The Filipino connection

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Posted on Oct 04 1999

Something alarming has recently come to my attention. Through an anonymous e-mail, I learned that at least one reader thinks that I am anti-Filipino. He or she faults me for “attacking the Filipinos.”

So I want to set the record straight once and for all. I appreciate the Filipino people. In fact, the Philippines is one of my all-time favorite vacation spots. And I don’t mean that facetiously or condescendingly. (Shame on all you perverts out there.)

Indeed, there is something rather special about the warm hospitality you receive in the Philippines. It is not the same as you would receive from Filipino service workers here on Saipan.

Something happens to the Filipino when he or she goes to work abroad. They readily adapt to their new environment. They adopt prevailing norms to a great extent. A transformation seems to take place.

For the most part, the Filipinos who work on Saipan are more “mayabang” than their counterparts in the Philippines. As someone not fluent in Tagalog, I don’t quite know if “mayabang” is quite the right word. Maybe “suplada” or “suplado” is more appropriate.

Again, I don’t know Tagalog, so please forgive me if I use the wrong word. My main point is that, from my experience at least, the Filipinos in Manila treat you far better than they would if they were serving you on Saipan.

The customer service in Manila is generally outstanding. Your average, middle class American gets treated like a King in the Philippines.

When the Filipino comes to work on Saipan, however, they instantly become aware of their superior circumstances–better pay, more freedom. They become far more independent–more like an assertive American, confident of their legally enforced rights.

You simply cannot cheat a Filipino worker the way you could with, say, a Bangladeshi national. The Filipino is always aware of his or her rights. In some cases, much like their American counterparts, they are even aware of rights they do not actually possess, such as the so-called positive welfare state rights I rejected in previous columns.

After a bitter historical experience with martial law and American-backed Marcos despotism, I suspect that the average Filipino is probably extremely sensitive to any semblance of oppression, particularly when it happens to them overseas. (Recall the uproar over the Singapore maid execution some years back.)

As Ninoy Aquino once said (I am sure it was Ninoy; it’s printed on the Peso), “The Filipino is worth dying for.”

I used to think that it was a rather bizarre statement to make, particularly since no one in his right mind would ever bother uttering, “The American is worth dying for.” It just goes without saying–as long as I am not the one doing the dying.

In any event, I am pro-Filipino. Unlike the xenophobic protectionists in the federal government, I am delighted to have them here, because–let’s face it–we would be dirt poor without them.

No workers: no businesses, no customers, no tourists, no profits, no taxes, no nothing. Only Ken Govendo.

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