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Monday, August 12, 2013

Are We Racists?

Last night certainly made a compelling case for it.

I'm talking about the aftermath of our loss to Iran in the FIBA games. It was hard not to be "caught up" as far as game updates were concerned, even for someone who cannot be considered a basketball aficionado by any stretch. All night long, my News Feed was filled with blow-by-blow accounts of the scores, who shot what, how many people were attending, how thrilling it was to be in the arena.

It was unavoidable because that's all anyone was talking about on my Facebook Wall (and their respective pages).

Not being as interested, I was at home watching movies and chanced upon the Iran-Philippines game during a commercial break. It was half-time, and they were displaying the game statistics. As a dispassionate observer, I could tell that we were outclassed, in both offense (two point shots showed Iran scoring more than twice our %) and defense (number of blocks). Coupled with what I have been reading (how this was a David-Goliath matchup, how Iran is seen as the team to beat, how uphill of a battle it was for the Philippines) it didn't take a second for me to see the writing on the wall.

So, when the final scores came in, I wasn't shocked at all. I'm sure our team didn't let this go without a fight, given the expectations after a still talked about game against Korea where we emerged victorious. But numbers don't lie, and I can be pragmatic to a fault.

Then the online onslaught began. I suddenly saw posts crying foul.

One by one, I saw status updates that focused on how the Iran basketball team "smelled": that we would have won had our players worn gas masks. There were memes posted about how it was a battle of Puso (heart) vs. Putok (body odor), and how it was natural for the latter to win.

Another faction complained about the height of the Iranian players, and how "unfair" this was for our boys.

The worst of the lot was when people started singling out individual players, calling them "yucky looking" and at least three people mentioning a particular player, saying that "you look like a pedophile!"

Pride or racism?
(Courtesy of

This might be a good time to talk about Pinoy Pride.

It's a nebulous concept at best, because I subscribe to the late George Carlin's philosophy: why be proud for something you were born into? Just as you happened to be a certain height, you also happened to be born in the Philippines. It is not an "achievement" to be paraded around.

When people win in, say, international singing contests, I attribute it to that person's personal singing talent and the hard work s/he put into it. I never understood the idea that it's because "galing yan sa Pinas kasi!" - we barely have enough facilities for basic education, much less support for something viewed as "extras" like the arts. It has always felt like nakikisakay tayo, us piggybacking on the coattails of someone's personal achievement.

And when things don't go our way, we are quick to view it as luto, we were singled out because of our color/nationality, and how discriminated we are on the world stage. I know this makes many people uncomfortable, but harping about achievements being dependent on one's nationality lends itself to racism quite seamlessly. It can't be helped: if we think that our pride is based on nationality, then any "infraction" is seen as an insult and an attack on this form of pride.

Which then lends itself also to direct this "infraction" as a racist attack towards others who are seen as the "perpetrators" - and in last night's case, to insult and disparage the Iranian basketball team that has somehow "wounded" our national pride.

We feel justified in calling them foul-smelling, and that we should wear protective gear should we come into physical proximity with them.

We think we raise ourselves up by putting down others for the supposed "characteristics" of another country, as in "everyone knows they all smell bad!"

We think nothing of calling someone as resembling a pedophile, as if it was a function of nationality, disregarding the fact that every country has its own share of offenders, sexual or otherwise.

We disrespect the hard work that others have put into their profession - and they just happened to be Iranian, or Chinese, or some other nationality - and instead, label their victories as "cheating" because of their height, or some other physical characteristic that everyone knows would be a boon before stepping into the game.

We disrespect ourselves, when we imply - actually, we went past implying and stated it outright - that our team didn't win because of a lack of gas masks, negating and belittling how hard they have worked to get to where they are.

We feel entitled because of where we were born, and not because of determination, hard work and perseverance.

Until we celebrate achievement for being the product of hard work, I fear this country will remain stunted, substituting racism for pride.


  1. I so agree with this. Filipinos hate racism but ironically most of Filipinos are racist themselves. Nagulat ako sa mga nababasa ko sa news feed ko at nahiya ako para sa kanila.

