Starweek Magazine

Sharing the Filipino smile

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - With a deep admiration for unique Filipino qualities, Chile’s top diplomat in the country believes that the Filipino smile is not only a facial expression, but a representation of the humanity that emerges from the heart of each Filipino.

“Why is it that in many countries of the world, despite economic progress, people are becoming less humane?” Ambassador Roberto Mayorga asks.

He points to countries that enjoy more material prosperity but less sense of friendship, hospitality, compassion, less alegría de vivir, lacking human enrichment.

“On the contrary, here in the Philippines, most of the people give priority to concern for others rather than material things. They have what we call calidad humana – human compassion, humanity, human tone. Of course there are exceptions; we are not in paradise,” he says.

Thus he started the project Calidad Humana: Smiles for the World.

“If you think only of money and you forget your friends, your family, there is no calidad humana. I’m not against material progress. That’s very important to overcome poverty but take care of the calidad humana you have and that’s the goal here,” he explains.

The ambassador says the goals of Calidad Humana include to do research on why Filipinos have this kind of personality, and to share the Filipino calidad humana with other countries around the world.

Christianity, he says, is one of the factors that molds the Filipino personality.

The hardships that Filipinos experience – from poverty to typhoons – and their resilience in facing these are likewise important factors in developing the Filipino’s calidad humana.

“It is said that Filipinos are always optimistic and humble, because an enormous percentage of them are poor and without education, and so they are not aware of the possibilities to access a superior status and are happy the way they are,” he says.

“Nevertheless, a high percentage of the rich and middle class in the Philippines also have calidad humana, if we compare them to the same classes in other countries. On the other hand, in other places, poor people are not as friendly and as hospitable as here.”

He adds, “There are different factors. I believe these are important, but we need to research deeper, looking at why Filipinos are so because when we are able to identify these elements we can cultivate, we can take care of them, we can preserve them and that’s why we’re working with universities. That’s the mission and the responsibility to research,” he adds.

With the support of the five universities – UP, UST, UA&P, Ateneo and La Salle – committed to this initiative, research will be done on the elements that constitute the Filipino calidad humana.

An explanation of these elements is fundamental to take the appropriate action in order to cultivate, protect and preserve them.

In line with this, an essay contest was held in 2011 which drew responses from more than 3,000 students.

The next project and contest will be launched by the second semester of the year, asking teachers to suggest the main principles of Calidad Humana.

“The idea is to write some very, very simple books with 10 Decalogue (Law of Moses) like the commandments but we’d like to motivate the teachers and ask which they think are the ten principles or commandments of Calidad Humana,” he explains.

One of the major Filipino expressions that depicts calidad humana – the smile – is highlighted in a photo contest “Smiles for the World.”

“It’s a photo contest open to all Filipinos here and abroad... It’s not necessarily a technical picture, it’s a more meaningful photo of Filipinos, Filipino faces, smiling in every kind of circumstance.”

The photo should be accompanied by a message addressed to other countries of the earth, inviting them to a more friendly, peaceful and compassionated world.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has disseminated the contest through all Philippine embassies and consulates around the world. Deadline for submission of photos is April 30, 2013.

Prizes include: $1,000 cash and roundtrip tickets to Brazil and Chile (thanks to Coca-Cola), with accommodation, for the winner, who will act as ambassador of the Calidad Humana project; $600 and $400 for the second and third prize winners, plus cell phones from Smart Communication Inc.

“We have the conviction that the Philippines is one of the few countries with this kind of calidad humana in a time of global crisis. This crisis is not only financial or economic, but basically cultural and human,” Mayorga says.

“We are sure that this Filipino culture and human contribution to the international community will exalt the image of the Philippines,” he says.

Although the Calidad Humana project is a cultural and human initiative, it can complement the extraordinary campaign that the Department of Tourism is doing to promote tourism.

Just as other countries can export its natural resources or its industrial and technological products, the ambassador points out that the Philippines is in a unique position to be able to export its human richness.

And that is exactly what people of other countries, especially those that have reached economic well-being, need today: human compassion, humanity, Calidad Humana.

For details, please visit projectch.com

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