, this seems to be the extent of the knowledge that Filipino-Americans have about Filipino politics. Sadly, because of cyclic poverty and the lack of education, this also may well be the extent of knowledge some Filipinos have of their own country.

Yet, it is important to know what goes on in the Philippines, and frankly, around the world. Many of us have strong family ties in the Philippines, and political decisions affect them the most. The Philippines is the first line of defense against an invasion from the Pacific, or the last line of defense for Western countries if the invasion comes from the other direction (WWII history is also very interesting). The Philippines is a nation of immigrants as well, and migration rates there can affect immigration policy in literally every major nation on the planet.

Even if you are not of Filipino descent, the news that emerges from The Philippines is incredibly interesting. A few weeks ago, the Commission on Human Rights, a governmental agency tasked with the upkeep of ethical and righteous due process in the country, was given a budget of merely 1000 pesos, or $20. Again, the reasoning for Congress’ teensy grant is the subject of another article, and well worth a Google search. Relatively massive protests over the past weekend, which are very rare in a country full of happy-go-lucky people, helped restore the 678 million peso budget ($13 million USD). Many also do not know that the Philippines has been having a massive dispute with China over a few tiny islands in the sea. Many do not know of the troubles and bickering it takes to improve the nationwide infrastructure, which to many eyes is stuck in the mid-20th century. Infrastructure development and funding is currently proceeding on a scale unimaginable a decade ago. Many do not know of the great familial dynasty powerhouses like the Aquinos or the Estradas or the Marcoses that control government (Or maybe that latter name is familiar. Did you know that every single close relative of Ferdinand still holds a position in government?). Many also do not know that at one time, the Philippines was economically on par with other small wealthy Asian nations known as the Asian Tiger Economies of Hong Kong and Singapore and even Thailand today. So what happened? Why is the Philippines one of the poorest nations on the planet, yet today enjoys some of the steepest growth trajectories in any developing nation?

These facts and questions, if anything, should prompt curiosity and discussion. I encourage cultural presentations and talk at Filipino-American Student Association at William and Mary, and so should you in your own conversations, even if it is about global politics and news in general. Do not be afraid to ask opinions on Duterte if you are curious, as you should not be afraid to have discussions about The Donald.  Popping this bubble of the American news cycle can only serve to enlighten and inform each of us as free individuals, especially if the education is about the country of your ancestry.

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc. 
 

 

Controversial Statues & Our Ties to the Inanimate

By Athena Abadilla, FINDink Contributor

Could the objects and figures we choose to put on display be the very things that make us who we are as humans?  And, thinking about it in a much greater capacity, how do the choices our local government officials make affect how we are viewed and our dynamics as a community?

Upon wracking my brain over what topic I should focus on for my very first contribution to FINDink, I thought over what makes a good first impression. Then I thought about icebreakers and all those crazy personality-probing questions such as “if you were a flower, which would you be and why?” or “what type of candy best describes you?”  It’s interesting to see the extent to which our answers would be taken seriously; as if simply identifying with a yellow sunflower or chocolate-covered gummy bears would somehow shed light on who you are as a person entirely.  Perhaps it goes to show how much we humans use even the smallest of inanimate objects as symbols that represent our (and others’) beings.

Minority communities and our allies in the United States have been asking one essential question for decades now: “Why, though we are supposedly a nation moving towards peace and racial justice, are our parks and public spaces home to statues that glorify former slaveowners and confederate war generals who had no regards for humanity?”  These questionable statues are seen spread throughout the nation, from places like college campuses to even homeowners’ own front yards.  Images of people who have dealt out gross injustices are memorialized in rock for the sake of preserving history, often taking a toll on the lives of those who have had to suffer because of them.  Though this has been a controversial concern for a while now, it has now risen to the forefront of news and media outlets due to the recent work local officials have been planning to relocate or tear down these monuments that commemorate our country’s racist past.   At many locations around the country, residents from both opposing sides of this issue have been standing up and letting their voice be heard.   

https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_1484w/2010-2019/Wires/Images/2015-06-30/AP/Lee_Statue_Protest-06da4.jpg?t=20170517

https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_1484w/2010-2019/Wires/Images/2015-06-30/AP/Lee_Statue_Protest-06da4.jpg?t=20170517

In a specific ongoing incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists rallied with anger (and tiki torches) to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate General who fought to uphold slavery.  The frustration that these people had over a statue grew even to the point of violence and bloodshed.  It raises the question: how can someone care that much about inanimate pieces of stone shaped like a person, more than they care about living human bodies that stand before them?  Many do argue that a removal of Confederate objects such as the Robert E. Lee statue is an erasure of American history and will be a detriment in educating our future children.  The keeping and presenting of these items to the public eye is thought to play a huge part in displaying who America (and to a greater extent, the American government) is.  However, these proponents of the racist statues are in no way being kicked off their land, forced into subservience, or deprived of their basic human rights.  Their communities aren’t being pushed into nonexistence, yet they still feel the need to fight back.  It’s amazing to think of the reasons that lie behind such strong attachments to a statue and such bold actions that flow from the value that people place on these non-living things.  

Similar to the United States, the government in the Philippines recently received some pushback when making a decision concerning the displayal of certain inanimate objects.  A relatively new law that came into effect this past summer and kindled a bit of controversy banned the placing of religious icons on the dashboard area of cars.  Naturally, different people with different opinions fell on different sides of the issue and became vocal about it.  This ban, though notoriously known to target the commonly visible rosaries that often hang from Filipino drivers’ rearview mirrors, extends beyond just objects related to religion.  It was put in place as a traffic safety initiative to minimize distraction while driving.  However, legislators have received complaints from the Catholic Church and common Christian citizens alike, expressing their disappointment in the restriction of freedom of expression.  I’m not at all saying that the protesting people and conditions following the Filipino government’s decision is like that of the United States in any way, but I would like to point out the strong and action-fueling passion that the humans in both situations have for the inanimate objects in question.  

https://static.wixstatic.com/media/0883d9_21b6e5ac89144879bb9321c55e9d6ff7~mv2.jpg

https://static.wixstatic.com/media/0883d9_21b6e5ac89144879bb9321c55e9d6ff7~mv2.jpg

So we see this trend of attaching deep human value to inanimate objects happening; now what?  It teaches us to be mindful that the physical world impacts and elicits emotions in people in so many different ways; a single statue can mean one thing to one person and a completely different thing to another.  The items we choose to put on display, the items we choose to keep and not remove, and the items we choose to hold dear to us are all crucial parts that compose our social being.  It’s important to understand beyond surface-level and not just blindly accept the face-value of those objects, like statues, that we see day to day.  Ultimately, then, we must be aware of the depth of the people we encounter and intentionally make it a point to hear someone out when they respectfully voice reasons as to why or why not an inanimate object should be removed from the public eye.  It’d be a great fall of humanity if our ties to the inanimate were to be the driving force that severs our ties to each other.
 

Hoy, anak, is-statue? Disclaimer: the contents of this article reflect my personal views on the topic at hand and are in no way representative of the views/opinions of FIND inc.

 

Images found at: https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_1484w/2010-2019/Wires/Images/2015-06-30/AP/Lee_Statue_Protest-06da4.jpg?t=20170517 and https://static.wixstatic.com/media/0883d9_21b6e5ac89144879bb9321c55e9d6ff7~mv2.jpg