By Ana Maria Villanueva-Lykes
IN A 2013 survey by Global Attitudes Project of Pew Research Center in Washington, Pinoys were reported to have a favorable view of the United States. The survey shows little love for the Land of Opportunity around the world except in the hearts of Pinoys. In fact, about 85% of us are reported to love America and everything it stands for. Only 81 % of Americans had a favorable image of their own country.
What is it about Joe that Filipinos so adore? His tall striking demeanor? Could it be his hypnotic blue eyes that are so different from ours? Is it his commanding voice or the way he drawls and enunciates the word “apple”, making it sound like the sweetest fruit on earth? Perhaps it’s the jingling of coins in his pocket, sweet music that promises a better life? It’s that and a lot more.
Let us count the ways.
1. Meet Joe – our description of beauty – tall, light skin, Greek nose, blue eyes, sophisticated. He is the complete opposite of our Aeta ancestry – short, dark, pudgy nosed, and behind the times.
2. When times are hard, who do we turn to? Joe. Or perhaps the most appropriate question is “where”. According to a report by the Migration Policy Institute in 2010, there are over 1.7 million Filipino immigrants in the US, making the Pinoy population in the States the second largest immigrant group after the Mexicans.
The smell of green currency is too hard to resist. Doctors who struggle to make ends meet in the Philippines get a taste of honey by stepping down as nurses in America, and they don’t see it as devaluation.
3. If Joe can’t deliver, then Jack Sparrow or Jack of Titanic will (so what if they’re fictional?). America is where our real heroes reside. Indiana Jones, Rocky, Rambo – these are our saviors from an otherwise depressing or dull existence. We follow the path of the stars – Tom Cruise and Will Smith, because they are everything that America stands for: success, gallantry and beauty.
4. If we’re wearing the swoosh or the polo rider on a horse, we know we are big time. These signs mean excellent quality and luxury to us. It means we are sosyal and we have good taste. We’ve also acquired the taste for SPAM and Chips Ahoy. Even though these products are processed or rich in preservatives; rich in sodium, cholesterol, and fat; and has little or no nutritional value, we prefer them over Argentina and Marie. They just taste better, we think.
5. Many families train their kids at birth to speak English at home and use it as their first language, so much so that they have difficulty communicating in the Filipino language. English is the language of the elite and the educated, and we believe that speaking in Joe’s tongue will get us ahead in life. Maybe this is why we are ranked number one out of 76 countries in business English proficiency in a 2012 study by Global English Corporation. And even if we don’t completely get it right, we will continue to make-kwento in English.
6. The moment General Douglas MacArthur returned to save us from the Japanese, we’ve come to see these tall handsome heroes as our savior. After all, America still remains to be the “world’s unchallenged superpower”, leading in technology, number of immigrants, higher education, exports, imports, foreign direct investments, entertainment, and military force.
Even 60-year-old Joe is Captain America, saving the day, saving a 17-year-old from a life of poverty and saving the rest of her family along the way by bringing her to the Land of Milk and Honey and eventually sending home dollars for hospital bills and a younger sibling’s tuition.
7. Then there is the other kind of hero: fast, agile, and larger than life – at least 6 feet tall. We idolize these supermen so much that we carry their badges of honor on our caps and shirts and wear their shoes, blowing a whole month’s salary for a pair of Air Jordan, Zoom Kobe, or Chuck Taylors. We may not have the anatomy for it, but basketball is in our hearts and in every street corner and kalye of every town.
8. America is our model of democracy. In fact, the Philippines is the first country in Asia to have adopted democracy as influenced by Joe, earning it the title of “America’s Showcase of Democracy”. Our country’s government has been modeled after the US constitution in 1935 during the period of the US administration. It has since been modified but still adheres to Joe’s idea of justice and liberty for all — the rich and the privileged led by the elite. Nevertheless, American stands for our idea of equal opportunity, basic rights for all, and freedom of expression — a black president, gay marriages, and nude beaches.
9. America is a wonderland, a place where a talking mouse lives with a pet dog. We buy his merchandise, watch his movies, and even stay in his hotel. And for only $200, we can buy the privilege of hanging out with the whole clubhouse gang for a day.
Similarly, with Joe, Pedro and Juan spend their hard-earned in the Sin City’s casinos and the mammoth outlet malls of America’s big cities. Then there are the other places of wonder – Golden Gate Bridge, Statue of Liberty, White House, Broadway – places that represent Joe’s grandeur, grace, and generosity just like his natural wonders like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, and the glaciers in Alaska.
10. No matter how much we deny it, America is part of our history and there seems to be a sense of indebtedness that we cannot shake. Although some historians see Joe’s arrival on our soil as another takeover, many Filipinos see it as liberation. In fact, the older ones revel in the days of old when the Americans once ruled Philippine soil. For them, the American colonial period was a time of abundance and progress, back when Manila was dubbed as the Paris of Asia.
We really can’t quantify our love affair with blue-eyed Joe. There is so much more from Jack Frost to Jack o Lanterns, from hamburgers to hotdogs, from country music to hip-hop, from apple pie to Apple computers, from Stephen King to Steve McQueen.
Even without our colonial mindset and even when we’ve taken out the bling blinders, there will always be a tie that binds us to America. The US military bases — long vacated — will continue to remind us of our long history with Joe when he had fought with us, for us, and over us. And even to this day, whoever our perpetrator may be (Mother Nature, China, poverty), Joe will come riding in his high horse to the rescue. (July 1, 2014)