Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Carrying the Flag

Yesterday, Jamaica celebrated 50 years of independence with the rest of the world watching the country's flag, two of them, waving proudly amidst an 80,000 packed Olympic Stadium while their national anthem was being played. The two fastest men in the planet, 'Lightning Bolt' and 'The Beast' Blake, stepped up the podium to claim their 100m sprint medals.

Fifty years of independence with 55 Olympic medals, 15 of them gold, all of which (except a bronze in cycling) have been from Athletics. But why not, that's the sport where they excel in, so they might as well be the best in it.

It only took them 50 years (or less) to put their stamp in the world, they should be proud. When you think of Jamaica, you think of the fastest man in the world (and woman in fact for Shelley Ann Fraser also successfully defended her 100m title). You also think of their music (Bob Dylan came from there). You also think of their cuisine (Jamaican jerk chicken for one).

We Filipinos are also very proud of our country. After 100 years of independence from Spanish rule, we have also achieved a lot:
1.  We have won world titles in numerous beauty competitions, the likes of Miss Universe and Miss World. In fact, in the Miss Universe competition last year we were represented by the country’s top performer in the Architecture Licensure exams who graduated in the nation’s premier university with Latin honours  (they take these things VERY seriously). She came home with a 3rd runner up award and the country was in rage because she had the ‘best’ answer.  

2.  We have very talented singers too, Ellen de Generes (‘Ellen the Who?’ asks a European who doesn’t watch American shows i.e. my husband) has mentioned this in her show. From those who were born and bred in the Philippines, we have Charice Pempengco who broke America and therefore conquered the world (is America the world now???). It doesn’t stop there, we have singers who were born to at least one Filipino parent (it doesn’t matter if they haven’t been to the Philippines or couldn’t speak a word of Tagalog before claiming fame) i.e. Bruno Mars, Vanessa Hudgens (remember High School Musical?) and American idol hopefuls Jessica Sanchez and Jasmine Trio.

3.  We have exported skilled and unskilled workers to boost the country's economy. In my brother's graduation from his degree in Marine Engineering, the guest speaker said that the aim of the Commission on Higher Education is to make every Filipino graduate 'globally competitive', meaning, encouraging the youth to leave their families behind in search for greener pastures. This of course means that in exchange for sending large amounts of remittances home, they won't be able to see their children grow up and the only thing they will be looking forward to is retirement which they may not be able to achieve for who knows what kind of future they will have in a foreign land. Still they are carrying the country's flag.

4. We have doubled the country's population in less than 30 years (great! how did we do that?) In 1984, the year I was born, there were only 52.98m Filipinos. This year, it has reached the 100m marker and is estimated to be 103.8m with 26% of the families living in poverty.

4.   And of course our most favourite boast, we have Manny Paquiao, the best pound for pound boxer in the world, ranked second in the biggest sports earners of 2012 and he even lives in my own hometown! Yes, our country excels in sports, boxing for that matter.
But there was only one thing that eluded us, the Olympic gold medal. Since the first time it was represented in the 1924 Olympics, the Philippines had been to all but one (in 1980 when America led the boycotts) and currently holds the title of the country with the most number of medals without gold (amazing feat eh?).

Those medals, nine of them to be exact, are a far cry from Jamaica’s 55 and we have been celebrating independence more than 50 years before they did. Since award-winning Filipino boxers have raised the profile of the sport in the Philippines, we have constantly heralded winners in title matches that pay up to millions of dollars in prize money. But the last time we have won a medal in the 'Greatest Show on Earth' was in 1988 and we are yet to produce an Olympic champion in the only sport we are good at.

For a nation that is supposed to be ‘Proud to be a Filipino’, no one is carrying the Filipino flag up in that podium.

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