  2. I think the Gilas boys has every right to say that they are proud to be Filipinos... but for us fans... we should NOT take credits for their achievements... instead of saying "I'm proud to be Pinoy"... we should say I'm proud of the Gilas Pilipinas for their gallant efforts in the Asian Championship... we should be proud of them not of ourselves... this too applies to Azkals, Manny Pacquiao, and even Erik Spoelstra... those guys achieved something in their respective fields and we should be proud of them...

  3. Very well said! I am not against to what Iranians have to do with their smell or height but I was quite upset seeing some of their players intentionally causing foul acts (or if that wasn't intentional please forgive me for my not-so-broad mind LOL :D). Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for posting this. I am truly impressed. I hope every single Filipino would read and contemplate on this.

  4. No disrespect to the author, but this was a painful read. The first four paragraphs you tried to set-up the readers were utterly disgusting and irritating that I knew the whole article would be irrelevant. Yes we filipinos are racists but it's simply because we don't know what it means to be one. You didn't make an argument to support your title less so you tried to make a point that is totally misleading. Racism is political and it's pointless to talk about it here inside our country. But Filipinos living outside the country totally get it. I even once joked to my Malaysian friend that in Singapore for example, you could classify people by their ethnicity: Chinese, Malay, Indian, etc. But in Manila, you just classify them into two: jaywalkers and non-jaywalkers. All you talked about is body-odor which is not even a racist behavior at all. They chose to have that kind of lifestyle. Ethnicity you cannot. So, I guess you'd be deleting this comment for sure but I suggest you delete this whole article along with it because it's you that is disgusting, trying to make money off of other people's misfortunes.

    1. I'm coming as an anonymous as well.
      And I'm sorry, but it seems like you don't get the point of the article all along.

  5. Sadly, there's some truth in this. People might say, nah, that was just for fun - but that's mostly the same excuse most foreigners make when they also make fun of us. And we cry foul then, making such a big fuss about it and threatening to blacklist the offending parties. Yet we do it all the time "in the spirit of fun and creativity." It's almost ingrained in Filipino pop culture even.

    I have a good friend who's of Indian descent and who actually spent a couple of years in the Philippines - I still don't know how to explain to her these Filipino jabs about "Boombay" - like if a kid misbehaves, he is told to straighten up lest he be taken by "Boombay." Why?

  6. Iba ang pagiging racist sa pagiging mapanglait :)

  7. The Iranians were actually more sporting than the Koreans. They didn't celebrate their victory before congratulating the Gilas Pilipinas team.

    Racists comments negate the superb efforts of the Philippine team. Sa mga sarili nating kababayan mag-backfire yan mga salitang panglalait. Isipin sana nila ito bago sila manira.

  8. Very well written. On another note lang, I once heard na tayong mga Pinoy, may amoy din tayo sa standards ng ibang lahi - parang amoy patis :). Kaya wag tayong paka-perfect. Cheers :)

  9. racism in any form, by any race, towards any one is bad. but aren't you guilty as well of this trait. much worse, it is racism towards your own race. no one will deny that there are some "pikon" pinoys who went overboard and spewed racist comments towards the competition. but how many were they? did your news feed got flooded with them? did it outnumber the 20k or so spectators who clapped for the iranians after the competition? did it outnumber the number of congratulatory messages on haddadi's fb wall from pinoy fans?
    the racist comments indeed happened but they were few and greatly outnumbered. yet you are quick to generalize that this is a trait of the whole nation, of the whole race. from what math can you derive that the minority is a generalization of the majority?
    but i know where it's coming from. it's from your own racism towards your own race; borne out of a need to feel superior over every one else. there are a few racist filipinos therefore filipinos are racists and since you think you are not a racist, you are superior than the majority of filipinos.
    if you wish to attack racism, do so. that is a noble gesture. but do not drag the whole race into it.

