THE WORM’S EYE VIEW: What sort of people are we really?

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 21 March) – We are all barangay folks. We live in our respective barangays, in one of the 42,027 barangay units that make up the Philippine Republic. To keep a proper perspective on societal happenings, I try to view them from the lowest angle: the worm’s-eye view, so to speak. It helps make me aware of the existential – and sometimes gory – details of personhood, neighborhood, and nationhood in the sitios and zones of the community. So many others already take the bird’s-eye view or the macro perspective.

Now as I scan the grassroots community, I can’t help seeing the returning or visiting OFWs, fascinated by changes in their behavior and style of living. I won’t go into the palpable changes in their behavior now but they certainly live up to the vaunted reputation of Filipinos worldwide.

We’re well known for caring and hospitality, and, certainly, for daring and intelligence. If we weren’t all of these and more, we would not be able to adapt to climate, culture, or exotic challenge in most parts of Planet Earth. That we are found practically everywhere on the globe, amply attests to how smart and hardy we are. Astig!

There is however what psychologists and educators call a cognitive dissonance in their behavior that I find strange. They seem OK-All Right everywhere – but not OK, not All Right back home. They have world-class credentials outside but they’re basically just barrio folks at home. They wouldn’t tolerate any assault against their rights abroad, but they meekly tolerate being exploited at home, cowed by trapo bullies, and fooled by opportunists. They can hold their own anywhere anytime, but they’re blithely manipulated, taken for granted, and utterly marginalized in their home turf.

I’m talking here of politics and the paradox of rampant corruption and abuse that goes on and on and on by virtue of unprincipled decisions in politics. Abroad (and I’ve lived abroad for over a decade), OFWs would sneer and laugh and feel superior if the locals elect candidates that are ridiculous, pretentious, or known to be corrupt. But the moment the OFW is back home, he does the same – electing clowns, movie characters, coup plotters, philanderers, pretenders, abusers. Their families also do the same. They don’t sneer or laugh or condemn improper values or standards manifested by their local officials, especially if they’re friend or family.

What gives? Why is it that in the arena of politics, all the virtues that we are known for abroad just fly out the window?

Are we a caring, hospitable people? We don’t elect candidates who know and show the way to proper caring for people, community, or country. We elect candidates who turn public service into self-service, others who scandalize society with their public immorality, and still others who plunder and steal from the public treasury. That’s not caring; that’s being cruel and unfair to our society, inhospitable to reforms. It is all very depressing.

Are we daring and intelligent? Yet we don’t dare choose leaders of probity and integrity. We allow ourselves to be dazzled by gimmickry and the allure of box-office popularity. Is it intelligent to be swayed by celebrity and name-recall? Doing so betrays an underlying lack of discrimination or style; it’s uncivilized. It brands us as clearly just a Third World society. And that’s a pity because we have so much going for us.

It’s time we do away with the old stereotype of the barrio folk as naïve, docile and unreliable. It’s time to sound out the call: GISING NA MGA TAGA BARANGAY! The nation awaits your awakening!

[MIndaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. You can reach him at]

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