FILIPINOS ARE RICH IN THE HEART EVEN IN POVERTY
By Japanese writer, and 1945 Hiroshima Bomb-survivor, YUUKI YOSHIDA
It has been 17-month since I came to this country. My continuous interest and concern are that why is it that the people look so happy and bright even in spite of poverty. As it is known, this country has its poverty ratio of over 30%, almost twice as big as that of Japan.
They live with richness in the heart even though they are materially poor. The Japanese in modern times has such a high degree of suicide as the number one in the developed countries, while the Philippines show the low rate of 87th among
I have been deeply interested in knowing why the Filipinos look so happy, which makes me always try to watch them carefully to see what it is in times of my driving or going to the mall for shopping. I see nobody in unhappy look in faces and behavior. This watching attitude of mine would never end.
The famous drama writer, the late Hisashi Inoue, is said to sit in a corner of his favorite tearoom, just watching the people walking in the street for hours. I find myself trying to do the same thing, but in my case, asking myself why and why they look so happy?
This keen interest of mine makes me always try to ask whoever I meet and talk, why they look so happy? When I moved to this apartment, some technicians for electricity and painting came into my room, whom I asked the same questions.
In recent days, the university students who come and go down my apartment are the ones I catch and talk. Five of them came to my room with a Filipina graduate who is working as a manager of the apartment for her scholarship. I even tried the opportunity of joining the drive in the same bus with a professor and the students going to and from the Manila campus for the medical school. They give me the similar answers to my surprise.
Now before telling what sort of words came back to me, I would like to write something about the history of this country. The Philippines was under the colonies of Spain and America. The former was between 1565 to 1898, 333-year, and the latter between 1898 and 1944, 48-year, altogether for a long period of
According to the world history or its chronological table, the independence day for the Philippines to be declared with no interference of other countries is said to be July 4, 1956. However, the one in the real meaning of independence dates
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back to June 12, 1898, when the first president Emilio Aquinold, who proclaimed the independence in the balcony of his own home.
The followings are what I analyze the characteristics of the Philippines and its people based on that historical background. I came to know later days that my analysis is right and true.
What I could say for sure is that during the period of 333-year colonization by Spain, the Filipinos succeeded the Roman Catholic, and it has been deep in the heart of the people ever since up until this day. They occupy 82.9% of the whole population, while the Protestant 5.4, Islam 4.6 and two Philippines independent
2.2 and others.
While on the other side, American colonization that lasted almost one Century, brought the Philippines to have the education system in various fields such as politics, army and police in the form of democracy. The way they carry in the diet and the elections are the one exactly the same as American’s way. The so called “the first 100 days” after the president elected is the same as the United States.
The biggest education they brought in is the English language as the second national language. The big energy that makes the Filipinos work and live abroad comes from their excellent command of English to say nothing of their diligence in works. The recent information is that the government is preparing the Spanish language education in university. They are so aggressive and hard workers.
For instance, in a place where many people get together for fun or some public meeting, things begin with the national flag and anthem with the attendants all stand up and pay respect the flag and sing together. It is a big difference from Japan where some school teachers reject to do these manners, for which I feel ashamed.
I learned that during the American colonization, the American tried to bring the Protestantism to the Philippines, but in vain. They stayed firmly in the Catholic. She has the 333-year historical record unchangeable to preserve in their DNA.
The writer of “The Philippines Misunderstood --for trying to erase misunderstanding against the Philippines and its people--“, Miro Kasai, points out that the people of the Philippines had a strong belief and will that they never give in to the pressure what they believe they should keep. He also points out that Japan followed and imitated America in everything with no choice. This means that the Philippines had its originality and national character to be independent in their own will.
I have something I feel strong in the heart when I think about the Philippines concept of religion. In this country, there still exist many church buildings of hundreds years old. They were built with stones so that hundreds of years of rain and wind never destroyed them.
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The parents and their children and their grand-grand parents and their families, attended those classic churches for more than three Centuries. They have witnessed and exercised how to worship God and preserved its religious culture together with their children for generations. It is never something like “a thin veneer of culture”. It is the life culture and religious concept deeply woven into the DNA.
I often witness what they call respect to the elders. When a young person meets and greets the elder, the former comes to the elder and places up its hand on the back side to the elbow on the young and say “Bless (on me)”. This behavior is the one they have succeeded from the Spanish culture. How beautiful it is!
In Japan nowadays, it is not rare that children kill their parents and vice versa. We used to have and practiced using what we call the honorific expression, which no other foreign languages have. It even seems that the Japanese DNA has been changed to the worse. People here call me “Lolo”, meaning “Grandpa”. Lona is the grandma in the Tagalog. It sounds me tender and nice.
One thing that I feel very strong is the difference of the attitude between the Filipinos and Japanese when we happen to see something in others who posses something luxurious, for instance, a beautiful expensive car.