    1. Thats not racism... pointing out the flaws in our culture so that we can grow and improve as a people is not racism... domestic racism in the Philippines is more like how most Filipinos view their Filipino Muslim brothers... Tagalogs belittling Cebuanos... Cebuanos belittling Tagalogs... Imperial Manila vs. the rest of the country.. People ashamed of the color of their skins and prefer to use skin whitening... how about most people view on the Aetas.. thats racism and so is posting insults on a facebook page of a basketball player who did nothing wrong but represent his country...

    2. .. and so i rephrase my previous question. how can the flaws of the very few become the flaw of the whole culture? only people who think so very low of their own culture (like you and the blogger) whole equate the few to the whole.
      a few did something wrong and you want to blame the whole nation for it.

    3. Only racist idiots will be offended by this article... I'm not racist so I'm not offended... close-minded Filipinos who can't see the flaws of their culture will of course get offended. Every culture have their own flaws and trust me our culture is much better than what modern western society has become.. that's why there's flaws because a lot of Filipinos are western wannabes or American wannabes... those racist remarks maybe nothing compare to how racist other culture or nations are but still should not be tolerated... Filipino pride is good but to be blinded by it to the extent that we can't see our own flaws or faults is just pathetic...

    4. that there are racist pinoys can't be denied. there are rotten eggs in any race basket. what is being questioned here is the blogger's and your racism towards your own race. instead of speaking out against the one, two, or three racist pinoys, you want to declare to the whole world that we pinoys as a whole are racists. the whole race is rotten. the whole culture is flawed. and you have ONE racist FB post to prove that.
      if this is not racism to the highest order, i don't what is.

    5. Where in my post that said all Pinoys are racists.. be open-minded and like I said before, pointing out the flaws in your own country or culture doesn't make you racist.. is that mean that the likes of Rizal or Ninoy who pointed out the flaws in our culture in the past are racists too?

      Rizal: “The words of him who abuses others in order to mock them; while we see them wrap themselves up in their egotism and with a forced smile praise the most iniquitous actions, begging with their eyes a portion of the booty--why grant them liberty? With Spain or without Spain they would always be the same, and perhaps worse! Why independence, if the
      slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.”

      Here Rizal was talking about Filipinos who were too in hurry to get their independence were the slaves of the colonial era but will be the tyrants of the independent Philippines... he was referring to the Filipino elites and to those who blindly follow or vote those same group of elites to public office.

      Ninoy: "...the Philippines as a land of traumatic contrasts, a land in which few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor. The Philippines is a land where freedom and its blessings are a reality for the minority and an illusion for the many. The Philippines is a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy. The Philippines is a land of privilege and rank - a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.... While the Filipinos were depressed and dispirited without purpose and without discipline, sapped of confidence, hope and will. Filipinos profess love of country, but love themselves - individually - more.”

      Here Ninoy was talking about Pinoys being undisciplined and selfish who loves themselves more individually - thats pretty much referred to every Filipino pridists out there who keep saying “I’m proud to be Pinoy” instead of saying “I’m proud of Gilas Pilipinas for their achievements in the Asian Championship”..

      Does that make them racist?. NO!

      They merely pointed out the flaws in our culture. You and those who are blinded with your misguided and false patriotism are one of the reasons why our country is a banana republic... grow up and open your mind... thats not being racist to your own people.. thats growing up and realizing that your fellow Filipinos are acting like children... if we want to change society.. we want to end corruption in politics.. then we start with the people... those corrupt politicians doesn't elect themselves into office the people are (corrupt people always vote for corrupt politicians)... change the mindset of the people... that means setting aside of their pride... then maybe, we won't have a flawed and corrupt society. Yes, you may not be racist but that doesn't mean other Filipinos are just like you.. there are racist Filipinos and they need to know what they did or said was wrong.. if it means getting their pride hurt so be it.. if your pride is hurt then obviously you are racist... you are racist to your own people because your personal pride is not willing to accept the realities of the flaws or faults in our own culture.. Get rid of your pride or set it aside then maybe you’ll see why we as a country are so behind... and like I said before, wake up and open your mind..