16 February 2005

Our country in the eyes of travellers

Mr. Abbey's post related to the Valentine's Day bombings (entitled Dark Shadows on a Beautiful Country) brought to mind a visit from a fellow Filipino who works in another Asian country but frequently travels to other parts of SouthEast Asia as part of the business.

We talked about his experiences in the other countries. And he declared that if we think corruption is rampant here in the Philippines, think again. The other countries are worse. Once when their company was trying to ship in promotional materials to one of these countries, the customs department there was demanding that they give the equivalent of half of the customs duties as grease money, plus they leave half of the shipment with them! It was unbelievable.

He believes the reason why corruption is widely publicized here in the Philippines is also inherent in us: we love rumors and publicity. Proof: here in the Philippines, we see Showbusiness news as part of a current events news format. The newscasters would be reporting about the President's exploits one minute, and in the next we learn who the love team of the decade is! Likewise, reports of corruption in the government and in other areas of business get a lot of hoopla and fanfare. Outside news organizations pick this up and it spreads like wildfire.

He also mentioned one crucial thing: the people love their nation. Go there, say something against their government and you'll wish you never stepped into their country. But here, we can lash out at our government and give the media something to put in the headlines.

But that's just what we really are. Filipinos are emotional. When we care, we show it. When we hate, we show it.

We are also the friendliest. Our visitor did not need to say that for me to know it. I've had first-hand accounts of other Asians giving us the cold shoulder when we asked for directions as tourists in their country. Here, people would try their darnest to help out, even if giving directions in English meant they have to think really hard how to say it, or enlist somebody else who can.

We have a beautiful country. We have beautiful people. The corrupt and the terrorists do not belong here!
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