TWO recent events once more remind us to love Fil-Ams who are proud of being Filipino and treasure their Philippine connection.
The first is the Oscar win of Fil-Am Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez for their song “Let It Go” which they wrote for the film “Frozen.” The talent of the Lopez couple, who have actually won many other song-writing prizes, and the world’s knowing that he is a Fil-Am because he talks about it to media (and not just to Filipino journalists), boosts respect for us whose country is at the bottom of the barrel in various indicators of prosperity, social development and excellence as a state, as an investment destination, and as a land where justice and virtue rule.
This is not to deduct from the greatness of the talent and love of country of non-Filipino-American entertainment stars and champions in sports who, like Lea Salonga and Manny Pacquiao, have also won international honors. They too have contributed immensely to Filipino prestige abroad—despite our beloved country being the homeland of more than 60 million human beings who are among the poorest in the world.
In the US, thousands of Fil-Americans figure as champions and models of excellence in every field of sports. In every discipline and profession Americans of all races do us Filipinos proud because of the good impression they have of Fil-Americans, some of whom they even hold in awe.
Sadly, the Fil-Americans and those other compatriots– paisanos, kabayans–of ours born of mixed parentage in other countries – are denigrated by racist ultranationalist Filipinos. They complain that the presence of Fil-Americans in Philippine sports and the entertainment industry prevent home-born and -bred Filipinos from shining to stardom and earning the big bucks. They have this narrow outlook because they have yet to mature into accepting a glaring fact about our world: That most of humanity has evolved from being isolated, ignorant and xenophobic yokels into persons who value the broadening of human culture and the racial enrichment of the blood that flows in their veins.
The second event is the passage by the House of Representatives of a bill to grant naturalization to six-foot-11 Andray Blatche. He is an an eight-year NBA veteran who plays starting center for the Brooklyn Nets. Authored by Deputy Speaker Robbie Puno of Antipolo, the law naturalizing Blatche was approved in the plenary rather quickly– less than eight hours after the House Justice panel approved it in on Wednesday noon.
“The general sentiment is to grant him Filipino citizenship because we need him in our team. Our national pride is at stake,” Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list, a member of the House Justice panel, said. The 28-year-old Blatche has averaged 9.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in his eight years in the NBA. Smart Gilas Pilipinas needs, and wants Blatche, in its lineup. Having one naturalized player in a national team is all right by FIBA rules.
For the first time in 35 years, the Philippines will compete in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. We won the silver medal in the 27th FIBA Asia Championships held in Manila in August last year. We beat our longtime rival South Korea 86-79 in a gruelling and emotional game.
Enlisting a non-native player is now commonplace all over the world. All teams, not only the premier ones in Europe, have foreign nationals in the football and basketball leagues.
In the FIBA Asia Championships, the Smart Gilas Pilipinas had a naturalized citizen player, the six-foot-9 Marcus Douthit.
The Philippines’ second-place finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships made the Philippines one of the 16 top basketball teams in the world.
It’s not as if we are naturalizing players we need who have no love for our country. Blatche and Douthit love the Philippines. That is something one cannot easily say about businessmen and politicians who have veritably stabbed our Republic in the back by their corruption and their mockery of our laws and the Constitution.