On the Subject of Racial Discrimination in the Philippines

So there’s this thing floating around the net in the Philippines. It’s about this super smart, kind, and all-around amazing girl who was able to get the highest grade point average in the history of post-war University of the Philippines. She will graduate with a 1.004 average, with 1.00 being the highest possible score. Instead of people lauding and praising her for her efforts, they complain that she is not, in fact, a Filipino; rather, she is a CHINESE-Filipino, and should not have been admitted to a national university in the first place.

I would like to voice out a few of my thoughts regarding the entire debacle.

First, Filipino netizens put emphasis on her ethnicity, instead of her accomplishments, and then question her nationality. I have to admit, we Filipinos are not one of the most logical people in the world- quick to judge and complain when someone makes fun of us, but this is crossing the line. They do not understand the difference between ethnicity and nationality. They do not understand that by questioning her nationality, they are questioning the nationality of more than half of the population- the part of the population that drives the economy at that.

Second, the whole premise that Chinese-Filipinos are not REALLY Filipinos is absurd. And downright racist. No one in the Philippines is 100% Filipino, except the indigenous tribes that most people do not consider to be “regular” Filipinos. In fact, around 80% of the population has Chinese blood. Our 11th president, the late Cory Aquino is Chinese-Filipino. So is our current president, Noynoy Aquino. So is the richest man in the Philippines, Henry Sy. And those who do not have Chinese blood have Malay blood, Spanish blood, Japanese blood or whatever mix of ethnicities as a result of hundreds of years of trade relations with Asian countries, as well as the hundreds of years spent under colonial rule.

Third, Filipinos are generally incredibly racist. Filipinos are known to complain when something bad happens to a fellow Filipino abroad because of racial discrimination, but continue to propagate the same kind of discrimination while in the Philippines. We think of Indians as money changers or 5-6, who lend us money on the condition that they earn as well, kind of like a bank, or people who generally smell. We think of Chinese people as rich businessmen who abuse their workers. And in light of the rising tension between China and the Philippines, we think of Chinese-Filipinos as people who will side with China in the event of war (refer F. Sionil Jose’s article), even to the point of saying that all Chinese-Filipinos should leave the country.

Fourth, the people who question her nationality are evidence of a problem that has plagued the Philippine society for years. We Filipinos call it “crab mentality”, wherein like crabs, we pull down achievers just so we can feel good about ourselves. Try as we might to fix it, there are still people who continue to bring people down. I agree with Herbie Alimpuyo‘s comment on Facebook. He said, “Yung mga kumukwestyon na netizens malamang sila ung paulit ulit na nakakuha ng 5 nung college. Aminin na natin, ang mga tropang Filipino-Chinese marami talaga sa kanila matatalino. Marami akong naging classmate nung college na galing, CKSC, ICA (san juan), Faith, Hope at ibat ibang prominent chinese school, matatalino silang lahat. Hindi lang matatalino, mababait pa. Siguro nasa pagpapalaki ng magulang yan kung magiging mabait ka na tao o sukdulan ng walanghiya. Mas TAO pa nga sila makisama kesa dun sa purong Pilipino pero sagana naman sa porma.” (The netizens who question this are most likely those who kept getting failing grades in college. We have to admit, in Filipino-Chinese cliques, many of them are really intelligent. I had many classmates in college who were from Chang Kai Shek College, Immaculate Conception Academy [San Juan], Faith, Hope, and other prominent Chinese schools; they are all very intelligent. Not only are they intelligent, they are kind as well. It’s probably in the way parents raised their children to either to be a good person or be the worst person in the world. They are more HUMAN in the way they treat other people compared to the pure Filipinos who only care about their image.) That was a rough translation btw but I think we can get his point.

Fifth, this issue shows the hypocritical nature of Filipinos. When we recruit for our national sports teams, we literally take anyone we can get who can help us win titles, even if they aren’t pure Filipino. No one complains that these Fil-foreigners like Phil and James Younghusband have more playing time than most of the so-called pure Filipinos on the team. We are proud of people like Bruno Mars, Jasmine Trias, Vanessa Hudgens, Nicole Scherzinger, and many other performers like them because they simply have Filipino blood. Not even 50% at that. We are proud of our fellow Filipinos who are able to achieve great things outside the Philippines, and yet we are quick to scrutinize and criticize other Filipinos who are achieving great things while in the Philippines. This would be a different story had she won a Nobel Prize or something.
Last, and probably the most annoying one, is the thought that she does not deserve a UP education, just because she isn’t poor or a “pure-Filipino”. As I said earlier, no one’s pure Filipino. Besides, the only requirement for admission is that she pass the UPCAT (the admissions exam). It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor or middle-class, as long as you prove that you are worthy of the spot. If graduating with a grade point average of 1.004 isn’t proof enough, then the problem must be you. It is incredibly difficult to get a 1.50 in a 3-unit class; getting 1.00 in almost all of your classes is exponentially more difficult. And in BS Biology, no less. Many also argue that she is probably just going to leave the country, and yet her enrolling in UP-PGH to take up medicine proves otherwise. She doesn’t spend her time trolling the internet and bringing other people down.
She’s here to stay and try her hand at making a difference in the Philippines. What about you? Puro free FB lang kasi ang inaatupag, hindi na nag-iisip bago mag-comment. (All they do is use free Facebook; they don’t think before they comment.)