Taylor Swift and the new Filipino

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

It comes to no surprise when almost every single budget airline, ours included, was filled with Swifties of all ages bound for Singapore. As soon as the month of March kicked in, Filipinos were on time and on board for flight “1989” – enchanted, bejeweled and in style.

Fortunately for me, my eldest son who has been the longest Swiftie since he was 11 years old, took me on a trip to see her concert. I’m relatively a new Swiftie and it’s been about two years since I joined the Swiftie agenda, so I feel very lucky to have been chosen as my son’s companion to her concert.

The one thing, however, that caught my attention as we went through our journey here in Singapore was seeing so many of our kababayans everywhere. I’m often mistaken for a foreigner anywhere I go so it’s very hard for Filipinos to recognize me as a fellow kababayan because of my appearance hence, I usually make an effort to speak Tagalog once I spot them. It’s always such a refreshing feeling to see your own people especially in a foreign land and it was even more special to see your own son proudly converse with our kababayans around the city, getting to know them and all.

Considering that even Singaporeans are still so surprised when they ask me what my nationality is, I can’t help but attribute their perception to so much of our history that makes up for the many faces a Filipino has.

The same goes for our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) abroad who, unless spoken too, would have never guessed someone like me is Filipino unless I started to speak in my own native language. Walking to and fro from the MRT, to the taxi bay, or to other places in the city, I’ve bumped into Tagalogs or Bisaya and when you include a Spanish speaking-Tagalog person such as myself in the mix, the face of the Filipino gets really exciting for others to discover because we ourselves are so surprised about our own race ­– our own mix of people and no matter what country we’re in, there’s still so much of ourselves to learn about.

More than anything, I am particularly proud of our kababayans working in Singapore. In a span of two seconds, you’re right back home with a friendly smile to remind you of the genuine bayanihan spirit that only we Filipinos can ever comfort ourselves with as the Filipino always goes the extra mile to show you how important you are to them even for a short period of time.

The face of a Filipino, wherever you may be is one of gladdening. It’s that very moment where you feel both proud and at the same time safe to be in the presence of your own people where every second is used to connect the dots of our distinct origins as one race. Filipinos are the warmest people and no doubt the most hospitable in the world because it is so ingrained in our culture that it is naturally felt.

One can’t learn something so distinct as our Filipino spirit which comes straight from the heart. I am so proud of the genuine hospitality found in all of us and I am most especially proud of our modern-day heroes, our OFWs who carry our flag with dignity and inspire us to be a collective nation of diverse people who’s faces, different as they may be, are part of one nation that stands tall wherever we may be.

I always recall how former President Duterte would bow to our OFWs abroad and my son and I find ourselves doing the same thing because we felt so honored to be among our own people, the very same people for whom of which our country enjoys a boosted economy despite having to endure so many sacrifices in order to support their families back home. The remittances our OFWs send back to their families in the Philippines represents around 10 percent of our gross domestic product. Not only are they today’s heroes but also our economic heroes where even during the pandemic, remittances by our OFWs saw double-digit growth.

If we are to speak about the new Filipino, or “Bagong Pilipino,” we must be able to recognize the many faces that comprise our kind, where being strong, being respectful, and understanding what it means to be a true kabayan makes up for every single Filipino from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

We Filipinos are pretty much conscious of the fact that we have many OFWs in different parts of the globe. Yet, I still believe that we must be even more aware of the many faces that make up our beautiful race because our history provides us with the ability to get to know one another better in order to come together as formidable and strong.

If only Taylor Swift knew how many of us were here in Singapore. Believe me when I tell you that if she called out on us at her concert, the stadium would have the loudest crowd coming from the Philippines saying “it’s me … hi!.”

It feels so good to be a Filipino in moments like this, and it is my hope we can be just as effortless in our own homeland.

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