“Manila?! What ever are you going there for?” Those were the words of an expatriate I met in Hong Kong. I awkwardly replied “for anthropology”. I knew from that interaction that the Manila she thought she knew was not the Manila –nor Philippines – that I know.
If there is one unifying ethos of the Filipino psyche, it is that “Patuloy ang Buhay“. In English, it means “life continues“; it was immortalised by the artist Vicente Manansala, who produced a painting of the same name in 1947. This painting, depicting a funeral march amongst ruins, is most daunting (second only to Massacre in Ernita, by D Lorenzo – view with discretion).
The Japanese occupation is not the only period of national sorrow. Spain is remembered for 333 years of oppression; American presence is sometimes recalled an unwelcomed occupation that eroded the unifying culture created by the Spanish for the entire archipelago. Did you know that America bought the Philippines from Spain for US $20.000.000? Talk about a steal.
In spite of historic oppression, corruption and a growing urban poor, the people here are hopeful of a better future for their country. As Dr Jose Rizal said, “education will emancipate the [Filipinos]”; I believe that this is true. Intermediately, they refuse to accept defeat, and replace despair with generosity; to be welcomed in the home of a Filipino is an unrivaled experience in kindness.