ONE thing I hate is when we see something bad or bad behavior amongst our own people and then say “Only in the Philippines”, “Dyan magaling ang Pinoy”, “Eh kasi Pinoy” as if these bad things or behavior are exclusively done by Pinoys or found only here in the Philippines.

Most of the time these are blurted by people who have not actually seen the world outside the Philippines or may be have only glimpsed a world city in a two-three day tour.

Many of us have been in contact with foreigners, so what do they think of us and our country? Let me share some of my encounters on how people see our culture and country.

When I visited Japan a long time ago, I had the opportunity to visit a modern institution to take care of their aging population. The elderly were housed in a multilevel modern facility not unlike a condominium where they can choose to live somewhat independently or with full service with nurses and care givers to assist them. Their restrooms were equipped with motion detectors to warn nurses in case the elderly encounter an accident inside the restroom. Wheelchair-bound people can take a Jacuzzi massage bath via a hydraulic system that will place the person in and with the wheelchair inside the huge bathtub. I marveled at the use of modern technology in taking care of the elderly.

The director of the institution inquired how we in the Philippines took care of its elderly. I explained that we only have a few institutions for the elderly and none can compare with their facilities and that most of our elderly are cared for by their children and relatives at home. He smiled sadly and said that he envies the Philippines for taking care and nurturing our elderly, no amount of technology will ever replace the love and care of children for their fathers and mothers.

I once met a former high official of Korea and he recounted that friendship between the Philippines and Korea. He said that the Philippines was one of the countries that offered its blood and sweat for the freedom and democracy of Korea by sending troops during the Korean War. During the reconstruction, he shared that the Philippines sent engineers to help rebuild Seoul and said that Koreans were amazed at the infrastructures that were designed and built by Filipinos for the Koreans. Next was the question – What happened to the Philippines? I could just mutter some excuses like the corruption and the mismanagement of the economy by politicians.

In my visit to Louisiana, USA courtesy of the Rotary Group Study Exchange Program, I met some of the most fun-loving, God fearing, courteous Americans. These people are so much like Filipinos. I met a WW II veteran who was part of the invasion force of MacArthur in Leyte. Imagine the goose bumps I had. The following day, I spoke in front of their Rotary Club and proudly said that my host father is my hero since he helped liberate Philippines from the Japanese during WW II. My host family was teary-eyed when he acknowledged it saying that this was the first time that someone from the Philippines thanked him for his part in the war.

By the way, we Filipinos are part of the history of Louisiana – Filipinos arrived there via the Spanish galleons in the 1700s. Some of the Filipino crew escaped from their ships and established their own community. According to their museum, the Filipinos are credited for introducing techniques on building houses on stilts in the swamplands and bayous as well as teaching the locals to use nets for fishing.

I met an American who owns a BPO company in Manila. He said he was one of the first companies that set up the BPO business here in the Philippines because he saw the potential. He asked if I knew who was doing all the environmental accounting of international firms so that they can qualify for some environmental credit ratings in the world economy – I replied no and he told me Filipinos. Who was ensuring that the databases of the judicial systems of some countries are in order and updated? – again Filipinos. Who are the best employees and managers of software development, data bases systems and BPO? – Filipinos. Hearing this from a foreigner who was raving that the world center and future of BPO is right here in the Philippines is really surprising.

If foreigners can see the good in the Filipino then why can’t every Filipino see the good of our culture and nation? Maybe we are just too busy looking at our small world that we can’t see the big picture. Vehicle owners complain about the traffic (even though they are the main contributors of traffic congestion), businessmen complain about the taxes and corruption (while not paying correct taxes), politicians complain about – well politics.

Looking at our history, I see a great people who have been in the crossroads of international trading and geopolitics since ancient times, think of our valiant Marines defending our claim in Ayungin shoal. I see a great little people who have despite its challenges have shown the world what we can do – think of Jose Rizal, Carlos P Romulo. I see a great people who are out to teach the world the values of love, hard work and nurturing – think of our domestic helpers, nurses and caregivers. I see a great people who are out to conquer the world with our charm and high-tech talents – think of being BPO and call center agents.

Giro, my German partner in “biertrinken” once told me that Filipinos are like cockroaches. Insulted, I demanded WHY?! He gently told me that Filipinos are found all over the world – in the hottest deserts of the earth, to the wettest jungles to the freezing cold lands of the North – Filipinos can survive and make the best of any situation anywhere in this Earth. Prost!

Yes, I am a Filipino and I am proud it.