Listening to Sentro ng Katotohanan on 1242 AM one Tuesday, I heard eminent commentator Arnel Endrinal make one of the most hard-hitting revelations about Filipinos who become famous abroad: they didn’t become famous because of recognition in the Philippines. They became famous because of recognition abroad!
That is an interesting point when you consider how much Da Pinoy idolizes and boasts of these people to the world.
Lea Salonga, although she was known in the Philippines before, would have become another laos (bygone) celebrity had she not been picked to be be Miss Saigon. Then she would do the singing voice of Jasmine for the Disney movie Aladdin. After this, our country started touting her as a world-class performer.
Efren Penaflorida was not recognized locally. He was voted into that CNN Hero of the Year award, thanks to numerous flying voters. But still, CNN was the one who thought of the award. Why didn’t anyone locally give an equally prestigious recognition for his efforts?
Charice Pempengco was recognized on the Ellen DeGeneres show, in America. If she sang on a local show before Ellen, would she get the same level of fame?
Arnel Pineda, before he joined Journey… who was he? We know now that he loved singing Carpenter and Streisand (stuff that local gays like to sing!) when younger. But before this, did we know it? We only knew him when he already joined Journey.
Manny Pacquiao, when he was a boxer in our local rings, wasn’t given notice at all. It was when he beat a foreign opponent that he became our country’s superstar. And note that his coach, Freddie Roach, is an American, not Filipino. Manny thrives on an American’s advice, not a Filipino’s.
In other words, our idols, sumikat sila abroad. Di sila sumikat dito. They looked for greener pastures. Like our OFWs.
And when they become well-known, Filipino fans begin to appreciate them and idolize them. They boast of these stars to other countries. The irony is, the other countries may already know.
Now the weird thing is, when someone like Adam Carolla comes in and starts criticizing our bad habit of riding on the fame of these famous countrymen of ours and tell us to get our act together, we act as if we’re such poor bullied sops that deserve royal treatment. But in reality, the ones who made our countrymen famous are the ones we’re biting against. Backbiting against even.
Let me also quote the brilliant insight of one of our commenters, Mike Portes:
We just love to bet on Pacquiao, vote for Peñaflorida and adore Lea Salonga but FAIL TO EMULATE and REALIZE THAT THEY ARE PRODUCTS OF HARD WORK and DISCIPLINE
Hard work and discipline. Not being Filipino. That’s the reason why they’re famous. Yet the fans suddenly jump in and chant, “These guys are Filipinos, that’s why they’re great!” Opportunism extraordinaire!
Perhaps Filipinos are driven to do this because they feel that they should compete or contend with the famous in other countries. Some Filipinos believe that foreign and local are diametric opposites. Or in simpler terms, enemies. Thus, they, and of course some people in other countries too, have succumbed to a false dichotomy – the dichotomy of foreign vs local. Yes, this is a false dichotomy because foreign and local should not enemies. Successful countries do not stamp out foreign trade and control; they know how to make use of the relationships to their benefit. Often, the benefit must be mutual.
We depend on foreign countries. We should acknowledge that we cannot live without them. How can be boast of OFWs if have no countries to send them to? What if these in countries get angry and send home all our OFWs? What will happen to the remittances that even our ineffectual government depends on?
All countries thrive with the help of their neighbors. If you ask me, even small villages thrive with the help of fellow villages. Thus, when you’re a nation, you need other nations to acknowledge your “fame” and accomplishments. And when we receive criticism or bad reviews, we should accept it instead of complain. “No man in an island,” runs the famous slogan… let’s expand it to “no country is an island!”
I would like to add that fame and show business should not be the only thing Filipinos should excel in.
Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and Indian economist Amartya Sen created the Human Development Index, a holistic way of looking at the development of countries from many perspectives. Stephen Covey developed the Seven Habits of HIghly Effective People, which many Filipinos are studying and quoting now. What have Filipinos developed? Seven Habits of of Effective Rage-Driven Trolling? Filipinos are looking to foreign motivational and inspirational concepts, while our local, often outdated, wisdom is mostly derived from mga pamahiin ni lolo and lola sa probinsiya.
I echo commenter Lorenz who said (which jibes with one of my previous articles):
I’ve always wondered why I don’t know of a Filipino composer of orchestral/chamber music, Filipino Sci-Fi/Fantasy writer, etc.
We have to recognize that to become World-Class Filipinos, we need to examine our place in the world, and humble ourselves in acknowledgment that cooperation with, not competition with or more especially hostility towards, other countries is the right attitude and the way to help uplift our own. We should develop ourselves in a way as not to live in a box, but to get out of this box and learn to live alongside others out of this box.