By Meann Ortiz
When Manny Pacquiao defeated Antonio Margarito in 2010, not only did he win the WBC Super Welterweight Championship, he also set a new Guinness World Record for the Most Boxing World Titles in Different Weight Divisions. It’s a remarkable achievement, and something that makes us insanely proud to be a Filipino like Manny.
The Philippines holds other world records. Some of them are remarkable natural wonders: the World’s Shortest Living Man is Junrey Balawing (he’s just 23.6 inches tall), and the Largest Colony of Geoffrey’s Rousette Fruit Bats is in Samal Island (home to an estimated 1.8 million bats). The Youngest Tenpin Bowling Champion remains to be Paeng Nepomuceno, who’s held the record since 1976.
Some records, however, are a little on the wacky side. Remember when a toothpaste brand broke the world record a few years ago for the Most Number of Couples Kissing Simultaneously in one venue? That even merited an ad on the largest billboard along EDSA, and I can still remember the outrage that followed when we lost the record shortly thereafter.
The Philippines is also known for the Largest Legal Tender Banknote (you’ll have to fold this 100,000-peso note several times over to fit in your wallet), the Largest Ten Commandments Tablet, the Most Number of Dishes on Display, the Longest Line of Loose Change, and the Largest Secret Santa Game. Guinness rejected the idea of the “Marikina Mega-Tule”, which would’ve put us on the record books for the most number of circumcisions performed within a set period of time. Yes, you read that right.
We have to wonder, though: If we can afford to put our time and resources toward setting such trivial records, then why are we not aiming to set more truly laudable ones?
A case of damaged culture?
The unfortunate reality is there are still a lot of Filipinos who think hanggang dito lang tayo. Our history of being colonized by different countries beat most of our self-worth as a nation out of us, and most seem to have forgotten that we actually managed to win not only the battles, but eventually, our independence as well.
Or maybe, as a friend of mine pointed out, this is still an extension of the tingi mentality. We’re so used to what is easy, affordable, and accessible—shampoo by the sachet, cigarettes by the stick, medicine by the tablet—that we forget that we are capable of something greater.
More telling, perhaps, is that many Filipinos lose their sense of nationalism in the face of hardship. How often do we hear the urban poor say, Ano ang pakialam namin sa pulitika at ekonomiya ng bansa kung wala naman kami’ng tirahan at makakain? Individuals, companies, organizations—let’s be honest—many will think of their own welfare first before the country’s.
A closer look at our world records show that a good number, especially the rather off-the-wall ones, were set for marketing purposes—to boost awareness of their own brands or organizations—more than to bring real glory to the country. This is not entirely a bad thing, as it does make the rest of the world aware that the Philippines exists, and that we are capable of being the best at something. We are still proud of these records. But while we’re keeping up appearances and building our image, why don’t we go one step further?
The Philippines holds the record for Most Women Breastfeeding Simultaneously (3,541 women), and however ridiculous that may sound, it is actually one of the less trivial ones that we hold on Guinness. It was set during an event sponsored by UNICEF and the Department of Health to raise awareness on the value of breastfeeding children. There’s also the Most Number of Solar Bulbs Installed, which aimed to light 10,000 homes that do not have electricity. The Most Participants in a Racing Event was 116,086 during the Run for the Pasig River in 2010, which aimed to raise funds for the rehabilitation of the Pasig River. The Largest March Against Illegal Drugs was organized by PAGCOR in 2009, and had 332,963 participants.
These records were set for real, worthwhile causes, and these are the kind of records that deserve huge billboards and media exposure. These are the kind of records that we should be aiming for.
We have a long way to go before we are known for The Best International Airport, being the Least Corrupt Country, or having the Most Improved Economy in Southeast Asia. But we can use our penchant for record-breaking and record-setting support meaningful causes that will benefit not only ourselves, but other Filipinos as well. That’s already one small step toward achieving those bigger goals, and one giant leap toward reclaiming our nationalism.