Supposing a very deluxe car is passing by along the line of people waiting for a bus, Japanese is inclined to watch the car with curiosity or sometimes envy minded. However, the Filipinos look unconcerned at all, as if they never envy nor jealous. The driver, on the other side, is apt to have the superiority complex by having a nice car.
This is one thing that I admire at the people here for their independent spirit of “I am I, he is he”. In a common daily society here, people wear almost the same cloths such as the short shirts and sandals. This behavior comes partly, I think, from the needs and allowance in a tropical climate country.
Japan has four seasons so that we have to change the clothes from heavy one in Winter and the light in the Summer time, so that the people are inclined to be competitive in being fashionable in seasons, making them feel a sort of superiority and inferiority complexes at times, which makes the difference from the people here.
At anyhow, my observation is that the Filipinos seem to be living as if they are what they are and others are what they are, which means, I believe, that they have no superiority complex nor inferiority complex. They seem to be trying to find happiness in the heart in a way that each could find in their own way.
By the way, as a man of 78-year of age, I have witnessed that when people become rich, he or she wants more and more with never ending desire, sometimes behaving as a greedy person with no sympathy for the poor with some
sort of superiority complex.
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On the other side, the poor tends to find happiness and joy in the spiritual way and be contented with what they are. In fact, they are gifted by the healthy body and humble satisfaction, and more than anything else, they never forget the thankfulness.
Japanese are richer than the Filipinos in general. However, we are inclined to be envy of others. The words “the winner” and “the loser” are often used among themselves alike, which is nothing but the superiority and inferiority complex seen in themselves.
In fact, the Japanese language expression have so many words used in each occasion to distinguish the elders and seniors, and we are apt to be proud of it. However, I am the opinion that such discriminative expression is something that shows superiority and inferiority complex on the part of the writer and speaker.
This sort of “narrow sentiment” comes from the Japanese, the Islanders, who have a narrow minded way of thinking, they say.
When we say “the islanders”, the Philippines is one of them, consisted of far more islands than Japan, over seven thousands. And yet, the Filipinos look more modern and European like character and behavior, is my observation.
I watch the people in the mall walking in a happy mood, most of them for the window-shopping with no shopping bag in their hands. To my eyes, they never look at the windows with envious mind and attitude.
Their walking style, especially the Filipinas, is good looking with nice body figure with a brisk step. I discovered that that comes from the fact that they have the classical Coca Cola bottle type figures! To tell the truth, this has long been my question of why they walk so smart and beautifully.
I sometimes watch the Japanese NHK TV with curiosity, whether it is true or not comparing the walking style of the Japanese women, to find my observation is right and true, though I am prepared to be criticized by the Japanese ladies.
Back in Japan, I used to watch some young people who are sitting flat on the floor or the road or even in a streetcar. It is an ugly style to the eyes of the aged like me, but the trouble is that they think it is a modern style to my shame.
When I tell the people here about such an unfavorable manner of the Japanese young people, they seem as if to say unbelievable, saying none of the Filipino youths behave that stupid way of relaxing. If someone ever tries that, they say, a guardsman or the policeman comes in an instant to warn the sitter. In fact, I have never seen that sort of scene before here.
I have a funny story about the Japanese misunderstanding to the Filipinos. When
I left Japan in February, 2009, a friend of mine came to me to hand me something. It was belt pocket in which he put in a warning whistle, saying, “In case something dangerous happens, try to whistle this for help.” When I told someone
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here, he laughed and rather disappointed by the Japanese misunderstanding, for which I was so bashful. I have witnessed and lived here with satisfactory safety better than Japan in a sense.
The Japanese TV sometimes reports the criminal behavior of a pervert who slashes people as he passes them on the street. I have never heard of this type of crime here. This comes from the criminal’s psychological stress accumulated with nothing and nowhere to release it. As far as I know, such a crime could hardly occur because the people, here are so open and happy with nice character.
Well, I wrote much before I come to the points of “Why is it that the Filipinos look so happy in spite of that many of them are poor in materials?”. In fact, I have tried and will try to ask the people this same question as much and often as I can, whenever I have chances of talking with the people of the Philippines.
In fact, nine our of ten or more, I come to get the same three answers to my questions. Firstly, the thankfulness that comes from their faith in the Roman Catholic. Secondly, the family love, and thirdly, the national character, so to speak, which is considered to come from the so called "generosity or carefree minded character" which is invited by the tropical climate atmosphere. Let me tell what these factors make them happy and bright in my own interpretation and analysis.
Firstly; I would like to tell about their “happiness in the heart” that, they believe, comes from their deep religious faith.
The world boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao, who was elected as the senator in the latest general election, made a cross on his chest in the game. I witnessed also that many of the soccer players in the World Trophy did the same thing while in the game. They perform their religious prayer even in the place of the fair play game. None of the Japanese players made the sign of prayer. You may call it simply the difference of culture.
