My mom's from the Philippines, and despite the fact that I can be very harsh in my criticism of the country's unparalleled and systemic corruption, I love it. I love the Philippines the way you might love your alcoholic uncle or racist father--it's love mixed with embarrassment and hate; acceptance but wanting change.
There are things that make me hopeful about the Philippines, like the fact that an honest man was recently elected as its leader after disastrous administrations ruled by a corrupt midget and a mustachioed thief . I was filled with pride and hope when Noynoy Aquino spoke in Tagalog in his first State of the Nation Address, and called out corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. His is a transparent administration, one that holds leaders accountable for their constituents, and not their bank accounts.
Up to the time I turned 18, my parents and I visited my momma's family in the Philippines every summer. Although I still salivate over thoughts of dried mangoes, morcon, and sorbetes---to the horror of my family, street food is one of my guilty novelties--- the last time I visited was years ago. I am so sick and tired of landing at NAIA and being accosted by baggage handlers, officials, and the rest of the corrupt posse for money. I'm sick of having to pay fees that these badge-flashing thieves come up with off the top of their greedy (yet empty) heads. I'm sick of being in a car that's randomly stopped by cops for some imaginary traffic violation, and being told to pay a "small fee" to "forget the whole thing." For coffee, they'd say. I am sick of being told to "tone down my Americanness" and not being able to go by myself to another store inside the mall for fear of being kidnapped for ransom. I am sick of hearing about my cousins' classmates actually being kidnapped, and then worrying about my very Chinese/Korean-looking cousin being kidnapped, because syndicates target foreigners under the assumption that they are rich and could therefore afford to give ransom. I am sick of the fact that whenever I'm in the Philippines, I have to turn off my trusting nature so as not to be taken advantage of. There are "crocodiles dressed in uniform" lurking on every corner, my momma would warn me. I am sick of losing hope in a beautiful country that once stood proud against its conquerors. Where have the Rizals gone? The GomBurZas? The Gabrielas and the Corys? Where have they gone? Are they forever lost? Can the Philippines ever find its way?
Ninoy Aquino once said that "the Pilipino is worth dying for," and he did die for this belief. It's a shame that his convictions are being spatted on by the selfishness and corruption of the very people he fought for.