I am a Filipino, and I don’t hate foreigners.

I am grateful for the gift of rain, although the rain these past few days verged on overkill. I’d prefer a consistent drizzle and overcast skies over the sudden storms that inconvenience those on the road and elsewhere.

*****

On another note, I have begun to reflect recently on the question of racism and xenophobia in my country. I once mentioned, some time ago, that I am sometimes ashamed of my great-grandfather because of his xenophobic form of nationalism, and it seems to be that a common strand of thinking in the Malayan world has been the rejection or marginalization of the non-Malay. Rizal, who had in mind a Malay who was at the same time cosmopolitan, and his followers are a rare exception.

Today, though, my reflections were given some voice by former law dean Raul Pangalanan. His column, which asks why certain anti-foreign attitudes were given shape in our context, was timely and relevant. More importantly, it dares to ask why Filipinos take advantage of foreigners at all and affirms why we should not. But it does not go far enough as to ask why, for instance, Chinese Filipinos are sometimes being branded as not being “real Filipinos.” (Even if as many as a third of Filipinos are reported to have some Chinese blood.) Or why some Chinese, in turn, make sure to separate themselves from the wider Philippine community, even refusing their children to have intimate relationships with, or even marry, Malays. (I suppose Michael Tan, following the postcolonial way of thinking, ought to write about this, or already has, because that is where he comes from. Of course, I have very strong reservations about postcolonialism because, sometimes, it sounds to me exactly like the attitude Pangalanan is describing.)

(Here comes another rant)

And I would ask why a multicultural, multinational parish cannot have anything but a Filipino rector “just because they are in the Philippines” when the Filipinos who run the wider church have not apologized for, or come to terms with, their ineptitude in handling their own problems. And to some extent, they have tried solving them, and that is to the credit of that wider church. The trouble is, the attitude at times is that we welcome your money, yes, but we will work ourselves to the ground the way we want to.

Please do not get me wrong. I am honestly concerned that Filipinos cannot be perceived as honest, responsible, and competent people who are willing to accept help, even the willingness to step away from the steering wheel, when needed—and who can learn from their mistakes and from how others both here and abroad best solved their own similar problems. I would like to repeat here a quote from a Filipino Methodist pastor: “I believe in autonomy, but only because I know what it means.” This is precisely, in my view, what Pangalanan wants us to bear in mind. We caused our problems. Let’s not be too proud not to say that we did.

I might as well raise this too as another reminder that as a Chrstian, my loyalty is to the Realm of God first, and anything else, even my arbitary determinations of race, should go after. Our responsibility as stewards of our respective parts of the Body of Christ transcends our backgrounds.

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