My understanding is that their faith is never that simple and ordinary! The fear to God and the awe and respect to God lead the believers to have the heart of thankfulness at all times wherever and whatever, they are and are doing. No matter how poor with less food to eat, they never forget to be thankful and happy.
In Japan on the contrary, the people are inclined to be materialistic with less religious belief and behavior forgetting the heart of thankfulness. The calling of “the winner or the loser” came to be used to judge persons and themselves, which is nothing but the superiority and inferiority complexes. No spirit of thankfulness is seen either of them.
Secondly; I would like to give my deepest respect to the Filipinos’ strong love of the family.
I know that Japanese, too, do have the family love, yes. However, it is a little different from the one we used to have in the past. When I was young, right after the War, we had less to eat so that the family shared whatever we were given.
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Poverty made us to the sharing spirit. The Filipinos are doing that now. However, the latter case is totally different from the former in that the family love is based on their religious background for centuries.
The American way of life known in Japan as “the trend towards the nuclear family” destroyed the Japanese unique family system. In fact, the two generation families living in one small house sure has problems, but sharing spirit stays to help each other, or better to say, we were obliged to do so.
In this modern time, once a married son left the home of his birth, he has to be independent economically so that he and his wife come to be unable to help their parents. When we get something, we lose something.
I could see the resemblance of the family love of the Japanese in the past and the Filipinos now, though there is a fundamental difference as far as the religious motivation is concerned. They go to church together with the family and that from generation to generation. This ancestral behavior is the very thing that constitutes their philosophy of being happy in the heart even though not rich in the material.
Thirdly; I would like to think about the character of the people in the semitropical country, which seems to be optimistic and generous.
This expression or the answer is not the one the Filipinos give me to my question. They say something like, “The life is not that long. We need to live in a way we like and in a happy way…”.
My interpretation is that that is one side of the characters of the people living in a semitropical region where they have abundant fruits like bananas and even could sleep outside.
I always try to tell them in a way, “Don’t you think that…..?” By telling them the things they were not so aware of, I could do something good to them for letting them know what they are, what they should accept to be happier.
Talking about food to eat for the living, I tell them, “You are lucky. When you have nothing to eat, you could take off some bananas and eat it. In Japan, we have to pay even a peace of banana, and that not cheap. You could live throughout the year with the short shirt and pants and sandals and even sleep outdoor, but never in Japan. When winter comes, we have to prepare heavy clothes, we get frozen to death.
When my conversation comes to this stage, the Filipinos seem to be aware that they are fortunate in being able to live that way, where there comes out their realization of their own happiness in their living environment. In other words, this is the proper word for encouraging them as Japanese.
Mr. Kasai, the writer of the book “Misunderstood Philippines—to erase the misunderstanding of the Philippines and its people—“, said to the effect that, as
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far as the situation and the reality of the poverty is concerned, the Filipinos’ are totally different in a nuance, from that of other Southeastern countries. They are far away from seriousness and spiritual agony seen among the people there.
The people of the Philippines have come to live this way through their ancestry way of lives. However, it seems that through generations, they have come not to think that seriously so that if told by somebody like me, they get aware of it. They say to me, “You may be right when you say that…”
For instance, I once talked with a Filipina who is working for a bank as a manager, who said to me, “What makes you want to live in this country in the rest your life?” I responded, “The more and longer I live here and know of your people, the more fond of them I became, that is why.”
I told her about the Filipinos' culture, which has been brought on by the Spanish and the American in almost four centuries. The culture you built up is never that "a thin veneer culture". Your culture is far much westernized and beautiful than ours. We began to absorb the western culture only 140 years ago when we first opened the door to the world.
Needless to say, she looked so much contented, and said, “That is one thing I have not been aware of. You made me to be aware of it, thanks.” We are apt to know nothing about ourselves, only when we are told by someone from the objective angle.
When I send this yell of mine to the Filipinos, regardless of man or woman, I tell them that so many of their countrymen and women are working and living abroad. When I ask them, “You know how many?”, nobody could give the right answer. They seem to be opening their eyes wide open when I tell them that their fellow country men and women live and work throughout the world are ten millions in number, and that the money they bring back home amounts ten per cent of the GDP.
The people are aware that the strongest reason why they work abroad is that they have no place to work here. However, when I tell them that their excellent command of English and their diligence are the factors that make them able to do it. I always emphasize that those competitive abilities are the very thing they should be proud of. This is never a thing for me to give them, what is called, a lip service or the like. My admiration sure gives them a self respect and confidence more than ever before, I believe.
As a foreigner myself living here with no tax payment, I think it is my obligation to tell the people of this country how good their culture is, and so they are, in stead of trying to tell them about the Japanese culture.
