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Pity my beloved country

This is a bad case of self-pity. You shouldn’t even call it that because the pity extends to a whole nation. Country-pity or nation-pity might be a better way to put it.

The land that lies at the foot of China and is bordered by Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam  and Thailand is at the receiving end of this pity. It also happens to be the country of my birth, the Philippines.

I feel sorry for this land because it is the poorest country in a region of mostly dragon economies. More than this, my pity is stirred by what I perceive as the offhand treatment of other countries and my country’s subservient reaction. It is like seeing a lapdog (to borrow another writer’s term for the Philippines) cowering in fear while dragons breath fire towards it. This lapdog would be simpering in a corner; and there’s a fire nearby to singe its behind. That is really sad.

When China, its strongest neighbour in the north was on the lookout for more sources of food, it looked not inward but in the direction of the Philip-pines. It saw the Panatag islands in the west Philippine seas and decided to grab these rich islands.

China doesn’t seem to have any compunction about seizing islands that they have no jurisdiction over. (Remember the Spratly’s, the group of islands which has been contested by China and the Philippines for several years now?) Why would China think twice when these islands just happen to belong to a meek country it can easily overcome; a nation that has a history of being brow beaten into submission.

So it concocted some lame justification for ownership of these island-territories of the Philippines; but the crux of the matter is that China just needs sources of food to sustain its inflated population. China backed its hegemonic desires with some historical data to make its claim more persuasive. It has incorporated these islands on the latest versions of Chinese maps. As a final insult, it also closed the islands to non-Chinese.

How did the Philippines react to China’s aggressive behaviour? It backed off whimpering, hoping perhaps that a bigger country would hear its moans and take up the cudgels for it.

But in the  meantime, while no big brother has come to its rescue, the Philippines has remained subdued over the matter, making sure that whatever steps it takes will not rile China. Meanwhile, China has established its own base on the island and chases off with firearms any Filipino caught fishing nearby.  The livelihood of Filipino fishermen who have been fishing around these islands for time immemorial has suddenly been disrupted.

While I am on the subject of Filipinos, let me add that China is not the only country which has made a punching bag of Filipinos. Only a few months ago three Filipinos in Taiwan were bashed with baseball bats after a Taiwanese fisherman was shot near our shores.

The Taiwanese fisherman was clearly on the wrong side of the law, but the Taiwan govern-ment retaliated by inciting its people to anger. As a result, Filipino OFWs in Taiwan who had absolutely nothing to do with the incident were victimised. They were chased and beaten by the angry mob in that country. Would this kind of atrocity befall Koreans or Japanese nationals if they were  in the same situation? My country-pity has reached such point that my answer to this question is a big NO.

The Filipinos were picked on because they were easy targets. It is far easier to kick a dead horse than a live one. Kick a  Filipino and you won’t get any protest from that country.

Consider this, the Philippine government did not even react to these bashings. Even the media which should have acted  as a vanguard of truth has remained passive about these atrocities committed against our people. There were isolated outbursts of outrage among Filipinos but they never reached a national scale. Sad.

If truth be told, Filipinos have become so inured to being trampled upon that not even the sight of a fellow man being beaten by a foreigner or worse, coming home dead, arouses a feeling of anger in them. Being always at the receiving end of injustice, the people have become used to news of maltreatment.

A Filipina OFW who jumped from the 8th floor to escape from a sleazy Arab employer doesn’t make it into the news any more. Tabloids and other lightweight papers will sensationalise events like this but they will never be taken seriously, at least not seriously enough for the government to take any action.

The maltreatment of the OFWs in the Middle East or the domestics in Hong Kong and Singapore seems to be daily fare on the social media but does anyone gives a hoot? The irony is, the attitude of indifference among Filipinos only seems to increase as more and more news of injustice to their fellowmen is reported.

In the light of these events, who wouldn’t feel sorry for the Filipinos? Sorry because the bigger nations are bullying the country and have committed aggressions against its people.

But even more sorry for the seeming acceptance by Filipinos of this kind of treatment. It saddens me because I know that this kind of accepting attitude can only lead to apathy.

The danger is not in losing a property, a livelihood or even a life; the danger in all this passiveness is that it breeds a kind of indifference among the people – the kind that makes people disregard their heritage and abdicate their rights as a proud people among free nations. To accept injustice is to be passive.

To be passive is to slip once more towards slavery. I can’t help but feel sorry that this is the path the Filipinos are allowing themselves to fall into.