Friday, September 28, 2007

The Naked Pinoy

One tissue I want to comment about is the brouhaha stirred by the comments of columnist Malou Fernandez about the outlandish clothes, cheap perfumes and the general crass behavior of overseas Filipino workers.

Actually, I have a conflicting view about the matter because my wife used to be a nurse who worked in Kuwait and in fact, my eldest daughter Arizza was actually born there. I have also turned my house in Quezon City into a sort of halfway home for OFW relatives and friends processing papers to go abroad, those returning from abroad and those who stay with me before going home to Zamboanga City or other places of destination in the province.

In short, I have a very soft spot and deep respect for OFWs.

So, I think it unfair that they be denigrated just because some of them come from humble beginnings and are dressing up and behaving in the manner they were raised up.

But this is where my sympathy and empathy ends.

When it comes to putting our best foot forward, specially in the world stage, I believe Malou Fernandez has a point in giving due attention to the need for OFWs to help project the best in out country and our people. But instead of insulting OFWs, she should have called the attention of DOLE, OWWA and the DFA for OFWs to be given some advice on basic good manners and right conduct and the need for them to ``dress for respect.’’

This view applies not only to OFWs but even to all Filipino tourists, overseas students and those fortunate to go for studies abroad. Let’s face it, our country is so poor to put up advertisements in CNN, CBS, Discovery Channel and other media outlets abroad to project the country's image and the millions of Pinoys who go abroad provide the only glimpse foreigners have up close of what Filipinos are and a faint idea of what the Philippines is.

So, I don’t really mind what job one has, but at least I do mind that he dresses the job he has abroad. Clothes and good behavior can very well improve anyone’s image and make maids and laborers abroad look like prince and princesses. If we put up our Sunday’s best clothes when facing God/Allah in Church/Mosque, we must also dress and act well when facing foreigners as the country’s de-facto ambassadors.

Out there, each of us is the Philippines. So what image do you want to give this poor and chaotic country we call home? Yes! We are poor. Yes! We are Asia’s basket case. But do we have to behave and dress like that as well. No! We must show a smile, a happy face to show that the Philippines is the best place on earth and I believe it is.

This brings to mind a newspaper article about Maguindanao Rep, Didagen Dilangalen who said that he strives to dress well always because as it is, people from Metro Manila are already looking down at those from down South and he does not want to give them more reason to do so by dressing poorly. He said he had to dress smart because Muslims and people from Mindanao are smart.

So, the same goes for the Philippines which is gaining notoriety for being one of the world’s political and economic basket cases. The same goes for the Philippines for sending out what my former colleague Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros described as toilet cleaners of the world, or something to that effect.

Let’s face it, it does not mean that just because we don’t send out to the world IT experts like India does or trading experts like Singapore does or investors like Japan etc. we already have to look bad or behave as if we have no class. On the contrary, we have to look and behave our best to debunk the world’s bad impressions of us. Perception is everything!

To put it more bluntly, just because we send out Japayukis abroad does not mean they have to board naked. Got my point?

Gracias, amigo y amigas. Ariba Pilipinas (Hail the Philippines)!

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