I asked Travel Blogger friend Brendan to write a guest post about his honest views of the Philippines. This is a fitting letter to reflect on as we celebrate "Araw ng Kagitingan" (A Day of Valour). Brendan is an accountant turned full time traveler. He writes to inspire others to travel and discover their world. You can follow his adventures on his blog Bren on the Road.
Dear People of The Philippines,
Last year, I had the privilege of spending 6 months in your incredible country. It fascinated me. I had no idea what to expect when I landed, but you welcomed me with open arms and an endless stream of smiles. I made incredible friends in your country. I explored your islands. I ate your food. I even fell in love. I’ve set foot on six continents, but in your home I saw a different way of life, different to anything I’ve ever seen. Yet your country remains hidden from the world, and I’m still not quite sure why.
Many of you will read this letter thinking I intend to criticise. That is not my purpose. These are just thoughts, for you to take or leave. But before I share those, please allow me to tell you a little bit about my country.
I’m from a little place down south called New Zealand. We’re known for being good at rugby, having a lot of sheep and being home to Middle Earth. We have a relaxed culture, a lot like your own, and like you we pride ourselves on being a strong, independent, resilient small nation.
While in The Philippines, I noticed the large majority of you were excited by the idea of living in a country like mine. You have dreams to move to America, or Australia, or New Zealand. You feel like life will be a little more colorful there. Maybe it will be.
But please, don’t give up on your country just yet. You have more going for you than you realize. The west is glamorous on the surface, but in reality, it’s not. The Philippines is one of the most joyful nations I have experienced. Your families are strong and committed, they’re full of laughter, your children are polite and you’re grateful for the smallest pleasures in life. The west, on the other hand, is broken. In New Zealand, one third of our marriages end in divorce. We have the third highest youth suicide rate in the world. Our kids are raised by televisions and Instagram. Alcohol plagues our teenagers. Our careers often come before our children, and many families are broken and distant. I love my country, but we are far from perfect. And the worst part about it all is, we think this is normal.
If you aspire to be like us, you will become like us, and that would be an awful waste. I know you are a young country, still finding your identity after a turbulent past. But this gives you the chance to do things a little differently to the rest of us.
While I was in your country, I used to wonder, why doesn’t anybody come here? In the neighbouring countries the streets are crawling with tourists. The beaches in Thailand and Indonesia are so crowded you can barely walk, yet your beaches, which are far more beautiful, remain empty. People go crazy for Chinese and Thai food all around the world, while nobody even knows what Filipino food is. Thailand and Malaysia are amongst the most visited countries in Asia, while The Philippines isn’t even in the Top 10. Why does your country remain hidden from the world? Why is everybody afraid to set foot on your soil?
Searching for answers, I thought back to before I visited your country. What did I know about The Philippines back then? What did the rumors say?
Fair or not, that is your reputation. But why? Yes, there is poverty and danger and corruption, but that is true for almost every country in South East Asia. Yet other countries are famous for their food, their beaches, their weather, their festivals. Why not you?