Pinoy pride and prejudice
Cate de Leon (The Philippine Star) - November 24, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Every time a foreign act flies into our country as part of their world tour, we just can’t wait to ask them about us. How did they find our culture, our people, our food, and our women? Have they tried balut yet? We bombard them with such questions and they had better say something good. They better say that they love us, and that we’re warm, and fun, and that eating duck embryos is the biggest food adventure ever. We demand apologies for every racial slur uttered on TV, and we all know what happened to Jimmy Sieczka for complaining about our filthy, run-down comfort rooms. Never mind that even we wouldn’t dare to step inside one.

If Pinoy Pride were a woman, she would be the kind who constantly asks you if she’s fat, and you had better be ready to flatter and reassure her. She would be that office mate who is always on the lookout for reasons to give herself credit. “She has Filipino blood! And she’s winning!” I’ve always wondered if the likes of Jasmine Trias, David Archuleta, and Jessica Sanchez felt awkwardly obliged to indulge us and go, “Er, yes! I’m very Pinoy and proud!” I wondered if it was possible that they didn’t think much about it before.

Social media crazies

An American humor blogger whom I used to read once mentioned that his readers were disproportionately represented by Malaysia and the Philippines. This was back in the days of Friendster blogs, and you know how crazy Filipinos are about social media.

One girl got particularly carried away by the word “disproportionately” and thought he had said something bad about us. She then encouraged him to come to the Philippines. To paraphrase her long, patriotic comment, “If you get to see our country and our people up-close, you will see how beautiful we really are.” I withered and died.

I cringed at the result of the language barrier, but to be fair it’s a common cross-cultural phenomenon. What really bothered me was how this girl felt like she had to explain our beauty. Who does that? So what if this guy thought we had, I don’t know, “disproportionate” heads?

A fat, white man in orthopedic sandals once hit on my friend while we were dancing away in a club. He told her she spoke very good English, even though all she had said to him was “Yeah” when he asked if she was from Manila. He was the poster guy for those losers who can’t get dates in their country so they fly over here because they hear the women are cheap, desperate for dollars and a one-way ticket to the US.

Did we feel the need to explain to him that we were actually well-educated, financially capable women who could afford to have taste and standards? No. Without a word, I pulled my friend to another part of the dance floor as soon as she gave me the “Get me out of here” signal. He can think we’re rude sluts for the rest of his life for all we care.


When you honestly like yourself, you don’t have the patience to convince people of your worth. You expect to be valued and respected from the get-go, and if someone can’t give you that, you simply let them go. If you ask me, that’s what real pride looks like. It doesn’t need and it doesn’t beg. This holds true both for dating and being a Filipino in a world that associates us with househelp. And even people who willingly become maids in the interest of providing for their families are damn well entitled to dignity.

I’ll believe in the authenticity of Pinoy Pride the day I stop hearing about it — the day it stops being such a hard sell; when we quit trying to squeeze credit out of every single successful person who happens to be 1/16th Filipino and fishing for foreigners to sing our praises. We still won’t be perfect, but we’ll be able to listen to and know our flaws without throwing a bitch fit, offering tear-jerking excuses, or going into a flowery speech of how beautiful we are behind it all (utang na loob).

The most gorgeous women I know never say they’re attractive and are actually very kengkoy. It’s the same with people who are at ease with their intelligence. They’re not afraid to be stupid and get a kick out of laughing at themselves for it. I’d love for Pinoys to be just like that. I want us to just know that we’re awesome, stop feeling like we have to put on a good show in front of the world, do whatever the hell we want with our lives, and do it well — because it’s a given that we’re awesome. I want our pride to be something that is already there when we groggily wake up in the morning; something we would talk about very sparingly because mentioning it is actually quite redundant. Basically, shut up and be. Selling is hard. Real swag is easy.

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Tweet the author @catedeleon.


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