Lastly, I need to write something, and that is what I always tell the Filipinos. It is the potentiality of the Philippines. Their population is approaching to that of Japan, and not in a long future, it will be over it. They have the English as the second national language. As described before, ten thousands of them are active
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throughout the world. This could tell good enough that the Philippines would have a competitive potentiality for the future.
I place some sort of dream that, if there would come out the president who is different from the past with different world concept and leadership, the Philippines would be changed. The sect of people who spread out the world in the past is, what is called, “Kakyou (Chinese merchant abroad)”. The next generation might be the “Filipino”.
I have a guess story in the future of the Philippines. One of the candidates of the President election this time was Gilberto Teodor, who was the secretary of Transportation in the Aroyo administration. He is the graduate of Harvard University with the American wife. He happens to be a nephew of the new elected President Akino III.
I once watched his speech in the election campaign, and thought that, if such a man as him ever becomes the president, this country would make a big change for the better and new. In fact, in my surrounding are so many of his sympathizers.
I further think that if his policy would bring the new tie with the United States, things would be changed, for instance, that the Okinawa problem would be flexible to be replaced with the Philippines. This is only a joke story for a man of no knowledge of the international politics, though.
The article of the writer, Paul Johnson, “English and Freedom”, which I wrote two times in my mail magazines, wrote about the difference of the ability of the English language between the Chinese and Indian in relationship with the future economical and political development. My thought is that it could be said the same thing to that of the Philippines.
The final thing that would like to point out is a mysterious story about the country of the Philippines by the name of Creator of the Universe. This is nothing but my personal expectation for telling to the Filipinos for fun and earnest.
Take a close look at the map of the Philippines. Don’t you think the whole shape of the country looks like a side view of a human body sitting on the ground with its legs bent on the knees and feet on the ground, while its arms stretching ahead as if watching something ahead of it? Let me explain;
The head of the human body is the far northern part of Luzon with the back of the head big enough to symbolize this human has cleaver brain. In around the mid center of the brain is Bagio city, which is known as the most severe battle field during the War. Thousands of people, the Filipino, Japanese and American soldiers including native citizens were killed there.
In the early period of the 20th Century, five thousands of Japanese laborers came to this place to work for the agriculture and road construction. Many of them lost the way to go back to Japan, and stayed and married with Filipinas, and their
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descendants still live there. The Philippines in those days was a good place for Japanese to search for work. The elapse of a Century turned the situation in the reverse.
In the east side of the face is an up-warded peninsla, Alaminos, to form a big nose symbolizing its energetic personality. Coming down ward is the upper and the lower jawsity with Manila as its mouth throat. Down south as the larynx location is the place I live.
The back of the human body runs from Masbate, Samar to Leyte forming a little rounded back line. On the eastside are Palawan peninsula islands shaping the arms stretching forward on the ground. The central part of the human body, the stomach, is occupied with that famous sightseeing island of Cebu and others.
The far southern island of Mindanao looks like the nice and steady hips with the legs stretching forward with the knees bent and feet to the ground and so on.
Of all the shapes of the countries in the world, the Philippines seems to be the only one that people say, it forms the shape of a human body. Italy is known as the shape of the boots.
Whereas comes my own theory of the following, which makes me believe this country has some holly significance in the relationship with God, the Creator of the Universe. Now, let me tell the mysterious and romantic story behind it;
To the eyes of the Creator of the Universe, this country is the one He shaped to His will. By building the country in the shape of a human body, He tries to tell the human being something. He may be expecting to show the human being to find a way to live as a righteous human in a human-body-like country.
In other words, God created this country as the best place for a human being to live in, in the best way that He wants us to, and He selected the people of this country as a model of the righteous human being.
Furthermore, He created this country person, too, to be the Roman Catholic believer to meet His wish and will to be fulfilled in the best way… This is the scenario I personally composed from the shape of the country.
This article seems to end with a sort of fiction-novel-like story. However, I intend to tell this story to the Filipinos in a serious and earnest motivation so that I could let them be aware of their mission given by God to show to the world that the real happiness for the human being is the way and the heart the Filipinos try to live in the given circumstances and conditions.
In other words, the Filipinos are the people who have been ordered, or been destined to live in the way God wants human beings to live. Wherein lies the
significance for the Filipino for living in this country in a way as it is.
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As written repeatedly, this is nothing but my personal view with my wish to expect the Filipinos to accept the reality and live bravely showing the world people that their way of living is something the human being should keep in mind in this world of struggle and competition.
I intend to show this article to as many Filipinos as possible so that I could correct to make it more acceptable and be welcome better with deeper understanding to them and others. I would welcome, therefore, that the readers are kind enough to write me with some advice and idea. Thank you for reading this long article.
19 Orange Street, Block 102, Lot 22, Laguna Bel-Air 2, Brgy. Don Jose,
City of Santa Rosa, Laguna