Dear Mr. Clavio

Dear Mr. Clavio

March 12, 2012 Diary 0

(This is in response to broadcast journalist Arnold Clavio’s declaration on TV that the Men’s National Football Team was “pretending to be Filipino” – “in his words, “nagpapanggap na kayumanggi” – a declaration that was not taken lightly by many Azkals fans.)

I haven’t written a blog entry like this in a long time. The last time I did it, I chided a young man for looking down at people who didn’t speak English as well as he did. Today, I am going to write about someone who castigates people whom he believes are not as Filipino as he is.

Yes, Mr. Clavio. This post is dedicated to you.

I know you spoke just one sentence – but see, in those few words, you also brought to mind a common, howsoever misguided complaint: a lot of the players on the national team are not really Filipino. The reasons are many: the players are “half breeds”, or they don’t really have the brown skin of Filipinos, or they don’t really speak Filipino that well. Etcetera, etcetera…blah blah blah…

Which brings to mind a question, sir, that I asked long ago: What makes a Filipino a Filipino?

Your words assume that Filipinos need to be fully bred, from a Filipino mother and Filipino father. But that still begs the question: what makes a Filipino a Filipino? Is it a passport? Living in the country from birth? Being born in a local hospital? Having Filipino genes? Is there even a unique Filipino genetic makeup that no one else on the planet has?

Or is being Filipino making your country proud, regardless of whether you are half- or full-Filipino?

The Azkals played well. Not all of them were born of two Filipino parents. Some of them were born of a Filipino mother and a non-Filipino father. But you know what, Mr. Clavio? They make me want to stay in this country. They make me proud.

I also know of some Filipinos who were born to two Pinoy parents. They hold a hefty, brown Filipino passport. They’ve lived in the Philippines since the day they kicked themselves out into the world. They were born in a Filipino hospital, and they probably have a Filipino genetic makeup, whatever that is.

But they lie. They cheat. They rob the country. They make the poor poorer. They earn money, keep it, and steal from the poor. They gossip. They turn trivial things into issues that don’t deserve our time or attention. They drag people down by sneering at the success of their betters, in much the same way that crabs fight to keep each other in their filthy baskets.

And you know what? They’re Filipino, too, with the kayumanggi blood that you so proudly exalt.

But I would never want to be in their presence. Their existence makes me want to leave the country. And they make me ashamed to be called Filipino.

So is that all it is, Mr. Clavio? A passport? Parents? Skin? Blood?

How dare you trivialize our inheritance as Filipinos.

How dare you denigrate the proud kayumanggi to mere genetics.

A kayumanggi probably has all sorts of nationalities running through his rich blood: Spain, China, the Indo-Malays, the tribes that made their homes in the ancient shores of our archipelago. Throw North America into the mixture. Throw Europe into the brew.

So what is a kayumanggi? Is there really a definition grounded in a single nationality, bound by a single country, confined to a single island?

And what about that language issue? Azkals aren’t Filipino because they don’t speak Filipino well, some pundits say. I suppose that completely edges out some foreign-based, Filipino born singers who can’t speak English, but earn accolades from home. That also wipes out my friends who were born in the US to Filipino parents, and who are struggling to learn Filipino – the way that some Azkals are trying.

If you have a complaint about how the Azkals act, talk, or behave, then berate them for that. If you are concerned about the cases being filed against them, then talk about those cases.

But please, Mr. Clavio, don’t drag the issue of birth into the discussion.

When you bring up the issue of half-breeds, you insult all Filipinos. You insult those who don’t speak the language well, who don’t have the color of skin that you expect, who were not born or raised here, who don’t carry Filipino passports, who weren’t born to two Filipino parents. You insult those who want to sing for our country, play for our country, wear our country’s colors and make our country proud.

You also insult those who do speak the language and have the skin and the passports and the parents and the local upbringing. You insult them because you reduce their identity to these mere trivialities.

Is it so important that people are born to a specific set of parents? No – their pedigree means nothing in the face of what they do AFTER they are born. Their birth is mere circumstance. Their lives are what define them.

But who am I to write about all these definitions? A journalist would do research. A journalist would sort out words and sentences carefully, taking care to weed out the useless and the trite, exercising prudence to bring forth a message that encourages and enriches us all. A journalist would think, and then write. A journalist would ponder, and then speak.

Pretending to be kayumanggi, Mr. Clavio?

How dare you pretend to be a journalist.