What do ordinary Filipinos really want to get out of the imperative to “showcase” the Philippines’ best foot to the delegates of the coming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum that Manila is hosting this year? For many, it will be an opportunity to go on an extended vacation, taking up the “encouragement” coming from the Philippine government itself which, in recent weeks, has announced some strong measures to ensure that all goes swimmingly for the delegates during their brief stay in Manila. But for the majority who cannot afford to take vacations on such whim, they will simply have to stay home and watch.
The effort to dress the Philippines in its Sunday best before the APEC 2015 delegates is a worthwhile pursuit, to be fair. After all, cleaning your house before one hosts a social event is a sign of respect for one’s guests. As such, the call to “gladly accept any inconvenience to make it happen” issued by Inquirer columnist Randy David today has merit. It is time Filipinos see themselves as part of a bigger gig. We should start seeing the bigger world as something more than a place to scrape OFW dollars off from.
In order to be a better member of the global economic community, Filipinos need a fundamental change in thinking. Much of what makes a country great is in its objective capability to offer a clear value proposition on the global stage. To put this notion in harsher perspective, Filipinos need to be able to face this confronting question:
If the Philippines and its people were to suddenly disappear tomorrow — swallowed up by the oceans, say — would they be missed?
Hold that thought while we come down to a more micro view and consider the plight of the Lumads. The Lumad peoples are a group of indigenous people of the southern Philippines. It is a Cebuano term meaning “native” or “indigenous”. The term is short for Katawhang Lumad (literally “indigenous peoples”), the autonym officially adopted by the delegates of the Lumad Mindanao Peoples Federation (LMPF) founding assembly on 26 June 1986 at the Guadalupe Formation Center, Balindog, Kidapawan, Cotabato, Philippines. It is the self-ascription and collective identity of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao.
For the Lumad, securing their rights to ancestral domain is as urgent as the Moros’ quest for self-determination. However, much of their land has already been registered in the name of multinational corporations, logging companies and other wealthy Filipinos, many of whom are, relatively speaking, recent settlers to Mindanao. Today, they are an endangered peoples and have been victims of acts of terrorism and intimidation allegedly perpetrated by all armed groups — including the Philippine military — attempting to secure territory within their ancestral lands.
But despite a gallant publicity campaign over the last several months mounted by activists and various religious groups along different fronts and channels, very little headway has been achieved in directing a significant enough chunk of Philippine society’s attention to the plight of the Lumads. In comparison, the cold-blooded massacre of of 44 members of the Philippine police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) troops by Islamic terrorists in Mamasapano earlier this year ignited broad awareness of the Aquino government’s illicit covert activities in the south. Such was the breadth and depth of the outrage exhibited by the Philippine public over this atrocity that the flagship initiative of President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III to create an autonomous Bangsamoro “nation” in the south was all but permanently derailed.
Whilst, for many months, Filipinos showed a deep care for the plight of the families of these “Fallen 44”, there has been no commensurate indignation outside of a small clique of activists reserved for the Lumads in these recent months. Why was it so easy for intense mass outrage to erupt within minutes that news broke of the massacre of 44 SAF troopers and such a hard uphill slog for activists to raise a similar level of indignation on behalf of the Lumads?
Perhaps it comes back to applying the same confronting question to the plight of the Lumads.
If the Lumads were to disappear from the face of the planet tomorrow, who will miss them?
Callous as that question may come across to many of us, it still, nonetheless, demands an answer. To make the question even more relevant to Filipinos, perhaps this next question — made even more confronting in this context — should be considered carefully:
If the AlDub pair, Maine ‘Yaya Dub’ Mendoza and Alden Richards, were to disappear tomorrow, who will miss them?
Who matters in this world is an easy question to ponder. Mainstream media answers that question everyday with its headlines alone. Social media does it even better — because the digitised nature of the data it collects makes “trending” analysis accessible to every man and his dog today.
But the question of why we care about certain people and not others is a more disturbing question to mull over. Why are millions of Filipinos willing to fork out hard-earned cash and endure hours of traffic and parking hell to watch the mating dance of the AlDub “love team” live for an hour at the Philippine Arena but cannot be bothered to take a few minutes off to even just sign an online petition to raise awareness for the Lumads?
It’s simple, really.
The place you enjoy in this world is determined by how well you make yourself matter to others.
In light of all that, we can now step back up again to the bigger question relevant to the Philippines’ hosting of the APEC meet this year. What place does the Philippines enjoy in the radars of the awesome global powers-that-be who will be honouring Manila with their presence this year?
Has the Philippines mounted a good enough effort since gaining independence in 1946 to make itself truly matter to the rest of the world?
By all means, let us dress in our Sunday best when we meet and greet the APEC delegates in the coming days. We should, however, not lose sight of the bigger job that we have so far failed to do — to build a nation that truly matters. One that we could be objectively proud of.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article “Lumad peoples” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]