Celebrating the Filipino is Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Today, the Philippines as a republic turns 123 years old. And as I reflected on it, I realized that celebrating the excellence of the Filipino is, indeed, as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Be kind and respectful.

Being mindful of how you interact with others, especially those who are junior to or serving you, may seem like a basic lesson, but it is unfortunately forgotten very often! Remember, no matter one’s status in life, we are all equally created in the image and likeness of God, and we are thus ALL fellow image-bearers. Every single person deserves to be treated with dignity because by their very existence as a human being, they have innate dignity.

Being kind and respectful to other people shows you value them and their being your fellow image-bearer. If they are doing something for you, it goes deeper, and you show them that you appreciate what they are doing for you. Kindness does go a long way – it will eventually return to you. As Jesus once said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Lk. 6:31)

2. Eat, then learn.

Food is a universal introduction to culture. Every dish has its own story, its own origin… its own roots. *wink* The ingredients used, the preparation of the food, the demographics primarily eating it historically, and even the etymology – there’s a treasure trove of learning to unpack here. Then, from there, start learning more about the culture behind it all. Cuisine-centric cookbooks, in particular, tend to contain some essays and write-ups about such, so it’s an appropriate place to start.

Filipino cuisine is shaped by historical Indian, Chinese, Spanish, and American influences, and this alone provides a bird’s eye view on our trading and colonial past. Learning about how exactly ingredients or techniques made their way into another cuisine also sheds insight into how people were (and are) at the time. So it’s both a gastronomical and educational experience!

(P.S. – My favorite Filipino dish of all time is sinigang – in particular, pork sinigang in a tamarind broth, with the pork being lechon kawali or fried liempo [pork belly]. Dexter, on the other hand, can’t get enough of kare-kare – especially if it’s the tail part.)

3. Support local and homegrown businesses.

One of my first mentors, Tony Meloto, the founder of Gawad Kalinga, cites Japan’s and South Korea’s rapid postwar growths to their populace fiercely loving and supporting their own products – even if they were seen as rather substandard at that time. That support enabled continuous development and innovation, so those products improved tenfold, to the point that they are now found around the world.

The same is not so true in the Philippines, where for the longest time, imported products have been seen as far more superior and desirable than local products. Or, if local products are to be patronized, they are usually just the most basic of groceries and fresh produce – and they apparently have no business being more than the minimum price available.

I’m not sure why this mindset, but we are also one of the most blessed countries in the world in terms of natural resources. We are also renowned for having among the most creative, warm, and positive people on the planet. These are assets that should overwhelmingly be in our favor – but, instead, we are looked down on, our craftsmanship ignored.

Now, I’m not saying you should have literally 100% local in your life – globalization is a good thing, as it has indeed shared the fruits of international innovation around the world, such as this laptop I am typing this on. But nevertheless, you can increase the percentage of homegrown products you support and use – there are endless possibilities. From skincare to fashion and accessories, to snacks, to wellness, it’s not difficult to incorporate an additional local product into your life. It’s good for our economy, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for our people – and it’s good for you! There are so many quality choices that are legitimately and objectively competitive and world-class – you just have to look. (The Roots Collective can help you there – we carry over 500 products from over 50 social and creative homegrown enterprises!)

Showing your love for country doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to civics or culture. There are so many other ways that can also create more sustainable and long-term impact. Mindfulness and respect for your fellow citizen and human being is the best place to start – and, from there, everything will flow.

Happy Independence Day, and continue to #StaySafe!