On December 25, Christmas Day: Filipino families will gather in their homes to share sumptuous food and exchange gifts under the bright and colorful lights of Christmas lanterns.
In the northern parts of the United States, Canada, and Europe, Filipinos will build snowmen in front of their snow-covered lawns while wearing thick coats to shield themselves from December’s cold. In the Middle East, after a hard day’s work, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will wrap their Christmas presents and send them to their loved ones in the country. Somewhere in Tokyo, lit by dazzling lights, Filipinos will group together and say a prayer or two for more prosperous years to come.
In other parts of the US, Asia, and the rest of the world, Filipinos will organize a community and invite a priest to celebrate the traditional Simbang Gabi (midnight Holy Mass). All over the world, Filipino diasporas will celebrate the holidays in ways that are uniquely Filipino. Filipinos are no longer citizens restricted to the archipelago. Filipinos are citizens of the globe — and they work very hard every day to make this world a much better place.
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during one of her visits to the Philippines, said: “One of the great exports of this country is your people, and everywhere I go in the world, I meet Filipinos who are doing everything, every kind of job, making every kind of contribution.” She absolutely nailed it on the head. What sets Filipinos apart is their passion and total dedication to their craft in the hope of securing a bright future for their families back home. For this and many other things, let me make it clear: I am a Filipino and I am proud to be one.
We are a fierce nation that does not think twice about competing against the best of the best in the globe. Today, aside from OFWs who provide crucial support to the economies of developed countries, there are many renowned Filipinos in different fields. An easy case to point out is the amazing career of one the best boxers in the world, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, who many boxing analysts credit for reviving worldwide mainstream interest in the sport through his no-fear, all-action fighting style. In 68 professional fights (excluding the recent World Boxing Association title fight) over two decades, Pacquiao is the only fighter to have won a world championship in eight weight divisions. At 39, Pacquiao became the WBA world champion when he defeated reigning WBA (regular) welterweight world champion Lucas Mathysse at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 15, 2018. Pacquiao has held world titles from the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Council, World Boxing Organization, and now with WBA.
We can excel in every field, even the extremes. As Pacquiao dominated the brutal world of boxing, so did Hilary Diane Andales in science, Catriona Gray in beauty pageants, and Arnel Pineda in the subtle art of music and vocalization. Hillary Diane Andales from Tacloban City won the 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a worldwide science video competition where teenage students explain fundamental concepts in life sciences, physics, and mathematics. Her three-minute explainer on the theory of relativity and the equivalence of reference frames was selected as the 2017 winning entry. Catriona Gray is Miss Universe 2018 and is the Philippines’ fourth crowned Miss Universe (Gloria Diaz in 1969, Margarita Moran in 1973, and Pia Wurtzbach in 2015), making the Philippines number four in the list of countries that has produced the most Miss Universe winners. Catriona has captivated the world with her walk, wit, and wisdom. Arnel Pineda, of course, is the front man and lead singer of American rock band Journey.
Let us not fail to mention the late former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino and her martyred husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino — both icons of democracy. Ninoy’s untimely death instigated the first People Power Revolution, which later became the inspiration of non-violent demonstrations around the world, including those that ended communist rule in Eastern Europe. Cory, the first elected female head of state in all of Asia, also championed democracy, peace, and justice from the moment she took office until the day she passed away, leaving the country in tears of gratitude. Cory was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.
It is the low-profile Filipinos, however, who try every day to make a difference, who are really the precious pearls of this nation. One of them is Efren Peñaflorida Jr., who was named CNN Hero of the Year in 2009 for his noble efforts to educate street children. There are many others like him in the 7,107 islands of the Philippines who have not yet been recognized.
Aware of the immense and boundless potential of Filipinos, companies in the Philippines, especially business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, are pooling together the most highly skilled, competitive, and talented individuals in the country. Filipinos serve global clients who continually cite us for the high quality of our output. BPO companies and shared services centers showcase the Filipino, because the Filipino is a first-rate worker and an excellent global citizen.
For this and many other reasons, let me say it again: I am a Filipino and I am proud to be one.
Happy holidays to all! Let us continue to share our love and blessings all year round, and may all our wishes come true this coming year.
Obet Cruz is a Senior Managing Consultant of Advisory Services. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading Audit, Tax, Advisory, and Outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 Partners and over 900 staff members.
As published in The Manila Times, dated 19 December 2018