When Filipinos hear the word pro-foreign, probably the idea that runs through their minds is, “oh, how bad.” They’ll call it treason, anti-patriotism, anti-nationalistic. Thing is, they don’t get the point. What is wrong with being pro-foreign? Pro-foreignism does not necessarily mean anti-patriotism. Pro-foreign for me is as good as liking foreign stuff without necessarily hating anything of your own country. Others would use the famous but clichéd tag Colonial Mentality.
I wrote in my blog that colonial mentality is a myth. It is a myth in the sense that not all Filipinos see everything foreign as better. In fact, many Filipinos even blame foreign influence for all the problems of the country, but it is yet another myth for me. It is also a myth that everything foreign is better, and so is the myth that everything Filipino is better and everything foreign is bad. And so the worst myth resulting from this is that the country is better off keeping out other countries’ influences.
Some people have the mythical notion that to like something of another country, you have to hate your own. Which is ridiculous, since foreign and Filipino stuff do not instantly contradict. These anti-foreignists will probably use the Biblical adage, “No servant can serve two masters.” Thing is, nationality or national loyalty is not a master. It is just a socio-cultural aspect. It’s never as sacred as God itself. Thus, I dogmatically state that liking foreign influence is not betrayal… just look at our government system. It is foreign-influenced!
There are Filipinos who believe that foreign interference or even just associating with foreigners is bad. For example, in politics, some are against the Visiting Forces Agreement, which they say is an invasion or violation of territory. Supporters of VFA get branded as Pro-American. Hmmm, are you sure Pro-American means Anti-Filipino?
There are policies you can brand as anti-foreign. One of them is the land ownership provision in the Constitution, which prohibits foreign companies from owning land. It’s a protectionist law that supports our local oligarchy – who supported the 1987 Constitution in the first place. It made sure that foreign entities may never come in to challenge the local oligarchs on equal footing, and thus bring in quality management, practices and services that may put our own local businesses to shame. Keeping foreigners out has kept our country a feudal society, full of inequality and corruption. And it drives out our people to become servants in other countries!
Culture has a lot of anti-foreign areas. When I refuse to watch TFC or ABS-CBN, or if I say I prefer watching Japanese anime to local dramas (or if I say I prefer watching anime in English dub or English subtitles rather than in Tagalog dub), some will say, “You are unpatriotic!” For some, criticizing Filipino faults, like when saying “the Filipino is lazy, which is why our country is poor,” is thought of as unpatriotic (Anti-Pinoy! hehehe). When I state, “let’s be more like the Swedish, who allow Atheists to practice their belief and promote true religious freedom,” or “let’s be more like our ASEAN neighbors who allow foreign investments to flow in more freely,” again, I may risk being branded as pro-foreign and unpatriotic. If I would criticize the Filipino tradition that a birthday celebrant be the one to give a bash to other people, and say the western tradition of other people pitching in instead is better, I would probably get a knocking off.
Another anti-foreign reaction of Filipinos is hostility towards foreign opinions of our nation. James Fallows wrote of our country as a “damaged culture” – which it is – and some hate what he said. Chip Tsao was recently criticized for calling the Philippines a “nation of servants” – which we are, anyway. Lately, a book of James Putzel, A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, was criticized, because he was quoted in the GMA News Report on Hacienda Luisita. Probably another effort at saying, “You damn foreigners! Keep off our land! We don’t want you interfering in our matters! And you have no right to comment on us!” I’m sure William Henry Scott has had his own share of vehement critics for being interested in our culture and making his own opinions about it.
Anti-foreignism is stupidity. If we did follow more anti-foreign policies and practices, we would certainly go back to the Stone Age. One of the important things to remember is that our modern Filipino identity is not devoid of anything foreign. If you remove everything foreign… we would go back to the age of Alibata! As stated in most of my history classes, there is no modern Filipino culture. Everything modern comes from foreign shores. Everything that is purely Filipino, unadulterated, belongs to Pre-Spanish era – primitive times. Just remember: Philippines = King Philip of Spain. Our country is named after a foreign ruler!
Thus, the right way to handle this is to accept our foreign influences and make the best of them. Rejection of foreign influences could mean rejection of things that could actually help us move forward.
When foreign entities comment or write about the Filipinos, the Filipino should not automatically reject the opinion or evaluation. If we Filipinos make judgments about Americans, British, Germans, Japanese, Koreans and others, then they have the right to make judgments about us. Simple golden rule. Also, we should look at the merits of what they say, not just at their being foreigners.
Keeping foreign influences off our shores denies us access to new ideas and technologies. We would not know about democracy if the Americans did not come over and show it to us. We would not know about high-tech robots, nor would Filipino scientists go about making them if the Japanese did not give us Voltes V and Shaider. And our local fiction like Captain Barbell, Darna, Zaido (oh how I cringe at this), Lastik Man, and even Panday had their foreign inspirations. Basically, our own modern culture won’t get off the ground without foreign influence.
Thus, I conclude is that being anti-foreign is detrimental.
Flatly denying or refusing foreign influence or interaction denies that we are not the only ones on the planet and that we’re not the best nation on it either. We should learn to live properly along with our fellow countries and not deny ourselves the benefits they could give us (we’re already giving them the benefit of our labor!). The Philippines is not a hermit in a rabbit hole – and can never be.