This may come as a pleasant surprise to some members of the Filipino community in Toronto who have been repulsed by the critical observations I have often raised in this blog. Particularly those who had been averse to criticism as if no one is beyond reproach. The time has come, therefore, to say goodbye to this blog. All those elated to hear this news will surely feel a great sense of relief—like an unexpected but wholesome Christmas gift. Good riddance, others would probably say.
There are myriad reasons for this decision to announce my blog’s ending just about the close of 2010. I was hoping when I started posting that I would eventually reach 200 blogs before shutting it down for good. Due to shifting priorities and lack of adequate time to produce quality posts that my readers so deserve, I have chosen to embrace a life of quietude, like that of a monk who has chosen to lead a more or less contemplative life apart from the world.
However, as it is against my nature as a contrarian, I will not go quietly into the night.
In my first-ever blog, I wrote that contrary opinions play a very useful role in understanding the truth or its meaning no matter how unpopular they are. Reactions to my postings confirm the loneliness of critical dissent, but not so much of the willingness to accept the truth. For in a multitude of times, truth is somehow what is perceived as popular, neutral and safe, even though by simple logical observation it could be wrong or false. The real truth, oftentimes, is drowned by the voices of the mob and consigned to oblivion.
One community leader’s reaction to my blogs is typical of the arrogance of a few who believe they are clothed with papal infallibility. This type of leader does not take criticism mildly, not just from anyone who is beneath their mighty position in the community. This leader had the audacity to make known to all and sundry that she would never back down from criticism, whether right or wrong, especially if it is coming from this blog.
Leaders like them should be subject to a public review of their performance, for the ideas they espouse, and their apparent disdain for democratic dialogue where contrary opinions are also allowed equal space and opportunity to be heard. But like other leaders in the community, they have barricaded themselves with like-minded officers who are timid and afraid to stray from the official line when circumstances demand.
Thus, our community leaders will continue to lead and think insularly, instead of engaging with the bigger civic society. Every year they will continue to stage beauty pageants, song and dance contests, parades and other events that do not reflect our rich culture and heritage, but those that perpetuate our bondage to our colonial past. Our community organizations, as they are now, will always be instruments for the community’s self-anointed cream of the crop, for highlighting and sharing their personal milestones and other anniversaries, not to mention their trips to foreign and exotic places. We will continue to be absent from bigger and more inclusive events that celebrate our kinship with other Canadians and their current priorities. We will prolong our marginalization, thanks to our leaders and elders who do not have the vision of our youth who have long recognized the need for greater civic engagement.
Perhaps, we need a community Ombudsman who will review and assess whether our leaders truly have the interests of our community at heart. Internal reviews are self-serving and no current leaders in the community will allow herself or himself to be painted in bad light by their own committees or organizations. This may sound unrealistic, but not unachievable by any means.
Our community is presently served by a proliferation of local newspapers run by so-called journalists and profit-driven publishers who are only interested in racking up advertising revenues. A by-product of free press and the free market, our local press has become billboards for posting social and family gatherings such as weddings, birthdays, coming-out parties of society debutantes, and personal and familial promotions. Whereas we could do with three or at least five of these newspapers, we are constantly barraged, biweekly or monthly, with more than 12 similar editions of local news from the Philippines and the latest entertainment gossips. It is not so much the quantity of newspapers, but rather the mediocrity of writing and reportage that these newspapers suffer from.
Improving the quality of our local newspapers can be a worthwhile project of the Filipino press association, as they can perform audits of these newspapers if they conform to accepted standards of professional journalism. But they have to know correct English grammar and syntax, a prerequisite towards change and improvement. This may appear more unachievable given the inherent stubbornness of many Filipino-Canadians to learn how to speak and write correct English, which stems from the mistaken belief that having English as the medium of instruction in schools in the Philippines exempts us from training or even re-learning it as a second language. That is why ESL classes are filled by people from nationalities (not Filipinos) who admit that they could profit from learning English for work and for integrating within the larger Canadian community.
Just as we need a watchdog for our local newspaper reporting, the same notion may also apply for our chat or email groups on the Internet. This would, however, be enormously difficult given the neutrality and unregulated character of the Internet. It can be done through self-regulation by chat groups such as those that belong to professional alumni organizations. You may think I am making too much of this, but if we publish our thoughts on the Internet, those who regulate us should also be responsible in maintaining that we observe not only decency and respectability but also proper and correct English usage.
Take for example this message from an alumni president wishing his members good wishes for the Christmas season. While the intent was clearly to spread the good news of Christmas, it somehow vanished when he included “the material things we possess” as among those blessings we should pause to reflect on. So, if you have a Lamborghini or palatial accommodation, be thankful for not being among the ranks of those who lost their jobs and their homes due to the economic downturn or those street people who have to seek shelter from the cold this frigid winter. The message stinks of insensitivity to others who may not be as fortunate like him and his kind. A few months ago, the same leader said that “there is more to Filipinos here in Canada than care giving.” The true message he wanted to convey got “lost in translation” because, without proper grounding in grammar, he missed the intricacies and nuances of the English language whose syntax and rules of composition can oftentimes limit one’s ability for self-correction. Too much credit is given to being UP alumni, not only for tribal pride but also as a guarantee for mastery of the English language.
In all these aforementioned instances, what is clear is the need for us to have a process of accepting criticism and for correcting our faults—whether these are mere ideas we espouse to the greater public, the way we exercise our leadership, or with the statements we publish that may expose our continuing difficulties in grappling with our second language. Fundamental to this process, however, is embracing an attitude of accommodation of the opinions of others—however difficult to accept—because they come from people we deem beneath our estimable stature.
During his last Sunday homily, our parish priest said that the true spirit of Christ’s Gospel comes from justice and love. This is also the simple message that we may wish to share with others this Christmas, that there be peace, hope, love—and openness—in our hearts.
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