What’s a Filipino? Whether you agree with him or not, broadcaster Arnold Clavio’s “They’re-not real-Filipinos” criticism of Azkals players following a sexual harassment suit brought against some members of the national football team, appears to have hit a raw nerve – and raised an important question. This article is one of a series exploring the very notion of “being Filipino”. Follow @interaksyon on our #WhatsaFilipino discussion on Twitter, and on this special coverage on InterAksyon.com.
Foreign-born Pinoys coming back to ‘Pinas should come with a mindset and desire to learn about and embrace the Filipino culture and people, and recognize that many things may be different they you are used to in their own country, but that doesn’t make it better or worse… just different.
They should respect the cultural differences, which they may or may not understand. They shoudn’t be afraid to ask questions so they could learn. If they show a sincere interest, Filipino people will appreciate that and be glad to share their knowledge and information on different aspects of the Filipino culture.
For foreign-born Pinoy athletes, they should realize that the Filipino people will provide them with the love, support, and loyalty that they never thought could exist, if they do the following:
- Thank God every day for the blessing He has given you to be able to live and work in the Philippines, and always maintain a sincere sense of humility no matter how successful you are.
- Give 100% effort at all times – in practice to gain the respect of your teammates and coaches, and in games to gain the respect and admiration of the fans.
- Once again, humility is endearing. If you are good, allow your performance to speak for itself. Filipino fans do not embrace showboats, hot dogs, whiners, complainers, and poor sports. It’s real simple: play and conduct yourself like the professional you are supposed to be, even if your opponents do not.
- Engage and embrace the fans that attend practices and of course, the games. I did not do as good a job with this as I could and should have, and I regret it. I was a super intense and serious player once I crossed the lines, simply because that is the way I learned the game. Sometimes, that was misinterpreted as being aloof to the fans. There is nothing wrong with smiling at the fans once in a while or acknowledging them when appropriate to do so… they’ll love you for it. That doesn’t mean you act like a clown – Filipino sports fans love players who take the game seriously, but engaging them and showing a “personal side” is a good thing.
- Stay under the radar regarding your private life. If you hang out at the bars or clubs and do things to embarrass yourself and your team/organization, you will pay the price and will not endear yourself to the Filipino fans. Remember that you are under a microscope at all times in public life, and with Facebook and Twitter and cellphones with cameras, if you are an undisciplined young man who thinks because you have a killer jumper and you’re invincible and untouchable – don’t unpack your bags, you probably won’t be there long.
- Whether you like it or not, if you are a good player and conduct yourself in a positive manner, YOU ARE a role model for many young Filipinos who will idolize you beyond your imagination. During your short term stint as a professional athlete — and believe me, even if you play 10 years, your ‘life as an athlete’ is a quickie in the big picture — you now have a platform to inspire millions of people. Find and embrace ways to do that – through the important message of getting an education, anti-drug use, etc. Whatever it is, you will NEVER have this platform again like you currently have. Give back to the people and leave a legacy that means something beyond just how you could shoot and dribble a basketball or kick a football.
Ricardo Brown is a pioneering Philippine basketball star, the first Filipino-American to play in the PBA as a local. He was named the PBA Rookie of the Year in 1983 and Most Valuable Player in 1985. He finished his career as the league’s all-time leader in scoring average.