This man named Francis
VERBAL VARIETY - Anne Fe Perez (The Freeman) - April 8, 2014 - 12:00am

Foreigners who occasionally visit our country give us gold nuggets of wisdom. Some of them have travelled far and wide where they pick up stories which teach us the lessons in life. Apart from stories, they have thoughts which form part of their rationalizing from their journey.

One of these foreigners was a French man named Francis. He was just like the rest of the westerners that we are accustomed to - tall, white, tall-nosed and blue eyes.  However, his heart was different from the rest.

He had the passion for music but like most musicians, a steady job would be a better choice to survive. So he did an information technologist stint in the corporate world which earned him a lot of money to travel the world. As a musician, Francis plays the guitar, writes his songs and sings them as well. His drive to travel the world was to explore the beauty of music in the different places.

In one of his world tour stops, he saw a group of people who were very jolly as they were together on the train station at Amsterdam. He was puzzled and intrigued at this group who are unlikely to be found in Europe. Since they looked foreign to him, he asked them where they came from. "The Philippines," they answered. In his mind he made a decision that he needs to visit the Philippines so he can see more of those happy people himself.

Indeed he did. He settled himself in our island of Cebu and bought a flat at the upper part of the city. Because I was a music teacher, our paths crossed in the music school which he was helping out. During his last day, he related his frustration on the Philippine media especially radio stations and TV music networks which patronize western music.

"How will you fix the problem of the media which seem to only know western music? Where does your original music belong?," he asked me. I was stunned. He further added that all TV and radio stations were to devote an ample amount of time for original French music per hour. As far as I know, the Kapisanan ng Broadkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) requires OPM songs to be aired at least 10% of the hour but the influence of western music still prevails in our music industry.

I later found out that he immersed himself in Filipino music and appreciated it very much. Apart from his immersion, he studied it very well maybe even more than I did. That is why he is lobbying for local artists to have their tracks be played on radio stations.

It is such an irony for a foreign person to be concern of our music industry. Our existing artists today are riding on the styles set by the West.

Further on our conversation he asked, "Why is your English excellent?" I replied that it has been my first language. "Why, did your parents hide your culture from you which included your language?" he asked once more. This man named Francis has seen in us that we haven't- lack for our love of country.

Sometimes we are so busy preparing ourselves for the world and global competitiveness that we tend to forget our own identity. We are so caught up with the demands outside our country when there are things to fix inside.

That conversation with Francis has kept me to think about the reality of this country. A European at that and yet he had the heart for the Filipinos who are busy trying to be Western. I yearn for the day that we, Filipinos, would become our true selves.

That was the last time I saw Francis and I don't think there'll be another time. I only hope it does not take another Francis - a foreigner who would lobby for our own culture - for us to realize who we are.


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