Flying back to the States after my recent trip to the Philippines, I sat next to two American men who set up call centers in countries around the world. With no regard for the people around them, they spoke loudly of the Filipinos they worked with in Manila, of how they “smiled too much”, were “eager to please”, and “bad at linear thinking”.
I found their casual dismissal of one of the cornerstones of Filipino culture disgusting. Is this how we seem to foreigners? Do we seem overly indulgent, happy to lick the boot on our necks? No. Anyone can see that the friendly, open nature of the Filipino people is a sincere attribute. We are not subservient but are rather a kind and generous people interested in the well-being and happiness of others.
In the World Giving Index 2012, the Philippines was ranked as the 17th most generous nation in the world, based on volunteer work and charitable donations. The Philippines may not be an overwhelmingly wealthy nation, but its people do what they can for those in need.
The Philippines has also long been a beacon of refuge for the displaced people of the world.
During World War II, the Philippines opened its borders to European Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Now the country has signaled it is ready to take in Rohingya refugees. An oppressed minority group, the Rohingya have fled Myanmar, only to be turned away from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Currently adrift at sea, they are in search of a country to take them in and the Philippines is the first to offer refuge.
If this is what others consider “eager to please”, then so be it.
There will always be people who exploit kindness, but let no one call the Filipino people weak. We are a people who have resisted over and over those who would conquer us. We have protected our land, our language, and our heritage. We prevailed against the Spanish and the Americans who sought to control us.
The Philippines is indomitable. We have prevailed in the face of adversity. We have taken our strength and used it for the benefit of others. Those who would look at our kindness and generosity as things to be ridiculed are in the wrong. The Filipino people have taken the command to “love thy neighbor” literally and we are richer for it.