Why did I write the book? The reason is, I honestly feel I have something to say—if only because I am at least twice the age, if not more, of most of my readers. In my years of wandering, I have observed a lot, experienced a lot, and want my readers to know that I think the Philippines is as good a place to stay as any. This is the country I come from and this is where I want to stay.
Having said that, everyone also knows that this place is not perfect. I write that when I was young, I wanted to run away. There were so many ills in Philippine society then, as now. And I thought I didn’t fit! My temperament and values didn’t fit my surroundings—the culture of the place where I had to operate. So, run away I did—for some 40 odd years! I became a cultural refugee.
Now here I am, over 70 years old and I am back, this time for good. Who knows, perhaps I can get a fresh look at things, and contribute to society by documenting what I see, and suggesting how Filipinos can use their strengths and ameliorate their weaknesses.
And also, at long last, I feel comfortable here. Because when I compare where I have been, and what I have seen, I find out there is no ideal place. Your home is where you make it.
Who are the Filipinos? Most Filipinos I know are very much “people” people. Because of this obssession in relationships, they find it difficult to focus on non-personal things—ideas, systems, rules, procedures. I still smile whenever I hear someone say, "Si Facebook," or "Si PLDT, as though they were people. Problems are addressed not through impersonal systems and procedures but through a kakilala (who you know) syndrome, but one-off solutions also preclude productivity when satisfying services and goods cannot be replicated.
Then, there is my kababayans' great sensuality, coupled with their creative talents. The Philippines is famous for good food, good entertainment, good performing arts. Good fun for a gregarious and extroverted people! Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, we also want to be rich, and we feel ourselves under-achieving. This breeds insecurity—a bit of criticism from more productive foreigners, and we are on a war path. Amongst ourselves, however, the tendency is to whine and gripe.
So, the purpose of this book is to hold a mirror before us. To ask us to be aware of ourselves but also to accept ourselves: to know that we may be lacking in certain virtues, but that we have other ones that compensate for these shortcomings. We are warm, charming, humorous, and compassionate.
We should make use of these virtues because they are not common virtues. In my wanderings, I have found my host cultures frequently wanting. In fact, the richest peoples are also often the loneliest. Did you know that the UK last year appointed a Minister for Loneliness with full cabinet rank?
Most importantly, we must listen to our critics and learn from them—their industry, their professionalism, their resilience, their use of time for productive endeavors.
There is much to learn from each other.